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Should Personality Testing be Used in Employment Settings?

2355 words (9 pages) Essay in Employment

08/02/20 Employment Reference this

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In her book titled The Cult of Personality Testing, (Paul 2005) argues that human beings are far too complex, too mysterious and too interesting to be defined by the banal categories of personality tests. What is your view on whether personality testing should be used in employment settings?

I agree with the above statement and believe that humans are indeed far too complex, mysterious and interesting, and that individuals possess unique traits which cannot be defined solely by personality testing. In review of this book one authors brief synopsis ‘the heart of this book is that many people seem to harbour a deep-seated hope that personality tests can reveal who they really are, what kind of job they are best suited to, and whom they should marry. Such hopes for personality tests are diametrically opposed to the aims of most personality researchers’ (Thorne, 2011). While agreeing somewhat with this statement it must be pointed out that personality testing cannot define a person, but it can give a deeper insight into some aspects of a person’s personality.

This assignment argues that personality testing should be used as part of an organisations employment selection process, internal training and career development and progression. It is paramount that employers and test developers understand the complex nature of human beings and the traits which they hold and how these impact on job performance. How employers implement these tests and if the benefits to using personality testing outweigh the disadvantages is discussed.

I argue that there are direct correlations between individual personality traits and job performance. It is essential that human traits are interlinked with job performance and that all personality tests should be tailored to specific job requirements. Knowing what the correct FIT is for a position when designing the appropriate personality test program is key. When we look at the ‘Big Five’ traits we see how these traits affect working outcomes. There are no two people the same and while they may have similar characteristics they still may not have similar work ethics. ‘The individual’s personality and the situation’s social roles and task attributes—jointly influence motivation and behaviour at work’ (Barrick, 2013). Having spent fourteen years working in hospitality and now in the private banking industry I have directly experienced diverse personalities. Within the team I am currently working with, there are examples of extraverts, introverts, conscientious, and agreeable traits. While it is challenging as a manager I know how to approach each person based on traits identified and know how to get the best performance from them. I highly doubt I would get the same knowledge from a test result, but it gives me a better understanding and consideration of an employee.

Personality testing has become a useful employment tool in the human resource department. My research has found that it is becoming an essential process in many organisations across the globe. ‘2014, 467 of the Fortune 500 companies were using one test, Gallup’s Clifton StrengthsFinder, as a way to measure candidates’ talents ‘(Feintzeig, 2015). One of the main priorities of an employer is costs. The recruitment process has changed over the past decade where the process is more personality focused. Online pre-tests are performed eliminating applicants at an early stage. ‘Studies have shown a significant decrease in the 90-day attrition rate after companies instituted pre-employment personality assessments’ Weber, L. (2015, April 14). While this suggests that the use of personality testing is vital it doesn’t imply that the tests were used solely to decide the successful applicants. It does however tell us is that costs are substantially reduced when staff retention is higher. ‘Replacing an employee who simply did not succeed can be pricey in terms of an employer’s resources spent repeating the process of interviewing, hiring, training, and integrating a new staff member’ (Furr Youngman, 2017). It could also be argued that personality tests may be cost prohibitive particularly if tailored to suit a certain specific organisation.

Employers believe that personality testing also gives them a better understanding of their employees and that this would have a positive effect on promotions and how they select employees in the future. In house training and the use of personality tests have become increasingly popular. It can be seen to motivate and increase lines of communication within organisations. ‘It is estimated that four of ten tests are used in team building and management development, often referred to as tools for self-exploration and self-reflection, and with the aim to improve team performance (Gardner and Martinko, 1996).’ However, this also presents difficulties as ‘often, non-psychologists administer those tests (Bartram, 2001) with limited knowledge on the tests’ psychometric properties’ (Lundgren, Kroon, & Poell, 2017) (Furnham, 2008). ‘While personality test use remains “a hot and continually debated topic” (Furnham, 2004), very little literature exists that explains the use of personality tests in team development, coaching and workplace training’ (Lundgren et al., 2017).

