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Personality tests

Sarah Horrocks
by Sarah Horrocks Published on 14 February 2008
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Personality tests try to determine the principal character traits and social skills of an individual. They are often used by psychologists and recruiters. Each test has its own specifities.

The idea
Personality tests are being used increasingly by large companies to select applicants for jobs. Most tests study 5 main character traits - extroversion, professional awareness, emotional stability, open mindedness and sociability. The traits can then be divided into sub categories and allow employers to see how well the applicant will fit in with the social environment of the company.

How they work
The tests usually have 30 to 500 questions and the applicant has to choose between two very distinct and uncontradictory anwers. For example, ‘which statement best describes you’ possible anwers are ‘I work a lot’ or ‘I make relationships easily’ etc. This method encourages the applicant to be as honest as possible and not to answer what he feels the recruiter expects. This example covers 2 of the 5 traits (professional awareness and sociability).

Tests
PAPI involves answering 90 questions in 20 minutes. This test offers each person a choice of two statements. The results are commented upon by the recruiter in the form of a graph, with room for the applicant to react.
SOSIE was created in 1990 and comprises 98 questions. The applicant chooses 2 statements out of 3 or 4 choices.
The potential of Sigmund, which is a much longer test, aims to evaluate 38 personality traits divided into three sections – professional, social and pyschological.
MBTI is from the US and is known to give the most information on the personality of the individual. It also uses statements, and enables the psychologist to position the individual on four bipolar ladders coded using the letters MBTI.
G2 tests give 300 statements with yes/no answers required. The results correspond to 10 traits such as tolerance, stability, reflection, masculinity/femininity etc.

Projective tests
These are used less, as they are difficult to intepret. They call on the imagination and are based on drawings by the individual like TAT (Thematic Appreciation Test) or ink tests like Rorschach. They need to be interpreted. The most reputable of these tests is Rosenzweig, which consists of evaluating a person's reactions to stressful situations. It lasts 30 minutes and gives 24 images with three possible reactions. All these tests can only be validated by psychologists, even for recruitment purposes.

Limits
Some are skeptical about the reliablity of these tests. In fact, the same test done with an interval of several months in between will not necessarily give the same results if the individual has sufferred a shock (eg a bereavement or break-up). Psychologists agree that these tests do not reveal a certain personality type, but rather the way the individual perceives him or herself. So there are no good or bad results and no need to try preparing for tests before a job interview.

by Sarah Horrocks

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