The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the opinions of King’s College or WRKC.
Q: I am likely to get a job offer, but the company wants me to take a personality test. Should I and is it legal?
A: Your question is timely because more and more companies are now using personality tests in their selection processes. You are not alone in being asked to take the test and, more importantly, many people do not want to take them. Employers have their reasons for testing, but you also have privacy rights, so we will look at your legal obligations and why personality tests are used.
There are a number of responses you could consider when faced with a personality test. You have questions such as what does the test measure, how was it developed, who will be analysing the results, how will those results be used, and why are they using a test in the first place. Whether or not you ask any of these, remember others applying for the same job will readily take the test.
Personality tests in theory can divide people into several different personality types, sixteen crops up frequently. They can be used as part of induction training or at company team building events. Employers like to know who is working for them but whether there is any science behind personality tests is debatable.
The test does not have to be taken if it violates your personal privacy by asking questions of a religious or sexual nature. If questions are very intrusive the test may be deemed illegal, but as with anything involving the law, it is a grey area varying from state to state. Personality tests cannot be used to discriminate against any group, gender or ethnicity. Companies are not allowed to use them to determine whether women, for example, fall into certain personality types. Anti-discrimination laws do protect against this type of testing so depending on the questions you may be legally exempt from taking the test.
Having concerns about testing is natural, your company is expecting this, but be aware that they are also monitoring your reaction. If you come across as overly sensitive or paranoid, it will be noted by your bosses as they wonder why. Finding a middle ground is the best way to approach the situation.
There is nothing wrong with asking questions about the tests and the questions in it, but do so professionally. Try to learn why they are being used for a particular job, you may get some reassuring responses. You may quickly discover that this company is not right for you, and it is easier to move on. Asking about the test should give you some insight to the culture of the company. Only then will you know whether taking the personality test is the right thing to do.
Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it… Bruce Lee.
Written by Suzanne Hite, former publications editor serving the technology services sector.