Personality Profiles: All You Need to Make a New Hire

Personality testing is all the rage in many HR departments across the country. The Wall Street Journal says this has become a $500 million industry. And it continues to grow another 10% to 15% annually. But can you really make a great new hire based solely on their personality profile? Should you?

Concerned industry experts say no, and certainly not when your goal is to land a top-producing new sales pro.

Personality profiles are used for a variety of reasons

Employers say tests like these do have some value, at least for certain types of companies and job types:

    • They can help identify potential for a good cultural fit.
    • Employers have realized that new hires who don’t fit in cannot succeed, no matter how well-qualified they are in other ways.
    • Research shows that tests which measure cognitive ability or integrity can provide useful results.
    • They can be a useful early screening tool. In some cases, companies report their use of personality tests has reduced attrition.

So what’s the problem?

Top sales producers (and those in many other key positions) must demonstrate three key traits:

  1. They can do the job. They have knowledge, skills, and experience that directly indicate likely success as part of your sales team. If they don’t possess these tangible “assets,” you will have to invest time and money in training them. And wait for them to gain experience.
  2. They are willing to do the job. They are self-confident and motivated to pursue new leads, despite having to make cold calls. They are prepared to qualify prospects and close deals. Drive and initiative are crucial to sales success.
  3. They follow through. This requires self-discipline, commitment and tenacity to prioritize and focus on important tasks every day, rather than using busy work or other tactics to avoid meaningful, productive tasks. Without all three of these competencies, your candidate won’t be a great hire. The problem with personality profiles is that they don’t address all of these traits. Besides, personality testing is, at best, marginally accurate. Even the most sophisticated tests are not always reliable.

Testing is rarely job-related in specific ways, so there is no context in which to assess results. So how can the results indicate a person’s ability to thrive in a particular position within your company? Furthermore, psychologists note that context affects how one’s personality is manifest.

Many aspiring candidates walk away rather than submitting to these tests. They believe them to be a waste of time, especially since they expect to somehow “flunk” the test, missing out on the job anyway. Every time this happens, you miss out on a potential opportunity to meet the new hire of your dreams.

And there are legal issues, too. Lawsuits aimed at workplace personality testing are on the rise. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission now questions whether these tests are inherently discriminatory when it comes to some categories of disabilities.

The bottom line? There is no one personality “type” that is right for any given job. Diversity of background and approach often builds a team better-equipped for success, both individually and company wide. So while personality profiles can be a useful tool in the hiring process, they are not all you need to make a new hire. At least not a great one. Personal interviews that elicit relevant situational responses are also essential.