Why savvy MBA degree holders don't rely on personality tests for hiring

March 27, 2018

Can a quick personality quiz really tell you who's right for your company? Increasingly, professionals with an MBA degree say no. Here's a look at why.

A young man in business attire talking to someone

The idea of using personality tests for hiring is an appealing one. You get the applicant to fill out the page, you analyze the results, and you get an idea of who they are. A test might purport to offer you an idea of how they work, what kind of management style they respond to, or how they would fit in with your team.

At first look, any of these might sound compelling, which helps to explain why personality tests have become commonplace in the hiring process. That said, real flaws in these tests, and in the results they offer, mean that it can be misguided to rely on their results to form a significant basis of your hiring decisions.

Curious about why? Here are some important reasons that can keep savvy MBA holders from adopting this method.

Personality tests tell you nothing about productivity

Moneyball, which is available both as a book and a film, tells the story of what was essentially the beginning in American baseball of focusing on the objective results that players got. Before, it had been common instead to acquire players on the basis of intangible attributes like confidence, attitude, or technique. The teams that started signing players based primarily on the results they got on the field enjoyed incredible levels of success against more traditional teams.

This example is very much similar to what you might find by relying on personality test results. A personality test may tell you a fair amount about what their personality is like, but cannot tell you how productive they are. That's too important of a quality for a business to ignore.

With top MBA degree programs making data-driven analysis and decision-making central to their curricula, graduates should be equipped to do a fair analysis of any performance data they receive relating to applicant suitability. With this, they become more capable of making a strong decision regarding hiring.

Two graphs are being compared on a tablet computer
Basing hiring on productivity rather than personality traits may prove advantageous

Business school graduates likely know personality tests are unreliable

When employment is on the line, the temptation may exist for people to fudge their answers on personality tests, or outright lie, in order to better fit the profile that they expect a company might be looking for.

To an extent, this type of deception will likely be discoverable during the interview process. If someone fills out a personality test in a way that suggests they are highly technical thinkers, for instance, it might be rather obvious if that proved not to be the case. However, there is still a risk that the results could contribute to a suboptimal hiring decision.

Given all of this, and the fact that a good business school education will typically cover personnel selection anyway, it's likely much more expedient and productive to forego the personality testing and conduct a more typical interview. Asking good questions, considering any objective information you have, and relying on a gut reaction to the way a person presents themselves is likely to be more effective than relying on questionable information from a personality test.

Personality tests might not favour the right candidates

It takes a variety of personalities to create a strong business, but there's no guarantee that personality tests will help you select the right kind of personality for a given role or to suit a given organizational need.

Creative thinkers, individuals with leadership potential, and other kinds of experimenters or rule-breakers who can produce results may be at a disadvantage in some personality testing, deemed to be higher risks because of their reluctance to stick with the status quo. If the personality test is completed online and the results evaluated automatically by a computer, these kinds of valuable applicants could even get removed from contention before they're ever considered by a real person. For business leaders looking for the best, this is a problem.

A man is looking at his tablet computer during MBA class
Poorly run personality tests could eliminate creative workers from contention

While automation can be a great way to reduce unmanageable piles of applications, it's important that it offers a benefit, and doesn't lead to many lost opportunities for businesses. Training in a modern business program that teaches executives how to adopt good technological systems is an important part of achieving this balance. Find an applicant evaluation system that automatically narrows the field correctly, and avoid using personality testing that could exclude useful individuals, and you might find real benefit.

Do you want to learn to acquire the best employees for your business?

Learn the skills you need in WU Executive Academy's MBA in Entrepreneurship program!

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