An Introduction to Personality Tests

Young people using electronic gadgets

Personality testing is a form of assessment that is designed to reveal aspects of an individual’s character or psychological makeup. A personality test may take the form of a questionnaire or other standardised instruments and can help to uncover hidden areas of your personality allowing you to get to know and understand yourself a little better.

What Are Personality Tests?

According to the American Psychological Association, personality assessment is a ‘proficiency in professional psychology that involves the administration, scoring and interpretation of empirically supported measures of personality traits and styles’ in order to:

  1. refine clinical diagnoses,
  2. structure and inform psychological interventions, and
  3. increase the accuracy of behavioural prediction in a variety of contexts and settings (eg: clinical, forensic, organizational, educational, etc).

They’ve been around since the 1920s and were originally intended to make the process of personnel selection easier. Since then, they have become widely used in other fields, such as relationship counselling, career counselling, employment testing, and occupational health and safety.

Are They Valid?

Personality tests are psychometric tools that are most often used in career testing. They often come in the form of standardised tests whose questions, conditions of administering and scoring procedures and interpretations are consistent. While an individual’s character, as a whole, can be measured, certain personal traits and characteristics can be identified through the different personality types that occur in every theoretical model.

Obviously, not every personality is the same, and if you decide to take a test, you need to make sure that it can be trusted. This is measured through validity and reliability.

Validity refers to whether or not a test actually measures the construct that it is meant to measure, and reliability refers to the degree to which a test produces stable and consistent results.

Why Use Them?

Self-awareness is essential to career success, and that’s where personality testing comes in as it helps you understand who you are and get to know yourself better. It can also help you choose a career that you enjoy and in which you are more likely to feel like yourself. In essence, when you find out what motivates and energises you, you can search for opportunities that best suit you.

Generally speaking, it aims to give you a richer understanding of who you are as a person. This leads to job satisfaction and being content with what you are doing in your job.

Popular Tests

These tests are widely used by recruiters to evaluate whether you would fit into their culture and work environment. According to Graduate Monkey, large companies such as KPMG, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Deloitte are amongst the list of the top 30 companies that use psychometric testing as an effective recruiting tool.

So, if you’re looking for a job, it might be a good idea to familiarise yourself with this type of tests.

Caliper Profile Test

The Caliper test is used as part of the hiring process for a variety of positions and is mostly used across the United States. The personal traits it examines fall into the following categories: interpersonal competency, cognitive functions, motivation and drive, conscientiousness and emotion.

Gallup StrenghtsFinder (GSF)

The Gallup StrenghtsFinder supports the idea that an individual’s strengths define their personality. Some of the personal characteristics that are assessed in the test include adaptability, ideation, empathy, competition, positivity and input.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

This is one of the most well-known personality tests in the world. It’s a self-reported questionnaire that determines a person’s preferences on four aspects: sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking. The test is based on Carl Jung’s work on personality traits and was developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers.

16 Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF)

Created by Raymond B. Cattell, this test uses new statistical methods to derive 16 primary personality factors and 5 secondary factors based on warmth, reasoning, emotional stability, dominance, liveliness, social boldness, sensitivity, vigilance, privateness, apprehension, openness to change, self-reliance, perfectionism and tension, among others.

Revised NEO Personality Inventory - 3 (NEO-PI-3)

This test is based on the Five Factor Model (FFM) and assesses the Big Five personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience. Each of these factors has a variety of related qualities, such as self-discipline, time management and leadership.

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)

The MMPI is a psychological test that assesses personality traits and psychopathology. It is intended to assess people who are suspected of having mental health or other clinical issues. The test looks into an individual’s test-taking attitude through 10 major clinical subscales that describe abnormal human behaviour: hypochondriasis, depression, hysteria, psychopathic deviate, masculinity/femininity, paranoia, psychasthaenia, schizophrenia, hypomania and social introversion.

DISC Personality Profile Assessment

The DISC Personality Profile Assessment is a behaviour assessment tool based on the DISC theory developed by psychologist William Moulton Marston and focuses on four basic styles: D (Dominant), I (Influential), C (Compliant) and S (Steady). This test works as a ‘personality profiling system’ and constitutes a method for understanding behaviour, temperament and personality.

Sample Questions

There are many types of personality test and are all based on different models. Familiarising yourself with these can help you understand what is expected of you when completing one, and there are plenty of sample questions readily available online to help you get started.

Personality tests typically ask you to choose what you do enjoy doing the most, according to your personal preference. They generally contain five options (Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree and Strongly Agree), as shown below:

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3 

You may even be asked to rank a series of statements in the order of priority to you on a scale 1 to 10 (where 1 is ‘mostly likely’ and 10 is ‘least likely’) or indicate whether they are true or false to you.

Statements that will typically come up in a test include:

  1. I am almost never late for my appointments.
  2. I like to be engaged in an active and fast-paced job.
  3. I enjoy having a wide range of acquaintances.
  4. My actions are frequently influenced by my emotions.
  5. I frequently and easily express my feelings and emotions.
  6. I find it difficult to speak loudly.
  7. I tend to sympathise with other people.
  8. I prefer to read a book than going to a party.
  9. I take pleasure in putting things in order.
  10. I find it difficult to talk about my feelings.

Our own personality test over at Career Hunter uses a similar model, where users rank statements in order of priority, as shown below:

personality-test-Career-HunterCareer Hunter

Answering these kind of questions can help you understand yourself better and realise where you are best suited to work (eg: work environment and conditions), as well as what kind of work you would enjoy the most (eg: people-oriented, indoors, outdoors, etc).

Whether you are choosing a career, looking for a job or changing industries, personality tests can be extremely helpful.

Have you ever taken one before? Let us know in the comments section below.