The power of personality tests for recruitment

Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is a Professor of Business Psychology at UCL and Columbia, and the Chief Innovation Officer at ManpowerGroup. We asked him a few questions about the use of personality tests for recruitment.

Marion Bernes
Marion Bernes
Copywriter
The power of personality tests for recruitment
Summary

There are still a lot of suspicions, especially in France, about personality tests for recruitment. What are their advantages for recruiters?

In my experience, this is a pretty global issue, not just a French one. It is useful to understand the potential reasons for this skepticism, namely:

Personality is a pretty complex science, requiring an understanding of psychometrics, data science, and a range of psychological theories.

Most personality assessments are of really poor quality, discrediting the field.

We all "think" we know a lot about personality, because when we interact with people we judge them, form opinions of them, and really trust our impressions a lot. Now, whether for recruiters or hiring managers, having a proper, accurate assessment of a candidate provides some key advantages: correctly inferring their fit with a job, role, or company culture; understanding their full potential, beyond what they have done in the past; and seeing people for who they really are, as opposed to focusing on demographic categories (male, female, rich, poor, old, young, etc). In essence, there is no better way to understand someone's full potential and improve fairness in hiring than by using a science-based personality assessment.

For you, have companies changed the way they look at it since the pandemic?

Yes. Talent markets have tightened even further, which means it is even harder o find talent. This means you need scalable tools that widen your applicant pool, and that you need to understand people's potential in a deeper way. Organizations are also more interested in DEIB, and smart recruiters understand that data holds the key to more meritocratic and inclusive hiring. This is where assessment-based recruitment is key.

When during the recruitment process would you recommend the use of personality tests? After a first selection of the CVs received, after a first interview?

Upfront, top of the funnel. Ideally, you want to make an assessment as inclusive as possible, so that your selection is fairer and better. If I can know something about 10,000 candidates, I am more likely to spot the rare find, hiring outside the usual bubbles (rich, educated, privileged candidates), and end up with better candidates, than if I just evaluate the last 2 people I liked the most. It is all about maximizing diversity while knowing as much as you can about people with the most seamless, candidate-friendly, transparent, and ethical method. Again, nothing beats good assessments here.

Do you believe in the end of the CV for recruitment?

In a way, it has already ended, because LinkedIn and other online sites have replaced the paper CV, which has become a formality.

A more interesting question is whether in the future we will truly stop caring about credentials, past performance, and experience. This would be a bold bet, but I wouldn't discard it. In a world in which what you know is less important than what you can learn, and in which people need to constantly reinvent their careers and themselves, potential matters more than past performance, and betting on the future is more important than reinforcing the past.

The more we care about soft skills, potential, and general abilities, the less we should care about the CV. Plus science shows that many of the achievements people report in their CVs are predicted by personality anyway

Are there any specificities to be taken into account by industry?

Industry norms are important because talent is always about personality in the right place, or finding the best home for people's style, preferences, interests, and capabilities.

At the same time, some personality traits are important across all industries: in general, it is better for people to be hard working, reliable, honest, have good people skills, and bring a positive attitude to work

What do you think are the most important traits for tomorrow? Are they the same in different industries?

Although we don't know what the key jobs of tomorrow will be, we can safely assume that the foundational traits that determine future potential will remain quite similar to todays: smart, curious, humble, empathetic, kind, creative, energetic, and self-motivated people with strong integrity and ethics. These people will be in demand for a long time.

For a candidate, is it possible to prepare to take a personality test? If so, how?

Yes, just like you prepare for an interview. The best advice is to be yourself, but on a good day. Answer in a way that feels natural and spontaneous, but presents a good version of you.

Besides that, not much can be prepared a priori because you never know what people are looking for, how other candidates are, and whether answering A or B will increase or decrease a specific score.

You should see a personality assessment as a chance to present yourself to others: if your profile matches what people want, then you probably want to work there. If not, then you probably don't.

Above all, it is easy to spot people who lied or distorted their answers, especially when we interview them and see a very different person than in the assessment.

What do you think about the emergence of power skills? Is it a buzzword or a fact of life for recruiters to take into account?

I think it's just a new name for soft skills, which are very important and need to be assessed carefully... With science based assessments!

Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is a Professor of Business Psychology at UCL and Columbia, and the Chief Innovation Officer at ManpowerGroup. His latest book, The Future of Recruitment: Using the New Science of Talent Analytics to Get Your Hiring Right, was published in March 2022.

