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Personality Test Design

Rob Williams Assessment Ltd specialise in bespoke digital personality test designs.

Personality test trends

Candidates may also have to take a personality test as part of the recruitment process. There is a vast array of personality tests, which pose questions about a candidate’s behaviour and personal preferences. A typical question may ask whether you prefer attending parties or staying home with a good book. These personality tests help employers to determine whether a candidate has the right profile for the role.

Biodata questions

Personality biodata questions measure a variety of constructs, including attitudes, personality attributes, interests, skills/abilities, past events and experiences. An individual’s learning history is of particular interest.

Which personality traits do employers look for?

Sackett and Walmsley used a well-established model for measuring personality known as the Big Five as the theoretical basis for their study. In the Big Five model, an individual’s personality can be described using measures of five personality traits: conscientiousness, agreeableness, emotional stability, extraversion, and openness to experience.

The researchers analyzed a large set of data on job interviews to find out which personality traits companies look for when they’re hiring. Much of the data came from an analysis of structured job interviews, in which employers assess candidates for particular personality traits in order to make sure they’re a good fit for the job and overall work environment. For example, a company that is hiring a salesperson would want to assess job candidates for the traits of extraversion and friendliness to make sure they’re likely to work well with customers.

After crunching the numbers, Sackett and Walmsley found that conscientiousness–which involves being dependable, persevering, and orderly–was by far the most highly sought after personality attribute for job applicants. Agreeableness–being cooperative, flexible and tolerant–was the second most prized personality trait.

But, do these personality traits predict how well someone will actually perform on the job?

To find out, the researchers looked at the relationship between personality traits and three work performance criteria: whether an employee is able to complete their work to satisfaction, how often an employee goes above and beyond at work, and how often they engage in negative behaviors.

Again, conscientiousness and agreeableness came out on top. In the analysis, conscientiousness was the trait most closely associated with overall job performance, with agreeableness coming in second.

The researchers also analyzed data indicating the specific skills and qualities needed to be successful at over a thousand different jobs, drawn from a Department of Labor database called O*NET. They wanted to find out which of the Big Five personality traits are most often cited as important qualities for success across the entire American workforce.

The researchers found that overall attributes related to conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional stability were considered important for a wide variety of jobs from construction to health care.

Ongoing assessment trends 2020

A key part of any assessment project is identifying the most important criteria for successful performance. We can help you apply the assessment techniques that business psychology has shown to be the most effective for selecting high job performers. Rob Williams Assessment can advise you on the products that best fit your requirements.

Having worked for many of the UK’s leading consultancies, Rob Williams has extensive experience of assessment for recruitment and for development.

Maladaptive Personality Test Research 2008 to 2018

Firstly, Bartrum’s Increasing validity with forced-choice criterion measurement formats.

Secondly, Block’s Q-sort method in personality assessment.

Thirdly, Butcher’s Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.

Carlsson’s self-other knowledge asymmetries in personality pathology.

Clemans’ analytical and empirical examination of some properties of ipsative personality measures.

Foster’s meta-analysis of dark side personality characteristics and critical work behaviors among leaders across the globe. Findings and implications for leadership development and executive coaching.

Also, Funder’s overly positive self-evaluations and personality.
And Funder’s accuracy of personality judgment.
Finally, Furnham’s assessing aberrant personality in managerial coaching: Measurement issues and prevalence rates across employment sectors.

Personality Test Research Part II

Firstly, Goldberg’s development of markers for the Big-Five personality structure
Secondly, Guenole’s maladaptive personality at work.
Thirdly, Guenole’s hierarchical structure of work related maladaptive personality traits.
Fourthly, Harms’ personality development and the dark side of personality.
Then fifth, Hopwood’s convergent structure of DSM-5 personality trait facets and five-factor model trait domains.
Also, Paulhus’s  Socially desirable responding: The evolution of a personality construct.
And Paulhus’ cultural differences in personality response styles: The role of dialectical thinking.
Next, Roberts’ development of a forced-choice measure of typical-performance emotional intelligence.

Finally, Salgado’s Predicting job performance using Five Factor personality model.

Maladaptive Test Research Part III

Firstly, Salgado’s dark side personality styles as predictors of task, contextual, and job performance.

Secondly, Siever’s personality disorder types proposed for DSM-5.

Next, Saulsman’s five-factor model and personality disorder empirical literature.

Thirdly, Schyns’ dark personality in the workplace.

Fourthly, Trull’s  Categorical and dimensional models of personality disorders.

Fifthly, White’s adaptive personality testing with multidimensional pairwise preference items: Improving the efficiency of personality and other non-cognitive assessments.

Then sixth, Widiger’s alternative dimensional models of personality disorder: Finding a common ground.

Next seventh, Williams’ dark triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.

Wille’s Expanding and reconceptualizing aberrant personality at work: Validity of five-factor model aberrant personality tendencies to predict career outcomes.

Wright’s structure of DSM-5 pathological personality traits.

Finally, Wu’s reconsidering the dispositional basis of counterproductive work behavior: The role of aberrant personality.

