I recently discussed with my friend, a hiring manager himself, the idea of having candidates take personality tests during the interview. He is a proponent and believes that it wouldn’t hurt as long as the employer assures candidates that the test results do not affect the hiring decision.
I respectfully disagree.
When talking about interviews, it is not uncommon for candidates to take competency tests as part of the screening process. For example, customer service roles require certain simulation tests, developer roles need coding assessments, and leadership positions are associated with in-basket exercises. These tests evaluate job-related skills and knowledge and are essential to ensure incumbents perform their job duties successfully.
Nowadays, many employers favour a psychometric test, also known as a personality test. Following this trend, tests like DiSC and MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) started getting popular. Assessment companies began pitching their personality test tools to employers, claiming that their products can help identify their culture fits or bring the best out of the employees.
Here are my two questions:
1. What are the legal implications of a pre-employment personality test?
Let’s use Ontario, Canada, as an example. The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits the use of an employment application form or a written or oral inquiry that directly or indirectly classifies an applicant based on a prohibited ground of discrimination (Subsection 23(2)). This also applies to psychological profiles and testing. The validity of behavioural testing as a tool to predict on-the-job performance may be subject to a complaint under the Code.
On that note, if an employer in Ontario requires a pre-employment personality test for a candidate with a mental health issue, it may be associated with discrimination based on invisible disability.
Even if the employer reassures the candidate that the personality test won’t impact the hiring decision, there is a very fine line to define such a requirement, especially if the candidate may be disqualified if they refuse to take the test. Further, it may take 20-60 minutes to complete a personality test. Adding this one extra step may result in nothing but harm to the candidate’s experience.
2. If an employer conducts the personality test post-employment, is profiling employees really necessary?
Admittedly, personality tests can be a helpful tool for employee engagement and talent management. However, a few multiple-choice questions and scales cannot define employees’ personalities and behaviours, especially since the results may be affected by their state of mind, motive, language and culture.
Understandably, employers want to build their “dream teams.” However, there may be legal issues and concerns related to personality testing in the interview process – would that constitute privacy violation, bias, or discrimination? While Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) continues to be a hot topic, assessing and documenting employees’ personalities can either be leveraged to nurture a diverse workplace or be held against the organization for cultural assimilation.