Main image of article Taking a Personality Test: What to Know Beforehand

If you want to work at a major tech company, your ability to land your dream job could hinge on how you score on a personality test.

The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that 18 percent of companies use psychometric testing in the hiring process. Moreover, it’s estimated that the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), has been used at approximately 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies and 89 percent of Fortune 100 companies.

However, the increased use of personality tests has raised questions about their objectivity, legality and job relevance—as well as the confidentiality of the results. Here are the questions you should ask before you agree to take one of these tests, as well as some strategies for improving your results.

Which Personality Test Will You Take?

No matter how much job-hunting experience you have, it’s best not to walk into any personality test unprepared. Ask what type of test you’ll be taking ahead of time (and how much test-taking time is allotted).

Then research the format, the role and the company’s culture to make sure you are showcasing highly desirable personality traits and characteristics throughout the hiring process.

“The manager or recruiter will be looking to see if your test scores and answers to interview questions align,” explained Dr. Richard Justenhoven, product director at Aon Assessment Solutions. “You may be eliminated if it seems like you’re trying to improve your score by taking a long time to answer the questions, or if your test results don’t jive with the facts you stated in the interview.”

For instance, objective tests or inventories, where people respond to statements as "true" or "false," or rate the accuracy of a statement on a scale, remain the most common type of test used to assess a candidate’s personality traits and working style, Justenhoven noted.

The personality test is designed to reveal things such as how you deal with stress or whether your claims of being hard-working and meticulous (or a team player) are actually true. This is accomplished by measuring traits such as openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion and neuroticism. Zoning in on qualities that make you an obvious fit will help you present yourself in the best light.

Be on your toes at all times, because the manager or recruiter will also look to see how well you follow instructions and how you interact with others during the personality test and associated process, warned Dr. Ben Dattner, industrial and organizational psychologist and president of Dattner consulting.

If you are asked to participate in a video interview that utilizes A.I. to analyze you, prepare and act as you would for an in-person interview. If you asked to take a game-based assessment or simulation exercise, again, ask questions about the format and length as well as the skills and traits that will be measured.

Then, take practice tests beforehand to familiarize yourself with how the test works and to make sure you emphasize desirable traits and behaviors.

Can You View the Results? How is the Test Scored?

Always ask how your personality test scores will be used in the decision-making process and who will be allowed to see the results. How you’re treated during the hiring process is a reflection of the work environment, Justenhoven said. You should proceed with caution if an employer doesn’t treat you like an “equal partner.”

“The evaluator should be thoroughly familiar with the test and be able to tell you how to prepare and offer to share feedback,” he added.

Sometimes an employer is looking for very specific traits; other times, they are just trying to get some additional context or data for their decision. The best companies have formalized selection procedures and only use validated personality tests that do not intentionally discriminate, are job-related, and have shown to make a difference in the selection of employees.

Understanding the factors that play a part in the decision-making process can also help you determine the importance of personality and soft skills in on-the-job success.

What Will Happen to the Results?

Always ask whether your personality test data will be destroyed or deleted before you take any type of pre-employment test. While employers are free to administer personality tests to applicants (or current employees, for that matter), they aren’t allowed to violate an employee's right to privacy.

“Regardless of how things turn out, you have every right to request confidentiality of your test scores,” Dattner added.