Published On: Fri, Jun 7th, 2013

My Experience With ‘Personality’ Tests

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European businesses have been conducting personality tests on prospective employees for decades, yet over this period the general view of these businesses’ competitiveness has been in decline relative to their counterparts in the US and, more recently, in emerging economies.

The inherent problem with these tests and all other standardized tests is that they only present a snapshot of a person at a moment in time. Things happen, errors in judgment are committed, life-altering events amongst other occurrences are experienced and therefor people change. It comes across as arrogant or naive to believe that a person and her career prospects can be correctly assessed based on a test result at such young ages. Such approaches are deterministic, fatalistic and, ultimately, defeatist.

I’m all for EQ evaluations of prospective business managers. The vast majority of my LSE peers were all-around outstanding individuals, but the stand-out memorable people all had some sort of fault that was directly related to emotional intelligence.

One was an individual who would regularly thwart or veto the will of a six-person work group when he was the lone dissenting voice (Russian, intellectually brilliant, spoke 3 or 4 languages fluently, was immediately snapped-up by McKinsey for a summer internship but unsurprisingly not hired by the firm after graduation). Another was a fellow Pakistani classmate whose written and verbal English skills were so non-existent that it was obvious to all that he had outsourced someone to write his application. Yet another was a stunningly attractive (and accordingly vain) female classmate who was perpetually convinced that she was more industrious than anyone else (her contempt was evident to all, and those who got stuck with her in groups or on projects received perpetual sympathetic comments from classmates).

And one of my most memorable professional colleagues was a woman (tremendous intellectual horsepower, minority, not Omarosa) who was one of the most ethically-challenged and manipulative people I’ve ever encountered (regularly claimed to be a federal employee to get the US Government rate so she could stay in fancier hotels and not exceed the company per diem, was a walking excuse factory for missed deadlines, curried favor via various mechanisms with 22-year-old’s in the office so they would agree to go feed her parking meter every three hours and was ultimately fired within three months by her post-graduation employer, with an excuse that was clearly the first excuse the company could come up with that would stick without risking litigation).

Too bad we don’t screen our elected representatives as thoroughly as we seem to want to screen everything (and everybody) else.

About the author: Zohaib is former CEO of Nadia Textiles and currently a franchisee for Pearl Continental Catering in Lahore and investor-founder of several B-corporations, notably Uth Oye.

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