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When the concept of the written interview was first invented more than 100 years ago by Thomas Edison, it was little more than a basic inventory of an applicant's skills. In the century since, the process has grown to cover every facet of a potential hire's identity, from their learned skills and natural talents to hobbies and volunteer experience.
Today, one of the most common—and influential—parts of interviews is a personality assessment rooted in psychological research and methods. These assessments are so popular, in fact, that more than 80% of Fortune 500 companies use them before and after hiring.
While it's relatively obvious why an employer would want to get to know the personality of someone they might hire, many of these tests go far beyond the insights you might gather from a simple meet-and-greet. Some of the most comprehensive, for example, contain hundreds of questions for an applicant to answer, each designed to map out their exact personality type and disposition.
For most people, personality tests can be a fascinating and enlightening experience. For some, however, this kind of in-depth process can feel invasive or uncomfortable. Still, it's an increasingly mandatory part of interviewing, so it's best to prepare for a personality test if it can't be avoided.
In this article, we'll help you do just that by explaining the personality tests most commonly used by employers, the role they play in hiring, promoting, and assigning job duties, and how to handle them with grace when the time comes.
How Employers Use Personality Tests
As they've grown in popularity and become more refined, personality tests have begun taking a more pronounced role in the professional world. It's important to note, however, that many employers do not share the full results of your personality test with you. Generally, you can expect to find them in three situations, which are:
The Hiring Process
Most professionals first encounter a personality test for career growth when they begin interviewing with a new company or interacting with a recruiting firm. In these cases, employers use a personality assessment to gauge not only whether job candidates are fit for a role but also for the company culture as a whole. More specifically, they may be looking for certain personality traits to round out a department or team.
Assigning Job Duties
While your job description gives a basic rundown of what to expect from a role, it's inevitable that job duties and tasks will evolve as a company grows. When these changes happen, a manager may use the previous results of your personality test to assign new job duties to different members of your team or may even ask for a new personality test for updated results.
Additionally, opportunities like internal company committees or one-time projects are often staffed using personality tests as a guide.
For the vast majority of workers, promotions can be difficult to come by. So difficult, in fact, that overall promotions dropped 40% in 2020 and have struggled to recover ever since. Even worse, hard work is no longer the end-all-be-all deciding factor for promotions, and things like personality traits are increasingly used to decide who gets the nod and who doesn't.
Why You Should Take a Personality Test in Advance
Most career tests include questions designed to assess who you are, making it easier than ever to find a trustworthy personality test online. And for many people, finding the time to take one of these tests on your own terms can have enormous benefits, such as:
Planning Your Career Path
For those just stepping into the professional world or considering a career change, a personality test can often help you crystallize your values and define your goals. Instead of basing your trajectory simply on things like income or what you think you should do, high-quality personality assessments let you identify the ideal career based on your personality type and interests.
Even if you don't plan on swapping careers any time soon, a career test can also outline future possibilities like promotions or further education.
Refining Your Job Search
A good career test will give you basic insights into the fields or professions you might enjoy. The best career test, however, will provide specific roles, tasks, or companies tailored to your test results. That way, you can gauge ahead of time whether an interview is worth the investment--or whether you'd be better served looking somewhere else.
Preparing for Interviews
Just like you would prepare yourself for questions about your skills, work history, or goals, it's wise to prepare yourself for any personal questions that may be asked during an interview process. By taking a career-focused personality test on your own time, you give yourself the language and perspective you need to better answer questions about who you are and how you function best in a role.
If you're a nervous test-taker, going through a comprehensive assessment in private can make you more comfortable when asked to take a personality test for an interview or promotion.
4 Types of Personality Tests
Below, we'll outline four of the personality tests most commonly used by recruiters today. Although there are a dozen or more that you might encounter, many amount to slight variations of these four, so familiarizing yourself with our list will give you a good idea of what to expect, regardless.
Usually, companies choose a test based on the field in which they operate, the preferences of their CEO or hiring department, or based on the suggestions of an outside recruitment agency. If you have a specific company in mind, consider checking to see whether they detail their interview process and whether they use a certain personality test. If they don't, independent reviews may help give insights.
First devised in 1928 by psychologist William Marston, the DISC is technically one of the oldest personality tests still in use today. That said, the first version of this test was almost entirely a theoretical exercise and was never intended to be used in a professional setting. It wasn't until the 1940s that other psychologists began to build upon Marston's work and refine the DISC into a powerful tool for career guidance.
