in the Hiring Process
Using Personality Profiles and Intelligence Instruments
George Violette and Jeff Shields
2007 - Quality employees are essential to the success of any
business. Finding ways to identify those who will be most
effective within a company’s culture is a difficult
task. One of the key goals in the recruiting process is to
enhance success and retention by identifying competent individuals
who will also fit a company’s “personality.”
Hiring employees who don’t fit is expensive and leads
to increased turnover. The Society of Human Resource Management
estimates this expense can range from 50% to several times
the employee’s annual salary. As a result, most companies
use a variety of hiring methods to increase the probability
of making good hires, including personality profiles and intelligence
how a candidate’s personality and aptitude fit with
a company’s own personality is difficult. One way
to learn more about potential hires is to administer a test
to help identify certain personality traits.
are several personality profile tools to assist in assessment,
including the widely known Myers-Briggs model and the DISC
method. Another tool available, which may not be as familiar,
is the Predictive Index System (www.piworldwide.com).
The Predictive Index (PI) can help a company with the recruitment,
hiring, training, and management of employees by identifying
individual learning and work styles. It can also identify
existing employees who may work together more efficiently.
PI is a simple one-page questionnaire that can be completed
in about 10 minutes. On each side of the questionnaire are
identical lists of adjectives. On one side, respondents
select the adjectives that they think describe the way others
perceive them (self-concept), and on the other side respondents
select the adjectives that they think truly describe them
scoring of PI produces a pattern with elements: self, self-concept,
and synthesis. The self measures the individual’s
basic pattern of behavior, “doing what comes naturally.”
The self-concept measures the way individuals try to modify
personal behavior to satisfy the demands placed on them.
The synthesis measures how individuals behave in their environment.
PI assesses four primary and two resultant personality traits
in individuals. The four primary traits are dominant (Factor-A),
extroverted (Factor-B), patient (Factor-C), and formal (Factor-D).
The two resultant traits are response level (Factor-M) and
subjectivity level (Factor-E).
measures the drive for self-expression or level of assertiveness
ranging from “submissive” to “arrogant.”
Factor-B measures the social drive or level of introversion
or extroversion from “withdrawn” to “gregarious.”
Factor-C measures emotional tension or urgency in an individual
from “volatile” to “lethargic.”
Factor-D measures an individual’s level of detail
or style in approaching work from “sloppy” to
“perfectionist.” The resultant Factor-M score
is used to identify the “norm” relative to the
measurements of the other factors. It is referred to as
the “response level” and is used to measure
an individual’s stamina and capacity to adapt and
handle stress. Finally, Factor-E measures the tendency for
an individual’s judgment to be subjective versus objective
(or emotional versus logical).
PI literature proposes that every personality and every
PI pattern is always composed of the four primary factors.
The pairing of these four factors is called factor emphasis
combination. Particular combinations emphasize or modify
aspects of behavior and can be analyzed to predict expected
influences on performance. The scoring of each PI survey
form yields a pattern or profile for each individual, and
a resulting score from eight through 96 integrates the four
primary factors. The PI literature provides a brief profile
for each score and identifies several scores by attaching
a descriptive name, such as “scholar” for pattern
22 or “altruistic service” for pattern 46. The
profile provides a comprehensive description of the individual’s
expected behavior and potential. The PI literature suggests
that a well-balanced business organization needs employees
with a variety of different personalities to effectively
complete the many different jobs that must be done.
accounting firm that has used the PI as an important piece
of its hiring process is Berry, Dunn, McNeil, and Parker
(BDMP), a regional CPA firm headquartered in Portland, Maine.
The authors spoke with Edward Asherman, a principal and
director of recruiting at BDMP. Asherman believes that PI
is a “cost and time effective means” to obtain
information that BDMP should know about prospective employees
to help determine how well a candidate will fit with the
firm’s culture. BDMP likes to see a certain level
of all four dimensions, but not too much or too little.
It seeks to hire a wide range of personality types to meet
the needs of its diverse client base. BDMP prefers to administer
the PI instrument prior to an on-campus interview “to
help identify areas [we] may want to explore in the interview.”
