How personality assessments work

Type and trait theories played a significant role in origins and development of personality assessments. These theories view personality as stable and unchanging determined by genetics and biochemistry of our brains. Theories that adopt trait approach see patterns in human behaviour which are said to be basic units of personality and can be uncovered by observing an individual.

For example, you may label your friends as shy, honest, aggressive, independent or persistent. These traits can be grouped into clearly defined types and each person can be classified into one type or the other based on his or her personal characteristics hence type theory. For example, if one is happy, optimistic or accommodating you may call such person sanguine whereas if someone is calm, cold or slow you may label that person as phlegmatic.


How it predicts human behaviour

In general terms, looking at personality from type and trait perspective, it allows psychologists to create person's profile by accumulating evidence with regards to identification of traits and then producing effective measurement of the traits to draw comparisons between individuals to make it possible to predict the ways in which personality type would behave in given situations. For example, traits associated with practicality and risks taking are found in extrovert type. The same retrospectively, quiet and less sociable character would be associated with introvert type.

Hence assessing ones personality involves categorising individuals in order to uncover the common causes of behaviour (see figure below). By using type and trait theory, psychologists argue that one needs only certain basic familiarity with individuals or a modest sampling of their behaviour to make reasonable predictions about their future courses of actions.



What it means for employer

When you are administered personality questionnaire during recruitment and selection it is because en employer would like to have second opinion in addition to other selection methods i.e. interview, group exercises as how you might behave in certain situations. Perhaps the company or organisation have particular need to fill out the position with person that displays certain characteristics or behaviours that are deemed to be necessary for successful on job performance.

For example, employer might want to know the degree to which you are assertive, outgoing or trusting if the position you applied for is at supervisory or management level. Depending on the type of assessment given the employer could see whether person is likely to be extroverted, assertive, trusting or resourceful. Thus, by giving the candidates this assessment an employer might see what applicant would fit into what role based on the answers provided.


What kind of personality assessments are used in recruitment

There are wide ranges of occupational assessments available out there that measure wide range of factors for number of different job profiles. For example, Gordon Allport’s theory, Raymond Cattell’s 16 PF or Hans Eyensck’s questionnaires form bases of personality assessments that are widely used to measure range of factors. Nevertheless, results are often used in conjunction with interview and should be taken as a supplementary evaluation method to the overall selection process. It is high unlikely that employer will base the decision purely on your personality assessment profile.