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A definitive guide to personality

Talent Assessment | 10 Min Read

A Definitive Guide To Personality Assessment Test

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Personality tests have been one of the mainstays of Mercer| Mettl since its inception. We realized gaps in recruitment practices and created a team of psychometricians and subject matter experts to understand the science of personality and how its application can improve workplace performance and gauge future potential. A decade later, personality tests continue to remain all the rage.

 

Infographic

 

We have a decade of research and experience concerning the subject. Therefore, we decided to pen down this guide to help you understand how personality drives an individual’s behavior and how assessing it can significantly enhance your workforce planning and management.

We will begin with explaining the basics, then answer some of the most asked questions on personality assessments, such as:

  • Why are we assessing personality?
  • What goes into a personality test?
  • Do personality tests really predict performance?
  • Are personality tests accurate?
  • How can organizations best use personality tests?
  • What are the benefits of using a personality assessment test?

 


Why Are We Assessing Personality?

Personality is defined as the stable characteristics of an individual. They determine a person’s behavior, motivations, preferences, etc. Personality tells everything you need to know about individuals before hiring them – their positive side, their dark side, their values, how they would collaborate with their teammates, whether they will fit in a team or succeed as individual contributors, etc. This detailed insight enhances the importance of assessing personality for organizations.

Since personality is largely stable, especially after a certain age, a valid and reliable personality test will also generate stable scores. An individual should get similar results on multiple occasions in superior quality tests. While an individual’s behavior may undergo changes via training or exposure to varied circumstances, changes in the core personality are difficult to bring about. Therefore, when an organization selects a candidate, it essentially means that his/her personality is in line with the organizational culture and demands of the job role.

 


What Is a Personality Test?

A personality assessment test is a tool designed to assess human personality. Personality tests are used to understand the characteristic patterns of feelings, thoughts and behaviors that people reveal in various situations. Such tests can predict how individuals would react and respond in different situations. Personality assessments are useful tools to measure one’s personality, helping screen applicants for academic and hiring purposes.

Personality assessment tests are of two types: projective tests and self-report inventories. Projective tests are a method of personality assessment in which the test items are ambiguous – for instance, the Rorschach Inkblot Test. The test items can consist of pictures, words, scenes, ambiguous shapes, incomplete sentences or drawings, abstract images. The test-taker needs to respond to the test items based on his/her understanding. These tests attempt to understand the test-taker’s underlying personality characteristics through his/her unique responses. Self-report inventories are personality questionnaires that an individual fills out. Self-report tests or objective tests pose the test-taker questions on personal interests, possible behavioral patterns, values, preferences, etc.

A person’s personality traits, including his/her morals and principles, ideologies, driving force and disposition, essentially determine his/her performance at work. Personality assessments are the best way to evaluate applicants’ characteristic traits for a specific job role.

 

What Goes into a Personality Test?

 

A personality test can be modeled on the type-based approach or the trait-based approach. Both the approaches focus on personal characteristics and have been in practice for a long time.

Trait ApproachType Approach
The trait model theorizes that everyone has a standard set of traits. However, the degree to which each trait is present varies across individuals. Hence, individuals merely differ in “how much” of a trait they possess.A type is a class of individuals said to share a collection of characteristics. The type-based approach characterizes people as per specific qualitatively distinctive categories. An individual usually fits in one or two categories, which describes his/her typical behavior.
This difference in the prevalence of the traits determines demonstrating (positive/negative) behavior. We act in specific manners because we have some underlying trait that activates a particular response or level of response.In the type-based approach, behavior is not seen as caused by one’s type. Rather, behavior is an expression of the type in which the individual is categorized.
In the trait-based personality assessment, it is easier to compare two individuals on the same set of parameters in a quantitative manner. For instance, you can tell by a person’s score whether the individual is high, moderate or low on team collaboration.Type models describe an individual’s behavior based on the type or the category in which they fall. Thus, you cannot know the levels of competencies important in an organization. Type-based tools are not quantitative, making tracking an individual’s development or improvement in the desired competencies exceedingly difficult.
Trait-based models tend to be more normally distributed. According to research, 68% of the people tested on a trait-based tool scored in the middle ranges.Since there is a limited number of types or groups in personality, some types are more prevalent than others. Hence, some lesser prevalent ones are often ostracized from the working population and deemed unfit for work.
With the trait theory approach, there is an infinite number of places on the sliding scales of traits where individuals can be placed.A type theory approach will always have some limit to the number of ways a person’s personality could potentially be oriented.
Example: Tests based on the ‘Big Five’ or The OCEAN model.Example: The Myer-Briggs Test (MBTI (The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator)

When selecting the type of personality test to use, consider whether you want to use typological measures or continuous measures.Typological measures sort people into groups based on their scores, consider several personality traits and provide a general description of an individual's personality and how they influence behavior. MBTI and DISC fall as typological measures.Continuous measures sort people by showing the varying degrees of the traits that they possess like a spectrum. This process is a more flexible approach to personality testing since it emphasizes each trait the individual possesses. The Five-Factor Model and HEXACO fall as continuous measures.

