Psychometric Tests - Personality Questionnaires
Personality has a significant role to play in deciding whether you have the enthusiasm and motivation that the employer is looking for. It also determines how well you are going to fit in to the organization, in terms of your personality, attitude and general work style? In most working situations it’s the personalities of the people involved that affect the day-to-day success of the organization. If a manager can’t motivate their staff or the team doesn't work well together, then quality of service and productivity will suffer.
There have also been significant changes in the past 20 years in the way that organizations operate. For example, management styles tend to be less autocratic and there are usually fewer levels of management than there were. The move towards more knowledge based and customer focused jobs means that individuals have more autonomy even at fairly low levels within organizations. In addition, most organizations expect to undergo frequent changes in the way that they operate in order to remain competitive. All of these factors have contributed to your personality being seen as more important now than it was in the past.
The companies that produce personality tests and the human resources staff who use them invariably refer to these tests as personality ‘questionnaires’ rather than ‘tests’. This is done to avoid giving the impression that there are right and wrong answers and that the test can be either passed or failed. Obviously, no one type of personality is necessarily better or worse than any other. However, remember that you are being given this test for a reason, the employer is plainly looking for something otherwise they would not be investing time and money on the testing process.
How is Personality Measured
Psychologists define personality as:
“The particular pattern of behavior and thinking that prevails across time and contexts, and differentiates one person from another.”
In trying to understand these behavior patterns, psychologists attempt to identify and measure individual personality characteristics, often called personality traits.
A personality trait is assumed to be some enduring characteristic that is relatively constant. This is opposed to the present temperament of that person which is not necessarily a stable characteristic. Consequently, trait theories are specifically focused on explaining the more permanent personality characteristics that differentiate one individual from another. For example, things like being; dependable, trustworthy, friendly, cheerful, etc.
Modern personality theory is a relatively new field and really began in the 1920’s. There have been many attempts to define personality traits and some psychologists have developed models with hundreds of traits. Whilst others believe that there are as few as three. In 1990, the psychologists Costa & McCrae published details of a '5 trait' model. This has received significant support from other research and is now widely accepted among psychologists. These 5 aspects of personality are referred to as the 5-factors or sometimes just ‘the Big 5’.
Each of these 5 personality traits describes, relative to other people, the frequency or intensity of a person's feelings, thoughts, or behaviors. Everyone possesses all 5 of these traits to a greater or lesser degree. For example, two individuals could be described as ‘agreeable’ (agreeable people value getting along with others). But there could be significant variation in the degree to which they are both agreeable.
These 5 traits/factors are:
Extraversion - How “energetic” one is.
People who score high on this factor like to work in cooperation with others, are talkative, enthusiastic and seek excitement. People who score low on this factor prefer to work alone, and can be perceived as cold, difficult to understand, even a bit eccentric.
Agreeableness - One’s level of orientation towards other people.
Those who score high on this factor are usually co-operative, can be submissive, and are concerned with the well-being of others. People who score low on this factor may be challenging, competitive, sometimes even argumentative.
Conscientiousness - How “structured” one is.
People who score high on this factor are usually productive and disciplined and “single tasking”. People who score low on this factor are often less structured, less productive, but can be more flexible, inventive, and capable of multitasking.
Neuroticism - Tendency to worry.
People who score low on this factor are usually calm, relaxed and rational. They may sometimes be perceived as lazy and incapable of taking things seriously. People who score high on this factor are alert, anxious, sometimes worried.
Openness to Experience - Tendency to be speculative and imaginative.
People who score high on this factor are neophile and curious and sometimes unrealistic. People who score low on this factor are down-to-earth and practical and sometimes obstructive of change.
All 5 personality traits exist on a continuum rather than as attributes that a person does or does not have. Each of these 5 traits is made up 6 facets, which can be measured independently.
When thinking about personality traits it is important to ignore the positive or negative associations that these words have in everyday language. For example, Agreeableness is obviously advantageous for achieving and maintaining popularity. Agreeable people are better liked than disagreeable people. On the other hand, agreeableness is not useful in situations that require tough or totally objective decisions. Disagreeable people can make excellent scientists, critics, or soldiers.
You may also be interested in Psychometric Tests Introduction, Personality Questionnaires, How Personality Profiles are Used, Aptitude Tests, Aptitude and Ability Tests - Speed versus Power, The Assessment Center, Why are Selection Tests So Widely Used, The Growth of Psychometric Testing and What You Can Expect on the Day.