Why Personality Assessments Don't Predict Sales Success

Dayton, OH, June 7, 2010 — The trend in recent years has been to utilize personality assessments in the hiring process for predicting on-the-job success. In 2007, a prominent panel of personnel psychologists (Morgeson et al., 2007) collaborated to discuss the utility of personality tests in the selection process. The clear theme: Validities of personality measures are so low that using them for selection should be questioned. The research shows that broad-based personality tests such as the Big Five Personality Traits & Emotional Intelligence account for less than 6% of variance in job-related performances. Despite the claims from the hundreds of vendors selling personality tests, little has changed in the last 40 years, the science still shows that their predictive value is minimal when used to predict job performance success in today’s job market.

A key factor in the panel’s finding is that most personality assessments are very broad and general in scope, whereas the areas of job performance are fairly narrow and specific. Researchers stated the specificity of a predictor should match the specificity of the area of job performance the predictor is designed to predict. It stands to reason that a test designed to predict precise work behaviors and outcomes would predict those specific behaviors better than a test designed to measure a broad and general sense of an individual’s personality. Think of it this way, one-size-fits-all clothing does not generally fit your clothing needs, but a tailored suit would fit your needs quite well. In terms of predicting job success, a broad ranging assessment will not fit your predictive needs, but a tailored, job specific assessment will likely meet your needs.

So when do assessments work? Assessments only work when they measure narrow, job-related constructs rather than broad personality constructs. Don’t utilize a test that measures descriptive personal characteristics (assertiveness, extraversion, persuasiveness); rather, utilize an assessment that is focused on predicting performance in specific areas (closing skills, presentation skills, etc). The goal is to predict success on the job, not describe the individual. In 2007, when the panel members discussed ways to improve the selection methods, all agreed that one way to increase validity is to develop tests that keep in mind the outcome, criteria and the behaviors the end-user wished to predict.

The bottom line, if you’re using an assessment to help you make critical hiring decisions, use one that is focused on the specific job-related behaviors required to be successful in a given role. Descriptive personality assessments have minimal effect when predicting on-the-job success. Select a vendor that drills down to the behaviors required to be successful, and you will have far more success when making new hires.

For more information about how to utilize the most effective assessment methods, a white paper entitled, The Trouble with Personality Tests is available for free download at http://www.chally.com/research/white-papers.html.

About HR Chally
Chally is a leading global provider of Sales and Leadership Talent Management services. Over the past 37 years, Chally has worked with over 7,300 sales forces around the world and built a world class database of hundreds of thousands of profiles. Chally’s offerings are based on literally hundreds of actuarial studies and utilize 156 competencies to describe on-the-job behaviors including Sales, Leadership, Functional and Behavioral Competencies. On average, we generate a 30% reduction in turnover, and an increase of 35% in individual productivity for our clients.

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