Pre-employment personality tests branded “useless”

by Nicola Middlemiss25 Mar 2015
HR managers will do anything to avoid costly hiring mistakes and personality tests might seem like an added insurance – but are they effective? Absolutely not, says one industry leader – they’re just a way to shirk responsibility.

“Personality tests are pretty much useless at predicting future job performance,” insists Bob Corlett, founding member of the Editorial Advisory Board for the HR Examiner. “To hire successfully, you need more deep thinking, not less.

But, according to Corlett, personality tests are worse than useless – they could actually be harmful to a management team.

“A personality test will never encourage your managers to have the kinds of flexible thinking you need, because the test makes the ultimate decision,” he explained. “When there’s a test to fall back on, managers inevitable step back from responsibility and surrender to the test.”

Self-confessed sceptic Corlett admits there’s something undeniably alluring about personality tests – both at work and at home – but says managers shouldn’t be tricked into thinking they mean anything.

“We hope to learn something from the fun quizzes in Cosmo or BuzzFeed. Against all logic, we want these tests to work, even though we know deep down that multiple choice questions can't really get at all the complexities of our personalities,” he said.

Annie Paul, former senior editor for Psychology Today, caustically compared personality testing to phrenology – the 19th century theory of determining personal attributes by measure the bumps on a person’s head.

Managers may be drawn to testing as it offers a quick-fix but Corlett says anyone adopting the tactic could easily miss a “diamond in the rough.”

“No test will save you from the hard work of developing an intelligent hiring process,” he said. “It takes effort to distinguish the drivers for performance in a job, and real thought to understand who will fit into your culture.”


  • by Liz 25/03/2015 12:32:45 PM

    I think there is a place for personality tests in that they can be useful in identifying potential issues that can be further explored during second/final interviews. Such as a comment made in a test along the lines of the candidate isn't a team player, the interviewer could then delve and explore into how the candidate has successfully worked in teams in the following interview. I agree they should not be used as a hiring decision however they can certainly be a useful tool in the whole recruitment process and used effectively they do encourage more deep thinking not less. They should never be used as an excuse for a poor recruitment decision or to abdicate responsibility for hiring decision.

  • by Kim 25/03/2015 12:43:32 PM

    It is great to see acknowledgement of the poor validity of these type of test for recruitment. All research shows that personality is not a valid indicator of performance. The uptake of this type of testing (as opposed to testing for the skills required) is directly related to the income they generate for management consultancies.

  • by Jason 25/03/2015 3:28:53 PM

    Personality tests are just that...they are not intended to be an indicator of future performance and any good hiring manager knows that. This is a non opinion and a sweeping statement from one person.
    Personality tests will provide useful information on 'team fit' and how an individual may deal with certain situations (e.g. change) and can help ensure that the individual is supported and is successful once in role.

Most Read