The effectiveness of personality tests


In order to discuss the use of Personality Assessments in Selection we must first understand what Personality is and what Personality Assessments are.

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Personality relates to our natural and primarily mental structures that provide guidelines for individuals’ choices and behaviour (Soldz & Vaillant, 1999 ). It is therefore evident that personality is a collection of characteristic thoughts, behaviours and feelings that are unique to every individual.

There are many different models or theories of personality with many being very effective. However it is widely believed that the Big Five Model is the universal standard. Due to the fact it is the most validated and concise model. Making it the most popular

The Big Five Model consists of five key representations of broad traits which are believed to ideally contain the wide range of “normal” personalities (Costa & McCrae, 1992)

Agreeableness: People who are agreeable include those who tend to be cooperative in nature and compassionate to others rather than being suspicious and un-cooperative.
Conscientiousness: People who in general have a tendency to be well organised, dutiful and who plan ahead and aim for targets rather than being spontaneous in nature.
Emotionally Stable: individuals who have a tendency to be relaxed, have calmness about them and are mostly free of worry.
Extraversion: People who are usually highly sociable, they have an outward energy which projects openness, positivity and urgency to engage with others.
Openness to Experience: People with the tendency to be highly imaginative, creative, and who have large curiosity and lust for adventure.

Using this model and others like them personality assessments are often used in order to help the assessor determine what interests and motivations a candidate has as well as how suitable their personalities are in relation to an environment and / or a situation. Often employment related. The Big Five personality variables as a set predict important organizational behaviours e.g., job performance, leadership, and even work attitudes and motivation. (Ones, Deniz, Dilchert, Viswesvaran & Judge, 2007)

Often these tests may be used in the screening process for the selection of new employees, with the aim being to select the applicants with the right personalities for a particular job. For example, a sales person would likely need extravert and friendly personality, as can be seen in the Big Five Model, whilst someone working in a solo environment might be better suited at being introvert

Therefore using this knowledge one might argue that personality tests are valid predictors of job performance and that they allow management the opportunity to gain an insight that helps them to make the right selections. However, there are many issues which disrupt this effectiveness and, some would say, call for the removal of personality tests as general practice in selection. Such issues, which are required to pay close attention to, are ethical issues, the need for personality assessments in specific jobs as well as why some jobs may not require their use I will discuss these issues and the actual effectiveness of physiological assessments in detail.

There are many different views on the effectiveness of personality tests. A very large and ongoing debate about the use of personality tests in selection still present to this date. Some research has indicated that personality assessments are actually very poor predictors of workplace performance. (Morgeson, Campion, Dipboye et al., 2007). It is argued that personality tests do not provide sufficient results in relation to understanding how well equipped a person is for a particular job. Measurements of reasoning, abstract thinking, planning, comprehending and learning abilities as well as measurement of skills specific to the particular job are more reliable in predicting future performance. (Tracey, J. B, 2007) While the measuring of “how” employees express themselves is, in general, good information for an organization to have it is not as valuable as other information that may be collected. In today’s competitive market where the best candidates for positions are aggressively pursued, using the best tool for hiring and training is not a luxury, but a necessity

However, many more still believe that personality assessments are very valid predictors of job performance. Throughout the years, research has time and time again come out with articles and reports on why these personality assessments are so valuable. According to Murphy & Shiarella “there is considerable evidence that both general cognitive ability and broad personality traits (e.g., Conscientiousness) are relevant to predicting success in a wide array of jobs” (Murphy & Shiarella, 1997) Remarkably the use of Physiological Assessments in Selection for employment goes beyond the call of duty. It has been proven that not only do they provide accurate information for overall job performance in the future but also that they are also useful in understanding, explaining, and predicting significant work attitudes e.g., job satisfaction and organizational behaviours e.g., leadership emergence and effectiveness, motivation and effort. (Ones, Deniz, Dilchert, Viswesvaran & Judge, 2007)

So what is the accurate information that these personality assessments are proven to predict in terms of future job performance? Well, a variety of information can be seen from their results. For example the key factors which predict job performance are both Conscientiousness and Emotional Stability; both should be high in order for an employee to be a success. Furthermore it has been shown that leaders ought to rate highly in all of The Big Five except Agreeableness which should be low. Also employees in sales positions should be rated similar but with have the need of a higher rating on Extraversion. (Howard, P.J. and Howard, J.M., 2001)