In the 21st century, the DISC continues to improve, and businesses have sprung up to modernize the test and package it in a sleek, modern wrapper designed to appeal to the hiring departments of large corporations.
How the test works, however, is quite similar to Marston's original vision: instead of gauging how a person feels or thinks, it instead details how they behave. Because of this focus on observable behavior rather than more subjective metrics, the DISC is seen as a more objective approach to personality testing. Once a person's behaviors have been assessed, the DISC evaluates them according to four areas, which are:
The first letter in the DISC refers to dominance. Individuals who score high in dominance tend to be outgoing, ambitious self-starters, though they may show impatience in the face of delays or setbacks. Typically, they work best in positions with clear, achievable goals and the freedom to operate how they see fit.
Also, direct recognition or reward for job performance is often necessary to keep these types of people satisfied in their roles, and healthy competition will often drive better results.
The second letter in the DISC refers to influence, and those with strong influence scores are usually outgoing, gregarious, and energized by interacting with others. A potential weakness of influencer-type personalities is their tendency to rely on others in times of challenge or crisis.
While this is an excellent trait when surrounded by reliable, competent people, it can lead to mistakes and confusion when working with an untrained or unprepared team. For that reason, influencers excel most within a team of capable professionals.
The third letter in the DISC refers to steadiness, and people with an affinity for this category can be introverted, dependable, and naturally conflict-averse. While it would be easy to read this as the opposite of influencer types, the two are similar in their love of human interaction. The difference, however, is that while influencers add energy and motivation to a group, steadiness-type people work as the anchor.
This quality makes them an indispensable asset for most teams, especially in times of high stress or demand.
The fourth letter in the DISC refers to compliance, which indicates that a person is comfortable with authority, enjoys clearly defined rules and job duties, and excels in detail-oriented tasks. Usually, highly compliant people receive feedback exceptionally well—so long as it's reasonable and grounded in fact.
In terms of team building, applicants who score highly on the compliance section of the DISC may be useful in creating standard operating procedures (SOPs), doing the final checks on projects to ensure accuracy, and keeping detailed records or minutes.
2. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
If you've ever taken a personality test or free career test online, there's a good chance you've encountered the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. First developed by Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel in the mid-20th century, the MBTI was an attempt to translate the research of renowned psychologist Carl Jung into a more approachable, non-threatening format. Today, this personality test remains one of the most widely used, with an estimated 2 million people taking it each year.
Admirably, the MBTI was intended to help post-World War II companies and professionals better transition back into a more normal economy by matching applicants with a certain job based on easily understood personality types. Unfortunately, many experts and psychologists have since called into question the test's accuracy and scientific backing, with some outright denouncing it as flawed or misleading. For these reasons, many companies have begun moving away from the MBTI in favor of more formal, respected tests.
3. Caliper Profile
The Caliper Profile is one of the more modern personality tests on this list and is valued by employers due to its clear, number-based assessment of an applicant's competencies. For the bulk of the test, individuals are asked a series of questions and must respond how strongly they agree or disagree. Then, the test uses these answers to assign a score between 1 and 100 as to how well that individual would perform in a certain job role or task.
It's important to note that the Caliper Profile was specifically designed as a tool for recruitment agencies and HR departments, and it tailors its services to benefit the company more than the individual. While it may nonetheless promote job success and satisfaction for employees, this is not the test's primary goal.
4. SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire
Compared to tests such as the Caliper Profile, the SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire focuses more on an applicant's overall personality and how it might apply to more general roles and company cultures. To achieve this, the test uses 104 questions answered over the course of about twenty minutes, with most questions asking how strongly you identify with a given statement.
After the test has been completed, the results are then used to match each applicant with one of several pre-determined personality profiles. These profiles include a person's aptitudes, any areas in need of development, their strongest personality traits, and how they might fit into different teams or work environments.
How JobTest.org Can Help You Excel
While we hope that learning a bit more about professional personality tests will help you feel comfortable taking them, we know that it can still be daunting. With so much riding on your answers, it's all too easy to get nervous or "underperform." And, because we understand how frustrating some tests can be, we built JobTest.org as a way to give users a compassionate, approachable option for finding answers from the comfort of their own homes.
Although our process includes many of the same personality test features you might encounter during an interview, we construct our results in such a way that there are no wrong answers. Instead, we simply give you the most insight possible into who you are, how you can find the most satisfaction and success in your career, and how to communicate your strengths to current or future employers.
If you want to familiarize yourself with some of the most popular tests among employers today, consider trying our career test for adults and exploring your results. With all of the accuracy and none of the stress, we can set you on the path toward even greater success.