Personality Testing, What’s the Deal?

July 18, 2010

By Judith Copeland
Have you ever had to take a test to get a job? I have, and never had any feedback from them. I often wondered what they said about me and wish I could see the results. Do you know what they really are or why you are taking them? More and more employers are asking job seekers to take them. So, what exactly is psychometric or personality testing and how does it help hiring managers and job seekers. According to SLH, one of the leading makers of psychometric tests, the definition is as follows:

“Personality questionnaires assess personal behavioral preferences, that is, how you like to work. They are not concerned with your abilities, but how you see yourself in the way you relate to others, your approach to problems and how you deal with feelings and emotions. With this type of assessment there is no right or wrong answer.”

For the job seeker, this information can really help them get an idea of how others see them, their strengths and things they have to improve on. Job seekers are all in sales, their product is themselves so taking a sales-oriented test may be one way to ramp up your job search and even find hidden abilities you did not know you had.

For employers, these assessments help them identify candidates that have the traits they are looking for. Matching can help figure out if you will be a good fit for their sales organization in a number of areas. Each question contains four statements, and you will be asked to select the one statement of the group which most resembles you and the one which least resembles you.  For example:

I am the sort of person who…….                   Most Like                   Least Like

Has a wide circle of friends

Enjoys organizing people

Relaxes easily

Seeks variety

If I were to take this test the first thing I would  tell you  is that I don’t have a wide circle of friends. The ones I have though, I have known for a long time.  I am not sure about whether or not I like to organize people, but my mother will tell you I always tell her what to do ‑ ­­­­my bad. I do not relax easily. I am a high-energy person, and am pretty driven on a project once I get my teeth into it, but I also do love variety in the things I do.

What this tells me is that I am not super laid back, I can’t be, “I come from the East Coast so I have the driven gene — it was in the water.” However, I like to have fun and laugh while I am working and getting the job done makes me feel good. It tells me I like team work because I like helping people and that may translate into working in a group to get a task done. It also tells me I have to learn to relax a little more- sometime I will pencil it in. It also told me that getting a project completed provides me with a great feeling as specific tasks and goals are good motivators for me.

So what I am going to do with this info?

Well, look to work for a company that does have team interaction. I will probably do better working with others than at tasks that are mostly solo with little human interaction.

Employers, who are looking for some of these qualities, might just look my way and those who need people to work on solo projects are not going to consider me. We both have avoided a bad culture and task fit.

All of us, employer and employee alike are often so entrenched in daily tasks that we don’t step back to really figure what we are all about, maybe we should.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

David R Meyer - Denver DISC Specialist July 20, 2010 at 12:56 am

Thank you for the thoughtful article. As someone who is certified in DISC and uses it frequently for a vareity of needs, I can attest to the power of the tool itself. But DISC and others are just that, tools. They are not a substitute for in-depth interviews, won’t tell you about a person’s values, and make no attempt to measure skills and talents. In the hands of qualified professionals, these tools can enhance not only the hiring process, but also help the organizations leadership understand employee motivation, communications style, leadership preferences, and even fears. However, too many companies are employeeing these types of tools without a thorough understanding of what the tools do and do not measure.

Knowing a little bit about a personality assessment is a like knowing a little bit about medicine. Overconfidence in that little bit of knowledge can be deadly!

Thanks again for the article.

Dave Popple July 23, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Personality testing has come along way since outdated tests like the DiSC first entered the scene. We have found that combining “forced choice” assessments with likert scale questions similar to the one you highlighted can paint a good picture of a candidate.

Research and insight like the one’s found in “The Aberdeen Report” and most issues of the Harvard Business Review further highlight the fact that personality testing leads to better retention and job satisfaction. Even if you hate the process, the process may keep you from taking a job you will soon hate.

I agree with David that a little knowledge is dangerous. For example, we only use Doctoral level consultants in this area. Hiring someone is a life changing action for both the hiring manager and the candidate and should not be taken lightly. As a DiSC expert, i am sure he is aware that simple tests like the DiSC should never be used to make hiring decisions but makes for great discussions as a development tool.

Thanks for the topic.

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