Why are Self-Reported Personality Assessments Unreliable in Hiring?

Press Release from Talent Select AI

Personality (or psychometric) testing in the workplace is a two-billion-dollar industry, as companies strive to assess potential candidates and build cohesive teams more effectively. These tests can also help individuals better understand their strengths and weaknesses to become the best versions of themselves. 

The general idea of these tests is to identify an individual's traits based on how much they relate to statements or the answers they give.

But, self-reported personality tests have significant flaws that hold back their true potential. Because they are self-reported, there is a high potential for unconscious bias and perception management to affect results. 

High Potential for Unconscious Bias

One of the most common manifestations of biased self-knowledge is weak correlations between ability estimates and actual performance.

Unconscious bias is far more prevalent than conscious prejudice and often incompatible with one's values. Specific scenarios can activate unconscious attitudes and beliefs, such as multi-tasking or working under time pressure.

Over the last three decades, human understanding of unconscious bias has evolved. The nature of unconscious bias is well understood, and the Implicit Association Test (IAT) helps assess unconscious bias. 

The IAT measures the strength of associations between concepts, evaluations, or stereotypes. The main idea is that responding is easier when closely related items share the same response key.

An early College Board study found that 70% of high schoolers rated themselves as having above-average leadership ability, while 100% rated themselves above average regarding social skills.

Additionally, 25% of students placed themselves in the top 1% in navigating social skills. Before citing high schoolers’ immaturity, readers should note that 94% of college faculty also believed their work was better than their average faculty peers. 

One of the primary reasons that self-knowledge biases are so uncooperative is that the mechanisms driving them operate below consciousness. Therefore, it is challenging to modify processes of which we are unaware. 

While people have various cognitive tools for diffusing threatening information and enhancing positive knowledge, the most common are self-serving reasoning, biased hypothesis testing, and biased recall.

Individuals often attribute success and failure in a self-serving manner so that success is attributed to internal factors, including skill or intelligence, and failure is attributed to external factors, such as bad luck or distraction.

In fact, researchers have found that most people attribute success to themselves and failure to others

High Potential for Impression Management

Regardless of the test's validity or construct, self-reported assessments are inherently subject to impression management, “the goal-directed conscious or unconscious attempt to influence the perceptions of other people about a person, object, or event by regulating and controlling information.” 

In other words, impression management is the natural tendency to answer questions (be it in a job interview, personality assessment, etc.) in the way one thinks the person or organization administering the test wants them to answer.

For example, the Big Five Personality Traits (also known as OCEAN or CANOE) are widely regarded as both valid and reliable.

Tests that measure the Big 5, however, are not typically beneficial for individuals and daily life  hence the popularity of other personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), even though "For most people, the MBTI personality test is neither accurate nor reliable," according to Jaime Lane Derringer, Ph.D.

“Even if evidence exists supporting the assessment's reliability, allowing applicants to self-report opens the door to impression management,” says Marc Fogel, Talent Select AI Director of Product, IO Psychology.

Researchers in one study concluded that “we need to step back and say, OK, if we want to use this stuff, we need to really think about why we're using it and then develop better tools for measuring it.”

What Is The Alternative to Self-Reported Hiring Assessments?

Self-reported personality assessments are popular, at least in part, because they don’t typically require the hiring team’s time to administer and score manuall\

So the key to eliminating the need for self-reported personality assessments will likely hinge on efficiency and the ability of organizations to minimize the burden on the hiring team. 

Removing the need for applicants and prospective employees to self-report personality and skill assessments not only improves accuracy, it also speeds up the evaluation process and minimizes friction for both the applicants and the hiring managers. 

Talent Select AI’s revolutionary new integrated video interview and psychometric assessment platform makes it possible. 

Talent Select AI generates objective personality, competency, and motivational scores right from the job interview transcript – no additional tests or manual scoring required – so you can be confident you’re hiring the best-fit candidate for every role. 

In fact, early users report a 98% increase in confidence in selection decisions. 

Get first access to Talent Select AI to start measuring what matters and finding best-fit candidates faster.

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