I’ve long contended that personality style tests like Predictive Index, DISC and Myers-Briggs are inappropriate for screening candidates in or out before they’re interviewed. The problem is that these tests measure preferences, not competencies. More important, most people can modify their preferred style to meet the needs of the situation, something not even considered by these types of questionnaires. As a result, there are just too many false positives and false negatives to make these types of tests good enough for filtering candidates early in the hiring process.
Have Interviewers Take the Test Before Candidates Do
Despite these misgivings, these tests have significant value when used properly. One way is for interviewers to take the test before they interview candidates as a means to minimize their natural biases and to increase their objectivity.
To see how this works, first determine your BEST style as shown in the graphic. The absolutely no cost and simplest to use BEST test is a good proxy for most of the personality tests available. Put yourself on the right side of the 2X2 matrix if you prefer to make quick decisions and on the left if you’re more cautious. Assign yourself to the top half if you tend to focus more on results than people and on the bottom half if the reverse is true. Based on this analysis you’re either a Boss, Engager,Supporter or Technical.
Control Your Interviewing Bias by Becoming Your Least BEST
In general, people are more comfortable with those who have similar styles. From a BEST standpoint this means their dominant BEST decision-making style and the two adjacent styles. People have the most conflict with their least-BEST style – their diagonal opposite. However, by adopting the attributes of this opposite style during the interview, it’s possible to become more objective by evaluating the candidate’s accomplishments through a totally different point of view.
Some examples will help explain this reverse thinking:
The Boss: By listening more before judging a candidate’s answers and asking about team projects the Boss can be more like a Supporter.
The Supporter: Getting lots of metrics and details about the results the candidate has achieved allows a Supporter to become Boss-like.
The Engager: Engagers can become like Techies by digging into the process the candidate used to achieve results rather than making instant decisions on personality.
The Technical: Techies can become Engagers by shifting their emphasis from determining technical brilliance to finding out how the person collaborated and influenced people on their team projects to achieve results.
This crossover technique is a good way to temporarily move towards the center of the graphic – the Coaching position – to increase assessment accuracy. Coaches are the people who naturally see all sides of an issue before they make decisions, so this crossover approach is a great way to become more objective.
Assess team skills by observing changes in BEST personality type over time.
With this more objective mindset, you can find candidates with stronger team skills by determining if they move to the coaching position when they’re trying to fully understand all sides of an issue and whether this movement is situational or permanent.
This assessment can be made by using the performance-based interview I advocate. This approach involves asking candidates to describe their major team and individual accomplishments that best compare to the actual requirements of the job. Ask for examples of decision-making, problem-solving and handling conflict where different BEST styles are needed to fully understand the situation and develop the best outcome. After a few accomplishments at different periods in time, you’ll see patterns emerge revealing whether the candidate modified his/her dominant BEST style to meet the needs of the situation or uses a “one size fits all situations” approach. Raise the caution flag when you see people who are this one-sided. Give a big thumbs up if the person has adopted the coaching position as his or her permanent natural style.
It’s best to use BEST tests as confirming rather than predictive indicators.
BEST and similar personality type indicators have their good and bad points. Since they only assess preferences in “either – or” fashion, these tests have limited predictive value when it comes to assessing ability. Nor do they take into account situational flexibility. This results in too many false negatives: Inadvertently eliminating many good candidates too soon in the hiring process. Despite these misgivings, I suggest using these types of tests for the short-list of finalists to determine how they adopt their natural style based on the circumstances. As important, interviewers who take this test ahead of time will be able to override their natural decision-making and be able to evaluate the candidate more objectively. This is actually the BEST way to use these tests to improve interviewing accuracy and hire the right person for the right reasons.