For many, taking a personality test as part of a job interview can feel extremely unsettling. While you might know there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers, you’re still left wondering whether the traits you’re found to have do or don’t line up with what the company wants in a candidate.
So if this scenario is causing you stress, the question then becomes: is it a red flag if an employer is asking you to complete one?
First, it’s important to understand why an employer would ask a candidate to complete a personality test in the first place.
“Each individual’s personality type is made up of various psychological preferences, predispositions and temperaments,” says Leah Lambart, career coach at Relaunch Me. “Taking a personality test can be a useful step in the recruitment process to predict if a candidate will perform well in the role, and whether they will suit the work environment.”
Lambart explains that while there are many factors that influence how an employee fits into a workplace, personality in particular plays a key role in how they’ll behave and their attitude to work. Employers want to recruit candidates that will be a natural fit for the role and will complement other personalities on the team.
“Personality tests can also determine if someone will suit the work environment, as well as the role,” says Lambart. “For example, a high introvert is likely to find it draining working in a noisy, fast-paced, open-plan environment that requires them to be speaking with people all of the day.”
What other specific things could employers be looking out for on a personality test? Lambart shares below:
Culture fit refers to how an employee behaves as they go about their work. A personality assessment can assess a candidate’s work preferences to see if they fit how an organisation prefers to work.
“For example, if they strive for a results-focused environment where people are held accountable and are quite direct with their communication, then a more relationship-focused candidate who values harmony and collaboration might struggle in that work environment,” says Lambart.
“Likewise, an organisation that values collaboration and adaptability might not be the right work environment for a candidate that is very introverted and set in their ways.”
Another reason an employer would use a personality test is to predict how long a candidate might stay in the role if hired.
“Certain personality types are known to be loyal and conservative when it comes to change while other personality types are more likely to need lots of variety in their work,” says Lambart. “A personality assessment can help an employer predict how long an employer might stick around based on the type of work that is being offered.”
In saying that though, Lambart does note that it’s important the hiring process assesses this in other ways too, rather than relying solely on the results of a personality assessment.
While culture fit and longevity are nice-to-haves, easily one of the most important things an employer is looking out for when hiring is job success. When recruiting, hiring managers and recruiters have already determined the key competencies required for it.
For example, a sales position might require a candidate to be extremely social and outgoing. In the role, they might be expected to meet new people constantly, travel frequently and adapt to different schedules and environments, and be focused on achieving KPIs and other results, says Lambart.
“Yet, a personality assessment might identify that the candidate being considered is quite introverted, prefers stability and a structured work week, and is more relationship-focused than results-focused,” she says. “This may send a red flag to the hiring manager and they could then use these insights to probe a bit further when assessing the candidate.”
With all this in mind, how should candidates feel about being asked to complete a personality test? Lambart says she doesn’t believe it to be a red flag — provided it’s one of many tools used in the hiring process and that the insights are applied correctly.
“Personality assessments can be extremely useful to employers to gauge a correct fit for a role,” she says. “At the end of the day, it is in no one’s best interests for a candidate to be recruited for a role that’s not the right fit for their personality. It’s likely to leave them feeling de-energised, frustrated and potentially leading to a lack of confidence.”