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Personality Testing in the Employment Process

Like singles using dating services, many companies try to find their “perfect match” through the use of personality tests and other psychometric testing. It has been estimated that 30% of all companies have incorporated some sort of personality testing into their hiring process. The potential “cultural fit” of a candidate within an organization is a very important consideration, but it is difficult to measure. Personality testing is marketed as a tool that can be used to evaluate prospective candidates. Despite the claims of many of the test providers, however, companies should not solely rely on the results of such tests too heavily. If used, psychometric testing should be one of many tools used to evaluate candidates during the hiring process.

Who Are You Trying to find?

Before integrating psychometric testing into an organization’s hiring process, management should have already developed detailed job descriptions for each open position. These descriptions should specifically address the duties, degree of autonomy and oversight, responsibilities of direct reports and goals and expectations for the position. Then, management should turn its focus to determining the traits of the ideal candidate for the position. Finding the candidate who not only has the right credentials, but also the right personality to excel in the position and flourish in the organization’s corporate culture, should be the goal of any search. Defining the ideal candidate is a critical step in attempting to meet that goal. If the hiring team does not know who they are trying to find, then it should not be a surprise when the wrong candidate is placed in the position or when the search drags on for months. Neither psychometric testing, interviews, reference checks, outside search consultants, nor any other tools available to the hiring team will make a difference if the search criteria are not clearly defined.

Legal Considerations

As with other hiring practices, the use of psychometric testing must not violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the ADA), as recently amended by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). Most psychometric tests should not cause an issue under Title VII or the ADEA, because unlike cognitive or intelligence tests, there are not “right” or “wrong” answers or scoring. Therefore, the tests are unlikely to have a disparate impact on a protected class. Also, unless there are questions that require the candidate to provide information regarding age, race, color, national original, gender, or religion, it is unlikely that the test could be shown to intentionally discriminate against a protected class.

The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disabilities or perceived disabilities, including mental disabilities. The ADA prohibits requiring a candidate to undergo a “medical examination” prior to receiving a job offer.

Next week’s blog post will continue this topic and explore the types of tests you can use. It will cover other factors to consider if you choose to use a test in your hiring process.

From careers in marketing analytics to customer insights jobs, the executive search consultants at BrainWorks have made it their mission to quickly find you the best people in their respective fields. Get the highest return on your recruiting investment – let BrainWorks find the most qualified candidates in your next Digital Marketing & eCommerce search.


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