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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Johnston

Personality Assessments As A Recruitment Tool: Helpful or Harmful?

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

In February 2020, the Festival and Events of Ontario held their annual Conference where the theme was "Innovate".... timely, given the shift that the pandemic forced upon the events industry only 1 month later!

In preparation for presenting at this conference, our team had the opportunity to speak with Dave MacNeil, CEO of Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO) on an episode of the FEO podcast FEO On The Air. During the 24 min interview, we discuss the importance of volunteers to the festival and event industry and the need to ensure that each volunteer is assigned tasks that best align to their natural abilities. Our goal was two-fold: 1) to improve the volunteer experience so they return to help organizers year after year, and 2) to increase the efficiency of work being done at the festival or event.

Whether our team of trainers is speaking about a 'volunteer army' or working with recruitment for teams within the workplace, the importance of connecting people's role with their natural ability is always going to be the most ideal way for someone to work.

Personal job fit vs. Organizational job fit

However, the major difference between volunteers at an annual festival or event, and the employees that make up an organizational workforce is time. (Well, actually time and money; but let's assume that volunteers get "paid" in either school credit, good karma or a combination of both!) So where personal job fit is of the upmost importance in a short-term position like volunteering, it's only 1 aspect that Managers and Recruiters use in their hiring strategy because the impact of their decision lasts much longer than 1 day or a long-weekend!

The perks of hiring for personal job fit can't be denied: immediate confidence for the new hire, individual performance success and short-term increase in team productivity. All of which would suggest that the correct person has been hired for the role.

What could possibility go wrong?

In our leadership training we discuss the difference between skills and talents, when it comes to recruitment and performance coaching. Marcus Buckingham has been talking about this for the past 20 years - and is still tweeting about it today. We often refer to his book "First Break All The Rules" and are huge supporters of this theory. So, what could possibly go wrong and why doesn't every organization use some type of personal assessment tool as part of their recruitment process?

While more and more companies are beginning to rely on some type of psychometric assessment tool to leverage their hiring decisions, it's possible they may be weighing this tool too heavily within the overall process. When managers do this, they may end up with further challenges down the road. Don't believe me? Ask yourself this: if a personality tool is the answer to every recruitment challenge, why are some employees unhappy and why do they still leave?

Good leaders know that people don't leave bad jobs; they leave bad bosses. That's to say nothing of the interactions a new hire will have with people on their team and from across the organization, on a regular basis. Relying on personality assessments as a fix-all is a recipe for disaster because this approach fails to take into account the person as a whole human being. Sure the person will likely be incredibly good at the role - a benefit to both themselves and the company. But how long before they get irritated with Nancy, who sits in the cubicle directly beside, and can never seem to get the requirements correct for their joint projects? Or Julio, the team lead, who offers far too many critiques and not nearly enough praise. How does a leader or organization address the fact that the connection this new employee has to their role can only take them so far in terms of job -and company- satisfaction?

Does this mean personality assessments should not be used when recruiting people into your organization?

As a personality-based training company, did you think we'd really say "No"? Of course not. We absolutely believe that any type of psychological profile tool can be beneficial in recruiting ... when used correctly! Using an assessment tool "correctly" means understanding the tool you're using - how to use it and its limitations.

Understand the tool you're using - how to use it and its limitations.

We don't ever suggest companies use profile assessments for employees without first allowing staff to learn about the tool; how to best use the information for themselves and how it can be used to benefit their interactions with co-workers, their boss or customers. All of which, inherently benefits the company. Failing to include some level of training for staff can lead to suspicion and mistrust, both of which quickly degrade the communication and collaboration efforts of a team. In addition to the employees confidence and trust in their individual manager and the organization.

However, when profiling tools are used throughout the organization, the information becomes widely understood and everyone has a clear indication of why they are completing an assessment. Employees also know how the information is being used and they gain great personal benefit from the tool itself and the training. This is the case in organizations we work with. Under these circumstances, there may be a specific situation - a specific personnel challenge needing to be solved- that warrants having a job candidate complete an assessment before they're hired. Often, although not always, this occurs when the empty headcount is at the level of a Manager or higher.

There's no debating that recruitment is an ever evolving, important pillar for every organization. Getting it 'right' should be a high priority for HR and the hiring Manager. But there are no simple or easy answers. People are complex, dynamic beings and shouldn't be reduced to a label. Instead of focusing on personality tools as the fix-all of recruitment, we encourage our clients to use personality profiles to allow staff to better understand the people they work and interact with. This information goes a very long way in bridging the gap in our differences, opening up communication, and improving employee engagement for job - and company - satisfaction.

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