Last week I got my first semi-negative comment on the blog.  It wasn’t anything personal, just a woman expressing her frustration over companies using assessments like ours in their hiring practices.  Her thoughts struck me because I could tell the feelings she expressed were not uncommon.  You can read the original blog here.

The headlines these days are full of talk about assessments being used for hiring.

Job Seekers, Get Ready for Personality Tests (More Employers are Using Pre-hire Assessments) – Market Watch

Are Personality Tests Required For the Job You Want? – Bnet

Personality Tests Become More Common for Job Applicants – Learnvest

If these “tests” are not fair, we are heading towards a trend that could cripple our careers.  That was the gist of the problem my commenter,  had for me.  I thought it might be interesting to hear her thoughts and discuss what you all think.  Are “personality assessments” fair for hiring?

Are “Personality Assessments Unfair?”

“The thing that worries me about tests like this is how they can overemphasize traits you may have but can *easily* overcome. My husband has applied for a job as an executive director. Sadly, the test kept saying he preferred to follow rather than lead. This is not really true. He wants to be the one in charge. He actually needs to be the one in charge due to his high level of experience and training. He can handle it intellectually and he can also handle it socially. I’ll admit, the test suggested he preferred to be accommodating and work with others when he could, but he has no problem pulling the trigger to fire someone or direct them to follow his lead when he has to do so. But with the personality test in his profile, I’m scared they will think he isn’t ‘leadership material,’ which is a load of BS.

As for myself, I have even more reason to be leery of tests like this. Whereas my husband is moderately outgoing (as the test reflects) I am extremely, extremely introverted. On a Myers Briggs type test, I tend to answer 100% introverted or maybe only 1 question as an extrovert would. No one wants to hire introverts. They all want you to be an outgoing ‘people person.’ I am not, and I’m never going to be that type of person. I can fake it for very short periods of time–ie, an interview. I recall one interview where I had the person eating out of the palm of my hand, but I knew I was acting. The job was wrong for me, but not due to my personality so much as other factors–I didn’t get to meet with my immediate boss before being hired and I had moral qualms about working for insurance companies. Nonetheless, I could have done the work. It annoys me that more and more companies are doing personality tests and pushing people like me aside. I’m highly educated and competent. Yes, I need a job where I work alone more often than not (preferably involved in research and writing projects–which is hard to find). Still, even when I fit the job, I feel like tests like this could weed me out just because they want someone more outgoing. Sorry, I know this isn’t my personal soap box, but having seen my husband go through this and knowing I could face it myself, I felt the need to offer some criticism of personality testing in the employment arena.”

Is Criticism Valid?

One thing I’ve noticed is that people tend to lump all assessments (skills, behavior, values) under the umbrella of “personality tests.”  DISC, which is what the original article was about, actually has nothing to do with personality, it solely looks at behavior.

There is a white paper called “Selecting Superior Performers Safely Under the Law” that our assessment developer shared which made some good points on this subject.  When going about designing the assessments we use, Bill Bonnstetter made sure to create an assessment that was EEOC compliant and avoided some common criticisms.

I would agree that these types of assessments would be unfair if:

1.  The assessment only looked at how people do the job and not why they do it.

Assessments have been given a bad rap, and there are a few that should not be used. However, not all assessments should be dismissed because of the reputation of a few. Four-quadrant behavioral assessments when used as the only assessment will make everyone look good at the start but will eventually fail because behavior only describes “how” you do what you do. It is possible for successful people to differ on “how” they do the job.

Discovering “why” successful people do a job will provide a better understanding. When a person’s intrinsic passions are fulfilled on the job, they will perform better than those who do not receive intrinsic rewards. Cloning the identical behavior of your top performer will not get the same results if they have different attitudes. Our research proves that using only behavioral assessments for hiring sales and executive positions will result in hiring mistakes. For many jobs, a person’s passion is key to performance.

As a result, the assessments we use for hiring purposes look at both behavior and values.  On top of that, we conduct one-on-one debriefs to help address any concerns about accuracy.

2.  Assessment benchmarked people and not the job.

What I mean by this is that assessments should benchmark according to the job and not the top performers.  Bill Bonnstetter shares an interesting study to illustrate.

Years ago when we were attempting to benchmark using the top 10 salespeople and the bottom 10, both groups looked alike. In fact, the top 10 did not contain one candidate that fit our opinion of what we would expect as a superior performer…Once we helped the strong branded companies hire to our standard, the candidates we recommended were the sales award winners the following year. This validated our opinion that you must benchmark jobs, not people.

3.  Assessments looked at skills alone.

If skills always led to success, then all people who have passed skill or knowledge tests would be successful. For example, we know that not all medical doctors, lawyers, CPAs, nurses and chiropractors are successful. They have all passed an exam that certifies their knowledge and skills, but there is much more that contributes to success. In fact, we would be more successful in selection if we hired for attitude and focused on developing skills.

4.  Letting biases judge instead of letting the job do the judging.

As human beings we have biases, sometimes they can even be subconscious.  Basing an assessment off of a favorite employee or only looking at candidates you thought personally would be a good fit can be dangerous.

If the job could talk, it would clearly identify the knowledge, personal skills, hard skills, behavior and intrinsic rewards that are needed for superior performance.  Unfortunately, our personal biases keep most people from hearing the job talk.


After 30 plus years of delivering these assessments, not a single EEOC claim has been brought against these assessments.  Also, a few years back when this study was conducted,  92 percent of people who were hired based on our job fit were still in the job 12 months later. That might help clear up why more and more businesses are turning to these assessments in their  hiring process.

What Do You Think?

Are assessments a fair judge of talent?  How would you feel if you were required to take one?  Do you think this trend will help companies hire the right fit?

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