Julie is a twenty-nine-year-old new manager. She has always been a bit insecure; she would tell you that, although she’s been recognized for her professional accomplishments. She’s never really “found” herself. She’d also say that she was always on a quest to go deeper and become more self-aware. She heard about personality assessments, like Strength Finders® and Myers-Briggs® from other managers. They would say things like “I’m a Maximizer” or “I have Woo” as my top strength. Woo? She was curious – might she be a Maximizer or have Woo?

Maybe if she knew her Strength Finder® theme, she could settle down, be more herself and have more confidence. After taking the assessment, she was more confused than ever. And, she was even a little sad. The assessment said her top strength was analytical. It stated that “Your Analytical theme challenges other people to ‘Prove it. Show me why what you are claiming is true.’”

She didn’t see that in herself at all. She had the ability to make quick connections between concepts, but she wasn’t a “prove it” kind of person. Should she become one? Is that what was missing? Should she take the results from her assessment and try to become them?

Taking that assessment threw her into a tailspin that caused her to question her understanding of herself. She didn’t become a more assertive and confident leader; instead, her insecurity grew. That’s when she reached out for coaching. She thought that personality assessments made people better and told people how to “be” in the world. She was disappointed.

What do you believe about assessments?

In the U.S. alone, there are about 2,500 personality assessments that you can purchase. This concerns me. It concerns me because it’s an indicator of how much people are seeking to understand their identity, to know what they are about, and to understand how they fit in the world. I’m sure they surmise that if they can figure out who they are, they can walk more confidently, or they can “be themselves” without apology. The problem is, being yourself requires work that’s deeper than what an assessment can reveal. It requires doing the work of personal awareness and core level reflection that leads to getting acquainted with who you are. It requires the openness of mind and heart to be willing to use the assessments as a tool and not as a definitive explanation to validate or invalidate your existence.

The Tricky Part

The tricky part or the real question, when it comes to assessments, is how to take the information and use it to explore the inherent characteristics that make you who you are. Like Julie, others might take a personality assessment only to find out that it does not ring true for them or draws out an aspect of themselves that is foreign and unfamiliar, even if true. They are faced with a “but…the assessment said” response.

What’s tricky about that? Remember, there are over 2,500 assessments available in the U.S. Some were created as a result of deep research and science, while others are based on idealistic descriptors. You can find out what animal you are and what you are like because you are that animal. You can find out what color you are as in green, yellow or orange, what being an early riser vs. being a night owl says about you or what number combination you are and so much more.

That’s concerning enough. What is even more concerning to me is that companies often use assessments to help them learn more about job candidates, team members and leaders. This is a black and white approach which misses out on the unseen potential opportunities for both interview candidate and hiring agency. How many of you would appreciate a doctor who never visited your bedside, but told you what your problem was and how you should treat it? Would you trust that information wholeheartedly or would you wonder if they missed something? The message I want to convey strongly here is you are more than what your assessment can reveal. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, which cannot be captured fully by any single or collective group of assessments.

The Challenge: Often companies use the wrong assessments in a situation

“Not all tests are created equal, and some assessments designed for one purpose (like career development) wind up being shoehorned into the hiring process. The well-known Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, for example, groups people into 16 different types, separating introverts from extroverts, the logically minded from the emotionally driven, and so on. While this could be seen as useful information for a tech company building out its sales team, or a restaurant hiring customer-facing staff, the company that offers the MBTI says using it for hiring is “unethical,” stressing that personality type shouldn’t be a deal breaker for most positions”. The Pros and Cons of Personality Test in the Hiring Process, Inc Magazine.

Here’s more:

“Some experts estimate that as many as 60 percent of workers are now asked to take workplace assessments. The $500-million-a-year industry has grown by about 10 percent annually in recent years. While many organizations use personality testing for career development, about 22 percent use it to evaluate job candidates, according to the results of a 2014 survey of 344 Society for Human Resource Management members.

However, there are thousands of personality assessments available, and their quality varies. Some might even land an employer in legal trouble. HR professionals should explore their options carefully before deciding whether a personality assessment is right for their company and, if so, which one to use.

Even after careful selection of an assessment, they shouldn’t rely solely on the test results when making hiring decisions.
“This is not a silver bullet. It’s one of the many variables that need to be factored into hiring a person,” along with the applicant’s experience, education, references and conduct during the interview.”

Compared to other hiring selection practices, personality assessments are among the least effective in predicting job performance, according to research by Frank L. Schmidt, management and organizations professor emeritus at the University of Iowa.
(Excerpt taken from “What Do Personality Test Really Reveal?”) SHRM.Org

What say you about these assessments? What has been your experience?

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