It is important to examine the issue of personality test administrators and their qualifications. At present there is not sufficient regulation to accurately police this area and while this remains the case employers will proceed with testing regardless of qualified testers. This also poses the question on vendors and the vetting of personality testing. It has been said that testing manuals can be very technical and require trained personnel to quantify results. This would involve significant costs to the employers. For example, Myers Briggs provide a week intensive training program for any company who uses their model, however, on-going training and consultancy come at a substantive cost. ‘‘The vendor created a test and validated it for hiring a certain type of person,’’ but ‘‘it’s not valid five years later when an employee who was hired is being considered for promotion.’’ Jarrett Shalhoop, senior consultant in the International Consulting Practice of Hogan Assessment. Therefore future relevance of individual personality tests in questionable.

Personality tests may occasionally pose a series of irrelevant questions because the test is examining the patterns behind the responses, not the answer to any question ‘it is that pattern

that provides insight into the test taker’s personality’ Applicants may alter their responses or answers in order to comply with what they perceive the employer to require. Applicants may also manipulate tests but the interview process may expose this anomaly. Also, there are insufficient personality tests available to correspond to the varied roles within an organisation.

‘Response bias continues to be the most frequently cited criticism of personality testing for personnel selection’ (Ones, Viswesvaran, & Reiss, 1996). ‘A major concern of many industrial-organizational psychologists in using personality inventories in applied personnel selection settings has been the potential for re- sponse distortion’ (Hogan & Nicholson, 1988). There is some debate in the industrial/organizational (“IO”) psychology field as to whether personality measures should be used in employee selection.20 Many psychologists believe that personality tests used for employee selection are not valid, and in any event, can be faked.21 (III, n.d.) It is undeniable that tests are and can be manipulated. Also ‘There are many lines of defense against potential response distortion, (Cook, 1993). It does strengthen the case that personality testing should be included as only a small part of the application process while maintaining the traditional curriculum vitae, face to face interviews and background reference checks. This would certainly give the employer a better understanding of the applicant and deter them from response bias at an early stage. From my experience and meeting a wide range of candidates for various roles I believe the face to face interview is imperative. Combining personality testing and the interview process would strengthen with the selection process.

Personality testing needs to be kept bias free to protect employers from legal action. Tests should be relevant to the position advertised and should not discriminate applicants. This could be difficult considering the nature of these tests and the thousands of potential roles and applicants. It would be best practice to have any testing program reviewed by a professional to mitigate lawsuits. ‘The two most significant legal considerations in using personality and emotional intelligence tests are Title VII discrimination and 6 discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). While intentional discrimination is certainly possible, the more likely risk for companies acting in good faith involves inadvertent discrimination through the use of valid and reliable instruments’H. Beau Beaz III © 2012 Cornell HR Review. The most important point to take here is inadvertent bias is possible even though the instruments are valid. This is where most company’s may fail, they may feel they have the best evaluation program but haven’t the experience or knowledge to recognise its flaws over a period. While the testing was relevant for a certain position the role may have changed significantly over time and the testing may need to be updated.

 

Having researched and assessed the arguments for and against personality testing in an employment setting I believe that it has become a very useful tool in assessing individuals for certain positions, but it should only be used as a very small piece of the overall employment process.

 ‘Behaviour and specifically job performance is determined by the personality traits, dispositions and preferences determined by a test rather than a person’s motivation, intelligence, job environment or other possible factors’ (Black 1994). Personality testing alone cannot determine the best applicant for a position within an organisation.

While the cost to employers may be substantially less and the efficient hiring process it cannot be justified that personality, testing is a major contributor to the selection process. In fact, the cost of a tailored testing program may be substantial and in the long term more expense when training and updates may be applicable each year. It would also vary on the size of organisation.

If we look at how the test results are analysed, I believe that most company’s do not have a qualified person to give a true and fair view on an applicant. We return to the argument that personality testing doesn’t fully reflect how adequate a candidate may be for a certain position.

Response bias is also a big part of the overall picture regardless of how questions are asked or interpreted. There are many individuals who have done testing and would identify how to manipulate tests. Traditional face to face interviews in my view is critical throughout the selection process for any position.

Finally, we come to the legal side of the argument. While testing may be validated by professional body’s, it remains that the employer is held accountable for all personality testing programs within a company. With unqualified employees to assess results, frequent changing job specifics, and advanced technology employers open themselves to discrimination and possible legal liability.

To conclude, personality testing almost certainly has some benefits to employment selection, but it shouldn’t be used solely for this purpose.

Bibliography:

 

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