The Value of Personality Assessments For Hiring & Beyond
Pre-employment personality tests help managers make good hires, but personality tests can also be useful tools to help your employees learn to be more productive and effective at their jobs, work better in teams, and develop as professionals – as long as they are designed to provide relevant feedback for the workplace.
Not all assessments are created equal, and many used in workplace settings are thought to evaluate personality, when in fact they do not.
The 5 assessments described below are a selection of what’s available in the market, whether they truly evaluate personality, and how they apply (or do not apply) to work environments. We describe the purposes and benefits of each one, both for improving employee performance and for strengthening teams.
#1: Resource Associates Personality Tests
Choosing an assessment that measures levels of the Big Five personality traits, such as those available from Resource Associates, will aim to place the test-taker within a very common five-trait model of personality used and endorsed by many psychologists.
Each of the Big Five traits represents a continuum. Individuals can fall anywhere on the continuum for each trait. The relative value of “high” versus “low” levels will vary, depending upon the importance of the work-related behaviors that each trait represents.
Big Five tests, when designed specifically for the workplace, can help leaders glean insights about both employee and job candidate personalities in a way that is applicable to job settings. You may opt to seek a test designed to produce a report that includes both evaluative and developmental information, such as the Personal Style II + Career Development Report.
The Big Five personality traits are:
- Openness – People with high levels of openness are more likely to seek out a variety of experiences and be comfortable with the unfamiliar, more than those with lower levels of openness. They’ll also tend to exhibit a natural curiosity, and they’ll find enjoyment in being surprised.
- Conscientiousness – This dimension speaks to one’s self-regulationand impulse control. This trait influences whether a person will set and meet goals, deliberate over choices, follow rules and regulations closely, and take obligations to others seriously.
- Extraversion – People who identify as extroverts tend to search for novel experiences and social connections that allow them to interact with other individuals as much as possible; they are energized by the company of others Someone who is highly extroverted is more likely to feel bored, or even anxious, when made to spend too much time alone.
- Agreeableness – People high in agreeableness are more congenial, affectionate, altruistic, and generally display more prosocial behaviors than others. People high in this prosocial trait are particularly empathetic, showing great concern for the welfare of others.
- Neuroticism / Emotional Stability – Neuroticism, more commonly known as “Emotional Stability”, speaks to an individual’s tendency to experience changing emotions. With higher levels of neuroticism, an individual is more prone to mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and sadness. Those with lower levels of neuroticism / higher levels of Emotional Stability tend to be more emotionally regulated and resilient.
In organizations, testing for the Big Five traits can help predict things like:
- How employees will interact with their coworkers
- How they will perform under stress
- How tolerant they are to change
- Their potential for leadership or for maintaining long-term employment with a single organization
Depending on the test provider, results often include strengths and developmental concerns, with insights on how the taker can improve in specific areas. These end up being some of the most powerful assessments to use when aiming to develop current employees of an organization.
#2 The Keirsey Temperament Sorter
The Keirsey assessment is considered a personality questionnaire designed to help people better understand themselves and others. It touts the ability to develop trust within a company’s culture by helping people see differences as strengths.
These assessments provide reporting that can relate to matters in the test taker’s personal and professional life. The reports that showcase professional feedback aim to enhance communication between people at different levels in the company, with the goals of reducing turnover and increasing morale and performance. The model encourages employees to understand what motivates their coworkers and what discourages them.
At the team level, Keirsey assessments and training help to find both what a team does best and what the team can improve.
Keirsey assessments can also help to find the natural leaders in an organization, even when they have different personality types; not all leaders have to fit the same image.
#3 Myers-Biggs Assessment
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) gives takers a result in the form of a 4-letter code representing their personality type, with a total of 16 possible combinations. The code tells them their natural tendencies in the following areas:
- Extraversion or Introversion
- Intuition or Sensing
- Thinking or Feeling
- Judging or Perceiving
Each of these personality types has a standard profile associated with it. The profiles indicate what people with a given personality type usually enjoy doing, what type of culture they like, what motivates them, what type of conflict-resolution methods work well for them.
When used properly, and only when evaluated from the workplace perspective, MBTI may help employees learn to perform better on the job and get along better with their peers by helping them understand the common pitfalls of their personality types and how to compensate for them.
The MBTI supplies a common language that employees can use to communicate about their performance, workplace preferences, and feelings about work. Knowing an employee’s type also makes it easier for managers to coach their employees.
Be careful, however, as the MBTI has been found to oversimplify personality with its 16 rigid and limited categories, and users have complained that the results often seem to amplify weaknesses.
CAUTION: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is not designed to be used as a hiring tool, as stated by MBTI in their Code of Ethics.
#4 Occupational Interest Tests
This type of assessment can measure how interested your current employees are in various job types and tasks and to gauge if their career path suits them.
If this information is used to help employees find the best role for them within the organization, it may help you hold on to talented employees longer. A prime example is the Holland Code Career Test, which is based on the theory that each person’s personality and character is expressed through his or her choice of job—and that you can help your employees excel by putting them in the right work environments for their type.
That said, many tests, like the Holland, are only valid for accurately predicting a possible career choice for participants; not for employee development. Our recommendation is to steer clear of using this – or any test – for any purpose other than the one for which it was designed.
#5 DiSC Behavior Inventory
DiSC™ is commonly thought to be a personality test when it is in fact a behavioral assessment. More specifically, it is a behavioral model. There are a number of types of DiSC assessments available. If a DiSC assessment that is focused exclusively on behaviors at work (rather than outside of work or in other environments) is administered to employees, it may help employees become more productive.
Through the DiSC results, employees find out if they are strongest in one of four categories: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, or Conscientiousness. Results aim to educate the test taker on ways to emphasize the right strengths in each situation and work through their weaknesses in others. When taken in groups, reports can provide insights on how each individual can work more effectively with other members of their team as well as customers and leaders through a shared understanding of the DiSC types.
Key Takeaway: Personality Testing Goes Beyond Hiring.
Often considered part of the hiring process, personality tests are also useful to employers seeking to improve performance among existing employees. A variety of tests afford employers the opportunity to test for specific traits and helps assess and project employee performance alone or in groups.