Personality tests as part of the hiring process are increasingly common. Ideally, they identify candidates whose character is best suited for the role and the corporate culture, e.g. detail orientation for an accounting position or persuasiveness for a sales job.
However, hiring managers must take care that their assessments are not preemptively disqualifying candidates with questions not relevant to the job requirements. Questions that rule out people of different social/ethnic backgrounds or with disabilities say more about the company’s values than the candidate’s qualifications.
Example 1: In some Asian cultures, expressing high confidence in one’s own abilities is considered obnoxious and socially/professionally unacceptable. Yet many Western employers look for a high score on that metric in the personality test.
Example 2: Questions such as, “Over the course of the day, do you experience many mood changes?” could discriminate against people with certain mental health disorders. This is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and there have already been a number of successful lawsuits against employers on this basis.
Making Your Personality Test the Best It Can Be
In order to get the most useful results and mitigate the risks from your assessment test, there are several steps you can take.
Many off-the-shelf personality tests were not designed for the hiring process. The popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a guide for career development and training, not candidate screening. Used for this off-label purpose, it may produce skewed results.
Run an internal historical data analysis of the test’s success in predicting successful job performance. You may also want to examine the test’s reliability: will it give you the same results if the same person takes the test twice?
Many candidates abandon the application process at the personality assessment phase, if they see the test as invasive, too time-consuming or most importantly, irrelevant. We have actually seen a test with nothing but sales related questions administered to applicants for warehouse positions. Candidates will think they are applying for the wrong job, or that the company doesn’t know — or care — what it’s doing and is not a good employer to work for.
The employer’s legal counsel should review the test with respect to current and previous Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits. In general, any question not directly related to job requirements leaves you open to litigation.
Keep It in Proportion
The personality assessment test should be only one — and not the most important one — of your information-gathering processes. There may not be established personality traits that fit the job you’re hiring for. In addition, many candidates will provide the answers they think you want, not their true feelings or attitudes, leaving you with flawed results.
Analysis of the candidate’s resume for required job skills as well as the interviewer’s direct observation of their personality are still the best gauges of future success.
The pre-employment personality assessment can be a helpful tool if designed and administered correctly. Employers must make sure that it is a trustworthy resource in finding *all* qualified talent, instead of a roadblock to valuable potential employees.