In the 21st century workplace, the old adage “train for skills, hire for attitude” has never been truer. With the rapid proliferation of easily accessible information, almost anyone can acquire almost any skill autonomously, creating unparalleled mobility within the workplace. However, certain characteristics such as personality traits and cognitive abilities, are almost entirely immutable, and cannot be acquired through study or training. As a result, hiring managers and human resources departments must focus on those immutable characteristics which offer no avenue for improvement when making hiring decisions.
Personality traits, in particular, are tremendously important when determining both fit and performance in the workplace, making personality questionnaires some of the most effective employee selection tools known. Here, I will outline three key reasons why organisations should consider incorporating personality questionnaires in their talent management processes.
First and foremost, the research evidence suggests that certain personality traits are useful predictors of performance in the workplace. For example, the personality traits of conscientiousness, resilience, and (internal) openness to experience are ubiquitously predictive of performance, regardless of the role or level of seniority. Other personality traits, such as extraversion or agreeableness, are associated with performance in roles which require those specific behavioural dispositions (i.e. sales roles for extraversion, caring roles for agreeableness etc). This makes intuitive sense, as behaviour is a major driver of performance at work, and our behaviours are strongly underpinned by our personalities.
To capitalise on this, organisations should identify the specific personality traits which they believe are indicative of performance, both ubiquitously and in specific contexts. Once the relevant traits have been identified, they should utilise personality questionnaires to measure these specific traits, and then incorporate those findings into an overall employee selection decision.
Naturally, other assessments and assessment methods should be incorporated as well, which could include verbal reasoning tests, numerical reasoning tests, inductive reasoning tests, or interviews. However, the information gained from utilising personality questionnaires can be invaluable, revealing insights about candidates that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Personality questionnaires are also highly effective tools for evaluating culture-fit among applicants. Large organisations in particular typically have strong and highly distinctive cultures, underpinned by shared values and ways of working. Misfit to the company ethos can represent a serious threat to morale, reducing employee engagement and lowering their sense of belonging. Naturally, this also results in increased levels of employee attrition, as misfiting employees are likely to seek alternative employment. As a result, it makes sense to screen candidates for culture-fit specifically, ensuring that successful candidates will adhere to the company ethos and find their role to be inherently satisfying.
To combat this, employers should identify the specific personality traits which underpin culture-fit in their organisation. For example, if organisation and attention to details are intrinsically linked to culture-fit, then the personality trait of conscientiousness should be emphasised. After identifying the relevant traits, organisation can then utilise personality questionnaires to measure those specific traits and then incorporate those scores into their employee selection decisions. Naturally, culture-fit and performance are closely aligned, but certain traits may be indicative of culture-fit, but not performance, or vice versa. Organisations must therefore balance the emphasis on performance and culture fit, choosing traits which are predictive of both.
Lastly, personality questionnaires and their associated scores can be invaluable for personal and professional development. Although personality itself cannot be “improved”, and individual personality traits cannot be changed, identifying your major personality traits can provide valuable information for reflection. For example, discovering that you are particularly introverted highlights that people skills may require development, helping to structure a future personal and professional development plan. Taking a 16 Types personality test could reveal you as an INTJ, for example. Similarly, if resilience is something that you are lacking, this information will suggest that you work on your stress tolerance, and do your best to avoid placing yourself under unnecessary pressure.
To achieve these goals, incumbent employees should be given personality questionnaires during their tenure, perhaps alongside a formal appraisal or development programme. Once areas for development have been identified, these should be emphasised in any future development plan, and organisational resources should be provided to that employee to help them work on these perceived limitations. Without this information, development needs may go unacknowledged, resulting in reduced performance and satisfaction in-role, making personality questionnaires essential development tools.
In the talent management space, few tools are as versatile as personality questionnaires, showing applicability for both employee selection and personal development. As a result, they should be considered a major staple in both employee selection and professional development. However, this is not to say that all personality questionnaires are equally useful.
Instead, organisations must do their due diligence, ensuring that vendors have the necessary expertise to provide valid and reliable assessments. Without sufficient reliability and validity, personality questionnaires are unlikely to yield useful information, reducing the efficacy of any selection or development intervention. Nevertheless, the personality questionnaire method itself is psychometrically sound, and organisations are well advised to explore this avenue of assessment.