When I talk to employers about their talent management process, the subject of personality or behavior assessment usually comes up, especially around recruiting. These conversations could almost be scripted.

People generally feel good about their ability to assess technical skills and knowledge. They know they don’t always get it right, but they generally feel pretty confident that they can accurately determine whether or not, for example, a candidate can complete a root case failure analysis or analyze vibration data. The uncertainty comes in answering questions such as the following:

  • Does this candidate have leadership potential?
  • Will the candidate fit in with the rest of the team?
  • Will the candidate be able to successfully motivate the staff?
  • How well will the candidate interact with our customers?

The list goes on and on.

Usually, employers rely on their instinct or gut feeling from the interview process to answer these types of questions. Some may even be trained in behavior-based interviewing. But unless you are an expert, you usually end up relying on your gut. The reality is that some people are naturally gifted in making accurate assessments of “soft skills” using their own judgment and past experience. Unfortunately, this is not a dependable method and never scalable.

As a result, many employers have elected to utilize some sort of personality or behavior assessment tool to achieve a more systematic and objective method of measuring personalities and behaviors. I’m a huge proponent of these tools as a supplement to behavior-based interviewing. In fact, I often use the results of these assessment tools to develop specific behavior-based interviewing questions for a particular position to enhance the effectiveness of the behavior-based interview.

There are literally hundreds of tools in the market focused on assessing personalities and behaviors, so how do you select one? Well, that ultimately depends on what you are trying to accomplish, but you should first start with two basic requirements.

First, the tool should be proven to be reliable. This means that if someone took the same assessment numerous times, the results should be very consistent.

Second, the tool should be proven to be valid. This basically means the tool is accurate and measures what it’s trying to measure. If the vendor can’t present this information to you, move on to the next one. If you have a tool that meets both of these criteria, it’s really a matter of ensuring that it is appropriate for the application.

The truth is that not all behavior assessment tools are effective for recruiting. For example, some personality assessments are incredibly effective for team building and for coaching individuals to understand how they can better relate with one another, but they are not necessarily a good tool for aiding the hiring decision.

When looking for a behavior assessment tool to be used in the recruiting process, look for the following components:

1) Linkage with job requirements: Look for tools that give you the ability to develop a job profile as well as an individual profile. Too many tools give you informative and accurate reports on the individual, but there is no way to link the behaviors to the job.

2) Ease of use (employer): Look for tools that are very easy to administer through both electronic and paper means. The earlier you use the tool (which generally equates to a larger pool of candidates), the more effectively you can take advantage of the assessment.

3) Ease of use (candidate): Look for tools that don’t require a significant investment of time to complete. Tools that require 30 minutes or more to complete could cause some candidates to lose interest.

4) Ease of interpretation: This is important, however don’t shy away from tools that require training to fully interpret and analyze results. Effectively applying the assessment results with hiring decisions is a skill in itself.

5) Cost: Generally, you get what you pay for, but the most expensive doesn’t always mean it’s the best.