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Personality Testing
 

Reader’s Response to Stephanie Jones, “The good, the bad and the ugly: a review of job candidate experiences of psychological testing”, Assessment and Development Matters, Vol.3, No. 1.

 

 

In common with many readers of this journal, I believe that psychometric tests are a useful aid to selection (well we would, wouldn’t we).  But personality tests, and the concept of “personality”, are sometimes misused in the selection and interview process. 

 

One job seeker, quoted in the article, advised: “make sure you are only applying for jobs that suit your personality”.

 

This goes to the heart of the matter which the article, despite its advice on good practice, failed to address: the use of personality tests is based on the assumption that there is a proven link between performance on a particular personality test and performance in a particular job.  In my experience, many organisations use these tests without having carried out a validation study to show a causal link between a particular personality profile and superior job performance in their organisation.

 

In face-to-face interviews, the preference given to candidates with particular personality styles often comes down to woolly concepts such as “gut feeling”, “organisation fit”, or “fit with the team”.  Often recruiters making such statements cannot articulate what they mean by “fit”; in many cases it indicates nothing more than rapport between the recruiter and the candidate.  We know it is easier to build rapport with people “like me” and this can lead to bias, the “big brother” scenario mentioned by some job seekers, and ultimately, to the wrong selection decision being made. 

 

Even if an organisation has carried out an adequate validation study, selecting people on the basis of personality clones raises other issues:

 

What about diversity – surely in most jobs these days we need a variety of approaches and styles in order to get the best result?

 

Jobs, customers, organisations all change, so over time, the personalities required for success must change too?

 

Can performance in a particular environment really be predicted from a few traits in a self-report questionnaire, or from how someone’s “personality” comes across at interview?

 

At most, personality questionnaires should be used only to identify areas to probe at interview.  And, to remove the myths and mysticism surrounding testing, candidates must receive feedback. 

 

Catherine Stothart

Essenwood Consulting