Personality profiling for job candidates?


I've used a variety of personality profiles to gain additional insights on job candidates, regarding work and communication styles, energy levels, focus, drive etc etc. I have used the DISC Online method ( ) a number of times, always with useful results. That said, there are many profiling tools and methodologies out there, and I'm interested to find out a) what profiles you all have used and b) what features specifically made them effective for you.

Few things are more important than a good team, and improving the fit-decision on a candidate saves money and improves chances of success.

Hiring Employees Interviews

asked Oct 24 '09 at 12:22
Manuel M
263 points

5 Answers


Usually, for startup employees, what I look for is a resilience to failure and the right attitude. The best candidates understand that mistakes are required and make use of them. You can have any personality type yet still have this quality or mindset. You can also not have this quality now yet gain it later.

That said, most hires are selected on gut-instinct. In the first ten seconds of meeting your candidate, most likely, you'll have already made a decision whether or not they're even qualified. And usually, no amount of interviewing or rigorous analysis will change that.

So, assuming those things are true, personality profiling doesn't give you any information that is really actionable - you'd already chosen an action. But, unless you're apt to apply the results of your data, you might end up throwing more money away than necessary. Meh, two cents.

answered Oct 24 '09 at 13:43
Van Nguyen
482 points
  • Thank you Van. My experience with the approach you describe is that most people tend to hire people "by gut" that are similar to themselves - not always a good solution. I have found that profiles allowed me to cross-check intuitions, and sometimes listen more to a gut reaction I had to a candidate but rationalized away. – Manuel M 14 years ago


It's a standard interview practice in large technology companies to have a group lunch with a candidate. That allows would-be-colleagues to spend more time with a person in a more relaxed, informal environment.

answered Oct 24 '09 at 14:36
Output Logic
341 points
  • Agreed - really a must-have. How do you then collect the feedback to come to an insightful decision? – Manuel M 14 years ago


Yikes, I'd hate to go through a personality test and I'd hate to give them. Hiring employees for us feels a bit like getting married. So we don't give them personality tests. We date them instead.

We look to hire people that are comfortable coming on as contractors. If they work out after awhile and full time is something both of us would enjoy, then that's what we do.

Before we start dating, we look for people who like to create things and show them off. They take pride in blogging, or creating open source software. That stuff is nice and in the public for everyone to view. You know they have a pride then in their craftsmanship. And that pride is what we want to hire.

answered Oct 24 '09 at 13:36
Nathan Kontny
1,865 points
  • Thank you, Nathan. I get your point - what I've ended up doing is to run profiles and also give mine to anyone I hired. Full disclosure usually helps all parties. In my experience, this doesn't replace the "dating", but it starts it off with more context. – Manuel M 14 years ago


There are times that having differences in personalities will be beneficial, as there is room for creativity in the area between differences.

If everyone is similar in their types then it will mean that ideas that are generated will also be similar.

But, it is important for people to be able handle differences in others, which is probably more important in many ways than some qualities.

For example, I had a boss that was very conservative, and wasn't big on change, and I was like a dog that would chase after every new idea, exploring here and there, as he held onto the leash, to keep me going relatively in the same direction as him.

Out of this we had some incredible programs that were better because we were so different. We worked together for 7 years, and we both adapted toward each other over that time, which helped me to become better for it.

I think that personality profiling may lead to you rejecting a candidate that you may not realize you need.

answered Oct 24 '09 at 13:39
James Black
2,642 points
  • Great comment - your point emphasizes the notion that you have to be clear what you value in a new member on the team, so that you don't quickly decide against people who may not meet subjective criteria early on. I have usually only used the profiles on the final candidates, and relied on team interviews, direct conversation etc in the selection process. – Manuel M 14 years ago


We sometimes use personality tests to help us guide an interview, but will never use them as a basis for a hire / no-hire decisions. For example, if a personality test indicates that somebody's tendency is not to finish projects, we'll explore that in an interview.

Tests such as Belbin analysis can be useful in building teams. For example, a team needs somebody with ideas, but also somebody who can get things done (these attributes can be in the same person). Belbin analysis can help you figure out whether your team has holes in it.

There are, however, several problems with personality analysis:

  • They don't tell you the most useful stuff. Key attributes we look for are being super smart, highly motivated and not an asshole. Personality tests don't tell you that.
  • They're not fine grained. Typically a personality test will boil down people's personalities to a handful of characteristics. It's like describing people's appearance solely by their height, weight, skin colour and hair cut. Sure, it's broad-brush accurate, but misses all the nuances.
  • People behave differently in different circumstances. For example, you might be sociable while with friends but clam up with your boss, or nervous at work but calm at home. Personality tests tend to assume people are the same in all situations.

In conclusion, they can be useful, but don't place too much emphasis on them.

answered Oct 25 '09 at 18:28
Neil Davidson
1,839 points
  • Thank you - great comments, and agreed all around. – Manuel M 14 years ago

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