Why You Need to Take Choosing Assessments Seriously

By Dana Borowka

Today there are approximately 2,500 personality tests on the market. So how do you decide which one to use?

On the upside, the testing procedure that a company follows can send a message to candidates that the company leaders are serious about who they hire. Successful people want to work with other successful people. In many cases, the candidate may accept a position from the organization they perceive to be more thoughtful during the hiring process.

On the downside, an organization risks lawsuits if it fails to do proper due diligence in assessment selection. That’s because there are a multitude of assessments available out there and the industry is totally unregulated.

Any company providing a personality assessment needs to address the number of scales they are using. A primary scale represents a personality trait. The more scales, the clearer the picture of the individual’s personality. We recommend having a minimum of a dozen scales.

“This is a topic that’s been researched to death by the field of industrial and organizational psychology,” said Peter Cappelli, a management professor from Wharton University who Ellen Borowka and I quoted in our third book, Cracking the High-Performance Team Code. “It’s kind of mind boggling that they would undertake such huge investments and not pay attention to what we know about how to pick out the people who are going to be the best.”

The Origin of Assessments

To understand how to choose from the plethora of personality tests, it is helpful to understand the origins of these instruments.

As early as 2,200 BCE the Chinese used oral examinations to hire and retain civil servants. In 460 BCE the Greek physician Hippocrates developed the first know personality model. At the turn of the 20th century advancements in understanding personality were made by Sigmund Freud, Karl Jung and Wilhelm Wundt.

But for me the real founding father was Raymond Cattell, an Englishman turned Harvard professor.

Cattell was born in a small town in England in 1905 and raised in Devon, where he spent his time sailing and experimenting with science. He received a scholarship to the University of London, where he studied chemistry and physics as an undergraduate.

Fascinated by the cultural effects of World War I, Cattell and grew increasingly interested in psychology. He changed his major and graduated from the University of London with a PhD in psychology in 1929.

Cattell was offered a teaching position at Columbia University in 1937 and moved to the United States. Cattell later joined the faculty at Harvard University at the invitation of Gordon Allport.

During World War II Cattell devised psychological tests for the military. After the war he accepted a research professorship at the University of Illinois where they were developing the first electronic computer, the Illiac I, which would make it possible for the first time to do large-scale factor analyses of his personality testing theories.

Cattell used an IBM sorter and the brand-new Illiac computer to perform factor analysis on 4,500 personality-related words. The result was a test to measure intelligence and to assess personality traits known as the Sixteen Personality Factor questionnaire (16PF).

First published in 1949, the 16PF profiles individuals using 16 different personality traits.

Cattell’s research proved that while most people have surface personality traits that can be easily observed, we also have source traits that can be discovered only by the statistical processes of factor analysis.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Testing

In 1963 W.T. Norman verified Cattell’s work but felt that only five factors really shape personality: extraversion, independence, self-control, anxiety and tough-mindedness. Dubbed the “Big Five” approach, this has become the basis of many of the modern personality tests on the market today. There have been hundreds and hundreds of studies validating the approach.

The five decades of research findings has served as the framework for constructing a number of derivative personality inventories. This is a topic that’s been researched extensively by the field of industrial and organizational psychology. Some clear dictates of what to do and what not to do have emerged.

Here are some testing do’s and don’ts when it comes to shortcuts:

The Do’s:

• Do use in-depth work style and personality assessments
• Do look for red flags in the results concerning behavioral issues
• Do use testing to identify how team members are likely to interact
• Do use testing to ensure you have the right people in the right positions
• Do use a trained professional to review the testing results with you
• Do make sure the testing company has a copy of the candidate’s resume and job description
• Do make sure that the testing company provides a feedback session with each profile

The Don’ts:

• Don’t use a basic personality screening that takes 20 minutes or less
• Don’t skip a phone interview
• Don’t try to shorten multiple face-to-face interviews
• Don’t skip background and reference checks, and never skip financial background checks when appropriate for the position
• Don’t skip giving someone homework during the interviewing process
• Don’t use a testing company that states in there narrative “hire or don’t” hire” — there are many factors that go into the hiring process and that is a misuse of data.

Managing a Better Way

Better assessments mean better management results too. Personality tests not only help when hiring, they just might be a manager’s best tool to connect with employees.

You can manage the hard way or the easy way, the choice is up to you. The hard way is to be the “my way or the highway” type of boss. You know the kind, always forcing workers to do things in a way that isn’t natural for them. Wouldn’t it be better to use your understanding of personality traits to tap into the natural flow, so you can get the best out of your people? Of course, knowing your employees, understanding their concerns, and developing connected relationships with them should be the normal procedure for all managers.

What is the payoff to a manager for developing connected relationships with employees using personality assessments? Here are three good benefits. First, it enables the manager to better anticipate what roadblocks might occur with a worker, and what to try to reduce this resistance. Second, understanding where employees are coming from will help you plan out how much participation you need from them, and will give some clues as to how change should be communicated to them. Third, building connected relationships builds commitment and loyalty.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar, so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.