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What Can Personality Tell Us about Job Candidates?

October 11, 2018

If you’re new to the field of selection, you might be wondering why assessing for personality is a common tool used in the hiring process. While most selection systems will include other steps in their process as well, assessing personality is almost always recommended at some stage of your process. Here are the main reasons why.

It's Consistent.

Unlike knowledge (which tends to increase over time) or skill (which can fluctuate depending on the context), research shows that personality is generally stable throughout our lives (Costa & McCrae, 1980). Even when people go through major life changes, they don’t tend to make major shifts in their character. For example, a person who enjoys collaborating with their peers isn’t likely to suddenly become an introvert who avoids teamwork. This means that an applicant’s score on a personality assessment is going to stay the same regardless of when they are tested which reduces the need to re-test applicants. Because personality is so ingrained in us, it’s also related to our behaviors in predictable and significant ways. Individual personality differences give us insight into how behavior will differ from person to person.

It's Fair.

Back in 1965, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was formed in an effort to ensure that all Americans were given an equal chance to work. One of the basic tenets of the Commission is to provide a fair opportunity for anyone to get hired, regardless of their demographic characteristics as long as they are able to fulfill the duties of the job. In regard to the hiring process, this means that all applicants must be given an equal chance to apply and can only be held to standards that are purely job-related. If a step in the hiring process is shown to have adverse impact for a protected group, then there is potential for a lawsuit on the grounds of unfair hiring practices. Assessing for personality in an assessment is rarely connected with adverse impact. It is considered one of the fairest and legally-sound approaches to selection.

It's Easy to Implement.

In the field of psychology, whether you’re reading student research papers or published academic journal articles, it’s likely that the featured experiment included a measure or two of personality. The reason why is a combination of factors:

  • Personality is consistently linked to behavioral outcomes.
  • The findings are likely to relate to all demographics of people.
  • Measuring for personality is easy to include in any study.

The same rationale is extended to most pre-employment assessments. We know that personality matters when it comes to on-the-job behavior, and we know that scores on assessments that measure personality won’t screen out any one particular demographic at an unfair rate. It’s also just plain easy to ask these questions. People don’t struggle to answer questions about their own personality, and even find it relatively enjoyable when compared to other types of selection assessments. That means we can ask a lot of questions and gather rich data without putting undue strain on the applicant or adding significant time to the assessment length.

There are many reasons why personality testing is considered a standard tool to include in a selection system. No matter why you choose to use it, you can be sure that you’re investing in a consistent, fair, and effective approach to hiring.

The PSI 16pf® Sixth Edition helps hiring managers identify key personality characteristics that contribute to on-the-job success, provide clear insights into a candidate’s expected performance, and create a legally defensible hiring process. 

Want to learn more? Schedule a free demo.


Jaclyn Menendez, Ph.D. Jaclyn Menendez, Ph.D. is a Project Consultant at PSI based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Her areas of expertise include testing, assessments, and project management. Jaclyn has contributed to the development, validation, and implementation of assessments with various clients. She has managed, analyzed, and presented data analyses for content and criterion validation studies.