How Well Can Recruiters Assess Personality?

Topic(s): interviewing, recruiting, selection
Publication: International Journal of Selection and Assessment (2011)
Article: How Accurate are Recruiters’ First Impressions of Applicants in Employment Interviews?
Authors: M.S. Mast, A. Bangerter, C. Bulliard, G. Aerni
Reviewed by: Thaddeus Rada

Recruiters are still used by a variety of organizations to evaluate applicants and identify candidates that exhibit the potential to become successful employees. Recruiters typically have a relatively long time in which to form a first impression of a candidate. The authors of the current study, Marianne Mast and colleagues, were interested in knowing if recruiters are able to more accurately (compared to a layperson) assess the personality of job applicants if they have a shorter amount of time in which to make their assessment. Does this shorter time frame inhibit their ability to make accurate assessments about others?


Participants in this study came from one of two groups: recruiters, and students. The students acted as a sort of control group, with their performance thought to be representative of how laypeople might perform on the assessment task. Participants viewed videotapes of mock job applicants; compared to a typical job interview, the videos were much shorter, exposing participants to each applicant for an average of only two minutes. Participants then assessed each applicant’s personality (the assessment utilized the Big 5 personality components). The accuracy of the participants’ assessments were measure against self-assessments completed by the applicants, as well as peer assessments completed by two friends of each applicant. The researchers found that students were able to accurately assess more personality traits (openness, extraversion, and conscientiousness) than the recruiters were (openness only), while recruiters were better able to assess the complete personality profile of each applicant.


Ultimately, the authors argue that recruiters’ skill at assessing personality profiles gives support to the notion that recruiters should continue to be utilized in the personnel selection process. However, it may also be worth considering whether there are instances in which a specific personality dimension is more important than the entire personality profile. The authors note that previous research has found that conscientiousness is the personality dimension most predictive of job performance, in a variety of occupations. In the current study, the authors found that students were able to accurately assess conscientiousness, while recruiters were not. Overall, it seems that the necessity of “total” personality assessment, as it applies to personnel selection, should continue to be evaluated.


Mast, M. S., Bangerter, A., Bulliard, C., & Aerni, G. (2011). How accurate are recruiters’ first impressions of applicants in employment interviews? International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 19, 198-208.

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