Rebuttal for Personality Tests Haters

Testing_Judge“the correlation between well-established personality tests and occupational outcomes is around .40; that’s significantly higher than typical job interviews & substantially higher than the correlation between Ibuprufen consumption and pain reduction (.14)” – Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

As Technology continues to meet Psychology and we work to leverage that data in the cloud to predict employee performance, it was refreshing to read a great article that rebuffs the common arguments against the use of personality tests in the workplace.  Below is my synopsis and commentary on Seven Common (But Irrational) Reasons For Hating Personality Tests by business psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic…

1. People can fake their answers

Despite the prevailing belief to the contrary, test takers are not adept at outsmarting test designers. For as Chamorro-Premuzic points out, “When tests are adequately designed, it is not easy to guess what different questions assess making deliberate manipulation quite ineffective.”  I mean come on – give us psychologists some credit. Do you actually think, given all of our training, we naively believe people are always entirely honest? We expect people to manipulate the truth to make themselves appear in the most favorable light or, in other words, lie. And we design tests accordingly. “People may try to fake, but they are generally not smart enough to fool good psychometric tests – and if they are, they should be hired anyway.”

2. Tests are inaccurate 

Five decades of research proves that this is simply not true.The correlation between personality tests and occupational outcomes is around .40;  which is significantly higher than typical job interviews, recommendation letters, or biographical candidate records. In fact, as Chamorro-Premuzic points out, the correlation between testing and job performance is equal to the relationship between Viagra and sexual performance (.38)!

3. Personality changes from situation to situation

Here again, our perceptions of ourselves do not match what the data says. We overestimate how complex we are. Or, we confuse behaviour (which does change from situation to situation), with personality (which guides how we behave in any given situation). Fact is “personality predicts career success over a 50-year lifespan, political attitudes over 45-years, psychological disorders over 17-years, health and mortality risk over 70-years.”

4. Tests are unfair

I do believe that all people were created equal. But also what I learned as child, “that we are like snowflakes – no two alike.” Tests are only unfair in their accuracy at revealing the “unfair” difference in our abilities. And given that the whole point of testing is to hire the strongest candidates, the charges of unfairness really don’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

5. Tests are reductionist and “pigeonhole” people

I can’t improve on what the article says about this so here it is, “This is an ironic criticism given that it is not the tests, but the people, who are prone to making stereotypical and prejudiced evaluations of others. To the degree that tests capture valid information about a person’s character – how they differ from others – then tests are the natural antidote to unfounded stereotypical evaluations of people.”

The article has 2 additional complaints against tests that it takes on… “Tests are intrusive and pick up private abnormalities” and “Success depends on context, so how can you give the same test to everyone?” I urge you to read the original article to find out more.