Any Value In Personality Tests?

psychometricThroughout my profession career I have often been asked to take personality tests as part of my personal and leadership development. I always found them to be fun, but a little bit of a blunt tool, they provide some information but they don’t really give you a great deal of advice on what to do with the information or how you can improve.

I worked in one company where the entire organisation took a Tests and we were all asked to display our results on our doors so that we could better understand one another and therefore improve communication. So on my door it basically told people that I am a smart and curious thinkers who cannot resist an intellectual challenge, and that I like to play the devils advocate. 

So whilst might be good fun and help with team building events it doesn’t really give them a great insight into who I am, what motives me, or how best to work for me, or to manage me.

Just recently I was having lunch with a friend, and she was telling me about a new test that she had taken which had been provided by Predictive Synergistic Systems she told me that the level of detail she received about herself was uncanny.

The process involved an online test and then an interview with an expert to explain their interpretation of the results. After the conversation my friend said that she felt the expert knew more about her than her own mother.

I was intrigued and a little sceptical, so decided to call up the company and try the test for myself as I am always looking for tools which could benefit my clients.

The test basically consisted of 2 parts, one where you select words from a list which you think others say about you, and then you had to select words from a second list which you think best describes you. The test takes about 5 minutes to complete, it’s fairly straight forward, although selecting some of the words can be quite tough as they are quite similar.

After completing the test I received a 3 page report describing my personality. The report was pretty good I would say it was about 85% accurate, it provided some interesting insights but nothing that really blew me away.

Then came the interview, this is where they explained how the test worked and gave me feedback.

One of the things that surprised me here was that unlike some other tests, not only did the test detail my personality but it also gave some insight into what was going on with me personally over the last 90 days, whether I was under any undue stress, pressure or whether things were going smoothly. They told me that they could see that I was under a bit more pressure than usual during the last few weeks, but this was ok it was just a small spike. Which was actually the case as I am now rushing to prepare for the launch of my book and I had just recently stepped up my promotional efforts.

Then we started to talk about my personality and the best jobs for me. I was told that to get the best out of me, I should be put in charge of the most complex or pressing projects as I liked large challenges and I worked best under pressure. I should be given autonomy to come up with the solution and to drive the project as I saw fit, as I was innovative, inspiring and driven and would do what needed to be done to complete the task. I should be given the opportunity to meet with the boss at least once a week and given regular positive feedback as this is what would motivate me.

This was interesting because during my corporate career that’s exactly the kind of work that I previously sought out and was motivated by and the best bosses I’d had were those that had given me autonomy and were in regular contact with me. Whereas the bosses I didn’t like working for were those that either, I never saw and showed little interest in what I was doing or who tried to micromanage me.

We chatted for about 30minutes and it was very impressive, I felt like I was talking with someone who had worked with me my entire career rather than someone who I had never met and knew nothing about me, other than what was in the report.

Another dimension of the tool was that not only did it assess your personality, they had also run personality tests to benchmark different personalities against different roles to see which were the best fit. Initially the tool had been designed by the airforce to determine whether pilots would be more suited to being bomber or fighter pilots during the war, but now it had been extended to cover corporate roles.

I was impressed by the tool, it felt like a significant improvement on the tests I had done previously, and it is something that I would definitely recommend to my clients as part of their talent management and development processes.

One of the challenges when it comes it comes to managing and developing people is to make sure we put the right people into the right job, and to understand how best to motive them, which often varies from person to person.  If we can get that right then we can have an effective and engaged team, when we get it wrong it can have costly consequences and can impact our attrition rates and I believe that this tool can definitely help there, and will pay for it self very quickly.


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