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Can you measure personality?

This blog post is based on the 17th episode of the data-driven recruiting podcast hosted by CodeSignal co-founders Sophia Baik and Tigran Sloyan. You can find and listen to this specific episode here or check out the video version embedded below.

There are three reasons why personality tests really matter. First, they can help companies measure soft skills, because, for some roles, soft skills are an important predictor of their potential success. Second, if companies have a good understanding of their top performers’ personality traits for various roles within the organization, they might be able to use personality tests to help candidates or current employees choose a career path that is a great fit for them. Third, personality tests can also help employees understand how to work with other team members based on personal traits.

There are many well-researched tests and assessments for hard skills such as programming skills (hint hint CodeSignal). But for soft skills, many organizations find that the personality test offers helpful data points about their candidates and employees.

In our seventeenth episode of the data-driven recruiting podcast, we highlight the three types of personality tests employers are using and the benefits and risks with each of them. 

The Myers-Briggs Personality Test

Are you an INFJ, ENFP, or INTJ? Or are you one of the other thirteen personality combinations? 

If you don’t know, you’ve likely never taken the Myers Briggs personality test. Don’t feel too left out though – this is a popular personality test but psychologists still debate about its validity in scientific studies. 

Ray Dalio is very vocal about his organization’s use of this test at Bridgewater Associates

The Myers Briggs test measures four different personality components: 

  • Extraversion vs. Introversion (E vs. I)
  • Sensing vs. Intuition (S vs. I)
  • Thinking vs. Feeling (T vs. F)
  • Judging vs. Perceiving (J vs. P) 

There are dozens of online assessments which you can take to identify your Myers Briggs personality. The components can be kind of confusing, so we want to quickly break down what each term means. 

Extraversion and introversion are pretty clear – that’s whether you get your energy from being around people or being by yourself. 

Sensing is more about being objective while intuition is being subjective and relying on gut feelings. Thinking is more about objective, data-based reasoning while feeling is more about considering other people’s feelings in making decisions. When it comes to judging vs. perceiving, it’s more about whether you’re a planner or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person. 

No personality is better than any other. The Myers Briggs test is simply a tool that helps someone understand, usually on a sliding scale, what type of personality traits they have more of. We don’t recommend making hiring decisions solely based on the Myers Briggs or any other personality test. 

Now for a more data-driven personality test.

The OCEAN Personality Test 

Also known as the Big Five Personality Test or the five-factor model, the OCEAN test is a more accepted measurement of personality…at least according to psychologists.

OCEAN is an acronym that stands for: 

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism 

Openness, or openness to experience, typically represents the folks who are intellectually curious, emotional, and more willing to try new things. 

Conscientiousness is about the tendency to be self-disciplined. People with high levels of conscientiousness tend to act dutifully, are perceived to be stubborn, and have high impulse control. Having low conscientiousness isn’t necessarily a bad thing – these folks tend to be more spontaneous and flexibility. 

Extraversion is pretty clear. 

Agreeableness is all about social harmony. Individuals with high agreeableness will do well in team settings, but those with low agreeableness might strive at the executive level because discourse and discussion are key. 

Neuroticism sounds much worse than it is. It’s essentially someone’s ability (or inability) to keep a level head in stressful situations. In a startup, low neuroticism might be key as there are constant fires happening at all times. 

Again, being low or high on either of these is in no way a perfect reflection of a candidate’s abilities and talents. It’s simply a single measurement to identify personality traits that may help or hinder their success in a certain role at a given organization. 

Last but not least…

The DISC Personality Test

Another acronym, this personality test is often used in the workplace. Bridgewater Associates also use the DISC personality test

  • Dominance
  • Influence
  • Steadiness
  • Compliance

The acronym for DISC is sometimes debated. For example, some people state that “I” stands for inspiring, “S” stands for supportive, and “C” stands for cautiousness. 

The DISC assessment can help organizations understand team members by describing four main behavioral styles. Each individual person will, however, display some of all four behavioral styles – dependent on the situation. It’s all a spectrum! 

Will You Use Personality Tests?

When implementing personality tests at your organization, you want to ensure they are not increasing bias or limiting diversity of backgrounds and personal traits. Instead, they should be a tool that actually sets your team and an individual up for success at any given role and within your organization. 

A great place to start is assessing your current team’s personalities and understanding the personality traits of the best-performing individuals. Certain job types, such as sales, usually having a more extroverted personality. Someone who is introverted might find it exhausting and not an ideal environment for success. It doesn’t mean they’re not a great person or candidate, but that the specific role might not be a fit. 

A lot of organizations find success in using personality tests for entry level hiring because a candidate can go on many different paths. For example, you might bucket folks into hunters and farmers. Hunters love to go after it and crush goals. Farmers love to nurture things. One could be great for sales and the other could be great for customer success. 

If you’re hiring technical roles at your organization like engineers or data scientists, chances are that their personality isn’t the most important factor – their skills are. You can use CodeSignal’s suite of assessment solutions to easily measure hard skills! Request a demo today to learn more.

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