Fresh graduates leave colleges and universities after years of academic work culminating in the joyful reward of being holders of degrees or diplomas. Many of them end up seeking jobs in various institutions a difficult task that demands patience. Employers when hiring, look for the best the market can offer them so as to maintain a degree of quality in their operations. The result is vigorous recruitment processes that try to determine the best of the applicant(s) suitable to be absorbed. Personality a major component of these interviews is the set of more stable and enduring traits of a person that uniquely differentiates them from others, but allows for comparison between them to be made (Ogden 3). Potential employers carry out personality assessment tests of applicants whose academic qualifications are satisfactory to determine the most suitable candidate. These tests are also used in other areas such as in career choice and to determine the partner engage in a relationship with. While several types of tests are available and employed by various organizations in carrying out personality assessments, the elusive question is to determine the most suitable one.
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Methods of personality assessment
There are various theories about personalities and therefore different ways of assessment for each. These methods can broadly be classified into three categories which include; subjective, objective, and projective tests (Heffner par.1). Employers and recruitment agencies often use one, a combination of two or three of these tests, in interviewing candidates. The test(s) used to depend mostly on the position vacant and the type of job.
Subjective tests are meant to provide important information about interviewees and also assess their work experience. It offers a good base to analyze individuals’ abilities and counter checks them with the preference, so as to pick the most suitable candidate. It is mostly used in instances where the interviewees do not have the technical know-how of the field they are recruiting in. For instance, an engineer who is starting up a private engineering company and requiring the services of an accountant may not be well conversant with the skills needed for an accountant. Thus, the engineer should rely on subjective tests to determine the candidate who is the best fit for the post. On contrary, a group of professional accountants going into private practice and setting up a consultancy firm may need assistants as a result of the bulk of work. If they conduct interviews, they have a very good idea of the kind of skills they are looking for from their interviewees therefore they might not use subjective tests. In most companies, the human resources personnel do not have the same professional skills as the numerous different professionals needed in the organizations. Yet, they are ought to decide on the best choices or most qualified. Thus subjective tests are very important in such situations.
A psychometric test paper is a classic example of a subjective test (Billsberry 96). The papers are normally standardized and cater to all aspects of the needed information. “ Standardized subjective tests of performance (as opposed to self-reports) for the assessment of abilities and skills include the Differential Aptitude Test, The General Aptitude Test Battery and the Morissby Differential Test Battery” (Anderson et al. 606).
Benefits: The whole package of social and communication skills that are necessary for performing the job is determined in subjective tests. This is done by framing the questions in a manner to elicit the type of needed responses. Interviewers may gain extra information useful in appraisal of the candidates such as verbal fluency in a particular language in positions entailing interpersonal relations that significantly influence a company’s image. The applicants’ professional skills are also tested in this kind of interview helping in determining whether they are professionally ready for the challenge ahead of them. The subjective tests help in making a fair decision choice amongst equally qualified candidates. Take, for instance, a law firm requiring two fresh graduates as interns and receiving 137 applications, 89 of whom have all equally met the academic requirements and experience is immaterial. The method fairly selects the best two. It is worth noting that interviewees’ impression of the company during the interview affects their work input or their perception as to whether they want to work for the company if they pass the interview (Bellisberry 85). The interview allows the potential immediate supervisors and/or colleagues to assess whether the candidate is compatible with them more so in areas in which teamwork is the most elementary need like sport.
Limitations: The subjective nature of evaluation while it is good as an assessment method can be detrimental to the process if the interviewer is biased. This might compromise the outcome (Heffner par 3). In a case in which the recruitment personnel in a security firm believe that tall people are physically stronger than short ones, an extremely strong medium man may be overlooked with ease and a weak tall man accepted when less qualified. Although the interviews take a considerable length of time, decisions are made within a short time period in the initial stages. The rest of the interviews time is for validating or justifying the initial decision. Usage of similar tests over and over again leads to the formation of stereotypes of employees with interviewers looking for the presence of specific traits disregarding the totality of the individuals. Any form of negative information provided during the interview is given more weight than the good side. This is because in most cases the applicants are all qualified and the challenging issue is who to eliminate in each stage so that to retain the best.
