Personality tests have grown in popularity in recent years as many more employer are looking to hire long-term workers who will fit well within the company hierarchy. The tests are designed to find a certain type of employee who will be well-suited to the job and are often a first step in the hiring process.
A recent industry poll revealed that about 18 percent of human resources professionals use personality tests as a part of the hiring or promotion process. The tests were most often used for mid-level managers, but also utilized heavily for entry-level jobs and executive positions. Human resources professionals like the tests because they can be fairly accurate predictors of how someone will actually behave at work.
However, the tests are treated with skepticism by others who worry that the questions will discriminate against certain groups. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been receiving an increased number of complaints on this issue lately, 164 charges of discrimination as of September 30, 2012. Personality tests do have the potential to be discriminatory.
One woman’s case against a grocery store chain that used a personality test highlights the shortfalls of using these types of measurements. The woman applied for a job as a cashier, bagger, and stocker at a supermarket and took a personality test as a part of the application. The test was looking for cheerful, friendly people with good listening and communication skills. While these may sound like relatively straightforward criteria, they don’t affect all applicants in the same way. The woman in this case is hearing and speech impaired, and received a low score on the test and was ultimately denied a position.
In this case, the personality test ended up illegally discriminating against someone who was disabled.
Source: ABC News, “Woman Sues Over Personality Test Job Rejection,” Abby Ellin, Oct. 1, 2012.