Personality inventories are one of the most commonly used assessments in selection contexts. These assessments are traditionally self-report—meaning that the test taker self-reports their perceptions of their own standing on a given personality trait. However, there is growing evidence that suggests that ratings of a job candidate’s personality from third-party observers are more predictive of job performance. New research (Connelly et al., 2021) examines why third-party observations of personality may be a more predictive assessment of a job candidate’s future performance.
THE RESEARCH STUDY
The researchers surveyed 455 cadets and their supervisors at a highly selective military institute in South Korea. Cadets were asked to complete assessments of their own personality, then they were asked to complete personality assessments for their peers. Each cadet was rated by three peers within their own company. Additionally, supervisors rated each candidate’s performance, and an additional peer rated how often the candidate engaged in organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), which refers to going above and beyond to help out. The researchers also used the cadet’s GPA as a measure of objective performance.
Results showed that the “reputation factor” (observer ratings) had the most powerful ability to predict, specifically for conscientiousness and agreeableness to predict supervisor rated performance, GPA, and OCBs. Additionally, results indicated that the “trait factor” (the consensus between self and third-party ratings) was moderately related to supervisor-rated performance for conscientiousness and low neuroticism. Finally, the “identity factor” (self-report) was generally unrelated to performance criteria.
These results suggest that third-party rated personality inventories can best predict job performance. This is because the ratings are derived by observing relevant information about people. This counters the traditional belief that self-report personality inventories provide relevant information that is not directly observable to others.
The results from this study have practical applications for organizations looking to implement personality inventories in selection contexts. The authors suggest that organizations should expand their personality assessments beyond self-report assessments. Adding other-rated personality inventories can provide additional information that is important for predicting job performance.
While more research is still needed, one potential way to implement other-rated personality inventories is by asking a candidate’s references to complete personality assessments about the job candidate. Further, in high stakes selection contexts, assessment centers may be a good way for objective and highly trained observers to assess relevant personality characteristics.
Connelly, B. S., McAbee, S. T., Oh, I.-S., Jung, Y., & Jung, C.-W. (2021). A multirater perspective on personality and performance: An empirical examination of the trait–reputation–identity model. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.