Objective tests do focus on the interviewee’s memory abilities as pertains to facts and figures as well as mastery and understanding of the subject. The tests are normally designed to involve critical reasoning and the best answers are arrived at through the elimination method of the least likely answers or handpicking of the most probable one to be right. Areas included in the tests are logical reasoning abilities, numerical reasoning and talent assessment. Answers are marked objectively as right or wrong with no intermediates. Participants do not give their opinions of the situation, but consider one of the choices provided. Mastery of specific facts is of significance and the interviewee must distinguish and classify all the knowledge gained into different categories such as facts, theories or ideas. The test-taker is scored in terms of speed and content (Anderson 206). Objective tests do not take issues such as beliefs or sensitivity to certain scenarios into account. Organizations such as the military use objective tests in eliminating the large number of applicants that aspire to be officers in the service as they emulate reality on the ground. In the armed forces, officers are supposed to make judgments as to whether they are right or wrong based on what the rules stipulate. For every tactical situation, there are laid guidelines to arrive at the right decision. Any deviation from this leads to a wrong decision. This situation is similar to the objective tests that allow for only one right answer in the case of multiple choices. Thus, it is the best assessment tool for conducting interviews in the military.
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Benefits: Objective tests can assess a wide range of material within a short time frame. For instance, interviewers can answer 250 multiple choice questions covering various issues in different sections of the papers within a span of three hours, while within that time span, the interviews can only manage to write a maximum of two essays on two topics only. Precision is also high since only short direct facts are stated and the participants do not speculate non-substantiated issues that leave the interviewer confused. Factors such as writing skills that may hamper candidates’ ability to express their knowledge do not come into play since all that is required is to pick the correct answer from the choices given. The results of objective tests can easily be used for statistical analysis of certain subjects. For instance, in a case where all participants fail or pass in particular sections or questions, then it is easier to determine their areas of weakness and strengths respectively. It makes the assessor unbiased based on any prior feelings, opinions or beliefs they may have about the candidate. In the aforementioned example of the security firm in which the interviewer believes tall people are physically strong, an objective test may reveal excellent security skills in the medium height person and depict him/her as the best candidate. Later a physical test like weight lifting can be used to determine who is able to lift a given weight or run certain distances within a specific time. This will give the assessor an opportunity to make a better judgment. Since the answers are unambiguous the tests help in arriving at standardized conclusions by different interviewers. If interviews for the same post are conducted by different people the test will yield standard results. Objective tests can also be marked easily and fast. In addition, they are cheap and a large number of people can be assessed within a short time span. Thus, it is the best option for quick results of a big group of interviewees.
Limitations: Most objective tests involve recalling basic facts as pre-stated and do not encourage creativity or bring out analytical abilities in people. Individuals who recall simple introductory facts on given subjects do not necessarily grasp the deeper complex aspects that may be more important. Thus, if relied on the whole, only very little information if any is obtained outside the tested areas. Abilities such as verbal fluency in a language, manner of expression, or writing skills are not catered for because the test does not offer this. If the test time is limited, then they look like straight reading tests as the candidates spend a lot of time reading many questions and making marks with very little thinking hence the result do not depict the reasoning abilities of the candidates. The setting of objective tests is demanding and time-consuming especially due to the multiple choices and crucial wording of the questions so that only one predetermined answer is correct. Due to this, assessors reuse the tests in most cases instead of preparing them every time there is a need for an interview. This is one of their major weaknesses since exams should always be customized to specific individuals or groups. Availability of choices promotes guesswork and interviewees may get correct answers for questions they do not know duping the assessor into having the view they have know-how in a particular area(s) while they do not have the requisite knowledge(Billsberry 96).
