Personality testing

In this month’s article, we focus on the use of psychometric testing in the recruitment and assessment of leaders, and introduce the five factor model of personality. We also explore the Hogan tool that helps understand whether your job plays to your strengths, and so links with my articles on positive psychology, how to manage your career, and comparing career management for women and men.

Personality testing for recruitment and assessment

In a typical recruitment process, the headhunter will send you a shortlist of candidates who are then interviewed by various stakeholders.

Candidates have told me they find the process long winded and time-consuming. They often have many people interviewing them, but they are asked the same questions. They are told whether or not they got the job, but aren’t given feedback about the reasons why.

This makes candidates feel quite frustrated, and doesn’t help the reputation of the company or brand.

Candid HR people admit that some leaders want multiple stakeholders to be part of the interview process because it reduces risk. It covers their back if the candidate fails as no one person can be blamed.

So how can you increase the likelihood that your selected recruit is fit for the company and the job, while delivering a positive experience for your internal and external candidates?

One way is to use assessment methods. Two shown to be effective (and difficult to fake) include:

  • Where the candidate is given the task of presenting how they would meet a particular problem or challenge, or how they would spend their first 100 days
  • Psychometric testing that gives you an assessment of the candidate’s personality and how they typically behave at work and in stressful situations

The business case for using psychometrics

Psychometric testing gives a picture of the predicted performance, style and potential of individuals, so you can make a judgement about what sort of roles they are likely to be successful in. That’s why it’s used when assessing internal and external candidates as part of the recruitment process, and to give a better understanding of your talent pipeline as part of the talent development process.

Broadly speaking it assesses:

  • Can the candidate do the job?
  • Will the candidate enjoy the job?
  • What will get in the way of the candidate (doing a good job)?

Personality is important because it:

  • Underlies our behaviour, actions, reactions and interactions with others
  • Provides insight into how we manage change, execute strategy, and manage conflict
  • Influences our effectiveness at leading people

Psychometric tests also provide you with another set of data and method of assessing, so you’re not just relying on interviews.

Introducing the Five Factor model of personality

Current study of personality at work often organises measures and critera into two broad themes: getting along, and getting ahead. This is based on two generalisations relevant to organisational behaviour: people always live (work) in groups, and groups are always structured in terms of hierarchy, with status linked to where you are in the hierarchy.

A lot of psychometric tools are built on the Five Factor model of personality*, which has been defined by several independent sets of researchers over time. These five factors are:

  • Emotional Stability: the degree to which a person experiences the world as threatening and stressful
  • Extraversion: the degree to which a person needs attention and social interaction
  • Agreeableness: the degree to which a person needs pleasant and harmonious relations
  • Conscientiousness: the degree to which a person is willing to comply with conventional rules, norms and standards
  • Intellect/Openness to Experience: the degree to which a person needs intellectual stimulation, chance and variety.

* Although some psychologists believe there are seven or more

Introducing Hogan

Hogan assesses both leadership capability and personality, on the basis that ‘who you are’ determines ‘how you lead’. It also maps onto the Five Figure model of personality. I use this tool a lot when coaching individuals and teams, and it is used extensively for assessing leaders and functional roles.

There are three reports:

  • Bright side of personality
    • An individual’s leadership strengths
  • Dark side of personality
    • Aspects that manifest if a person is stressed, tired or ill
    • De-railers that could potentially undermine their performance and ultimately career
  • Values
    • Inner core and underlying beliefs that shape what a person pays attention to as a leader. Very useful in understanding their leadership style, into which organisational culture they are most likely to fit, and the culture they will create for their people

These three reports combined together cross-reference with the position or career path to help you assess where someone is likely to be strong and where there are areas to develop. I find it helpful because the dimensions in the Hogan tool can be mapped onto the requirements and competencies of the role.

You make a judgement call about how close the fit is to what you are looking for and what areas to probe in the assessment process.

Fundamentally, personality is fixed at birth then shaped by the environment. People can learn to adapt, and dial things up or down depending on the role. Skills can be developed, and you can make a plan to close gaps. You need to be aware of their openness to work on those areas.

As people get more experience, their self-awareness generally increases, and they are more likely to spot when they are likely to go into a situation that is stressful for them, and have strategies to mitigate the impact.

If someone’s values are not aligned with the company culture they are unlikely to thrive. It’s better for them – and you – to know this in advance.

How you might use psychometric profiling

Here is a process you can follow to assess a range of candidates for a role:

  1. Identify the competencies required for the role
  2. Decide on which tool to use, such as Hogan
  3. Map the competencies onto the Hogan model to determine which particular skills you are looking for
  4. Receive your shortlist of candidates
  5. The short-listed candidates complete the questionnaire
  6. A qualified assessor reviews the reports. They then provide recommendations on the likely fit for the job and future potential, cultural fit, and areas for the interviewers to probe further for each candidate
  7. Decide who’s going to probe which particular area, so different interviewers don’t ask the same questions
  8. Interviewers meet once the assessment process is completed, review all the data and make their decision

Please note as part of this process it is essential that candidates are offered the opportunity to have a 1-1 session with the assessor to receive feedback from their reports – this is ethically important. Not everyone will take this up, but it’s still the right thing to do, and will also reflect well on your brand.

As a qualified Hogan assessor, I can help you assess internal and external candidates both for specific roles and for future potential.

For more information, please get in touch.

Put it to the test  

To understand whether Hogan could be beneficial to you in your recruitment and talent management processes, here’s an opportunity for you to experience for yourself the insights that can be gleaned. It may also be that you are about to embark on an assessment process within your organisation and you’d like to understand yourself better and prepare for the interviews.

Complete the questionnaire and you will receive:

  • Your own three personality reports
  • Personal feedback session with me, covering:
    • your leadership strengths, values and traits to watch out for your preferred leadership style
  • Follow-up conversation with me, to discuss and determine how you might use Hogan to:
    • develop individuals and teams within your organisation
    • assess future potential as part of your talent-planning process
    • help fill key positions you are recruiting for

Your investment: £1,000 plus the cost of the reports.

Please contact me for further details.


As August is holiday season, there will be no article next month. I hope you are able to enjoy a relaxing summer break. We return in September, with the focus on How to create your personal brand.

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