Personality Assessments – What Role Should They Play in Hiring?


In 2017, it seems like everything is being measured and quantified. Over time, this trend has spread to people-centric industries like executive search. Like it or not, the use of personality assessments – and other pre-employment testing – is alive and well as companies are hiring employees from the entry level to the executive level. I’m often asked by clients and candidates alike, “what role should personality testing play in the hiring process?” My response usually begins with the words “be careful…”

Hiring is a tricky thing. It is a mix of both art and science. Companies are looking to attract leaders who have the requisite experience to fill a role and can propel an organization towards a specific vision. Identifying the right credentials on paper is easy – anyone can tell me which industry they have worked in and for how long. Personality AssessmentsCritical factors like culture fit, team fit, and personality fit are often much more difficult to ascertain and can make the difference between adequate and exemplary achievement by an executive. A good hiring process all starts with alignment (or misalignment) on the part of the hiring team. Be sure to engage in robust dialogue up front about what you’re looking for in the ideal candidate. Use common language, and be sure everyone is on the same page. Be specific, and avoid vague ideas like “strategic” (after all, we can all probably think of 100 different ways to describe strategic).  

Once you have developed a clear picture of who it is you’re looking for, including the skill-sets, experience bases, and personality types to thrive in your organization’s culture, consider whether the use of personality assessments might be useful for creating a match between your needs and the candidate. If you do decide to use personality testing as a pre-employment screening process, it falls on you to ensure that they are reliable, valid, legal, and effective. There are a host of different tools out there, from Meyers-Briggs (MBTI), to DiSC, to the Predictive Index and many, many more.

In our role as executive search consultants, we routinely use personality assessments. While others may rely heavily on these as a filter, we suggest using them more as a validation of impressions you have gleaned throughout a thorough interview process rather than as a hire / don’t hire gate in your process. We partner with Hogan Assessments because we believe it’s the most robust tool available in terms of developing a holistic view on what makes a leader tick.

A good personality assessment conducted with the chosen finalist for a leadership role can provide tremendous benefits for both the incoming executive and the hiring executive. For the hiring executive / hiring team, the assessment will help serve as an “owner’s manual” on your new hire. This owner’s manual can facilitate (or expedite) integration and onboarding, as you have a clear picture of a person’s motivators and strengths. Long-term, it can identify gap areas and blind spots in personality or leadership style that, with a little coaching, could empower that person to become an even more effective executive for your organization.

For the incoming executive, a good personality assessment simply helps that person understand him or herself better. We find that executives with humility, self-awareness, and the desire to improve themselves end up succeeding more than those who are complacent or unaware of their own leadership shortcomings. Lack of self-awareness is one of the biggest reasons we see executives fail, so the personality assessment can help bring those issues to light.

The bottom line is that a good personality assessment helps everyone come into the relationship with eyes wide open. While we do not recommend personality testing as go / no-go decision tool, good assessments go a long way toward a nuanced selection practice and a smooth integration process. In turn, they offer better long term effectiveness and success for both the incoming executive and the organization. We measure our success as a reflection of the success of our placements, so when an organization is succeeding as a result of great leadership, we are succeeding as executive search consultants.

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About the author

Mike Morrow's picture

Mike is a partner in the firm's Industry and Energy practices. For 20 years, Mike has been recognized by his clients for his dedication and for providing keen, objective insight to solving critical organizational problems. Prior to TRANSEARCH, Mike managed the capital equipment practice for another major Chicago search firm and has since broadened his expertise from a base in Industry into helping other project oriented clients tackle difficult leadership pipeline challenges. Mike’s practice includes conducting C-level retained searches, along with VP-level assignments across all functional leadership areas. Additionally, Mike is certified to provide Hogan personality assessments for his executive search assignments.

Originally from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Mike lived in Chicago for more than 15 years before recently settling in Texas. Mike resides in the Dallas / Fort Worth area with his wife and son, where he is a member of the Association for Corporate Growth, serving on the Board of Directors as the Chair of the Membership Committee for the ACG DFW chapter. He also serves as a Director on the SMU Digital Accelerator Advisory Board.

Mike holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from James Madison College at Michigan State University, with a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and he is conversational in Spanish.

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this is a great article!

Probably very little ... but if you insist, please don't ask me (if I could) what kind of animal or what flavor ice cream I'd be.

Dear Mike, a very valid set of thoughts well articulated. I very much agree that assessments cannot and should not ever be the only tool or process step in hiring, but they can add great value in the initial screening of potential candidates. I am using PI (Predictive Index), coupled with PLI (Learning Indicator) and comparing candidates to the PI Job PRO (Profile) for initial suitability. PI also assists in interview preparation and execution, as well as coaching and development of the hired candidate much later on. Such assessment tools compliment the contemporary hiring processes very well and I would recommend the use of these to all mid to large sized enterprises. Many thanks for sharing your good thoughts on the subject.

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