The power and frustration of personality assessments

Many employers use personality assessments to identify candidates that “fit” in their organization. 

Employers don’t share results often, especially if you’re not selected to move on. This lack of transparency in the process can be frustrating. It’s especially frustrating when we put a lot of time and effort into that application. 

We know that the search for meaningful work is different for each of us. This two-part blog on employment personality testing will shed some light on these assessments and their construction. 

Personality assessments

Personality tests are big business. There are thousands of personality assessments out there, and not all of them are created equal. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most popular personality assessments. It’s also wildly unreliable and inconsistent but is still used by corporations worldwide. 

Organizational psychologist, author, professor and big thinker Adam Grant says there are four standards to determine a test’s validity. We should ask if its categories are reliable, valid, independent and comprehensive.

Reliable

The test is reliable if the test taker receives the same personality result when they retest.

Valid

Test categories are valid if they predict meaningful outcomes- in this case, personality results should predict job performance.

Independent

Categories are independent if they “capture different traits that are separate, and combine traits that have commonalities.”

Comprehensive

Finally, a test’s categories are comprehensive if they address the major personality traits.

Grant concludes, like many researchers, that the MBTI does not receive a passing grade on any of these standards.  According to Vox, “The Myers-Briggs is useful for one thing: entertainment. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking the test as a fun, interesting activity, like a BuzzFeed quiz.”

Given how questionable some personality tests can be, how can you find one that can help you on your journey? 

The Big Five

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the Big 5 is the most thoroughly researched, written about, and reproducible personality test. 

We’ve selected the “Big Five” personality test to help you gain insight into your behaviour. It’s a test you can use to inform your career decisions and engagement strategy for the job search.

This assessment helps categorize our ways of being – or “traits”- into five building blocks of personality, represented by the acronym OCEAN

  • Openness to experience
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

What are the Big Five personality traits and why are they so important to job seekers?

Here are general summaries of each trait:

Openness to experience

Open people are curious, seeking out new information and sensations. They appreciate art, beauty and novel experiences. They’re emotionally aware and act as individuals, avoiding conformity.

People who score low on openness to experience are much less curious, often sticking to what’s familiar and straightforward. They tend to be conservative and are usually less open to change.

Conscientiousness

Conscientious people are controlled, regulated and cautious. They’re recognized planners and hard workers. 

Unconscientious people are less reliable, ambitious and regulated. They have difficulty staying in the lines.

Extroversion

Extroverts get a charge from being around other people. They’re often goal-oriented, enthusiastic and positive, enjoying group settings where they can take on leadership roles.

Introverts find their charge within themselves. They have lower energy and activity levels than extroverts and enjoy spending time alone. 

Agreeableness

Agreeable people put a high value on social harmony. They’re considerate, accommodating, patient, don’t hold grudges and view people as fundamentally good.

For disagreeable people, self-interest is paramount. They prioritize themselves over social harmony and do not share the same optimistic views about human nature.

Neuroticism

High scorers for Neuroticism (sometimes referred to as “emotional stability”) tend to experience negative feelings at higher intensities and frequencies. They also tend to experience these feelings in ordinary situations others wouldn’t perceive as threatening.


What do employers value?

We often internalize our frustrations when employers try to put us in a box. Research shows employers look for candidates scoring higher in conscientiousness and agreeableness than other traits.

“While our personality assessments can help inform employers (and ourselves) about our match for a role or fit for a team, they are directional at best. What matters is context, and in a team environment, it’s the make-up of a team. A team with diversity of thought, background, experience, and personality tend to outperform those that are less diverse.”

Companies that use this knowledge to create high-functioning teams that help members craft meaningful career paths perform better.

Next week, we’ll explain why you should consider your uniqueness when looking for a new career path or job.

Learn more about your personality!

The Buoyancy App uses “The Big Five” to inform how we can best help you be successful in your search. Take this and other surveys to uncover unique insights about yourself.

We believe there is a better way to support and manage career transitions, so we’re introducing a more personalized and inclusive approach. Everyone should have access to the tools and programs they need to focus on the things that matter.

We obsess over how to use technology and behavioural science to solve these challenges. Our experience connects people to support and challenge each other to thrive.

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