These aren't your run-of-the-mill online personality quizzes.
Most people think of personality tests as quizzes that occasionally show up on their social media feeds or as they peruse the depths of the internet. You have probably seen the fun “tests” that promise to reveal which “Star Wars” character you are, which Hogwarts house you belong in, or even where you should live — all based on your personality type.
And so, a request to take a personality test as part of your interview process might stop you in your tracks. Should a personality test determine whether you get the job? What do you need to know before you take the test? And, most importantly, how can you prepare?
Here's what you need to know.
5 platforms for pre-employment personality tests
Personality testing is quickly becoming a common part of the candidate selection process. According to Valent Group, as many as 60 percent of candidates are being asked to complete personality tests. The growing demand for workplace-appropriate personality assessments has created a wave of vendors who offer solutions (this article alone lists 39 of them!). Here's a run-down of five popular testing platforms, what they test for, and what a candidate should expect:
What it tests: The goal of Pymetrics is to apply neuroscience games and artificial intelligence (AI) to reinvent the way companies attract, select, and retain talent. The algorithm helps the company choose the best-fit candidate for the job, while candidates who “fail” the test for their position of choice get recommendations for good-fit positions open across other companies that use Pymetrics.
Candidate experience: A candidate is asked to play a series of behavior-based virtual games that collect data points about their cognitive and personality traits; there is no right or wrong way to play the games. While 90 percent of candidates do not end up in the role they had applied for, the algorithm can recommend other opportunities. Candidates report that this assessment is difficult to “trick” because there is no obvious link between the games you play and the job you are applying for.
Used by: Unilever, Accenture, LinkedIn, Tesla
What it tests: HireSelect is an online pre-employment testing platform that features a comprehensive suite of aptitude, skills, and personality tests. Depending on the position and company, your test could range from Cognitive Aptitude to Sales Achievement Predictor. Criteria, the company behind HireSelect, publishes a list of available and recommended tests by position on its website. Keep in mind that companies can customize their testing protocol, as well.
Candidate experience: It depends on the position and the specific tests chosen by the employer. Timing varies from one to 35 minutes per test. This test could be administered remotely or onsite by the employer.
Used by: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Goodwill, Domino's Pizza, Allstate
What it tests: Saberr bills itself as the “people development platform.” Saberr Base is a tool for assessing a company's culture and predicting a fit between the company and a prospective candidate. The assessment is based on Schwartz's Values Framework and the Big Five personality traits. It measures shared values, tolerance of others' values, and other personality traits.
Candidate experience: Candidates take a 15-minute survey which then generates an individual report showing their values and personality traits.
Used by: Siemens, Unilever, GE Healthcare
What it tests: WonScore by Wonderlic measures a combination of cognitive, motivational, and personality-based factors in an effort to predict which candidate is likely to become a top performer and be the best fit for the open position. There are three dimensions of the test: The first measures a candidate's ability to learn, adapt, solve problems, and understand instructions; the second evaluates a candidate's interests to predict how motivated they'll be by the actual responsibilities of the job; and the third assesses the alignment of a candidate's personality traits with the demands of the job. The personality test is based on the Big Five personality traits, while the motivational assessment is based on the Holland/RIASEC model.
Candidate experience: The assessment can be completed on any device with internet access and takes about an hour. The result is a single score that measures the candidate's overall fit for the open position.
Used by: Duracell, Aveda
5. PerSight Select
What it tests: PerSight Select focuses on the competencies most important to the organization. Based on the Big Five personality traits, the test measures a range of features and competencies including attention to detail, assertiveness, customer focus, dependability, motivation to succeed, stress tolerance, and more.
Candidate experience: Candidates are presented with a series of adjectives on the screen and asked to choose one of two responses: "Like Me" or "Not Like Me." Adjectives appear one at a time, but in rapid succession. The entire assessment lasts only around five to seven minutes, although hundreds of adjectives are presented in that short time. According to Adam Meade, the company's founder, “The rapid response rate makes it difficult to manipulate the outcome, and our software incorporates response time into its analysis of responses. For example, if users take too long to respond to an adjective, that response does not have as much impact on scores as adjectives with faster responses.”
