Personality tests – what can they be used for?

Personality tests do not provide the truth about a person. One test gives rise to curiosity on your partner. You can use a test to see how the test person navigates in a new context and interprets his or her own narrative. The test can get the narrative at the centre of your conversations. Optimize your use of personality tests and hire the right one.

“Tell me a little about yourself.” A variation of this opening most people have probably said or hired at a job interview. Managers want to know something about the person they are hiring, and the job seeker wants to give a good insight into how he or she is in relation to the desired job. Already here it becomes clear that the personality is a narrative, something you construct for the situation you are in and based on the context you are in from which you interpret the signals.

What you hear depends on the relationship that has arisen in a matter of minutes – you know that. Therefore, you cannot use that part of the interview to know if the candidate is the right one for the job. So, in your search for objective data and facts, you send the candidate a personality test. You want to see what the person really is like. This is how many leaders think, but it is a pitfall to see the test results as the truth.

Golden standard

Can one measure a person’s personality traits? This issue has been continuously discussed over time, and a number of tools have gradually been developed for this very purpose. One of these models is Big5, which using its five overall factors gathers previous models’ approaches to analysing a human being. (read more)

Big5 is described as the golden standard of personality psychology with decades of ongoing research and described as “the most versatile, reliable and useful tool we have ever had to discuss personality from.” (Nettle, David (2011): Personality – what makes you the way you are? Dansk Psykologisk Forlag, Copenhagen)

Whether it’s Big5 or one of the many other types of tests, it is worth noting that they can be used to take the dialogue about how the test person reacts based on the knowledge and experiences that the person has gained so far.

A test cannot determine how a person will act in the job, which for the test person is in a hitherto unknown organization, with new colleagues, managers and culture. It is important that you are aware of this when choosing to use a personality test.

Curious about the test person – and you

A test summarises the answers given by the test person. But what does the person even think about the narrative being presented? What thoughts does it set in motion? This is often where you as an employer should dive into the test. Perhaps there are answers that stand out in relation to other answers in the test or in relation to the behaviour or personal competencies that the candidate would otherwise have given you the impression of.

Being curious about the test person is easy and natural.

Being curious about what is moving in you as a person when, for example, you think something catches your eye more than anything else should be at least as natural, but it is rare. You need to ask yourself, “What is my background and my intention with the question? And are those the same things I look at in the different candidates for the job, or what makes a difference?” If you can find the answers yourself and ask the right questions, you have come a long way in your search to find objective data and facts about the candidate.

Everyone brings experience into the conversation

You create yourself in the relationship with others. How you experience that others look at you affects your view of yourself, and thus how you tell your story. The same applies to the candidate you have called for an interview.

We are all more than our test. Let alone, the experiences that both you and the candidate make during the interview can contribute to the impression you give of each other. The test can thus only give a glimpse into what we prefer, and where we can advantageously be extra attentive. Your task is to sniff out the small nuances that arise around the test and how skilled the candidate is at using his experience.

Should the test be thrown out?

There are many conversations that succeed well without a personality test – also job interviews. That is not to say that they cannot be used constructively! What a test gives to a room where the parties are new in the relationship to each other or if there is a desire to kickstart a new development, is that we can talk about something completely third, which is new to each of us, but which gathers us. The test is used as an interpretation of a narrative, from which the dialogue is taken further.

The narrative is at the centre of the conversation. There is tenderness and curiosity present from all parties to ensure the dignity of all. The test reminds us of our own narrative with strengths and vulnerabilities.

The conversation and the test can be seen as a personal mixer. We can turn up and down different competencies and characteristics. The same is true in a conversation where one adapts, which is also a trait to keep an eye on.

How to use tests

Get the most out of your tests and test persons by making use of the following when sitting in the room such as the interviewer, future employer or leader of a team that is to work with tests.

  • Listen to the narrative the test person gives you
  • Be curious about the other and ask yourself what your intention is with the next question
  • Point to the summary or interpretation of the test and ask how the test person views this. Do not ask how the test person’s narrative can fit into the test. (You can ask how the test person thought or felt when he or she answered a question).
  • Use the test and the dialogue to work with your own experiences and to see new angles – also in conversations without tests.
  • A conversation about a person and personality can be seen as a musician with his mixing desk – are you aware of how to use your personal mixer, and can you possibly. help the person to play even better?

What is Big5?

Big5 is a normative test type that measures the general using the five factors within which a person’s personality varies. The five factors are Neuroticism (the experience of negative emotions), Extroversion, Kindness, Openness and Conscientiousness. The test person gets a result within each of these five factors, which will broadly be able to describe this person and his way of acting if experience and situation did not come into play. One’s personality trait describes how the test person is and acts in the first place. From there, one takes the dialogue in relation to experiences and knowledge that the person has made on that background.

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