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Match Makers

Knowing your personality—and that of potential employers—can steer you toward a satisfying professional relationship.

By Lisa Hochgraf

Are you an extrovert? How comfortable are you with change? How aggressive are you?

While you may have some intuitive answers, a variety of sites on the World Wide Web offer assessment tools that you can use to measure your personality, that composite of traits and characteristics that makes each of us a unique human being. Besides being interesting, knowing your style—your modus operandi—may help you find a corporate culture in which you can excel.

"Self-awareness is a great thing," says Ann Rickman, vice president of DiscoverME, an Internet-based personality recruiting service headquartered in Overland Park, Kan. "The more you know about yourself, the better off you are."

Not surprisingly, some corporate hiring managers aren't leaving knowledge of personality to individual candidates' interview preparation. Instead, they are using personality assessment tools during the employment process to aid their hiring decisions.

Some of the personality tests used by corporations in the hiring process are administered via the Web; others are given on-site during an interview. In either case, companies are striving to maximize potential benefits of their use, such as making better candidate matches and reducing turnover, and minimizing potential drawbacks, such as employment discrimination.

A battery of carefully developed assessment tools is becoming part of the hiring process at AG Communication Systems, a Phoenix-based subsidiary of Lucent Technologies. Initially planned for use in hiring sales people, personality assessments may later be used for hiring technical employees as well.

"We're ready to roll it out," says Human Resources Manager Jana George. "We expect it to help us make some decisions about finding the right people for the job."


Before your next job interview, it might be useful to find out more about your personality by taking one of the many free personality assessment tests available on the Web.

In general, Web assessment users click on their answers to a series of questions or statements. Then, the assessment site scores the responses and provides an explanation of the results. Check out the following Web sites as a starting point:

  • Based on the Myers-Briggs system of personality typing, this assessment gauges whether people are more introverted (I) or extroverted (E); more sensing (S) or intuitive (N); more thinking (T) or feeling (F); and more perceiving (P) or judging (J). The combinations of these characteristics form personality profiles. For example, people with the characteristics N and T are considered "rationals;" those with S and P are the "artisans."

  • Based on an ancient nine-sided mystic diagram called an enneagram, this 180-question test categorizes respondents into one of nine categories: the "perfectionists," the "givers," the "performers," the "romantics," the "observers," the "troopers," the "epicures," the "bosses," and the "mediators."

  • Based on the Luscher Colour Test, this fun and simple assessment asks you to rank your favorite colors, then explains the associations of the colors and their ranking with certain physical and mental states.

Dallas-based Texas Instruments offers useful personality assessment tools in the "Student Union" section of its corporate Web site, The pages called "Career Mapper" and "Engineer Your Career" are designed to help recent college graduates figure out what the best careers for them might be, and whether Texas Instruments is a place they would enjoy working.

"When a candidate completes and returns the [Career Mapper] questionnaire, TI will process the data using a special database that assesses strengths and weaknesses and assesses and recommends the types of jobs that best suit that person's aptitudes and talents," explains Campus Programs Manager Shannon Suber.

The recently revamped Engineer Your Career section includes a guided self-assessment that asks and suggests answers to the questions, "What do you want to do?" "What do you do best?" and "What is important to you?"

Self-awareness does seem to be important to candidates applying for jobs at Texas Instruments, although the company does not directly base hiring decisions on the results of personality tests.

"While we do not utilize this tool in our hiring process, we have found that students who use the Web site are better candidates for jobs at TI because they are more prepared and because TI is better able to match the right skills and talents with the best job candidate and open position," Suber says.


Unlike other Web-based assessment tools, Rickman's DiscoverME doesn't just give job seekers feedback. It also facilitates online matches between candidates and Fortune 100 employers.

Central Missouri State graduate Paul Kaiser, who was enrolled in a computer information specialist program, says it took him about half an hour to complete the free DiscoverME candidate test, available on the Web at He's pleased to be interviewing with a company he was matched with through the site.

For some candidates, DiscoverME assessment results might be an eye-opener, giving them brand-new feedback on their personalities. For Kaiser, however, the DiscoverME data wasn't a surprise.

