A recent CIPD survey of over 500 HR professionals revealed that nearly three-fifths of organisations have a formal diversity strategy to help ensure their recruitment and talent management processes are fair. For over a third, part of this strategy involves checking whether any tests they use are valid, reliable, culture-free and were tested on diverse norm groups. But while the tests may be deemed fair, how can you be sure that the way you are interpreting them is?

When it comes to personality tests, interpreting the results often involves subjective judgement. Despite robust training in how to use the tools, we are inherently biased in how we assume these personality traits will map onto job performance. Let’s take Sam as an example, who is rated high on the personality trait ‘agreeableness’. Is this good or bad? One interviewer, who values team orientation, may see Sam as pitching in and being a strong team player. A more dominant interviewer might see him as a pushover. Who is right and what are the implications? Any number of factors, including individual biases, previous experience or even comparisons with the previous candidate, can colour our judgements and impact decision-making. Cutting to the heart of the matter is what is important for the role. Which competencies are required and how does personality inform how competent they will be?

“By framing the discussion around competencies rather than judging individual personality traits, you can ensure that all your candidates are treated the same.”

In client service roles, where customer focus is key, high agreeableness is likely to lead to success. In roles with high results orientation, where unpopular decisions need to be made, it could hinder performance and cause the individual stress. By framing the discussion around competencies rather than judging how someone scores on individual personality traits, you can ensure that all your candidates are treated the same. Competency-based assessments provide an objective measure of how personality impacts the skills and behaviours needed for a specific role and therefore provide each person involved in the hiring process with the same information. As a result, they remove any gender, age or racial bias from the interpretation, ensuring that this stage of your recruitment process is as fair as it can be.

Things to consider when evaluating your use of personality tests:

  • Who is involved in the test process? Are they appropriately trained in interpreting psychometric test results? What impact might their biases have and will these impact certain groups more than others?
  • Do you know what you’re looking for? Which skills and behaviours are crucial to success in the job?
  • How does personality impact these skills and behaviours? Would using a competency-based approach add more consistency?

If you would like to speak to one of our psychologists regarding your recruitment process or how to use a competency-based approach, please call us on 01892 559540 or email tony@psychological-consultancy.com.