Career Coach, Professional Resume Writer, Freelance Writer
Whether you’re applying for your first job or looking to move up the career ladder, personality tests aren’t usually the first thing we think about. But surprisingly, they can have a massive impact on how our future employers perceive us. In fact, a 2017 study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has found that 32% of U.S. employers use personality tests when hiring for senior management positions, and 28% use them for middle management positions. Personality tests are also used for hourly workers and contractors, though less frequently.
So, if you’re actively job-searching and applying to dozens of jobs, it’s likely that you’ll come across a personality test at some point. If you haven’t done one before, the whole process may feel daunting or intimidating. However, personality tests aren’t designed to trip you up. Instead, they’re there to evaluate if you’d be a good fit for the company and if you could thrive in the job you’re applying for.
So, if you are wondering how to pass a personality test, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to find out what personality tests are and how you can pass them with flying colors.
What are Personality Tests?
Personality tests are questionnaires rooted in psychology. They analyze the way you think to determine what key traits and characteristics you’d bring to a job. Businesses use these to look beyond the skills and accomplishments listed on your resume, and they see how good of a fit you’d be for the job.
There are over 2,500 personality tests on the market—each one using different models and questions to uncover how a candidate would act in specific workplace scenarios.
What Do Personality Tests Measure?
Depending on the test type, personality tests aim to evaluate the different dimensions that create your unique personality. For instance, Costa and McCrae have developed the five-factor theory of personality, which looks at traits like:
A five-factor test can zoom in on any one of these traits or equally explore each one of them. Your specific test questions depend on the type of job you’re applying for and what traits matter to your employer.
The five-factor personality test is only one of many ways to assess personality traits. Because there are many test options and ways to evaluate personality, employers typically have general foundational criteria. So, regardless of the type of test they may use, know that companies care about three main things:
- Drive – how intrinsically driven are you as a person? What drives and motivates you?
- Communication – are you able to easily work with others and build rapport? Do you tend to be helpful and open or more reserved and closed off?
- Critical thinking – are you able to make good judgment calls? Can you properly assess your situation/circumstances to make a good decision?
Why Do Companies Use Personality Tests?
Administering personality tests cost money. Not only must companies invest in the right tools, but they must also invest extra time to analyze answers and compare candidates. This means companies don’t take personality test results lightly. They use the tests to provide key information on potential candidates. In fact, the results often help support the information they’ve gathered from candidates’ resumes and interviews.
Additionally, personality tests are a reliable predictor of future behavior. Because the goal is to hire and retain, recruiters need to know how likely a candidate is to stick around. So, the results of a personality test can give an employer insight on
- if you fit into the company’s workplace culture
- how adaptable you are
- what motivates and inspires you
- if you are able to work under pressure
- if you have the capacity to reach your potential
How to Pass a Personality Test?
In theory, you cannot “fail” because these tests are meant to show off your personality. However, you can certainly aim to pass a personality test. Every company is looking for an ideal combination of traits that guarantee a high-performing hire. So, keep these tips in mind when aiming to ace your next personality test.
Review the Instructions Carefully
Never start a test assuming you know how it works just because you’ve taken a similar test before. As mentioned earlier, there are over 2,500 personality tests on the market. While many will have a similar format and questions, they can differ in how they’re distributed and measured.
Take time to read the instructions and familiarize yourself with the types of questions you can expect.
Answer Honestly (from a Professional Perspective)
Nobody wins if you trick the company into hiring you for a job you may not be a good fit for. Think, for example, if you’re applying to a customer success role and you over-inflate how communicative you are. Then, you risk being ill-equipt for the role and hating your new job.
Also, remember that we have “work personalities,” which can differ from our persona outside of work. For instance, you may be super organized at work because you are conscientious, but messy at home because you don’t see it as a priority. So, when you take your test, choose answers that reflect how you behave in the workplace. If you want to choose answers that most align with your skill set, review your resume and take note of the skills you’ve listed.
Avoid Too Many Extreme Answers
Building on the previous point, try not to go for the far end of the scale all the time. If you only choose more extreme answers, you signal two things to your potential employer:
- You’re either disinterested and are choosing your answers on autopilot;
- You’re a highly opinionated person who’s going to be difficult to work with;
Neither result paints you in a good light. Instead, try to be nuanced with questions that give you pause or make you think.
Also, Don’t Always Sit on the Fence
Doing the opposite—always going for the middle or lukewarm response—isn’t good either. This shows the decision-makers that:
- You’re indifferent and passive or;
- Someone without any opinions of their own;
Use moderate responses when you genuinely feel like neither extreme describes you.
If you’re answering the questions honestly, you’ll probably be consistent across the test. Oftentimes, employers can ask the same questions using slightly different words to see if you’ll give the same response. If you’ve given an extreme answer on one of them and then selected the opposite answer or gave a neutral response, the employer will question your reliability, dependability, and steadiness.
Remember the Job Role Throughout the Test
While you can’t pass or fail a personality test, there are certain traits that your employer considers to be crucial. For example, if they’re hiring a sales executive, being creative may be a nice-to-have skill, but being an excellent communicator is a must.
When answering the questions, think about what key traits the employer highlighted in the job ad. Then, think about how you stack up. Is there a big discrepancy between what they’re looking for and who you are? Or do you think that you have those traits and aspire to hone them further? Be sure to reflect this in your answers.
Aim for the Answers that Suggest Positive Traits
Regardless of the job, there are personality traits that every employer would appreciate. For example, things like conscientiousness, accountability, motivation, and willingness to help are all attributes people at any level will appreciate.
When you give your answers, think about why the employer is asking you that question and what trait they’re trying to assess. Provide answers that are a true reflection of who you are but that also emphasize your strengths. Stay consistent across the test, and don’t over-emphasize traits that can be perceived both as negative and positive (for example, assertiveness or talkativeness).
Take Your Time
Personality tests aren’t timed, so there’s no reason to rush through them. Before you start the test, make sure you’re in a quiet room free from distractions. This will give you the time to focus on the test instructions and think carefully about each question.
Don’t Overthink It
Finally, this test is just one of the many assessment criteria your employer would use to determine if you’re the right fit for the job. Even if the decision may fall down to your performance on the personality test, overthinking your answers won’t help you score any better. Instead, it can lead to inconsistent and confusing results, which can hurt your prospects of getting the job.
Can (And Should) You Fake a Personality Test?
With a little preparation and research, you could theoretically fake a personality test. For example, you can look at their website, Glassdoor, and social accounts to see how the business and its employees talk about the culture. Then, you can scope out current employees’ social media to see how their personalities align.
That seems like a lot of work, right? Not only is it too much work for a personality test, but it’s unrealistic, and it likely won’t help very much. Additionally, faking a personality test serves no purpose if there’s a big discrepancy between who you are and what the company is looking for. Say, for example, the company is looking for someone who’s driven and takes initiative. Well, if you have a passive personality, then it will quickly become obvious. You will have a hard time meeting expectations, and it will either make you miserable or get you fired.
As more jobs become location-independent and more candidates compete for highly-coveted jobs, personality tests are going to become even more mainstream. While writing the perfect resume and acing your interview are important skills, knowing how to pass a personality test will become just as important in getting the job you want.