“Employees are a company’s greatest asset — they’re your competitive advantage.” –Anne M. Mulcahy, former CEO, Xerox Corporation
The right hiring decisions can truly define a company. In an effort to build top-quality workforces, human resource departments are increasingly turning to advanced tools such as personality tests to aid them in their hiring decisions. In fact, the Global Assessment Trends report published in 2014 by CEB points out that the majority — 62 percent — of human resource professionals use personality tests to vet candidates.
Personality tests are assessments that provide insight into important but intangible information about candidates, such as their personality, values and work preferences. Armed with this information, human resource managers are able to gain insight into how well a candidate might fare in any given job. The pros and cons of personality testing are significant, and companies must weigh them carefully before deciding on their use.
Pros of Personality Testing
Personality testing can certainly provide substantial benefits to hiring managers. As a concept, they have been praised for several reasons:
- Knowing the unique information personality tests provide can help hiring managers assess a candidate’s fit into company culture.
- Personality tests allow hiring managers to better understand how to keep individual employees engaged and motivated at work.
- Well-designed, standardized assessments allow an organization to improve its legal defensibility by providing a fairer method of candidate comparison.
- Personality tests can reduce the chance of putting the wrong person in the wrong role (a mistake that can be costly).
Cons of Personality Testing
For all their positive qualities, personality tests also have drawbacks. Criticisms include:
- Time. Personality tests can be time-consuming, which may lead to job candidate frustration or even loss to other companies.
- Money. Personality tests can be costly to administer. Costs can range between $100 to $5,000 per candidate, according to Helios HR (2014).
- Accuracy. While useful for gaining behavioral insight, personality tests are not always the best indicators of how successful an individual will be in a job. This is particularly true with certain tests such as the Four Quadrant (4-Q) test and Myers-Briggs assessment. Although these tests have not been validated as strong measures of job performance, they remain popular among employers.
- Reliability. Candidates often answer personality tests by choosing answers they believe employers want to hear. This can make test results difficult to interpret or even invalid.
For companies that want to assess candidates more substantially but conclude that personality testing is wrong for their needs, alternative testing methods are available.
Alternatives: Employee Assessment Tests
Instead of evaluating aspects of a candidate’s personality, employee assessment tests measure an individual’s particular skills and knowledge base. These tests can investigate anything from specific competencies (such as computer language fluency or the ability to read blueprints) to general aptitudes, such as interpersonal effectiveness and logic. Employee assessment tests can be a good measure for predicting outcomes such as job performance, explains the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2017). Scores are also less likely to be influenced by test takers attempting to manage the impression their responses will make. However, employee assessment tests have the downside of often requiring frequent updates to keep up with job requirements, and they may not be appropriate for all positions.
Overall, companies tend to utilize assessment tests to screen for the right skills, motivation and personality. In other words, will the candidate be a good fit for the organization?
Hiring Like a Professional
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