Personality testing tools in recruiting


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It recently struck me that I haven’t really touched on the aspect of personality type testing as a valid tool in the recruitment process.

There are a few popular personality tests that I am certain you would have heard about, such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Caliper Profile, 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire and the DISC Personality Test.

These are popularly used as assessment tools to determine whether the candidate’s personality type is consistent with the required traits to make them a desired employee or even if they are the right fit for the job role and the organisation’s culture.

Elankumaran made the assertion that any effort to maximise organisational effectiveness requires a higher degree of job engagement among the members of the organisation.

Let’s, therefore, look at the science. According to the American Psychological Association Dictionary of Psychology, a personality trait can be defined as: “a relatively stable, consistent, and enduring internal characteristic that is inferred from a pattern of behaviour, attitudes, feelings, and habits in the individual.”

Hence these tests can be a useful tool, as used for several years, to determine whether an individual “makes the cut” to be welcomed into an organisation. Nonetheless, these traits basically exist in theory, and so supplemental data, such as a person’s motive and/or life story, for example, would be needed to provide concrete evidence these tests are foolproof.

Considering this, during the recruitment stage employers should use other tools such as background checks and even assessment centres.

Regardless of this, personality tests remain a preferred tool and I would like to discuss them further as they relate to an employee’s job involvement and engagement.

The American Psychological Association Dictionary of Psychology goes on to define job involvement as the degree to which a person psychologically identifies with his or her job. It further says a person who has a high level of job engagement usually obtains major life satisfaction from the job, so that job accomplishments lead to a strong sense of pride and higher levels of self-esteem.

However, failures in the job may lead to discontent and depression.

Therefore, we can go a bit further and delve into specific personal characteristics which contribute to or may take away from the overall organisational effectiveness. The literature suggests personal characteristics can generally outline an individual’s human behaviour and thus assumptions can be inferred.

In my research, I choose to look at Barrick and Mount’s (1991) meta-analysis, where the focus was primarily on five personality factors. These are neuroticism (emotional stability), extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

Of these five factors, not surprisingly, the neurotic employee would be the one associated with lower job efficiency and therefore deemed to have low job involvement. Neurotic personalities may display insecurities, depression, and worry, are anxious, and tend to create negative opinions.

It can be inferred that the neurotic employee is easily distracted and reacts negatively when their work performance is critiqued. These traits do not paint a perfect picture and cannot result in job involvement.

But you know the saying: all things in moderation. The same can be said about the neurotic employee. In fact, moderate levels of neuroticism may prove useful to the work environment, as these employees are less likely to take foolish risks, as they assume personal responsibility, and may surprisingly exceed expectations. It will therefore not hurt for the employer to investigate further into a potential employee’s background or current employee’s motivating factors when performing their assessments.

A case in point: some years ago I was a part of a disciplinary panel set up to investigate allegations of an employee’s misconduct. To summarise the case, an employee became verbally abusive when asked to present a report on recurrences of missed deadlines.

The supervisor offered feedback, which the employee took personally. This led to an overreaction, withdrawal, and obvious distress on the employee’s part and hence the need for the disciplinary hearing. This case and many more like this bring to light the plight of the neurotic employee.

If you are currently challenged with these traits, you can consider the advice of Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, an organisational psychologist, who suggests an employer can implement certain measures to combat and ultimately produce the best of a moderately neurotic employee.

For instance, placing these employees in less high-pressured situations or giving them tasks that offer longer deadlines. Also, because neurotic employees are highly anxious and over-stressors, the employer can channel this energy into areas within the organisation where these traits will thrive.

Having examined the above it can be determined that personality traits do play a significant role in an employee’s job involvement. Therefore, it would be beneficial to an organisation that is recruiting new staff members to consider personality factors as a precursor to organisational effectiveness and possibly a means to developing effective encouragements for existing employees.

It must be noted, though, that the remaining personality traits –extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness – all present high levels of co-operation, performance, dutifulness, and broadmindedness, which can lead to positive relationships with job involvement.

As I would said earlier, these test tools are not foolproof, and therefore ill-fitted employees may still be selected over possibly better candidates. Therefore, the employer should ensure background checks, reference checks and activities similar in nature are done periodically to ensure your organisation’s continued effectiveness.

Happy recruiting…