What If You Were Given a Pre-Employment Personality Test?

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PhrenologyWould you:

A.  Refuse to take the test knowing that you probably wouldn’t pass?

B.  Take the test with 100% confidence that you can “beat any personality test”?

C.  Ask your best friend to take it for you knowing she really has the personality the job requires?

D.  Take it and just see where the cards fall?

Okay that wasn’t really a question, but I think there are various opinions out there about the validity of psychometric testing.

On one hand, the idea of finding the “clones” of workers who have just that right personality, drive, attitude and aptitude seems like the best method for screening candidates.  On the other hand some may argue that you can never be sure that the science behind all the various tests is really valid.

So what’s the answer?  To test or not to test?

The answer really lies in what weight you put into the results of the test.  If you put 100% weight into passing the latest testing mechanisms you will probably be disappointed in the results.  However, if you agree on a range of acceptability on test results and you give it a weight along with other hiring criteria you will probably get a better result.

In my experience working as a hiring manager and recruiter, putting a weight of no more than 33% would be acceptable, and that’s only IF, you have benchmarked the results against your current successful workforce.  If you are relying on the testing vendor’s benchmarks and generalizations than I wouldn’t give the psychometric testing more than about 20% weight.

You should mix the weight of these exams along with other hiring criteria:

  • Experience relative to the job
  • Cultural fit
  • Longevity or “fungability” to grow within the organization
  • Education and skills required to be successful in the job

A second option , if you don’t want to apply a weight factor to the psychometrics would be to administer the psychometric testing before a round of in person interviews.  The recruiter could let the interviewers know the results of the test scores and subsequently tailor a set of questions centered around validating the results of the test.

For example: The test results show that the candidate works better as an individual contributor, but the role is actually contributing to a team goal.

Question for the candidate:  Describe a time when you worked on a successful team.  What was your role and contribution on the team?  How do you feel your team members benefited from working with you?  Are you more comfortable working on your own?

If you take this approach you should definitely tailor questions to validate both the positive and negative results. Using testing not to disqualify, but to develop a more nuanced understanding of the individual is often a good way to use them.

The third benefit to using psychometric tests would be in determining a career path for a candidate as well as a coaching method.  Most tests don’t come back with pure positives and negatives about a candidate.  They often times come with information about how a candidate works, what motivates them, and tips on managing various employee types based on their test results.  If your organization firmly believes in the results of the test, they should take the time to create coaching methodologies which incorporate the results of those tests with the goal of developing a long term, successful employee.

Regardless of how you use the results of psychometric testing, it’s important to realize that people are still people, and as such they are unpredictable.  Using test results in any definitive way does not replace having a great hiring process and subsequent employee onboarding and coaching.  Too often HR departments will rely on these tests as a crutch and that can be very limiting.

The challenge in developing proper pre-employment testing is twofold: to implement a rigorously disciplined approach to the testing methodology while at the same time weighting and using the resultant data in a holistic fashion.

Read more in Personality Test

Marie is a writer for Recruiter.com covering career advice, recruitment topics, and HR issues. She has an educational background in languages and literature as well as corporate experience in Human Resources.