Mettl’s assessments have been the biggest filter in our recruitment process. Their platform has helped us reach out to a higher volume our applicant numbers. Mettl constantly keeps innovating on their products and tries to introduce a new aspect to everything.
Personality tests have been one of the mainstays of Mercer | Mettl since its inception. We analyzed the 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.
We have a decade of research and experience on 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.
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 valuable tools to measure one’s personality, helping screen applicants for hiring and academic 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 and abstract images. However, the test-takers need to respond to the test items based on their understanding. Thus, these tests attempt to understand the underlying personality characteristics through candidates’ responses.
Self-report inventories are personality questionnaires that an individual fills out. Self-report tests or objective tests pose questions to the test-takers on personal interests, possible behavioral patterns, values, preferences, etc.
People’s personality traits, including their morals and principles, ideologies, driving factors and disposition, essentially determine their workplace performance. Therefore, personality assessments are the best way to evaluate applicants’ characteristic traits for a specific job role.
Personality is defined as the stable characteristics of an individual. It determines a person’s behavior, motivations, preferences, etc. Personality conveys everything you need to know about individuals before hiring them – their positive and dark side, values, ability to collaborate with their teammates, whether they will fit in a team or succeed as individual contributors, etc. These detailed insights enhance the importance of assessing personality for organizations.
A valid and reliable personality test will also generate stable scores since personality is largely stable, especially after a certain age. Therefore, an individual should get similar results on multiple occasions in superior quality tests. An individual’s behavior may change via training or exposure to circumstances; however, changes in the core personality are difficult to bring about. Therefore, when an organization selects candidates, it means that their personality aligns with the organization’s culture and demands of the job role.
Personality tests are based on psychological science. They are administered and scored appropriately in accordance with established standardized procedures. The American Psychological Association defines personality assessment as a proficiency in professional psychology that involves administering, scoring and interpreting empirically supported measures of personality traits and styles.
Except for a few personality tests that are heavily influenced by the creators’ subjective feelings, most personality assessments (such as those based on the Big Five Models) follow rigorous scientific protocols. Personality testing methodologies are based on a systematic, scientific study in the field of psychological measurement. Such studies are concerned with creating measures and their scoring, gauging reliability and validity evidence for measures, factor analysis and the analysis of differential item functioning (DIF) across the subgroups.
It stands to reason that the optimal use of personality tests to optimize various aspects of an employee’s life cycle is feasible. These different aspects could be recruitment, Learning & Development, performance review, leadership development, succession planning and high-potential identification. Hence, it is safe to say that a personality test based on psychometric science touches upon various dimensions of human personality.
Dan Barrett, Co-Founder, Pacific Precious Metals, asserts, “The underlying science behind every personality assessment is the elicitation of emotions and the analysis of reactions. They make us manifest an emotion through the questions and record our answers to sketch our personality.”
A personality test can be modeled on the type-based approach or the trait-based approach. Both the models focus on personal characteristics and have been in practice for a long time.
|Trait Approach||Type 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)|
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 intends to measure. Also, not all organizations are capable of building their tests. Hence, they should partner with external vendors for the same.
Most commercial personality assessments use the trait theory. The most popular trait theory is the ‘Big Five’ or The OCEAN model. The 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, such as assertiveness, 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. Still, it is not consistent if this behavior is not portrayed when the situation necessitates it. 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. On the other hand, RB Cattell deduced 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 five factors:
This trait is frequently used to refer to someone’s mental depth, including learning, imagination or experiences. In the workplace, it helps recruiters assess someone’s desire to explore new things, think creatively and be open to constructive criticism. Individuals who score high on openness are more likely to be highly curious and artistic. Conversely, those scoring low tend to stay in their comfort zones.
This trait indicates whether a person would be comfortable with frequent social interactions or prefer solitude in a work setting. The extraversion factor is usually a deal-breaker when hiring people for roles involving high engagement levels in social settings.