Limitations of pre-employment personality tests
As you can see from the descriptions above, many of these popular testing platforms are based on academically validated frameworks and models. However, each test is only as good as the application of the psychometric and statistical studies that form its foundation.
Those applications are extremely technical and complex, which is why so many vendors make competing claims about their test being the best, which creates a lot of noise and very little transparency; the methodology behind these testing platforms is usually a trade secret. Even if you could get your hands on that methodology, it probably would not help much. For those of us without a doctorate in statistics, it can be difficult to decipher whether any given test is both valid (i.e. measuring what it purports to measure) and reliable (i.e. generating consistent results over time).
Candidates usually don't have a choice of which personality test they get to take, and chances are that you will have to take whatever assessment is put in front of you or risk hurting your candidacy. However, it helps to remember that not all tests are created equal and that no test is the ultimate authority on who you are.
The second limitation of using personality tests in hiring is that they can be affected by your mindset and surroundings. Just like your performance in an interview can be thrown off-kilter by distractions, your mental state and the physical location where you take the test can affect the results of your personality test. There are things that you, the candidate, can do to control your experience and environment, but still, nobody gets to take a test in an ideal vacuum.
Finally, companies have been known to use certain personality assessments for the wrong reasons. For example, assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the StrengthsFinder, and the DIsC have all been used by companies to help shape hiring decisions — even as the vendors behind those assessments have stated publicly that doing so is unethical and against the spirit of their instruments. Using those assessments in a hiring context can potentially expose employers to discrimination lawsuits.
The benefits of personality testing in hiring
There are many arguments in favor of using well-designed personality tests and assessments during the hiring process. For one, personality assessments can test what the candidate does, not just what they say. Of course, nothing prevents the candidate from trying to answer the questions in a way that's likely to get them hired, but many vendors have built-in safeguards to protect against that kind of cheating.
Tests can also help hiring managers guard against unconscious bias. A well-designed, data-driven, and carefully administered test can showcase a candidate who might otherwise get overlooked.
In the end, though, the usefulness of personality assessments in the hiring process has its limits. An experienced hiring manager will consider your personality assessment results in the context of your overall candidacy, looking across your resume, references, performance in the interview, skill-based assessments if necessary, and more to produce their final recommendation to hire or pass. So, while it is important to take the personality assessment seriously, don't sweat your personality test results or try to manipulate them. They are just one piece of the hiring puzzle.
How can you best prepare for a pre-employment personality test?
The answer depends on the test you have to take. If you are going into an assessment like HireSelect that has a skill-test component, you can expect that a portion of the test will check your basic math and verbal skills, your knowledge of how to use a computer, how fast you type, or how well you know a particular computer program. In preparation, you might go through some typing exercises or refresh your memory of any software that will be critical to doing the job well.
When it comes to an assessment that measures your cognitive ability or personality traits, there is no real way to “study” for it. Some candidates have found that an activity that puts them into a state of relaxed flow can help. You might go for a walk, swim a few laps at the local gym, or even play a video game that clears your mind.
You can also set yourself up for success by taking care of your body's needs. Eat a balanced meal, drink plenty of water, get a good night's sleep, and be careful with alcohol and caffeine intake — both can impact your cognitive speed and ability to perform.
On test day, be thoughtful about the environment in which you plan to take the test. Many popular tests can be taken anywhere, which gives you a lot of control over your experience. Of course, a stable and fast internet connection is key. Many candidates find that it's better to take the test on a laptop, where they won't be interrupted by phone calls, texts, or other notifications. Beyond that, it's wise to choose a location where you won't be distracted. In a time-limited test, you can't afford an interruption by a fellow coffee shop guest! Also, be sure to read the test instructions carefully and work in a steady manner; don't panic if some of the questions seem odd or difficult.
Finally, don't try to “game” the personality test. Remember that any stage in the interview process is a two-way street and an opportunity to test the mutual fit between you and the role you are interested in. There is no point in faking the results because your true personality will eventually shine through. It is better to take the results of a personality test as yet another data point in the big picture of you as the candidate. After all, your ultimate goal should be to land in a place where your talents and personality will be valued and appreciated.
Worried about an upcoming pre-employment personality test? Explore one-on-one coaching with TopInterview. Our experts can help you walk into any interview situation focused and ready to impress!