Chris McGuire
Founder, Real Estate Exam Ninja

Developing personality assessment tests is a detailed process. It requires psychometricians, subject matter experts, data analysts and professional practitioners to ensure each test measures what it is meant to measure. Not all organizations are internally capable of building their tests. Hence, they should partner with external vendors for the same.

 

Type or Trait: Which is suitable for workplace decisions? 

 

Most commercial personality assessments use the trait theory. The most popular trait theory is the ‘Big Five’ or The OCEAN model. Trait theory posits that personality is a function of multiple traits, wherein traits are the building blocks of a human personality. Essentially, a trait is a detailed explanation of behavior – for example, assertive, friendliness, or social. In fact, The OCEAN theory argues that traits trigger ‘behavior.’ In other words, when a person acts in a certain way, only an already existent and underlying trait causes that response.  However, a trait should manifest consistency for any behavior to be considered a part of the personality. For instance, if a person is friendly in all situations, he/she is believed to exhibit consistency, but if this behavior is not portrayed when the situation demands, it is not consistent. Therefore, it can’t be construed or classified as a trait.

Sets of personality traits are called dimensions or factors of personality. RB Cattell and Allport have been famous for their research on these traits. Allport identified three major trait types, including central that assess kindness, honesty, etc., while cardinal and secondary revolve around a smaller range of situations. RB Cattell, on the other hand, came up with two traits – source traits, which are basic structures that decide the behavior, and surface traits that are influenced by source traits.

These traits can be broadly classified into the following 5 factors:

Openness

This trait is frequently used to refer to someone’s mental depth, which includes learning, imagination or experiences. In the workplace, it helps recruiters to know someone’s desire to explore new things, think creatively and be open to taking constructive criticism. Individuals who score high on openness are usually highly curious and artistic -those scoring low like to stay in their comfort zones.

Extraversion

This trait indicates whether a person would be comfortable with frequent social interactions or simply prefer solitude in a work setting. The extraversion factor is usually a deal-breaker when hiring people for roles involving a high engagement level in social settings.

Conscientiousness

This evaluates a person’s dependability and reliability to assess if he/she is organized and goal-oriented. These people excel as leaders and usually taste success in school days. Those who score lower on conscientiousness are impulsive and like to procrastinate. This factor helps organizations decide the right team and role for candidates.

Neuroticism

High scores on Neuroticism represent a higher propensity for employee burnout because they can not manage their emotions proficiently. And like they say, high emotional stability is directly linked to job and life satisfaction in general. Moreover, those with good emotional stability are better at dealing with changes, especially in a fast-paced organization.

Agreeableness

It is self-explanatory that people scoring high on this parameter tend to follow the rules. They are effective leaders and have good on-the-job behavior, attracting them to many teams.

Unlike the type theory, the trait theory supports a middle spectrum when decoding personality. For instance, a person can both exhibit introversion and extroversion at different instances rather than being a polar introvert or extrovert at all times. This Big Five personality test is widely leveraged because personality characteristics can be described and measured more objectively.

The trait theory considers situational factors that influence personality and determine the most accurate behavior in specific circumstances, essential for high stake job roles. The trait theory has shown a high correlation with on-the-job performance and, thus, is highly recommended and used in the workplace setting.

 

What Do Personality Tests Measure?

 

Personality tests measure personality characteristics, behavioral styles, individual preferences, dark traits, etc. Personality tests are created considering a particular job role in an organization. They assess specific role-related competencies.

 

Common Personality Traits for Different Job Roles

 

Table

 

The table mentioned above outlines different personality attributes for different job roles. Personality tests help recruiters identify candidates with the required abilities and skills.

 


Uses of Personality Tests

While there is no dearth of personality tests in the market today, many psychometricians believe that the type-based approach views personality as a binary function. And, therefore, it is not suited for making high-stakes hiring decisions in the workplace. Personality-type tests are more suited for personal use.

Many studies and psychometricians suggest that organizations making high-stakes decisions on workforce planning and management should use trait-based tools. The type-based assessment identifies a limited number of types. However, based on the organizations’ dynamic expectations, the desired behaviors for a certain requirement may be quite diverse. Hence, trait-based assessments allow one to focus on the relevant traits and understand an individual’s readiness.

