Outgoing Personality Seeks Similar

I’ve blogged before about how businesses should view recruitment as an investment decision, and spend the time ensuring – as much as they can – that they appoint the best candidate.

Interviews, as has been commonly recognised, are a pretty poor way of predicting future job performance, but are still an essential part of the recruitment process since (despite social media) we need to be sure that we can build a relationship on a personal level.

Larger businesses often use personality tests or inventories as part of their recruitment and increasingly these are targeted at smaller businesses too. But when, how and – in a market filled with initials like DISC, MBTI, 16PFand OPQ – which should you choose?

Personality questionnaires (they aren’t really tests, since there is no right/wrong or pass/fail) should give you an insight into aspects of an individual’s personality, which should give you an indication of how they will respond in a particular situation. This can be important in assessing how a prospective employee may “fit” in a particular environment or with colleagues. They aren’t infallible, nor are they a substitute for interviews or other selection methods. But used properly, they can be a very good way of gaining more information about a candidate.

So which one should you use? Here are some pointers to help you decide:

  • How many questions does it use to determine results? Fewer than 100 (yes, 100 – one well known one uses 256) and you are substantially increasing the risk of unreliability or a candidate manipulating their profile. The DISC based profile tools seem to be particularly prone to this (I’ve seen one version that only used 25 questions)
  • What psychological theory does it use? This might sound a bit arcane, but some tests are based on personality models which are now seen as outdated and/or incorrect. The well-known and often used Myers-Briggs or MBTI questionnaires have recently received a lot of criticism about this
  • Does it contain a “lie” scale within the tests? This is a set of questions within the test designed to find out if a candidate is trying to ‘fake’ their profile to give what they think you want (psychologists and test designers refer to this as the “social desirability” scale).
  • How much does it cost? You get what you pay for. Proper tests, which have been statistically validated and revalidated, are expensive. A free “personality profile” downloaded from the internet will be worth exactly what you paid for it.

Having read this you may decide that it all sounds too much hassle to be bothered with. But personality questionnaires are just like any other aspect of recruitment (or indeed business as a whole) – if you want good results, do it properly.

2 thoughts on “Outgoing Personality Seeks Similar

  1. Simon, you make some really strong points of the case for doing it properly and I fully endorse the view.
    I recently worked with a small SME who described their interviews as “we tend to talk at them”, and got them thinking about what they wanted and they ended up using some competency based questions that they developed themselves with some suggestion from myself, and they decided to use a personality instrument and some occupational tests for a management role. They saw the advantage of a personality instrument to look for the qualities and characteristics they desired as well as those they did not want!!

    You mention MBTI and DISC. I have never used DISC but I use MBTI Step 1 and 2 a lot in my work, but only for development and coaching purposes. I would like to add that these tools should never be used for recruitment as they were never designed for this purpose. Worst case you could end up in tribunal, but its just unethical and you are letting the candidates down by using these instruments for selection.

    Use a trait based instrument such as OPQ, 16PF, Wave or Talent Q ( my favourite), and insist on someone who is competent and trained to use the instruments.
    I am afraid I get quite passionate about this, and I believe the SME market is open to abuse. At local events in Worcestershire I have heard unscrupulous consultants, who possibly don’t know better, offering the use of “back of fag packet” tools they have been on a one day course and being accredited to use, or they copied a questionnaire from a course or fellow consultant.

    In the wrong hands these tools can be dangerous. Just like power tools or doing medical procedure, you would not trust it to a cowboy, so why make an investment in a recruitment decision in which the costs of getting it wrong could be four times their salary!!

    I also attach a link to view on using MBTI in recruitment that was expressed far better than I could.


    • Very good points Ian – you’re right to mention that many of these tools weren’t developed to be used as part of recruitment. That said, many organisations do use MBTI in particular in this way and so it’s worth them considering the pitfalls of doing so.

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