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Personality Assessments in Selection Mary Ila Ward PSY 6240 Middle Tennessee State University




Personality Assessment in Selection The concept of personality has been and continues to be a key topic and research area in psychology, particularly in the field of personnel selection. The topic of personality measures and assessment in selection is complex and continually evolving, with the usage of such measures for selection purposes increasing rapidly (Gatewood, Field & Barrick, 2008). Personality is perhaps one of the most diverse topics in all of psychology. Personality dimensions can be defined in various ways including the trait, cognitive and behavioral approaches. It has been defined simply by Gordon Allport, one of the first to research and define personality through the trait approach as “a predisposition to respond� in a particular manner (Pervin, 2003). A more complex definition from Pervin (2003) states: Personality is the complex organization of cognitions, affects, and behaviors that gives direction and pattern (coherence) to the person’s life. Like the body, personality consists of both structures and processes and reflects both nature (genes) and nurture (experience). In addition, personality includes the effects of the past, including memories of the past, as well as constructions of the present and future (p.447). There is a general consensus among researchers that there are five broad trait dimensions of personality, called the Big Five or the Five Factor Model, which measure individual differences. The Big Five includes the dimensions of conscientiousness, emotional stability, agreeableness, extraversion and openness to experience. Each of these cardinal dimensions has more specific dimensions that can be used to define them. Many other measures of personality exist, but consensus in measurement and therefore an extensive body of research, has developed around the Five Factor Model.



There are multiple personality assessments for a variety of purposes available today. Assessments have and can be designed to measure normal or abnormal personality characteristics as well as multiple or single personality dimensions. Personality can be assessed using life history data, observation data, objective test data and self-report data (Pervin, 2003). Most commonly, personality tests are self-report measures in which individuals are presented with a series of items where they are asked to rate their agreement with the item statement. For example, the NEO-Personality Inventory (NEO-PI), is a popular self-assessment which measures the Big Five dimensions of personality in polar fashion. Other measures are designed to measure single dimensions, such as emotional intelligence (a field in personality psychology) or selfefficacy, for example, while others measure more than the Big Five, such as the 16 Personality Factor Test (16 PF) which measures sixteen primary factors instead of five. Self- report assessments can also be modified to get others to rate individuals based on observation of them in general or specifically in work settings. Projective personality tests are another method of measurement. The key difference between projective personality tests and self-report measures are that projective tests are designed to be ambiguous. Examples of such tests are ink blot tests (such as the Rorschasch) and sentence completion assessments. Observation data of personality is most commonly obtained through interviews in selection and life history data gleaning insight into applicants’ personality could be obtained through background checks. All of these different types of measures have been used in personality selection, although some are more appropriate than others given nature of the work environment and position requirements.



The use of personality assessment in selection began to become common practice in the 1950s. Early research in the 1960s exploring the validity of personality assessment in selection showed no convincing links to personality dimensions and work performance in most situations. This research advocated avoiding making predictive validity generalizations from personality research in clinical or other settings to selection (Guion & Gottier, 1965). Instead, it was emphasized that personality measures should be examined in specific contexts for specific personnel selection purposes and not used simply because there is a intuitive inclination that personality matters to performance at work. Although there is current research that agrees with the assertion and postulates that personality tests will not gain the degree of acceptance that cognitive tests do in the selection arena (Murphy and Dzieweczynksi, 2005), the use of personality assessment in selection is and continues to be a growing field. The development of agreed upon dimensions and measures of personality as well as many meta-analysis pointing to the link between job performance (Tett, Jackson & Rothstein, 1991 and Tett et al., 1999) and personality has aided in the growth of its usage. Overall, it has been shown that the work environment or the situation impacts personality and its relevance in making selection decisions. For example, powerful work environments or situations demand conformity in behavior whereas weak situations are more ambiguous. Weak situations allow for personality to dictate behavior more so than in strong situations where the environment is more likely to impact behavior. Selection interviews utilized to assess personality demonstrate an example of a strong situation, therefore personality traits may be harder to identify in an interview setting. In addition, assessing personality may be more relevant where weak work situations prevail (Gatewood, Field & Barrick, 2008). For example,



assessing personality for a management role with high autonomy would be more appropriate than assessing personality for a production line worker where tasks are very specific and conformity in behavior is demanded. Performance rewards in the work environment are also an important factor when determining if personality assessment is an appropriate way to predict work behavior for particular positions (Gatewood, Field & Barrick, 2008). Personality traits are more likely to be demonstrated in situations where work success and rewards are tied to exhibiting certain traits. For example, in sales roles where pay is tied to sales commissions, extraversion may be an important determinate of behavior given that it is necessary to interact and persuade people in order to earn commissions through sales. However, if all sales representatives are paid equally regardless of the amount of sales generated, extraversion may not be as important of a determinate. It has been demonstrated that broader personality dimensions are better predictors of job performance than more specific traits (Gatewood, Field & Barrick, 2008). In addition, conscientiousness and emotional stability are more likely to be predictors of performance across almost all jobs than other dimensions such as extroversion or agreeableness and openness to experience that may not be necessary for all types of jobs. In fact, conscientiousness is the most often assessed personality trait in an employment interview (Gatewood, Field & Barrick, 2008). In the case of personality dimensions being valid predictors of performance in certain jobs, extraversion may be an important predictor for sales roles but would not be necessary to predict strong performance in a computer programmer role (Gatewood, Field & Barrick, 2008). The validity of tests across all jobs described can be examined through the different types of measures, very commonly through self-report measures. For example, a second-order meta-



