Can personality assessments be used in hiring?

A colleague of mine mentioned an HBO Max program called, Persona – The Dark Truth Behind Personality Tests. At first, I was excited to see what this program had to say about personality tests. To hear how they have been put to good use by individuals and companies to make the most of our learning and team journeys. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the focus and tenor of the piece.

The program specifically focused on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), painting a slanted picture of what it was designed for and how it is used, and by proxy, all other personality tests. They correctly stated that personality tests are a valuable tool for self-discovery, which is how Myers and Briggs designed the instrument - to understand yourself better and how you can better interact with different personality types. The program attacks the use of MBTI for hiring decisions, something that The Myers & Briggs Foundation mentions explicitly in their ethical uses of the tool for which it is not designed.

This gets to the question of how a tool is used, not what it is made to do. 

PeopleKeys utilizes four tools: The DISC personality assessment, T.E.A.M.S. role styles assessment, workplace Values assessment, and the Behavioral Attitudes Index (BAI) in conjunction with performance benchmarks to provide a legal, predictable, and accurate matching tool for hiring. The best application of this, or similar hiring screening tools, is how they are designed, supported, and delivered with the companies that use them. Be mindful of the type of personality assessment you use. Some are qualified as clinical and are not legal to be used for hiring. The DISC personality test measures only observable, non-clinical behavior.

The DISC-based hiring tool is designed to protect the candidate and the potential employer. Understanding who the most successful people in a given role are is a starting point for an employer. It is essential to understand that companies, industries, and strategies change. Having departments with the same type of person performing a role makes good sense but not at the expense of diversity of thought, capability, and action. For example, while accounting staff often consist of Conscientious profiles, you also need some people who challenge the norm and can rethink how the department operates.

At its best, employers use hiring tools to better understand why people show up differently when searching for candidates. During interviews, one person may be reserved, or direct, pleasing, or conversational. Knowing more about a person than is apparent in a resume enables an employer to ask better questions and ignore any biases they may have formed if they were not already aware of how the candidate's personality style affects their work style and behaviors. Instead of labeling a candidate with any quickly formed bias, they can assess known tendencies they see exhibited against the job role and activities.   

With any tool, there are always those people who will wield it in ways it was not designed for. 

Without the tool, it is harder to assess ourselves and others on the team, whether we have been operating based on unknown biases such as: familiarity, similar backgrounds, or other triggers such as education, company, clothing choice, you relate to, or dislike. 

These biases are pervasive and are formed extremely quickly; therefore, they can be challenging to identify.

Validated and trusted hiring tools, when designed, supported, and appropriately utilized, provide a better understanding of any candidate you are hiring - where they are likely to excel, where they may be challenged, and how to allow them to flourish as the full, complete, and unique person they are.

If you hear about or watch the Persona program, look for the biases in how it interprets and portrays personality-based hiring tools meant to provide an unbiased, gender-neutral, race-neutral depiction of the next individual who can best make a difference in your firm.

Download a Case Study on Predictive Hiring with PeopleKeys

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Posted By: William (Bill) Latshaw

William (Bill) Latshaw is an Executive Coach, leadership and succession researcher, and organization development professional. His experience comes from over 20 years in consulting and research roles within Deloitte Consulting LLP, the Boston Consulting Group, Arthur D. Little, and Innovation Associates, Inc. Personality Style: SIC