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Hiring for Personality

Originally published: 11.01.08 by Dana Borowka


Assessments can help you choose the best-matched employees for your company. Follow these tips to choose the best-matched assessment.

Turnover costs your organization time, money and lost opportunity.

No matter how good an hvacr technician is with equipment, if he is not able to mesh well with other employees or customers, or if he doesn’t fit the company culture, he may not be the best candidate for the job.

Hiring decisions are among the most important decisions you make in building your business. If you don’t do it right the first time around, you could endup costing yourself time, money and aggravation.

For example, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average cost of a hiring mistake could cost your company about 30 percent of the position’s first year earnings. These costs add up from advertising and recruiting for the new position, time spent training the replacements and, potentially, lost customers, especially in service-driven industries like contracting.

So how can you comfortably predict a person’s on-the-job performance? Many times, a standard interview isn’t enough. In such a setting, the candidate is on his best behavior—displaying and discussing the traits he thinks will get him the job.

A personality assessment can be a useful tool

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for gauging a candidate’s competence and compatibility. With an accurate interpretation of the results, these assessments can help you beyond simply hiring better-suited candidates for your company and for the demands of the position. The knowledge you gain from having a better understanding of your employees’overall psyche can also help you manage your employees more resourcefully.

To help you screen personality tests and testing companies, this nine-point checklist from the book “Cracking the Personality Code” can help you review assessment tools and support.

1 Rating scales. The assessment company providing the test needs to address the number and type of rating scales they are using. A rating scale is any instrument designed to assist in the measurement of subjective evaluations of, or reactions to, a person, object, event, statement, or other item of interest. The more rating scales, the clearer the picture.

According to the Encyclopedia of Psychology (“Rating Scale.” Encyclopedia of Psychology. 2nd ed. Ed. Bonnie R. Strickland. Gale Group, Inc., 2001. eNotes.com. 2006), there are several varieties of rating scales. One common form of rating scale presents the rater with a range of potential responses that include opposing possibilities. The rater is expected to indicate the position that most accurately represents his or her response. Another form of rating scale presents a list of characteristics or attributes. The rater selects those which he believes apply to the subject in question. Rating scale instruments are used in psychological research primarily to assess qualities for which there is no objective answer.

2 How long should it take to complete a test? That depends on how in depth you need to look at personality. Here are your typical three options for testing:

• Basic team assessments using four primary scales with 30-60 questions can take 10-20 minutes to complete.

• Simple prescreening of candidates team assessments using up to eight scales with 60-120 questions can take 20-30 minutes to complete.

• In-depth personality tests for screening candidates and assessing the team using 12-16 scales and more than 164 questions can take 35 to 90 minutes to complete.

3 Qualifications of the individual who is interpreting the test. In addition, we also believe the best tests require someone with comprehensive psychological training or degrees for proper interpretation of the data. Weekend training programs can be problematic since testing and human behavior is a very complex subject. When making hiring or internal decisions, organizations need as much information and understanding as possible, because the consequences can be costly.

4 Link profile to resumé and job description. It is not enough to just review the data analysis of a potential new-hire’s personality. Before you hire this person, you will want to ascertain how the person’s past relates to the possible future your position offers. Whoever is assessing the candidate’s data with the hiring manager needs to have the resumé and the job description in order to do a thorough review.

5 Impression management/faking good scale. In our opinion, a questionnaire needs a minimum of 164 questions to gather enough data for an “Impression Management” scale. Impression management allows you to understand the accuracy of the results and if someone is trying to “fake good.” A proper test analyzes personality characteristics in the context of business concerns.

6 Thought flow. Of course, not everyone thinks and processes information the same way. A good personality test will give you insight into an individual’s thought flow. This not only helps with hiring, but understanding how someone’s thoughts naturally flow is also a very powerful management tool. Sharing this information among team members helps employees communicate more effectively with each other.

7 Career matching. Certain personality assessments help you gain information that may either support the person’s present career choices or assist them to explore, consider and plan for another career direction. A personality test can give you an indication of which jobs match the candidate’s personality type and which careers they may have an aptitude for. You do need to remember that the test results are only an indicator and should not be relied on as an absolute assessment of which career is best for the person.

8 Strengths and weaknesses summary. Personality assessments are a proven and effective way to create highly functional teams. This starts with a summary of each person’s strengths and weaknesses. Once you know which personality types work best together, you can mix and match your people so that you get the most out of each of them. For every strength a person possesses there is a corresponding weakness. Being assertive is a strength. However, a person can be too assertive and off-putting for some people or in some situations.

9 Detailed interview questions. The assessment company you choose should help you create tailored interview questions based on the candidate’s specific personality. The purpose is to probe facets of the personality you need more details on. Many employers are now doing “behavioral interviews”. Rather than focusing on resumé and accomplishments alone, use the personality test as a jumping off point to ask open-ended questions that will cause the job candidate to describe real circumstances and their responses to them. Ask them to describe in detail a particular event, project or experience and how they dealt with the situation, and what the outcome was. This type of interviewing is the most accurate predictor of future performance.


Articles by Dana Borowka

Hiring for Personality

Turnover costs your organization time, money and lost opportunity. A personality assessment can be a useful tool for gauging a candidate’s competence and compatibility.
View article.