Organizations can use trait-based personality tests that are valid, reliable, standardized and normed for hiring and development. Personality assessment tests can help organizations identify candidates who are a good fit with the company culture, contribute to an informed interview process, help compare candidates easily, and even reveal insights such as performance risks, burnout rate, etc.

Personality tests can be used for talent development to identify areas of strengths and improvements, understand candidates’ learning preferences and motivations, and encourage them to take proactive and gradual steps toward better performance.

 

Personality Assessments in Recruitment And L&D

Recruitment

Personality assessment plays a significant role in the recruitment process. The purpose of personality assessments is to help talent acquisition experts select the potential hires at the beginning of the interview process. It eliminates candidates that are culturally unfit or don’t possess the requisite skills for specific job roles. The ultimate hiring tool enables talent acquisition experts to identify ideal personality traits across diverse job categories. Moreover, a personality assessment test evaluates a candidate’s working style, motivation, values, the dark side of the personality, adaptability and employee engagement, directly impacting retention rate.

Personality assessment tools should ideally be used as part of a series of assessments. Pre-employment tests that gauge an individual’s aptitude, core job-related skills, learning preferences, motivation for growth potential should be used in tandem with personality tests for a holistic understanding of a candidate.

There are no universal personality tests, and hence every job role and organization needs to create personality tests that assess their framework of competencies.

Learning & Development

Personality tests are powerful assessment tools to hone employees’ skills and abilities. Employers can best utilize the personality assessment test to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the employees and train them on specific skills gaps. It aids them in building efficient teams that can deliver crucial projects seamlessly and efficiently. It also reveals which candidates may do well in teams and which ones individually. For example, a team member with good analytical abilities and attention to detail can be a good pick for a research project. A candidate possessing excellent social media skills and a creative mind can pull off a social media campaign effortlessly.

Personality assessments enable identifying employees who need learning and development on specific skills and domains. Once the potential employees are identified for training, companies can schedule training and development sessions for them. This intervention would improve their domain expertise, product knowledge and management skills.

 


Importance of personality assessment tests

Personality tests have numerous benefits– from hiring decisions to offering important insights into an employee’s lifecycle for training, development, promotions, etc.

  • A personality assessment test enables recruiters to make effective hiring decisions. It helps them look beyond the candidate’s information on paper, such as education and work experience. A personality assessment test also provides employers with essential clues on the candidate’s working behavior and the type of questions to ask during an interview and reduces bias in the process.
  • Every job role has a certain set of personality competencies linked to it. Using a personality assessment can help employers make an informed decision and shortlist the candidate closest to the job competencies. This process improves overall business outcomes and reduces the attrition rate.
  • It aids employers in building the best team. Personality assessment tests help team leaders in navigating resources that can contribute to the team effectively and efficiently. Personality tests are reliable predictors of job performance and help employees understand their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Personality tests help candidates in self-reflecting better and improving their areas of development if any.
  • Personality assessments can help organizations create a more inclusive, safe, diverse, and equitable workplace.

 


Questions to Ask When Choosing a Personality Assessment Vendor

The science behind the personality test

As discussed before, personality tests follow two major schools of thought. Psychometricians the world over prefer the trait-based approach when making important decisions regarding employment. The Five-Factor model taxonomy has been proven to yield reliable results in the workplace context.

Interpretation of the Results

Personality tests require a team of psychometricians and subject matter experts to understand and interpret the results. When looking for a personality test on the market, ensure that your organization also gets post-assessment expertise.

The Rigor of the Tool

Ensure to look into the rigor of the tools you are considering. What kind of scale is used, what are the kind of geographies the test is normed on, what is the validity and reliability of the assessments, whether the test shows an adverse impact on any kind of population, who are the people behind the test, are they associated with a prestigious organization, is the tool developed according to a standardized guideline, etc.

 


How Mercer Mettl Can Help

Mercer | Mettl’s personality assessment tests have been in use for over a decade. Mettl’s personality assessments are a product of extensive research and strong alignment with renowned personality theories. Mercer | Mettl’s suite of personality tools is based on the Big Five personality theory. It is based on the key five dimensions: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience.

Mettl’s personality assessment tests measure the key aspects of human personality. These are listed below:

Positive Personality Traits

Identify traits that can influence cultural fitment, job performance and trainability. Mettl’s personality assessments evaluate candidates’ relevant personality traits required for critical work. Here is a snapshot of Mettl’s two most-used personality tests:

 

Mettl Personality Map

 

Table 1

 

Mettl Personality Profiler

 

Table 2

Motivation, Values and Preferences

Understand what drives and motivates a person to perform at work efficiently. Mettl Motivation Inventory assesses an individual’s motivation level to excel in a job role.