The PI results help “confirm information gathered
in the interviewing process.” While the PI is just
“one piece” in BDMP’s recruitment process,
Asherman calls it an “excellent piece.”
accounting firm that has had success using the PI is Clifton
Gunderson LLP. Its experience is documented in a case study
The firm has used the PI for employee development and retention,
and also in due diligence to assess company leadership and
culture before potential acquisitions. The firm reported
that it cut employee turnover in half since adopting the
PI and has had great success with mergers and acquisitions.
other uses of the PI are presented online in about 20 case
studies of various businesses that have had success using
the PI, resulting in increased revenues and positive returns
on investment. The case studies present businesses ranging
from financial institutions to medical centers to automobile
ability to learn, understand instructions, and solve problems
quickly under time pressure are often keys to success in
the accounting profession. While college grade point averages
(GPA) provide one measure of general intelligence and ability,
the reliability and meaningfulness of a GPA can vary by
school and degree. Employers might consider whether a short
intelligence test could provide an additional useful measure
in the interviewing and hiring process. One widely used,
quick and effective general intelligence test is the Wonderlic
Personnel Test (WPT; www.wonderlic.com).
WPT is a short-form test of general cognitive ability that
has been used worldwide since 1937. The WPT quantitatively
measures an individual’s ability to learn, adapt,
solve problems, and understand instructions under time pressure.
The test contains 50 questions of increasing difficulty
that must be completed within 12 minutes. Some questions
test the ability to follow directions, compare numbers or
words, identify sequences, analyze geometric figures, and
use logic or math to solve problems.
WPT is considered a valid predictor of future job performance,
providing insight into how easily individuals can be trained
to learn particular job functions, understand related instructions,
and solve problems. Individuals with higher learning ability
generally are able to draw inferences, adapt, and learn
more easily from on-the-job experiences than individuals
with lower learning ability. Higher-scoring individuals
tend to interpret instructions and understand broad implications,
whereas lower-scoring individuals require more detailed
instruction and closer supervision.
year, hundreds of thousands of job applicants in assorted
lines of work take the WPT. For example, the National Football
League (NFL) has given the WPT to potential NFL draft picks
for many years to provide additional insight on players’
ability to think and make sound decisions under time pressure.
from decades of use provide insight into the typical ranges
of scores that have been acceptable and successful for various
job classifications, including accounting and auditing.
Minimum scores refer to a basic level of intelligence considered
necessary for success in a job. People scoring at the upper
end of the range may become bored quickly and dissatisfied
with the job unless demands or challenges are added.
the WPT measures general mental ability, it does not measure
how well a person will use that ability. A more motivated
or determined person can often outperform an individual
with higher mental ability. Thus, even someone who scores
below the suggested minimum for a job may still be an effective
employee if he has a high degree of motivation or determination.
should be aware of some of the legal aspects of using these
June 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
ruled that any personality test (the Minnesota Multiphasic
Personality Inventory, in that case) which can be used to
diagnose a physical or psychological disorder (e.g., depression)
is a medical examination that could be used to screen out
individuals with disabilities. The use of such tests prior
to a job offer is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities
Act. Personality tests that measure only personality traits
(e.g., extroversion) are not a medical examination.
company providing the personality test should demonstrate
that the test has been subject to the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission’s validation procedures, which demonstrate
that the test measures job-related qualities and does not
have adverse affects on any of the protected classes identified
under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The results
of the test should be kept confidential from those not involved
in the hiring decision.
should include in their employment documents a statement
that they are “at-will employers” and that a
job offer may be contingent upon submitting to the personality
test. All applicants should sign a written acknowledgment
that they have been shown this policy in writing. Finally,
personality tests should only be used as part of a portfolio
of hiring techniques and never as the sole basis for a hiring
Violette, CPA, PhD, is a professor of accounting,
and Jeff Shields, PhD, is an assistant
professor of accounting, both at the University of Southern
Maine, Portland, Maine.