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Personality Tests for Hiring: Brilliant or Bunk?

Companies are increasingly turning to tests to gauge the suitability of applicants. According to The Wall Street Journal, usage of pre-hire assessments is up from 26% in 2001 to 57% in 2013. Interviewers love them, interviewees often loathe them, but do they work?

Lauren Weber explains in the Wall Street Journal the appeal, “Employers can measure and analyze what differentiates their best performers in a variety of occupations—from fast-food workers and retail store managers to insurance agents and nurses—and use the data to create a profile of ideal workers. The tests show how applicants compare.”

Whitney Martin argues in Harvard Business Review that cognitive and integrity assessments are better indicators of future job performance, particularly when paired, “if your hiring process relies primarily on interviews, reference checks, and personality tests, you are choosing to use a process that is significantly less effective than it could be if more effective measures were incorporated.”

Vivian Giang from Business Insider spoke with Susan J. Stabilet, professor at St. John’s University, who dislikes personality tests since they often eliminate good candidates, “the tests will likely give those with ‘mainstream’ personality types a more positive reading, while creative, think-outside-the-box candidates ‘who may potentially become leaders and do extraordinary things for an employer may be weeded out,’ Stabilet says.”

Camille Chatterjee from MSN suggests that personality tests are useful, but not all are created equally (she gives a thumbs up to the Caliper Profile, Gallup StrengthsFinder, and Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, and a thumbs down to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory).

Should you decide to employ a personality test, it’s vital that you understand what you are trying to measure. Whitney Martin told the Society for Human Resource Management, “If the goal is to reduce turnover or absenteeism or drug use in the workplace, that’s a very different process than if you are a healthcare organization trying to improve patient satisfaction and trying to measure empathy in nurses.”

What do you think? Have you had to take personality tests in your job search? Do you think they are brilliant or bunk? Share your thoughts with us @hyattfennell.