All Personality Tests are Not Equal

All Personality Tests are Not Equal

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Professional Personality Testing is based on scientific principles, such as reliability and validity. With the advent of the internet, Personality Tests quickly became a staple of pop culture. Who hasn’t seen a friend or family member’s “personality test results” on social media? Or, have you heard someone describe “what color they are”, or describe themselves as their Myers-Briggs personality type – INTJ or ENTP, for example.

When you look more closely at using tests for something other than entertainment or personal discovery, you’ll find there are professional, scientifically-based instruments that can be used to handle more serious matters – for instance, you can use test results for career planning and development, glean insights about current employees and determine their growth potential, or test potential employees to see if they’ll be a good fit.

Although these more scientific tests are a far cry from the pop personality quizzes, they’re not all equally appropriate for business use.

In this article, we’re investigating a host of popular personality tests from the professional field and their applications for business.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

What is it?

Wikipedia describes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment as ” a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.”

As it should be with any personality assessment, there are no right or wrong answers on the MBTI instrument. The results give an indication of the person’s “psychological type”, highlighting their strengths and preferences.

Does it work for businesses?

For businesses, the MBTI is rather costly for a result that only includes 4 personality dimensions. The four factors themselves are not bad, but rather, inadequate for business use – the assessment doesn’t cover factors that would be of paramount importance for business purposes. For instance, MBTI doesn’t have any dimension that assesses Emotional Stability. Emotional Stability is one of, if not the best predictor of job satisfaction and performance – which is fundamentally important to a potential employer.

MBTI is missing a number of measures to capture personality in a way where it can help determine job fit and can be used for hiring purposes.

Equally, the assessment itself has 122 items (“questions”) to evaluate these 4 dimensions, which balances out to about 30 items per dimension. Really, in our research and experience, we’ve found that not nearly that many are needed to get an accurate result. You can get a lot more information about a candidate’s personality with far fewer items.

The Results

In addition to the lack of personality dimensions that are suited for evaluating potential new hires, the MBTI uses language that is at times quirky and hard to interpret, which is frustrating for both the person taking the test and hiring managers. The results don’t speak to the person’s fit in the workplace; they don’t highlight, for example, a person’s inclination toward customer service, sales, or other practical dimensions that are useful for the work setting.

Caliper Profile

What is it?

The Caliper Profile is a well-established personality assessment designed specifically for business use.

The test has approximately 180 questions which evaluate 25 personality traits that are useful predictors of on-the-job performance.

Does it work for businesses?

Yes, but there is a caveat. The test is a “one size fits all” test – meaning if you align yourself with this vendor for pre-employment testing, all of your potential hires – regardless of the role they will fill – will be tested the exact same way. Your entry-level employees will receive the same test as your VP of Sales; your customer service personnel will receive the same test as your shipping and receiving personnel.

The test is validated and compliant to EEOC guidelines, and uses the same scoring procedure regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, educational level, religious affiliation, or disability status of the individual.

The Results

Unlike the MBTI, the Caliper Profile results are designed to be interpreted for business use, and do include negative feedback, which is extremely valuable to an employer.

Trained consultants help you decipher the results and how you can use them to predict a potential hire’s performance in the role they are being considered for.

While the test results will give you a broad view of the individual’s personality, again, it does not test specifically for the role they are being hired for. Since the test does not drill down and focus on a person’s personality dimensions seen as favorable for a specific job (i.e. evaluating emotional stability and calmness for someone in a dispatcher role), there is still a good opportunity for error when hiring a candidate based on their Caliper results.

DiSC

What is it?

DiSC is a series of popular assessment tools. Many different companies “sell” the DiSC test.

Although the DiSC purports to predict behavioral tendencies, it is unquestionably a personality assessment device.

(Personality includes attitudes, preferences, values, and behavior.)


In fact, the Wikipedia entry for DiSC Assessments cautions: “There are many versions of the questionnaire and profile. Because the versions of the assessment do vary, practitioners are cautioned to ask for evidence for the validity of a prospective version before using.”

Does it work for businesses?

DiSC assessments should not be used to predict the performance of a potential new hire, but some businesses do use it that way. They could be useful for businesses looking to coach teams internally, develop individual employees for different roles, or to better understand how employees might interact in different situations. For instance, it can identify people who feel comfortable selling or in customer service, vs. people who are more comfortable working alone and paying close attention to detail.

The questions on the test are written in such as way where it is most effective for people who are already IN the environment in question – as an example, many of the questions begin with “When at work, do you…”

Some items ask you to choose between trait descriptors, or to rank-order them, which precludes a person from being strong in two areas; for instance, you could be both persuasive and original, but the test does not allow you to be both.

The Results

As stated above, the results can be useful to help an employee understand themselves and to help their leadership understand how to coach or develop that person to change roles within an organization.

 

As we described when discussing Myers-Briggs, you are only given information on 4 dimensions with DiSC, which is a very thin slice of personality. Of those 4, there is a lot of overlap, which further limits their usefulness.

The DiSC validity information manual offers very limited – verging on nonexistent – validity information. This assessment mainly focuses on correlating the DiSC with itself and with other scales, but validity information, as most professionals view it, is not available.

NEO Personality Inventory

What is it?

 

It’s a fantastic “personality test”; but it falls short. Our tests come from similar origins as the NEO. Like ours, this test is rooted in the “Big 5” personality traits. The test has 240 items, which is rather lengthy to expect a job candidate to use. The biggest differentiator is that the NEO wasn’t designed to be “work-related”. It is also far too costly for a business to use for hiring. The NEO Personality Inventory may cost in the ballpark of $50 to purchase online.

Does it work for businesses?

If all you are looking for is a detailed, scientific description of personality, it’s one of the best personality inventories out there. As explained below, there are some problems that limit its utility for business. Nowadays, the NEO Personality Inventory is primarily used for and by researchers.

The Results

The NEO is not generally appropriate for business purposes for the following reasons:

  1. Most of the items have no relevance to work.
  2. Many items use language that is complex (e.g. “lackadaisical”) and unclear, where the reader may not understand the meaning, or where there may be multiple meanings, e.g. one item refers to reading poetry and feeling a chill or wave of excitement.
  3. The dimensions are unusual. For instance, two of the dimensions for “Openness” are Ideas and Aesthetics; the items in these dimensions have no applications in business.
  4. Some of the dimensions are grouped together, but they don’t have that much in common; for example, orderliness and achievement-striving, or tender-mindedness and compliance.


Although there is some job performance validity information available for the NEO, the job validity coefficients tend to be below .2 in magnitude.

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