Dark Personality Traits

Measure the key negative traits that impact the safety of employees, customers, and the broader work culture. Mettl Dark Personality Inventory evaluates the candidate’s negative personality traits.

Sales Profiler Test

Provides a competency-based framework to build a winning sales team. It is a one-of-its-kind profiler assessment that identifies the critical behavioral and cognitive competencies for your unique organizational requirements.

 


Conclusion

Personality tests are incredibly useful for your business. They help you understand and choose the right people. Personality tests can be used for a variety of aspects of workforce management and can protect organizations from the repercussions of a bad hire.

It is well-accepted that success in a workplace is not just determined by technical knowledge, but it has much to do with one’s personality and behavioral styles. In a fast-paced world where employees change loyalties every year, personality tests predict career interests, performance, burnout rate, personal values, integrity, motivation, etc.

Personality tests – when used within a larger battery of tests to assess behavioral, aptitude and domain skills – provide organizations with the right insights and holistic understanding of the candidate. This insight enables organizations to make the right talent decisions.

 


FAQs

Are personality tests accurate?

 

The accuracy of a personality assessment test majorly relies on two aspects: validity and reliability. Validity is defined as a test’s quality to measure what it is designed to measure. Reliability refers to the test’s quality of measuring it consistently. Validity and reliability go hand in hand. They help predict the accuracy of a personality test. Other things one can look into to ensure an accurate test is its standardization and norming.

 

What personality test is the best?

 

As per a recent study, the Big Five-Factor Model is one of the best personality tests and widely accepted personality assessment tools. It helps recruiters holistically understand a candidate’s behavior and attitudes and assists in hiring suitable candidates.

 

What are the methods of a personality assessment?

 

There are several methods of personality assessments. Some of them are interviews, rating scales, personality inventories, projective techniques and behavioral observations.

Interviews: The recruiter can evaluate candidates through interviews and look for personality attributes such as work experiences, bright and dark personality traits, attitudes, and occupational goals. The applicant scoring high on the interview is selected for the specific job role.

Rating Scale is an assessment method where the candidates are asked to rate responses that are the most suitable. It is aimed at analyzing a candidate’s degree of behavior, skills and strategies.

Personality Inventory is an assessment tool used by professionals such as career counselors to evaluate a candidate’s likes, dislikes, attitudes, motivations, values and behavioral skills. The tool helps people to understand their personality test types.

Projective Techniques is a personality assessment tool that uncovers a candidate’s hidden emotions and in-depth personality attributes such as beliefs, internal conflicts, values, motivations, etc. The candidates must answer scenario-based questions, selecting options that best describe their personality.

Behavioral Observation: The recruiter uses the assessment tool to gauge an individual’s behavioral tendencies in a work environment, such as the style of communication and the attitude in handling a project.

 

What do personality tests assess?

 

Personality assessment tests measure a candidate’s interpersonal skills to perform well at work, motivation, inspiration, values, and the ability to execute the job role well.

 

How do you assess your personality?

 

There are several personality assessment inventories available on the market to assess human personality. Some commonly used are the Big Five Factor Personality test, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and DISC Personality, etc. These personality tests help recruiters understand candidates’ bright and dark sides of human personality. They also enable individuals to understand themselves better and how they conduct themselves in the workplace environment.

 

What are the most accurate personality tests?

 

The most reliable and valid personality test in the assessment space is the Big Five personality assessment, which numerous companies employ for hiring and recruitment purposes. It is one of the most widely accepted personality test tools to find the right cultural and role-fit candidates.

 

What are the types of personality assessments?

 

There are several types of personality assessment tests. Some of them are the Big Five personality test, the Myers-Briggs test, DISC assessments, Hogan assessments and the SHL Occupational Personality questionnaire.

 

What is the personality assessment inventory?

 

Personality assessment inventory measures a candidate’s behavioral tendencies such as aggression, consciousness, emotional stability, extraversion, dominance, attitudes, and other such personality attributes. These personality traits enable recruiters to make effective hiring decisions and select the most suitable candidate for the job role.

Originally published December 4 2019, Updated June 17 2021

Bhuvi Kathpalia

Written by

Bhuvi is a content marketer at Mercer | Mettl. She's helped various brands find their voice through insightful thought pieces and engaging content. When not scandalizing people with her stories, you’ll find her challenging gender norms, dancing to her own tune, and crusading through life, laughing.

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