Including personality profiles in your CV

First published in The (Christchurch) Press and Stuff on 3 June 2019.

If you’re writing a detailed CV, especially for a professional or reasonably senior position, you may want to take a couple of free online personality tests and include extracts from them in your CV — just as long as they support your application. For example, one extract might read “Zest, enthusiasm, and energy”.

Executive recruitment agencies regularly use personality tests in their psychometric testing of candidates, so they’re bound to find them relevant and interesting. Many employers will also find them relevant, as they’re part of a general trend in recruitment.

Two free online tests worth considering are the VIA Survey of character strengths and even Traitify’s 90-second test, both of which assess your personality strengths and could be excerpted under a general heading such as “Psychometric profiles” in your CV, with subheadings that specify the names of each of the tests.

Also, if you have copies of the results of any psychometric tests you’ve completed in job applications in the past — both personality tests and cognitive tests — you could abbreviate these, selecting only the best bits as excerpts.

And if you complete psychometric tests in a job application in the future, make sure you ask the recruiter for copies of them. To prepare yourself for recruitment tests, see the Guardian’s “How to complete psychometric tests”.

For a rather negative take on personality tests, see JobTestPrep’s PDF, “Personality Test Guide”, which offers pertinent comments about the somewhat misleading instructions often found in their introductions. For example, “There are no right or wrong answers” may well be correct as far as capturing your personality is concerned, but the odd answer may differ markedly from some recruiters’ views of the kind of personality they want for the job.

Consequently, you need to exercise some discretion when it comes to deciding what to include in your CV and also when it comes to sitting psychometric tests in the first place, but there’s no point in trying to game the system by creating a false impression of yourself. If your personality really isn’t suited to the job then it won’t serve your interests if you get the job any more than it’ll serve the organisation’s interest in employing you.

However, don’t leap to the conclusion that all employers are seeking one ideal personality type. Some may be. They’ve discovered that, for particular jobs, certain personality traits are a better predictor of workplace performance than many of the traditional ways that candidates are assessed.

By contrast, another reason for an upsurge of interest in personality profiles is the discovery that teams perform more cohesively and effectively when their members have different personalities that complement each other. For more information on this trend, see “Personality Tests Can Help Balance a Team”, which mentions the NZ Army as one of the organisations that is adopting this approach.

And for information on the first trend, scroll down to the section headed “Personality tests” in the U.S. article “The resume of the future will tell employers who you are, and not just what you’ve done”. (The early part of the article isn’t really applicable to New Zealand and much of the tests section isn’t either.)

A couple of points are worth noting if you do the VIA survey. First, it was developed to assess character strengths for the sake of personal development, not for the sake of using in a CV, so the top 5 or 6 strengths you excerpt for a CV may need some adjustment. For example, if you get “Capacity to love and be loved” among your top strengths, it’s of no relevance to an employer, so drop it off.

You may also want to take a second version of the VIA survey. You might find that the top strengths it lists differ from those in the first version, and may come across more strongly to a prospective employer, although its mostly one-word headings for your strengths would need expanding.

Finally, it’s a good idea to run a draft of your CV section on psychometric profiles by a mentor, friend or consultant to get their take on its applicability to the kind of jobs you’re targeting.

© Chris Eilers 2019.