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Personality Tests in Recruitment

During the recruitment process it is important to get to know the candidate as well as possible and the interviews should be thorough enough to evaluate their technical and soft skills. It is becoming more and more popular to use pre-employment tests to check whether the candidate matches the position and corporate culture. There are many different types of pre-employment assessments, the 5 main ones are: aptitude, personality, emotional intelligence, risk, and skills tests. In this article we compare different personality tests and delve into their longevity and effectiveness. 

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Are personality tests novelty?

Work-related psychometrics really came to the fore in World War I, when the US Army used its “Alpha” test to identify soldiers prone to nervous breakdowns during bombardment and to identify leadership qualities among recruits. After that developments in personality assessment continued at a high rate. The need to gain a thorough understanding of human personality, which is highly complex, has prompted psychologists to approach the task of assessment through various ways. Differing theories of personality and varying conceptions of how personality is structured have led to rather different assumptions about what data are important in understanding personality. That is why nowadays there are so many available tests to choose from. In the US alone, there are about 2,500 personality tests on the market. According to surveys conducted by the American Management Association (AMA), 46% of employers use personality and/or psychological tests on applicants or current employees. We described 5 most popular assessment methods below: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, StrengthsFinder, DiSC, The Five-Factor Model & The SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire👇

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The MBTI assessment was created by Katharine Briggs and her daughter – Isabel Briggs Myers, in the United States in the early mid-20th century. Katherine was inspired to research personality type theory when she met Isabel’s future husband, who – according to Katherine – had a different way of seeing the world. The MBTI instrument was first published in 1962 and since then, around 50 million people have taken the test, making it by far the most popular personality assessment ever created.

The MBTI holds that people have preferred modes of perception (sensing or intuition), judgment (thinking or feeling), as well as attitudes about how they build energy (extroversion or introversion), and their orientation to the outer world (judging or perceiving). These preferences combine to form 16 personality types visible in the image below:


Research has found that as many as 50% of people get different results when they take the test for a second time after a five week gap, which ultimately undermines the credibility of the test. On the official website of the Myers-Briggs Foundation we can read: “It is not ethical to use the MBTI instrument for hiring or for deciding job assignments. However, knowledge of type theory may help people recognize why they may be satisfied or dissatisfied with their jobs, and knowledge of type almost always helps teams and co-workers communicate better.”


The StrengthsFinder test, developed by the Gallup organization (famous for its Gallup polls), first came into the public eye in 2001 and was created based on interviews with more than 1.7 million professionals, across a variety of fields. Based on the notion that every person has certain strengths, StrengthsFinder has broken them into 34 categories, or themes that were neatly described in the self-help book “Now, Discover Your Strengths” written by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton (the chairman of Gallup at that time). Each of the 34 strengths falls into one of four domains (areas): Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking.

Strengths School

Gallup’s data shows that people who have the opportunity to use their Strengths are 6 times likely to be engaged in their jobs and to strongly agree that they have the chance to do what they do best every day. Moreover, StrengthsFinder 2.0 test is taken by 1.6 million employees every year in more than 400 of the Fortune 500 companies. For example, Facebook is one of the organizations that leverages the StrengthsFinder assessment after hiring an employee.

It’s important to keep in mind that the StrengthsFinder tool has not been validated as a predictive measure of success in a given role. It has amazing potential when it comes to starting conversations about strengths and helping people to achieve excellence in their roles – once a fair and objective assessment system has been used to put them there in the first place.


The DISC Model of Behavior was introduced in 1928 by William Moulton Marston, a physiological psychologist, in his book “Emotions of Normal People”. He classified four categories of human behavior which we now know as the DISC Personality Types:

  • Dominance (D-Style) – People with D personalities tend to be confident and place an emphasis on accomplishing bottom-line results.
  • Inducement (Influence or i-Style) – People with i personalities tend to be more open and place an emphasis on relationships and influencing or persuading others.
  • Submission (Steadiness or S-Style) – People with S personalities tend to be dependable and place the emphasis on cooperation and sincerity.
  • Compliance (Conscientious C-Style) – People with C personalities tend to place the emphasis on quality, accuracy, expertise, and competency.


Marston saw DISC personality styles as being both internal and innate, but impacted largely by our external environment. However, he never actually developed a DiSC assessment to measure these four types. In the 1940’s, Industrial Psychologist Walter Clark took Marston’s theory and developed the first DiSC Assessment (look for the trademarked lowercase in DiSC tests to be sure you’re looking at the researched and validated assessment tool).

The DiSC assessment has been used by over 7 million people around the world and its popularity is based on its combination of accuracy and simplicity. Although DiSC profiles are often used as part of the hiring and onboarding process, they’re not recommended for pre-employment screening. DiSC does not measure specific skills, aptitudes, or other factors critical for a position; it describes one’s natural work behavior patterns or styles to help improve productivity, teamwork, and communication. 

The Five-Factor Model

Also known as “Big Five”, The Five-Factor Model is a set of personality traits backed by extensive data-driven research. Since its development in the early 1990s, the model has been used widely by business professionals.

The Big 5 Personality Traits are easily remembered by the acronym OCEAN. The letters represent:

  • Openness: The extent that someone is curious, imaginative, flexible, and interested in trying new things.
  • Conscientiousness: The extent that someone is organized, works hard, stays on task, and perseveres to finish the job.
  • Extraversion: The extent that someone is outgoing, assertive, friendly, and active.
  • Agreeableness: The extent that someone is cooperative, trusting, polite, and compassionate.
  • Neuroticism: The extent that someone worries, and is irritable, or easily stressed. 

Psychologist World

While personality can continue to develop over your lifetime, a 2011 study suggests that the Big Five personality traits are, in general, mostly stable over a four-year period. Any changes that do happen are usually small and gradual. Moreover, a 2006 review of cross-cultural studies looking at the Big Five personality traits suggests that these traits tend to be found worldwide, making the model universal.

The SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire

The Saville and Holdsworth Limited (SHL) Occupational Personality Questionnaire was launched in 1984 and has been evolving ever since. This trait-based personality measure assesses an individual’s personality preferences in the workplace. The results are interpreted in line with a role’s key behavioural expectations to see how well someone is potentially suited to a job. It also provides companies with an indication of how certain behaviors impact a prospect’s work performance. Candidates are evaluated in three areas: “Relationship with People,” “Thinking Style and Feelings”, and “Emotions.” They are given four statements and must select which statement best describes them, and which statement least describes them. 

When taking this test, it is necessary to note that it measures one’s style and not one’s ability. Therefore, there is no right or wrong answer when completing the questionnaire. The Occupational Personality Questionnaire has a ‘shelf life’ of 12-18 months. This means that after this period, it is recommended to retake it to account for any life and or career changes. 

You can check a few examples of how the SHL Questionnaire can look like here.

How to use personality tests in recruitment?

Personality tests can be a great complement to your recruitment practice, as they enable a deeper understanding of the candidate. However, they should always be rounded out with reference data and interview screening that includes behavioral-style questions for a balanced picture of the candidate. Ensure the people interpreting the results are appropriately trained, select valid and reliable tests that are fit for purpose and make sure to verify their credibility as well, as there are thousands of available resources out there.