Personality Tests during Hiring

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Many employers, in search of capable employees who will be a good fit for their company, have implemented personality testing during the hiring process. In 2011, a study reported that nearly one out of every five employers was using the tests. Since then, labor experts have continued to evaluate personality tests. Despite some job applicants being uncomfortable with the tests, employers often use them to steer away from gut hiring decisions and toward more objective, data-based approaches to hiring.

The tests themselves ask simple questions designed to elicit information about a potential employee’s personality. Some questions are fairly straightforward, like a true-or-false question about whether a candidate likes parties. Employers can use the answer to this question to evaluate how outgoing a candidate is. Other questions try to build a profile of the candidate more obliquely. A question about movie genre preferences, for instance, might help an employer determine whether a candidate leans toward creative or logical pursuits. Different tests use different methodologies. Some are generalized, ranking candidates in a number of areas or grouping them according to archetypes, while others focus on identifying the strongest candidates for a particular role, like sales.

Personality tests do have their drawbacks. They sometimes screen out candidates who would be a great fit for a position, and the tests tend to steer managers toward making safer, middle-of-the-road hires with personalities the tests deem to be close to the mainstream. Potential employees might also attempt to game the tests by answering questions in a manner they think will be attractive to the employer rather than answering the questions honestly. Additionally, personality testing might expose an employer to liability, because the tests might compromise potential employees’ privacy. In fact, some employers have been sued for their use of the tests in the past.

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