analysis conducted by Murray Barrick, Michael Mount and Tim Judge of the predictive validity of the Big Five personality traits described in Gatewood, Field and Barrick (2008) showed that conscientiousness and emotional stability were the only two factors of the Big Five that were valid predictors of overall work performance. The correlation for conscientiousness was found to be .24 and .17 for emotional stability. Another study conducted to examine the validity of the Five Factor Model based assessments versus non-Five Factor Model assessments showed that FFM-based assessments had higher predictive validity for conscientiousness (correlation of .28) and emotional stability (correlation of .16) (Saladgo, 2003) than non-FFM based counterparts. Thus, conscientiousness and emotional stability do generalize across work situations to predict performance. Research has also shown that predictive validity is improved when theoretical frameworks are used to identify and connect to relevant situations and criteria (Hogan & Holland, 2003) to personality dimensions. Dimensions other than conscientiousness and emotional stability of the FFM have been found to be contingent predictors based on the job and work environment. For example, extroversion in the second-order meta-analysis was found to be a valid predictor for managers with a correlation of .21. Selecting leaders has been examined using personality predictors to predict leadership emergence and effectiveness. Judge and colleagues (2002), found that extraversion (correlation of .31), neuroticism (-.24), openness (.24) and conscientiousness (.28) are valid predictors of leadership performance. In addition, considering all of the Big Five personality traits in one model has been shown to add predictive validity when examining leadership, with a multiple correlation of .48 being reported (Judge et al, 2002)



Other traits, such as agreeableness were found to be a predictor of specific work criteria such as teamwork (correlation of .27) in addition to conscientiousness and emotional stability. Openness to experience was found to be a valid predictor of training performance with a correlation of .33 (Gatewood, Field & Barrick, 2008). Personality traits are often assessed through the employment interview. The predictive validity through this technique in measuring extraversion and conscientiousness has been found to be .33, with agreeableness having as high as a .51 correlation with job performance (Gatewood, Field & Barrick, 2008). Considering the use of personality assessment with other assessment instruments (such as cognitive ability tests) is likely to increase incremental validity (Gatewood, Field & Barrick, 2008) of overall selection. The reliability of projective personality tests is often low due to changes in emotion and mood over time. This can cause a problem for use in selection. Projective personality tests may also measure more than just personality, such as verbal ability, which also creates potential selection issues. The difficulty in scoring projective tests, e.g. issues with inter rater reliability, also calls into question its usefulness in selection (Gatewood, Field & Barrick, 2008). The usefulness of personality assessment in selection can also be examined through its utility. Utility of such measures can be examined by the strength of the correlation between the dimension and job performance criteria. Pervin (2003) notes that it is rare for a correlation between personality and job performance to be above .30. Although a correlation of this strength can add to the predictive validity to selection, “they do not constitute impressive evidence of the utility of personality measures in the prediction of job success� (p. 436). Potential threats to the validity and reliability of self-report measures of personality assessments include the potential to intentionally fake responses. Evidence that this is plausible



is contradictory. Gatewood, Field, & Barrick (2008) advocate instead of being concerned with applicants faking responses, personnel professionals should choose assessments based on their predictive validity. Some measures including the MMPI and CPI include dimensions that assess whether not the individual is trying to create positive impressions and minimize negative ones (Pervin, 2003). Others advocate for the use of having warning statements about the consequences of intentionally faking responses and correcting for distortion using statistical techniques (Gatewood, Field & Barrick, 2008). Personality assessment through interviews and behavioral assessment (such as work samples) can be effective in predicting work performance. In both of these instances, like projective personality assessment, training of those assessing the traits should be performed in order to avoid reliability issues that result from inconsistent judgment of raters. Another bias that may distort the validity and reliability of self-rating personality measures include the fact that people may answer the questions using a broad frame of reference instead of answering specifically within the context of work. This will reduce the correlation between traits and work performance. As jobs continue to evolve away from task-based to less structured roles, personality assessment may be increasingly important in predicting success on the job. Team based work will also continue to be more and more relevant in today’s organization, therefore assessing candidates based on personality dimensions that have been linked to positive team performance (agreeableness, extraversion) will likely become more important. Research will continue to examine personality dimensions beyond the Big Five and their links to work performance. For example, measures of emotional intelligence, self-monitoring



