Companies use a variety of tactics in the interview process to not only screen for skill and experience, but also to ensure the candidate is a good fit. To learn more about a candidate, you may want to administer a personality test—a practice that has been in use for decades and can yield an exceptional amount of information about an individual’s less tangible attributes.

Personality test benefits
It is costly to replace an employee who has been let go due to a personality conflict or behavioral problem. The costs can be measured in lost productivity, recruiting and hiring expenses, and costs associated with training a new employee. Giving personality tests can help reduce the risk of incorrectly judging a potential employee’s character, and may help you better understand your staff’s motivations and actions.

I recently spoke to a human resources administrator with a performance improvement company in Minneapolis about its use of personality tests during the interview process, particularly regarding hiring IT personnel. The company, which maintains a strict policy about remaining anonymous, has been administering TIMS profile analysis (Type of Informational Metabolism, from Thomas International) to final-round candidates for over 20 years. The HR administrator said the test has never been wrong. And the company, founded in 1976, has never fired an employee for personality-related issues.

In reviewing TIMS test results, hiring managers look for a low “D” score and a high “C” score in IT personnel, showing that the individuals are reserved and pay attention to detail. Additionally, the company looks for red flags in the personality profile that show if the candidate has undesirable attributes, or if they attempted to sway the results. Assuming everything looks good, the company then checks to see how the candidate’s results compare with existing employees’ profiles. If it is similar to someone already working there, they know what kind of personality can be expected.

“The TIMS profile is a great tool to help ascertain behavioral analysis of the person’s strengths and capabilities in the work environment. I do believe this test has helped match the right people to work together,” the HR administrator said. “We have a friendly, comfortable environment, and it shows.”

Testing options
The TIMS test is designed to determine which personality traits you exhibit, and to what degree. The subject is presented with several questions—each containing four adjectives, and asked to rank how well the phrases describe them. The results are then graphed to show how others view them, how they behave under pressure, and how they see themselves.

Some companies use the DISC (Dominance, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance) test, which is similar to the TIMS test. DISC determines how the subject ranks in terms of overall personality—driver analytical, amiable, or expressive type. The DISC test is also administered using a self-rating system.

In addition to these tests, there are dozens of other personality tests available to choose from. The Keirsey Temperament Sorter is one choice used, because of its ease of interpretation. On the other end of the spectrum, the MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multphasic Personality Inventory, Version 2) is very involved and complicated, but it is the single most widely used personality test in the professional world.

The MMPI requires trained interpretation of results, which can be complicated, and which must be reviewed under the context in which the test was taken. Subjects are given a large number of true or false questions to answer (the full test contains over 500 questions). The results are then graphed according to a number of scales, depending on the context you are reviewing. Most of the questions in the MMPI test are used solely to determine how the subject is answering questions—whether they are truthful or not, or consistent with their answers. The remaining answers can then be scaled against a clinical pool of average responses.

The MMPI is considered to be so accurate that it is often used in court cases involving the mental condition of the defendant. Also, psychologists and psychiatrists can use the test to help diagnose certain disorders, such as schizophrenia, paranoia, and even chronic pain. From a job candidate standpoint, a career scale is used to determine work-related personality attributes and ideal work environment and duties.

Because these personality tests take on many forms, the cost to interpret the results also varies. To figure out which test you should use, you should review sample results and find out which test will provide the most helpful analysis for your needs.

My HR contact stated that no candidate has ever refused to take a personality test at her company. In fact, most candidates want to see their results. She stated that a great deal of weight is put on the results, considering the test’s proven track record.

If you seem to have problems between employees, implementing personality tests in your interview process will help you make informed decisions about who you’re hiring, and improve the chance that your candidate is a good fit.

Does your company use personality tests?

Have personality tests helped your organization find the right people to work together? Post your comments in the discussion below.