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Understanding personality can be very important to employers. Research has shown that personality is related to employees’ performance, their tendency to engage in counterproductive workplace behaviors (i.e., theft, lateness), and to how well they fit within the organization’s culture.
We know that personality is important, but how can we measure it? Personality tests can be divided into two general categories: typologies and continuums. Here, we briefly review the strengths and weaknesses of each to help you decide which type of personality test is right for you.
What are they? Typological measures are some of the most popular tests used by organizations. They sort people into groups based on their scores across several personality traits. These groups are often called types or profiles.
Why use them? Types are useful when we are interested in a broad-level description of personality. They consider how multiple traits interact to influence behavior.
Examples: Two of the most popular typological measures are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the DISC.
Strengths: Because typological measures give an overall impression of the individual, they are often simplified and easy to interpret. For these reasons, they can be useful for identifying leadership styles, for increasing self-awareness into one’s own personality, and for managing conflict resolution.
Weaknesses: Many of these tests have little to no empirical support and cannot reliably predict job performance. As such, they should not be used to select new employees, make administrative decisions, or to predict employee behavior.
What are they? Rather than sorting people into distinct groups, continuous measures assume that all individuals possess all traits to varying degrees. Therefore, employees receive a score for each trait and can be described as falling along the spectrum of the trait.
Why use them? By considering the importance of each trait individually, continuous measures allow for more flexibility, accuracy, and nuance in describing personality, and ultimately in predicting behavior.
Examples: The most popular continuum measures of personality are based on the Five Factor Model and the HEXACO model of personality.
Strengths: There is large empirical support for the use of continuum measures to accurately and reliability measure personality over time. As such, they are useful for making administrative decisions, predicting future behavior such as job performance, and selecting high potential employees.
Weaknesses: Because continuous measures provide a more detailed picture of personality, they can sometimes require longer administration times. However, the quality of data obtained from these administrations is often more useful to organizations.
In short, the right personality measure for an organization will depend on the purpose of the assessment. For more information on this topic, please download our free EGuide: Personality Assessments: Typologies versus Continuous Measures.