Skip to main content

Can your company improve employee retention and reduce turnover by using personality assessments? Management training specialist Dan Monteiro thinks so.

Mr. Monteiro has been helping to shortlist candidates for companies for 24 years, along with conducting leadership coaching as part of his work at his Vancouver-based company Catalyst Training Services. “I always use [personality assessment tools] as part of the selection process,” he says of his recruitment methods.

Mr. Monteiro’s services are often sought by companies looking to reduce turnover. “In nine out of 10 cases, the turnover was not because the individual lacked the technical skills to do the job, but mainly because of the people skills,” he says. “He or she could not get along with the rest of the team.”

In addition to motivations to reduce turnover, Mr. Monteiro also credits an increasing approachability toward the administration of tools to their rise in popularity. “Before, it was thought that you needed to be an industrial psychologist to do an assessment,” he says. “That has been taken away, the fear of doing an assessment on an individual.”

Mr. Monteiro, who also works as a distributor of the personality assessment tool Prevue HR, has also seen how personality fit plays a greater role in an employee’s own job satisfaction and how long they stay in a role. “Twenty-five years ago, employees would not be saying ‘This company is not for me.’ Today, the reality is that they will.”

Assessment tools are not only beneficial for their ability to gauge a candidate’s personality fit with a team, but they can also be an indicator of their future performance. Michael Wilmot, an industrial-organizational psychologist and a former postdoctoral fellow in the department of management at the University of Toronto Scarborough, says that the personality trait of conscientiousness can be a powerful predictor of workplace success.

“Some descriptions that are associated with conscientiousness are being dependable, self-controlled, industrious, hard-working, reliable and having more conventional preferences,” he says.

In his research article published last year, Dr. Wilmot found that conscientiousness predicts positively across all job types, especially in occupations involving low-to-moderate complexity tasks and more predictable environments.

A candidate’s level of conscientiousness can be assessed through a personality test, such as Mr. Monteiro’s Prevue, which places results on a scale between “conscientious” and “spontaneous.” Instead of relying on gut instincts, these tests can offer an unbiased way of screening candidates.

For Erin O’Flynn, head of human resources at the Ontario College of Pharmacists, a personality assessment is a way to confirm or reinforce her findings on someone that she’s already deemed to be a good person for a job. She administers the Predictive Index test, which measures applicants on scales such as collaborative/independent and flexible/precise.

Depending on the role she’s hiring for, Ms. O’Flynn may look for results that fit the demands of the job. “Let’s say it’s a sales role, a reception role or customer-facing, you may look for elements of extraversion for interaction with people,” she explains.

But Ms. O’Flynn is careful not to rely too heavily on the results of a personality assessment. Like Mr. Monteiro, she only administers tests once she has reduced the candidate pool to a short list. “I’m a little uncomfortable using it as a gate to remove people from the competition,” Ms. O’Flynn says. “You could be overlooking a potentially good candidate that isn’t good at testing.”

When making hiring decisions, Dr. Wilmot encourages a “balanced suite of predictors,” whether that may be academic success, experience or the references of former employers. “People are complex, so you want to introduce as many complexities as possible,” Dr. Wilmot says. “But at the same time, you have to make decisions somehow. So you have to use the best information that you have to compare [candidates] to one another.”

For companies seeking out personality assessment tools, Dr. Wilmot encourages the use of tools that place individuals on a scale or spectrum and not in a “box” or a “type."

“There’s no evidence for a true typology, like you’re either a Type A person or a Type B person,” he says. “People can’t be pigeonholed into a particular box in terms of personality traits. It’s on a spectrum, in reality, not in categories. A lot of the tests on the market are just type tests and they’re not as good as they could be or should be.”

Stay ahead in your career. We have a weekly Careers newsletter to give you guidance and tips on career management, leadership, business education and more. Sign up today.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe