Personality Tests In the Workplace

Personality tests in the workplace can be deceptive

As someone who is a soon-to-be college graduate, the search for work is not as easy as it used to be. I remember a time when all I had to do was submit a form to a job search engine, and the engine would then send the résumé to all potential employers that matched my criteria. As an econ student, I would search for marketing jobs. And a whole slew of employers would contact me saying they would like to talk. Sure, my bosses were there to see if I was the kind of person who would suit well for the workplace. Now, a new metric is being applied to weed out employees. A Wall Street Journal article writes, “In 2001, 26% of large U.S. employers used pre-hire assessments. By 2013, the number had climbed to 57%, reflecting a sea change in hiring practices that some economists suspect is making it tougher for people, especially young adults and the long-term unemployed, to get on the payroll. Employers are taking longer than ever to fill jobs, with the stepped-up search for excellence joining other factors that slow hiring, such as the reluctance to raise wages, and mismatches in skill or education between applicants and jobs. Companies aren’t settling for people with minimum skills; they want applicants who stand out in ability and workplace temperament, a new recruiting standard they say yields longer tenure and higher productivity.”

Using personality tests is a somewhat abstract way of telling someone worthy apart from the rest. Not exactly a pseudo science. Still, the test attempts to measure a human with questions that aren’t always answerable on a piece of paper. Another article written by the same author gives an example of what these tests are like. “Workers who apply online at RadioShack Corp. must say if they agree with the statement: ‘Over the course of the day, I can experience many mood changes.’ Lowe’s Cos. asks job seekers if they ‘believe that others have good intentions.’ A test at McDonald’s Corp.said: ‘If something very bad happens, it takes some time before I feel happy again.’” The right answers are easy to guess. The questions specifically ask for things the employers are looking to disqualify employees for, not questions that would result in work. Having said that, I think this is somewhat intrusive. Not to mention that it creates a paper trail of what used to be privileged to one’s psychologist. I think the government may need to watch these kinds of tests carefully, though I think they are not the organization to turn down the idea of a paper trail.

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