Personality Profiling in Organisations – a Requisite for Success

Personality Profiling in Organisations – a Requisite for Success?
by Aoife Harrington

The study of personality represents one of the largest areas of research within the entire discipline of psychology and one that has great significance in terms of its applications in a variety of organisational domains. Personality can be broadly defined as an enduring style of thinking, feeling and behaving that reflects how each person adjusts to their environment. Essentially, by studying personality, it is hoped to achieve a greater insight into how better to understand and predict human behaviour.

A long tradition of research in psychology and organisational behaviour has attempted to link personality characteristics to job success. Models of personality are used in many organisational domains, including; selection and assessment, performance evaluation, organisational commitment, team-working, alleviating workplace stress, and management development, to name but a few. Several researchers have cited a link between personality and occupational success (e.g. Barrick & Mount, 1991) with job performance, turnover, expatriate success, leadership and promotion all reportedly linked to an individual’s personality (e.g. Hurtz & Donovan, 2000; Judge et al., 2002; Salgado, 1997).

For organisations, personality is, most importantly, a major criterion for selection of applicants. Mullins (1999) highlights, that it is quite rare for an organisation not to take personality into account when selecting the right person for the job. However, while it is generally undisputed that personality is a key criterion for job success, how it is actually assessed or measured varies widely. Many organisations and more specifically selection committees rely solely on first impressions, intuition and gut feelings to ascertain a candidate’s personality and their suitability for a particular role. Research has shown, however, that traditional unstructured interview’s have poor reliability and validity in predicting job performance (Hunter & Hunter, 1984; Smith & Williams, 1992) and do not serve as a valid means of assessing a candidates personality. On the other hand, what research has consistently found is that using psychometrically robust personality inventories can make selection decisions more systematic and precise (Smith & Smith, 2005). In fact, Black (2000) reported that, in selection and assessment, personality had good incremental validity, over and above general cognitive ability, thus illustrating the importance of incorporating personality profiling in selection decisions. Essentially it makes sense for organisations that devote substantial resources to establishing and maintaining a good fit between people and their jobs to begin this process at the time of selection.

Regardless of how one conceptualises personality there is one thing that is certain – personality is enduring, it is consistent across situations and by ascertaining a person’s personality we should be able to predict their likely future behaviour. In organisational terms this means being better equipped to predict job performance, potential for promotion, the likelihood of a seamless transition into a new team and the list goes on. Employing psychometrically robust personality inventories is therefore an obvious choice. Not only do personality inventories offer an objective means for measuring and comparing candidates’ personalities, they represent a very accessible, flexible and effective addition to selection decisions and in fact to any number of organisational initiatives. Personality inventories are a reliable and objective means of establishing information about candidates that is directly related to the way they are likely to perform in a job and the information obtained is very much complementary to other selection methods employed, thus improving the validity of the overall selection process. Research has also demonstrated the utility of personality inventories in stimulating discussion and increasing awareness on the strengths each individual employee has and the unique qualities and competencies they can bring to their role, thus making them an excellent source of information in leadership development programmes, mentoring and coaching programmes and management and training initiatives.

Fundamentally, personality inventories are an invaluable tool in both selection and development contexts and if correctly administered and interpreted can be a very effective means of ensuring continuing organisational success. So whether you’re looking for innovation, leadership, decisiveness, resilience or relationship-building skills, personality profiling can provide you with accurate and objective information – a resource not to be underestimated!

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Aoife Harrington is a Consultant at DavittCorporatePartners – Corporate Psychologists


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