Thursday, February 22, 2007

Personality Testing: Will Irises Replace Resumes?

Personality tests are no longer just a frivolous way to procrastinate, and they might end up costing you a job or two. More and more businesses are using tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator during the interview process to try and find the perfect fit for their company culture and reduce turnover. What do psychologists have to say about personality? Personality is not fixed, is not necessarily accurately determined by personality tests, and, unfortunately, is difficult to fake during such tests. In this post I am focusing on personality from the view of both a psychological and a business standpoint. I have commented on two recent blogs that have addressed the subject of personality developments in each prospective field, and have inserted my comments below. The first blog post I commented on, entitled The Iris is the Window to the Soul, is written by Dr. Vaughan Bell, a psychologist and one of the authors of the book “Mind Hacks,” pictured next to the comment. Bell overviews an exciting new psychological study that claims the eyes reveal certain personality traits- almost like palm readers and seeing the future, except this can be scientifically proven (the specific components of the iris, pictured and labeled above, are determinant of certain characteristics). In the second blog, author and founder of C.M. Russell discusses matching employees with the right jobs based on personality. In his post, Burn Jobs, Burn, Russell looks into the upcoming website JobBurner, pictured at the end of this post, which aims to use personality tests to synchronize the right applicants and companies.

“The Iris is the Window to the Soul”
This research is both impressive and disconcerting. While it is not surprising that personality is, at least in part, genetic, it is unbelievable and exciting that the irises more or less map out the personality. Mostly, it makes me wonder how such technology will be used in the future, and what its purpose is. Your comment that “the UK government wants to encode iris information on passports and keep copies on database to use in iris recognition systems” seems like a violation of privacy and is reminiscent of the futuristic movie Minority Report, in which eye scanning is used by both the government and by advertisers to identify and target individuals. I could even see eye scanning being used to screen applicants’ personalities for jobs. Lastly, I am unclear about a couple of concepts. You cited other similar studies that looked into the relationship between personality and color, which “fail to replicate the personality findings, typically because the effect tends to fade after early childhood.” Is Larsson's research primarily different and more successful because it is applicable in adults? If so, since personality is not stable, do our irises change with new personality developments? Hopefully, if this technique is used on younger children it will not lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy from parents!

“Burn Jobs, Burn”
I realize that it is not a new phenomenon to test applicants’ personalities during an interview, but JobBurner seems to be taking this to a new level. I am skeptical of their claim that their “patent-pending personality scoring system” will “generate better results” than existing ones. Personality tests, from a psychology standpoint, are never that accurate in the first place. Hopefully, businesses will take such results lightly and continue to focus more on experience, recommendations, and the quality of the interview. You quote that Shane Henderson, the CEO, “previously was Director of Development at and is an expert in software algorithms that match people together. I wonder how Henderson’s previous experience with personality testing will translate- it seems that a very different approach should be taken to match people romantically versus professionally. The bottom line is that job rejection has become even harder now that your personality score, not just your resume, is being critiqued.

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