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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Can Personality Tests Reduce Discrimination in Hiring?

Personality and interest tests sound like fair and effective ways for employment screening.  These tests should be less subjective because factors such as age, race, and gender are not applied to the results of the tests for hiring consideration.  However, “proponents of personality testing have suffered from a lack of data strongly supporting the validity of such tests in personnel selection” (Harland, Rauzi, & Biasotto, 1995, p. 183).  Also, these tests are not well accepted by applicants.  One reason for negative reactions to personality testing in employment is the issue of respectfulness.  According to Harland, Rauzi, and Biasotto (1995), many personality tests contain items of a personally sensitive nature “thus applicants may feel uncomfortable answering such items and thus may feel that these tests are disrespectful of their rights and dignity” (Harland, Rauzi, & Biasotto, 1995, p. 185).

Another concern about personality and interest tests is that the answers of these tests can be easily faked.  Decades ago psychologists had examined that applicants could make up the answers in favor of themselves (Wesman, 1952).  Because of these issues, the process of giving personality and interest tests may only partially succeed.  On the other hand, these tests do mask for prejudice or discrimination.  For example, in State of California, all public service job candidates are required to take a standard multiple choice test, part of which are personality related questions.  Only applicants with test score in Rank 1 are invited for interview.  In this situation, it is almost impossible for HR managers to be complained for discrimination by one who is not called for interview.  However, it may be debated that using test score as a hiring standard is a type of prejudice because there is functional difference between doing the test and doing the job, and someone may be more qualified for the job than others with higher test scores.


Harland, L. K., Rauzi, T., & Biasotto, M. M. (1995). Perceived fairness of personality tests and the impact of explanations for their use. Employee Responsibilities And Rights Journal, 8(3), 183-192.

Wesman, A. G. (1952). Faking personality test scores in a simulated employment situation. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 36(2), 112-113. doi:10.1037/h0055134

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