Leading Edge / Spring 2017
Revealing the True You

New model for assessing personality traits could benefit employers


Photo of job candidates waiting for their interviews

Photo: iStock.

A new model for identifying personality traits may help employers save money by enabling them to better predict how an individual will perform on the job.

The model, developed by Brian Connelly, a professor of management at U of T Scarborough, and Samuel McAbee of the Illinois Institute of Technology, is unique in that it contrasts personality as seen by an individual versus how their personality is seen by others.

Two problems with self-reported personality tests are that they rely on people to be self-aware and to tell the truth about themselves. Asked if they are hard-working, some job applicants will say “yes” because they really are hard-working. Other applicants think they’re hard-working but aren’t, while others exaggerate because they want to give a good impression. By using peer assessments, an employer can determine which applicants are providing the most accurate information and which are the most self-aware.

“If someone believes they are more outgoing or friendlier than they actually are based on peer assessment, that’s important information to have about that person,” says Connelly.

Connelly’s model uses a unique blend of self and peer ratings to gather feedback on an individual’s relationship to the big five personality traits – extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. What sets it apart from previous models is that it provides a robust way to determine whether there’s agreement or divergence between the self and peer ratings.

Connelly says more reliable personality tests will do a better job of weeding out bias and fakery that cost organizations millions of dollars in retention and hiring costs every year.

“In general,” says Connelly, “we know that people who are more conscientious tend to do better no matter what the job is. With the other four traits, it depends more on the particular job. In customer service, for example, agreeableness comes more into play.”


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