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Disengaged or Dynamic? Personality Testing to Get the Right Hires

As economic conditions improve and businesses gradually shift from contraction to expansion, the number one human resource objective should be to identify and add engaged employees who will work with passion and be motivated to help their employers succeed. Such potential new hires will be hard to find after years of recession-induced cutbacks. Erosion in compensation, benefits, and working conditions have eroded employee engagement—the employee’s emotional connection to his or her employer and career success. Watching friends lose jobs, seeing pay and benefits reduced, and worrying about one’s own job have negatively affected many potential new hires. A recent Gallup poll finding that more than 70% of U.S. workers say they are not engaged or actively disengaged at their jobs is just one illustration of the problem.

That puts the pressure squarely on the hiring and evaluation process used by human resource professionals. The goal of every organization should be not only to hire the best available talent for immediate needs, but also to select new hires that can be retained and developed for positions of greater responsibility within the organization. This requires considerable time, effort, and insight to find people who not only are right for the job but are right for the organization because they want to excel.

Motivational Drivers
Selecting an individual for a position always involves observation and assessment of human behavior, based on the intuitive perceptions those making the selection have developed. However, these intuitive skills are inevitably inadequate, because they are subjective and unique to each person’s experience. The problem is not just that candidates attempt to create a good impression by responding, deliberately or unintentionally, to interview questions by trying to please rather than to be honest. The real issue is the interviewer’s skill limitations in accurately assessing whether the responses indicate potential for future workplace engagement and success.

As human beings we are most often attracted to the personality style and type that most closely resembles our own and may be tempted to hire accordingly. Those responsible for hiring can only understand the motivation of others if they understand their own motivational drivers and how they may be different from those of the persons they hire. Consider, for example, that HR professionals responsible for hiring are typically among the most engaged members of any organization. It is their job to be keepers of their employer’s brand—the organization’s image as a “great place to work” in the minds of current employees, potential job candidates, clients, customers, and the business media. They have responsibility to use the tools that motivate others through career advancement, learning opportunities, and personal respect.

Yet recall that the opposite emotions—disengagement and cynicism in the post-recession business world—are widespread. Hiring managers may know and live their organization’s values, but employers cannot mandate engagement with mission statements. A cynical new-hire prospect with plenty of informal networking and communication resources to find out about a company may slip through a quick, “gut-feel” interview process and quickly prove to be a poor organizational fit. Both company and individual lose if this happens.

Bridging the Gap
Bridging the perceptual gap is a fundamental benefit from the use of assessment testing in the new hire process. It is estimated that more than 80% of midsize and large companies use personality and ability assessments of new hires for entry and midlevel positions. The goal may be to help the employer hire a specific type of individual, or to rule out someone who does not fit. Either way, by identifying candidates with the potential to excel and the type of top performers they can be, personality testing makes hiring systematic, not hit-and-miss.

Similarly, job seekers must understand themselves—what they want and need for job success. Defining underlying needs and motivations through testing shows what drives behavior and how to achieve passion for the job. The best tests provide a frame of reference to assess personal interests, job needs, work style, and career satisfaction. Each person has unique strengths, weaknesses, productive behaviors, and stress behaviors. Personality testing identifies and brings those traits into focus to facilitate better integration of core capabilities into professional life.

Consistent Effort
When done right, testing identifies traits that help any hiring manager assess employees’ ability to make workplace productivity contributions, by answering these questions:
  • Do they work better alone or on a team?
  • Do they prefer a structured or flexible work environment?
  • Do they take initiative or need guidance?
  • Do they think in terms of details or the big picture?

Each person has unique strengths, weaknesses, productive behaviors, and stress behaviors that may be similar to or differ from peers. Personality testing identifies and brings those characteristics into focus, and employers that use testing to understand what drives the people they hire and promote can be more effective at competitive performance and profitable growth.

Meeting the challenge to hire, develop, and retain the right people should be a consistent effort that integrates personality testing to identify the best talent with the best capabilities. By identifying which candidates have the potential to excel and the type of engaged performers they can be, personality testing is a solid foundation for future performance. Personality testing offers the best way to identify promotable candidates and accelerate their move into positions of responsibility, because it offers objective methods that find the right fit of person and position that encourages high potential individuals to execute to the fullest of their capacities. Testing takes the guesswork out of hiring engaged employees, helping any organization build a sustainable foundation for the future.

About the Author(s)

Sharon Birkman Fink is president and CEO of Birkman International, Inc., developer of The Birkman Method®, a leadership and team development tool that reveals the underlying motivators that drive behavior and, when understood, improves workplace performance. For more information, contact: 713-623-2760 or sfink@birkman.com.