I am law firm administrator and certified human resources professional, John Jakovenko at Sparks Law (https://sparkslawpractice.com/). My focus is on employment law compliance and human resources fundamentals. With the recent HBO Max documentary release of “Persona: The Dark Truth Behind Personality Tests” many are discovering how corporate America hires and fires employees based on these test results. These tests are being used to discriminate against individuals who may have depression or other disabilities. They are used to screen applicants, determine who is ‘hireable,’ and decide who gets a job interview.

Here is my proof (https://www.facebook.com/SparksLawPractice/photos/a.1119279624821116/3846336035448781/), a recent article from NBCNews.com (https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/job-hiring-increasingly-relies-personality-tests-they-can-bar-people-ncna1259466) about how job hiring relies on personality tests but discriminates against those with depression and disabilities, and an overview on employment law (https://sparkslawpractice.com/georgia-employment-lawyer/).

Disclaimer: The purpose of this Ask Me Anything is to discuss employment law relating to hiring and firing of employees based on personality tests. My responses should not be taken as legal advice.

Mr. Jakovenko will be available today, April 14, 2021 from 12:00PM - 1:00PM EST to answer questions.

Comments: 45 • Responses: 13  • Date: 

-Linen13 karma

How can we learn to take the test so we come across as hireable and non-fireable?

John_Jakovenko11 karma

Unless you are the test designer, not sure there is an option. I am one who answers based on what I think they want to hear from a potential hire, not my feelings.

iwegian4 karma

So with Strengthsfinder, for instance, and assuming a low to mid level job, you'd answer toward 'detail oriented' and 'process driven' even if you're a strategic out of the box thinker in reality?

John_Jakovenko14 karma

100%. Know the job description and play to it. It's a game...just play.

alexbovs10 karma

Clearly, there are issues with certain questions on personality tests when used during the hiring process due to equal employment opportunities. But do you think personality tests have any place in the hiring process? If so, can you provide an example or a question that may be beneficial, fair, and ethical to ask during the hiring process related to one's personality?

Are their certain fields/jobs where personality tests may be necessary to decide whether or not to hire someone?

John_Jakovenko11 karma

Should they be used exclusively? No. Good question: "Tell me a time when you were under a lot of stress. And how did you handle that?"

Another: "What would a coworker say about you?" "What would a manager say about you?"

IMHO, a personality test should be given after the offer of employment, not before. And..they should be used to help, not hinder the culture.

ShittySandals5 karma

What would you recommend as a path forward? Should there be a law put in place to restrict personality tests that discriminate against certain groups of people? Does an employer’s right to employ whomever they feel is best for the job, regardless of how they came to that conclusion, trump the applicant’s desire to work there?

Thank you for taking the time to discuss this topic!

John_Jakovenko3 karma

Technically, there are laws. There is something called disparate impact. This is where an employment practice (hiring) that seems neutral but has a discriminatory effect. So, if an employer makes decisions on personality tests, they have to prove that their employment decisions are non-discriminatory. There is something called the 80/20 rule. You can't use an instrument that violates this rule. The rule states that companies should be hiring protected groups at a rate that is at least 80% of that of white men. For example, if a firm has hired 100 white men in their last hiring cycle but only hired 50 women, then the company can be found in violation of the 80% rule. A good case to read is Griggs vs Duke Power.

GreenSprout20132 karma

Do you know of any other cases that revolve around this topic for further reading?

John_Jakovenko3 karma

Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio, 490 US 642 - 1989

Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.

Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust

getmycloak3 karma

What are the pro arguments for these tests being so relevant in a hiring process?

John_Jakovenko3 karma

For an employer who uses it properly, it's very good for helping form teams, enhance communication, and to help uncover was can make an employee successful. Or, it can be used to help identify what that employee needs to be successful!

S3simulation3 karma

Watching that documentary was heartbreaking at times and fascinating at others. Is there a way to improve these personality tests so that they aren’t inherently discriminatory or should we stop using them in job applications altogether? Is there a place for personality tests in Human Resources?

John_Jakovenko3 karma

There is always going to be an option for that for hiring, but a sound HR person would only make decisions on valid and reliable tests.

GreenSprout20132 karma

Can a company make an employee take a personality test even if they are uncomfortable with it? Shouldn't it be used more as a self-evaluation rather than determining who gets a job interview?

Then if an employer decides to use personality tests, could it then be a privacy concern for the one taking the test? Theoretically, private life shouldn't affect someone's ability to perform a job, right?

John_Jakovenko5 karma

Well, yeah, a company can require someone to take them. But, 100%, it should be used after an offer was made not to screen people out. Private life, feelings, etc should be yours and yours alone. It's only a privacy concern if they disclose your responses to others...

Pandora's box? You bet. Who else knows your answers? Just saying.

boti4ever2 karma

It was shocking to learn that personality test results were a part of job applications. I guess I'm lucky and have worked for businesses that didn't ask for my Myers-Briggs results. How prevalent is this? Do you think this will become something covered under employment law that businesses cannot make decisions based on this info?

It seems like a stretch, but at the same time, HR and management take into account personality/professionalism throughout all interactions of the interview process. Wouldn't that be a similar thought process, but less data-driven? Declining someone because they 'wouldn't be a good fit' could be determined by the interviewer's interactions or the personality test.

John_Jakovenko1 karma

It will only become law once we make a stink of it. As I said, the 80/20 rule will always apply, but it's up to us to bring these employment practices to light.

Yeah, if you have a bad personality, you get offended easily, have zero sense of humor, and don't like to work in teams, I'm not going to recommend you for a position. Our culture embraces all of these attributes.

It's not your fault, but it's not ours either. :)

uera1 karma

Which company did you like the most?

Which company do you think people shouldnt apply to?

John_Jakovenko1 karma

Google. They're the best. Google interview question: "How many ping pong balls fit into a 747?"

Which company do you not apply to? Circuit City...?

Existing-Eggplant-491 karma

What steps should one take if they suspect they were discriminated against in a job interview due to their mental health or disabilities?

John_Jakovenko1 karma

They need to have over 15 employees to be covered under ADA. If they do, then, you contact the EEOC and make your claim. You may want to talk to a professional prior to making a claim, but it's always worth it if it was truly discrimination.

RODAMI0 karma

Are any of them not total garbage? You want to hire a bunch of Alphas and you end getting an Uber or worse an ENRON

John_Jakovenko-2 karma

Enron was complicit with the help of Arthur Anderson. Uber is awesome. Be you and you will end up in the right spot for you. Trust karma.

Hegy87-2 karma

I'm a "measures phycopathy" am I covered for employee discrimination/disadvantagdes and can I sue?

John_Jakovenko2 karma

measures phycopathy

Not sure I understand this measure. Can you elaborate?