Hiring? Use Personality Tests Carefully

Lora Bentley
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As the unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent, competition for jobs is fierce. Employers have applicants with a wide range of skills and abilities vying for the few jobs they have. It only makes sense that they have to come up with new ways to differentiate between "good fits" and "best fits" for the positions. Sometimes they do that with personality tests.


I recently had the opportunity to speak with labor and employment law attorney Gavin Appleby, a shareholder in the firm of Littler Mendelson. Though such tests can often provide valuable insight into whether applicants are "cut out for" sales work or jobs that require extraordinary attention to detail, for instance, improperly constructed or poorly administered tests can violate an applicant's rights and land the employer in hot water with authorities.



Having never experienced a personality test as a precursor to or condition of employment, I asked if they were more common in certain industries than others. But that's not how they usually work, Appleby told me. He explained:

The idea is to create a test that can demonstrate whether someone has a particular trait. Then you can use that test to weed out people, or make better decisions as to who's likely to be good at it and who's not. There are tests that deal with sales. There are tests that address detail orientation. There are tests that address relating to customers over the phone. They're all directed at one trait or another within a personality.

The good test creators, he said, "use a job-relatedness analysis to determine what makes a good performer a good performer," and they build the test around those things.


Companies get in trouble when they use tests like those that are administered in more clinical situations. The tests should be structured to reveal whether a potential employee has a particular trait, Appleby told me. Employers don't need to know "the underlying psychological problems" that may cause the trait. Tests like that can run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Moreover, he explained, they aren't as focused on job relatedness, so they create more risk that way as well.


The moral of the story? If you're using personality tests in your hiring process, make sure they're designed to reveal job-related traits. Stay away from the broad, more clinical personality assessments, and - this should go without saying - avoid the really old tests that include questions on prohibited factors like race, religion, gender, etc.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Dec 14, 2012 5:51 AM psychmetrictests psychmetrictests  says:
Apollo Profile Online Personality test a very professionally designed and valid online personality test for corporations that can integrate it in their respective recruitment process is available in English and Chinese. The online test has very extensive norms groups and compares the personality of the test-taker against those rated best in this modern corporate sector. Apollo Profile Online Personality test has a wide range of reports covering almost all the major areas/departments within the organization; it also provides the decision-maker a Areas of Concern Report of the test-taker. The implementation of Apollo Profile Online Personality test is very simple and made easy to use. For more information please visit: http://www.psychometrictest.net and do share your inquires and thoughts with us. Reply

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