The Expanding Role of Personality Assessments

By Barbara Jaworski
Workplace Institute
Hiring and retaining top talent is not just about finding people with the right experience, right skills and right education, but also with the right “fit”. In other words, will the candidate’s personality gel with others in a company? Will he or she feel comfortable in that organization’s culture?
The issue of “fit” has become increasingly important because organizations are realizing that most failed hires are not because individuals can’t perform their duties but because they’re a poor cultural fit.  This manifests itself in personality clashes, culture clashes, communication gaffes, and other social or relationship awareness miscues.

Whether problems are immediate or simmer on a slow boil, they ultimately affect the morale and motivation of all involved. A poor fit can also be expensive. On average, cultural mismatch accounts for about half of first year attrition and, in many cases, rapid turnover costs more than not hiring at all, especially at senior levels.

Studies have found that the most successful companies aren’t those whose senior leaders had marquee value. Rather, exceptional companies were disproportionately likely to recruit their leaders internally because an internal candidate understands the culture.  Hiring an external superstar who doesn’t gel within the company’s culture is a waste of effort and a waste of money. And this isn’t a failure of the individual but a failure of the recruiting process.
So let’s go back to the beginning:  recruiting.
Recruiting for “fit”

To manage what’s becoming a more extensive search process, many recruiters are using personality assessments to find the right person for their company or client. In fact, one third of 2,100 human resource managers recently surveyed by the American Management Association were incorporating personality profiling into their hiring decision-making process. 
Resumes, interviews and cognitive tests don’t tell a company about a person’s integrity, creativity, work ethic, interpersonal style or ability to provide customer service, handle pressure, or work as part of a team.  Personality testing, on the other hand, predicts how an individual will work—diligently, intelligently, cheerfully, and cooperatively. Personality also affects the style or manner in which a person works with others —clients and colleagues —and this too is important. Angry, moody, unhappy, stress-prone employees can contaminate the workplace and have a negative effect on staff morale
Considering a job candidate's personality can help employers determine if a candidate has the right ability and adaptability for their work environment. For example: a company needs a new director to manage an ethnically and culturally diverse team located in branches around the globe. Outstanding technical and managerial skills are necessary, but so are superb communication skills, cultural sensitivity and awareness and the ability to adapt working styles to meet the many needs of a global team. A prospect possessing the former but not the latter may not be the best candidate. The company may be better off hiring a great communicator with average technical skills that can be improved upon with training instead.  A resume can’t determine these nuanced skills – a comprehensive personality assessment can.
Beyond recruiting

Personality assessments have other uses for organizations. They’re also a valuable tool for managers, helping them to develop and mentor staff. Knowing each team member’s character strengths and weaknesses helps manage place employees in the right positions, give them the right training and coach them on where to improve. Understanding preferred work styles, and where a person would be happiest, goes a long way to improving retention and productivity.
When managers understand what makes them tick and what makes their people tick, then they can be better leaders.  Understanding personality traits can also help them motivate their teams, communicate change and delegate authority.
In addition, a great deal of work is done by ad hoc teams that come together for a specific purpose.  It helps if the person responsible for assembling such a team knows the strengths and weaknesses of each prospective member.  Sometimes this can be the difference between a productive team that gets the job done, and one that pulls apart at the seams.
Such assessments also benefit employees by helping them understand the best job fit for them and what areas they need to work on in order to reach their career goals.
The bottom line is that personality assessments can help companies hire the right employee – and retain them. And employee retention saves companies money and time due to lost productivity and costs associated with recruiting and hiring. 
Barbara Jaworski is the founder and CEO of the Workplace Institute and developer of the Older Workforce Strategy Toolkit which helps organizations manage their workers, the KAA-Boomer transition and develop an older workforce strategy. She is author of two books in the KAA-Boomer series and co- organizer of the Summit on Mature Workforces taking place in Alberta. Barbara founded the Best Employers Award for 50-Plus Canadians and is recognized as a leading expert on baby boomers in the workplace. She can be reached at