Personality Assessment and Testing

Taking the personality test...

Taking the personality test, Flickr, Creative Commons

by William E Hamilton @ Iman Fiqrie

Personality assessments are widely used in the workplace for personal growth, career guidance, and personal selection. The ultimate goal is to put the right person in the right job and the assurance that the individual(s) will perform as expected. In order to do this, several methods involving work-oriented and personality assessment have been employed. As for personality assessments, the jury is out as to whether there are real-world benefits as a result of personality assessments. The short answer is yes, the reasoned and researched answer is that it depends.

The author proposes that using personality assessments like the Five Factors Model to predict job performance do provide an increased probability that an individual will perform in that job effectively.

 The Use of Personality Assessments in the Workplace 


There are several concerns or criticisms regarding personality assessments, e.g., the suggestion that they “… have minimal or trivial validity for predicting real-world outcomes… scores on the tests are contaminated by social desirability response bias, and… scores on the tests can be altered by deliberate faking…”, social desirability response bias being the ability to respond in a manner that will be viewed by others favorably (Hogan & Kaiser, 2010, p. 94).


Taking a step back, historically, the psychology of personality involves three activities, one is conceptualizing “…human nature– how people are… primarily concern motivation… these discussions are enormously important… biologically grounded… needs for social acceptance, status, and a sense of meaning and purpose… are easy to measure and are empirically linked to
behavior” (Hogan & Kaiser, 2010, p. 81-82); as mentioned, outcomes (behaviors) is the ultimate goal. The problem with these measures is that there are so many different types of assessment, measures and tests, that the results are also a source of confusion (Hogan & Kaiser, 2010).


Consequently, in order to understand personality assessment, a good definition of personality is in order, it “…refers to factors inside people that explain their behavior… [but] also refers to the distinctive impressions that people make on others”, perspective is everything (Hogan & Kaiser, 2010, p. 82). Having said that, another reason for concerns about personality is the suggestion that personality is important in understanding people and by extension success in business outcomes (Hogan & Kaiser, 2010).

Circumstances to Recommend Personality Assessments Such as the MBTI to an Organization


Each job in an organization has its own “…distinctive set of psychological demands”, personality assessments, therefore, do have merit and are “…valuable for selecting people into every job in every organization”, however, it’s not practical to do this for all jobs in every organization. To simplify this, models like the Holland model might be used that suggests, “… that all occupations can be sorted into one of six ideal types (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional) and that each occupational type is also a distinctive personality type… a characteristic personality profile associated with each type” (Hogan & Kaiser, 2010, p. 86). This Holland model classifies every job in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) and “…provides links between personality and most major jobs in the real world” (Hogan & Kaiser, 2010, p. 86). In doing so, empirical evidence can be gathered to help understand and develop good theory about the intercorrelations between these links for the purpose of prediction and increased performance.

    For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was designed to help bring self-awareness to individuals, increase team performance, and let one compare and see how others are seen and viewed in the world as well as ourselves (Hogan & Kaiser, 2010).


The Five Factor Model (FFM), another personality assessment used in questionnaires are extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness. In the author’s opinion, some of these factors may not be valid across cultures, e.g., extraversion and agreeableness in Asian countries as it may be seen as not knowing one’s place; e.g., it could indicate one is not a team player, is too aggressive, rude, or “Western” (Hogan & Kaiser, 2010). However, “…[t]he evidence is clear that personality, framed in terms of the FFM, predicts performance in virtually every job from entry to leadership positions, as well as job satisfaction and career success”, however, many don’t understand there is more to personality than just the FFM (Hogan & Kaiser, 2010, p. 97).

Circumstances Not to Recommend the Use of a Personality Assessment


One circumstance where personality assessment might be used with caution or not at all might be when trying to identify leadership potential, i.e., assessing characteristics, strengths, development needs and development towards future roles. The problem being management’s subjectively combining of potential measures with strength and development. This may “…result in poor decision making in both development and promotion (Paese, 2010). The strength of intercorrelations and predictability of outcomes by subjectively combining measures most definitely means weak correlation and utility.



Again, the original and ultimate goal of psychological assessment, “… was invented… to predict useful outcome…”, in lieu if measuring entities as much is done today, e.g., “g” and traits; “…measuring personality constructs for their own sake” (Hogan & Kaiser, 2010, p. 100). Poor measurement criterion continues to be a problem in personality assessment (Hogan &
Kaiser, 2010). There must be more research on holistic or whole person outcomes instead of variables and constructs loosely defined with little empirical evidence and research to back it up. Lastly, there is the opposing view that personality is innate versus learned or shaped by “… social, historical, economic, and situational factors…” and thus changeable behavior, more research in this area must also be done (Hogan & Kaiser, 2010).



Hogan, R., & Kaiser, R. B. (2010). Personality. In J. C. Scott & D. H. Reynolds (Eds.), Handbook of workplace assessment: 
Evidence-based practices for selecting and developing organizational talent (pp. 81-108). Retrieved from

Paese, M. J. (2010). The role of assessment in succession management. In J. C. Scott & D. H. Reynolds (Eds.), Handbook of 
workplace assessment: Evidence-based practices for selecting and developing organizational talent (pp. 465-494). Retrieved 

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