How useful is pre-employment personality testing?

Posted by Bob Corlett on March 5, 2015

There's something alluring about personality tests. We hope to learn something from the fun quizzes in Cosmo or BuzzFeed. Against all logic, we want these tests to work, even though we know deep down that multiple choice questions can't really get at all the complexities of our personalities.

At work, it's hard to avoid the Myers-Briggs (MBTI) test. The MBTI is so common that Wharton professor Adam Grant calls it "the fad that won't die."

At some point, almost every small employer considers using a pre-employment test to help gain insight into potential future employees. But can personality tests help you prevent a costly hiring mistake? Sadly, the answer is no.

Personality tests are pretty much useless at predicting future job performance. Annie Murphy Paul, a former senior editor for Psychology Today magazine, attacked the $400 million dollar testing industry by comparing personality tests to phrenology -- the discredited 19th century theory of determining people's attributes by measuring the bumps on their head.

Writing in online recruiting publication ERE, Wendell Williams points out:

"I've done quite a bit of personality research and can assure you that personality scores and personal skills are two different things. In fact, most all serious investigations show that there is almost no relationship between scores on a personality test and KSAs (e.g., teamwork, conflict resolution, intelligence, learning ability, analyzing, planning skills, and so forth)."

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Topics: Human Resources, Hiring Managers, Recruiting On Your Own