Personality Tests

NOTE: The following are examples of some well-known tests. They are used for illustrative purposes only. This does not constitute an endorsement of any one test over another.

Personality tests are used to measure personality traits objectively. Personality traits are the predisposition of an individual to behave in a certain way across different situations. In another word, different people will react differently in the same situation because they possess different personality traits. An individual who is extroverted is likely to be out-going across different situations, whether it be at a conference or at a charity ball. Traits could be important because the behaviors of individuals with certain traits can be highly related to job performance. Thus they can be used to predict how successful the person can be on the job. For example, service orientation is an important predictor of the service quality provided by the hotel receptionist, and as a results high customer satisfaction can be achieved.

Some of the commonly measured personality traits in work settings are extraversion, conscientiousness, openness to experiences, optimism, agreeableness, service orientation, stress tolerance, and emotional stability. There is growing agreement among researchers and psychologists that personality traits can be grouped into five broad dimensions: conscientiousness, emotional stability, agreeableness, extraversion, and openness to experience. These five dimensions are said to be strongly related to overall job performance when compare to narrow, specific personality dimensions such as communication or rationality. More importantly, conscientiousness and emotional stability are said to be relevant to all types of jobs (Gatewood, Feild, & Barrick, 2008). In collectivistic cultures such as China and Hong Kong, other personality traits that characterize the person's interpersonal relationships, such as harmony, also affect job performance.

Any personality test is based upon the assumption that a relationship exists between what the person says about him- or her-self and what is true. Most personality questionnaires are self-reported; the tests ask the respondents about themselves. A typical statement in a personality test is "I enjoy working on my own". Due to the self-report format, some tests have built-in validity items. It is assumed that a person who is not absolutely truthful will answer "strongly agree" to items such as "I never tell lies". When this tendency is seen in the responses, interpretation of the test score needs extra care. Some other tests use a different way to combat this problem. These tests present items that all look positive to the respondents, such as "I am always on time for any kind of meetings" and "I am an organized person". The respondents are to choose or rank the items from the most accurate to the least accurate that describe himself or herself. Since all items reflect positive behaviors, respondents do not feel a need to fake or exaggerate.

An important consideration when using a personality test is the scientific evidence supporting it (i.e., reliability and validity). There should be a strong body of research supporting its application. When using a translated personality test, there are additional considerations, including the cross-cultural equivalent validity that should be examined before using it in another language or with another population.

Example: Cross-cultural Personality Assessment Inventory (CPAI-2)

The CPAI was first developed in 1996 (Cheung, Leung, Fan, Song, Zhang, & Zhang, 1996). It was tailor-made for use in the Chinese societies as well as the other East Asian countries. By using a combined emic (culturally universal) etic (cultural-specific) approach, the inventory measures culturally unique dimensions that are specific to the East Asia populations as well as cross-cultural universals base on standard Western themes. CPAI was later updated in 2001 to shorten its length and to include some new scales. CPAI-2 is the version that is currently in use.

CPAI-2 has three forms: Form A (personality scales, clinical scales, and validity scales), Form B (personality scales and validity scales), and Form C (clinical scales and validity scales). Form B is the one that is typically used in personnel assessment. There are three hundred forty-one items in Form B covering twenty-eight personality scales and three validity indices. The personality scales tell you about the respondents' personal style in different dimensions such as leadership and locus of control. The validity scales tell you about how true the responses are or if the respondent is trying to fake a good impression. Each scale takes about ten to fifteen minutes to complete. The scales can be customized by singling out the sub-scales based on which personalities the user would like to measure. All items are on a dichotomous scale in which the respondents answer in a true/false format.

The CPAI scales cover the five major personality dimensions found in Western personality tests; in addition, it includes an Interpersonal Relatedness factor that covers the Confucian emphasis on human connectedness that has not been found in Western tests.


The internal consistency of the 28 scales ranges from .68 (Discipline) to .94 (Need for Attention).


Among other findings, it was noted that the sub-scales Harmony and Leadership significantly predicted the customer orientation of the frontline and supervisory hotel employees. In addition, three other scales, Discipline, Renqing, and Practical Mindedness predicted frontline employees' attitudes; they engaged in more direct interaction with customers, and they tried to maintain reciprocity of one's relationship with others.

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