Personality Tests: Pros, Cons, and How to Choose

We all approach work and life with a mix of strengths and weaknesses. This can come in the form of aptitude and abilities, such as the ability to understand complex financial issues or the ability to persuade. Organizations need people of varied talents and abilities, and not everyone can do everything well. Great sales people often make lousy accountants, and vice versa.    

Personality is part of this. We all have personalities that are unique to who we are, and a personality strength often has a very direct corresponding weakness. For instance, a manager who is highly detailed and diligent may struggle with micromanagement. Inversely, a manager who is a great delegator may struggle to stay up to date on the progress of their subordinates’ work. The key to success is in self-awareness and the ability to leverage our strengths and appropriately compensate for our weaknesses. 

Personality testing has long been used in the business world to help gain personal insight. That insight, when accurate, can be a key in leveraging strengths and mitigating weaknesses. Also known as psychometrics, personality testing first gained popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, primarily with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This kind of test has gained and lost favor in the business community over time as questions arose regarding their overall validly.

These tests can be interesting to take and can feel very insightful, but do they actually measure how we fit in the greater interpersonal world? Do they offer adequate feedback that help a person improve in their interactions? Do they measure a person’s reputation, or just their perception of themselves? In reality, how we think of ourselves is often very different than the way others perceive us. 

Sigmund Freud once wrote “the you that you know is hardly worth knowing”, because what we think or know about ourselves is often a very poor indicator of who we really are. It is a good indicator of our likes, dislikes, and tendencies, but it is influenced by the story that we tell ourselves. Tests that measure our own perceptions offer a poor reflection of how we are seen by others. Many of the tests summarize the immensely complex world of personality into categories, colors, acronyms, etc., which invariably fall short of genuine insight into how a person actually interacts in the world and the reputation they have created by their behaviors, attitudes, and emotions.

The psychological community has recognized the shortcomings of many methods and some tests have addressed them. The best testing methodology goes beyond the compilation of data into a report and utilizes a trained interpreter to work with the subject being tested, going over the data, and co-creating the actual results as they talk through the data and what the subject learns through it. Relating the information from the test to an individual’s past experiences is a profound method of self-discovery. The information from the test can be further recalled and related to future experiences as well, causing the learning and benefit of the test to continue, perhaps for a lifetime.       

Psychometric testing has many applications in the business world including personal and leadership development and succession planning. When evaluating people for future roles and developing them to fit those roles, a deep understanding of one’s personality and how they are perceived by others is imperative. Psychometrics can help in understanding team dynamics and how to better function in a team environment. They can also be used to determine the collective culture of a team or an organization, which can be invaluable in the recruiting process. Understanding the individual culture of a candidate compared to the culture of the organization can avoid the inevitable turnover that occurs when an individual’s values, preferences, and tendencies do not match that of the organization.

Morrison has adopted and is certified to provide the Hogan Assessment. The Hogan Assessment has been scrutinized and verified by many third party studies over the last 30 years and has stood up well in the court system. We believe it is one of a small number of truly valid tests available, and in our opinion, is the best option for use in the business community.

About the Author

Shawn Miller is a principal at Morrison working primarily in our People Solutions practice. To get in touch with Shawn, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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