Personality profiling in recruitment: Explaining the results (2023)

Personality profiling in recruitment: Explaining the results (1)

Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen. Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and interior design. Serena Williams and tennis.

Some people seem to be in the perfect job that matches their personality to a T. But most of us move around a bit before we settle into the role and company that’s exactly right for us. That perfect recruitment match can be difficult to get right, for employers and employees.

Personality profiling can help the recruitment process by providing a greater depth of information than a cover letter, a CV and a 45-minute chat could ever uncover. This is the fourth in a series uncovering the role personality profiling in recruitment. We’ve looked at the history of psychometrics, the role of testing in finding and keeping the best talent, and how it can help align cultural fit. This time around, we chatted to Alan Redman, psychology lead from our personality testing partners, Criterion, to learn more about how recruiters and candidates can get the most out of the test results.

What the results can tell you about the candidates

The results of personality profiling can shine a spotlight onto a trait of a candidate that could have otherwise been hidden. Making decisions based on interviews alone can result in people who aren’t right joining the company. But profiling allows businesses to understand the core make up of their candidates, and, crucially, not just what they have achieved, and but how they approached it.

“When we advise people on how to pull together a recruitment process, we always encourage them to focus on three broad questions”, says Alan. “One is, ‘How will they do the job?’ which is the style and behavioural part of personality. We also ask, ‘Do they want the job?’ which covers motivation and cultural fit. That will tell you if they’re going to find the role motivating and emotionally engaging and like being there. Lastly, ask, ‘Can they do the job?’ The basic knowledge, capabilities and experience that you cover at an interview only uncover part of that answer. Great personality profiling can do the rest.

“Importantly, the tests help you understand whether a candidate has the essential mental firepower to deal with the role. “If you hire someone and they haven’t got that, then their style and their values don’t matter, they will simply be overwhelmed by the mental demands of the job”, Alan explains. “It will be too much for them and they will underperform. It’s not about employing rocket scientists every time, it’s about just making sure that there’s a good level of fit between the person and the role which, sometimes, academic qualifications will miss.”

“Profiling can tell you so much more than just a line on a CV.”

Profiling can tell you so much more than just a line on a CV. That may state that they have the qualification, but personality profiling can reveal how they got it, and what kind of worker they are.

“In the IT sector, for example, you’ll hear managers describe two developers who’ve got equal levels of qualification and certification – but one’s great and one isn’t”, Alan explains. “The preferred candidate may have some personality elements working in their favour, but their general skills may also be better, and quicker.

“With any kind of qualification or certification, obviously, intelligence is a factor, but other factors such as how much work you put in, how motivated you are, how practised you are at taking exams also count. Whether it’s degrees or technical qualifications, there are factors beyond your pure reasoning ability that can get you the result. Someone who’s clever but lazy may not get the certificate.” Personality profiling can uncover these deeper motivating factors that set one candidate aside from another. For employers, this is invaluable information if they want to build a team of self-motivated, hard-working employees that will help the business grow.

What the results can tell the candidates

Although personality testing may sound like a slightly daunting introduction to a company for candidates, it offers multiple benefits to them beyond the job in question. “On the face of it, no one really likes being tested, especially if that test might make it harder for you to get the right job, or to get the job you want”, says Alan.

“But if you position the use of any formal assessment properly with candidates they will see the benefits. Make sure it’s not excessive, that it’s appropriate for the level of role, and make sure it makes sense to the candidate. That way they can see how it relates to the job and that it’s not a meaningless exercise. If you can make the actual candidate journey painless and hopefully even engaging, then people will engage with it. They will take it seriously.

“If they think they’re getting something back, like feedback, they can see that their investment of time and energy is going to be rewarded – that tends to engage candidates even more.”

The insights that come from profiling aren’t there to put anyone in particular boxes. By understanding personalities, and their inherent motivations and challenges, personality profiling allows current and potential employees to consciously develop strengths and train their personalities like muscles.

Alan has a great analogy for this: “You know, most of us are right-handed. That doesn’t mean we can’t use our left hand but, when we do, it can feel difficult and not as effective. We can get better with our left hand and it’s the same with personality. If you’ve got certain foundational personality attributes and you find yourself having to use alternative approaches, they might be a bit clumsy at first if you haven’t practised. So if, for example, you are someone who’s not naturally extroverted, you can find yourself needing to become that in work situations. But the less you do it, the less natural, the harder and more energy sapping it’s going to be for you until you train that ‘hand’, as it were, to get better.

“So, really, what we’re interested in with personality assessment is understanding what your default, plumbed in way of doing things is. If that fits with the role, brilliant – we’ve called out a strength. But in those areas where it doesn’t fit so well with the role, to what extent can you manage that? Can you either adopt the alternative style or use some of your other strengths to overcome it? We never look to change people’s personalities, but most roles these days demand a degree of flexibility. You can’t just rely on one way of doing everything.”

How the results can benefit your hiring process

With personality profiling, it’s important to understand that there aren’t good or bad, or right or wrong scores. It’s always about relating those to the job that you’re recruiting for. “With higher volume recruitment you can build algorithms based on that fit. There are ‘Goldilocks ranges’ which is essentially that ‘just right’ fit. You don’t look for a single type of personality but you do get a degree of fit score between the individual and the role. You can use the results in different ways, whether it be for personal feedback, interviewing, analysis or onboarding. Any of the scores you get from a modern business-facing questionnaire will use benchmarks from the workplaces that are as close to the job as possible.”

“The tests aren’t here to reduce your amount of decision-making ability, they’re here to enhance it.”

Interviewers and hiring managers can initially be as daunted as candidates by the idea of using these tests. But it is possible to get them on board. “When they first experience the results of these sorts of tools, they start to understand the value that can be added to their decisions. The tests aren’t here to reduce your amount of decision-making ability, they’re here to enhance it”, Alan explains.

“Sometimes, researching the role itself can be a really valuable way of getting everyone to buy in. Talking to people who are doing the job now, talking to the line manager: getting people’s views of the role, from a day-to-day, operational level to a more strategic one. Just having those conversations where individuals are starting to develop insights into what’s important, what’s valuable in terms of personality, can engage staff in getting on board with profiling.

“Trialling the psychometrics on current workers can also demonstrate the value because, often, when you get psychometric results back from current employees plus their performance scores and you correlate the two, you can actually see it working, you can see how one is predicting the other. That’s a valuable source of reassurance for a new user.”

Tests can be both accurate and effective, eventually saving time down the recruitment line. “If you’re using psychometrics to make better shortlisting decisions and to conduct better interviews, you hire more effectively”, Alan confirms. “Success rates increase, you’re getting a higher calibre of people through to interview and the interviewers themselves aren’t missing the good ones or hiring the bad ones.

“Ultimately, you should be doing less recruitment when you do it properly.”

Many thanks to Alan for taking the time to chat to us, and for the great insights. If you’re interested in a free personality test, visit our page to find out more and get in touch on 01908 886 048.

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