The Third Turn

Dr. Mark L. Vincent's Blog

Notes on a Resource: Personality Testing in the Hiring Process

Posted by Mark L. Vincent on Jul 25, 2014 7:00:00 AM

Personality Tests

Manufacturer Information: Various

Subject area(s): Human Resources

Type of resource: Personality Testing

----Ratings (1-5)*----

We are suspending our normal ratings for this review because it is a discussion of the use of personality testing especially in employment situations.  Given that Design Group International has an in-house Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, we feel compelled to offer the advisory that this type of testing is frequently misused in the workplace and is not an accurate measure of employability or performance and was not formulated for such. Instead, while some tests might assist in making a judgment call about compatibility or alignment, they are best used as a tool for self-understanding and personal growth.

Said another way, while some psychological testing (such as the MMPI) might provide an indication of whether a pathology is present, it doesn't mean it is, and it certainly cannot be used in a way that is prejudicial against hiring, especially when a credentialed psychological professional is not doing the administering. You just might be handing over exhibit 1 for a lawsuit! 

For more on this subject, consider this resource from the Cornell Review. Or this seemingly counter argument from the Wall Street Journal. But read the WSJ piece carefully and you quickly discover that it too points to the downside of using these tests in any prejudicial way.

Perhaps a good use of these tests, then, if in the hiring process-- is as a means to differentiate between candidates -- who you predict will be the best fit and has the best equipment for success. In other words, it is a reason to pass, but never to fail.

The argument here is that the burden of proof, should there be an accusation of prejudicial use, is on the prospective employer. Even if there is a written policy against using these tests in prejudicial ways, it does not guarantee that company employees will not do so.

In the end, the least complicated use of these tests is at the initiative of the employee, as a means of self-understanding and self-improvement, perhaps in connection to a learning plan, an executive coach, or a therapist, or even in some leadership education where findings are discussed in a group of peers.

How effective are these tests at helping someone accurately assess and grow, especially as a leader? That is a subject worthy of its own article for another place and time.


* How we construct our ratings 
1= Not registering
2= Present
3= Effective
4= Commendable
5= Outstanding

--mark l vincent


Topics: process consulting, organizational development consulting, Mark L. Vincent, Design Group International, Human resources, Personality Testing in the Workplace


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