Chances are you’ve either taken a personality test yourself or given one to a candidate you're interviewing. If not, you may be in the minority -- experts estimate that as many as 60 percent of workers are now asked to take workplace assessments.
Personality testing is a $500 million industry, with over 2,500 tests currently on the market in the U.S. alone. So how do you know which one is the right fit for your hiring process (or if you should even implement them in the first place)? We asked engineers and COOs alike what their thoughts were on personality tests in interviews and here’s what they had to say.
Brent Broadnax, a Doctoral student focusing on IO Psych, doesn’t think these tests are effective based on his research.
“Currently, the industry favors tests like the DiSC assessment, which focuses on position specific abilities or social ability. Since you cannot exclude an applicant for a medical issue (including psychological issues), many of these personality tests can't differentiate between the psychologically relevant and socially relevant. As a result of all this, they aren't effective during the hiring process. Furthermore, they oftentimes miss the more hidden aspects of an individual -- like their motivation and job satisfaction.”
Jason Garber, a Software Engineer and Co-Founder at PromptWorks, toyed with the idea of using personality tests in interviews for his startup, but ultimately ended up passing on them.
“The pre-employment tests felt expensive because they seemed too cursory. Taking as little time as possible was one of my requirements, but when I actually tried one, it seemed too weak and too general to factor into the decision to hire a software engineer. I didn't have faith that a 12-minute test would reliably indicate which developers solved problems and caught mistakes more quickly.”
“My research also indicated that one has to be careful about discrimination. We want to help change the overrepresentation of white and Asian males in software engineering, and part of that involves examining vectors for systemic discrimination. Pre-employment hurdles have to be relevant to the job and although things like logic, math, and spatial reasoning are important for software engineering, they're not good predictors of whether a candidate will write excellent software.”
Ron Schultz, the COO of Flux, feels that personality tests are effective in the developer hiring process.
“I’ve used behavior and value profiles from TTI in profiling developers and development teams. The feedback from those profiled has almost always been favorable – generally they are universally surprised how much information about themselves can be ascertained from taking a 15-20-minute web-based survey. Some people (about 5%) flat-out refuse to take the assessment.”
“Different projects need different behaviors and values, as well as skills, in order to be effective. Profiling provides an objective means to get needed information for configuring teams or assessing existing teams quickly. Profiles are not a silver bullet – but they do generate information very efficiently and at low cost that helps in the decision-making process.”
Trever Ewen, a Software Engineer at Neosavvy, also is on board with personality tests being used in interviews, but as a “guideline, not a rule.”
“Personality is possibly the most important criteria for employment in any business. I would rather work with teammates who I get along with than those that are merely the most talented. In the case of a small company like mine, we prefer to take part in 'in -depth' interviews. In these cases, we actually spend time getting to know prospective employees. We learn about them, and their work ethic. There is no test more effective than experience.”
“With larger companies, it gets harder to go in-depth. There comes a point where personality tests can be useful to identify potential tracks for an employee. [With] all this being said, they should only be used as a guideline, not a rule.”