By Myriam Plamondon, MSc, MA, GC, Organizational Psychology Consultant
Seven reasons for assessing personality before hiring
A multitude of steps are necessary before you can hire that mythical perfect fit. When time, money and resources are limited, it is sometimes tempting to take some shortcuts and make do with an assessment of the candidate’s technical background, skills and experience. The danger is that when you focus on only some of the essentials, you may be missing the essential.
An individual’s personality has a lot to tell us. It can predict some important behavioural information which, if neglected, may have a negative impact on the achievement of your organization’s business goals.
Personality as a key factor in recruitment
The personality of an individual includes tendencies and inclinations that lead them to behave or act in a certain way in most of the situations they encounter. Personality is what distinguishes us from other people, and makes us unique. Once an individual has reached adulthood, their personality usually remains stable over time and manifests itself in a fairly consistent way in different situations.
There are numerous personality models, but one of them attracts more attention from researchers and psychologists because of its relevance and its universality. This is the five-factor model.[i] Its authors view personality in terms of the following five factors: emotional stability (vs. neuroticism), extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness to change.
Everyone is to varying degrees emotionally stable, extroverted, agreeable, conscientious and open to change. When you are recruiting, assessment of personality is crucial in validating the extent to which a candidate fits a given vacancy, team or organization.
1. Reducing turnover and training costs
Whenever someone leaves your organization, the result is a loss of productivity and additional hiring and training costs. While turnover is dependent in part on your company’s management practices and the sector it operates in, there are a number of personality traits that can cause a person to leave a job prematurely.
Numerous studies have shown that employees who are emotionally less stable are more likely to say that they plan to leave the organization in the short term. Furthermore, people who are less conscientious and less agreeable tend to leave an organization sooner and more often than others.[i] A strategic approach to choosing your future employees can thus help to reduce turnover and the associated costs.
2. Reducing absenteeism
Absenteeism is another major cause of increased costs and lower productivity for organizations. People who are emotionally unstable, introverted and less agreeable tend to be away more often for short periods. Long-term absence is also more common among those who are emotionally unstable, introverted and less intellectually open.[ii]
It is also recognized that conscientious people are generally less likely to be absent for short or long periods. Such individuals tend to follow the rules and comply with social conventions; they are therefore more likely to consult a doctor to prevent illness and to adopt practices that promote good health. As a result, they are sick less often. There is a need to exercise judgment, however, because many other factors that have nothing to do with personality may explain an inclination toward absenteeism.
3. Reducing workplace accidents
According to the International Labour Organization, a worldwide total of about 317 million work accidents occur yearly. The costs for organizations, and the human impact, are substantial. But did you know that certain personality traits are associated with the adoption of safe work habits? Years of research have shown that the risk of being involved in a workplace accident increases with specific employee tendencies, such as impulsiveness, risk-taking, poor stress management and a negative attitude towards compliance with rules and procedures.
Such tendencies can be assessed using personality inventories. For example, the one used by our business partner Hogan shows, among other things, that using the test before hiring truck drivers can reduce the number of highway accidents by 50%.
4. Improving performance
Some profiles are better suited than others to the requirements of a given job. For example, an extroverted personality can be a good fit for a job that requires a great deal of teamwork and cooperation. On the other hand, if a job requires little interaction with other people, there is a risk that such an employee will get bored and be unable to make use of his or her interpersonal skills. Will the employee be motivated to perform well in such a situation?
There is therefore no “magic” personality profile that makes it possible to predict on-the-job performance in all circumstances. The profile sought depends on the context of the assessment and on the issues inherent in the position to be filled. For example, people who are agreeable and attentive companions will shine when interpersonal issues are a factor, but might perform less well if they have to demonstrate firmness in resolving problems within a team.
5. Predicting positive behaviours and job satisfaction
Conscientious, extroverted and open-minded individuals are generally more likely to behave as good “corporate citizens”. They will be more proactive and helpful towards their colleagues, since they have the good of the organization at heart. Such behaviours have been associated with better organizational efficiency. Extroverted individuals who are emotionally stable report greater job satisfaction than other individuals.
6. Improving workplace atmosphere and team performance
Extroverted individuals who regularly seek the company of others will generally be perceived as good team players who can readily take their place within a working group. Emotional stability and conscientiousness are also predictors of how a person will behave within a team.
Assessing personality makes it possible to determine what types of individual the candidate will most readily interact with or work with as a team member, and the level of complementarity of a group of individuals. Some personality inventories can also validate a person’s ability to work with people who are very different from him or her and to demonstrate interpersonal flexibility.
7. Facilitating integration
Once a candidate is selected, a personality assessment can identify ways of facilitating the person’s integration into the position. For example, someone who is a little shy and introverted will likely need more help and support when joining a new team. It may be necessary to be more proactive and take the initiative of introducing their main collaborators so as to help break the ice. Similarly, someone who is more comfortable with stability than with change will likely need more time to develop a work routine, and require clear instructions before taking action.
Personality assessment: an investment that pays off
To sum up: personality assessment provides useful information which maximizes informed hiring decisions, on-the-job performance and the identification of employees’ development needs. It should therefore be regarded more as an investment than as a cost. When used strategically, it can lead to improvements in a number of organizational performance indicators, and assist in adapting management practices to the characteristics of the employee, thereby smoothing his or her integration into the position and enhancing motivation.
[i]. McCrae, R.R. & Costa, P.T. (1987), “Validation of the Five-Factor Model of Personality Across Instruments and Observers,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(1), 81.
[i]. Zimmerman, R. D. (2008), “Understanding the impact of personality traits on individuals' turnover decisions: A meta-analytic path model,” Personnel Psychology, 61: 309–348; doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.2008.00115.x
[ii]. Vlasveld, M. C., van der Feltz-Cornelis, C. M., Anema, J. R., van Mechelen, W., Beekman, A. T., van Marwijk, H. W., & Penninx, B. W. (2013), “The Associations Between Personality Characteristics and Absenteeism: A Cross-sectional Study in Workers With and Without Depressive and Anxiety Disorders,” Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 23(3), 309-317.