Personality Tests in the Workplace
Mark Twain once described a man who died and met Saint Peter at the pearly gates. Knowing that Saint Peter was very wise, the man asked the question that he had wondered about throughout his life. He said, “Saint Peter, I have been interested in military history for many years. Who was the greatest general of all time?” Saint Peter quickly responded, “Oh that’s a simple question. It’s the man right over there.” “You must be mistaken”, responded the man, “I knew that man on earth and he was just a common laborer.” “That’s right my friend”, assured Saint Peter. “He would have been the greatest general of all time if he had been a general.” (Rath 29). Twain’s example illustrates a truth that many people are spending their time going in the wrong direction. Numerous studies show that companies that invest the time, effort and resources into properly using personality tests during the hiring process have lower turnover and higher profits. These same companies will utilize the knowledge gained from these tests to motivate and lead their employees. Companies that desire to be better should utilize personality tests as a part of their hiring process and seeing their hiring success increase (Sirabasku). Who knows how many companies have the greatest general of all time working as a common laborer because they haven’t taken the time to conduct a personality test that would have shown them how he could best help the company and himself be successful. Personality tests have been around for a long-time with Sir Francis Galton of England using a dictionary in 1884 to show that human personality contains a specific number of group able traits. In 1915 personality tests were put to real world usage when the Carnegie Institute of Technology created a Division of Applied Psychology and the following year a Bureau of Salesmanship Research that looked scientifically out how to hire salespeople. Eventually the government with its military and the country’s police departments began using personality tests to identify the best possible soldiers and police officers. It was in 1916 that the first American police department made use of psychological testing in the hiring process (Hoffman 13). What the police and military were accomplishing with the testing was to identify suitable and unsuitable job candidates. Edward Hoffman the author of Ace the Corporate Personality Test in his book said, “After all, a hot-headed or impulsive salesperson may kill a lucrative deal, but a quick-tempered police officer may harm a real human being.”(13) In an effort to identify what type of person makes the best salesperson they stumbled upon a tool that the military and police would use to this day to make all of us safer every day. People do not change their personality over time, psychologists believe that a person’s personality remains stable throughout life and resists change which makes personality tests a very useful tool (Hoffman 10). Historically, the conventional wisdom of organizational psychology had been that personality is unrelated to job performance. (Schneider 13) Most people have heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or as it is commonly referred to the MBTI. The MBTI has been researched and validated for over 50 years and most people rarely change from their preferred type (Cameron 44). There are four dimensions to the MBTI: Extroversion – Introversion, Sensing – Intuition, Thinking – Feeling, Judging – Perceiving which allow for sixteen different personality types within MBTI. The MBTI like most good personality tests focuses on personality tendencies as performance and not ability. It is commonly referred to as being descriptive rather than prescriptive (Shybut). The MBTI test questions are formatted for you to pick the best possible answer or the answer that suits you the best. They will be questions that start out like - When you are at a party would you rather – and gives...
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