Taking a Personality Test: What to Know Beforehand

If you want to work at a major tech company, your ability to land your dream job could hinge on how you score on a personality test.

The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that 18 percent of companies use psychometric testing in the hiring process. Moreover, it’s estimated that the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), has been used at approximately 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies and 89 percent of Fortune 100 companies.

However, the increased use of personality tests has raised questions about their objectivity, legality and job relevance—as well as the confidentiality of the results. Here are the questions you should ask before you agree to take one of these tests, as well as some strategies for improving your results.

Which Personality Test Will You Take?

No matter how much job-hunting experience you have, it’s best not to walk into any personality test unprepared. Ask what type of test you’ll be taking ahead of time (and how much test-taking time is allotted).

Then research the format, the role and the company’s culture to make sure you are showcasing highly desirable personality traits and characteristics throughout the hiring process.

“The manager or recruiter will be looking to see if your test scores and answers to interview questions align,” explained Dr. Richard Justenhoven, product director at Aon Assessment Solutions. “You may be eliminated if it seems like you’re trying to improve your score by taking a long time to answer the questions, or if your test results don’t jive with the facts you stated in the interview.”

For instance, objective tests or inventories, where people respond to statements as “true” or “false,” or rate the accuracy of a statement on a scale, remain the most common type of test used to assess a candidate’s personality traits and working style, Justenhoven noted.

The personality test is designed to reveal things such as how you deal with stress or whether your claims of being hard-working and meticulous (or a team player) are actually true. This is accomplished by measuring traits such as openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion and neuroticism. Zoning in on qualities that make you an obvious fit will help you present yourself in the best light.

Be on your toes at all times, because the manager or recruiter will also look to see how well you follow instructions and how you interact with others during the personality test and associated process, warned Dr. Ben Dattner, industrial and organizational psychologist and president of Dattner consulting.

If you are asked to participate in a video interview that utilizes A.I. to analyze you, prepare and act as you would for an in-person interview. If you asked to take a game-based assessment or simulation exercise, again, ask questions about the format and length as well as the skills and traits that will be measured.

Then, take practice tests beforehand to familiarize yourself with how the test works and to make sure you emphasize desirable traits and behaviors.

Can You View the Results? How is the Test Scored?

Always ask how your personality test scores will be used in the decision-making process and who will be allowed to see the results. How you’re treated during the hiring process is a reflection of the work environment, Justenhoven said. You should proceed with caution if an employer doesn’t treat you like an “equal partner.”

“The evaluator should be thoroughly familiar with the test and be able to tell you how to prepare and offer to share feedback,” he added.

Sometimes an employer is looking for very specific traits; other times, they are just trying to get some additional context or data for their decision. The best companies have formalized selection procedures and only use validated personality tests that do not intentionally discriminate, are job-related, and have shown to make a difference in the selection of employees.

Understanding the factors that play a part in the decision-making process can also help you determine the importance of personality and soft skills in on-the-job success.

What Will Happen to the Results?

Always ask whether your personality test data will be destroyed or deleted before you take any type of pre-employment test. While employers are free to administer personality tests to applicants (or current employees, for that matter), they aren’t allowed to violate an employee’s right to privacy.

“Regardless of how things turn out, you have every right to request confidentiality of your test scores,” Dattner added.

10 Responses to “Taking a Personality Test: What to Know Beforehand”

  1. Kimberly Haase-stokes

    I’m a great candidate for this position I have some experience in clerical, if I’m trained for this job usu6i catch on very quickly… I’m reliable and a dependable person.. Working is something I love to do and especially if I like what I do!!

  2. Just say ‘NO’ to employment tests. And say ‘NO’ to being sent to a Pierson Test Center for a basic math test.
    If they (the proposed employer) can’t believe what is on your resume, and completely ignores your university transcripts, and doesn’t contact your former employers (when you have some), and doesn’t contact your references, then why would you want to work for them? Standardized tests are used to find some obscure reason to NOT hire someone.

    • I couldn’t agree more, I think it is poor practice for an employer to make such requests.
      Why have a resume, transcript and references.
      Employers have been relying on Head Hunters to do the job for them and do not know how to hire people anymore.
      Last week I received an email from Honeywell to preinterview with an AI application, I deleted it and over the weekend they kept sending reminders 4 in all.
      I think they are creating the type of people they want to avoid!!

  3. Nick Lloyd

    I think these tests are designed to promote homogeneity within the workplace. A type of digital genocide for people that have the audacity to be original or think outside the norm. I would imagine that if you pass a personality test and get hired, be prepared to meet a bunch of agreeable clones that never have an original thought or go against the grain in any way. booooring.

  4. How do you think Steve Jobs would have done on such a test?

    These tests are a sign of a weak organization or people that need to hide behind something. They want to be able to blame the testing company if you turn out to be not-so-great. Even the testing companies don’t really believe in themselves – to prove this, just ask them if they guarantee their results and are willing to be held legally liable.

  5. I remember taking one of those going into the military. Even the induction center tech said they served no purpose other than to categorize superficial personality traits. The best job I ever landed was after telling the HR person I wasn’t interested in working for a company that put ANY value in this test. When she asked why I said “Are you hiring me or my test scores?” I was given a VERY good offer on the spot and worked for them for 11 years. They were looking to hire individuals with well tuned BS detectors. They wanted sheep dogs not sheep.

  6. Currently in forced retirement… When I was actively searching for a new role, I ended up taking a few of those tests. The difference I found, compared to the article, is the test was either part of the application process or was sent on submission of an application. Not once did I have an opportunity to speak with a recruiter or hiring authority.

    For the ones that I decided to not complete; zero feedback and most likely takes you out of consideration for the job.

  7. John L. Ries

    Just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you’re not a team player. Matter of fact, one can be both a maverick and a team player. And “team player” is not synonymous with either “conformist” or “yes man”. A team player is someone who cooperates with the group to further its goals, even if one has individualistic tendencies to offer or work around.

  8. Louis Vespaziani

    I read all of the replies which were posted. Personality tests are a huge waste of time and effort. A professional resume and references are more than enough to qualify a candidates eligibility and level of expertise.. I am President & CEO of Boyd Kidder., a professional IT staffing organization. These types of tests can not predict and validate future success in a job within an organization. A psychology professor at the university I attended had made this statement. I also seriously question their objectivity, legality, and job relevance.Unproductive and a huge waste of time..
    Lou Vespaziani