You may be unemployable because of your personality. At least that’s what some companies who use pre-employment personality tests to weed out applicants may believe.
While personality tests in the workplace aren’t new, the documentary “Persona: The Dark Truth Behind Personality Tests” that recently debuted on HBO Max is shedding a fresh light on how this practice can be discriminatory and stop qualified people from getting a job.
Here’s a breakdown of what the tests are and how they may end up preventing you from being hired.
What are personality tests?
There are several personality tests used by employers for hiring, but here are a few of the most popular ones.
This is the most popular personality test assessment used by companies today, with millions of people taking it each year. It's used both inside and outside of the workplace, with it sometimes being used at colleges to help determine career paths, wellness retreats, and education seminars.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator puts people into one of 16 types through classifying four categories:
- Introversion or Extraversion
- Sensing or iNtuition
- Thinking or Feeling
- Judging or Perceiving
One letter is taken from each category to create a four-letter test result, such as ENFP or ISTJ. While the Myers & Briggs Foundation actually states it's unethical to use their test for hiring, some companies believe it's able to help determine if a job is a good fit and any potential teamwork issues.
The Caliper Profile
This assessment measures an individual’s personality characteristics and motivation across 22 traits to predict how they would behave on a job and their potential. It reportedly is able to determine areas of strength and weakness, and provide insight into what are your key motivators and competencies.
In hiring, it’s generally used to see whether or not the open position is a good match given their strengths and weaknesses.
The DiSC test puts people into one of four main personality types that make up its acronym: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. While a person can have attributes in all categories, they’re believed to have one primary one.
For instance, someone in the D category would likely be confident, outspoken, and demanding. The company believes knowing this can help match hiring needs, as well as help people better understand themselves and coworkers to create more teamwork and effectiveness.
The Big Five
The Big Five assessment doesn’t put you into one category but rather on a scale from 0 to 100 across five main categories. The five traits include
- Openness to experiences
So for instance, on the scale for agreeableness, you would be placed on a number scale with 0 being critical/uncooperative and 100 being friendly/collaborative. Research studies have found that high degrees of conscientiousness is the biggest predictor of how well someone will do at a job.
How can personality tests be used against you?
Although there are technically no wrong answers for personality tests, it’s easy to see how your responses may end up preventing you from being hired. Companies may infer from the results that you aren’t confident, extroverted, agreeable, or emotionally intelligent enough for the job they’re looking to fill.
So even if you're objectively qualified for a role, a company may think you're not a good fit based solely on your personality test results. This is cause for concern for many people, and especially with disability justice advocates.
“Personality tests are by and large constructed to be ableist, to be racist, to be sexist, and to be classist,”
- Lydia XZ Brown, disability advocate
Certain responses to statements like “You see yourself as very emotionally stable” and “You are always cheerful” may also allow for discrimination against those with depression or other mental illnesses. Additionally, unfamiliar language or phrasing can be confusing and put certain people at a disadvantage.
What companies are using personality tests for hiring?
Reportedly 75% of companies with more than 100 employees use personality assessments when hiring. And that’s not just with mid- and senior-level positions, that includes an estimated 59 percent of entry-level jobs.
Myers-Briggs claims that its assessment is used by more than 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies, either in the hiring process or after employment.
Kroger grocery made the news when Kyle Behm claimed he wasn’t hired at a local store because of a personality test he took during the application process, where it likely revealed he had a mental illness.
In addition to Kroger, other companies known to use personality tests when hiring include Facebook, Amtrak, and Google. Walmart has its own assessment test used to evaluate prospective employees.
Do I have to take a personality test for work?
While companies are not allowed to ask potential employees directly about their mental health, they are allowed to require pre-employment personality tests, so long as they aren't inherently discriminatory.
If a personality test reveals a mental illness or disability, it's considered unlawful. Employers are not legally allowed to consider race, age, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, or disability, so any test that is designed or used to discriminate based on these factors is unlawful.
You can always decline to take a personality test when applying or interviewing for a job, but it may hurt your hiring chances or take you out of the running completely.
Have you taken a personality test before? Share your experience in the comments below.
