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3 Traits Personality Assessments Can't Reveal

Lena J. Weiner, for HealthLeaders Media, August 18, 2014

Personality testing is a common tool used to predict a job candidate's potential within a given role—but there are some traits no test can adequately uncover.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), one of several assessment tools used by HR to evaluate job candidates, has about as much validity as a BuzzFeed quiz.

It's "utterly meaningless," according to science reporter Joseph Stromberg, who wrote about the MBTI for Vox last month.

Many HR departments depend on personality tests, including the MBTI, to gauge a candidate's ability to sell, his openness to new experiences, leadership potential, or likelihood of fitting into an organization, among other things.

Nick Fabrizio, principal consultant with the Medical Group Management Association, prefers behavioral interviews to personality tests—but not all of his clients agree. "I have two for-profit healthcare system client that use personality testing," he says.

"They use the tests to make hiring decisions. Sometimes, they use them as a first cut, to screen out the first round of applicants after a first interview." He's seen both MBTI and the Big Five Personality Test used in these inventories.

As for what his clients are looking for, "It all depends on the job," he says. "If it's a physician who has to be more sales oriented, they assume introverts might not do as well in that field. But, if they're doing data analysis, that might be a fit."

But there are certain things that standardized personality assessments can't reveal.

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2 comments on "3 Traits Personality Assessments Can't Reveal"


Maribel Cruz, Ph.D. (8/22/2014 at 10:58 AM)
In the quest to identify, select and retain top talent, many organizations have turned to readily available personality tools to assist them with talent management. At Talent Plus, we wholeheartedly agree that in the eagerness to embrace any sort of assessment to provide an advantage in the selection process, organizations often utilize general personality inventories or tests that offer little practical assistance in determining which candidates to pursue. In most cases, these instruments are legally indefensible if used prior to employment. Instead, we suggest that organizations look to a more evolved model of proven aptitude assessment that links stable personality characteristics with measurable job-related outcomes. We concur that fit is an essential aspect of success on the job and believe that certain personality assessments do allow for the possibility of evaluating fit in a given role, within a specific team. Assessments that are unique to healthcare, targeted toward a position or category of positions and reflective of the culture of an organization are likely to ensure fit on multiple levels. Additionally, assessments should indicate the propensity or probability of high performance in a distinct role as measured by job-relevant metrics (e.g. patient satisfaction scores, turnover, patient error rates). Rather than benchmarking against a general sample of people or an average population as most personality tests do, organizations can and should distinguish which behaviors and qualities are associated with strong performance outcomes. When interviewing candidates, including questions that elicit spontaneous, authentic responses from a prospective associate puts the individual at ease and provides some insight into his/her predispositions; this is why behaviorally based interviews are popular. However, interview questions alone fail to provide any type of metric or method to compare the quality of responses across people, let alone identify which comments reflect the traits associated with top achievement in a position. Finally, when assessing candidate fit for a position, there is no guarantee that drive and passion lead to success in and of themselves. A person may be willing to practice ten hours a day in his dream to be a concert pianist, but without pitch or rhythm, it is highly improbable he will achieve that goal. The purpose of administering personality inventories or aptitude assessments should be to facilitate an optimal correspondence between what a person is charged to do on a daily basis and his/her natural predilections; if this occurs, the organization gains an engaged, satisfied and competent employee and the associate experiences regular opportunities to learn, grow and flourish professionally. Against this backdrop, utilizing a scientifically based aptitude assessment greatly increases the odds of a fruitful and enduring employer/employee relationship.

cylk (8/18/2014 at 7:18 PM)
Thanks for an interesting article. As a coach I am certified in multiple different types of assessments but use them sparingly. Only when a client is trying to understand why or how their personality-type may be influencing their behavior do we use it. And it is always confidential. It is questionable whether some psychological testing and personality testing is even legal to be given to applicants pre-offer of a job. It is certainly not ethical. Myers-Briggs, on their own website, says that it is unethical to use their test in such a manner. Annie Murphy Paul in her book The Cult of Personality Testing does a good job of showing how psychometric theory has shown time and again that Myers-Briggs' results are unreliable and invalid. Unreliable in that 47% of the testers have different results in subsequent tests and invalid to assume the whole human population can fit into 16 types.