Are Personality Tests Worth It?

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Personality tests- love them or hate them, they’re a common screening tool used by many companies as part of the hiring process. Everyone has probably taken one at some point. But do they really work? And even more importantly, are they worth the investment? As with so many things in business (and in life), there are several factors and nuances to consider when it comes to these tools. We did some digging around to find information to help you decide what is right for your company. 

To refresh your mind (just in case it has been a while since you took a science class or had to write a research paper!), the scientific use of the term “validated” means a measurement tool has been evaluated and researched enough for scientists to believe the results it produces will be legitimate. More specifically, it means researchers have concluded with a high degree of confidence the tool will measure what it says it measures. The validation process is lengthy and robust. So, if a tool is scientifically validated, one can proceed with a certain level of comfort they’ll collect solid information from the results. 

Does that mean validated tools are foolproof? Not exactly. Scientists also look at reliability coefficients when evaluating any measurement tool (science-y word for the process of statistical analysis that shows the researcher how often the tool’s predictions are right). In a nutshell, all of this means one should make sure their measurement tool of choice is validated and reliable before the results are taken as gospel. 

There are a lot of personality test options out there. Some common ones you may have heard of (or even have taken yourself)- the Predictive Index, the Myers-Briggs, and the DiSC profile. We aren’t recommending one of these tools over the others- these three all have a good reputation, and each one may have attributes that are better or worse for certain situations. But on their websites, each one claims to be the leading tool for businesses to evaluate their employees. So, how can you really know which one is right for you? 

When evaluating these tools against your needs (and budget), you’ll want to understand exactly what it is you hope to uncover by requiring this test. Will the test you choose ask the right questions to get you the information you seek? You’ll also want to be sure the results you get will be relevant to the job you’re hiring for. Asking a prospective employee about their favorite color obviously isn’t relevant to whether they can do a job in the finance industry. But if you’re seeking to fill a position that will have a lot of visibility on your company’s private information- you may want to consider a tool that will measure aspects of their integrity and ethics. As the Harvard Business Review points out “the strongest personality assessments to use in a hiring context are ones that possess these attributes (listed below)”: 

  • Measure traits that don’t typically change much over time
  • Allow you to compare scores between candidates
  • Can predict if a candidate wasn’t truthful with their answers (think, lie detector)
  • Are reliable, valid predictors of job performance

 

According to experts from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)- here are important questions to ask of any potential personality assessment vendor you’re considering:  

  • What is the assessment designed to measure, and how will that benefit the organization?
  • Is the assessment reliable and accurate?
  • Does it effectively predict important workplace behaviors that drive metrics affecting sales, customer satisfaction and turnover?
  • Does it come with a job analysis tool that allows you to identify behavioral job requirements?
  • How easy is the assessment to take?
  • Does it come in multiple languages?
  • How easy is it to interpret results?
  • Is the assessment free of bias?
  • Important- does it comply with federal guidelines?

 

Complying with federal guidelines and employment laws is obviously a very important consideration for all business owners. We don’t always know what we don’t know- especially when we’re just getting started. Our advice is to choose an established and respected personality assessment tool from a vendor who can ensure your compliance with applicable laws. 

Overall, there is much research out there in support of using one of the highly-respected personality inventories/assessments. Validated personality test results can help you differentiate between two candidates who may have similar qualifications for the role. They can even help you gauge the potential success of an employee who doesn’t have a lot of experience- like a new grad. 

Our advice- as long as the personality test isn’t the only tool in your kit, it can be very helpful. Use a reliable assessment tool as one piece of the puzzle- but also be sure to include robust behavioral interviews, assess the employee for culture fit, consider skills testing (when relevant for the role), and always complete pre-employment reference checks. Evaluating a prospective employee on all these fronts can give you a well-rounded picture of the individual candidate- which is always a good investment. That investment can absolutely pay off if it helps you hire employees who are happier in their roles, more productive, and stay with your company longer. 

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