Before retirement a decade and a half ago, I used to design tests as one of my hobbies. Once in a while you may see coffee klatsch words used in tests to refer to various acts, gestures, or expressions of human behavior. You also may wish to see the cover of my paperback book title online, Cover Letters, Follow-Ups, Queries & Book Proposals: Samples with Templates, by Anne Hart. Published April 22, 2004.
Sometimes vernacular words from around the world end up in dictionaries and thesauri, often translated into English-language dictionaries, and most often focusing on a variety of personality aspects. These definitions help me design tests.
For example, Arabs call an angry person dib or bear. A clever man evading the corrupted aspects of the law is called a deeb or wolf. There are coffee klatsch words in many languages used as shorthand to define personality traits or aspects. In Hebrew, a schlimazel is an aggressive leader. A schlemiel is a receptive follower (who usually gets victimized by the schlimazel). In Yiddish a maven is an expert with experience. In Greek, a bully is a φοβερίστε (pronounced 'foberiste').
I searched through dictionaries in English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. Then I looked at how some Asian languages list words that are ascribed to certain personality traits. I looked at synonyms and antonyms. If you want to design a personality test, go to the roots: Roget’s Thesaurus, or any unabridged dictionary.
Scientists already have searched dictionaries and thesauri for words describing aspects of character and personality continuously since and during the 19th and mid-20th centuries. (Look up names such as Gordon Allport, American psychologist of the mid-20th century, and Francis Galton, 19th-century British scientist, two scientists mentioned in Annie Murphy Paul’s book, The Cult of Personality.) Scientists go to dictionaries to define personality traits because they are looking for the simplest definition. And who creates those definitions? Mostly people gossiping about how various people act and speak towards strangers or relatives who don’t have the power to hire, pay, or promote them.
Often, it is the linguists and novelists who contribute the roots or foundation to personality assessment design and tests of abstract thinking, cognitive intelligence, and reading comprehension assessments. When I design personality tests, I don’t go to the established tests based on the studies of previous psychoanalysts. Instead, I go to the bare bones, the roots of how personality is defined—and the roots of the definitions of character, personality, attitude, and emotional maturity are all defined in the most basic dictionaries and thesaurus.
In my opinion, personality tests given by corporations should emphasize simplicity. Employers buying corporate tests based on validity and value really are buying easy-to-follow, step-by-step clarity also known as simplicity. Simplicity in a personality test means the assessment gives you all the answers you were looking for in your life in exotic places, but found it close by. Employers are not supposed to ever hire or fire based on personality test results. Employers want to hire and promote those who pose the least financial risk to the corporation.
I studied old-time radio from the 1930s and 1940s to find definitions of personality aspects, styles, and preferences that also appear in all types of dictionaries—from synonyms and thesauri, to rhyming dictionaries and books on action verbs. Then I looked at descriptions of character, position, and attitude as applied to corporations that reflected the personalities of their leaders. Many personality definitions and descriptions are found in the resumes I wrote for clients in the 1960s. Some of the best sources of personality definitions or descriptions include plays, scripts, novels, and poems.
Psychologists who design personality tests often go to these primary sources instead of the secondary sources (such as books by other psychoanalysts) because descriptions, tag lines, and dialogue contain definitions that read as portraits. This is because they are based on conversation broken down to the simplest parts of speech: descriptive words for people’s preferences, decisions, and actions.
Writing tag lines for romance novels and radio scripts is one way to study human behavior, gestures, words, moods, tones, textures, facial expressions and types of body language
Those who study behavioral sciences are familiar with the “lexical hypothesis.” A good description of the lexical hypothesis appears in Anne Murphy Paul’s book, The Cult of Personality. (She exposes the flawed theories and faulty methods that render their results unreliable and invalid. Personality tests, she contends, produce descriptions of people that are nothing like human beings as they actually are: complicated, contradictory, changeable across time and place.) But I learned about using dictionaries to describe personalities by writing tag lines for romance novels and radio scripts in the early 1960s and 1970s.
For example, is a person grounded, traditional, and routine, or imaginative, change-oriented, and creative? What kind of person is labeled as a conformist or a conventional, practical, detail-oriented thinker? What kind of individual is tagged as a sentimental, empathetic, abstract, theoretician with spiritual depth who never forgets names or birthdays? All these definitions of personality are based on water-cooler gossip or person-to-person, intimate conversation about someone’s behavior under stress. Test design of personality assessments is about describing visual portraits of personalities.
Many years ago I used to write and edit resumes, various book manuscripts, outlines, and proposals, and help people describe themselves in essays, memoirs, nonfiction books, or novels. Clients who asked for resumes, essays, or novels to be edited or written usually were eager to find a good match between the “character”—a position or attitude of specific corporations or editors—and the client’s own personality styles. Matching people to corporations or editors is similar to matching single people seeking life partners.
The key to designing a personality assessment is to find specific vivid “tag” words to express nuances and preferences chosen from a palette of personalities
When writing novels and plays, I described emotions, behavior, and personality traits by painting visual portraits with definitions of behavior described by specific words. A person just didn’t say something; he or she spoke the words “timorously,” or “scoured with disdain in a voice dark as pumice,” or “said yes marvelously,” or expressed shyness by gazing at his sneakers.
