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Workplace Personality Tests ARE Fair

On September 29th, 2014, the Wall Street Journal published an article on pre-employment assessments and some recent legal action related to people with disabilities (‘Are Workplace Personality Tests Fair?’). We wanted to educate our clients on some important points related to this topic.

Our assessments focus on work-related personality characteristics that correlate with job performance metrics (supervisor ratings and/or work outcome measures).

  • They are not designed to measure mental health status, and should not be interpreted in this way. (Other assessments are designed for clinical purposes, such as the MMPI. Our assessments are not at all related to these mental health evaluations.)
  • They are normed on typical working populations, and provide information on whether people score high or low on work-related personality traits compared to these professional norms (not whether they are similar to people with any disability).

There is a large amount of evidence, across a wide variety of jobs, that shows that work personality assessments (in addition to other work-related assessments like Situational Judgment Tests and Ability Assessments) correlate positively with job performance.

  • On the other hand, the WSJ article makes mention of cases where the EEOC is ‘investigating’ whether personality assessments potentially discriminate against people with disabilities. Separately they note that EEOC officials won’t comment on their investigations. Overall, no adverse findings related to these assessments were discussed.

We partner with our clients to document the job-relatedness and validity of our assessments (including a wide variety of work-related measures such as work personality, situational judgment, and ability).

As stated by the EEOC legal consultant quoted in the article, an assessment is legally defensible if it can demonstrate that the items are job related and the assessment significantly predicts performance.

In summary, we feel that careful research and good science are key to effective use of assessments (as it should be with any critical business process). Generalizations across all personality assessments are not fair.

Dismissing all personality assessments as being discriminatory because some assessments have been investigated for ‘potential’ issues in one or two particular applications is comparable to throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Read the original Wall Street Journal article…

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