Personality Tests in Recruitment: Advantages, Disadvantages, and Avoided Cognitive Biases

Personality tests are increasingly used in recruitment processes to gain a deep understanding of candidates’ character traits.

What are their advantages and disadvantages? What biases do they help avoid in recruitment?

Personality tests allow recruiters to quickly gain an understanding of candidates’ behavioral skills.

By identifying personality traits that are compatible with the position and company culture, these tests can contribute to a better fit between the candidate and the company, thus reducing costly recruitment errors.

With an in-depth knowledge of the new employee’s personality, the company can adapt its onboarding process to meet their specific needs.

This can include personalized coaching, targeted training, and tailored communication, thereby promoting successful integration and long-term engagement.

Personality tests provide information about candidates’ communication preferences.

By understanding how a candidate communicates and interacts with others, recruiters can assess their ability to integrate into an existing team and collaborate effectively with colleagues.

If personality tests are not carefully designed and validated (psychometric tests based on scientific research such as on, they may favor certain personality traits or cultural backgrounds, leading to discriminatory practices.

Recruiters must be aware of these risks and ensure that the tests used are reliable, valid, and unbiased.

Often, personality tests provide a snapshot of a person’s traits at a given point in time, without considering the specific context of the job or work environment. This is not the case for T-Persona, which focuses on professional interests.

Recruiters should avoid drawing hasty conclusions based solely on test results and consider other factors such as the candidate’s skills, experience, and qualifications.

Candidates may be tempted to manipulate their responses to personality tests to present themselves in a more favorable light.

This is why, in a recruitment situation, we add sections to guard against these exaggerated deviations.

This can compromise the validity of the assessment and lead to erroneous hiring decisions.

Recruiters should be aware of inconsistencies and use other assessment methods to corroborate test results.

Overreliance on personality tests can lead recruiters to overlook other essential aspects such as technical skills, professional experience, and academic qualifications.

It is crucial to consider personality as one element among others in a holistic recruitment process.

Recruiters may unconsciously favor candidates who resemble them, project their own beliefs onto them, or rely on stereotypes based on demographic characteristics.

Some examples:
Affinity bias:

  • A recruiter prefers a candidate who attended the same university as them, even if other candidates have better qualifications.
  • A female recruiter feels more comfortable with a female candidate who shares her hobbies, and unconsciously favors her during the interview.

Projection bias:

  • A recruiter thinks an introverted candidate will not be comfortable in a sales role, because they themselves would feel uncomfortable in that situation.
  • A female recruiter imagines a young female candidate will be less invested in her work, because she herself had other priorities at that age.

Stereotyping bias:

  • A recruiter immediately discards resumes from candidates over 50 for a position in a startup, associating age with a lack of dynamism and creativity.
  • A female recruiter questions a female candidate more about her family plans, assuming that motherhood will hinder her professional commitment.

These biases can lead to discriminatory decisions and reduced diversity within the company.

Recruiters may place disproportionate importance on prestigious diplomas, positions held in renowned companies, the most recent information, or first impressions.

Some examples:
Status bias:

  • A recruiter gives more credence to the statements of a candidate who currently holds a high-responsibility position in a renowned company, even if the achievements of other candidates are more relevant to the position to be filled.
  • A female recruiter is more impressed by a candidate who went to a prestigious school, even if their professional experiences are less relevant to the position than those of other candidates.

Recency bias:

  • During a day of interviews, a recruiter better remembers the last candidates who passed and their qualities seem more striking to them than those of the first candidates, even though they are just as valid.
  • After reading many resumes, a female recruiter tends to focus on the most recent experiences of candidates, ignoring older but relevant experiences.

Anchoring bias:

  • A recruiter has a typical profile in mind for a position, based on the previous jobholder, and has difficulty considering different profiles even if they have equivalent skills.
  • During an interview, a female recruiter places too much importance on a negative first impression (lateness, sloppy attire) and struggles to revise her judgment despite the qualities demonstrated by the candidate during the interview.

These biases can lead them to overlook candidates’ actual skills and make decisions based on irrelevant criteria.

Recruiters may be influenced by their colleagues’ opinions, prefer candidates whose profiles are similar to those of current employees, or give more weight to negative information.

Some examples:
Conformity bias:

  • In a recruitment process involving several interviewers, a recruiter aligns with the majority opinion of their colleagues about a candidate, even if their initial opinion differed, in order not to go against the group.
  • A female recruiter tends to evaluate more favorably candidates who correspond to traditional norms and expectations for a position, to the detriment of atypical profiles that are nevertheless promising.

Familiarity bias:

  • A recruiter particularly appreciates a candidate who reminds them of a former high-performing colleague, and unconsciously favors them over other equally qualified candidates.
  • A female recruiter tends to recommend candidates from the same university background as her, out of a sense of familiarity, without necessarily objectively assessing their suitability for the position.

Negativity bias:

  • During an interview, a recruiter excessively focuses on a negative point in a candidate’s background (a short period of unemployment, an academic failure), overshadowing their many successes elsewhere.
  • After a negative experience with a previous employee, a female recruiter has preconceptions about candidates with a similar profile, and struggles to evaluate them objectively.

These biases can hinder the objectivity of the recruitment process and limit the diversity of profiles considered.

Recruiters may seek information confirming their initial hypotheses, rationalize their decisions after the fact, or avoid asking difficult questions to candidates.

Some examples:
Confirmation bias:

  • After forming a positive first impression of a candidate by reading their resume, a recruiter unconsciously seeks, during the interview, to confirm their opinion, by giving more importance to elements that support it and minimizing contradictory signals.
  • A female recruiter is convinced that a particular degree is essential to succeed in a position. She tends to favor candidates with that degree and dismiss others, without really questioning this belief.

Self-justification bias:

  • A recruiter recommended hiring a candidate who ultimately proves to be a poor performer in the position. To justify their initial decision, they attribute the employee’s difficulties to external factors (manager, context) rather than a selection flaw.
  • Having rejected a candidate on the basis of a criterion that ultimately proves irrelevant, a female recruiter continues to find justifications for this choice afterwards, in order not to question her judgment.

Complacency bias:

  • A manager prefers to recruit inexperienced junior profiles, because he knows they will be less likely to question his decisions and easier to manage, even if more senior profiles could bring more to the team.
  • To maintain a calm atmosphere in her team, a female recruiter tends to favor consensual profiles and avoids atypical personalities or “strong heads”, even though the latter could be a source of innovation.

These biases can lead them to ignore warning signs and make suboptimal recruitment decisions.

The implementation of standardized evaluation grids allows recruiters to focus on objective and relevant criteria for the position.

By using the same criteria for all candidates, recruiters can reduce the influence of personal biases and ensure a fairer evaluation. 

Companies must train their recruiters to identify and overcome cognitive biases.

By becoming aware of their own biases, recruiters can actively seek to neutralize them and make more objective decisions based on candidates’ skills and potential.

The use of data-based recruitment techniques, such as assessments, situational exercises, and structured interviews, can help reduce the impact of biases.

By focusing on tangible evidence of candidates’ ability to succeed in the position, recruiters can make more informed and equitable decisions.

Personality tests can be a valuable tool in recruitment when used judiciously and in combination with other evaluation methods.

By favoring a holistic and objective approach, companies can optimize their recruitment process to identify the best talent while promoting fairness and diversity.

By adopting a balanced approach that combines personality tests with other evaluation methods and committing to promoting fairness and diversity, companies can attract and retain the best talent while creating an inclusive work environment.