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Human Resources - Are Personality Tests Good Indicators of Employee Performance?

Updated on July 11, 2012

Employers have utilized multiple strategies in their hiring processes throughout business history. More recently, they have begun to use what are called emotional intelligence tests. Some say these tests are irrelevant in determining an employee’s future performance. Others however, say they are a crucial ingredient in hiring the right people. While I maintain that emotional intelligence is a good indication of a successful person, I think there is room for improvement in the actual process of determining emotional intelligence.


Those who support the testing say it boils down to four major traits a person portrays. These are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Each of these has specific components within, all of which are related to how one carries himself and how that reflects in ones work. Advocates argue their stance with several key facts and points. For one, emotional intelligence has statistically been seen in successful managers and employees. For instance, a retail clerk who scored high in the self-management portion of a test will usually be more able to handle his or her emotions when dealing with a difficult customer. Also, emotional intelligence is a means to reduce risks and turnover for an organization. If they can determine in the beginning who has the ability to self-manage himself or who has high interpersonal skills, the likelihood they will be a better resource for the company increases significantly. Not only do they reduce turnover, the tests have also proven to reduce the risk of negligent hiring. This will help companies avoid legal issues and lawsuits, as well as aid in ensuring safety in the workplace. This is issue is infinitely important and should be of utmost importance in every organization.


There are many out there who say no, emotional intelligence tests are irrelevant. The reason they take this stance is because all too often, a potential employee will lie or alter the answers of the test in order to ensure he or she gets the job. If a candidate knows that the answers to the test will help management determine his future, what incentive does that person have to tell what he truly believes? Would any intelligent person not alter the answers to obtain employment? After all, they applied to the job to become a paid employee, not share their emotional traits. That is the main reason opponents will give for not supporting emotional intelligence testing. They aim to stop fakers. Also, many of the questions on the test may be a bit too simplistic and obvious. It is easy to see what a company is trying to determine if a question on a tests ask how they handle a tough situation, and one of the answer choices is “scream in outrage.” They say it would be far more efficient to look more closely at technical skill sets and not waste time on such questioning. So for opponents, the inaccuracy and obvious nature of the test become a hindrance in determining an employee’s actual emotional intelligence level.

Conclusions and Opinions

So who is right? After reading both sides of the argument and participating in class discussion, I firmly believe that both sides are absolutely correct. The four criterion used in determining emotional intelligence are very important and very relevant to job performance. This is especially true when considering the fact that many people who have taken these tests are proven, successful individuals in the workplace. Still, what about what the other side? Do people fake the tests? Yes, research has indicated that up to thirty percent of individuals will lie on a test to get hired. However, in my eyes, that does not discount the fact that many people who have scored highly in multiple areas are more productive and successful individuals.

So I think emotional intelligence has its place in the hiring process. I think it is a very good indicator and can significantly reduce risks and help an organization. Still, I do not believe people should take a questionnaire like test. The fact that so many people admit faking their answers is reason enough to eliminate that type of emotional test. What might be a solution? I believe that if we could develop a way to recognize signs of emotional intelligence in people when conducting interviews, it would boost the validity of emotional intelligence. The interview itself would probably need to be conducted with at least two HR representatives. It would also help to record the interview for further review upon completion. The interview style of testing for emotional intelligence would significantly reduce the likelihood that one would lie on the test or alter his answers. When one is in a face to face setting, he or she is more likely to speak truthfully. This is true not only because he is right there on the spot and nerves are high, but because it is much harder to speak untruthfully to someone’s face. It is easy to fake a resume. It is not so easy to make up a story when asked an off the wall question in an interview setting. So I believe if we could master the art of the “emotional intelligence recognition interview” style test, we could master the hiring process. In that respect, I sit on the fence with this issue.


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    • rjbatty profile image

      rjbatty 5 years ago from Irvine

      In his book "Emotional Intelligence," the author (Daniel Goleman) posits that emotional intelligence is more important that IQ. I tend to agree. While people can learn to handle technical information, their personalities are usually hardened by the time they are seeking employment. Creating a harmonious workplace is far more difficult than locating individuals with an exact skill set.

      While your idea of using HR reps to conduct emotional intelligence testing has merit, I don't think it's realistic. Most companies pay their HR reps a clerk's wage. An individual who could conduct a comprehensive emotional intelligence test would require higher qualifications -- to steer the questioning psychologically when dealing with prospects who are adept at lying even under the pressure of a personal interview. I do not think companies are willing to hire more sophisticated HR personnel because of the cost factor. If a standard HR rep is merely reading off a set of questions, this doesn't really differ much from having the applicant complete a written test.

      I think the key here is to make the "correct" answers to a written test far less obvious so that cheating may become virtually impossible. There are tests that have been created by psychological pros that are used to clear an individual applying for a high-security clearance position (e.g., working at a nuclear launch facility). These tests do not have guessable answers -- they are so discreet and probing that you would have to be a psychologist to glint the intent of a question. Companies that rely on HR departments to weed out malcontents could use more complex tests and reduce or eliminate the lying factor.

      Kudos for bringing an intriguing subject to Hubpages. I can't quite understand why the topic hasn't generated any feedback, but then I have a number of hubs that have generated zero responses myself.