Pre-employment personality test options and considerations

Hiring for fit is a practical approach for many employers. After all, skills can be taught and new programs and processes generally have to be learned anytime someone joins a new company. Something that’s harder to teach is attitude and cultural fit.

One increasingly popular option for finding the right fit is to incorporate hiring tests into the recruitment process. These tests are designed to evaluate whether someone’s personality aligns well with the duties of the role and within the overall organizational culture.

These aren’t your everyday BuzzFeed personality quizzes. They’re scientifically designed assessment tools intended to create a personality profile for candidates and compare that against the desired profile for the role. But how accurate are these tests and should you really ask candidates to do them? We’ve listed out the pros and cons, as well as several common pre-employment personality tests, to help you decide whether to add personality assessments to your hiring process.

Types of pre-employment personality tests

There are many different personality tests to choose from. Here are the most common ones used for pre-employment screening.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is an incredibly popular personality test for pre-employment testing, personal development, and other purposes. The Myers-Briggs Company states that 88% of Fortune 500 companies use the test.

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The test asks questions meant to analyze the test taker’s personality and place them into one of 16 personality types. It analyzes how someone makes decisions, how they approach their surroundings and situations, and how they take in information. It’s also largely known for evaluating extroversion and introversion.

SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire

The SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ) is designed to compare a candidate’s work preferences and competencies against the business’ needs. It analyzes traits like stress tolerance, decision-making skills, adaptability, strengths, areas of improvement, and job preferences. There are different versions of the test. The exam may include Likert scale questions and statement selection questions. With the statement questions, candidates are asked to review a set of statements to make primary and secondary selections that provide a detailed look into which statements most and least reflect their attitudes and behaviors.

One added benefit of this job personality test is that it also works well for employee development. The personality test results from the SHL OPQ32 highlight strengths, areas of improvement, and working preferences which can help managers better support and develop their direct reports.

Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment

The Predictive Index’s behavioral assessment focuses on four key behavioral drives that impact workplace behavior and team dynamics. The four traits are dominance, extraversion, patience, and formality.

The behavioral assessment presents candidates with a list of adjectives to choose from. The test first asks them to identify the adjectives that correspond with the way that they are expected to behave at work. Then they are asked to choose the adjectives that describe how they’d actually describe themselves. Then their behaviors and thinking style are analyzed and they are assigned one of 17 reference profiles.

DiSC Profile

The DiSC test measures different dimensions of a candidate’s personality and how they respond to different situations. It is not designed to measure intelligence, aptitude, mental health, or values. Instead, it analyzes work preferences, patterns of behavior, and individual tendencies.

The test focuses largely on four aspects of behaviors; dominance, influence, steadiness, and assertiveness. These aspects influence activities like leading others, handling conflict, sales, and other workplace behaviors.

The assessment includes 80 questions and should take candidates about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. One nice thing about this test is it’s a valuable way to get to know candidates, but the test is meant to be inclusive, not exclusionary. The results provide meaningful insight into behaviors without emphasizing that any specific traits or personality types are intrinsically better or will promise strong job performance.

Caliper Profile

The Caliper Profile consists of 98 multiple-choice questions that are used to measure 280 behaviors, 56 competencies, and 21 personality traits. With the results, employers can see insights and predictions regarding the candidate’s potential job performance.

The Caliper Profile is one of the lengthier personality tests. It’s untimed but it does have an average completion time of 60 minutes, according to the company’s website. It’s an in-depth test that provides a wide range of useful insights, but do keep the time requirement in mind when asking candidates to complete it.

Big Five Personality Test

The Big Five Personality Test, also sometimes called the five-factor model, is an option for employers looking for a shorter pre-employment personality test. It should take candidates just three to eight minutes to complete.

The test focuses on five personality traits; extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. Candidates use a 5-point Likert scale to rate the extent to which they agree or disagree with certain statements. It can provide insight into candidates’ personalities and is desirable due to the fact that it’s quick and free to administer with open-source online tests. Though it was originally developed more for academic purposes within the study of psychology rather than pre-employment testing.

Potential benefits of using pre-employment personality tests

Different types of personality tests will offer slightly different benefits as they inventory varying factors. They do all generally have some benefits in common though, such as the following four advantages.

Filtering applicants

We’re currently in a tough job market, and you may be getting more applications than you’re used to. Reading through hundreds or even thousands of job applications is time-consuming for your hiring team, so it’s understandable that you may want to find a way to more efficiently filter out candidates who aren’t a strong fit.

Many employers are turning to personality tests and skills assessments to help speed up candidate review. Skills tests often focus on hard skills like coding abilities or industry knowledge, while personality tests focus on soft skills and character traits. Using these added pre-employment assessments can help you quickly identify candidates who are likely to be a strong fit and those who are unlikely to possess the desired competencies.

Evaluating fit

Finding the right cultural fit is a high priority for many hiring teams. You want your new hire to fit in well with your current team and within the overall company culture. That’s why personality tests tend to focus on traits like teamwork, conscientiousness, and agreeableness. They’re often designed to highlight candidates who will get along well with others and contribute to a positive, friendly work environment.

Reducing bias in the hiring process

Pre-employment personality test providers often cite this as one of the greatest benefits of using personality assessments during the recruitment process. Personality tests offer a standardized, evidence-based way to assess job and cultural fit with less room for bias.

