Do you like to meet new people? Are you more obtuse or circuitous? Which Hogwarts house do you belong to? Asking random questions intended to assess an employee's character and predict behavior are a popular idea, but are personality tests useful?
Psychology Today found that about 80% of Fortune 500 companies rely on personality tests, using them to determine better ways to coach and build their teams. The tests are considered a simple way to categorize people and their possible interests.
Despite their popularity, critics suggest personality tests hold little value and may ultimately hinder employees. But proponents say they can help employers get a better idea of where and how people fit within an organization.
Should you have your employees take a personality test? It depends on what you’re using it for. Any test may give you generalities about the taker’s characteristics — if they are extroverted or neurotic, for example. However, true/false, multiple choice and one-answer quizzes won’t tell you how a person thinks and feels.
It’s more valuable to understand that a person has an unconscious bias that is influencing their work, or that they are overusing a strength and need help developing another. If you use a personality test, choose one that will provide you with constructive information and not just a rundown of traits.
One concern with personality testing is that it pigeonholes employees. You like to be organized and make plans far in advance? Oh, then you wouldn’t like working on a creative team. You’re sensitive? You aren’t compatible with highly logical thinkers.
A test may indicate someone has specific likes and dislikes, or strengths and weaknesses. But that doesn’t completely define where they may thrive. In addition, while the findings may be true for the moment, people may change as they have new experiences and responsibilities. And although main attributes — their attitudes and beliefs — may remain the same, a person’s behavior may shift.
Continually assigning people to tasks and teams based on assumed behavior may frustrate those who have grown. Also, as an employer relies on these tests, they may attribute conflicts and dissatisfaction to a personality type. As a result, they may not bother sussing out actual needs or problems.
How efficient are personality tests in interviews? Again, it depends on both what you expect to learn from a test and how much credence you give it. As an example, consider a test asking a person to rate themselves on a scale.
An applicant could answer to create a more favorable persona. “Are you easy to get along with?” “Of course I am!” On the other hand, people often misjudge themselves, unintentionally skewing the test results. Someone who is exceptionally kind, for example, may consider themselves only average.
Instead of multiple choice questions, look for tests with open-ended ones. These will help you better assess a person’s priorities and values. You want questions that are thought provoking.
- “Do you handle failure well?” vs. “How do you deal with failure?”
- “How much do you like to travel?” vs. “What’s your favorite place to visit?”
- “How well do you deal with problems?” vs. “What do you do when your car won’t start?
- “Are you good at censoring yourself?” vs. “What type of comment would you never say to a person?”
Are they worthwhile?
While personality tests may be a valuable tool in general terms, keep in mind that they should not be the only part of your evaluation. It may round out the person’s character for you, but it doesn’t define it. With current employees, also look at their performance and attitude in different situations. When looking for new hires, consider past experience and related skills, too — not just how much they like Quidditch.
Time to fill your talent pool? List your opening on KSL Jobs, where you can describe the kind of traits you’re looking for. Find other ways to hire the right person for your company on the KSL Jobs Resources page.