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What's in a Personality?

Optimize Blog - January 11, 2016 - 0 comments

Have you ever discussed whether you were introverted or extroverted? Undergone a personality test on a training course? Wondered what lurks in the shadow side of your character? Been tested for ‘fit’ when applying for a job? Then you have Carl Jung to thank.
Carl Gustav Jung died 54 years ago and alongside Freud (who incidentally Jung met in 1907 and where their first conversation is reputed to have lasted 13 hours), he is arguably one of the people of the 20th century who most shaped the way we think about who we are.
He devised a series of personality types. He coined the term introvert for someone who needs quality time on their own and extrovert for the person who never feels better than when in a crowd. Personality tests, such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI), draw directly from them.
Modern neuroscience has done much to back up Jung’s understanding of the unconscious too. It confirms that emotional intelligence as well as reason is vital when making decisions.
Some people claim personality has everything to do with job performance. Others know every piece of serious research shows personality scores have almost nothing to do with job skills.
Personality scores and knowledge, skills and ability (KSA’s) are totally different things. Personality scores and personal skills are two different things. In fact, reliable research shows there is almost no relationship between scores on a personality test and KSAs (e.g., teamwork, conflict resolution, intelligence, learning ability, analyzing, planning skills, and so forth).
Of course personality tests can be easy to administer, require almost no time to conduct, are relatively inexpensive, and possess the alluring appeal of revealing your candidate’s nature which you may not ever know without spending two months working alongside them.
So, while personality tests are a great tool for understanding people and improving leadership capability through understanding diversity, they are far less effective at predicting how well someone will perform at their job.
In fact, personality tests, on average, are just slightly more valid (accurate) in predicting job performance than properly conducted reference checks and recommendation letters.
If personality is not a good hiring predictor, what is? We suggest tests, exercises and simulations where the applicant has to demonstrate (not tell you about) job skills.  Cognitive ability tests (intelligence tests) tend to be the most predictive, but come with some legal risks. By far, the next most effective tool for predicting job performance is the structured interview. Structured interviews ask the same questions every time, and are based on the behavioral components of the job.
Personality tests, in even the best cases, are better left in training workshops where they can help people understand differences – why they perhaps view the world from a different perspective than the person next to them. Using them to make hiring decisions will always lead to turning away skilled candidates and potentially hiring unskilled ones……

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