Role Analysis for Personality Test Design

There follows a Role Analysis Case Study: a US bank had two specific requirements: ensuring a representative sample by sampling sufficiently high number of people per role. Interviewees were mainly high performers; sampled across both urban and rural branches; with their offices scattered right across the U.S.

1) Telephone-based interviews

Firstly, these formed a large part of the job analysis research. The advantages of using a telephone-based approach were that a standard template could be created with a script to adhere to whilst also allowing some follow-up question flexibility.

2) Visionary interviews

Secondly, face-to-face visionary interviews were also arranged with the most senior personnel at some of the focus group sites.

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3) Focus groups

Thirdly, semi-structured focus group format represented the most suitable job analysis technique to use.

4) Role survey

Fourthly, a role survey based on the bank’s competency framework, with two questions per competency. Survey results informed the item writing process. The final 5-10 minute survey had two banks of questions with the stems:

  • How important do you do each of the following on a daily basis?
  • How important are the following to your job?

Candidate Experience Briefing

A separate briefing detailed the client style and language (US English) needs. The main aims from a “Candidate Experience” perspectives included:

  • Reflecting the company brand
  • Engaging job applicants
  • Providing some elements of a realistic job preview
  • Overall look and feel to be consistent

Focus Group Briefing

Firstly, focuses on how best to structure the upcoming focus group sessions. Secondly, a consideration of the outputs required. Thirdly, how individual consultants could best run their focus group sessions. The focus group aims were to confirm the role profile interview data; engender key stakeholder support for the blended assessment project (and any associated changes that the new tests required); and to complete a few final visionary interviews.

Work Personality Test Designs

We will work with you on any work personality test designs, including validation projects.

Or to design the most suitable work styles tool to suit your needs. Examples of the typical personality test format can be found here.

Our Bespoke work Personality assessment designs process:

  • include dimensions identified as key to the role being assessed
  • reflect the personality, attitudinal and motivational aspects of the role-specific dimensions
  • have face valid questions
  • be capable of completion in 20 minutes approx.
  • adopt a single-stimulus question format (Likert scale)
  • adopt a normative format of scoring utilising a sten look-up table (for each personality scale)
  • use a Social Desirability scale to deal with the issue of faking or extreme scoring patterns

Key work personality assessment designs

Work personality assessment – internal reliability

The ideal for personality questionnaire design is to have sets of items on each  scale measuring the same latent variable – as described by the scale name and the scale descriptors. This is what is meant by the internal reliability of a personality questionnaire’s set of scales.

Work Personality Assessment Designs – internal reliability

There are many ways to statistically measure the internal reliability of each scale on a personality questionnaire. Probably the most common is Chronbach Alpha. The advantage of using this measure of a personality test’s internal reliability is the agreement in the literature of what represents an acceptable Chronbach’s Alpha score for any personality questionnaire scale. A score above .7 indicates an internally reliable scale.

Rob Williams Assessment Ltd have considerable experience in assessing the validity of psychometric tests. This is a one of the key final stages in any psychometric test design. Most recently we have been asked to validate situational judgement tests. In addition to test the SJT reliability and to advise on suitable cut-off scores which minimise any adverse impact (due to gender, age, ethnic group and disability).

Many of the UK’s and US’s leading test publishers have used Rob Williams Assessment’s to assist with ensuring the psychometric properties of their trial psychometric tests. We consult on how to improve any test’s psychometric properties, particularly the test’s internal reliability and construct validity.

Work Personality Test Designs


it is widely accepted that a practice effect exists for ability tests. Given the wide proliferation of certain ability tests it is quite likely that a candidate has encountered a very similar, if not the same, ability test previously. Whilst a candidate is unlikely to have learnt the test answers, prior experience of psychometrics may have taught them useful test strategies. For example, leaving the most difficult questions to the end and finishing as many questions as possible. Offering two parallel versions of an ability test may alleviate the practice effect.


One of the commonest criticisms of personality tests has been their fakeability. When addressing this issue, it is vital to remember that good practice recommends that a personality test is not used in isolation. All personality assessment output relates to the candidate’s own answers and any pertinent points can be discussed at interview.

Test developers can build-in strategies to make faking more difficult, such as using different types of social desirability scale. Giving a consistently false picture is more difficult with a robust personality questionnaire. For any assessment the same consistently false picture has to be carried through to the interview. It also assumes that the candidate knows enough about the interviewer and their prospective employer to be able to guess at the ‘correct’ personality profile. A lengthy completion time may also indicate that a candidate has crafted their answers around what they consider to be a ‘correct’ personality profile.

Work Personality Test Designs


The MBTI® personality type instrument indicates an individual’s preferred behavioral styles. In particualr for interacting, using information and making decisions. It does not provide any indication of ability or suitability for a role. People of all types can do anything. However their natural tendency or first instinct may be to act in a certain manner.

There is research to suggest that people of certain types may find some professions more attractive. However there is no research to suggest that they will perform better than people of other types.

The MBTI® work personality assessment is intended for personal development. It is excellent for increasing self-awareness and an understanding of interpersonal differences.

Additional assessment practice

Our psychometric test designs

Strengths Design  ~ Realistic Job Preview Design ~ Personality Test Design ~ Situational Judgment Test Design ~ Psychometric Test Design.

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