Personality Tests: Great for Management; Bad for Predicting Success

By Team Hireology,
August 19, 2011

Personality tests: friend or foe?

I can’t tell you how many times over the past month I’ve heard: “We just want to ‘personality test’ all our candidates so we know who will be a fit before we interview them.” Sounds good, right?

Sure, personality tests can be easy to administer, require almost no time on your end, are relatively inexpensive, and possess the alluring appeal of revealing your candidate’s nature – their traits – which you may not ever know without spending two months working at their side. But, before you decide you’d like to invest in a personality test as a part of your selection system, beware:

Research shows that while personality tests are a great tool for understanding people and improving management, they are far less effective at predicting how well someone will perform at their job.

In fact, personality tests, on average, are just slightly more valid (accurate) in predicting job performance than recommendation letters. Cognitive ability tests (intelligence tests) tend to be the most predictive, but come with big legal risks associated with adverse impact. By far, the next most effective tool for predicting job performance is structured interviews. Structured interviews ask the same questions every time, and are based on the behavioral components of your job.

That being said, I want to offer a suggestion to our customers who want a quick way to sort resumes and who also want to understand the inner workings of their new hires:

1. Conduct a Job Fit survey as a regular practice before bringing someone in for an interview: Job fit surveys are different from personality surveys in that they ask about a candidate’s past experience and usually relate to the job at hand. Hireology offers a SmartRank survey that is automatically customized for your job, and sent to candidates after they apply.

2. Conduct structured interviews with your best candidates: Did we mention Hireology offers a suite of job-specific, customized structured interviews that predict success in your job almost every time?

3. Conduct personality tests on the candidates you’ve already decided to hire: Personality tests can be extremely valuable when trying to understand the motivations and work styles of your new employees. Have your candidates take personality tests after you’ve already made them a job offer. Better yet, have your new employee’s manager take the test as well. They’ll know how to work well together, right off the bat. Hireology will offer DISC assessments (In our opinion, one of the best personality assessments out there) through our interface in the next two months.

About the Author

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and learn how to build your best team.