Introvert or extrovert? How personality tests are skewing today’s hiring

Anything that can simplify, streamline, or automate the hiring process is usually warmly welcomed by the recruiting community. After all, such a scientific approach to hiring should eliminate bias and streamline your process – right?

Cue personality tests. They provide a semi-scientific method to narrowing down a candidate pool, without devoting any extra man-power or hours. On the surface, it seems like a win-win. But dig a bit deeper and the premise begins to fall apart – the type of test, the metrics measured, and even the time of day can impact results.

More importantly; can the best predictors of productivity even be surfaced in such tests?

Used properly, personality tests can be a great mechanism for self-reflection, team building, and yes – hiring. But in the wrong hands? Such tests can magnify bias and open your company up to legal issues. Here’s what you should know before investing any of your company’s time or money:

More data more problems. Which metrics should you focus on?

Before committing to any test, you’ll need to spend some time reflecting on your and your company’s goals. What are the qualities you most want to nurture? Which attributes will help people succeed? Which diverse viewpoints would help add to – rather than fit in to – your current company culture?

Jumping into a personality test without pondering these metrics will leave you with a table of meaningless results. Consider your company’s core values, and which personality elements might help enhance these values while boosting your bottom line.

A good place to start is by having a mix of your current employees – or all of them, if you can afford it – take the test you’re actively considering. Discuss the results, determine their accuracy, and pinpoint the elements that are actually relevant to your work.

Not every aspect of a person’s personality will have an impact on their productivity – in fact, the vast majority of metrics captured by traditional personality tests have no bearing on workplace behavior.

What you’ll want to avoid.

The risk of personality tests is one of duplication – that is, duplicating or replicating your current workforce. When a test is used to exclude people who may be different than the usual profile of your elite performers, then it is failing you – and you are failing your people.

Often, it is precisely these diverse or unique perspectives that will push a team to their full potential. Instead, try to use personality tests to spot gaps in your company’s expertise. When reviewing your employees’ results, you may be surprised to learn that opposing personalities often make the best partnerships. Use this intel to keep adding to your team in a productive, systematic way.

As always, no one measure – personality tests, a resume, etc. – should be the be-all and end-all for a prospective employee.

So – to test or not to test?

Recent studies pinpoint ‘behavioral compatibility’ as the #1 reason cited by executives for hiring failures. If personality tests can help eliminate some of the confusion surrounding ‘compatibility’ – all the better. But using such test incorrectly, or without the proper guidance, can lead to missed opportunities, workplace replication, and possible legal ramifications.

Our advice? Start internally. Test your people to get a better sense of the diversity of thought already existing in your company. This will help you understand that no one personality type will excel at this or that job – every team needs a mix.

Used for team bonding purposes, personality tests can be especially insightful and revealing. They stimulate conversation, help people better understand one another, and open up a dialogue about diversity.

Before you turn the test outward – toward hiring – just make sure you have a grasp on its consequences. It’s dangerous to exclude people solely based on personality, so make sure you’re taking the full context into account.

The verdict on personality tests is still out. Yet despite the controversy, companies are quickly adopting this new tool – studies show the use of personality tests is up 20% since last year. Whether it’s a popular trend, destined to disappear next year, or a permanent fixture of the hiring community, make sure you do your due diligence before rolling out any new hiring policy.

For more information on hiring best practices, shoot us an email at hello@provenrecruiting.com.