In an increasingly competitive business environment, many employers resort to employment testing to improve their workforce. The majority of the Fortune 100 companies use some form of employment selection that includes psychological testing. A survey by the American Management Association revealed that 44 percent of its responding members used testing to screen or select employees. While cognitive ability testing (e.g., comprehension, reading speed) is the most commonly used form of psychological testing in the workplace, personality tests are being used more and more frequently .
The personality tests used in the workplace are mostly self-report measures of specific traits or dispositions. A very large number of personality measures are available. Some personality measures characterize people within the normal range of personality functioning, while others focus on the identification of psychopathology o abnormal levels of functioning. Many personality tests, such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) or the California Personality Inventory (CPI), assess a large number of personality characteristics; others measure single traits in which the employer is specifically interested
Employers use different types of personality tests for dif ferent purposes. There are three main reasons why employers use personality assessment in the workplace:
Employers sometimes use personality tests to select people especially suitable for a specific job. For example, an insurance company might use a measure o extraversion-introversion to select applicants high on extraversion for a sales job so that their characteristics match successful incumbents in their sales department. Alternatively, the employer may want to use personality assessments to de-select, or screen out, people with specific traits. For example, a police department might use the MMPI or a simila test to screen out applicants that have high levels of mental instability or psychopathology. Next we will describe several specific tests and applications of personnel selection using personality tests.
Personality tests that assess honesty or integrity are probably the most widely used form of personality assessment in the business world. They are commonly used in the retail and financial services industries in selecting people for low-paying entry leve jobs where the employee handles money or merchandise in an unsupervised setting. Integrity tests are designed to predict a tendency toward theft or other forms of counterproductive behaviors in work settings, such as absenteeism.
The annual economic losses to American business from employee theft are estimated at between $15 billion to $25 billion per year . Moreover, a substantial proportion of annual business failures have been blamed on employee theft. Because of this, many employers are interested in any technique that could detect those employees most likely to commit theft on the job. Because of the frequency and importance of integrity testing in the workplace, we have dedicated a "Closer Look" box to this topic.
A third reason some employers use personality testing arises from the fact that, should an employee assault a customer or another coworker on the job, the employer may be held accountable in a court case. In such a case, the employer could be char ged with negligent hiring, that is, hiring someone who is unstable or prone to violence. With cases of negligent hiring now being tried in the courts of most states, employers are defending themselves against a growing number of suits seeking compensation for crimes committed by their employees. In such cases, the employer is char ged with negligently hiring an applicant with traits that posed a threat of injury to others. Such cases hinge on whether the employer should have discovered those traits ahead of time, before hiring such a person into a position where he or she posed a threat to others. Personality testing may provide evidence that the employer did in fact try to reasonably investigate an applicant' s fitness for the workplace. Companies that d engage in some form of pre-employment personality testing to screen job applicants may reduce their chances of being char ged with a negligent hiring claim. Personality testing may be particularly important in states where it is dif ficult to conduct crimi nal or other background checks on applicants.
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