Do Personality Tests Lead to Better Hiring Decisions?

It's only natural that companies turn to psychological assessment tests in the hopes of improving the accuracy and validity of their recruitment processes.
Do Personality Tests Lead to Better Hiring Decisions?
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It’s not a new phenomenon. Psychological tests have been used in employee selection processes since World War I.

Determining how to reduce turnover, increase productivity and more accurately predict employee performance has been and remains a goal of nearly every organization.

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Due to its importance, predicting the future success of an applicant is a difficult, high-stakes game. Therefore, it’s only natural that companies turn to psychological assessment tests in the hopes of improving the accuracy and validity of their recruitment processes.

That begs the question: do personality exams prevent bias in recruiting and ultimately assist companies in choosing the most viable candidates? The answer is not a simple yes or no.

Understanding weaknesses

It’s not an exact science. Tests are not always right. While there are benefits to incorporating behavioral and personality-based assessments in the executive recruitment process, they are far from fool-proof. In many instances, variables such as the ones below will present hurdles for the hiring manager.

  • Such tests may be able to detect global personality traits of individuals, their strengths and weaknesses, but will not be a good predictor of who will do well in a certain work environment. For example, extroverts and introverts may become equally good salespeople, using different strengths and skills to succeed. For example, an introvert may be a very good listener and use this talent to better understand his/her client.
  • Another problem is that individuals can “fake” the answers, providing the answers they think the employer is looking for (e.g., if an “extrovert” is considered a better for for a sales position, then the candidate will answer accordingly, irrespective of their “true” personality).

Where the tests prove helpful

Despite not being perfect, studies have shown certain types of tests to provide valuable insight into an applicant’s ability to problem solve, reason and ultimately succeed in a position.

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Even though they disagree as to the extent of accuracy, most experts do agree that cognitive ability tests (in which an applicant’s capacity to mentally process, comprehend and manipulate information is measured) tend to be the most accurate success predictor when compared to other types of pre-employment tests.

However, in order to benefit from a pre-employment assessment to the fullest extent, there must be an understanding that exams do not always accurately factor in certain variables important to success:

  • Current competitive advantage of the company’s product/service
  • Positivity and optimism around the office (i.e., cultural attitude)
  • Autonomy given
  • Resources provided for the applicant to be successful.
  • Management dedication and style

Moreover, companies must supplement the test with a structured interview process. This means all candidates are asked the same questions making it easier for interviewers to score candidate responses and draw comparisons across applicants.

Additionally, it must be predetermined what weight is going to be given to the results of the test. In twelve years of recruiting, we have numerous times seen great performers score lower on screening exams than those who have not worked out in a given role.

Therefore, unless an applicant score comes out dismal, tests are best utilized as a supplemental measure rather than an ultimate decision maker.

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In the end

While not perfect, pre-screening tests can hold merit. Though, they must be used correctly.

Above all, benefiting from implementation requires an understanding of where the results fit in to the overall assessment of a candidate as test inaccuracies can weed out high performers on the job if given too much weight. However, despite some imperfections, hiring managers do benefit by combining a relevant test as a supplemental assessment variable.

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