What is the best personality profile?

October 11, 2018


What is the best and most reliable way to describe people. We all use the word personality but defining it can be more problematic. We all have a “personality” and when people are surveyed about the most desirable characteristics they want in a future partner, intelligence and “personality” typically rate in the top three attributes.

What is personality? In general terms it is a set or repertoire of behaviours that is usually consistent across time and situations; enduring patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that characterise the person. There is variability but for most day-to-day situations and contexts, excluding highly stressful, novel or significant power differences, our personality, or behaviour, is stable and predictable. We cannot predict specific instances of behaviour but knowing a person’s personality can help predict how they will behave most of the time in normal, physically and psychologically safe, conditions.

How do we measure someone’s personality and what is the best personality profile? What behavioural assessment or personality profile, amongst the numerous products on the market, is the best or most accurate, particularly in the recruitment staff selection context?

The use of psychometric testing for recruitment, typically aptitude and personality related measurement, has grown significantly over the past 30 years. In line with that growth there has also been a proportional growth in the number of psychometric tools and tests now available. For example, after conducting a 30-minute survey of the internet and viewing known test provider websites I was able to identify 36 different personality or behavioural assessments. Included in this number is the capacity for some profiles to produce more than one report from the completion of one questionnaire.

Further to this, the various test suppliers make claims about the superiority of their product(s), such as:

“The largest portfolio of 1,000+ off-the-shelf assessments that precisely measure skills, behaviour and performance, and accurately predict potential for all major job categories and levels in every sector”.

“No other assessment tool can quantify measure and communicate successful performance throughout the entire employment lifecycle as well as X. With 95% predictive accuracy…it’s no wonder X is the leading assessment tool worldwide”,

“No other personality test is backed by as much research and as many years of use as is the MBTI instrument, which has been taken by millions of people worldwide”,

Thus, with so many tests available, and providers making such strong claims, how can a consumer of psychometric testing decide upon the best and most accurate test or profile?

One approach is to be cognisant of the outcomes of scientific research and what are the outcomes of decades of personality research. There are many good reasons to adopt a scientific approach to recruitment and psychometric testing, however, the most salient reason is the same reason why science has proved to be such a successful endeavour in human history. One of the strengths of science is the notion that theories are always trying to be disproven. A scientist postulates a theory and then other scientists attempt to disprove that theory. The longer the theory cannot be disproven the more robust the theory and the more widely accepted that theory becomes. Thus, what has the science of personality research revealed over the past three decades?

The research into personality over the past three decades has overwhelmingly supported a model of normal personality referred to as the “Five-Factor Model of Personality” or sometimes called the “Big Five”. The field of psychology and the science of personality has consistently supported this model of personality, indeed, many of the widely used personality profiles (OPQ & HPI) are based on the Five-Factor Model of Personality. However, the only personality questionnaire and profile that measures the Five-Factor Model is the NEO-PI-3. In the Five-Factor Model we can be analysed along five continuous, non-overlapping dimensions: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and emotional stability.

Some quotes from scientific journal articles about the Five-Factor Model of Personality are as follows:

Sydney Business School & University of Wollongong reported the following in the International Coaching Psychology Review, September 2012:

“The Big-Five/Five-Factor Model of personality, based on the trait approach, is considered by most authors to be the most investigated and validated model of personality currently available”.

“In the 1980s a consensus began to emerge on a Five-Factor model developed by Costa & McCrae. Support for the Five-Factor model has been further strengthened by a series of meta-analyses confirming the Big-Five’s predictive validity in terms of behaviours and life outcomes across a wide range of contexts. The Five-Factor model is now the most widely accepted general model of personality used today”.

“The NEO-PI-R is rapidly becoming one of the most popular measures of normal personality in the research literature. The psychometric properties, including predictive validity, of this inventory are uniformly favourable as evidenced by empirical reviews”.

An article in the Harvard Business Review, titled, “Most Work Conflicts Aren’t Due to Personality”, 20.5.14:

“If you or others feel you must use personality testing as part of conflict resolution, consider using non-categorical, well-validated personality assessments such as the Hogan Personality Inventory or the NEO Assessment of the “Big Five” Personality dimensions. These tests, which have ample peer-reviewed, and psychometric evidence to support their reliability and validity, better explain variance in behavior than do categorical assessments like the Myers-Briggs, and therefore can better explain why conflicts may have unfolded the way they have. And unlike the Myers-Briggs which provides an “I’m OK, you’re OK”-type report, the Hogan Personality Inventory and the NEO are likely to identify some hard-hitting development themes for almost anyone brave enough to take them, for example telling you that you are set in your ways, likely to anger easily, and take criticism too personally. While often hard to take, this is precisely the kind of feedback that can help build self-awareness and mutual awareness among two or more people engaged in a conflict”.

An article in Scientific American titled, “How Accurate Are Personality Tests?”, 11.10.18:

“By contrast, the Big 5 and HEXACO models were shaped by an empirical process and independent peer review that showed people’s scores tended to be consistent, and predictions made using the models are reproducible. Without that, personality tests should be treated with extreme suspicion.”

Therefore, the personality profile supported by independent scientific research is the Five-Factor Model of Personality as measured by the NEO-PI-3 and is the profile I would recommend for recruitment and staff selection.