Why Lou Adler is Wrong About Personality Assessments

Lou Adler (@LouA), CEO of The Adler Group and author of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired, recently published an article claiming personality tests make for a poor candidate experience. He lists his assumptions on why these tests enforce glass ceilings on what the quality of hire means for the company, and frankly do more bad than good.

study by CareerBuilder on candidate behavior cited 17% of respondents claimed too many assessments tests for the reason the application process was difficult.

I get it. Some personality assessments tests out there are bummers. Grouping people into constricting boxes like the Myers-Briggs assessment does, asking confusing trick questions and quizzing them on unrealistic customer service situations. When used in the wrong way, assessment tests can be time-consuming, poor predictors of future performance and limiting. How then, can we glimpse into the mind of candidates beyond the one-pager resume to gauge what we need to know?

Sixty to 70% of applicants’ personalities are being tested by U.S. employers and 8 of the top 10 U.S. private employers now administer pre-hire tests in their job applications for some positions.

Candidate assessments are big business and popular and can supplement the candidate experience when used in the right ways.

The Wrong Way

Adler concludes that assessments make for bad CX (candidate experience) and do not promote diversity because the company uses their own results as the benchmark. Okay but, that’s the company… don’t blame the test!

Jay Gaines, chief executive of Jay Gaines & Co., a New York executive search firm. “There are some short psychological tests that might provide reinforcement and support toobservations we might make on candidates.”

How a company uses the test, whether to gauge a cultural homogeneity or not, comes back to the values of the company. There are numerous companies who spring toward the outliers in order to fruit diversity.

No Crystal Balls

Assessments are tools. Tools to try to put into words what is hard to verbalize and explain: personality. They aren’t the end-all, be-all one-test-to-rule-them-all, fool-proof performance indicators.

“Predicting what humans will do is really frigging hard,” said Charles Handler, president of Rocket-Hire, “Tests are a predictor and better than a coin toss, but you have to be realistic about them. There will be false positives, people who get through that shouldn’t, and false negatives, someone who should’ve gotten through that didn’t.”

 The way in which personality assessments should be used are for when cultural fit is an issue. And if you’re hiring in this decade or beyond, it should be something you’re looking for.


If you are interviewing someone, meaning they made it past the first couple rounds of eliminators, they are probably qualified for the job. 89% of hiring failures being attributed to poor cultural fit. Why waste your time on skills assessments when all you need to know is how well they will fit into the company or if they’ll bring a diverse personality with a fresh perspective.

Tony Hughes @rsvpselling, author of The Joshua Principle, Leadership Secrets of Selling puts it “… skills are easy to measure and evidenced, but values often live behind a façade of salesmanship.”

Learning the subtle cues on one’s work personality and values can be a predictor of fit and cohesion. There are numerous low cost, even free personality assessments that can aid in your hiring and internal team building. Don’t waste your time on tools and assessments built in past centuries with results that will only confuse. Use the right tools the right way.

“The best hiring managers have hired for fit all along. They are the ones whobuild teams with lower turnover and better work product.” Carina Wytiaz

While Mr. Adler is correct that some tests can’t predict how well people will do in a given environment, that’s because it’s not what they were built for. A personality and work values test should give insight after the interview and before the hire, for the manager to put in play when that person walks through the doors on his or her first day. I know there are some platforms that can help recruiters and managers make better hiring decisions. I know because I built one.

Bio: Ryan Mead

Ryan Mead is the CEO and Founder of Vitru, an employee assessment tool that provides recruiters, hiring professionals, coaches and managers with the insights they need to manage their teams and make better hiring decisions. Powered by science, yet practical and easy to use for a variety of teams, Vitru work for organizations of all size. Want to learn more? Visit our blog or sign up for a freeteam building personality test account to assess your team today! Tweet me at@GoVitru

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