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The power of personality tests for recruitment

Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is a Professor of Business Psychology at UCL and Columbia, and the Chief Innovation Officer at ManpowerGroup. We asked him a few questions about the use of personality tests for recruitment.

The power of personality tests for recruitment

There are still a lot of suspicions, especially in France, about personality tests for recruitment. What are their advantages for recruiters?

In my experience, this is a pretty global issue, not just a French one. It is useful to understand the potential reasons for this skepticism, namely:

Personality is a pretty complex science, requiring an understanding of psychometrics, data science, and a range of psychological theories.

Most personality assessments are of really poor quality, discrediting the field.

We all "think" we know a lot about personality, because when we interact with people we judge them, form opinions of them, and really trust our impressions a lot. Now, whether for recruiters or hiring managers, having a proper, accurate assessment of a candidate provides some key advantages: correctly inferring their fit with a job, role, or company culture; understanding their full potential, beyond what they have done in the past; and seeing people for who they really are, as opposed to focusing on demographic categories (male, female, rich, poor, old, young, etc). In essence, there is no better way to understand someone's full potential and improve fairness in hiring than by using a science-based personality assessment.

For you, have companies changed the way they look at it since the pandemic?

Yes. Talent markets have tightened even further, which means it is even harder o find talent. This means you need scalable tools that widen your applicant pool, and that you need to understand people's potential in a deeper way. Organizations are also more interested in DEIB, and smart recruiters understand that data holds the key to more meritocratic and inclusive hiring. This is where assessment-based recruitment is key.

When during the recruitment process would you recommend the use of personality tests? After a first selection of the CVs received, after a first interview?

Upfront, top of the funnel. Ideally, you want to make an assessment as inclusive as possible, so that your selection is fairer and better. If I can know something about 10,000 candidates, I am more likely to spot the rare find, hiring outside the usual bubbles (rich, educated, privileged candidates), and end up with better candidates, than if I just evaluate the last 2 people I liked the most. It is all about maximizing diversity while knowing as much as you can about people with the most seamless, candidate-friendly, transparent, and ethical method. Again, nothing beats good assessments here.

Do you believe in the end of the CV for recruitment?

In a way, it has already ended, because LinkedIn and other online sites have replaced the paper CV, which has become a formality.

A more interesting question is whether in the future we will truly stop caring about credentials, past performance, and experience. This would be a bold bet, but I wouldn't discard it. In a world in which what you know is less important than what you can learn, and in which people need to constantly reinvent their careers and themselves, potential matters more than past performance, and betting on the future is more important than reinforcing the past.

The more we care about soft skills, potential, and general abilities, the less we should care about the CV. Plus science shows that many of the achievements people report in their CVs are predicted by personality anyway

Are there any specificities to be taken into account by industry?

Industry norms are important because talent is always about personality in the right place, or finding the best home for people's style, preferences, interests, and capabilities.

At the same time, some personality traits are important across all industries: in general, it is better for people to be hard working, reliable, honest, have good people skills, and bring a positive attitude to work

What do you think are the most important traits for tomorrow? Are they the same in different industries?

Although we don't know what the key jobs of tomorrow will be, we can safely assume that the foundational traits that determine future potential will remain quite similar to todays: smart, curious, humble, empathetic, kind, creative, energetic, and self-motivated people with strong integrity and ethics. These people will be in demand for a long time.

For a candidate, is it possible to prepare to take a personality test? If so, how?

Yes, just like you prepare for an interview. The best advice is to be yourself, but on a good day. Answer in a way that feels natural and spontaneous, but presents a good version of you.

Besides that, not much can be prepared a priori because you never know what people are looking for, how other candidates are, and whether answering A or B will increase or decrease a specific score.

You should see a personality assessment as a chance to present yourself to others: if your profile matches what people want, then you probably want to work there. If not, then you probably don't.

Above all, it is easy to spot people who lied or distorted their answers, especially when we interview them and see a very different person than in the assessment.

What do you think about the emergence of power skills? Is it a buzzword or a fact of life for recruiters to take into account?

I think it's just a new name for soft skills, which are very important and need to be assessed carefully... With science based assessments!

Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is a Professor of Business Psychology at UCL and Columbia, and the Chief Innovation Officer at ManpowerGroup. His latest book, The Future of Recruitment: Using the New Science of Talent Analytics to Get Your Hiring Right, was published in March 2022.

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Marion Bernes

Marion Bernes
Copywriter

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