Projective tests are structured to reveal people’s reflex reactions to situations. It involves an assessment of people’s thoughts, emotions, and desires (Heffner par.4). They have no right or wrong answers and uncover individuals’ unconscious wishes, thoughts, and needs hence help to determine reasons behind candidates’ actions and motivations to specific tasks (Coon et al. 437). The rationale behind carrying out this kind of test is that people are reluctant to reveal their deep true feelings about certain issues and sometimes there is a need to truly determine these feelings. Projective tests penetrate any conscious defense mechanism people employ during interviews or the unconscious psychological defenses they are not aware of. In general, the test situations are designed in a way that the respondents ‘project’ their feelings towards unstructured stimulus in the setup. The defense mechanisms of the participants are bypassed because they are not directly talking about themselves but about something or someone else which makes them reveal their true inner feelings (Carl et al. 120). The kind of test, therefore, is appropriate for situations where underlying motivations for action are of importance. For example, it is vital for individuals applying for recruitment in intelligence organizations. This personnel’s deal in classified information more often puts their lives at risk, thus this test can greatly enable them to pick the best candidate for such a job. There is a need for certainty in their motivation and genuineness, lest they be working for rival services or have self ambitions. Examples of these tests are inkblots and hidden plots.
Benefits: Information about an individual gained through projective techniques has a high degree of accuracy because of the unconscious nature in which the individual reveals the information. He/ she does not make the decision to withhold information hence responses that the subject would be unwilling or unable to give if they knew the purposes of the test are elicited. The method provides answers in situations where concerns of personal or sensitive beliefs, values, and motivation are of significance. It projects the overall functioning of individuals. Another advantage is that the candidates are unlikely to have done the test before.
Limitations: Projective tests are complex to undertake right from the collection of the necessary data to the interviewers’ required skills. The data obtained is meaningless without analysis by trained skilled interpreters of the information. There is also considerable subjectivity in the analysis of data. Due to this intense demand for skills, projective tests are expensive to carry out especially given that statistically significant samples are needed for excellent analysis to be carried out. There is a risk of interpretation bias that may affect the outcome of the test. Sometimes the tests require candidates to engage in unusual behaviors which they may resist hence a hindrance to the objective. Contextual effects do derail the results of this type of test in instances where race, attitude, gender of tester and participant, cultural affiliations or what participant believes the test is about, deter accuracy in response and analysis.
All the three methods discussed above have their pros and cons. They are all fair in different contexts and are suitable in various situations depending on the kind of interview. It is important for personality assessors to frame their tests to produce the most accurate results on the areas of concern. A personality test for interviews should address whether the individuals are compatible with the jobs they are about to assume. This can be achieved by the assessment verifying whether the picked candidates possess the necessary skills, knowledge and experience together with the ethics entailed. This is because employees that are not competent for their jobs reduce companies’ productivity and endanger growth among other negative attributes. This makes recruitment of the best candidate very imperative. This can only be assured by the interviewers ensuring that they employ more than one method of the assessments test, that is a number of tests that represent all above discussed are carried out and their combined outcome taken. The next time you are looking for a job and a company lets you attend more than two interviews, take heart, your academic qualifications are satisfactory and all the interviewers are trying to determine is whether your personality matches the job requisite.
Anderson, Neil, et al. International Handbook of Selection and Assessment. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 1997. Print.
Billsberry, Jon. Experiencing Recruitment & Selection. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2007. Print.
Carl, McDaniel, et al. Marketing Research Essentials. Ohio: South-Western College, 1995. Print.
Coon, Dennis, et al. Psychology: A Journey. Ontario: Thomson Wardsworth, 2008. Print.
Heffner, Christopher, L. ”Personality Research and Assessment”. Personality Synopsis. 2002. Web.
Ogden, Charles. Personality. London: Routledge, 1926. Print.