and proactive personality will continue to be examined for appropriate use in predicting success in today’s changing work environment. Another contemporary issue in personality selection is the use of un-proctored internet testing. Its usage has become more common in selection and can prove to be useful in screening applicants on personality dimensions. A study by Smith (2009) examined the assessment of the personality dimension self-monitoring through Gangestad and Synder’s (1985) self-monitoring questionnaire administered in paper and pencil form versus online. The study found that the internet version had similar properties to the paper and pencil version and was favorable for using in measuring the dimension. The study did, however, urge for stringent validation of the online version. Overall, the assessment of personality for selection purposes has proven to be useful in certain situations for predicting work performance. Although early research may have pointed to discontinuing its use based on the lack of predictive validity, research has shown that certain dimensions do in fact have predictive and incremental validity in a variety of work situations. However, the common emphasis sixty years ago still holds true today. Personality measures should be examined in specific contexts for specific personnel selection purposes in order to be most effective for decision making.



Study Proposal: A Comparison of the HPI and HDS for Selection of Managers Hogan Assessments Systems has a variety of personality assessment instruments designed for selection (and other) purposes. The Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI) is most commonly used as a measure of normal personality along the primary scale dimensions of adjustment, ambition, sociability, interpersonal sensitivity, and prudence, inquisitive and learning approach. In addition, the occupational scales of service orientation, stress tolerance, reliability, clerical potential, sales potential and managerial potential can be assessed. Conversely, the Hogan Developmental Survey (HDS) is designed to measure potential derailers for work success along the dimensions of excitable, skeptical, cautious, reserved, leisurely, bold, mischievous, colorful, imaginative, diligent and dutiful. These dimensions, in moderation, are viewed as strengths in individuals, whereas extreme ratings point to potentially harmful personality characteristics that can derail work performance. The distinction between these two methods as ways of looking at predicting work outcomes is intriguing. Examining harmful personality dimensions could prove to be useful in screening applicants than more commonly used measures of success. The proposed study would compare the predictive validity of these two different approaches to selection in predicting work success in managers. The sample would include applicants for a structured management candidate program at a global corporation in order to glean large sample sizes. All candidates would take both assessments prior to being hired, but in this instance, the results of the measures would not be used for selection decision purposes, instead they will be used in a predictive validity study of management success.



Examining the predictive success in a structured management candidate program will also aid in gathering performance data easily for validation purposes because performance and training data is gathered at regular intervals in these types of programs that typically consists of training, rotation through different functional areas, and standardized time of the program (for example, the incumbent is considered a Management Candidate for eighteen months to two years before being placed in a long-term assignment). Criterion data will include training results, performance appraisal ratings by superiors during their rotations, and turnover data at the conclusion of the program. These dimensions will then be correlated to overall scores on the HPI and HDS as well as individual dimensions of both of these measures.

Correlations between the two measures both in their entirety and along

individual dimensions will also be examined. Most interestingly, turnover data (whether those that leave the company and program involuntarily or voluntarily) could prove to be most useful in determining if the HDS is better at predicting failure rates than the HPI. In hiring for upper-level positions, determining predictors of job failure may provide more utility than predicting work success. Study results could then be used to assess the appropriateness of using one or both of the measures for selection of subsequent management candidate classes in addition to providing useful groundwork for research into the comparison of emphasis of these two approaches in predicting work outcomes.



References Buchanan, T., & Smith J.L. (1999). Using the internet for psychological research: Personality testing on the World Wide Web. British Journal of Psychology. 90(1), 125-144. Gatewood, R.D, Field, H.S., & Barrick, M. (2008). Human Resource Selection, Sixth Edition. Mason, OH: South-Western. Guion, R., & Gottier, R. (1965). Validity of personality measures in personnel. Personnel Psychology, 18(2), 135-164. Hogan, J., & Holland, B. (2003). Using theory to evaluate personality and job-performance relations: A socioanalytic perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(1), 100-112. Judge, T.A., Bono, J.E., Ilies, T., & Gerhardt, M.W. (2002). Personality and leadership: A qualitative and quantitative review. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 765-780 Murphy, K., & Dzieweczynski, J. (2005). Why Don't Measures of Broad Dimensions of Personality Perform Better As Predictors of Job Performance?. Human Performance, 18(4), 343357. Pervin, L.A. (2003). The Science of Personality. Second Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. Saldago, J. (2003). Predicting job performance using FFM and non-FFM personality measures. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 76(3), 323-346.



Tett, R., Jackson, D., Rothstein, M., & Reddon, J. (1999). Meta-Analysis of Bidirectional Relations in Personality-Job Performance Research. Human Performance, 12(1), 1-29. Tett, R., Jackson, D., & Rothstein, M. (1991). Personality measures as predictors of job performance: A meta-analytic review. Personnel Psychology, 44(4), 703-742.

Personality in Selection  

A paper examining whether or not personality testing should be used in selection decisions.

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