The companies that produce personality tests and the human resources staff who use them invariably refer to these tests as personality ‘questionnaires’ rather than ‘tests’. This is done to avoid giving the impression that there are right and wrong answers and that the test can be either passed or failed. Obviously, no one type of personality is necessarily better or worse than any other. However, remember that you are being given this test for a reason, the employer is plainly looking for something otherwise they would not be wasting time and money on the testing process.
It is worth taking a few steps back and looking at the selection process objectively. What is the recruiting organization trying to achieve? In simple terms, having received tens or hundreds of applications for a job, they are faced with the considerable task of rejecting all but one of them. Most applicants are rejected on the basis of their resume, but this will usually leave about 10 or so who need to be rejected for other reasons.
Looking at the recruitment process like this makes a lot of people
uncomfortable – the idea of lots of losers and only one winner
makes the whole thing seem brutally competitive. And of course it
is. A medium sized organization may need to fill several job
vacancies every week and this means that lots of applicants need
to be screened and nearly all of them rejected, without the whole
process costing too much in terms of cash and manpower. In the
context of selection, personality questionnaires are just another
hurdle that you need to get over to get the job.
Lack of Good Advice
It is interesting to see how little real advice there is, either in books or on the web, about how to approach the personality questionnaires used in selection. For example, most of the job sites on the internet have several pages of advice for job-seekers on how to prepare their resume or how to answer ‘tough’ interview questions. However, when it comes to preparing yourself for a personality test, the advice is usually limited to ‘just be yourself’. This is a very inconsistent position to take. After all, if you’re going to spend considerable time and effort preparing your resume and preparing for the interview, then why not prepare yourself for the personality questionnaire?
To understand where this ‘just be yourself’ advice comes from
it is necessary to look at where these job sites get their content
from. The advice that these sites do give is usually little more
than a reworking of material that can be found on their
competitor’s web sites or in any one of dozens of books on these
topics. Much of it is written by professional copywriters who may
not have much interest in the recruitment and selection industry.
This shouldn’t be surprising, job sites make their money by
putting numbers of candidates forward, not by successfully getting
individual candidates jobs. They are not experts in the workings
of the selection process, but they do feel as though they should
have some advice on their web sites to bring in traffic and to add
Another reason for the ‘just be yourself’ advice is because the test suppliers have been very successful in getting across the message that these tests are so sophisticated that you cannot influence your result without being ‘caught’. This is a case of ‘sales talk’ becoming accepted wisdom because it is being repeated again and again by every company that produces tests. This is after all a very competitive industry and every company selling these tests must push the message that their test is 100% reliable if they are going to stay in business.
Approaches to the Personality Questionnaire
There are three approaches that you can take to the personality test. You can either be totally honest and make no attempt to influence the outcome, you can try to determine what characteristics you think the employer is looking for and try to ‘fake’ the test accordingly or you can learn enough about how these tests work so that you can be honest whilst ensuring that you don’t blow your chances because one aspect of your personality comes over as too extreme or inappropriate.
The idea of making any attempt to influence your personality profile may be difficult for some people to accept. Many people within HR and the companies that sell the tests would agree. They see personality profiling as an academic exercise which you should submit to without question. It’s up to you to decide which option to take. You can either; turn up and ‘just be yourself’, take the tests and hope for the best or you can invest a little time and effort to understand how these tests work, and what you need to do to make sure that you’re not unfairly rejected.
Before you make your decision, you need to understand what it is that the tests try to measure, how they measure it and how the employer uses this information. The topic is further complicated in that there is very little consensus outside of the personality test industry about how accurate some of these tests really are, compared to aptitude tests or the tests used in assessment centers. This is one area where you really do have to make your own decision.
You may also be interested in: Personality Tests Introduction, Why You Need to Understand Them, How They Work, How Many Personality Traits Are There?, The Big 5 Aspects of Personality, How Personality Profiles are Used, Your Personality at Work, Testing for Honesty, Integrity and Stress, Negative Aspects of Personality, Motivation, Extraversion and Leadership, Can You Beat the Personality Test, Understanding the Personality Test Industry, Even Popular Tests are Controversial and Best Practice Guidelines for Personality Tests.