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Personality Tests And Testing In Business And Industry

Personality, Business and Industry: The Connection


In this unit, you will be introduced to two different, but related, categories of tests. Personality tests and tests used in business and industry have different purposes, but very often they overlap. In fact, personality tests are increasingly used by businesses for personnel selection. They are used to predict job performance, leadership, and many other traits important to organizations. However, they can also give inaccurate information. If used for purposes other than those for which it is intended, any given test will result in an invalid outcome. As with any test, it needs to be valid so it measures the characteristics needed. It also needs to be reliable so it can be given to a large number of applicants.




What Personality Tests Measure


Thinking about what personality tests measure, we might include how we think, what we feel, what motivates us, and how we react. Personality is made up of the things that drive our behavior, such as our psychological preferences and our innate predispositions. These are personality traits and are basically stable over time. We also exhibit personality types which are more subjective ways of explaining the differences between people. This is what the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) measures. You might also be familiar with the term “type A personality,” which defines someone who is anxious, impatient, and at risk for cardiac problems. Trait versus type is an important concept in this discussion, because the most appropriate personality tests to use in personnel selection measure traits not types. Personality traits are more stable characteristics that help define behavior over time. Personality type can change based on the situation one is in and other factors.


Our personality can influence our job performance in many ways. Our personality can be a factor in the ability to perform a task or work in a particular setting, as well as in the motivation we have. Personality tests are used in the selection of personnel, giving employers better predictive ability and a better chance of hiring the right person for the right job. Similar to other categories, personality tests should not be the only basis for making any decisions about current or potential employees.


Personality Tests


As you probably know, personality is measured for reasons other than personnel selection. When personalities are maladaptive, it means that the way those people think about themselves and how they interact with their environment can be problematic. Personality tests are based on research using operational definitions, which are measureable and allow for quantifiable, objective data. However, objective personality tests are not the only way to assess personality. In fact the most common personality tests are subjective, such as self-report questionnaires. One of the key criticisms of subjective tests, especially self-reports, is that the results might not be accurate, or that answers can be easily faked. Both objective and subjective tests have their uses. There are numerous ways to categorize personality a test: the methodology used for its development, administration, analysis of results, et. cetera. To help understand the many ways to assess personality, the most commonly used types will be briefly discussed. Your textbook covers representative tests of each type and you are encouraged to read about the tests mentioned below.


Interviews and Questionnaires: Interviews and questionnaires are the most commonly-used type of personality tests. They have been called subjective measures by some, because they often rely on self-report, questionnaires, checklists, and related administration methods. There is a better chance of interpretation error as well as potential for inaccurate responses due to faking. Interviews, both structured and open-ended, can provide a great deal of information and allow for observation of non-verbal behavior as well. The problem with the validity of interviews as personality tests makes the use of additional tests important. This is especially true when you are trying to make an accurate diagnosis.

Objective Tests: Not all self-report tests fall into this category, as some are standardized. These are objective personality tests which compare the responses given with those of the standardization sample. While many are self-report tests, there are also scales built in to detect faking. Examples are the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2), which is made up of scales used to measure the presence or absence of psychopathology; the California Personality Inventory (CPI); and Cattell’s Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF).

Projective Tests: Projective measures look at a person on the subconscious level. Analyzing personality through the unconscious is based in Freudian psychoanalysis. Unlike objective tests, these are less structured and rely, in part, on the knowledge of the psychologist for interpretation which can also be somewhat subjective. There continue to be questions about the validity and reliability of these tests, however they remain popular in clinical work. You might be most familiar with the Rorschach Inkblot test and the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). Their use requires psychologists highly skilled in the theory and administration of all facets behind these tests.

Behavioral Measures: Operant conditioning looks at how people respond to stimuli in the environment. Personality is seen as observable behaviors that can be measured, and that might require intervention. For example, if a child hits others on the playground, the behavior is measured (situations it happens, frequency, duration, antecedents, et cetera) in order to develop an intervention. While the behaviors might be part of what others call personality, it is the behavior that is important. The measures are valid, as they are based on observable measures. In addition, the intervention can be developed based on the data collected.

Testing in Business and Industry


Business, industry, and other organizational settings are the main areas of concentration for industrial and organizational psychologists. While personality tests are often used in these settings, many other psychological tests are used as well. Tests used for career counseling, personnel placement, and cognitive assessments are only a few examples. An important consideration of test use is evaluating special populations—this is one reason why educational psychologists are often used in these settings. Test administration and even test construction are important skills needed in business and industry.




To successfully complete this learning unit, you will be expected to:


Determine the purpose of different types of personality testing.

Determine the purpose of tests used in business and industry.

Discuss the selection and application of personality tests.

Discuss the selection and application of tests used in business .


(Part 1)  Personality Assessment

From Chapters 13 or 14 of the Psychological Testing: Principles, Applications, and Issues text, choose a personality assessment that you regard as the most useful for a possible future client population.

Prepare a post that discusses this assessment and addresses the following:  Identify the specific population in which you would utilize the assessment.

Describe the psychometric properties and those aspects of the standardization and norm group that make this measure appropriate for use with the population in question.

Discuss how you will resolve any psychometric or other problems you may encounter when using this measure with the given population.


(Part 2)  Testing in Business and Industry

Suppose that a newly formed private security agency contracts with you to develop a pre-employment assessment protocol for screening applicants for the position of security guard. Describe the assessment process and test battery you would recommend for use by this agency. What is your rationale for selecting this particular test?


(Part 3)  Computer-Assisted Testing

Briefly summarize the article you located on computer-assisted psychological assessment. Include the URL in your post, and address the following:  Discuss the central finding of the article.

Evaluate the content of the article in terms of its importance to tests and measurements.

Discuss how the article supplements and extends the material in the text. Be specific in your examples.

Appraise the article in terms of its relevance to the standards.