How (not) to use a personality test in your recruitment process

Using personality tests has become very common in the hiring process. Hundreds of different tests have been developed, one with even more beautiful diagrams than the other. Unfortunately, a lot of these tests have never been proven to be reliable. Perhaps they are, perhaps they are not. Making valid statements can only be done when your methods are sound. When choosing a personality test for your hiring process, I believe it’s important to use a scientifically supported test. I wrote about this topic in an earlier blog,.

One personality test that has been proven to be reliable is the Five Factor Model (aka Big Five Test). But even when a personality test is proven to be scientifically sound, you should still think long and hard about the way you are going to use these tests (and especially their results) to help you prevent poor hiring decisions.

One of the reasons using a personality test can be tricky, is that it is very easy to get carried away in looking at the results. This can lead to putting the candidate in a narrowly defined box and not seeing the candidate as a whole person. This way you could miss out on star-quality candidates. That’s why it is unwise to use single test results as a make-or-break hurdle. But how should you use them then?

What to pay attention to when using a personality test?

To start, you should decide what competences a future employee should have to excel in a certain function. By looking at key competences in advance, you can check how each candidate has scored on these competences in the personality test report. And use those results to structure your (competency-based) interview, to help you explore the candidate’s behaviour in more depth.

A good personality test also gives you information about the honesty and social desirability with which the applicant has completed the personality test. This gives you vital information about the usefulness of the results in the personality report. When a candidate is not consequent in his/hers answers and probably is trying to manipulate the results, the results won’t reflect the candidate’s true self. Therefore the results should be disregarded.

In conclusion, a well-designed personality test, if used properly, can be a useful and accurate way to determine if someone will be a good fit for the job and the company. What you should never do, is rely solely on personality test results when making a hiring decision. There are many more variables that should be taken into account when hiring someone, such as the candidate’s motivation, presentation, education, experience and references. As a recruiter, I always look if different sources of information paint the same picture and ask myself: are the test results confirming that picture?

As treasury recruiters, we are hired to find candidates with treasury skills, and that remains. What we see in the labour market in general is that new positions are created quicker than before. That also applies to the treasury labour market. As a consequence, the personality, competences and behaviour of candidates are more important than before. We pay more attention to the value of assessments. What do you think? Looking forward to speaking with you about this,

Kim Vercoulen

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