Matt was nervous. Most people are under the circumstances. Matt sat in front of the recruitment specialist, hoping that he’d end up with the job that was on offer. It was a step up from what he had done in the past—in pay, responsibility and influence.
Daniel, the Recruitment Manager, pushed a folded piece of paper and a pencil across the table to Matt and then did something appalling. He lied.
“Please answer the questions for this personality test there are no right or wrong answers”, Daniel reassured Matt.
There are no right or wrongs answers.
Mind you, Daniel had no intention of lying nor did he even realise that he had, at the time. “There are no right or wrongs answers”, is a lie that many managers and human resources professionals use from time to time. The personality tests that are conducted in workplaces throughout the world in job interviews have no answer that is intrinsically correct—as you might find in a high school mathematics exam. However, the presence of a series of questions that is included as part of the selection process for an employment role makes a lie of Daniel’s reassurance.
If a recruitment test of any kind is used in the context of an employee selection process, there is an intention to use it to justify the selection of a particular candidate and to exclude others. It has already been decided by the interviewer, recruitment expert or organisation that a particular personality is required for the role (or, conversely, that particular personality profiles are to be avoided). This means that for the organisation, particular responses on the personality test are, in fact, right or wrong.
Looking at personality tests from the candidate experiencing the job interview process, there are also right and wrong answers. In our example, Matt desperately wants the job but does not necessarily know what personality profile Daniel is looking for, nor does Matt know what responses he needs to give to present the ‘right’ personality profile for the job. Additionally, he knows that he should be honest during a job interview. When nervous, the tension created by the need, to be frank, and also the desire to meet the needs of the interviewer is unlikely to help Matt through the selection process nor help Daniel find the right candidate.
Set aside for now whether there is any validity in using Myers-Briggs, Keirsey, DISC or any other personality test or temperament sorter in a job interview, the simple message is that there are lies in the workplace that we use to smooth the path or placate people, but they are still lies.
A lucid manager will make every effort to assist Matt through the interview process and would also be aware that, truth be told, there is a right or wrong answer to every question in a job interview—the answer that demonstrates suitability for the job.
For more information and critique of personality profiles, confirmation bias and the Forer effect check out Peter’s essay, Know Thyself. Also check out Peter’s article on recruitment, arguing that every business gets the employees they deserve.