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Every single time I have had to take a personality test as part of a job application I do not get the job. I have had many jobs, have performed very well and more often than not far outperform expectations and many of those that I work with. I have for about 14 years now been taking contract work in the tech industry in software testing. One employer hired me as a full time employee after my 6 month contract was up. Unfortunately, COVID hit and over 600 people were laid-off for budget cuts and since I was a new hire I was on that list. I am back to taking contract work and my recent contract just ended so I am looking again; I applied for an FTE role at Amazon where a few years ago I had applied and for that role had to take a personality test. It was only supposed to be a temp position for me just packing boxes at Amazon during the Christmas season in between contracts. What happened though was I had to take a personality test and I did not get hired even though they were advertising everywhere anyone who applies will get hired. That example was the 4th time I had been denied employment based on one of those tests. Now, in the past few weeks I applied for positions as software test engineer and quality assurance and was again turned down. There is no way to ne 100% sure but it seems obvious now that I am ending up with some personality type that is not an approved one. I feel like there is nothing that I can do about it either and it is frustrating. I always do find work and never have issues with doing my job or getting along with anyone anywhere I work so I suppose I just have to keep doing what I am doing but I certainly have missed out on some opportunities for no good reason.
Yes. It's very intimidating. While I understand the reasoning behind employers use, but I don't see the benefit for potential employees. You just put them in a box. I think you can find all you need to know on a cover letter, letter of recommendation, resume and a simple phone call to previous employer(s).
I used to give these back in the day for a Big Corp. I wasn't supposed to hire anyone that wasn't a green. One of the questions were , did you ever steal anything in your life?? The answer you were supposed to give was yes alot of people over thought the questions and they said no. They just wanted to see if you were honest. I put a fake SS in so I could see what questions they asked and I did want to know why the people that I thought were good candidates weren't passing. Then I did it a different way and made sure they understood that the test was something.
I am glad am over 65 and get Old Age Pension and CPP. I don't get a lot but it's enough to live on. I wouldn't want to be looking for work. I would be unemployable.
We all have different personalities as we are designed for a different purposes. Some of the personalities looks elegant and some looks like the working class that are casual looking. Personalities have different categories as we all came from multicultural sources: 1.) the higher the education time or years spent in school to earn a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree the higher the income that is expected as yield. 2.) the longer the professional experience along with the high caliber degree, the higher the salary the higher the opportunities for professional growth and promotional benefits of a full time job 3.) the physical good looks is part of a personality that is desirable to see. But they could become an object of jealousy because the ones who cannot match the good looks could not be receiving attention of the expensive looking good looking co worker in the presence of a good looking staff better looking than the rest. When you look your best you will feel your best. I am a fashion designer and dressmaker. I have been told that I dressed up like an executive. Why can’t I look the same like the rest wearing scrub suit instead of tailor made suit. 4.) on the other hand the managerial importance of some insulter wanted to get rid of the most elegant, as well as the highest paid and highest experience because they have reasons to believe that they could saved money hiring people fresh graduates from school with little to no experience than those who are already in the top income bracket of the salary scale that goes along with the top caliber bachelor’s degree and the higher professional experience. 5.) Personality of the deprived and the ones with provisions will differ because it is wrong to discriminate by reason of elegance, good looks and bossy superiority complex who really knows what to do and can trouble shoot any problems at hand.
I was asked to take a personality test, it was timed and ambiguous in many of the questions, the time frame was way too fast and the test would dump you to the next question if you took too long. The end result was a four color circle that supposedly determined my fitness for the position. The owners actually told me they were looking for a blue, and my answers put me in the in the red portion of the assessment. From what I could tell they were basing their hiring decisions almost solely on this test. I received a link to the website to review my "personality" that seemed generic and not an exact match to other tests at other companies, nor was it a match to my actual demeanor/ personality. Further, the position I was being considered for matched exactly to the 25 years experience and a stellar track record of performance above expectations.
Personality tests are garbage. They can't predict if a person taking the test will be successful in a position. When I ask a recruiting manager what is the retention rate for employees in their company, nobody has that answer. Some manager got sold snake oil and won't admit he was scammed.