A recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management estimates that 18% of companies (including Deloitte, Citigroup and Ford Motor) employ some form of psychometric (personality) testing during their recruitment process.
According to Merriam Webster, a personality test is “any of several tests that consist of standardised tasks designed to determine various aspects of the personality or the emotional status of the individual examined.”
Employers might use this kind of testing to determine whether a job candidate is a good fit for a specific role or the culture of the company, gain insights into a person’s working style or easily compare different candidates. Sometimes companies also use personality testing to assess their current employees to better understand and manage them and leverage their individual strengths.
In the last couple of decades the frequency of personality testing (now a two-billion-dollar industry) has increased massively. From the informal BuzzFeed-type quizzes that can determine “Which Disney Princess Are You?” to more formal business-tailored assessments like Myers Briggs, the options are endless. However, if you’re in the midst of a recruitment process that includes personality testing as part of its assessment, it’s likely to be one of the following seven tests.
Perhaps the best-known personality test, Myers Briggs was developed in the 1940s by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers (her daughter). The 93-question assessment places people into one of 16 personality types, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The test is based on Carl Jung’s original theory that humans experience life using four psychological functions – sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking. As many as 89 of Fortune 100 companies use this test during their recruitment process. Myers-Briggs remains popular even though it is one of the most regularly debunked personality tests.
The DiSC personality profile was designed by Walter Clark in 1940 to measure dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness. The 28-question assessment helps organisations with their management and leadership development as well as conflict management and communication. For each question, candidates must select one word that most represents them and one that is least like them.
This massive, 567-question true-false assessment was invented in 1939 by Hathaway and McKinley to analyse personalities and psychopathology across 10 scales, which includes:
- psychopathic deviate
- social introversion.
Whilst often used for the diagnosis of mental illness, the test has proved useful in assessing the psychological stability of people applying to high-risk and stressful professions, including the army.
This Australia-based company has worked with 30,000 businesses around the globe to recruit and develop their teams by measuring their potential for specific roles. The test features 180 multiple-choice questions and takes around two hours to complete.
This test consists of 104 questions assessing 32 characteristics designed to give employers an indication of how behaviour traits impact an employee’s performance at work. Each question provides candidates with a number of statements and they must choose which describes them the best and the least. The test provides employers with a comprehensive report, making it easy to directly compare job applicants.
Hogan and Hogan created this inventory in the 1980s to measure personality across key behavioural tendencies, which include adjustment, sociability and prudence. The test features 206 questions and has been taken by over 500,000 candidates worldwide to help companies with hiring, professional development, retention and leadership training.
The Keirsey Temperament Sorter is derived from Hippocrates’ 460BC theory that human beings have a persona comprised of four distinct temperaments:
The test ultimately outlines 16 personality types (mirroring Myers Briggs) and has been used by the Bank of America and the US air force.
Validity of results
Unsurprisingly, the validity of personality testing has been brought into question with some critics, for example, claiming that the Myers Briggs Type Indicator is no more scientifically accurate than Astrology.
The biggest issues with personality testing arise when companies use them to justify promoting or rewarding their employees, potentially stifling career progression based on a scientifically questionable assessment. It’s also possible that personality tests increase hiring bias because they stifle diversity of thought.
Another reason for discounting the value of these tests is the fact that applicants and employees can “game” the assessment, defeating its purpose.
Personality tests have their benefits when used as a motivational or team-building exercise. Reviewing an employee’s assessment results provides an opportunity for their manager to open up a conversation about working preferences and management style. But remember, be mindful not to make sweeping assumptions or conclusions about someone’s personality based on a 20-question assessment.