However while it is clear from the above that, despite argument, personality tests are indeed useful when it comes to personnel selection it also needs to be pointed out that theses personality assessments are perhaps best suited to certain areas of employment over others. For example the use of these personality assessments in areas of work such as shop assistants, bus drivers and general day to day jobs. However in positions where authority is to be held, and especially where this authority may affect the lives of others then these assessment tests are extremely important. ( Sanders, B. A, 2008 ) For example in law enforcement there is a unique amount of power and authority that is given to all employees of the discipline. Thus it is un-deniably appropriate to have hiring systems in place that determine how the new recruits will behave and there by protect the community from possibly unstable or incompetent law enforcers. (Sanders, B.A, 2008)

Issues with Personality Tests

It is quite clear how useful and effective the use of personality testing is, sometimes in some areas more than others, especially after reviewing research on their usage. Why then do we not hear and see more of them? In general their use is not as frequent as it could and should be. Why is this so? Well the problems with personality tests are evident in three key areas.

Firstly, we know that personality tests are useful in employment selection yet the effectiveness of their results comes down to one main factor, the assessor. She/he must have the ability to, firstly identify the characteristics of the jobs which are important and secondly identify the personality traits which are relevant to those characteristics and finally the assessor has to place greatest weight on the chosen characteristics when interpreting the results. Experience suggests that this is rarely done in practice, with personality profiles being interpreted as a whole, after the fact, and with extreme results becoming the focus of attention in interpretation.(S.Dakin, V.Nilakant, R.Jensen, 1994)

The second major issue is a complicated one. It is an issue which directly relates to the effectiveness of these assessments. The issue being the possibility of faking personality tests in order for the possible employee to further their chances in selection by promoting a unrealistic positive portrayal of their own personalities. Recently a survey of over 70 assessors was made in which key findings were made including how over 70% of assessors believe that faking was proving to be a huge issue in the validity of personality assessments. (Robie, Tuzinski, & Bly, 2005)

In fact their beliefs have recently also been confirmed. Research has shown that individuals do in fact cheat on these assessments by faking answers. However the majority of the time it is not always the fact that these individuals fake their tests on purpose, more times than not it is just an un-accurate view that they have of themselves. These individuals are defined as honest fakers. The research states that individuals may be categorized based upon their faking motivation into one of three faking classes: honest fakers; slight fakers; and extreme fakers. (Robie, Brown & Beaty, 2007)

However, in relation to this second point, steps have been made to improve the situation. A new system has been implemented where by the assessors issue a clear warning to the individuals taking a test that states that an advanced method exists that can detect faking on the personality test and it is being implemented. It may also include information on the consequences of faking responses and of how one’s chance of being hired may be lowered significantly. Dwight and Donovan analyzed the results of 15 separate studies and were positive to the benefits of the faking warning, showing that it may reduce faking by 30% on average with larger reductions accompanying warnings that include mention of the consequences of faking detection. (Dwight & Donovan, 2003)

Finally, another issue with physiological assessments is probably the most controversial one. This issue is in relation to ethical issues. These issues are varied and can be hard to underline. Examples of these issues are the inappropriate questioning in assessments, not respecting different ethical perspectives i.e. from across different cultures and also not respecting the privacy of the individual’s results. The importance of these ethical issues and considerations that should be taken can be seen in Patricia Bricklin’s article, which also acts as a guideline for performing these assessments, Being Ethical: More Than Obeying the Law and Avoiding Harm (Bricklin, 2001)


In conclusion after researching and analysing this research on the use of personality tests for work-place assessments I believe that personality tests in work place assessments are indeed very good and very effective. Various reports are in favour of them like Houran states that; ‘Psychometric assessments can be a cost-effective and efficient strategy for evaluating individual and team effectiveness, identifying training needs and selecting the right people'(Houran,2007). However they do have their limitations. The most important factor to consider in my view is how the assessor has to determine what type of personality is best suited for the job in question. Therefore allowing them to measure the applicants in relation to what they are actually looking for. The most important personality criteria are those that reflect actual performance in the job. (Morgeson,Campion,Dipboye,Hollenbeck,et al, 2007) . While it may sound like an obvious statement, many do not implement this in their assessments, they simply look for a good personality in general. Yet when the right approach is taken with these assessments, their results can be extremely positive for the organization.

