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Recently on Slashdot, a question was asked about personality testing in the hiring process. This is interesting to me because Evelyn has previously mentioned being interested in using personality test information in the hiring process. The shocking thing to me was how many respondents seemed to think that this was something they could or should “pass”, including responses about how to play the system.

The original poster made it clear that they were not happy about being asked to take a personality test in relation to getting this job, and the only reason they were even considering it was that they hadn't had many interviews lately. My first response, echoed by another respondent, was “what do you think happens at the Interview?”

I was kind of surprised at the number of respondents that looked at the personality test as an challenge they should try to beat, or a test with a pass/fail result. Yes, the results of these tests can easily be skewed, some more easily than others… What makes you think you know what response the employer is looking for? It's not like they're going to ask if you eat babies…

Take, for example, introverted versus extroverted. A developer job may call for people fairly strongly towards either end of that spectrum, depending on the specifics of that job. If the job is working on a team of several other introverts, it may be that you want a strong introvert. If the job includes client liaison tasks as well as development, you may want someone more in the middle. Or if you need someone who can do double-duty with the sales team on technical sales work, you may want more of an extrovert.

Even if you knew what they were really looking for, as far as personality, why would you want to try to fake out the personality test? Most “thinking introverts” would absolutely hate a “feeling extrovert” job. It's not a coincidence that most introverts hate talking on the phone… I, for example, feel pretty well exhausted after talking on the phone for 30 to 60 minutes. Other people feel energized by it.

This is something that you'd probably want to be very careful to explain, as an employer, if using a personality test for part of the interview process.

The whole goal is to find the right fit on both sides. The hirer wants to find someone who will be happy and excel at the job and hiree wants to find a job they will be happy and excel at. Finding the right match is a win for everyone, in the long run.

The thing I most learned from this discussion is to make the process more transparent. Don't just throw a personality test at someone. Make it clear that you're in it for the long-term and are working hard to try to find a good match for the particular job and environment.

In these days of so much personal information being cross-correlated by huge databases, privacy is not surprisingly a concern for many people. I absolutely understand where this person was coming from, but I also see where the hiring company would like to use tools to help them get a good match.

Is a personality test a good tool for doing this? I don't honestly know. In some cases I'm sure it could even be a very bad tool, depending on how it's used. Having a job that I love makes me wish it were easier to get people matched up with the jobs that are right for them. That would be a very good thing.

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