Should You Use Personality Tests For Hiring?

Personality test with the words "Introvert" and "Sensitive" marked with a pen

Using personality tests for hiring can offer valuable insights on culture fit, work style, and other factors that define the right candidate. But are they reliable tools? We’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of using personality assessments for hiring and share some of the top employment personality tests that hiring managers can rely on.

What Are Personality Tests For Hiring?

A personality test is a technique used to measure various human characteristics and behavior patterns. Its origins date back to the 18th century when a method called phrenology was used to link personality traits to the shape of a person’s skull. 

Thankfully, today you won’t see an employer running their hands over a candidate’s head to learn whether the person is a hard worker. But you might see them give a pre-employment personality test. In hiring, a personality test is meant to give a quantifiable value to traits that are usually hard to measure, like customer service aptitude or level of patience. 

Employers tend to be split on whether personality tests are useful in hiring–some sing their praises, while others are quick to point out their potential shortcomings. But if you incorporate personality tests into your hiring process in an appropriate way, they can be a worthwhile tool to predict a candidate’s propensity for success. Think of them as one more weapon in your overall strategy to be as competitive and accurate as possible in your recruiting. 

Why Do Companies Give Personality Tests?

Since it is expensive for companies to recruit and train new employees, attracting the right candidates for specific opportunities is important for an organization’s productivity and bottom line. Personality tests continue to serve as valuable tools for recruiting, hiring, and retaining exceptional talent. Personality is a proven indicator of job performance, therefore assessing a candidate’s behavioral tendencies in the workplace helps recruiters and headhunters determine if he or she will thrive in the open job and fit into the employer’s company culture.

Personality tests in recruitment offer insight into important, yet intangible information about prospects, like their personality, values, and work preferences. Research shows that when employees are placed in positions that do not match their respective personalities, it often leads to discontent. This results in low productivity and high turnover.

With the current unemployment rate, and the talent shortage in most industries, it is understandable why companies want to do everything they can to increase the chances that new hires become valuable, long-term team members.

Pre-employment job personality tests are typically delivered online and processed immediately. Results are verified and compared with other candidates. This accelerates the hiring process and increases the likelihood that prospects are compatible with the specific opportunity and the company.

A typical interview may not provide recruiters with enough insight into a candidate’s personality. Behavioral assessments offer a deeper dive to discover a prospect’s strengths, weaknesses, and predilections.

Related: How To Use Pre-Employment Assessments to Make Better Hires

Common Career Personality Tests

The Caliper Profile

This test measures how a candidate’s personality traits correspond to his or her job performance. TopResume.com reports that the Caliper Profile is different from other assessments because it studies positive and negative qualities, which is intended to offer a full picture of the prospect.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The majority of Fortune 100 companies use the MBTI as part of their hiring process, according to CPI, which is the test’s publisher. The MBTI is designed to determine if a job seeker’s personality is more geared to one of two tendencies in the following groupings: “Extraversion vs. Introversion,” “Intuition vs. Sensing,” “Thinking vs. Feeling,” and “Judging vs. Perceiving.” Candidates who take the MBTI fall into one of 16 personality types. There is a website called 16Personalities.com that offers free assessments as personal development tools. The MBTI is frequently implemented to see if a prospect would be an effective cultural fit for an organization.

The SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire

This assessment provides firms with an indication of how certain behaviors impact a prospect’s work performance.  Candidates are evaluated in three areas: “Relationship with People,” “Thinking Style and Feelings,” and “Emotions.” They are given four statements and must select which statement best describes them, and which statement least describes them.

The Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI)

This test has been validated on more than 200 occupations, according to TopResume.com, which further described the HPI as a consistent and reliable tool to evaluate a person’s temperament, and how that temperament matches the requirements of a specific role. The test studies seven primary scales and six occupational scales (“Service Orientation,” “Stress Tolerance,” “Reliability,” “Clerical Potential,” “Sales Potential” and “Managerial Potential”) along with 42 subscales.