This evaluates a person’s dependability and reliability to assess if she/he is organized and goal-oriented. Thus, these people excel as leaders and usually attain success in school days. Conversely, those who score lower on conscientiousness are impulsive and like to procrastinate. This factor helps organizations decide the right team and role for candidates.
High scores on Neuroticism represent a higher propensity for employee burnout because candidates who have such tendencies cannot manage their emotions proficiently. And increased emotional stability is directly linked to broader job and life satisfaction. Moreover, those with good emotional stability are better at dealing with changes, especially in a fast-paced organization.
It is self-explanatory that people scoring high on this parameter tend to follow the rules. They are likely to be effective as 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 exhibit both 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 proper behavior in specific circumstances, essential for high-stakes job roles. The trait theory has shown a high correlation with on-the-job performance and, thus, is highly recommended and used in workplaces.
There are many different types of personality tests. Some tests may be used to screen job candidates, while others can be used in various settings to delve deeper into a subject’s personality. These tests may be administered for multiple purposes. Yet, the core intent remains the same: a systematic and scientific assessment of characteristic patterns of traits that someone reveals under different settings.
However, here, we will focus on personality assessments that are crucial for selection and organizational development. These tests can help assess the full spectrum of personality traits, from positive traits to dark traits. Positive traits such as curiosity, compassion, etc., are instrumental in fostering a culture of positivity, innovation, resilience and success. On the other hand, dark personality traits such as insensitivity, self-obsession etc., signify undesirable characteristics that negatively impact organizations, clients and employees.
These tests can enable organizations to determine critical behavioral competencies across roles and industries, helping them make better hiring decisions. So, here’s a list of personality assessments most used by organizations worldwide in their recruitment processes.
It is a personality assessment tool based on the Big Five model of personality traits. It is suitable for assessing the positive personality traits and behavioral competencies of employees within an organization. It is most suited for first-time managers, mid-level management and senior roles.
This type of personality assessment tool goes beyond the Big Five Model of personality traits by incorporating modern and newer traits relevant to the workplace. It is suitable for assessing the positive personality traits and behavioral competencies for leadership and senior roles and learning and Development (L&D) initiatives.
This personality assessment tool assesses crucial personality constructs of candidates applying for entry-level roles. This tool can help evaluate the positive personality traits and behavioral competencies of junior employees. In addition, employers can use this tool to unlock objective information about a candidate or an employee, which is critical to understanding their workplace behavior.
It is a tool that explores socially undesirable traits, such as Machiavellianism, Narcissism, etc., in candidates/employees to identify those scoring high on the dark personality test. Research indicates that people with a high degree of dark traits are more likely to deviate toward anti-social behavior and are more susceptible to causing social distress at work. On the contrary, studies also establish that such individuals possess leadership qualities and achieve superior social status.
This tool is crucial for assessing candidates' personalities and ascertaining their suitability for sales profiles. The personality profiler is helpful in many ways for filtering out unsuitable candidates, profiling prospective hires/existing employees to gain in-depth insights into personality traits that work well with sales-centered roles.
These tools are crucial for assessing candidates' core character traits to evaluate whether they possess the necessary attributes to perform or excel in managerial positions. These attributes include the applicant's motives, goals, attitudes, feelings and behavioral inclinations.
Personality tests measure personality characteristics, behavioral styles, individual preferences, dark traits, etc. These tests are created considering a particular job role in an organization and assess specific role-related competencies.
|Sales||Goal-oriented, inquisitive, tenacious, assertive, empathetic, humility, conscientiousness, drive, team-player|
|Finance||Problem-solver, analytical mind, excellent leadership skills, self-management, adaptable communication, confidence|
|Hotel industry||Commitment, excellent people skills, attention to detail, leadership, teamwork, enthusiasm, attitude|
|Content marketing||Critical thinker, good listener, marketing & SEO know-how, detail-oriented, specialized knowledge, imagination|
|Operations||Strong communication skills, motivation, strong negotiation skills, awareness of internal & external customer needs|
The table mentioned above outlines different personality attributes for various job roles. Personality tests help recruiters identify candidates with the required abilities and skills.
