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What You Need to Know About Personality Tests

Congratulations, you aced the interview! You’re feeling positive and think you may really have a shot at landing the job you’ve been aiming for. There’s just one thing in your way: you’ve been asked to take a personality test.

If you’ve never taken a personality assessment before, an employer asking you to take one as part of the interviewing process can feel a bit unsettling. Personality tests are nothing to fear, however. They are merely tools that interviewers use to gain a better sense of your perceptions, personality, and communication style.

If you’ve been asked to take such an assessment, there is no need to feel singled out. In fact, according to data from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 13% of employers utilize personality tests and a whopping 68% utilize job skill testing of some kind during the hiring process.

With so many applicants applying for every open position, it has become necessary for companies to narrow down the pool of candidates to the most qualified for the role, both in terms of skill set and personality.

Why Employers Use Personality Tests

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Onboarding is time consuming and expensive, so it’s in the employer’s best interest to vet potential candidates carefully.

Especially considering that the median amount of time an employee stays with a company is 4.2 years, it behooves the employer to know their new hire is a good fit, and will therefore be more likely to stay around, saving the company the time and resources it would take to re-fill the position.

It’s hard to truly know if someone will be a great fit through interviewing alone. Some employers feel that personality tests can give them a bit of extra insight to make a better hiring decision.

Of course, personality tests vary greatly in terms of quality and reliability. Meanwhile, many candidates skew results by trying to give the “right” answers instead of answering candidly.

We aren’t saying that all personality tests are accurate or useful. In fact, some are downright misguided. However, if you’re asked to take one, it’s smart to go into it with some understanding of why the company is using it and what to expect.

Reason 1: To See if You Are a Good Fit for the Company Culture
Every company has a particular workplace culture, and it’s important to some employers to determine if your personality will be a good fit with the overall culture of the company.

For instance, if you are a very serious-minded person, you may not do well in a company that has a more laid-back and easy-going atmosphere. By the same token, if you value a looser environment, you may not do so well in a more stringent corporate setting.

In this scenario, it’s unlikely that they’re looking for everyone to fit into a narrow personality profile. Rather, they are most likely trying to get a general sense of work values and/or preferences.

Reason 2: To See if You Are a Good Fit for the Role/Team
Sometimes a company uses a personality test to determine if a candidate has the right attitude for a particular type of work.

We see this most often with sales roles. Not everyone is cut out to be in sales and deal with rejection and the pressure of meeting a quota. An assessment can help the manager see if you have the potential to thrive in a sales role, especially if you don’t have sales experience.

Reason 3: To Determine Your Communication Style
Good communication is essential in any work environment . Your communication style may be particularly important to the company if you are interviewing for a management and/or customer-facing position. This type of assessment is designed to help them understand how you prefer to communicate, handle conflict, and collaborate with teammates.

What a Personality Test is Not

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Now that you have a sense of why a company might use a personality assessment during the hiring process, it’s important to remember what a personality test is not.

Because of the language surrounding assessments and the process of answering a long series of questions, it can be easy to slip into the mode of thinking you are taking a test in an academic environment where passing or failing may have far reaching consequences.

Before your imagination can run away with you, let’s take a look at some of the things that personality assessments are not:

A Judgment on Who You Are

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The very mention of the word “test” can bring to mind painful flashbacks of anxiety, school days, and late-night cramming sessions, but a personality assessment should not be anxiety inducing.

What’s important to remember is there are no wrong answers; you are not receiving a grade and you cannot pass or fail. The results of the assessment are not a judgment on who you are as a person, or a reflection of what you are capable of achieving in your career and other areas of your life.

A Magic “Tell-All”

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While it’s entirely possible that your assessment may lead you to some discoveries about yourself, it is not a magic formula that will reveal every aspect of who you are and how you handle every situation.

Human beings are multi-faceted and, as much as we may desire answers about who we are, there is no way to be given those answers from a personality test.

Most companies understand this and will be far more interested in your experience and what you convey in your interviews. The personality test is never going to be the primary consideration in a hiring decision.

