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Best Practices for Utilizing Personality Assessments in Hiring

Retiring baby boomers combined with economic growth has resulted in the number of open positions now exceeding the number of people who are unemployed in the United States. In addition, the number of employees quitting their jobs is high – a recent report by the Labor Department put the “quits rate” at the highest it’s been since 2001. This has created significant hiring pressure in many organizations. In a survey of over 350 hiring professionals across 15 different industries, Criteria Corp reports that hiring volume is expected to increase 2.3% from 2018 to 2019.

The bottom line is that competition to hire and retain talent has never been fiercer, leading many organizations to increase HR budgets in an attempt to attract great candidates – Criteria Corp’s survey also revealed a predicted 6.7% increase in HR budgets from 2018 to 2019. Pre-employment tests are one of the many tools organizations are utilizing to develop more predictive accuracy in their recruitment process. According to the Talent Board’s 2016 Candidate Experience Research report, 82 percent of companies are now using some form of pre-employment assessment testing in their hiring process.

One of the most popular and useful types of pre-employment testing in use at leading organizations is personality testing to assess the fit between talent and organizational culture. For scientific organizations, hiring talent with the right skills, experience and knowledge is obviously critical, but it is also important to evaluate soft skills like personality fit for the company culture in order to ensure employee retention and longevity. Let’s explore some of the benefits of and best practices in pre-employment personality testing that will help your organization stay competitive in the talent war.

What is a Pre-Employment Personality Test?

One of the most important elements that should be considered in any hiring decision is whether a candidate is a good fit for your company’s culture. A candidate might have all the necessary skills and experience, but if they prefer a particular organizational hierarchy or working style that is different than what is available in your organization, they won’t be a good match for your company.

Personality tests are composed of a series of questions or tasks that can be used to evaluate a person’s personality traits. These tests are used by companies during the hiring process to help identify candidates that have personality profiles that are compatible with the company culture and position. While it is unwise to treat any single test result as the sole factor in a hiring decision, personality assessments can serve as an important element in a multi-factor strategy (e.g., applicant’s experience, education, references, conduct during the interview, etc.) to evaluate a candidate’s potential fit for a position in your company.

The most common methodology for utilizing personality tests in the hiring process involves what is known as “predictive matching.” In this approach, the first step is to assess the key personality traits of the supervisor(s) and co-workers the candidate would have if hired. Once this baseline is established, the results of the candidate’s personality test can be used to assess the applicant’s compatibility with their would-be supervisors and/or co-workers. If your company values and offers an unstructured, creative work atmosphere, for example, you might not want to hire someone whose personality test reveals traits such as rigidity and conformity.

The fact is that assessing soft skills like personality traits, cultural fit and motivational drivers in addition to an applicant’s hard skills can prove the difference between hiring candidates who thrive over the long term and those who quickly derail. This approach is becoming increasingly popular among consulting firms who utilize personality assessments as part of their screening process in providing you with top quality candidates for your company’s open positions.

Benefits of Using Personality Tests for Hiring

There are huge incentives for organizations to get hiring right. Some of the benefits that can be incurred from utilizing personality tests in the hiring process include:

Streamline and Speed the Hiring Process. By identifying people that are not the right fit for your company culture, you can reduce the number of people that need to be evaluated and potentially find the right candidate faster.

Reduced Employee Turnover. Personality tests can help ensure that your new hires are compatible with your company culture, thereby reducing turnover.

Reduced Cost. Recruiting costs are high, as is the cost of replacing employees who quit. As your success in hiring and retention go up, your costs will go down.

Avoid Conscious or Unconscious Bias. Pre-employment personality screening helps hiring managers avoid placing too much emphasis on first impressions and/or bias in their hiring decisions. These tests also assist compliance with anti-discrimination laws by helping to remove the possibility for prejudice in your hiring process.

Enhance the Interview Process. Hiring managers can use results of a pre-interview personality assessment to develop targeted interview questions that are highly relevant to a particular candidate.

Build Productive Teams. Helps hiring mangers build productive teams that have the right mix of personality characteristics to work well together.

Best Practices for Using Personality Assessments in Your Hiring Process

Some best practice recommendations for utilizing pre-employment personality assessments in your hiring process include:

Test Early. Best practice is to have candidates do a personality assessment early in the hiring process to prioritize your candidate pipeline. Testing early helps you filter out candidates who would not be a good fit in your organization and also identify those that may not have stood out based on resume alone.

Avoid Cumbersome Assessments. Cumbersome personality assessments can lead to high candidate drop-out rates during the application process. Top talent with numerous job options will likely lose interest with an arduous assessment process.

Take Steps to Verify the Results. With the popularity of personality assessments increasing, your company’s personality test will likely not be the first an applicant has experienced. As such, it is a given that some applicants will try to “game” the test by answering the questions in the way they think will help them get the job. It is important to verify the results of the test by calling references and comparing test results with interview personality.

Follow the Law. The law does not prohibit employers from utilizing personality assessments as part of the hiring process, although it may impact how these tests can be administered. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin in employment decisions, including in the administration of pre-employment tests. Assessments must therefore follow equal employment opportunity laws to avoid discrimination or adverse impact on candidates, as was evidenced in the Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling, Ricci v. DeStefano.

Test the Test. Companies that utilize personality assessments in their hiring process operate on the hypothesis that these tests will help them improve their hiring process and reduce costs. Like any good scientific endeavor, this hypothesis should be validated with quantitative data. Recruiters should evaluate personality assessments to verify that they are providing real benefits to your organization by tracking measurable metrics over time.

Get Expert Assistance. While any manager can give and interpret a personality assessment, that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily qualified to do so. Best practice is to utilize a qualified third-party staffing firm that has the expertise to effectively assess the personality of both your corporate culture and candidates. Such a firm will utilize personality assessments with all their candidates and help to streamline your hiring process by only sending you the ones that test high in terms of compatibility with your company’s culture. Utilizing a third-party staffing firm in this way can also limit your company’s legal liability with EEO laws regarding personality testing.


To gain an edge in today’s tight labor market, leading companies are utilizing pre-employment personality assessments to improve their hiring process. When administered professionally and evaluated properly, pre-employment personality tests can provide the information necessary to ensure a better quality of hire for your organization. In turn, a better quality of hire helps to drive other business goals across your organization – reduced employee turnover, better team performance and productivity, reduced costs, etc.