Personality tests are frequently used as a tool in recruitment. There are pros and cons to using such tests.
I was the CEO of U-MAN in Norway from 1990 till 2000. The company’s main product was selling the Oxford Capacity Analysis as a tool in recruitment for our clients. The OCA test is controversial because it is used by the Church of Scientology and licensed from the Church of Spiritual Technology and 6% of the income from test sales is funneled to the Church of Scientology conglomerate. U-MAN, a WISE company, has later changed its name to Performia. The company has moved its testing online like so many other companies selling personality tests, IQ tests etc.
While I go into greater details regarding both WISE, U-MAN and the OCA test in my book “Nittenåttifire“, I would like to accentuate a few points here.
The OCA test is originally a fork of the Johnson Temperament Analysis (now the T-JTA). Before 1954, Hubbard used many different personality tests to validate changes and progress people had with Scientology therapies. Julia Salmen, an employee of the Church of Scientology in LA was asked by L. Ron Hubbard to come up with a personality test that would be free for Scientology to use. She started out with the JTA and added one personality trait (Certain – Uncertain) – a smart improvement as it enhanced the value of the JTA by adding an internal consistency check of sorts. The OCA test has 10 personality traits with 20 questions determining each trait (the JTA has 180 questions and 9 traits). It may be doubtful that this change actually constitute enough “new work” to void any copyright claims of the JTA.
While the JTA (and OCA) was designed as a general personality test, such tests are also frequently used as a complimentary tool in job interviews. But there is a liability in such use. A similar liability is evident when the employer relies on school grades when recruiting for a position.
When an interviewer has a candidate in front of him, her grades from school and a personality test result with scores and a nice graph, he tends to overemphasize the grades and the test results. Because it has numeric values. The numbers tend to eclipse his own observations. The candidate fades to the background while the grades and scores grabs attention. I know this both from my own recruitment processes and from watching other interviewers. I did more than 6000 test evaluations/interviews, I supervised hundreds of interviews done by others. Whenever there is a test score on the table, it takes center stage.
The OCA test is a really good test. But personality is seldom the main factor in job performance. We would often be surprised when we tested a team of people only to find out that the top performer had the worst test for the job. He could be completely unstructured, irresponsible in life, a nervous wreck and even shy. Still he was the best sales person in the company. When we focused only on selling and evaluating OCA tests, we recommended the wrong candidate for the job maybe 20-30% of the time. As we improved our recruitment services, adding tests for competence, structured interviews, better reference checking, etc. we managed to get as high as 97,4% success rate (checked with the client 18 months after placement). But – and here comes the big BUT – I am sure we missed some fantastic candidates in the process. The most amazing people have quirks, eccentricities. Some are even raving mad by normal standards.
One should be cognizant of the tools one uses. One should master the tools and never let the tools take center stage. People should be the focus of attention.
For what it’s worth, I leave you with a book I wrote while I worked in U-MAN – The Evaluator’s Bible.
In the next blog post, I will relate a recent story of a very different interview I had with an amazing person.