Personality Tests in the Hiring Process

The vast majority of Fortune 100 companies use personality tests to separate the candidacy wheat from the employee-to-be chaff. What do these tests do? Are they worth the time and resources? And more importantly, are they effective?

Kathy Brizeli, the Senior Director of Member Services and Client Success at McLean & Company, worked in psychometrics for 12 years at Caliper. Psychometrics is one of many tests used to measure how an applicant’s traits relate to job performance. As an evaluator, Kathy interpreted assessment results and relayed them back to the potential employers for the candidate being evaluated.

“What we found out were the candidate’s innate tendencies – strengths and weaknesses,” notes Brizeli. “I would recommend their use as an additional piece of information, but never the sole determinant of a hiring decision; they should only be a piece of the puzzle. Assessments don’t necessarily consider experience or skill development.”

Personality testing is in the news: Merve Emre’s The Personality Brokers is the just-released book on how the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was invented by a mother-daughter team in the early twentieth century. According to Emre, personality testing is now a two-billion-dollar industry.

The New Republic weighed in on the topic, saying that Myers-Briggs, taken by two million people each year “is used by universities, career coaching centers, federal government offices, several branches of the military, and 88 of the Fortune 100 companies.” CPP Inc. sells it for $49.95US. On the flip side, organizational psychologist Adam Grant wrote, “The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is better than a horoscope but less reliable than a heart monitor.”

Robyn Knezic, Delmanor’s Director of Human Resources uses the Wiley – Global Assessment Profile XT.

“We are able to see areas where a candidate excels, and where they may have challenges. Some of those areas are: verbal skills, verbal reasoning, numeric reasoning, energy level, assertiveness, sociability, manageability, attitude, decisiveness, accommodation, independence, and objective judgment,” notes Knezic. But this comes with a caveat: “I think it is important to keep in mind that the personality profile is only one piece of the process and should not be relied on solely when making a hiring decision.”

With fifteen years of testing experience, Maryann Romano, Vice President of Human Resources at Distinct Infrastructure Group, also worked with Caliper, which she says costs $600 per test. “If you are limiting it for one or two candidates, fine. If you’re filling ten candidates over six months, the costs can get significant, especially if things don’t work out for whatever reason.” She claims that personality testing has shone light on, “knowing the warts, deciding if you can live with them, how to manage them, and how they like to work.”

Meanwhile, Mardi Walker, VP of Human Resources for the Ottawa Senators shares similar experience with personality testing. “Personality testing,” she says, “has worked out well for store clerks and store associates.”

In addition to Caliper, Walker used Gallup’s StrengthsFinder Personality Test – what she refers to as “very intense”. “It tested arithmetic ability, a person’s honesty and integrity, and how likely they’d be to ‘help themselves to the merchandise’.”

Vered Lerner cautions if the test is not administered properly, or if the tested individual isn’t honest, “the results may be misread or misunderstood.” The CEO and Founder of Bizstance Services has been working in HR and management for over 20 years.

The employer, moreover, ought to understand that a test doesn’t reveal everything. “Not all roles require testing, and employees are complex individuals with emotions, and the ability to change and adapt, given the right conditions and support.”

– Dave Gordon

Identifying Job Hoppers

Hiring has never been an easy practice, and job hoppers have long been the bane of HR managers around the world.  That being said, the nature of the job market has changed a lot over the last few decades, and some degree of job hopping is expected for most of the workforce these days.  With that in mind, it is useful to be able to identify the individuals who are more likely to leave you high and dry at the most inopportune time.

First, it is important to separate legitimate job hoppers from people who have simply worked jobs that are short-term or contract-based.  For example, people in event management, construction and consultant roles will naturally move from company to company.

One of the most common types of people to look for are what’s termed an “opportunity” job hopper.  These are people who are either overqualified for the position and will likely leave to pursue another opening, or they are individuals who already have a strong established work history and will likely leave if a better financial/scheduling offer is made.  Now this isn’t to say that companies should avoid hiring someone simply because they’re overqualified.  It is important to first take a look at their actual work history and see how long they typically stay in a position.  Many people, especially new graduates, are looking for stable income and may stay much longer than you originally anticipate.

Some hoppers can be spotted just by a quick glance at their work history.  With others, however, their habits may not be apparent until you interview them.  For instance, they could have left their last company relatively quickly with a legitimate reason, but when you talk to them about it, they have nothing but negative things to say about working there.  Probe a little bit further, and you may find that they have the same negative opinion about many of their former workplaces.  You’ve just discovered a perpetual malcontent – this is someone who will inevitably leave because they find it difficult to adapt to the working world and will be unhappy no matter where they go.

In some cases, it can be difficult to identify either type of hopper. Either their work history is sparse, or they do not disclose this information during interviews.  This is when references become important, as their former employers can provide honest insight that the candidate might not be as forthcoming with.  In addition, asking the right questions during the interview can force the candidate to give you useful answers.  For example, a question like “name your greatest achievements from a few of your last positions” will force them to think about their previous roles in a positive light and can also tell you whether they contributed anything of value before they left.

Finding the right person for a position is never easy, and spotting job hoppers early will definitely make the process more demanding.  That being said, it is absolutely worth the extra time and effort to make sure you avoid hiring the wrong person.  The alternative is much more costly.

Lance | DBPC Blog

Explaining Employment Gaps on a Resume

Perfect employment histories are very rare. In most cases, there are gaps – a few weeks, months or years. When not properly presented in a resume, these “holes” can be red flags for employers causing the immediate elimination of the applicant from the pre-screening process. That’s why explaining employment gaps on a resume is a step that should not be avoided.

One may wonder why, but based on research, most recruiters or employers prefer to know the applicant’s full work history. Visible and unexplained gaps in one’s work history sometimes give a poor impression of the applicant as this can imply various things; for example, the applicant is not capable of landing a job; he/she doesn’t care about his/her career; he/she is hiding something or has other problems such as laziness, substance abuse, or even legal trouble.

There are several techniques that can be used in addressing this “lull” issue. For shorter periods like 3 or 8 months, one can reduce the visibility of the gap by only stating the years (no months) of employment. Observe the following:

Example 1: from to
Job 2
Job 1 December 2013 – present
January 2011 – March 2013 2013 – present
2011 – 2013

Example 2:
Job 3
Job 2
Job 1 August 2013 – present

March 2012 – October 2012
September 2010 – April 2011 2013 – present
2010 – 2011

In example 1, there is a 9 month intermission between the 2 jobs; in example 2, there is an 11 month break between jobs 1 & 2, and a 10 month difference between jobs 2 & 3, but neither one is visible in the presentation. This way, the gap is masked and it is also easier for the employer to quickly estimate the duration of one’s stay in each job. Explanations for any perceived interruptions can be provided during the interview.

In the case of longer intervals, specifically those that span 2 years or more, a brief explanation, in parentheses, following the dates for each position should be provided. Examples would be “restructuring or downsizing,” “travel,” “consulting,” “volunteering,” “laid off due to economic circumstances,” etc. Hiatuses can also be explained briefly in the cover letter, but try not to direct focus on it. By doing this, the employer or resume screener will be provided with a valid explanation, and this will prevent them from assuming the worse.

At the end of the day, it is up to the applicants to decide what they should include or exclude in their resumes. Just bear in mind that employers or resume screeners will often read between the lines and notice small quirks and inconsistencies. If there are grey areas, they will not waste their time calling those applicants; instead, they will just toss any questionable resumes in the trash. Like it or not, this is the reality and one must better prepare for it!


M. Galvez-Ver | DBPC BLOG