Personality and Workplace Assessments Q&A

Personality assessments and other tests are becoming more and more mainstream in today’s workplace. As such you may be wondering, are they worth the money and the time? If yes, how do you know which assessment is right for you? In this article we’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions about personality and workplace assessments, as well as provide you with practical tips on how to implement these tests effectively.

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How widespread are the use of personality and workplace assessments?

Studies now estimate that up to 60% of employees are being asked to take workplace assessments.[i] These include everything from broad personality measures to tests of particular skills and abilities. Workplace assessments already make up a $500 million dollar industry,[ii] and they’re only becoming more popular. The industry has grown by 10% in recent years, and more than 1 in 5 (22%) employers are now using personality testing to evaluate job candidates.[iii] In addition, 18% of employers use aptitude testing and 23% use questionnaires to gauge organizational fit.[iv]

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Can’t applicants fake their responses?

The short answer is yes. Faking is one of the major concerns of using personality measures in the hiring process, and it refers to applicants manipulating their answers to show what they believe the employer wants to see. This is called “social desirability bias,” or more specifically, “impression management.” While applicants certainly can fake their responses, studies suggest that most answer truthfully.[v] Not only that, according to research conducted by Deniz S. Ones, professor of industrial psychology at the University of Minnesota, even when participants do fake their responses, it doesn’t seem to affect the ranking of top applicants in a significant way.[vi] Test publishers can also take steps to minimize the “fakability” of the assessment during development, and validation metrics can be calculated during the administration of materials to help detect to what extent faking may have occurred. The context within which the assessment is administered can also impact the likelihood of faking. If you’re concerned about the impact faking might have on the assessments you use, contact the test publisher to discuss whether that particular test is right for you, and if so, how you can best administer it to help limit faking.

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Can personality assessments be combined with other assessments?

Yes. In fact, this is one of the greatest strengths of using personality measures for employee selection and development. Studies show that personality assessments are particularly effective when combined with measures of cognitive ability or integrity.[vii]

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Do personality assessments really predict performance?

Absolutely! When designed well, personality assessments can be predictive of workplace variables such as leadership and performance.[viii] Specific measures of aspects of personality, like emotional intelligence, have also been found to predict important workplace outcomes, such as interpersonal relationships and conflict management.[ix]

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Isn’t experience more important than personality when it comes to performance?

Not necessarily. Past behavior is a strong predictor of future performance, but in some cases, applicants might not have relevant or recent experience (e.g., new graduates or candidates who have left the industry for a significant period of time). Here, personality assessments may be able to tell you more than achievements or experience alone and may be used to supplement (although not replace) traditional sources of information. Elon Musk, for example, uses a personality-driven selection strategy when hiring new employees at Tesla. Check out our case Heart Based Hiring: How Tesla is Plugging into the Power of Personality to learn more.

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Don’t personality measures generalize people?

Some can, but not all. Some personality assessments focus on categorizing people based on a handful of classes or personality styles. However, these tests tend to be overly simplistic and should be used only for building self-awareness about personality, not for making decisions on hiring or promotion.

Note: The risk of a personality assessment making overgeneralizations about an individual is more likely to occur when the assessment measures typologies rather than continuous traits. Typological assessments are those which produce assignments of individuals to pre-determined personality categories. Although new research in the area of typologies is emerging, these categorical approaches are often less validated than traditional trait-based models. Continuous, or trait-based, models of personality acknowledge that individuals possess all traits to varying degrees (e.g., Five Factor Model or Big Five). When designed well, these tests accurately and reliably assess personality over time and can be used to predict behavior, support employee development, and inform administrative decisions. To learn more about type vs. continuous assessments, check out SIGMA’s e-guide here.

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Are the benefits of strong assessments worth the effort it takes to find them?

Absolutely. When the right test is used in the right way it can significantly improve employee selection, development, and promotion. Not only that, the downsides of certain personality assessments can be avoided by selecting well-developed tests that use academic rigor and have strong reliability and validity. It is also important to use personality and other assessments in the way the publisher intended them to be used. For example, using a test that was designed for selection may not be helpful when used for development, even if the test has been shown to be reliable and accurate in its original context. 

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How to do I know if personality and workplace assessments have been developed well?

One of the best ways to evaluate a personality assessment is to ask vendors for the supporting psychometric materials. These documents will often describe how the test was developed, what it is intended to measure, and any research or data that supports the test’s validation process. You can use these technical documents to evaluate and compare personality assessments. When doing so, here are five things you can look for to make sure you’re choosing a strong assessment:[x]

  1. The assessment uses an evidence-based model of personality.
  2. It measures traits that are relevant to the job.
  3. It was created by those with expertise in psychometrics.
  4. It has been validated on a sample that is similar to the candidate pool.
  5. There is evidence of strong reliability and predictive validity.

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Looking for More?

If you would like more information about personality assessments, download SIGMA’s e-guide or read our blog on using personality tests for selection. You can also read our blog posts about type vs. continuous measures, and personality test validity.

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Ready to Get Started?

At SIGMA, we’ve spent over 50 years developing science-based assessment products and leadership coaching services. We’ve conducted over 4 million assessments and received nearly 4,500 academic citations. We offer a personality-based selection assessment, the Leadership Skills Profile – Revised Selection (LSP-R Selection), which meets all of the above criteria and was specifically designed with selection in mind. The LSP-R Selection uses advanced algorithms to provide a profile of leadership potential on up to 50 leadership competencies. It also provides a detailed analysis for each candidate, describing how their specific personality traits are likely to impact their performance. SIGMA’s benchmarking feature offers a flexible assessment experience by allowing you to choose which competencies to include in your report. Take a look at a sample report here, and feel free to reach out to us if you would like more information on the reliability and validity of the LSP-R Selection and how you can use it in your selection process. If you’re interested in learning more about the LSP-R Selection, or SIGMA’s other products, take a look at our assessments here, or contact us below.

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[i] Meinert, D. (June 1, 2015). What Do Personality Tests Really Reveal? SHRM. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/pages/0615-personality-tests.aspx#:~:text=The%20%24500%2Dmillion%2Da%2D,for%20Human%20Resource%20Management%20members.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Source: SHRM survey commissioned by ACT, December 2014.

[v] Meinert, D. (June 1, 2015). What Do Personality Tests Really Reveal? SHRM. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/pages/0615-personality-tests.aspx#:~:text=The%20%24500%2Dmillion%2Da%2D,for%20Human%20Resource%20Management%20members.

[vi] Meinert, D. (June 1, 2015). What Do Personality Tests Really Reveal? SHRM. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/pages/0615-personality-tests.aspx#:~:text=The%20%24500%2Dmillion%2Da%2D,for%20Human%20Resource%20Management%20members.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Deinert, A., Homan, A. C., Boer, D., Voelpel, S. C., & Gutermann, D. (2015). Transformational leadership sub-dimensions and their link to leaders’ personality and performance. The Leadership Quarterly, 26(6), 1095–1120. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2015.08.001

[ix] Di Fabio, A., & Saklofske, D. H. (2019). Positive relational management for sustainable development: Beyond personality traits—The contribution of emotional intelligence. Sustainability11(2), 330. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11020330

[x] Ibid.