Why Should Self-Reported Personality Measures Be a Concern in Hiring?

Why Should Self-Reported Personality Measures Be a Concern in Hiring?

Proactiveness score of 62
Samantha McGrail
September 13, 2023

Estimated Reading Time: 0

While all assessment methods produce some measurement error, self-report assessments have become more of a concern in this regard over recent years. The emergence of the Internet and the ongoing and increasing democratization of information have presented new challenges to the sustainable and valid use of these tools. 

Workplace personality testing is a two-billion-dollar industry, as companies strive to assess potential candidates and build cohesive teams more effectively. These tests can also help individuals better understand their strengths and weaknesses to become the best versions of themselves. 

The general idea of these tests is to identify an individual's traits based on how strongly they relate to statements presented in the assessment.

But, self-reported personality tests have significant flaws that hold back their true potential. Because they are self-reported, there is a high potential for Self-Serving unconscious bias,  impression management, and even outright false responses. 

High Potential for Self-Serving Unconscious Bias

One of the most common manifestations of biased self-knowledge is weak correlations between ability estimates and actual performance.

An early College Board study found that 70% of high schoolers rated themselves as having above-average leadership ability, while 100% rated themselves above average regarding social skills.

Additionally, 25% of students placed themselves in the top 1% in navigating social skills. Before citing high schoolers’ immaturity, readers should note that 94% of college faculty also believed their work was better than their average faculty peers. 

One of the primary reasons that self-knowledge biases are so uncooperative is that the mechanisms driving them operate below consciousness. Therefore, it is challenging to modify processes of which we are unaware. 

While people have various cognitive tools for diffusing threatening information and enhancing positive knowledge, the most common are self-serving reasoning, biased hypothesis testing, and biased recall.

Individuals often attribute success and failure in a self-serving manner so that success is attributed to internal factors, including skill or intelligence, and failure is attributed to external factors, such as bad luck or distraction.

In fact, researchers have found that most people attribute success to themselves and failure to others

High Potential for Impression Management

Self-reported assessments are inherently subject to impression management, “the goal-directed conscious or unconscious attempt to influence other people's perceptions about a person, object, or event by regulating and controlling information.” 

In other words, impression management is the natural tendency to answer questions (be it in a job interview, personality assessment, etc.) in a way that results in the person or organization perceiving one in a way that satisfies one’s needs or goals. 

For example, the Big Five Personality Traits (sometimes called OCEAN or CANOE) are widely regarded as valid and reliable.

Despite its popularity, the MBTI personality test is neither accurate nor reliable," according to Jaime Lane Derringer, Ph.D.

“Even if evidence exists supporting the assessment's reliability, allowing applicants to self-report opens the door to impression management,” says Marc Fogel, Talent Select AI Director of Product, IO Psychology.

Researchers in one study concluded that “we need to step back and say, OK, if we want to use this stuff, we need to really think about why we're using it and then develop better tools for measuring it.”

Outright False Responses

Often, self-report personality assessments can be substantially distorted by faking. Marc Fogel, director of product, I/O psychology, stated that today’s job candidates understand that responding to assessments in a specific manner could increase their chances of landing a job. 

Therefore, many candidates will try to determine what the company wants to hear and respond accordingly rather than describe themselves truthfully. 

“A friend recently asked one of our I/O psychology colleagues how they should fill out a personality assessment for a job application; ‘Should I answer in a way that shows I’m more of a strong leader or more of a caring leader?’ The friend posed a great question, and they are not the only ones seeking such advice. A recent Google search for the phrase ‘how to pass a job assessment’ resulted in more than 240 million results!” Fogel said. 

Another concern is the question of who is actually completing the online assessment. Is it truly the job candidate, or could it be their more capable friend? 

Companies must ensure a test taker’s identity throughout their assessment. But, one impersonification technique candidates may use is “switching.” Switching is a security breach that involves someone impersonating a candidate from the outset but swapping identities mid-test.

When the self-reported test begins, the actual test taker might sit for authentication, but once authentication is complete, the impersonator may switch places. Technology, such as AI facial recognition and movement detection software, would ensure that another person has not entered the room to replace the test taker.

What Is The Alternative to Self-Reported Hiring Assessments?

Self-reported personality assessments are popular, at least in part, because they don’t typically require the hiring team’s time to administer and score manually.

Talent Select AI’s revolutionary new integrated video interview and psychometric assessment platform makes it possible. 

Removing the need for applicants and prospective employees to self-report personality and skill assessments not only improves accuracy it also speeds up the evaluation process and minimizes friction for both the applicants and the hiring managers. 

Talent Select AI generates objective personality, competency, and motivational scores from the job interview transcript – no additional tests or manual scoring required – so you can be confident you’re hiring the best-fit candidate for every role. 

In fact, early users report a 98% increase in confidence in selection decisions. 

Get first access to Talent Select AI to start measuring what matters and finding best-fit candidates faster.

checkmark with a purple gradient

Latest Resources


Why is Empathy Important in the Workplace?

Empathy in prospective employees enables companies to efficiently to resolve conflicts, build more productive teams, and improve relationships with co-workers, clients, and customers.
Read More
vector arrow pointing right

What is Interacting and Presenting?

Interacting and presenting is one of the Great Eight competencies linked to improved communication and collaboration in the workplace.
Read More
vector arrow pointing right

Why Should Self-Reported Personality Measures Be a Concern in Hiring?

Personality assessments that require responding to a set of items use a measurement approach known as self-report. Such measures are highly vulnerable to error measurement, where the results produced are notably different from their “true value.”
Read More
vector arrow pointing right