Many companies are using online personality tests to evaluate the skills, personality, cognitive abilities and other traits of prospective workers in the United States. Between sixty and seventy percent of applicants face such tests. Some argue that these assessments are ineffective and amount to discrimination.
Some of the questions ask whether an applicant agrees with a statement, such as:
- “Over the course of the day, I can experience many mood changes.”
- “Others have good intentions.”
- “If something very bad happens, it takes some time before I feel happy again.”
Employers have increasingly been using tests that ask such questions to try to streamline the hiring process, particularly when looking for employees for customer-service jobs. Proponents of such tests say they have reduced attrition in high-turnover customer-service jobs by 20 or more days in some cases.
Civil-rights groups, on the other hand, claim that the data-driven algorithms that power the tests could make jobs harder to get for people who do not conform to rigid formulas.
Some companies havestopped using the tests because managers noticed that workers who cleared the personality-screening process sometimes lacked basic skills required for the job. Another company stopped looking at test data when it considered that certain answers could put applicants from minority neighborhoods at a disadvantage in the hiring process.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is investigating whether personality tests discriminate against people with disabilities. Officials are trying to determine whether individuals who have the right skills for a job may be looked over because they do not “pass” a test because they are suffering from mental illnesses such as depression or bipolar disorder.
EEOC officials say that if a person’s results are affected by the fact that they have an impairment and the results are used to exclude the person from a job, the employer needs to defend their use of the test even if the test was lawful and administered correctly.
A ruling against personality tests could force companies and test makers to prove their tests are not discriminatory.