Job hunters put to the personality test
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Ms. Shockley contends that the tests have helped cut turnover in half over the years. And applicants don't seem to mind taking them. "I think people have come to expect a lot of things these days," she says.Skip to next paragraph
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Brian Connelly, vice president of MCI Worldcom's wireless division, introduced personality testing to his sales managers recently.
"If you get the right person in the right job you can increase service and sales," Mr. Connelly says. "With the personality profile, you're able to match a person's traits to the job and have a lot more success."
Currently only about half of his managers use the tests. "I have certain managers who live by it, and they have less turnover and higher productivity," he says.
Still critics have numerous concerns with such tests. For one, thousands of tests exist - not all of which have been thoroughly tested themselves. And some warn that they may be discriminatory.
"It's fair to say that there are absolutely good tests as well as some very bad tests," says William Harris, executive director of the Association of Test Publishers in Washington.
Critics also argue that some companies place too much weight on the results of such tests in selecting candidates.
Robert Staub, a business-management consultant in Greensboro, N.C., says a big problem is that these tests are often administered or interpreted by amateurs. "I think that happens more than 50 percent of the time," he says.
Others question how thoroughly a test can comprehensively evaluate a person's working style and traits.
"The risk is that they don't capture the person," says Mr. Challenger. "They categorize him or her too simply through a series of questions on a grid."
Adds Mr. Staub: "Personality profiling is not an exact science. It still is subjectively driven."
Even testing companies admit nothing is 100 percent sure.
"Do we sometimes not recommend someone who turns out out to be very good? Absolutely. Do we recommend someone who we say will walk on water who fails? Absolutely," says Herb Greenberg, founder of Caliper, a testing company based in Princeton, N.J. "The test alone doesn't do it. Talent does count. The test helps say what is this person going to do with that talent."
What your answers may mean...
Most companies outsource the task of interpreting answers from personality
tests to testing companies who have a psychologist on board. Other companies
use computer programs developed by testing companies.
Tests are often long - they can run into hundreds of questions. They are
designed to elicit patterns of thinking, versus "correct" or "incorrect"
The top two questions at left, from an honesty test developed by The Plotkin
Group, are designed to identify applicants who might be prone to steal,
misuse sick days, break company policies, or give unauthorized discounts.
The bottom two questions were created by Caliper. For those who said option
"A" in each question best described them and letter "C" least described
them, for example, the results could conclude that the person is not a good
leader because he or she is indirectly admitting to being "emotionally
unstable" or nervous under pressure.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society