Which personality test will best help you hire the right candidate?

Advisers can use profile assessments to avoid expensive bad hires, experts say, but not all tests function the same

Feb 8, 2016 @ 1:09 pm

By Liz Skinner

Before choosing a personality test to give to employee candidates or new hires, make sure the tool will reveal something useful.

For advisory firms, three favorites of Beverly Flaxington, principal at adviser coach The Collaborative, are the DISC, StrengthsFinder and Kolbe assessments. These, as well as the 16PF Questionnaire, the Caliper Profile and other personality tests, can help reveal what the interviewer can't see and won't hear from the interviewee.

Frank Maselli, an adviser coach, agreed.

“It's like having x-ray vision in the interview," he said.

The Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness (DISC) test measures the way people communicate. It can match the type of people who work well with others who embrace different styles.

It's a good indicator of how a person is likely to act and their communications style, Ms. Flaxington said.

The StrengthsFinder assessment illustrates what candidates are naturally capable of doing. It identifies their top five talents of 34 different themes, such as a developer who cultivates others' skills, or an activator who excels at turning thoughts into action.

The test identifies talents, but in some cases these are “untapped strengths” an employer may need to pull out of someone to make use of them, Ms. Flaxington said.

(More: Forget personality tests, Edward Jones uses job simulation to assess potential hires)

The Kolbe A Index describes one's greatest strengths and limitations and can show the circumstances that would make one most productive. It will give employers a look into how that candidate is likely to approach what they need to do by identifying their natural instincts, she said.

Mr. Maselli likes the Kolbe assessments because they tell you what a person does, not what they say they are going to do.

Some advisers Mr. Maselli has worked with have declined to use the tests, and some have ended up regretting it because it can be a costly mistake.

An unsuccessful hire costs a firm the amount of time expended to find someone, to train them and then lost work productivity of not having the right person in the role. It also can have negative impacts on clients and other employees.

“Advisers tend to be very haphazard interviewers,” Mr. Maselli said. “Salespeople tend to fall in love with a tiny characteristic of a person.”

Each of these tests usually comes out “spot on,” Ms. Flaxington said, but that doesn't mean they should be followed without further thought.

“They give you insights into other questions that you might want to ask prospects or their references,” she said.

When looking for the right person to fill a particular role at an advisory firm, it's important to think about the type of people who have succeeded in that job previously and consider the personalities and qualities of the individuals the candidate will be interacting with day to day.

“Think about whether you need someone with a thoughtful approach, or someone who gets energized by talking with people,” Ms. Flaxington said.

Test Price* Feature
DISC $59.25 Identifies how a person is likely to behave and the way they best communicate.
StrengthsFinder $24.95 Identifies top natural talents.
Kolbe A Index $49.95 Identifies one's instincts and can show the circumstances that would make a person most productive.
16PF Questionnaire Free online Identifies personal qualities that influence the way a person works in different settings, such as pegging someone as a risk-taker.
Caliper Profile $85 - $350 Measures 25 or more personality traits that relate to how individuals perform on the job.
*Per test

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