"It was pretty much right on," he says, joking about the "hard-headed" side his test revealed. "I showed it to my parents and they said, 'Yes, this is you.'"

DiscoverME takes personality information like Kaiser's and matches it to data it keeps on the key traits of large employers' top performers for certain positions. When a match is made, the candidate and the employer have the opportunity to say "no go" via e-mail. If the candidate and the company both give the thumbs up, DiscoverME puts the two in contact and interviews can proceed. (DiscoverME is careful to protect the privacy of both candidate and employer.)

Kaiser says that using DiscoverME has been a positive part of his overall job search.

"The job would be an extremely good one to have," he says of the match he found through the service. "You really have nothing to lose [by filling out the questionnaire], except you might learn something about yourself."


The candidate personality assessments employers use to help them with their employment decisions are often more sophisticated than, but not unlike, those available on the Web. At AGCS, a battery of three assessment tools is being added to the process for hiring new sales people. The company hopes the series of tests will help hiring managers discern which candidates truly are better matches, decreasing new employees' "ramp up" time and, in the long haul, reducing turnover.

"We're interested in gathering more information than an interview can give us," George says. "We will screen all of the applicants. Before they come here for an interview, we will ask them to do an online assessment."

The online assessment will test thinking style, work style and motivation, emotional style, interpersonal style, and interpersonal influence and control. During an actual interview, AGCS will also ask candidates to complete two other standard psychological test instruments: the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, a test of analytical and logical reasoning, and Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices, another test of reasoning.

"We don't use them (the assessments) by themselves," George emphasizes, noting that interviewers ask more questions based on a candidate's test results. "The whole process is designed to test for all of the competencies" sought for a particular position.


The AGCS strategy of administering several assessments as only a part of the hiring process is a good way for employers to avoid some of the potential problems of using personality assessments when hiring.

"We have experimented with assessments," says Dick Morgan, vice president of human resources at CP Clare Corp., in Beverly, Mass. "It's difficult to find a single assessment or two that are truly comprehensive."

In addition, some instruments that have not been fully tested and validated may include cultural or education biases. When they started at CP Clare, Morgan and Director of Human Resources Anne Whitaker stopped the use of an assessment tool for hourly employees that was clearly discriminatory.

"It was culturally biased," Whitaker says. "People who had just moved here from Cambodia wouldn't know what [the test's] pictures represented."

Looked at another way, personality assessment tools can be tough to use in a fair and equitable manner if they don't correlate closely enough with actual job performance, says Gary Albright, director of worldwide staffing, learning and development at Cadence Design Systems, in San Jose, Calif.

"I don't want to get too far afield from anything that's not directly related to job responsibilities," he says, explaining the reason he discourages assessment use at Cadence. "We would have the duty to prove there was a correlation between the result of the test and performance on the job."

Addressing these kinds of caveats, Rickman says the DiscoverME instrument has been rigorously "validated"—that is, tested over and over in all kinds of situations to ensure consistent results based on personality and nothing else.

The company's test provides "no way to tell the race or ethnic background" of the taker, she says. "Our process is an EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) dream."

While some instruments are better than others, job candidates shouldn't worry if they come across a test or two during their job hunts.

"Do the best you can," Morgan advises. "Don't get too wound up about them. They aren't going to come close to describing [the whole of] who you are and what you can do. They're just a glimpse."


Unfortunately for job hunters, there aren't any readily available assessments of a potential employer's personality. Still, some conclusions can probably be drawn about the match between a particular corporate culture and your own.

As an example, if you know that you love change, a start-up company culture might be a good choice. In contrast, if security is important to you, working for a blue-chip company might be a much better strategy. And, while you can't always learn the finer points of a company's culture unless you actually become an employee, rest assured that many corporations will do their best to share at least their best cultural characteristics with you during the employment process.

"The reasons we bring candidates back [for interviews] is that we know a big selling point is our corporate culture," George says, noting that AGCS provides an on-site child development center and a casual dress environment. "We are concerned about our employees. We want it to be a good fit for them, too."

Lisa Hochgraf makes words work for people through Top-Notch Text, a national writing and editing company

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