The DiSC Behavior Inventory

This model has existed since the era of Hippocrates, around 400 B.C. You see it in multiple versions. The four basic DiSC factors are “Dominant (D),” “Influential (I),” “Steady (S),” and “Compliant (C).” Companies use the DiSC to learn about a prospect’s professional behavior style and his or her ability to work as part of a team. Like the MBTI, the DiSC is a popular assessment used by many companies.

How Many Employers use Personality Tests When Hiring?

The Society for Human Resource Management reports that 22 percent of employers utilize personality and behavioral assessments to assist them in the hiring process. When used alone, these tests may not give an effective projection of an employee’s performance. Combined with other data and tools, however, they can serve as a powerful resource for recruiters.

The pros and cons of personality tests for recruiting are bountiful, so companies should carefully weigh them before use.

Benefits of Personality Tests For Hiring

  • Learning the unique information personality tests provide can help recruiters and headhunters study a candidate’s potential fit within a company culture.
  • Personality tests help recruiters and headhunters better understand how to keep employees engaged and motivated in the workplace.
  • Effectively designed personality assessments can decrease the chance of placing the wrong person in the wrong role – a mistake that is detrimental for the employee, colleagues and the company as a whole.
  • Tests that are built using prior company data can be a good indicator of how well a person will succeed in a specific role at a particular company.

Problems of Personality In Recruitment

  • Time. Personality tests can be time-consuming, and this can lead qualified candidates to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
  • Money. Personality assessments can be expensive to administer for companies, which increases the cost for recruiting and hiring employees.
  • Accuracy. Personality assessments do provide valuable insight about behavior, but they are not 100 percent accurate in gauging how successful prospects will be in their roles.
  • Reliability. Some candidates are honest with their answers while others just select answers they believe employers want to hear.
  • Subjectiveness. Even though the tests are designed to be objective, they’re subject to bias based on who created the test and how the decision maker ends up using the results.

Tips For Using Personality Tests When Hiring

Avoid labels

One of the biggest criticisms of pre-employment personality tests is that they unfairly force people into predetermined boxes. After all, candidates are complex humans that can’t be defined by a single list of questions. Avoid using personality tests to broadly assign labels to candidates (like’ extroverted’ or ‘introverted’) and instead focus on tendencies (‘this candidate is likely to prefer working closely with others rather than working alone’). 

Use data

The best tests are those that are designed with a specific role, team, or company in mind. Draw upon your historical data to learn what traits or tendencies make candidates most likely to succeed, and then focus on questions that will help you identify those characteristics. 

Related: How To Leverage Data To Improve Your Recruitment Process

Don’t rely on the test alone

Pre-employment personality tests shouldn’t be graded on a pass or fail scale. Instead, they should be just one factor out of many that are considered in the hiring process, not the deciding factor that determines who you’ll ultimately select. 

Don’t Wait For a Job Application To Utilize Personality Tests

  • Learning your personality type can help you better understand others
  • Personality assessments can help you identify your likes and dislikes
  • You can better understand certain situations that allow you to perform at your best level
  • You can learn more about your strengths and areas that need improvement

Personality tests do have limitations. They can offer insight, but they are not pinpoint accurate. Knowing your personality type will not fully guarantee that you will love and thrive in a particular occupation and job. There is a monumental difference between having an interest in a particular field and liking the actual work. A personality test might indicate that you would be a spectacular computer programmer, for example, but you might find the work unfulfilling.

Key Takeaway

We are an experienced and innovative staffing and recruiting firm that helps companies like yours find skilled and qualified team members for your vacant positions. Our recruitment specialties include, marketing and creative, legal, IT, non-clinical healthcare, call center and customer service, as well as, finance and accounting.

We offer staffing solutions for businesses of all sizes – from startups to SMBs and large corporations throughout the United States. Our knowledge and passion for what we do, and our flexible terms and conditions, set us apart in the world of headhunting and recruiting.  If you need help identifying the right candidates for your vacancies, we welcome the opportunity to connect! Our team of headhunters is on stand-by to help you transform your workforce and find the ideal candidate today!

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the president of 4 Corner Resources, the nationally acclaimed staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. His mission back then was the same as it is today: to do business in a personal way, while building an organization with boundless opportunities for ingenuity and advancement. When not managing 4 Corner’s growth or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his sales and business expertise though public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Hire Calling podcast.