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April 5, 2013 6:41 PM   Subscribe

I have an upcoming job interview for a fairly sales-oriented position in business. Putting aside that I'm not sure I want the position yet and that in my eyes it counts against the company that they put stock in this sort of thing, the company is about to send me a personality test which they use as a strong hiring indicator. I would prefer to ace the test, whatever that means, and have my actual interview and position discussion determine hiring. How should I go about answering a test that I don't believe will be reflective of my personality?

If memory serves when I was a teenager I failed a Subway sandwich-assembly part-time job's personality test. I don't think I'll scale up well. I know that when I answer OKC questions and the like, I overthink everything. If a question asks me if I ever could see myself _________, I almost always can come up with an instance where yes, in this specialized circumstance I've concocted, I could. It appears other people usually just answer their right now answer. Should I keep answering the literal wording, which is what feels accurate, or try to answer the right now way?

I also do not know how to answer generalized preference questions (do you prefer spending evenings at parties or at home reading a good book?) as the answer is variable given actual context. I want to answer BOTH, DEPENDING in this instance; often that is not an option in this type of test. I genuinely don't know what to do with this sort of question when the real answer isn't available.

I could also answer what the questions are driving at from an employer's point of view, but don't know if intentionally answering them in a manner that appears to align with my understanding - which at this early stage is limited - of the job duties is dishonest or what you as the candidate are supposed to be doing. I'm also scared that my guess at what I think the employer wants to hear might not be accurate particularly since this is a job opportunity gained through networking and I only have a vague idea of what they'd want me to be doing. (So say a question asks if I work better independently or in groups, and I know the position is group-dependent, do I say groups? But then what if later on promotion-wise I'd be independent? Or do I just say what's true, which is independent?)

Basically, I'm lost with this whole pre-job-interview personality test business. I've had several professional jobs before (though none have previously been sales-oriented) and this is the first job-associated personality test since the Subway one. Please advise.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total)
If you get the Unicru test with the choices {Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree}: use this answer key. The test is BS. The right answer is always Strongly something, you are never supposed to have a subtle opinion. I followed the answer key for a Best Buy application once and got a call back within an hour.
posted by sleek 1999 roadster at 6:51 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

A personality test for a professional job is going to have different goals than a personality test for a Subway job. The Subway job tests are more about determining that you think stealing from your employer is bad and wrong and you would never do it and you would turn in anyone else who did it. For a professional job, they're more likely to be looking to assess (in so far as these tests can do that) your actual personality and whether it is sufficiently Sales-ey for the job.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:04 PM on April 5, 2013

Two things...

1) The employer wants to make sure you're not batshit insane, so any non-insane result is going to be OK. Similarly, a batshit insane person might refuse to take the test or be a jerk about it, so merely floating the idea of a test filters out some whackos.

2) if you really feel you're going to overthink the test and spoil it ... Pretend to be someone else when you take it. You have normal, successful, non-insane friends? Great. Ask yourself how one of them would answer the question and write down the first thing that pops into your head.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:25 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just answer the questions and let the chips fall where they fall. If they really put that much stock in those tests you really don't want to work there anyway. There is no such thing as an optimum personality for sales.
posted by COD at 7:32 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not all personality tests are BS. We use them to assess personality matches suited to particular jobs, not whether someone is qualified to work in general, with a high degree of success. I recommend playing it straight and letting the chips fall where they may.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:37 PM on April 5, 2013

Years ago I, too, was asked to take a personality test when I applied for a marketing job. Like you, I was ambivalent to say the least. In fact, I was a bit insulted and peeved. Nevertheless, I took the test. I was not hired for the marketing job but was offered a position in another department.

I later became good friends with the HR director and got to read the results of this personality test. As I recall, it revealed that I was undecided about the job, and it concluded that I was enthusiastic about the work but conflicted about the position.

It wasn't the position that baffled me; it was that friggin personality test. I'm sure my attitude was reflected in some answers and interpreted wrongly.

If you decide to take the test, check your feelings about the test at the door. Thirding the recommendation to just play it straight, be yourself, and let the chips fall.
posted by MyTwoCentsToo at 11:57 PM on April 5, 2013

The only time I had to take a personality test the test was designed to jumble up the questions and ask the same thing with slightly different wording. So, to take your example, it would ask if I preferred reading or partying, and then later ask if I was more likely to go to a spend my money on gig tickets or records. Sometimes they would ask the exact same question with a few questions in between. The idea was twofold: a) that they would catch anyone giving inconsistent answers in an attempt to 'play the system'; b) they understood that personality is a spectrum and that people can be extroverted without being hedonists etc etc. I still thought it was largely bs.

I passed (as in, got through to the next stage of recruitment) by just being honest and giving only gut answers.

If you 'fail' the bs personality test, then it's probably a good indication that you would not have enjoyed the work environment anyway.
posted by dumdidumdum at 3:43 AM on April 6, 2013

Just play it straight. A company I worked at years ago started doing these tests for new hires. It wasn't about a right personality for a specific role, but making sure the overall team has the right mix of personalities, or that someone can be put on a team where they are more likely to work successfully with the other members.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:34 AM on April 6, 2013

Short answer, role-play:

1) You always act in the best interests of your employer. You would never steal, slack off, post bad things about them on Twitter. You take their valuable HR tools (such as BS personality tests) seriously and would never ever try to game them. And, you would turn in your own mother for even thinking about those sort of things without a moment's hesitation.

2) For a sales position, ESTP. 'nuff said.
posted by pla at 8:20 AM on April 6, 2013

To clarify pla's response a little - ESTP is a Myers-Briggs type. They shouldn't be administering an MBTI inventory in this way. The results are supposed to be shared back to the participant for validation and are not considered final until the participant reviews them. Sometimes the final type is not necessarily what the inventory shows.

But it is possible that they are trying to evaluate some personality dimensions - there are many different kinds of assessments and inventories out there. I have been asked to take variations of the DISC a few times for hiring.

Usually this is in the instructions, buy you're typically supposed to go with your first instinct or gut reaction on these tests. Use the first thing that pops into your mind and then don't think about it any more. Or think about what you would do 80% of the time, regardless of how the question is worded.

In any case, you don't know from your position whether they are evaluating for fit with the org, fit with the role or something else. Just go with your gut, do not spend a lot of time thinking it through and submit it.
posted by jeoc at 1:52 PM on April 6, 2013

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