I have long felt uneasy about personality tests being used in organizations to make hiring decisions. It ranks right up there for me with thinking that handwriting analysis is an appropriate gauge of someone's personality, work ethic or ability to perform. I find it disturbing because these tests are far from "right" all the time and we have no idea how often they are wrong. The problem is that we will never know. There isn't a way to measure the effectiveness or accuracy of these tools because it is impossible to know how many candidates are turned away based on undesirable scores, but who would have otherwise been fine, capable employees.

In addition, these instruments don't test facts. They test knowledge, which is subjective, variable and cognitive, not behavioral. So what we get by administering these tests is what people think and/or feel at any given moment. They do not reveal what someone can do, which matters most when it comes to functioning in a job. An audition would be better.

Here is a case in point. I am a trained dancer. And while I could take a test and answer all kinds of questions about how to dance, my results would not even come close to elucidating whether or not I actually can dance.

My concern is that test scores box people into a set of definitions based on gross generalizations, which make them about as effective and applicable as horoscopes. Besides, a good hiring and management team should not need to rely on an impersonal and organizationally irrelevant test to help them decide what and who is right for their organization. They should know.

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About the Author

Donna Flagg

Donna Flagg is the author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations and a New York City-based dancer.

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