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Personality tests can put applicant at a disadvantage

After weeks and months looking for a job, finally attaining that new job is an incredibly proud and fulfilling moment for an applicant. Given these tough economic times, this sentiment is amplified even further. Once you get that job, the last thing you want to hear is that the offer has been revoked due to a technicality.

In this regard, personality tests (which are, more and more, a common tool used by human resource departments) are coming under fire for being unreliable and discriminatory. Many people claim that they paint an inaccurate picture of a potential employee -- placing certain labels on their personality based on some multiple-choice questions, rather than having their personality come out in an actual real-life situation.

Sure, the point of these tests is to "screen out" people who potentially may have poor attitudes; but after background checks, a review of an applicant's resume and multiple interviews or face-to-face meetings, shouldn't the employer at least have an idea of what they are getting from an applicant? Why should an unproven questionnaire prohibit someone from a job they qualify for?

The discriminatory element of personality tests is very important. If an employer uses the test only in certain situations (say only with a certain ethnic or religious group), that would certainly warrant a discrimination lawsuit; as would a scenario where an employer gives the personality test to every applicant, but only certain groups fail the test (may it be disproportionally or specifically).

One author, who wrote a book on personality tests, believes they are an inadequate tool for measuring an employee. "These tests may make Human Resources people feel that they're doing a good job sorting the application pool, but because personality is situational and because these tests are actually not very reliable in terms of their results, they're not a good way to evaluate perspective employees," she said.

Clearly, there are issues with the personality test process -- these issues can lead to good people missing out on a job they deserve and qualify for, or the issues can manifest themselves in despicable behavior by employers who discriminate against certain applicants. In either case, the applicant's rights may be violated, and they would certainly have the grounds for a lawsuit.

Source: ABC News, "Woman Sues Over Personality Test Job Rejection," Abby Ellin, Oct. 1, 2012

  • Even though you may not be employed yet, you have rights as a job applicant. To learn how to defend yourself if you feel you've been mistreated during the hiring process, please visit our Harris County employment law page.

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