How Personality Assessments Decrease Bias in Hiring

Heather Myers, Ph.D.

Chief Psychology Officer | Fueled by people, data, and design | Mentor in Work

The US economy has grown over the last 8 years with unemployment rates dropping from a high of 9.9% in March of 2010 to 4.3% in July of 2017. Although this recent figure probably somewhat underestimates the true state of the current job market, because it doesn’t account for the underemployed or the discouraged who have stopped looking for work, it does suggest that the job market is growing healthier.

What this means for employers is that it is increasingly difficult to find and hire the best candidates for open positions because the options available to candidates are greater.  In the current market, employers are feeling more pressure than ever before to choose the candidate who is the best fit for a job as quickly as possible. Hiring the best candidate can be tricky and employers have to decide which are the best tools, such as interviews and personality assessments, for making their decision. When selecting these tools, every employer should consider potential biases that may keep them from making the best choice.

One tool that is nearly universally used is the interview. Before selecting a candidate, employers often bring a number of candidates in for an interview in an attempt to determine whether or not a candidate is a good fit for the job.  While interviews can certainly provide useful information, they are also susceptible to a number of biases. One obvious source of bias is the appearance of the candidate, but there are other more subtle biases at play. The level of social anxiety that a candidate experiences can certainly impact their interview performance. An interviewer’s rating of a candidate will be judged in part by comparison to the performance of other people that person has interviewed.  If the interviewer has had a string of candidates who performed poorly in their interviews, then they may give a candidate who is even moderately more engaging a great interview score. This same candidate may not have scored as well with an interviewer who saw other candidates who were equally or more engaging. Another source of bias is the difficulty of the particular questions that different interviewers might ask.  However, even when structured interviews are used to control this particular bias, researchers show that first impressions of candidates from brief rapport-building conversations have an influence on interview scores. For certain jobs, particularly ones that involve minimal interaction with colleagues or customers, one can make the argument that interview performance is not a great indicator of job performance at all.

In these cases in particular it is easy to see how a personality assessment might be used to help alleviate certain biases that can be present in interviews.  Personality assessments are less influenced by the candidate’s level of social anxiety, especially if they are not administered in front of anyone else or in front of the other candidates being considered.  In addition, most personality assessments allow comparison with a large, independently normed sample and not just a small sample of other candidates. Additionally, employers can customize the personality types or traits they are looking for in specific job roles.  For example, for a customer service agent position, it is more important that the candidate be relatively extroverted and good-natured when dealing with people than it is for a programmer position where the person will be working alone at a desk for most of the day.  Finally, a good personality assessment can also provide insights into how a candidate might perform in an interview and inform questions that can be asked to push beyond the barriers of first-impression biases.

When used as one part of the hiring process, personality assessments can provide useful information that is less susceptible to some of the biases present in candidate interviews. Therefore, employers should consider using them to help minimize the impact of interview biases and aid in finding the best candidates for the job the first time around.

If you are interested in a personality assessment for your company, request a demo with Traitify and let us show you how we can help.


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