an open letter to all large company employers with online personality tests on their applications

To whom it may concern,

A couple of years ago I applied to work at Hastings (your entertainment superstore). Hastings is one of those places where they sell books, movies, CDs, video games, and various kitschy shit that no one seems to buy. I was told to apply there by my friend Adam, and so I did. Part of the application process was of the general sort: name+address, education, former jobs, references. I was fine with that. While my resume is filled with more holes than swiss cheese, I figured that Hastings wasn’t the kind of place that would look down upon me for getting my college education and not worrying about working as much.

Most of the application, however, was a big long personality assessment test. I believe it was something like fifty questions or so. And so I took it. And having never taken a personality assessment test prior to this one, I had no idea what I was in store for, and so I answered honestly, because in most tests of this sort (the Kiersey and the Jung – Myers-Briggs, for example), honesty is key in determining what kind of personality you have. I could spend another blog post just talking about these tests in general, so instead I’ll just reiterate that when I took the test, I was honest. And when I submitted it, I felt pretty good. Now, I thought, the employers will really know what kind of person I am.

A couple of days later I called Hastings for a follow up. “Hi,” I said, “I’m calling because I sent you an application…?”

“Right,” said Karey (the assistant manager). “We got it.”

“Good. So … are you still hiring or …?”

“We are,” she said, “but unfortunately you failed the test.”

“The what,” I asked.

It seemed that I had failed the personality test. At first I was confused — did this mean I had no personality? Or that my personality was not my own, but rather someone else’s? And then I realized, I was not the right personality that Hastings wanted. And that sort of bugged me. I mean, I had been honest, after all. I told them how I felt. Isn’t that, in a way, better than lying and pretending to be someone you’re not? Apparently not.

So I asked Karey what that meant, and she said,

“It means you can just take it again, and if you pass that time, we’ll interview you.”

Now I was just irritated. I had to reapply and retake that stupid test, using an hour of my time that could be better spent looking for other jobs, just so I could lie so that I could get the job. I didn’t express my irritation with Karey; instead I said thank you, hung up, and took the test again.

So now the question became: was I lying this time? I looked more carefully at the questions presented to me. “I think I am a good person” — agree or disagree. “I like being in big crowds” — agree or disagree. I do think I’m a good person, and I don’t like being in big crowds. But how should I answer? Hastings obviously would want me to think I’m a good person. If I thought I was a bad person they might be afraid that I would blow up the building or something. But what about big crowds? What was the importance of that? And what answer would get me the freaking job?

I noticed that some questions were duplicated, or rewritten, later on in the questionnaire. Why? To prove that I was a liar? What does it matter when you’re manipulating your answers just to get a job?

Either way, I redid the test, altering my answers to fit what I assumed Hastings would want to see. And I got called back for an interview. Why? At this point, you act like you know everything about me! Why would you want to talk to me when the internet did that for you? I went to the interview and did very well and I got the job. Hooray for me.

My point, if you haven’t grasped it already, is that the personality tests you force us to take on your big corporate websites are useless. No, they’re worse than useless — they’re detrimental to the hiring process. You think that by having people psychological evaluate themselves that you’ll weed out the good applicants from the bad ones. But all you’re really doing is forcing applicants to manipulate their answers to best serve you, and that will ultimately harm you. For example, I’m a pretty good guy, I work hard, I hardly ever take breaks at work, I’m friendly and kind to both customers and coworkers, and yet I failed that test, probably because I said one too many times that I prefer being alone to being in a large group. So you’re betraying the entire reason you’ve set up the system — you’re not getting to know me at all, you’re getting to know the avatar I’ve created for you.

Meanwhile there are tons of people who are terrible, arrogant, selfish pricks who do the exact same manipulation to those tests and get in because they passed. And they go on to be terrible, arrogant, selfish pricks at work. Hastings had some pricks, I’ll be honest. They had a lot of really good workers, and some people who were lazy as all hell, and some assholes. Seems normal for a job setting, doesn’t it? Well if that’s the case, why have a personality test? Why not just interview them instead?

At this point, Big Corporate Employers, I know what you’re thinking. “We have to put the test in there because there are so many applicants! We can’t judge the personalities of all those applicants ourselves!” And this may be true, but I don’t think it is. I think this is where the Hiring Manager comes in, or others like him. Obviously there is someone who must interview these people. And I also understand that even the interview process is somewhat manipulative, in roughly the same way that a first date would be manipulative; trying hard to impress someone, whether it be a boss or a potential love, tends to make people act in ways they normally wouldn’t act. But either way, the interview process is there for a reason, and it’s a much better reason than online tests. Online tests won’t look you in the eye. Online tests don’t get a feel for you based solely on the pressure of your handshake. Online tests are only programs that will filter answers through a matrix and make a decision it was programmed to make. People don’t do that.

All I’m asking, I suppose, is that it takes an hour to fill out these damn tests, and that could be an hour better spent shaking your hand and saying hello. Selling myself to you, essentially.

With that said, I have to go fill out an online personality test. Wish me luck.

Your pal,

By Josh

I'm the guy who owns this site, ya dummy.

One reply on “an open letter to all large company employers with online personality tests on their applications”

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