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Personality Assessments for Jobs Best Performed by Outsiders

Human resource departments often have people complete a self-administered personality profile as a method to match a person to job tasks or to assess job performance.

A new study finds that businesses will get more accurate assessments of potential and current employees if they do away with these self-rated tests and find an outside observer to perform the ratings.

Previous job performance studies have shown that outsiders are best at rating an individual’s personality in terms of how they work on the job. But observers in these studies have always been co-workers.

In the new study, researchers wanted to see if co-workers are the best judges of an individual’s “working” personality because they are more familiar with a job’s requirements and know the individual in a work context — or, can any outside observer be a good judge.

Researchers evaluated the results from a German-based study of 111 employees who self-rated, and then were rated by 106 personal acquaintances (including family members), and 102 co-workers.

Investigators found both types of outside observers gave equally fair evaluations of other people.

Study findings are published in the Journal of Personality.

“It’s not so much that observers are thinking only about the one particular context that the evaluation is for, but it’s more that they have a less clouded view of a person,”  Connelly said.

Researchers also found that people who overestimated their agreeableness and conscientiousness (the most predictive for performance) performed worse on the job than those who did not overestimate these traits.

This is something Connelly compares to the “Michael Scott” phenomenon, referring to the lead character on the television show “The Office,” who has little self-awareness or insight into why those working for him do not enjoy their jobs more.

Despite these findings, self-rated vs. observer-rated personality assessments are the norm at organizations that use personality tests as an evaluation tool.

“One possible thing would be for those applying for jobs to nominate someone else to rate their personality rather than doing it themselves, and then you might have a better workforce,” said Connelly.

Observer-rated personality measures may also be more useful for current employees getting developmental feedback on the job.

“If we’re basing all the responses on self-reports, which is the norm, rather than having somebody else giving them the feedback, then we may be handing people’s biased perceptions right back to them,” Connelly said.

Source: University of Toronto

Personality Assessments for Jobs Best Performed by Outsiders

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Personality Assessments for Jobs Best Performed by Outsiders. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 15 Nov 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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