Personality tests: why bother?


The government has recently announced that in its campaign against elitism, judges are to be given personality tests to assess their suitability. But for some time now, large organisations have been increasingly relying on such tests to achieve a better fit between people and jobs. In the first of a series of articles, we look at why personality profiling might be a good idea

In the intensifying competition for talent, the choice of person an employer hires becomes increasingly important. Personality profiling is being adopted as a more scientific, efficient and fairer way of spotting, recruiting and bringing on talent. But what’s in it for the individual? Why trust such a process?

Trust turns on three key elements: you believe what you’re being told is true, you believe that your interests are in safe hands, and you believe that what you trust can deliver.

Personality profiling aims at a certain kind of truth, but doesn’t pretend to capture your character permanently or completely. Tests are deliberately designed not to imply that you are inherently good or bad, or necessarily one thing or another – but to identify trends and preferences in behaviour, especially in a work environment.

Most people are mistrustful of systems that they cannot control, especially those that try to sum up their personalities. But they might accept the insight that a properly devised personality test gives, if it helps them to make better informed career decisions and deal more effectively with people and situations.

There is no point interpreting any results as a final judgement of your character. Only as an extrapolation of ways you will tend to behave under certain conditions, depending on your answers. So the more subtle the test and the more you take it seriously, the more insight it will deliver.

It’s about being business-like in making an assessment about whether you and the company, or you and the job fit. How you feel about different people and situations is very important, but this process allows you to think through the implications of your type of personality even before you encounter a particular scenario. Approached in this spirit, personality tests can be fun as well as insightful.

Knowing yourself gives you and employers a currency to work with. Like any currency, it allows you to trade – in this case, information about yourself and even more usefully, information about you in relation to others.

If there is an aspect of your personality you hadn’t fully thought about, or couldn’t quite understand, instead of learning the hard way through a painful confrontation you then regret, you can short circuit the experience and be better able to deal with certain situations. Such knowledge can never be a substitute for firsthand experience, but it does give you a greater awareness and understanding, a chance to communicate better, handle conflict and deal with priorities.

Above all, it gives you and your colleagues a common language that is useful for dealing with what most people understand only too well: everybody is different.

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