5 Questions Hiring Managers Should be Asking About Modern Personality Tests
Charles Schwab CEO Walt Bettinger has said one of his methods for finding the right job candidate is to arrive early for a breakfast interview and ask the restaurant manager to purposely make a mistake with the candidate’s order. He says the tactic lets him see how the potential hire reacts to conflict and adversity.
Of course, hiring managers and human resources professionals don’t have the time to take every candidate out for breakfast, so they have to find other ways to determine whether she or he is the right fit, not only in professional competency but in the organization’s culture and community. Many are turning to personality tests, which rely more on data than on gut feeling or instinct to identify the right employees.
These tests can help you quickly sort through candidates and also reduce turnover rates. But with the array of assessment options out there, you need to think carefully about what to measure and why.
Here are five questions about modern personality tests that you should ask to help you find the right fit.
What Behaviors Does Your Company Need?
Start with what you want to assess. “Companies should think through what organizational metrics they’re trying to move the needle on,” says Whitney Martin, founder of ProActive Consulting. “Then they can figure out what to measure in candidates that are correlated with those outcomes they’re trying to predict.”
She says companies often implement assessments without giving enough thought to what behaviors a candidate needs to be successful in that role. “If a health employer wants to impact patient satisfaction scores, they need more nurses with more empathy,” she says. But if your assessments focus just on nursing skills and knowledge, you’re not necessarily hiring people with the behaviors you need.
What’s the Best Way to Measure Those Behaviors?
When you think of personality testing, you may first think of tests like DiSC and Myers-Briggs. But experts say these so-called four-quadrant tests probably won’t help much for assessing candidates.
“If I gave you a Myers-Briggs test every year for 10 years, each one will be different,” says Kelli Dragovich, senior vice president of people at Hired. “People can react differently in a workplace versus personal life.”
That variability undercuts any predictive value, ProActive’s Martin says. “Because of that, the test-retest reliability tends to be lower, so it’s not very effective to use the test pre-hire to predict future performance,” she says.
Using a more holistic assessment — for example, one that includes mental ability scales and interest scales — can give you a much more robust measure of personality, Martin says.
What Kind of Candidate Experience Are You Creating?
The tight job market and competition for top talent mean you need to think more about candidate experience, experts say. “In the testing world, we have shifted our approach to being much more customer-centric, because the realization has finally sunk in for our clients that candidates are your customers,” says Nicholas Martin, director of global products and analytics at Aon’s Assessment Solutions.
He notes that when you’re trying to attract top talent, how you engage with candidates can have a big effect. “There have been case studies showing that if candidates have a bad experience with your hiring practices, that will hurt your bottom line,” he says.
Think through the process. Are candidates enjoying themselves? Are they engaged while they’re taking the assessment? Do the tests and instructions make sense? These questions are a key part of providing a quality candidate experience, Aon’s Martin says.
How Is Gamification Reshaping Personality Tests?
Automation can make many of the routine tasks associated with hiring — scheduling interviews, updating applicants, providing feedback — simpler and easier for hiring managers. This can also lead to a better experience for candidates.
“We’re making it more candidate-centric,” Aon’s Martin says. “We can say, ‘Here’s the link to do your digital interview,’ and they can complete that interview when the timing is best for them, as opposed to saying, ‘Here’s your hour slot in this day; be there or you don’t get the job.’ ”
Gamification — building game elements into assessments — also can help candidates have a positive experience. “There is a lot more interaction and engagement with the assessment itself. So it feels like you’re playing a game while taking a very serious assessment of a particular concept or competency,” Aon’s Martin says.
How Can You Use the Data?
Dragovich says hiring managers also need to consider how to use the data they collect. “You can use it to both help your existing workforce or talent understand their strengths and weaknesses as well as to develop more well-rounded teams and fill in any talent gaps you might have,” she says. “It helps you have a common language across the company around behaviors, which creates a landscape for coaching, development and team building.”
However, don’t get lulled into thinking personality assessments are a cure-all. Dragovich notes that even the best tests should be only one piece of your talent-assessment puzzle. “No company should make yes-or-no hiring decisions based on a subjective personality assessment,” she says.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in June 2016, and substantially updated in December 2018.