Recruiting with personality tests : advantages and methods

tests de personnalité


It’s no longer a scoop: in 2021, behavioral skills (also called “soft skills”) are more prized than ever. In an unstable context marked by telecommuting, companies need creative talents who can innovate, demonstrate a strong capacity to adapt, a certain autonomy… Problem: these soft skills are, by essence, intangible. They are observed on the job, and cannot really be quantified.

The solution found by recruiters? Personality tests. According to the 2009-2019 Cadre Sourcing barometer for executives conducted by Apec, 19% of recruiters would include a personality test when recruiting executives. But what are the advantages (and limitations) of personality tests and how can they be used? Explanations in this article.

Personality test: definition

Personality tests may vary in form, but their objective remains the same. It is, above all, about finding out more about a candidate’s professional behavior. In practice, personality tests allow us to evaluate the motivation of talents (what stimulates them at work and interests them), but also their interpersonal qualities (such as team spirit, adaptability…), their global know-how… As well as their emotional intelligence!

For recruiters, personality tests are excellent tools for overcoming preconceived ideas and providing concrete information about the candidate’s personality in an objective manner.

The ultimate goal? To verify that the candidate has the behavioral skills required for the position to be filled. Personality tests also make it possible to verify that the talent shares the values of his or her potential teammates, and can be found in the corporate culture of his or her potential employer.

⚠️ Please note: a personality test is not a recruitment method. It is a tool to highlight the personality traits of candidates (the famous “qualities/flaws”, motivation, etc).

What are the advantages of a personality test?

First of all, personality tests allow us to evaluate the behavioral skills of candidates – in addition to their technical skills! And this detail alone makes all the difference. In a previous article on soft skills, we explained that a candidate’s interpersonal skills are as essential as his or her know-how. In addition to their expertise, talents are also distinguished by their personality, their emotional and behavioral skills… So many qualities that will allow them to flourish in their new company.

💡 According to a RobertHalf study conducted in April 2016 among 200 Human Resources Directors in France, 52% of the HRDs surveyed give as much importance (if not more) to “soft skills” as to “hard skills”. Soft skills (such as emotional intelligence and problem-solving skills) are more necessary than ever in times of crisis.

A recruitment tool for people

Another essential advantage of personality tests is that they allow us to distinguish between two candidates with equivalent skills and experience. That’s right: in addition to calling on skills, we recruit personalities every day, let’s not forget that! Personality tests allow us to value people – and that’s great.

Personality tests: which model to choose?

Today, there are many solutions that allow us to probe the personality of candidates. Among the most recognized tests, we can mention MBTI, PAPI, SOSIE and BIG FIVE.

The MBTI test (for “Myers Briggs Type Indicator”)

Developed in 1962 by Isabel Briggs Myers and Katherine Cook Briggs, this psychological evaluation tool is one of the pioneers of its kind. What makes it special? It reveals the psychological type of an individual among 16 different possible personalities, themselves classified in 4 categories:

  • Energy orientation (extraversion/introversion)
  • Information processing
  • Decision-making (logical/feeling)
  • Taking action

In a professional setting, the MBTI test seeks to answer these four questions:

  • Is the candidate an introvert or an extrovert?
  • How does he/she analyze information (with intuition or feelings?)
  • Are their decisions mostly rational or emotional?
  • Is the candidate’s mode of action based on judgment or perception?

How does this test work?

The MBTI (also called the “16 personalities test”) is a questionnaire. Each of its questions invites the assessed candidate to choose, among two options, the one that most reflects his/her personality.

💡 Good to know

There are nearly six different versions of this test. And the number of questions offered varies between 93 and 222.

The PAPi test – for “Perception and Preference Inventory

The role of this personality test is simple: to evaluate the motivations of candidates and their behavior at work. Unlike the MBTI test, this tool is used exclusively for professional purposes.

How does this test work?

The PAPI test has two variants:

  • First, there is the “classic” PAPI test. The latter consists of 90 questions. The candidate is given two options and must choose the one that best suits him/her.

  • Then the “normative” PAPI test. This test consists of 126 statements. The candidate’s task? To indicate their opinion on a scale of values, from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”.

The BIG FIVE test (also called OCEAN)

Published in 1991 by three psychologists, this personality test lists five major personality factors (the famous “Big Five”). The objective of this test is to reveal the character of a candidate by analyzing five essential personality elements (forming the acronym OCEAN):

  • Openness to experience
  • Conscientious nature
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

How does this test work?

Concretely, this test consists of a self-evaluation questionnaire, to be filled out by the candidate. The candidate must express his/her opinion according to a scale of values (from “I strongly disagree” to “I strongly agree”), when faced with a number of statements, such as “I am ambitious” or “I tell the truth”.

The SOSIE test

As its name suggests, this personality test aims to determine the professional look-alike of a candidate. How does it do this? By giving elements on his personality, his values…

How does this test work?

The SOSIE test is a questionnaire, composed of 98 scenarios. These cover 20 different dimensions, themselves belonging to three categories. Each time, from among three or four statements, the candidate must select the answer that is closest to and furthest from his/her character.

The SOSIE test is designed to establish the candidate’s psychological profile. To do this, this analysis tool determines 9 personality traits of the candidate, 12 values as well as 4 behavioral or management styles.

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How to include a personality test in your hiring process?

It all depends on the position to be filled and its needs! A sales manager will not need to have the same behavioral skills or the same emotional intelligence as a web developer, for example.

For certain positions requiring specific behavioural skills, you may consider offering a personality test to applicants on a systematic basis. For other positions where know-how is the main requirement, it is possible to use personality tests in case of doubt about the candidate, his motivation or his culture-fit.

Determine the ideal moment according to the position

Recruiters usually give personality tests to their candidates at two different times:

At the beginning of the application, at the time of the pre-selection phase. This is a way of sorting the applications and quickly obtaining a quality shortlist.
At the time of the final decision, in order to validate a hunch or to decide between two candidates.

Take a step back from the test results

Despite their noble intentions, personality tests have their limits.

  • First of all, keep in mind that they are self-evaluations. Their value is relative, and will never reach that of empirical evidence (an opinion is, by definition, subjective – especially when it is about oneself).
  • ) The human being is in constant evolution. The conclusions of a personality test are bound to become obsolete over time.
  • Personality tests require a belief in the good faith of the candidates. However, candidates may be tempted to disguise the truth to make themselves look good (a human reflex that is completely understandable).
  • Personality tests are rarely exhaustive and cannot fully summarize the human complexity of a candidate.

For all these reasons, the results of these analytical tools must be examined with hindsight. Taken alone, personality tests have no value in themselves. On the other hand, when they are crossed with other elements, such as post-interview impressions, conclusions drawn from reference checks, the soft skills demonstrated by the candidate throughout his/her application… Then we obtain enough elements to form an objective and reliable opinion.

💡 Think about using collaborative recruitment to guarantee the objectivity of your decision-making!

Recruiting with personality tests, in conclusion

Designed by experts in human psychology, today’s most recognized personality tests can shed light on the interpersonal qualities of candidates with varying degrees of accuracy.

Today, many tools such as Central Test, AssessFirst or Goshaba facilitate the decision process of recruiters. How can this be done? With recruitment tests and predictive matching solutions that predict candidates’ behavior at work.

The good news is that all three of these tools can be integrated with Jobaffinity, our recruitment tool that makes it easy to manage your applications. Have your candidates take the questions of your choice and find all the results in one place! Job Affinity automatically centralizes the test results.

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