While there is no dearth of personality tests on 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. Instead, 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 specific requirement may be pretty 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 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 assessment plays a significant role in the recruitment process. Personality assessments help talent acquisition experts select the potential hires at the beginning of the interview process. They eliminate culturally unfit candidates or those who don’t possess the requisite skills for specific job roles. This 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, all of which directly impact the retention rate.
Personality assessment tools should ideally be used as part of a series of assessments. For example, 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 entail the creation of personality tests that assess their framework of competencies.
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 sound analytical abilities and attention to detail can be a good pick for a research project. A candidate with excellent social media skills and a creative mind can effortlessly pull off a social media campaign.
Personality assessments enable identifying employees who need learning and development on specific skills and domains. Once the potential employees are recognized for training, companies can schedule training and development sessions for them. This intervention would improve their domain expertise, product knowledge and management skills.
Personality tests have numerous benefits– from hiring decisions to offering essential insights into an employee’s lifecycle for training, development, promotions, etc.
As discussed, personality tests follow two significant schools of thought. Psychometricians the world over prefer the trait-based approach when making important employment decisions. The Five-Factor model taxonomy has been proven to yield reliable results in the workplace context.
Personality tests require a team of psychometricians and subject matter experts to understand and interpret the results. Therefore, when looking for a personality test on the market, ensure that your organization also gets post-assessment expertise.
Ensure to evaluate the rigor of the tools you are considering. For example, what kind of scale it uses, the geographies the test is normed on, besides the assessments’ validity and reliability. You must also assess whether the test shows an adverse impact on any 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.
Mercer | Mettl’s personality assessment tests have been in use for over a decade. Mercer | Mettl’s personality assessments are a product of extensive research and robust alignment with renowned personality theories. Mercer | Mettl’s suite of personality tools is based on the Big Five personality theory, which is based on the key five dimensions: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience.
Mercer | Mettl’s personality assessment tests measure the critical aspects of human personality.
Listed below are some of the most popular personality assessment tools by Mercer | Mettl that are used in hiring and employee development.
|Reliability||The median reliability is 0.75 at the facet level and 0.90 at the factor level.|
|Validity||Convergent validity estimates range from 0.3 to 0.51 and criterion validity estimates range from 0.25 to 0.51.|
|Scaling||6-point Likert Scale|
|Norming||Over 3000 respondents across geographies, including Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, Asia and Africa|
|Adverse impact||It is free from adverse impact bias. The mean group difference is mostly insignificant among ethnic, age and gender groups.|
|Team member||Members of SIOP (The Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology)|
|Tool development||In accordance with: 1. APA (American Psychological Association) standards, 2. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines, 3. The Association of Test Publishers (ATP) guidelines|
Mercer | Mettl Personality Map (MPM) is a comprehensive personality test that measures personality via a unique and innovative 28 facet and a four-factor personality structure for work-related outcomes, beyond the well-established ‘Big Five’ model of personality. The model used five broad personality traits, categories to describe people. Behavioral tendencies are broadly categorized into four factors:
MPM is a robust workplace measure that can be implemented throughout an employee’s life cycle across different employment levels. While organizations can use it as a screening tool in the hiring process, they can also employ it to get critical inputs on critical HR decisions such as:
|Reliability (Cronbach alpha)||0.63 to 0.88|
|Validity (Convergent)||0.4 to 0.75|
|Norming and standardization||Normed on a sample of over 37000 respondents across geographies, including India, US, Europe, South Africa and Southeast Asia (representative sample with different age, gender, job level and occupations)|
|Adverse impact||The tool has also been tested for adverse impact regarding age, gender and ethnicity, for which mean group differences for the MPP are examined. The mean group difference is mostly insignificant among ethnic, age and gender groups.|
|Team member||Part of SIOP (The Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology)|
|Tool development||In accordance with APA (The American Psychological Association) and EEOC (The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)|
|Test design guidelines||By ATP (The Association of Test Publishers)|
Mercer | Mettl Personality Profiler (MPP) is modeled after the Big Five theory, which specifies that people can be described based on their standing on five broad personality traits. The tool helps measure a person’s strengths and growth opportunities based on underlying personality traits and work style preferences, assisting employers in understanding what behaviors a candidate is likely to engage in due to his/her preferences and pre-dispositions. Moreover, organizations can pair it with other tools to provide a more holistic understanding of the individual’s pre-dispositions and behavioral manifestations at work.