Furthermore it is important to consider that, like many other processes, personality assessments do in fact have limitations and faults. With such articles like; PERSONALITY TESTS AT THE CROSSROADS: A RESPONSE TO MORGESON, CAMPION, DIPBOYE, HOLLENBECK, MURPHY, AND SCHMITT (Tett & Christiansen), outlining these faults. These faults, as outlined above, contribute to lowering their effectiveness. However, simply because there are faults with something does not mean it should not be used. Despite these faults it is proven that these personality assessments do in fact work. They are capable of aiding employers in the selection of new employees who have great possibilities for success. Also work has been and continues to be carried out in refining the uses of personality tests in order to reduce the issues and faults. As seen by the mentions of faking warnings and ethical guidelines above, etc.

I therefore conclude this assignment with the opinion that personality tests in work place assessments are not only effective and produce good results in terms of the employee selection process but also are extremely important in such cases like military and law enforcement selections where it is important to know the physiological state of the recruits.

In today’s competitive market where the best candidates for positions are aggressively pursued, using the best tool for hiring and training is not a luxury, but a necessity. Personality Assessment is without a doubt one of these tools.

In Order Of Appearance In This Assignment;
Soldz, S., & Vaillant, G. E. (1999). The Big Five personality traits and the life course: A 45-year longitudinal study. Journal of Research in Personality, 33, 208-232.
McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T., Jr. (1997). Personality trait structure as a human universal. American Psychologist, 52, 509-516.
Ones, D. S., Dilchert, S., Viswesvaran, C., & Judge, T. A. (2007). In support of personality assessment in organizational settings. Personnel Psychology, 60, 995-1027.
Morgeson, F. P., Campion, M. A., Dipboye, R. L., Hollenbeck, J. R., Murphy, K., & Schmitt, N. (2007). Reconsidering the use of personality tests in personnel selection contexts. Personnel Psychology, 60, 683-729
Tracey, J. B., Sturman, M. C., & Tews, M. J. (2007). Ability versus personality: Factors that predict employee job performance. Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 48, 313-322.
Murphy, K. R., & Shiarella, A. H. (1997). Implications of the multidimensional nature

of job performance for the validity of selection tests: Multivariate frameworks for studying test

validity. Personnel Psychology, 50, 823-854

Ones, D. S., Dilchert, S., Viswesvaran, C., & Judge, T. A. (2007). In support of personality assessment in organizational settings. Personnel Psychology, 60, 995-1027.
Howard, P.J. and Howard, J.M. (2001) How the Big Five Personality Traits Affect Performance, Communication, Teamwork, Leadership, and Sales. Owner’s Manual for Personality at Work, The: (BOOK)
Sanders, B. A, (2008) Using personality traits to predict police officer performance. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 31, 129-147.
S.Dakin, V.Nilakant, R.Jensen, (1994) The Role of Personality Testing in Managerial Selection. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 9, 3-11
Robie, C., Tuzinski, K. A., & Bly, P. R. (2005). Faking in the individual assessment process.

Minneapolis, MN: Personnel Decisions International.

Chet, R., Douglas, J. B. & James, C. B. (2007) Do People Fake On Personality Inventories. Journal of Business and Psychology, Vol. 21, No. 4
Dwight, S. A., & Donovan, J. J. (2003). Do warnings not to fake reduce faking? Human Performance, 16, 1-23.
Bricklin, Patricia (2001) Being Ethical: More Than Obeying the Law and Avoiding Harm. Journal of Personality Assessment.Vol. 77 Issue 2, p195-202
Houran, J. (2007). Candidate due diligence. Hospitality Magazine, 5, 52-53.
Morgeson, F. P., Campion, M. A., Dipboye, R. L., Hollenbeck, J. R., Murphy, K., & Schmitt, N. (2007). Reconsidering the use of personality tests in personnel selection contexts. Personnel Psychology, 60, 683-729

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