Hiring managers often assess cultural fit by speaking with the candidate during the interview process, but that leaves room for bias to impact hiring decisions. After all, even hiring managers are prone to unconscious bias. The unconscious stereotypes or assumptions that people hold can impact how they view the candidate or interpret the candidate’s personality.

A personality test is generally computerized and should not have those biases. Though it is worth noting that these tests are created by humans who themselves likely held some biases of their own. Personality is also influenced by one’s cultural background and it’s important to be inclusive and respectful to candidates of different backgrounds. For these reasons, you’ll want to make sure you’re choosing a respected, scientifically-backed personality test. Creating your own test and analyzing the results in-house is likely going to lead to more biased decision-making compared to using tests like DISC and the SHL OPQ.

Improving job satisfaction

The recruitment process isn’t just about finding a candidate that you as an employer like the best. It’s also about finding candidates that will like the job.

Personality tests often focus on whether the candidate’s personality traits and work preferences will match the business’ current job opening. A strong match doesn’t guarantee strong performance, but it can be an indicator of whether the candidate would be happy in the role. For example, being an introvert doesn’t mean that someone would be bad at customer service or sales. However, a high level of introversion may mean that they’d get burned out or would be unhappy if they had to cold call prospects all day.

Employee retention generally requires a high level of job satisfaction, so looking for candidates who are most likely to enjoy the role is a key benefit of personality testing. You may want to use these tests in conjunction with interview questions about what the candidate liked most and liked least in past roles. This will give you a decent picture of whether the candidate will find the role fulfilling and generally enjoyable.

Potential drawbacks of using pre-employment personality tests

When used incorrectly, personality tests can deter candidates or make the hiring process less effective. Here are some potential drawbacks to keep in mind while administering pre-employment personality tests.

They lengthen the application process

Adding extra steps to the application process is always a double-edged sword. As discussed above, added steps like aptitude tests can make applicant review and sorting quicker for the hiring team. Though on the other hand, they do make the application process longer for the candidate.

Most candidates just want to submit their resumes and a brief cover letter. Asking them to take personality tests, skills assessments, or fill out a lengthy application can frustrate applicants. Personality tests often add an extra 15-20 minutes to the application process. In theory, that’s not a huge amount of time. However, right now many candidates are applying to dozens of jobs a week and not hearing back from any of them. Dedicating so much time to each application becomes exhausting and discouraging.

If you do decide to request personality tests, look for ways to be mindful of the candidate’s time. For example, you may want to just accept resumes or make use of LinkedIn and Indeed’s Easy Apply functions so that candidates aren’t spending time filling out applications in addition to taking a personality test.

Personality doesn’t necessarily predict job performance

A candidate’s personality traits won’t necessarily tell you whether or not they will perform well if hired. Someone may have the right personality profile but still not quite be the right fit for the role. The opposite can also be true.

Many common personality tests weren’t even designed to predict performance or screen candidates at all. The Myers-Briggs Foundation, a non profit organization that trains and certifies MBTI practitioners, states that a Myers-BriggI type “does not reflect an individual’s ability, intelligence, likelihood of success, emotions, or normalcy.” It is also against the organization’s ethical guidelines to use the test to screen job candidates. Using tests like the MBTI that were designed for self-improvement as candidate screening tools is a divisive choice and may not provide the insights that you are looking for.

These tests may feel invasive

People like to separate their work selves from their personal selves. As an employer, you’re not entitled to know everything about candidates or employees’ inner thoughts and personal lives. Many people at all levels also have “work personalities” that may differ a bit from their personality at home. To respect those boundaries and evaluate the version of the candidate that you’ll be getting at work, it’s important to focus your pre-hire questions on work-related matters.

That means that it’s generally best to use personality tests that focus on evaluating work styles and preferences. If you use a test that asks broad questions about the candidate’s personal life or emotional state, that will feel invasive to many people.

For example, evaluating a candidate’s stress tolerance for a specific position where they are likely to frequently encounter stressful scenarios or tight deadlines, is valid as long as you’re presenting questions about handling workplace stress. On the other hand, asking questions about whether they feel sad often or sometimes experience sudden changes in mood is invasive and inappropriate. A pre-employment personality test should not be doubling as a mental health screening.

Candidates may not respond honestly

Most people have stretched the truth on their resume or in an application at some point in their career. If candidates routinely misrepresent the truth in applications or job interviews, how can you know that they’ll be honest on a personality test? The answer is that you can’t.

Employees will likely be able to guess what kinds of traits you are looking for based on the job description. As such, they are likely to adjust their responses to fit what they perceive as the ideal results.

It may encourage uniformity within teams and organizations

It’s important to cultivate a diverse team. When we talk about workplace diversity, the focus is generally on diversity in demographics. You absolutely should want to have a team that is diverse in terms of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, ability, and sexual orientation. But while building that diverse team, you’ll also want to welcome people with diverse personalities.

Having a diverse team with different ways of thinking will enrich your team discussions, improve problem-solving, and lead to more innovative ideas. You don’t want to only hire people that fit a specific personality profile or type. Therefore, employers need to be cognizant that test results are there to provide added insights, not make a concrete hiring decision.