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Pre-Employment Personality Tests: Do They Help or Hinder Hiring?

Up to 80 percent of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions.  You’ve no doubt seen the toll this can take on a company. Statistically speaking, a poor hiring decision for an employee earning a $100,000 salary could cost an average of $250,000.  Hiring a cultural “misfit” is a common reason great candidates don’t last. What’s a company to do? Enter pre-employment personality and behavioral assessments, which can help identify surprising traits before the hire happens.  Here, we take a look at two of the top assessments— Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) and DiSC®—and compare them with other specialized assessments. What test is the right fit for helping you find the right fit?

MBTI and DiSC: Dissecting the Standards

MBTI is the oldest and perhaps most commonly used personality tests in business today. According to The Washington Post, more than 10,000 companies, 2,500 colleges and universities and 200 government agencies in the U.S. use it.  You likely already know your own MBTI profile and have used that information to manage business relationships. For instance, knowing that a coworker is a “feeler” can help you to be more sensitive to his or her needs. And knowing another coworker is an “introvert” may prompt you to back off in collaborative environments, knowing that inspiration is more likely to strike when that individual is alone.

The DiSC is another popular personality assessment claimed to be used by more than 40 million people worldwide. It differs from MBTI by profiling behaviors along with motivations and how that may change in stressful situations. Specifically, DiSC measures the characteristics of dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness.

Both of these tests are highly informative and highly useful in a business environment. They can be purchased and administered independently by a hiring manager, but interpreting results in a way that can be useful for the hiring process can be quite tricky.

“Using a specialist to help administer and interpret these tests is similar to using an accountant, attorney or architect. You could do the work yourself, but you may not get the best results,” explains Bob Lanza of Sales Team Solutions, LLC, who specializes in providing assessments for staffing companies like ours. “The biggest expense a company has is payroll. Therefore, many hiring managers have found that using an outside perspective allows them to get the greatest return on investment.”

Alternatives for Pre-Employment

There are dozens of personality and behavioral tests aside from MBTI and DiSC that can be used to screen candidates. Experts like Lanza often layer assessments or use custom assessments for a specific industry or job function.

“During my years in the industry, I found that a certain ‘value structure’ is key to success in the staffing field,” he says. “While skills and behaviors are important, there was a core set of values that are the best indicators of whether or not someone belongs in staffing.”

He finds that although DiSC measures behavior well, it isn’t adequate for testing skills and values. He now administers, interprets and coaches staffing firms using a custom assessment which measures a unique combination of skills, behaviors and values. (For more insights from Lanza, read our previous post here.)

Adam Boyd, partner at Market Sense, Inc. in Austin, TX, agrees certain personality and behavioral tests work best when hiring for specific roles. Boyd specializes in the sales and sales management field.

“I’ve seen research that shows 74 percent of people in a selling role are not a fit. They often lack some of the basic DNA for finding and closing business,” says Boyd. The result? “Companies hire salespeople who underperform, don’t ramp up in an appropriate time frame (which takes up precious management time), and who ultimately cost the company even more in turnover.”

Boyd’s advice is to use a set of tests for your specific needs. Like Lanza, he found shortcomings with tests like the DiSC.

“It’s important to know what an assessment measures. DiSC can tell you about someone’s preferences and their communication style, which is helpful. We’ve used it in training for years. However, it doesn’t tell me if the individual can sell and will sell,” he explains.

Boyd cautions that other assessments, like MBTI, are behavioral and focus on judging behavior in a social context, which can produce a highly inaccurate reading when assessing sales candidates.

“Unfortunately, many social introverts are thrown out of the running for sales jobs by personality and behavioral style assessments because they aren’t seen as outgoing enough,” he says. “However, we see that there’s not a lot of correlation between someone’s social style and their ability to sell successfully. I know many introverts who absolutely crush it in sales because they have the appropriate DNA and crucial elements for success.”

What’s Right for You?

Have you found an assessment or combination of assessments that match your needs? Or, have you found that different job functions require different pre-employment assessments? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Every industry is different, and every job function is unique. With employee retention being more challenging than ever, it’s a worthwhile challenge to overcome.


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