In separate agreements with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Best Buy and CVS have decided to stop using personality tests as part of their recruiting process, Erin Mulvaney reported at the National Law Journal last week. While the details of the agreements are confidential and neither company admitted liability, the EEOC said a former commissioner had raised concerns about the companies’ policies, prompting the agency to scrutinize whether these practices were potentially discriminatory:
The tests came under increasing scrutiny for their potential to weed out people with mental illness or certain racial groups. CVS had previously agreed, for example, to remove certain mental health-related questions from its questionnaire after a probe from the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights.
In recent years, the EEOC launched investigations into personality tests on the grounds of discrimination and has guidelines for these job applicant assessments. Some companies on their own have decided to eliminate or reduce parts of the assessment tests, including Whole Foods Market Inc.
Target reached a $2.8 million settlement with the EEOC in 2015 over its candidate assessment system, which was alleged to discriminate on the basis of race and sex, and ended the practice. The agency has also litigated and won cases regarding such assessments against other companies over the years.
Personality tests in recruiting have come into vogue in recent years as part of a variety of pre-hire assessments employers are using in an attempt to evaluate candidates more objectively and fairly; our research at CEB (now Gartner) found in 2014 that 62 percent of employers were using personality tests for pre-hire assessment. Tests measuring skills and knowledge were even more common, with 73 percent of respondents to that survey saying they used this type of assessment. Some companies have launched new experiments with personality tests in recent years, like Heineken’s personality-focused 2016 recruiting campaign and Goldman Sachs’ revamped hiring process for summer interns.
Lately, however, the utility of personality tests has been called into question, amid growing recognition of the dangers of a homogeneous workforce and the potentially discriminatory effects of hiring for specific personality types. Our more recent research has indicated that the popular practice of hiring for “culture fit” is not actually very effective at helping organizations achieve the culture they are looking for. A more effective strategy, which we call “network fit,” focuses more specifically on how well a candidate works with their immediate colleagues, as well as how their competencies, values, and work preferences fit with the way business gets done within the organization. A network fit approach also avoids the generalizations about personality and culture that can lead to discriminatory outcomes.
CEB Recruiting Leadership Council members can learn more about what candidate assessment strategies work (and which ones to avoid) at our Assessment and Selection content hub.