How Good are Personality Tests?

There have been situations where possibly good performing sales candidates have gotten knocked out of the hiring process early in the game because they “failed” a personality test or temperament assessment.

This usually happens when HR uses a pre-hiring tool to make a go/no-go decision instead of considering the assessment results as just one part of the hiring puzzle. Until all the pieces of the puzzle are in place, it’s often difficult, if not impossible, to see what you really have.

Having said that, many companies go to a lot of trouble to use an assessment such as our Sales Temperament Assessment (now owned by Callidus Software Inc.)  to benchmark their sales team. In so doing, they have a rather good idea of who is likely to be a success and, more importantly, who is likely to be a waste of time.

For example, two of the eighteen selling styles that our assessment identifies are usually ineffective as salespeople. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire them. It means that you would be wise to do your due diligence before making the decision to move forward. If a candidate already has a verifiable track record of success in selling what you want sold, but the assessment says he’s a no-go, check it out before throwing the baby out with the bath water.

So, if the candidate is so good, why did he fail the test? Well, first off, these aren’t tests that you can fail. They are insight into a person, sort of a look behind the curtain so to speak. The person might not fit the profile the company has set, but that isn’t failing any more than not getting a job as an airline pilot when you have serious vision problems. The person was simply a bad fit for the position.

Can an assessment misrepresent someone? Absolutely.

First off, no assessment will be 100 percent accurate. I suspect that the best of them is good to the 75 percent point.

Second, candidates may try to second-guess the test, answer untruthfully and thus skew the results, often not in their favour.

Third, the candidate may be having personal problems, either at home or at work, that cause him to respond inappropriately. Good assessments can usually detect that problem and will report it to you.

Finally, any personality or temperament assessment, including our Sales Temperament Assessment, is not an end onto itself. They are just one of the hiring tools available to you to assist in making an informed hiring decision.

Use them wisely.