Using personality tests for hiring
Hiring managers don’t have an easy job. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has admitted that his own bad hires have probably cost his company millions – and he’s not the only one. Managers everywhere are on a mission to control costs and hire the right people the first time: that’s where using personality tests for hiring comes in.
Tony Robbins uses the DISC behavioral assessment to assess his own employees during the hiring process. It’s a powerful tool not only for employees to develop self-awareness, but to help them create better work relationships and facilitate teamwork. But using a personality test for hiring isn’t without controversy.
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Why do employers use personality tests when hiring?
Using a personality test for hiring is intended to provide information on cultural fit, internal drivers and other “intangible” factors. They may also provide information about the candidate’s ability to do the job: a bank teller role might test for honesty or a high-pressure sales position for stress tolerance.
Any interviewee will have prepared answers for the usual questions about strengths and weaknesses and why they’re a great fit for your company. Personality tests are designed to use data to measure these metrics, so that the interviewer doesn’t have to rely on a hunch. Employers who want to avoid unconscious bias – even bias that may work in favor of a candidate – use personality tests to level the playing field.
Using personality tests for hiring also appeals to employers because they can cut down on costs by providing a lot of information with relatively little investment of time or money. Especially in competitive roles, any additional details employers can get about a candidate can make a difference in their ultimate decision.
But are personality tests accurate? Do they really lead to better hiring? Opinions are mixed.
The problems with using a personality test for hiring
From the candidate’s perspective, the problems with using a personality test for hiring are clear: Tests that offer only yes or no, either/or answers don’t leave room for nuance. Most people would agree that humans are not either one thing or another – humans are extremely complex. And if you’ve ever been on the “taking” end of a personality test for hiring, you probably pondered your answers later and would have changed a few if given the chance. If candidates don’t feel confident in their answers, how accurate can the test really be?
Some research has shown that candidates are able to improve their scores upon retaking a test. This presents obvious issues with the reliability of using personality tests for hiring, especially because they are becoming more common: If a candidate has taken a similar test before, they may be able to game the system. Just as they do when they prepare answers for a job interview, candidates will be more prepared for personality tests the more they take.
Another problem with using personality tests for hiring is legal: When used incorrectly, they may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on color, race, national origin, sex or religion, or the Americans with Disabilities Act, which outlaws discrimination based on disability, including mental illness.
These acts don’t prohibit companies from using personality tests for hiring. Some tests, like “integrity tests” which gauge honesty, can actually help to protect employers against negligent hiring accusations. But recent settlements from CVS Caremark Corporation, Best Buy and Target show the need for businesses to ensure the test they choose is sufficiently job-related and does not discriminate by sex or race, even unintentionally.
The benefits of personality tests for hiring
With the controversy surrounding them, why do employers use personality tests when hiring? When administered appropriately, using personality tests for hiring can have many benefits. They’re especially useful for determining cultural fit, an essential yet intangible trait that can be easy for candidates to fake during the interview process. If you describe your company culture as hard-working, creative and collaborative, most candidates will describe themselves that way, too – but a personality test can get to the bottom of what truly drives them.
The benefits of using personality tests for hiring don’t even end once the selection is made. Personality tests are also often used internally after the hiring process. Tests like Tony Robbins’ DISC assessment can provide insights on where they might best fit in and how to pair them up with other employees to complement their energy. It can inform the strategy you use to train them and how you communicate with them. And it can ultimately create better relationships and get new employees off on the right foot.
Employers can maximize the benefits of using a personality test for hiring and minimize the risks by using them only as part of a larger strategy, never as a “make or break” piece of information. While they can inform your decision, always keep in mind that it usually isn’t just one personality type that fits a role. For example, most people think that sales or marketing is for extroverts, but plenty of introverts thrive in these roles.
With the right preparation and knowledge, employers can use personality tests as an effective tool in their hiring toolkits. And a strong hiring strategy can net you the superstars you need to take your business to new heights.