There are those who question the validity and fairness of pre-employment personality tests. Some also have concerns about whether personality tests help or harm diversity and inclusion when hiring employees.

To put some of those fears to rest right away, Resource Associates does not release new personality scales unless they have been validated and meet standards for reliability and fairness.

Still, we know that employers are increasingly concerned about fairness and reliability as they rely on virtual hiring pathways during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below, we seek to address some key points on why pre-employment personality tests, when designed for selecting job candidates, are a fairer and more accurate tool than other options.

What goes into creating a personality-based pre-employment test?

We are often asked where we come up with the questions we ask in a pre-employment test. We do not just make them up off the top of our heads and hope for the best. Instead, we consider the following 4 factors.

Factor #1:
First, those creating the tests are trained professionals with advanced degrees in psychology and statistics.

Factor #2:
Second, developing a new assessment is a long process that includes reviewing peer-reviewed literature, consulting with subject matter experts, collecting data on job requirements across a variety of roles and job levels, and ensuring that a test only includes measures that have demonstrated a relationship to workplace outcomes of interest (e.g., performance, turnover, etc.)**. Pre-employment personality tests are developed to measure job-relevant behaviors.

Factor #3:
Third, when creating new content, we are careful to write items that are free from bias toward any group. At Resource Associates, our team reviews content to ensure it is both job-relevant and free from cultural biases.

Factor #4:
Finally, we don’t release a new assessment unless it has been previously validated and meets high standards for reliability.

Do personality tests harm diversity and inclusion?

Despite our rigorous development and review process, sometimes employers continue to be concerned. During the validation process, we collect data to ensure that scores do not vary meaningfully across age, race, and gender. Data for our pre-employment tests, which are designed specifically to assess behavior at work, suggest that personality is the type of assessment content that is least likely to disadvantage specific groups.

We have many data points collected over several decades demonstrating, consistent with peer-reviewed literature on personality assessments, that personality tests do not disadvantage any group.

The suggestion that personality tests harm diversity and inclusion is false. In fact, pre-employment personality tests can be beneficial to diversity and inclusion. People have inherent biases and preferences when making subjective decisions, which can feed discrimination. For example, though very popular, unstructured interviews have been shown to be biased and invalid.

Scientifically validated and objective personality assessments, on the other hand, will help remove bias from the selection process.

Other Important Considerations for Hiring Managers

We should note that when making hiring decisions, personality is just one piece of the process. Scores on pre-employment personality assessments are often considered along with evidence of other job-related abilities and behaviors, such as an applicant’s values, attitudes and potential to learn job-relevant skills through training. Considered together, a clear picture emerges of a candidate’s match with job requirements.

So, do pre-employment tests harm our efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace? It depends on which job assessment or screening tool you use in your hiring process. If you choose the right test – one that is scientifically validated, job relevant and meant for a selection process – then the answer is a resounding “no.”

Disclaimer: The content of this article does not constitute legal advice. Resource Associates reminds you to consult your legal counsel prior to engaging in any employee screening practices to ensure compliance.