What are Personality Tests ?

Personality assessments or personality tests are techniques to consistently and accurately measure the personality of individuals (or groups of individuals). Personality consists of traits or qualities that give an individual a distinctive character.

Research has shown that a match between an individual’s personality and the job requirements significantly impacts performance. Whether in career planning or recruitment, personality assessment is thus an important tool to guide or to identify the most suitable candidates.

Broadly speaking, these assessments use projective techniques or self reported measures for systematically and scientifically assessing the personality. Projective techniques use unstructured tests where individuals respond to ambiguous stimuli. The responses could be to visual images or incomplete sentences and words and these help us in understanding the personality traits of individuals.

Rorschach or the ink blot test is a very old and popular projective technique. In modern times, several simulation games etc. are being used for functions like hiring in the industry. However, these tests tend to raise doubts on their reliability and validity as they’re highly subjective.

Reliability (or consistency) and Validity (measuring what an assessment is supposed to measure) are important measures in psychometrics, the science of measurement in behavioral assessments. The self reported personality assessments are typically questionnaires (also called scales) requiring response by individuals on a likert scale. These assessments have been shown to have higher validity and reliability and are thus considered as the gold standard for personality assessments.

The self reported personality assessments can be categorized as ipsative or normative tests. Ipsative tests report the relative intensity of the individual toward different preferences, while normative tests measure quantifiable personality characteristics on each personality dimension independently.

Typically, results of Ipsative tests categorize individuals in types or categories with typical characteristics. Two popular examples of Ipsative tests are MBTI or the Myer Briggs Test and the popular DiSC assessment. In the MBTI test, a series of questions will be asked to place an individual on the scale of Intuition vs Sensing, Extroversion vs Introversion, Thinking vs Feeling and judging vs perceiving. Based on the responses an individual is characterized into one of 16 different personality types. Similarly the DiSC assessment profiles individuals as per different personality traits like Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. The advantage of these personality tests are that these are easy to relate to by the user and creates self aewareness and helps in development. However they have limited use in comparing profiles based on standardized scores or for applications in selection etc. One can use the DiSC and MBTI available in the career toolbox for free.

Normative tests, unlike the ipsative assessments, measure quantifiable personality characteristics on each dimension. Examples of normative tests include the Big 5, Hogan’s assessment etc. The Big 5 measures five broad traits Openness to Experience Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. International studies have shown the Big-Five model to be most effective model to predict job performance and universal characteristics. The work styles are defined by the O*NET program and is the latest in personality research as it identifies the important work related personality traits. Tucareers in its research has developed the work style scale for personality assessment and we use the same in our career assessments

In the next post we look at the workstyle assessment  in more detail.