How to Prepare for Personality Tests in the Job Search


Most professionals are familiar with and ready for every element of the job search. Phone screens,  interviews, coding tests and whiteboarding sessions if you’re in a technical role, take-home assignments and interview thank-you notes are all par for the course and most candidates are ready to handle them. But one part of the tech job search that does surprise a lot of candidates is personality tests.

Because they’re relatively uncommon, candidates are often unprepared for personality tests or feel uncomfortable taking them. Some even try avoiding them, which is a big mistake — if you refuse a standard part of the hiring process, you may as well just opt out of the running for the job.

But what should you do if you’re asked to take a personality test? Here’s a little more info so you’re not caught off guard if one comes up in your job search.

Why Do Employers Give Personality Tests?

It might seem counter-intuitive that employers base hiring for jobs off of personality tests. Being able to do a job well is all about skills and experience, right?

While this is true, in the past decade or so, employers have become more concerned with culture fit. As a result, personality has become exponentially more important to hiring managers. Thus, a small but strong minority is very invested in using personality tests as part of their hiring process.

To Cheat, or Not to Cheat?

You might be wondering if there’s some way you can game the system in order to tell employers what they want to hear. But the truth is, it’s not even worth trying. For one, the ‘right’ answer on these tests often isn’t very clear anyway. The questions are usually pretty abstract or hypothetical ones that may not even seem applicable to the job.

But even if you could cheat on these tests, you wouldn’t want to. Like cheating on a skills test, this will just help you land a job that you won’t really be able to succeed in.  If an employer is offering a personality test, it’s likely that hiring somebody who fits into their corporate culture is paramount to them. If you ‘cheat’ your way into a job where you’re not a culture fit, it will become apparent pretty quickly. Not only will your status at the company suffer — you might fit in so poorly that you end up getting fired.

Personality Tests to Take

Want to know what you’ll be getting into, or just curious to see what insights personality tests can reveal about you? Try taking one of the following:

  • Jungian Personality Test: This quiz, inspired by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, presents you with a series of “I” statements, such as “I like to talk more than I listen,” “I’m bored being alone” or “I’m pretty skeptical about most things,” and asks you to choose if you Agree, Somewhat or Disagree. In the end, you will be sorted into one of 16 MBTI types which reveal information about your communication style, learning style, natural tendencies and more.
  • Leadership Style Test:  Psychology Today‘s test presents you with hypotheticals such as “Before giving feedback to someone else, I would try to see things from his or her point of view” and statements like “It’s up to me to set the bar for how hard people in my organization work” and asks you to rank how strongly you agree or disagree. It also asks you to fill in the blank with multiple-choice answers on questions like “When I get angry, I have ________ self-control.” At the end, you’re given a brief free summary of your leadership style overall, as well as strengths and weaknesses, with the option to purchase a more in-depth assessment.
  • Communication Style Quiz: In this brief, 10-question quiz, fill in the blanks with multiple choices for questions like “How would your colleagues describe you?” and “How are you most likely to react when a colleague gets promoted?” in order to identify which of five common communication styles you possess, and how you can communicate more effectively.
  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Quiz: The Institute for Health and Human Potential provides this free quiz that asks you to assess statements about yourself (such as “I utilize criticism and other feedback for growth”) and your manager (such as “My manager listens without jumping to judgment”) as well as to reflect on and analyze previous situations, such as “Think about tough feedback you have received in the past 6 months… Estimate the percentage of feedback you might have avoided being able to hear in the conversation.” Afterwards, you are given the results of your emotional intelligence (on a low, medium, high basis) and given suggestions on how you can improve.
  • High5 Free Strengths Test: Companies like Cisco, Oracle, Starbucks and more use High5 tests to identify an employee’s greatest strengths in order to help them reach peak performance. The test requires you to respond to statements like “It is natural for me to look for common ground among people” and “I often get excited for no other reason than just being alive” on a sliding scale from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree” to tell you what your top five strengths are, such as “Thinker,” “Peace Keeper,” “Storyteller,” etc.

If a personality test is a part of your application process, try not to stress too much. It will either reveal that you’re a good fit for the company and would thrive there, or should consider looking at a different one. Remember: The right fit for you is out there somewhere, and it’s just a matter of time until you find it.

Samantha Keefe is an Interactive Marketing Manager at AVID Technical Resources. AVID Technical Resources is a leading information technology recruiting company with offices around the country. 

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