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In recent years, the workplace has seen a proliferation of psychometric testing across the whole talent cycle. Employers readily utilise personality tests for team-building, talent development, and leadership potential. Personality tests were not designed to be used in recruitment, and many organisations still opt to not use them in their hiring process. However, reliable and valid personality tests have huge benefits and represent some of the most useful employee selection tools on the market today.

In this article, I will outline the major advantages of using personality tests in the hiring process, based on the best available empirical evidence in the field of organisational psychology:

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Contextual Performance

The number one advantage of using personality tests in the hiring process is to predict contextual performance, which is defined as “the ability of employees to contribute to the overall well-being of the organization”. This could include putting in overtime, volunteering for additional tasks, and boosting office morale, which all fall outside of official duties. No other employee selection tool is as effective at predicting these helpful behaviours, as they are underpinned by specific personality traits which are exclusively measured using personality tests. Although candidates who are highly skilled at interviewing may convince their interviewers that they display these traits, unlike personality tests, interviews simply don’t measure them, focusing almost solely on communication and interpersonal skills.

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Counterproductive Work Behaviour

Counterproductive Work Behaviour (CWB) can be defined as “employee voluntary behaviours that harm organizations or people working in those organizations”. It may include causing conflict between co-workers, stealing from their employer, lying about illness, and destroying company property. When using personality tests for hiring, traits such as integrity, agreeableness , and emotional intelligence can all be used to minimise the probability of hiring staff that display CWBs, protecting the organisation from harm. As with contextual performance, interviews are extremely poor predictors of CWBs. The most Machiavellian and manipulative employees are especially likely to perform usually well in the traditional employment interview. As a result, personality tests and other behavioural assessments are an organisation’s only defence against CWBs during the hiring process.

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Task Performance

Another major advantage of using personality test for hiring is the ability to predict task performance, an employee’s ability to complete the tasks which are officially part of their job description. Although realistically, cognitive ability tests are stronger predictors of task performance, personality tests are also useful in this regard. In particular, traits such as conscientiousness and industriousness are both useful predictors of task performance in the workplace, and will meaningfully improve prediction of this essential ability. Conscientiousness helps employees to remain focused and attentive, allowing them to keep up the pace of their work. Industriousness grants employees a degree of drive and tenacity, ensuring that they strive towards goal achievement and stop at nothing to achieve their objectives.

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Culture / Role Fit

Aside from performance, another major advantage of using personality tests in the hiring process is the prediction of person-environment fit. Naturally, organisations each have a unique culture and set of working practices, and misfit between the organisation and its employees can be especially uncomfortable for all involved. Similarly, misfit at the role level can cause serious issues with employee engagement and job satisfaction . For example, hiring sales staff who dislike speaking with people and achieving targets are unlikely to find their role satisfying. Identifying environment-job fit with personality tests and behavioural assessments is the ideal way of maximising employee engagement, ensuring that everyone is behaviourally suited to their role. Moreover, it also helps ensure fit to the organisations culture, which has huge implications for employee retention and turnover.

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Wellbeing and Burnout

The last key advantage of personality testing in the workplace is the prediction of employee wellbeing and occupational burnout. This issue is especially pertinent to organisations, as it has serious health implications for its employees, and organisations have a duty of care towards their staff. Personality tests measure a range of behavioural constructs which underpin resilience and stress management, protecting employees from the threat of burnout and stress related illness. Organisations therefore have a duty to protect incoming hires from adverse stress related health outcomes, especially if the role places staff under considerable pressure, or involves a high level of emotional load, such as in healthcare professions.

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Personality tests are by far the most versatile employee selection tools on the market, showing applicability to a wide range of essential workplace outcomes. However, organisations must ensure that their personality questionnaires are indeed designed for use in hiring, and are not merely tools for personal development. This means using assessments which are designed in line with psychometric best practices, and are developed using well respected models of personality, such as the Big Five model. Nevertheless, if these criteria are met, few employee selection tools can match the flexibility and broad applicability of personality tests, making them essential to any high-stakes hiring process.

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