The Value of Personality Assessments as a Recruiting and Hiring Tool

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about personality testing in the workplace. Some respected sources say that personality assessments aren’t of any use in hiring. Other sources, just as respected, say they’re essential.

So who are you to believe? Let’s separate fact from fiction and get the real scoop on using personality tests in hiring.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management, some experts estimate that just under two-thirds of U.S. workers are now asked to take workplace assessments. Most organizations use personality testing with their existing workers, but 22 percent use these tests to help them choose which candidates to hire.

Still, you probably don’t want to rely on personality tests as the single defining factor in hiring.

“This is not a silver bullet,” Uzma S. Burki, Amtrak’s senior vice president of human capital strategy and center of excellence, told SHRM. Amtrak is starting to test all its job applicants as it prepares to fill a wave of open positions. Assessment results are “one of the many variables that needs to be factored into hiring a person,” she said.

Our Executive Director of Psychology, Beverly Betz, MSW, agrees. “[A personality test] shouldn’t be used alone,” she says. “It should be one part of an evaluation of somebody.”

Jim Povec, principal at the Padgett Performance Group, an assessment, leadership and professional human capital consulting firm, told CIO magazine that he believes “technical skills, experience and knowledge” should count for about 50 percent of the decision, assessments for 30 percent, and interview performance for the remaining 20 percent.

Clearly, as part of a larger hiring strategy, tests can be powerful.

“I used to think when I hired someone that I had a 50–50 chance that it would work,” Ralph Stewart, executive vice president and chief credit officer at Alabama Farm Credit, told SHRM. With a personality test, he thinks his odds have increased to 75 percent. Tests are even more helpful when hiring recent graduates, who don’t have as much work history to speak for them.

There’s also a right and a wrong way to use the tests. For example, are you looking for a one-size-fits-all program, or one specific to candidates applying for positions in a specific department or branch of your company?

“If the goal is to reduce turnover or absenteeism or drug use in the workplace, that’s a very different process than if you are a healthcare organization trying to improve patient satisfaction and trying to measure empathy in nurses,” Whitney Martin, a measurement strategist at ProActive Consulting in Louisville, Ky., told SHRM.

“We have a more sophisticated view of personality where if somebody is a certain type, we would say ‘You can be successful in this way,’” says Traitify’s Betz. “That’s what the careers inventory does. ‘If you are this type, think about these professions.’”

Ask yourself: Is there a specific skill you’re searching for? Do you need a salesperson with a powerful close? Perhaps you want to ensure your next manager has excellent leadership skills. Choose a test that measures these attributes.

Annette McLaughlin, vice president of talent, coaching and outplacement for Response Co., a mid-to-senior recruitment firm in New York City, told Inc that the best time to administer a test is midway through the interview process. Too soon and you might be causing applicants unnecessary work (because their resume or application was so weak they would have been rejected anyway). Too late, and you might miss out on opportunities to rethink the job’s responsibilities or even reshape an entire department.

As workplace innovation author Stephen Shapiro explains: “The hiring process needs to consider the business process.”

Want to learn more about how to leverage the results of personality assessments to make better hires? Check out our whitepaper or give us a shout.