The Pros and Cons of Using Personality Tests in Your Hiring Process

According to global consulting firm Mercer, Canadian companies average a disturbing annual turnover rate of 21%. As businesses compete for the best employees in hopes of reducing turnover and increasing productivity, soft skills have become increasingly sought after.

Soft skill traits like flexibility, insightfulness, and a capacity to learn can be difficult to gauge during recruitment. So, some companies turn to personality tests to help them choose the most promising job candidates.

Depending on who you ask, personality tests can be viewed as an essential recruitment tool or an enormous waste of resources. To help you determine their value for your business, let’s take a look at the most commonly cited pros and cons of using personality tests in your hiring process.

Personality Test Pros

  1. They highlight potential. Unlike resumes or video interviews, personality tests are designed to show you how a job candidate is likely to perform as an employee versus what they say they’ve done in the past. Using such a profiling tool can give you insights into both character and workstyle, making it easier to understand how someone is likely to respond in different circumstances.
  2. They remove certain judgements. Despite best efforts, unconscious biases can still play a big role in how we put work teams together. Personality tests provide a certain level of objectivity by focusing on qualities like the way an individual processes information, makes decisions, and learns.
  3. They help determine best-fit matches. Tests that measure preferences like intuition or judging (like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI), or psychological traits like agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience, can help match individuals with the demands of certain employment or leadership positions. Having determined, for example, that employees who demonstrated empathy provided better customer service, Xerox began screening for compassion in pre-employment tests in 2014. Companies like Facebook, meanwhile, hire the smartest people they can find, then use a personality assessment to measure their top strengths and place them accordingly.

Personality Test Cons

  1. Not all tests are created equal. According to SIOP (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology), 68% of US employers engage in various forms of job skill testing, which may include cognitive ability tests, psychological measurements or assessments, and personality tests. With so many ways to test applicants, it’s not surprising that many employers end up investing time and money in the wrong tests for their needs.
  2. They may encourage false responses. Some personality assessments are designed in such a way that the test-taker can reasonably guess what the test-giver is looking for, and skew their responses accordingly. By managing or fabricating the impression they want to make, it’s not unheard of for job candidates to manipulate a positive hiring decision.
  3. Their value is limited without a benchmark. A personality test won’t yield much in the way of useful information if you’ve yet to figure out what kind of personality will best suit your business and the role you’re hiring for. Without a clear recruitment target, even the most established assessment is apt to miss the mark and produce impractical, or worse, misleading results.

Personality tests range from written and online questionnaires, to video and gamification tests that rely on artificial intelligence to help remove bias. Like many data-driven initiatives, however, they can only go so far in predicting workplace success and how suitable a candidate will be in the long term.

While personality tests offer important recruitment clues, they’re probably best viewed as just one of the tools that may improve the success of your hiring process.

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