September 3, 2015
Employers rely on personality tests to screen job applicants.
Attention: job seekers. There’s a good chance you’ll have to take some kind of personality test prior to getting a formal job offer.
Human resource and management consulting experts say more employers are administering these tests or assessments, as organizational psychologists prefer to call them, as a means of determining cultural fit, drive, and the potential employees’ desire to stay for the long term.
Tests make a measurable difference in the quality of the workforce.
“In general, there is really a huge investment by organizations in their people,” says Nancy Martini, former president and CEO of PI Worldwide, a Boston-based management consulting company that publishes the Predictive Index, a tool that measures work-related behavior.
Martini, who says the healthcare industry has been one of the top growth areas for her former company, adds “They want to invest properly and make sure they have the talent pool for today and the future. Job seekers should feel very comfortable that any assessment is helpful to them in the long run. Potential employees should be delighted when they find employers using them. It means they are investing in their employees. You can’t flunk them. There’s no cut off.”
“Legally, questions relating to health, particularly mental health, are off limits unless a provisional offer has been made,” says Elliott Lasson, executive director of Joblink of Maryland, a nonprofit that helps people find jobs. “But in those instances, answers that suggest the job seeker has a health issue—may not necessarily be a deal breaker—because under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are required to make certain accommodations.”
Lasson believes another factor that’s driving the use of tests is a persistently, sluggish economy that allows employers to be more selective. “They can select both on technical skills and if they want to break the tie, they can look deeper into the personality,” he says.
It’s important not to view the tests as a weeding out tool. “Assessments are not eliminators; they are just there to help with the job fit,” says Martini.
Patricia Thompson, an Atlanta-based corporate psychologist, says it is important for job seekers to be honest when taking the tests. “Being honest would benefit them in the long run; being disingenuous,” she adds, “could hurt them.”
“When I have seen instances of round pegs trying to fit themselves into square holes for the sake of getting the job, they are usually dissatisfied with their role once they get it,” says Thompson. “One last thing individuals should be aware of is that going through a personality assessment can be a very educational and eye-opening experience that can facilitate their development.”
Hiring managers seek the perfect fit.
Critics complain that some of these personality tests are too general and produce results that lead to broad assumptions on the part of hiring managers. But, Lasson says the tests can be particularly effective if the questions are job related. “If you’re hiring someone for a sales position, then you might want to look at a personality that measures (being an extrovert),” he says. “If someone enjoys working in the back office and doesn’t want to be around people, that [person] might not be a good fit [for the sales position].”