What You Should Know About Personality Tests in the Workplace
So you’re up for your dream job and after the second interview the HR team springs it on you: It’s time to take a personality test. If you’re surprised by that turn of events, perhaps you shouldn’t be.
Personality tests have become a multi-million dollar business with many companies using these tests to make hiring decisions as well as determine how to manage talent within an organization, including which employees to promote and which employees to groom for the C-suite.
Experts estimate that as many as 60 percent of workers are now asked to take workplace assessments, according to a report from the Society of Human Resource Management. Many organizations use personality testing for career development and about 22 percent use it to evaluate job candidates, according to the results of a 2014 survey of 344 Society for Human Resource Management members.
In United States, several million individuals are tested for work-related purposes each year, says Deniz Ones, a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota. Outside the United States, personality tests are also popular in English-speaking countries.
Here are 12 things you should know about personality tests in the workplace.
You Likely Won’t Be Taking the Myers-Briggs or DiSC
While many of us are familiar with some of the more popular tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the DiSC Behavior Inventory, that focus on temperament rather than character traits, there are plenty of other tests that are more widely used for talent management.
“Those tests [Myers-Briggs and DiSC] are more conversations starters and are rarely used in hiring or talent management,” Ones said.
In fact, Myers-Briggs is adamant that it shouldn’t be used for employment decisions. “It is unethical and in many cases illegal to require job applicants to take the Indicator if the results will be used to screen out applicants,” according to the Myers-Briggs ethical guidelines.
Myers-Briggs and DiSC Determine If You’re a Team Player or a Lone Wolf
Myers-Briggs and DiSC are more suited to determining if an employee likes to participate in teams or whether she is a loner than determining if an employee would be successful in a certain job.
“Those tests are more conversation starters, and are rarely used in hiring or talent management,” Ones says. “Most HR professionals wouldn’t base an occupational or employment decision on their results.” They are typically used for team building and training programs to show employees that not everyone thinks the same way. The problem with Myers-Briggs and DiSC is they can pigeonhole employees, she says.
For instance, tests used for hiring and placement decisions explore whether an employee or job applicant has the personality traits that would make them a successful leader and manager versus an employee who is more suited to remaining a rank-and-file employee.
The Personality Tests You’ll Likely Take in the Workplace
There are six popular tests that assess whether someone’s personality traits make him or her right for the job:
No. 1: The Hogan Personality Inventory
The Hogan Personality Inventory is often used to predict job performance. The test takes only about 15 or 20 minutes to complete and evaluates qualities such as ambition, sociability and inquisitiveness.
The test can determine whether an employee is likely to be attentive and courteous toward customers and calm under pressure as well as evaluate their ability to solve problems and make decisions.
More than 3 million individuals have been assessed by this test, according to the Hogan Personality Inventory website.
No. 2: The Caliper Profile
The Caliper Profile measures an individual’s personality traits against their job performance and even examines positive and negative personality traits. It’s a lengthy test with 180 multiple-choice questions that can take up to two hours for an individual to complete.
No. 3: SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire
The SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire assesses 32 specific personality characteristics related to job performance.
It also measures these key competencies: leading and deciding, supporting and cooperating, interacting and presenting, analyzing and interpreting, creating and conceptualizing, organizing and executing, adapting and coping, and enterprising and performing.
No. 4: Holland Code Career Test
The Holland Code Career Test is typically used to measure the interest of an employee in different tasks and roles. The test can provide insight into the employee’s career interest and help increase employee retention. The test takes about 10 minutes to complete and asks the employee to rank 48 tasks on a scale of 1 to 5.
No. 5: Situational Judgment Tests
Situational Judgment Tests determine how an employee might interact with customers or deal with a challenging situation. This test is often used to determine if an employee will be a good customer service representative or sales person.
No. 6: The Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment
The Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System (known as TAPAS) is used by the U.S. Army to determine if civilians are a good fit for the military service and whether current soldiers should be given special-duty assignments.
TAPAS "unlocks motivational aspects of Soldiers' performance, like whether or not they're a good fit for Army life, if they are an attrition risk, if they have leadership potential, resilience, team orientation, ingenuity, selflessness, commitment to serve, and even how well they're likely to perform on an Army physical fitness test," says Dr. Heather Wolters, a senior research psychologist at the Personnel Assessment Research Unit, U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, according to the Army’s website.
Measuring Essential Traits
Personality testing can be expensive for organizations but it doesn’t have to be. Some tests cost only a few dollars per person while others cost several hundred dollars to administer. That’s why it’s important for organizations to identify a test that will measure the specific traits they value in an employee.
“A mistake I often see is an organization trying to measure all of personality,” Ones said. Corporations typically don’t need to measure an employee’s whole personality. Instead, human resource managers should consider what traits are essential for doing the job and measure an applicant or employee’s propensity for that attribute.
For instance, it might be a good idea to measure trustworthiness and reliability, but you might not have to measure extroversion if that isn’t a trait that’s required for the job.
Employees Should Be Told How and Why the Test Is Being Used
Human resource managers should explain to employees being tested how and why the test is being used in the hiring or talent management process. If HR doesn’t do it unprompted, you should ask.
“It’s important for individuals to feel they are being treated with respect and being treated justly,” Ones said.
While corporations aren’t required to reveal the name of the test they are using, they should explain to employees that these tests offer professionally developed, scientific approaches to measuring work-related personality traits, Ones says.
Should You Worry About Personality Tests Compromising Your Privacy?
Personality tests might be less biased and more fair to use compared with interviews, which are more subjective and not standardized, Ones says. There are no ethnic or racial group differences in terms of personality so using a personality test may be a good mechanism for ensuring diversity, she says.
Many employees often have privacy concerns about personality tests. However, Ones says, these tests are typically not sensitive enough to reveal if someone has depression, anxiety or any other psychological diagnosis.
It’s Hard to Outsmart a Personality Test
For corporations, there may be concern about whether an employee can fake their answer and outsmart the test. That’s highly unlikely, even though websites like JobTestPrep help applicants prepare and practice for pre-employment tests.
The truth is job candidates rarely spend hours trying to fake their answers. “It’s incongruous for job candidates to try to fake their answers because no one wants to pretend to have certain traits every day at work,” Ones said.