Most people have heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a well-known personality assessment that evaluates how people look at the world and make decisions. Based on their responses, people are assigned into categories, such as introversion and extroversion. The techniques to measure specific traits or characteristics vary between tests. Most tests are self-reporting, meaning the person taking the test rates how well a question or statement applies to them. These assessments are often used in therapy, to diagnose psychological issues, career and occupational counseling, but also to screen job candidates.

Many tout the effectiveness of using personality tests, assessments or profiles to make hiring decisions and predict performance, but are they really accurate and should you use them to make critical hiring decisions? We tend to be on the skeptical side of personality tests when used in these contexts. We discuss our reservations below and look at the situations where a personality assessment is a good complement to other parts of the interview process.

common methods to evaluate job candidates

Why should you be skeptical of personality tests?

As with anything, there are potential pitfalls when using personality tests at work. For one, anyone can find a personality test online and claim it’s accurate. Many official tests are not free, so free online versions are often only a portion of a test. These quizzes are better used in social settings, and not in the workplace. Other reasons personality tests might not be as accurate as we think include:


As we mentioned before, most personality assessments are self-reported. A popular criticism of these tests is that candidates will tell you what they think you want to hear. There is a possibility that they may skew results by trying to choose answers that will make them a “better” or more desirable personality type. So overt deception is a possibility, but whether test takers are good at understanding or analyzing their own feelings and behaviors well enough to give an accurate assessment of themselves is a problem. People tend to overestimate or underestimate patterns or traits, which can affect the accuracy of their results.

Results can be inconsistent. A person’s personality, or perception of their personality, can change over time. Their mood or environment may affect how they answer questions. Not all traits personality tests measure are stable.


Our biggest concern is that hiring managers can use personality tests to pigeonhole candidates. They box people into categories and then we assign labels and make judgments that can make some feel like a certain trait or personality is “bad.” We are of the mindset that all personalities are valuable, and all have strengths that should be welcomed and utilized in the workplace.

Personality tests can provide indicators or signals of certain behavioral patterns, but they don’t tell you everything. As we’ve alluded to above, people are more than just a test. Following up an assessment with in-depth questions and interviews can give you a more holistic view of who an employee is and whether they will be a “good fit” for your organization.


When not used appropriately, personality tests can negatively impact diversity. For some companies, they provide a test and then hire candidates with the same type of personalities and call it “culture.” But to others it’s called bias and discrimination and that can land you in hot (and expensive) water. If you need a refresher on why diversity and inclusion are good business decisions, read our article on the benefits here. The short of it is, diversity makes your teams more productive, innovative, and successful. Businesses that prioritize and live true diversity and inclusion are more profitable. Don’t let personality tests make you lazy when you hire.


So much of the hiring process is subjective. We might not want to admit it, but it’s true. Personality tests can feel like a formal, scientific way to inject objectivity into the hiring process. While a good personality test can be scientific (read: not the free quiz you found online), interpreting and applying results is still subjective and should be handled with care.

Be wary of using personality tests during the hiring process

The most common way managers use personality tests is in the hiring process.  Job candidates take a test to determine if their personality is a good fit for a role. However, people with different personalities can do the same job well for different reasons. As we mentioned, personality tests can be used to narrow your talent pool so severely that you limit any kind of diversity in your workforce.

Not only can assessments, when used without care, completely exclude good candidates, but they can also limit their potential. Some organizations use assessments to determine a candidate’s future performance or intellectual ability. Personality tests are not accurate means to test these characteristics. Assessments can provide insight into how candidates make decisions, interact with others, and set goals. This helps managers understand what might prevent employees from being successful but does not measure potential.

What can personality tests be good for?

We aren’t against personality tests; we just think they should be used to enhance your understanding of job candidates and employees and should not be used as the basis for hiring decisions. We think these assessments are useful for showing how employees communicate, handle stress, and approach their work. They are tools business owners and managers can use to improve employee productivity and team dynamics. American Express outlined three ways personality assessments can be used to build stronger teams.


Anytime you have more than one person in a room, there is space for conflict. It’s inevitable that different personalities will butt heads when working on a project. That’s where personality tests come in. If managers and team members are aware of and can understand each member’s behavior and motivations, then they can better manage conflict when it arises. If a manager knows one team member tends to withdraw when tension appears and another becomes more aggressive, they can work with employees to overcome these issues. Again, personality tests won’t resolve disputes alone, but they can support healthy and successful conflict resolution.


Not all employees handle change well. Personality tests can help managers understand how employees see and interact with their surroundings to help them determine how to introduce and communicate changes. Maybe some employees will want to be involved in the changes, and others will want to feel heard, while others will need more time to adjust.


A team is built off relationships. Employees are happier, healthier and more productive when they have good relationships with their coworkers. Personality tests can help employees connect with each other more successfully. Managers can also use tests to examine potentially problematic team behaviors or dynamics. Managers can coach or mentor employees that struggle and help them be better team members.

We want to reiterate that all employees are different, and that’s a good thing! Personality tests shouldn’t stigmatize those differences, rather they should illuminate the unique ways in which employees can contribute, develop, and be more successful at work. If you conduct these assessments, we hope they engender understanding and empathy in your teams. As a manager, they can help you manage employees more effectively.

How to choose the right personality test

If you use a personality assessment, we suggest you consider the reliability or consistency of the test as well as its validity (whether the test is measuring what it claims to be measuring). The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) provides these tips to guide you as you select with assessment is best for your needs and organization:

  • Measure stable traits that won’t change over time.
  • Are normative in nature, comparing one applicant’s scores against others.
  • Provide a “candidness” scale to indicate how likely it is that the results accurately portray the test-taker.
  • Have high reliability, producing the same results if the same person takes it again.
  • Have been shown to be valid predictors of job performance.

We also suggest you back up your personality tests with in-depth interviews, reference-checking or skills testing. Tests should be used as guides to learn more about a candidate and shouldn’t be taken as fact.