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The pros and cons of using personality tests for hiring


US employers test as many as 60 to 70% of applicants’ personalities and, increasingly, HR personnel are using at least one type of personality test for hiring. Personality tests are used to assist organizations when making a hiring decision and to help them make efficient candidate selection. 

But there are certain disadvantages to consider as well. For example, if your hiring process relies primarily on personality tests, the process is significantly less effective.

That’s why we don’t recommend relying on personality tests for final hiring decisions, but there are many advantages to using them early in the hiring process.

With this in mind, this article covers:

  • What personality tests are and what they measure

  • The pros of using a personality test for hiring

  • The cons of using a personality test for hiring

  • Things to avoid when using a personality test for hiring

What is a personality test and what do they measure?

A personality test is an assessment tool frequently used in the workplace to get a deeper understanding of your candidates’ personalities. There are various types of personality tests. Some of the ideal personality tests for hiring include:

Each of the personality tests we have listed above also measures how your candidates’ personalities align with their potential working environments. They provide information on their interpersonal and cognitive skills as well. 

These tests are based on the theories and work of respected psychologists. They are reliable, perceptive assessments, and help make hiring decisions easier when used with other skills tests. 

The pros of using personality tests for hiring

Using a personality test for hiring has a range of advantages. Take a look at some of the benefits below.

Discover more about your candidates in a short space of time

Though keeping your hiring process short and reducing recruitment costs might be challenging, you can achieve it with a personality test. For instance, in cases where you want to learn more about your candidates’ personalities in a short space of time, a personality test is ideal. 

Learn more about your candidates’ preferred communication style

Is your candidate likely to prefer particular communication styles when sharing ideas with team members? You can discover this with a personality test, which will reveal whether your candidates prefer an analytical style of communication, a personal communication style, an intuitive communication style, or a functional communication style.

With this knowledge, you will find it simpler to adapt the way you communicate with your successful candidate to their preferred communication style.

Plan for the interview process to learn more about candidates

It’s not always easy to put together the right set of interview questions for your candidates, but with a personality test, this can be easier. If your candidate indicates that they work better as part of a team, you could then base an interview question on this information. You might ask, for instance, whether they have experience working independently and whether they have been successful at independent projects.

Shift the team balance and make it more cohesive

How will your successful candidate fit into your team? How will the team dynamic shift once you have made your final hiring decision? A personality test will help you make any adjustments required within your team to accommodate a new hire. 

For instance, if your new hire needs to shadow one of your existing team members, you will easily be able to select the ideal person for the mentorship role, based on the candidate’s personality. Or if you need to pair up your successful candidate with another team member for a particular project, you will know which team member is the best choice.

Ensure your candidates understand their strengths and weaknesses

If your candidates are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, they can make adjustments to their working styles and become more productive as a result. A personality test can help with this. 

So, using a personality test for hiring is not only beneficial for you, as an HR professional, but it will help your candidates be more self-aware. They will have a better understanding of the areas in which they are most competent and the areas they need to improve. 

For instance, if a candidate is aware that they have a low conscientious personality score from the results of a Big 5 (OCEAN) personality test, they will know that one of their weaknesses might be meeting strict deadlines. They will then be able to take steps towards preparing more efficiently when the time comes.

Dig deeper into the most suitable working environment for your candidate

Knowing whether your candidates prefer a calm working environment or an environment in which the dynamic is always changing is important, which you will discover with a personality test.

Does your candidate work best with a rapidly-changing work environment with one-day deadlines, or do they prefer environments where the work is steady and predictable? A personality test for hiring can help you understand which working environment drives productivity in line with your candidates’ personality traits.

Plan towards management or make adjustments in management style

Just as with communication styles, your candidate’s personality will indicate how well they respond to certain management styles as well. Whether your candidates prefer more guidance and a hands-on management approach or prefer to work independently, you will know from the very beginning of your hiring process from the results of the personality test.

The cons of using personality tests for hiring

If you are going to use a personality test for hiring, there are a few factors to be aware of to help you make the best decision. Keep in mind some of the following disadvantages when using them.

Unreliable personality tests can lead to incorrect profiling

If you select an unreliable personality test you will likely end up with the incorrect personality profile of your candidates. You might then use the results of the unreliable personality test for hiring, which can lead you to make the wrong decisions.

For instance, if an unreliable personality test leads you to the conclusion that your candidate is an introvert who prefers working independently, when they actually work best within a team, the future management styles, communication styles, training opportunities, team adjustments, and suitable working environments you choose might not be appropriate.

4-Q personality tests for hiring need to be taken frequently

There are some personality tests, such as 4-Q tests, that should be taken at fairly frequent intervals. As stated by Harvard Business Review, 4-Q tests assess your candidates’ ‘states’ as opposed to ‘traits’. Because these states can shift depending on various factors, a successful candidate will need to be retested time and again.

Not only can this be time-consuming for your successful candidates, but it can also lead to unnecessary costs. Because the more you test individuals, the less time they have to carry out important tasks for your organization which can lead to less productivity and less profit.

Personality tests don’t reflect your candidates’ emotional state when taking them

When your candidates’ take your personality test, there is a possibility that their emotional state is different from the state it would be in the work environment. For this reason, the results of their personality test might produce inaccurate results.

You might get a false negative – (and end up filtering good candidates from the hiring process) – or a false positive – (and end up hiring the wrong candidate for the position).

Personality tests for hiring can lead HR personnel to make biased decisions

You might have noticed that one particular personality type performs well in your organization and choose to focus your energy on hiring a similar personality type. So, with the results of your candidates’ personalities, you could (knowingly or unknowingly) filter particular candidates who don’t match up to a particular personality profile. This is not only biased, but it can even lead to mis-hires.

Always keep in mind that diversity in teams is the best way to inspire team productivity, and that bias can stand in the way of a diverse team. This means selecting particular personality types and avoiding a particular personality type isn’t recommended.

Things to avoid when using personality tests for hiring

There are various things you should avoid when using personality tests for hiring. By avoiding certain factors, your hiring decision will be more reliable. So, here are five things you should avoid when using personality tests for hiring:

  • Avoid basing your hiring decision only on the results of a personality test

  • Try not to use a personality test after the interview stage

  • Don’t select an unreliable personality test due to the price

  • Don’t forget to communicate the purpose of the test with your candidates

  • Avoid hiring a particular personality type repeatedly, based on existing team members

Things to avoid when using personality tests for hiring

Any one of these factors can lead to a mis-hire, or mean that you risk ostracizing top candidates. This can cost your organization time (as you will most likely need to open up the hiring process again if you mis-hire for a position). With wasted time, you will also end up wasting money in terms of recruitment costs.

Use reliable personality tests to evaluate and your candidates: the key points

There are many advantages to using a personality test in your hiring process. There are some disadvantages too, but you can use these tests to your advantage if you are careful about avoiding hiring biases, using other tests during the hiring process, and avoiding hiring a certain personality type repeatedly based on the team members in your organization. Most importantly, don’t rely on personality tests for final hiring decisions.


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