Mercer | Mettl’s scientists went beyond the well-established model of the broad ‘Big Five’ personality factors and developed 26 scales or narrower facet-like constructs, which form the building blocks of our assessment. These scales span a vast personality domain and are mapped to an organization’s or job role’s specific performance models or behavioral competencies to predict job success. The ‘Big Five’ personality traits predict important job-related outcomes, such as job performance, a person’s potential for burnout, trainability and job satisfaction.
The five factors are:
While MPP can be used as a filtration tool, it can also be used as a key input for critical HR decisions such as:
Mercer| Mettl personality inventory (MPI) tool is an innovative, evidence-based assessment, which measures relevant personality traits required for a particular role. It helps predict behavioral competencies, which in turn lead to organizational outcomes of interest. It is designed to help employers gain access to objective information about a job applicant or an employee, which is critical in influencing their behavior at work. It is most suited for entry-level roles and measures positive personality traits.
MPI can be mapped to any job role using Mercer| Mettl Competency Framework (MCF) or any organization’s specific competency framework. It is built to allow users (client/companies) to customize its configuration and scoring to fit their needs. Besides, it provides reports designed to facilitate the hiring decision for key stakeholders. The standard report presents the test-taker’s scores on eight critical competencies and seventeen sub-competencies.
These personality assessment tools measure negative personality constructs in potential hires (during the hiring process) and existing employees. This personality diagnostic helps ensure workplace safety. The tool considers six dark personality traits: Opportunism, Self-Obsession, Insensitivity, Temperamental, Impulsiveness and Thrill-Seeking.
Thus, the tool helps safeguard work culture and ensure customer safety in industries where employees working in customer-facing roles may exhibit dark traits, endangering customer, asset and data safety.
Mercer | Mettl’s sales profiler is a well-designed tool to identify people with a knack for sales. In addition, the tool can assess the behavioral and cognitive competencies required for the sales profile, enabling recruiters and employers to build a winning sales team. This psychometric assessment tool helps evaluate a salesperson’s true potential for each job role, from selling shoes in stores, to complex IT solutions to CXOs.
This comprehensive personality assessment tool helps employers understand what drives and motivates a person to perform and excel at work. The more motivated and engaged the workforce is, the greater is the organization’s potential for success. This tool assesses an individual’s motivation to excel in a job role based on key motivators, such as finances, security, recognition, affiliation, competition, power, advancement and achievement.
Personality tests are beneficial for your business as they help you understand and choose the right people. Also, personality tests can be used for various aspects of workforce management and 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, personality tests predict career interests, performance, burnout rate, personal values, integrity, motivation, etc.
When used within a more extensive battery of tests to assess behavioral, aptitude and domain skills, personality tests provide organizations with the right insights and holistic understanding of the candidates. These insights enable organizations to make the right talent decisions.
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 together. 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.
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.
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.
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 December 2 2021
Abhilash works with the Content Marketing team of Mercer|Mettl. He has been contributing his bit to the world of online business for some years now. Abhilash is experienced in content marketing, along with SEO. He’s fond of writing useful posts, helping people, traveling, and savoring delicacies.
Personality assessments are a method of identifying candidates whose characteristics match the role and organization’s requirements. Personality assessments help HRs make effective people decisions by placing people in positions suited to their disposition.