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Personality tests are designed to systematically elicit information about a person's motivations, preferences, interests, emotional make-up, and style of interacting with people and situations. Personality measures can be in the form of interviews, in-basket exercises, observer ratings, or self-report inventories (i.e., questionnaires).
Personality self-report inventories typically ask applicants to rate their level of agreement with a series of statements designed to measure their standing on relatively stable personality traits. This information is used to generate a profile used to predict job performance or satisfaction with certain aspects of the work.
Personality is described using a combination of traits or dimensions. Therefore, it is ill-advised to use a measure that taps only one specific dimension (e.g., conscientiousness). Rather, job performance outcomes are usually best predicted by a combination of personality scales. For example, people high in integrity may follow the rules and be easy to supervise but they may not be good at providing customer service because they are not outgoing, patient, and friendly. The personality traits most frequently assessed in work situations include: (1) Extroversion, (2) Emotional Stability, (3) Agreeableness, (4) Conscientiousness, and (5) Openness to Experience. These five personality traits are often referred to collectively as the Big Five or the Five-Factor Model. While these are the most commonly measured traits, the specific factors most predictive of job performance will depend on the job in question. When selecting or developing a personality scale, it is useful to begin with inventories that tap the Big Five, but the results from a validity study may indicate some of these traits are more relevant than others in predicting job performance.
It is important to recognize some personality tests are designed to diagnose psychiatric conditions (e.g., paranoia, schizophrenia, compulsive disorders) rather than work-related personality traits. The Americans with Disabilities Act considers any test designed to reveal such psychiatric disorders as a "medical examination." Examples of such medical tests include the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and the Millon Clinical Multi-Axial Inventory (MCMI). Generally speaking, personality tests used to make employment decisions should be specifically designed for use with normal adult populations. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, personality tests meeting the definition of a medical examination may only be administered after an offer of employment has been made.
(See Section VI for a summary of each article)
Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1991). The Big Five personality dimensions and job performance: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 44, 1-26.
Hogan, R., Hogan, J., & Roberts, B. W. (1996). Personality measurement and employment decisions: Questions and answers. American Psychologist, 51, 469-477.
Hough, L. M., Eaton, N. K., Dunnette, M. D., Kamp, J. D., & McCloy, R. A. (1990). Criterion-related validities of personality constructs and the effect of response distortion on those validities. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75, 581-595.
Hough, L. M., & Oswald, F. L. (2000). Personnel selection: Looking toward the future - Remembering the past. Annual Review of Psychology, 51, 631-664.
Tett, R. P., Jackson, D. N, & Rothstein, M. (1991). Personality measures as predictors of job performance: A meta-analytic review. Personnel Psychology, 44, 703-742.
The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) website contains information on Personality Tests.
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