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If my dog can pass a pre-employment personality test, should I hire my dog?
December 8, 2014 7:00:00 PM EST   By Mike Russiello

If my dog can pass a pre-employment personality test, should I hire my dog?

Personality tests are used heavily for pre-employment selection in the private sector. The only problem is that while my dog can probably pass most of them, he can't do my job.

Picture of a doggie at workHow can a dog pass a personality test?

Let's assume for a moment that dogs can take tests, or their owners can answer the questions for them. If that's the case, all we need to do is take a look at what personality tests actually measure and evaluate man's best friend against each of these these criteria.

Most personality tests are based on the Five Factor or "Big Five" model. For more information about the Big Five model, please click here.

The five factors in the Big Five are:
  1. Conscientiousness
  2. Agreeableness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Openness to Experience
  5. Emotional Stability

Virtually all factors or traits measured by pre-employment personality tests are a sub-factor of the five major factors listed above. So, if my dog can do well against each of the Big Five factors, he is likely to do well on the more sliced and diced factors most tests use. With that in mind, let's take a look at each of the five factors and estimate how well my dog would score on each of them.

The most important Big Five factor for predicting job performance is Conscientiousness. This factor refers to a tendency to be organized and dependable.

So, is your dog dependable? Does he or she conform to a fairly regular or 'organized' schedule? Does he act dutifully when you toss the tennis ball across the lawn or suggest going for a walk?

Thinking about my dog, the answer is a definite yes. My dog is conscientious.

In personality test scoring, conscientiousness is typically weighted the highest, since it almost always has the strongest correlation with job performance. This means my dog would probably pass on this factor alone. But lets look at the other factors anyway, since it's kind of fun.

The next factor is Agreeableness. This trait refers to the tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.

After a short friend or foe identification phase, my dog is friendly and compassionate with just about everyone, especially if there is food involved. Therefore, I'd say my dog scores high on Agreeableness.

Next, let's look at the Extraversion, which can be defined as the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others. My dog loves to be around others, especially at meal time. I guess you could say my dog is something of an extravert.

The fourth of the Big Five factors is Openness to Experience. This trait refers to the degree of curiosity and preference for novelty in a person. My dog can be very curious, especially when there are new smells floating about. He is quite open to experience.

The final Big Five factor is Emotional Stability. This refers to the way a person deals with unpleasant emotions, such as anger and anxiety. When I think of my dog, I can see that he certainly deals with bad news better than most humans. Plus, even when he gets excited, he calms down quickly and is never vengeful. I'd have to say that he is at least as emotionally stable as most of us humans.

Let's now put it all together. On the "Big Five" primary personality factors, my dog scores quite well. Therefore, since the Big Five subsumes virtually all other normal personality factors, it's safe to assume he would (or should) pass most pre-employment personality tests.

So, does this mean I should hire my dog?

Of course not. A dog cannot do a job designed for humans -- in most cases.

But he passed the test...

That's true, but a personality test doesn't evaluate the ability to actually do a job.

If my dog can pass the test, but can't do the job, is there a disconnect?

Let's ask the question a slightly different way:  If an employer screens out a candidate that can't pass a personality test without ever evaluating whether they can do the job, is that fair?

Until recently, it was difficult to evaluate whether a candidate could do a job via an online test. However, with the advent of affordable simulation-based testing, job-related work sample tests are now practical for many jobs. Doing so can increase the perceived fairness of a company's selection process.

Does this mean that pre-employment personality tests will go away? Hardly. It has been shown that conscientiousness adds incremental validity to cognitive ability or knowledge measures. In the general case, the combination of conscientiousness and cognitive produces the best results. Additionally, when the test types are combined, personality questions concerning emotional stability and other factors, which are the most offensive to candidates, can be dropped from the tests without impacting validity. 

What does the future look like?

So, what does this really mean for the pre-employment testing industry? That's simple: Personality testing and simulation-based work samples will be deployed together to maximize results, with offensive or complaint-spurring personality questions eliminated. The result will be a win-win: better quality hires and candidates who take away a better impression of the company - whether they are hired or not. 

So, no you don't have to hire your dog after he passes the personality section. Instead, give him a simulation. If he can pass that part as well, you may have found your next great hire!

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