In the interests of efficiency, the hiring process is becoming increasingly automated. Hiring managers and recruiters are continually developing new ways to save time, reduce manual effort, and identify the best possible candidates for each open role. One outcome of this shift is that hiring managers are relying to an ever-greater extent on personality assessment tests. According to The Wall Street Journal, 8 of the 10 most prominent private employers now incorporate pre-hire personality testing in their application process.
For employers interested in following this trend, an abundance of such tests are readily available. These tests range from classical personality-type assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to a variety of newer evaluation instruments, some of which are geared to specific industries or jobs. Many employers believe these tests can determine how well prospective job candidates will fare in their organization’s work environment, and whether they’ll be a good cultural fit. This information is particularly valuable given that employees who jive well with their company culture tend to have higher levels of engagement.
Despite their popularity, however, job personality tests do not always result in traceable benefits such as reduced churn or improved employee engagement. In fact, such tests may not even speed up the hiring process. Steven Davis, a University of Chicago economist interviewed in The Wall Street Journal article, found that as companies add more layers of pre-hire screening, the average time before a job is filled has expanded to the longest time on record: 26.8 days.
Furthermore, Harvard Business Review (HBR) points out that research has been available since 2002 demonstrating that personality testing doesn’t necessarily correlate with better job performance. Despite this evidence, however, the researchers found that HR professionals continue to place faith in the efficacy of such tests. The writers attribute this to the fact that busy hiring managers don’t have time to read academic research and are likelier to be swayed by their own industry trends.
There are some types of pre-employment testing that do offer measurable benefits, however. The HBR article cites evidence that testing for specific job-related competency is generally valuable, as are cognitive ability (intelligence) tests. While personality tests tend to measure transient states of mind, cognitive and functional tests measure stable traits that don’t undergo as much change, according to the HBR researchers. Such focused tests are also less subject to being “gamed” by savvy test-takers who can perceive the more desirable answers on personality tests and simply fill them out to please the potential employer.
The fact is that as a hiring manager, you have numerous powerful tools at your disposal for effectively screening job candidates, and you may prefer methods that are supported by solid evidence. Behavioral interview questions can be highly revealing of a candidate’s essential personality, as are job-related test assignments. In the end, however, the art of human resource professionals and the hiring manager’s personal insight still are (and will always be) the most effective employee screening tools in existence.
Want more tips for how to screen candidates for cultural fit? Check out our article “6 questions every recruiter should ask to determine cultural fit“