What to Expect from Personality Testing

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There are many, many personality assessments available, but we’ll take a look at two of the most common in order to give you an idea of what to expect:

Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) – Perhaps the best-known is the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI). The MBTI was inspired by the work of Carl Jung and designed to assign one of 16 possible personality types to the test taker.

The MBTI is intended to assess how you work, learn, and communicate by measuring preferences regarding four primary factors:

1. How we receive energy
2. How we take in information
3. How we make decisions
4. How we organize our world

Your type is determined by how you answer a series of questions, and your results will include an assignment of a four-letter type to describe your personality. The letters indicate personality traits in four different dichotomies: Extraversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, and Judging/Perceiving.

For instance, you may be an ESFP, (extroversion, sensing, feeling, and perceiving) or an INTJ, (introversion, intuition, thinking, and judging) depending on how you answer the questions on the assessment.

The MBTI is formatted to ask questions in 93 sets of two. For each set, you will be given two sentences and asked to choose the one that best describes you.

Though the MBTI uses words like “sensing” and “judging,” the terminology can be misleading. Ideally, the MBTI will be taken with a qualified coach who can guide you through the interpretation of your results to avoid any confusion and gain the clearest insights possible in to your personality.

It’s important to note that there is no “bad” MBTI type. The focus is on preferences, not capabilities. The assessment is not meant to be used to judge a person’s potential or performance.

There are countless books and articles about the MBTI and many viewpoints on its validity. Many corporations use the MBTI for internal career development and team building purposes.

If you’re asked to take the MBTI assessment as part of the hiring process, your best approach is to relax and answer the questions honestly. An attempt to “game” the process won’t get you anywhere.

DiSC – The DiSC is another assessment that is widely used and particularly favored in corporate training programs.

Similar to the MBTI, the DiSC assigns a combination of dominant traits to the individual, operating on the assumption that everyone is made up of a blend of four primary qualities: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness.

Typically, each individual favors one of these qualities over the others (though there are some people who score similarly in multiple categories). Broadly, the understanding of these traits can be broken down as follows:

If you favor Dominance, you are likely:

Strong-willed
Results-oriented
Direct
Forceful

If you favor Influence, you are likely:

Enthusiastic
Energetic
Social
Optimistic

If you favor Steadiness, you are likely:

Courteous
Supportive
Tactful
Patient

If you favor Conscientiousness, you are likely:

Logical
Fact-focused
Analytical
Reserved

Instead of choosing one sentence out of a set like the MBTI, the DiSC offers a series of statements that may include some variation of the following:

I work best as part of a team
I tend to avoid conflict
I am very goal-oriented
I can be very vocal with my opinions

For every statement, the test-taker can choose from a scale ranging from; strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, or strongly agree.

Again, there are no wrong answers. Be honest and as specific as possible to get the best results from your assessment.

Result Analysis

Results from personality tests will likely provide some general assumptions about your preferences and/or personality. There will be no magic, incontrovertible decree that you are a fit or not a fit.

You may disagree with some of your results, and that’s okay. Some of the findings of your assessment may be true in certain circumstances and completely untrue in others.

It can be frustrating if you feel that your results are not accurate and put you at risk for being passed over for a job you want. However, keep in mind that the personality assessment is just one small part of the hiring decision for most companies.

We have never heard of a great candidate missing out on an offer solely due to a personality test.

And if a company is overly focused on specific personality test results, you’re probably better off focusing on other opportunities.

Should you Prepare for a Personality Assessment?

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Since personality tests are not “tests” in the sense that they are not meant to measure knowledge and memorized facts, there is no need to study for a personality assessment.

However, if you find yourself feeling anxious about the test, you may find it helpful to do some research on the assessment you will be given and see some sample questions to help give you a more concrete idea of what to expect.

Beyond that, your time will be much better spent preparing for the interview!

The Crux of the Matter

Personality tests are used by many companies during the hiring process. They are designed to help employers gain more insight into each candidate’s work style and preferences.

It’s important to remember that your assessment is not a complete picture of who you are or a judgment on your personality. There are no wrong answers and no way to fail, so relax, be yourself, and remember you’re taking one step closer to landing the job. Don’t obsess over this step. Focusing on preparing for your interview instead!

Alia Hollback