Think Again About Using Formal Personality Testing During the Talent Acquisition Process

Nolan Gray Corporate Recruiting, Staffing, Tips & Tricks

Corporate recruiters need to ensure they are making the right hiring choices, otherwise they could see low performance from new hires, unhappy clients and even high employee turnover. Applicant tracking software is one of the go-to tools for evaluating candidates' qualifications, but this is just one aspect of the complex hiring process. Recruiting is more than just sifting through resumes for experience levels, certifications and skill sets – recruiters have to analyze candidates' personalities and their cultural fit with the company to truly be able to determine whether certain job seekers will be right for the job and the company. 

However, there are certain methods of doing so that are better than others, and recruiters need to be careful which strategies they turn to during the talent acquisition process.

The Problems of Personality Tests
While the vast majority of recruiters rely on face-to-face meetings with candidates to assess their suitability for the job, others also use personality tests to judge workers' attitudes and personalities and determine if there are any possible red flags. According to a 2011 poll of employers by the Society of Human Resource Management, 71 percent of HR professionals consider formal personality testing to be indicative of future performance and cultural fit. Yet personality testing isn't always an indicator of fit and future performance, according to an article by R. Wendel Williams, managing director of, in TLNT.

Williams suggested recruiters who conduct formal personality testing to look at the performance of their current workers to determine if they were exceptional or high performers. For many, Williams said the answer very well may be "no," and some recruiters may even come to the conclusion that they may have missed out on hiring superstars because they put too much weight into personality tests. 

In addition, recruiters have even gotten into legal trouble for using these assessments. For instance, according to ABC News, a woman with hearing and speech impairments in West Virginia filed a compliant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against a supermarket that decided her personality wasn't a fit for a cashier and stocker job because she received a low score on the company's chosen personality test. The news source reported this case has ignited more questions about the use of personality tests in hiring, especially regarding their subjectivity and inability to provide reliable predictions of future performance. Formal tests can easily confuse even the most qualified applicants.

Francine W. Breckenridge, a partner in labor and employment at Texas-based law firm Strasburger Attorneys at Law, told ABC News recruiters don't have to do away with formal personality testing altogether during talent acquisition.

"The main lesson is: Don't solely rely on those tests to hire somebody," Breckenridge advised. "If you are going to use it as a factor in employment consideration, you need to make sure the tests' results are not disproportionately impacting a protected class."

Recruiters do have another way to assess candidates' personalities and cultural fit at the company – the interview.

Ask the Right Interview Questions
Simply asking certain questions during interviews and modifying interview techniques can be help recruiters uncover candidates' personalities and potential cultural fit, according to CIO. Inquiring after social media use, such as the types of people candidates follow on Twitter or the links they share with others, can help recruiters understand candidates' interests, Glenn Bernstein, chief operating officer of Execu-Search, told CIO. Tech Republic also suggested asking how candidates deal with being told "no" or saying "no" to other workers, as well as how they handle conflict. 

Formal personality testing can be helpful to a point, but asking specific questions can be more informative for recruiters during the talent acquisition process.

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