A recent article posted on the Forbes website “critiqued” the use and subsequent popularity of occupational personality questionnaires for selection, assessment and development purposes. The author stated that personality tests were “total rubbish” and in her experience “any sort of personality test actually hampers peoples abilities” without providing any research to back up her claims.

This sort of scepticism of personality testing and personality research is surprisingly common among non-psychology HR professionals, typically those favouring traditional selection practices, for traditions sake. However the research strongly suggests a robust statistical relationship between personality questionnaire results and job performance, leadership and trainability, confirmed by hundreds of peer reviewed papers. This being the case, why do lay-critics still exist?

It is the opinion of the writer that many lay people to personality research consider personality to be a philosophical, ethereal construct, rather than a variable to be measured and quantified. Therefore regardless of the evidence, the personal definition of personality held by critics’ means that personality, by definition cannot be measured, making personality testing redundant. Another hypothesis is that many experienced professionals/managers simply don’t like being tested, and prefer methods of assessment which they are used to i.e. informal interviews. Regardless of the cause of their criticisms, many organisations continue to use outdated and in effective selection/assessment procedures due to ignoring the research, at the expense of their employing organisations.

It is worth noting however, that genuine criticisms of personality testing do exist, such as the potential for exaggeration, administration of the test/interpretation of results by unqualified staff and the role in which they play in final selection decisions. However these criticisms can be easily rebutted by utilising tests with internal measures of acquiescence/exaggeration, ensuring proper qualification of assessors and incorporating the results with other selection procedures rather than basing decisions solely on personality results.

I suspect that lay-critics of personality testing will continue to harbour bias irrespective of research. However those who are willing to make evidence based selection decisions are strongly encouraged to make use of this highly effective method of assessment as part of their selection, assessment and development programmes, particularly at more senior levels.