Those aspects of personality were called tag lines. The words had to describe the behavior and not the emotion. I design personality tests by noting and describing behavior and not emotion. It’s the body language and the gestures that design the test. This is accomplished by finding the words that show the gestures or the behavior.
What’s great about using dictionaries and thesauri to design personality assessments is how simple it is to design a test based on a dictionary definition of a personality trait, style, attribute, mood, texture, or preference. If you look at dictionaries throughout the world, each language has a word describing some aspect of personality, behavior, preference, or attitude.
The more words you find in a dictionary describing an aspect of personality, the more important that certain aspect of personality is to the specific society and language. That’s why I designed tests based on how important and highly valued aspects of personality are based on the number of words ascribed to that particular trait.
Therefore, a simple personality test should tell the employer what traits an individual has that allow the person to stand on his or her own two feet and put bread on the table. That’s the moral point of any personality test, to pull your own weight, and pulling your own weight is a buzz phrase that personality assessments measure through simplicity. There are no right or wrong answers, only individual differences.
Personality testing is the backbone of HR departments. Personality tests emphasize morals, confidence, self-insight, empathy, emotional maturity, traits, job interest preferences, and universal values that hold true for everyone. If you score a certain way on a personality test, you create “buzz appeal” or charisma, provided that what you score matches the character of the corporation’s leaders and/or founders.
Corporate tests are all about how you differ from others on your team at work. Although employers should not hire based on personality tests, and you’re not supposed to have “wrong” answers, personality test results are used to measure commitment, reliability, and responsibility. Emotional quotient tests are relied on to assess empathy and maturity.
Simply put, to pass a corporate personality test, your answers should have some redemptive value to a universal audience. That’s the most important point: Personality profiling tests give you the momentum to move along the pipeline, leading to all the right connections from team-building to decision-making.
Expected test answers should show that you’ll do the best you can do under the circumstances and that you trust in your self-insight. Decision-making tests point out what obstacles you need to overcome in a reduced amount of time and what blind spots, such as valuable details, you overlooked that could derail your career.
Without the “buzz appeal” of personality test results, you might not get the attention you deserve at work. Corporate tests help you from falling through the cracks. No matter how great your work is, unless you find someone to “buzz” you into the eyes of your employer, you might not be noticed that easily.
The results have to be presented at the right time just when your expertise and experience is “in vogue” with your company. If someone is looking for personality profiles, decision-making test results, or tests of emotional maturity similar to your results, enough tests can “buzz you in.”
Look at the value of the test. Does it hold any weight with your employer? Is the test simple enough for you to follow? Simple is understandable, and that’s the buzz right now in tests. A test has value only when it is judged simple and earthy in the news and print media.
On a personality test, you have to be yourself. Assessments can spot phoniness in a minute. Be true to yourself. Personality tests are about your traits, interest inventories, and preferences.
Your test results are judged by what is valuable to your boss. So tests must ask you simple questions, and you need to answer simply. Tests go through fads, just as book genres do, every few years. But commitment to your company, self, insight, and hindsight are universal values. Target those values on a test.
What answers give you the most credibility among your peers and employers, and are true to yourself? Employers are impressed by tests that symbolize stability, dependability, security, and centeredness. Those are universal values corporations want to see in employees at all levels. Test results give you visibility and credibility if you’re a match with the corporate leader’s employment needs and match the “personality aspects” of the corporation’s philosophy, purpose, and goals.
Corporate testing gives you a voice of resilience, hindsight, and self-scrutiny. You can develop insight into your dominant personality traits because surviving the corporate world depends upon internal scrutiny. Personality testing motivates you to examine your drives and differences with the goal of refining your triumphs.
Employers Test Personality to See How Employees Deal With Conflicts: The bio-inventory
The corporate world is intense. Corporate assessments are designed to help us make sense of a person’s ability to handle problems. Employers need to know how their staff deals with conflicts within corporate. The purpose of personality profiling and decision-making testing is to find what blind spots exist in a person (such as overlooking important details under the pressures of reduced time) when making decisions that can derail careers.
There’s a trend in corporate testing called the bio-inventory. Assessments in the corporate world are given to see how individual differences shape corporate teams. Testing develops insight. Assessments are guides to avoiding pitfalls. Personality testing allows you to define who you are in a job-related context by showing you how you take information in, process it, and make decisions.
Personality assessments offer rich portraits of how employees under stress, and under normal corporate conditions, deal with conflicts, solve problems, and arrive at results. Corporate assessments offer rare glimpses into the inner worlds of workers. Corporate testing results, when interpreted in depth, also can give workers guidelines, confidence, recognition, and a voice of leadership.
Business leaders need reliable systems to validate concepts. Results must be tangible, measurable, and easy to follow. To maintain marketability, executives require a system of proactive steps. Employers are looking for confidence, endurance, and resilience in workers.
Employees at all levels want recognition, a greater sense of self, and a voice. Employers care how you make sense of the world because your employer wants you to be reliable—as reliable as the test. You’re hired because you pose the least financial risk to your employer.
Most corporations don’t use personality tests for job selection. Instead, they use job-related skills tests, including tests to screen out angry, disruptive, and/or dishonest job applicants, and abilities tests. Usually, executives and managers are given team-building assessments and tests of decision-making abilities, including personality assessments.