When HR departments are bombarded with hundreds or even thousands of applications for a single position, scanning through each and every resume can seem impossible. In order to find candidates that are suitable for at least an interview, employers often have to add a few extra steps to their hiring process.
That’s where personality tests can be helpful. (And no, I’m not talking about those cute quizzes in Tiger Beat to find out which Jonas brother was your soulmate.)
Pre-Employment Personality Tests
These days, many employers require candidates to take personality assessment tests in order to determine a potential fit.
This actually makes quite a lot of sense for both the employer and the candidate. If an employee is hired for a position that isn’t well-suited to his or her personality, chances are they will be less engaged with their work, which means lower productivity and higher turnover—and this costs employers time and money.
Still, some controversy surrounds the use of certain personality tests for hiring purposes, as psychologists speculate the degree to which they can truly predict job performance.
But since these tests remain popular among hiring personnel, you may want to familiarize yourself with some of the most popular hiring tests, whether you’re on the job hunt or trying to recruit new talent.
The Big Five is a questionnaire that is usually comprised of questions regarding an individual’s preferences and style. Instead of simple “yes” or “no” options, you’ll be able to choose from a scale of “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”
The “big five” traits that will be measured are:
- Openness to experience
Rather than classifying individuals as strictly one or the other, the Big Five test ranks you on a spectrum of 0-100 for each trait (so one could easily land somewhere in the middle).
According to a study published in Perspectives in Psychological Science, researchers found that when it comes to the Big Five model, the most-sought trait by employers was conscientiousness (which includes being dependable, persevering, and orderly). The second most desired trait was agreeableness (found in those who are cooperative, tolerant, and flexible).
Is the Big Five Test Reliable?
Desired personality traits can vary depending on the job in question. For example, for a marketing role, employers might seek someone who is very extraverted and can easily connect with people. For a data entry position, however, employees will likely prefer a candidate who is less chatty and focuses on their tasks.
Still, it’s probably safe to bet that most employers would hire a candidate who is dependable, cooperative, and somewhat flexible (therefore conscientious and agreeable) over someone who is flaky and stubborn.
Because of the flexibility offered by the test itself (measuring individuals on a scale instead of matching them definitively with one trait or the other), the Big Five Personality Test is one of the more dependable models when it comes to predicting job fit and performance.
Take the Big Five test to see how you rank for each trait!
If you ever took a high school or university psychology class, you probably took this test and were matched with a four-letter personality type. (Any fellow INTJ’s out there?)
In the American version, the Myers-Briggs test features 93 questions with only two answers to choose from. Your response determines which tendencies you lean towards out of the following categories:
Extrovert (E) or Introvert (I)
Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
There are sixteen possible types that can emerge from combinations of these categories. As an INTJ, for example, I tend to be introverted, rely on my intuition, make decisions based on logic over feelings, and judge things (and sometimes people) critically.
Is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Reliable?
While it can be incredibly fun to research your type and see how scarily accurate the description is, the Myers-Briggs indicator may not be the best predictor of how well a candidate will fit in a position. Unlike the Big Five test, the answers are not scaled and cannot be easily compared between candidates.
In fact, Myers-Briggs itself issued a statement discouraging the use of its test for hiring selections: “People of many different types excel at the same job for different reasons. Individuals should not be pigeonholed based on their personality preferences.”
Instead, the test could potentially be a good indicator of how a candidate will work in a group—but the result still shouldn’t be a deciding factor.
The Caliper Test is a multiple-choice test with 180 questions designed to gather information about a candidate’s natural strengths and potential for success in a particular role. However, unlike many other personality tests, the Caliper offers several different types of questions, which is why it is recognized as one of the most comprehensive and accurate assessments available.
Examples of question types include:
- Choosing which in a series of statements best reflects your point of view
- Choosing statements that least reflect your point of view
- True/false questions
- Multiple choice questions based on your level of agreement
The Caliper Test assesses four primary areas:
- Persuasiveness and leadership skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Problem-solving and decision-making
- Personal organization and time management
In addition, employers can also customize the test to target traits and behaviors that are important to them, which could better help to determine a candidate’s fit for a certain role.
Is the Caliper Test reliable?
Since it offers one of the most comprehensive overviews of a candidate’s personality when compared with other tests, the Caliper Test has been widely recognized as a leading hiring test for over 50 years.
The 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire, also known as the 16PF, measures 16 personality factors on a scale in order to help predict one’s work performance and behavior. The latest edition features 185 multiple choice questions and asks about specific situations to assess behavior and interests. Response options range from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”
The personality factors measured in the 16PF test include:
- Emotional stability
- Social boldness
- Openness to change
The test was designed to help employers predict things like how much a candidate relates to others, their level of independence, thinking style, flexibility, and ability to manage stress. The 16 traits that are measured are considered sub-traits of the “Big Five.”
Is the 16PF reliable?
Results of a candidate’s 16PF test can easily be compared with others, since traits are measured on a scale (much like the Big Five). While it reveals personality traits, the 16PF is an overall better indicator of job performance when compared with tests like the Myers-Briggs Indicator.
The Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI) contains 266 true or false and agree/disagree questions that must be answered within 20 minutes—which means candidates have to be pretty instinctive with their answers.
The test assesses a candidate’s personality along 7 scales:
- Adjustment (self-confidence, performance under pressure)
- Ambition (initiative, competitiveness)
- Interpersonal sensitivity
- Learning approach
The HPI can also predict work performance and potential by measuring 6 occupational scales:
- Service orientation
- Stress tolerance
- Clerical potential
- Sales potential
- Managerial potential
Is the Hogan Personality Index Reliable?
Although it was originally designed for socio-analytical context in the 1980s, the HPI is now considered a consistent and reliable tool for evaluating a candidate’s job compatibility.
Should Personality Tests Be Used For Hiring?
While they can be helpful tools for determining a candidate’s potential fit with a company, there are several factor to consider when evaluating the effectiveness of personality tests in the hiring process.
First, when candidates realize they are being asked to take a test or assessment, they may be more likely to respond with the answers they believe the company wants, rather than the answers that actually reflect their beliefs. This would completely defeat the test’s purpose.
Second, there is a risk that candidates can get “stuck” on their scores or assigned traits, and therefore limit their own growth potential.
For example, if a candidate is told by a personality test that he scores low on leadership, he or she may come to accept this as an innate quality that they cannot change. As a result, they may be less motivated to strive for promotions or perform at a higher level.
Are Personality Tests Ethical?
Overall, personality tests can still be useful additions to a company’s hiring process, when viewed alongside other more concrete factors, such as proven skills and experience. They can offer insight to an individual’s work style or even indicate other areas of potential, which can help with formulating long-term goals for employees.
Do you think personality tests are helpful to the hiring process? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!