So, the application looks good, and the employment history checks out. But how do you really know your prospective employee is a good match for your company?

Numerous building service contractors turn to background checks to find out more about an applicant, but the information found may or may not be relevant for the job.

“Does a criminal or marital record matter? It doesn’t tell you the bottom line which is whether [he or she] will succeed,” says Mark Hopper, president, Handwriting Research Corp., Phoenix.

While they are a useful tool, background checks tend to tell more about where a person has been instead of who they are. In addition to conducting a background check, BSCs may also want to try personality profiles to see if their employees fit the bill.

Passing personality
A main reason employees are fired is because of personality problems. Employees may lack motivation, have trouble getting along with other employees, have emotional problems or might abuse drugs or alcohol.

By having applicants take personality tests, employers can begin to get a sense of who the applicants are — are they introverted or extroverted? What are their work habits? Are they disciplined, cooperative, creative?

William Monroy, director of safety and risk management, McLemore Building Maintenance in Houston, uses the profiles to learn how an employee will respond under different situations and what can be expected of them. Instead of matching an applicant’s profile to set characteristics, he uses the information to learn how his existing staff can accommodate the person.

The test generally asks true or false questions about personality traits. For example, regarding extroversion, a question may be “I enjoy staying at home,” or “I enjoy going to the mall with friends.” As the test goes on, the level of extroversion will increase to “I like going to parties” versus “I always go to parties” to “I am the life of the party.” Based on the number and consistency of the answers, experts compare individual results to a composite personality and deduce a character sketch.

Personality profiles are not a screening process to narrow the large playing field, but rather to supplement the interview process and help ensure an employer is making the right decision.

“I suggest personality tests as a hypothesis to further explore with the interview or background check,” says Al Mascitti, Ph.D., managing partner, Humber, Mundie and McClary, Milwaukee. “Don’t solely accept or reject on the basis of the test. Use it as an aid.”

“[Personality profiles] are not a disqualifier, but more of a way to get to know the person and allow the team to adapt to him,” adds Monroy.

But, personality profiles won’t give employers all the answers they need. For example, the tests are not an indicator whether the person is honest. Also, there is a good potential of fraud with the tests.

“Any personality test is self-reported inventory,” says Mascitti. “There is a certain level of inaccuracy.”

Instead of answering questions truthfully, an applicant may answer it as to how they think the employer would want them to. The applicant will generally pick the most favorable responses, says Mascitti.

Also, personality profiles don’t prove if an applicant is capable of doing the work they will be hired for. Cognitive testing, which quizzes applicants in areas such as math, grammar and spatial reasoning, are stronger indicators of what a person can or can’t do.

But, if you’re looking for a second opinion when picking a new employee, personality tests can help. And the better the employee fits, the longer he might stay.

The Write Choice?
While handwriting analysis is not commonly used in the United States and dismissed by some, Mark Hopper, president of Handwriting Research Corp. in Phoenix makes a case for it. Unlike other personality tests, handwriting profiles can be used as a mass screening process and can be used to test a person’s honesty. By looking at an applicant’s writing, including margin size, speed and letter and word spacing, experts can evaluate what work environment someone may be best suited for. For example, while someone may not look or act the part of a sales representative, according to their handwriting profile, they may possess the skills needed for that type of work.

“The brain controls handwriting. The brain is where the character of the person originates,” says Hopper.

While other personality tests tell employers what they want to hear, handwriting is non-discriminatory, says Hopper. The skills are present and can’t be made up. Even if applicants try to mask their handwriting during the test, they are still showing a part of their personality, says Hopper.