Personality questionnaires in recruitment: why bother?

Every recruiter would cherish the ability to see into the future, and know how each candidate will fit into a specific job role and team. A reliable personality questionnaire, such as PAPI, can provide a validated insight into an applicant’s potential and suitability.

Mari Mäkelä, Analyst for Cubiks Finland

Mari Mäkelä

Consultant Analyst, Finland


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An assessment with future potential at its centre

The work environment is always changing, and the specifications around work roles can rapidly flex. Therefore it is increasingly important that, even at the recruitment stage, the focus shifts away from a review of the past and present performance, and towards assessment of future potential. When assessing a person's suitability for a particular position, the aim is to predict the future in terms of how the person would succeed in the position. Studies have found that by using psychometric methods to support decision-making, performance evaluation can be made more relevant and predictive compared to basing a decision on, for example, background information or an interview (Schmidt, Oh & Shaffer, 2016). Such psychometric tests include, work personality assessment methods, such as our PAPI3 and Factors + questionnaires, as well as ability tests.

Choose wisely

There is a lot of controversy around the use of personality questionnaires. For example, personality assessments based on type theory (e.g. personality “colours”) have gained popularity although the scientific evidence behind them is quite limited. One challenge of type-based tests is that they tend to cut corners and therefore simplify the variations in personality characteristics. If a person displays two different types of personality traits, one single answer may wrongly determine which type he or she is. In this case, the result of the test can give a very different picture of a person's working style compared to how it looks in everyday life.

Trait-based theories that consider personality as a continuum have obtained stronger research evidence. If these traits follow a normal distribution, most people display them to a varying degree between the two extremes. As a result, the PAPI3 questionnaire developed for Cubiks ’work personality assessment is based on trait theory.

When work personality is being assessed as part of a recruitment process, it is important to ensure that the used methods are reliable and valid. In the Guidance for Good Practice in Assessments (2019) Finnish Psychological Association (Suomen Psykologiliitto ry) also highlights the responsibility of the assessor to utilise a variety of reliable assessment methods to inform decision making. Even a high quality assessment method can be useless if not used appropriately, and therefore an assessor carries a responsibility for the ethical use of them. 

Studies have found that by using psychometric methods to support decision-making, performance evaluation can be made more relevant and predictive compared to basing a decision on, for example, background information or an interview

Discovering motivation with a personality questionnaire

At Cubiks PSI, a central part of PAPI assessment is that the information derived from the personality questionnaire is always combined with the conversation, and results are discussed together with the candidate who completed the self-assessment. During the conversation it is possible to specify or correct hypotheses created on the basis of the results. In addition, the candidate will also have an opportunity to explore their results and describe how they manifest themselves in his or her own working. 
By utilising a work personality assessment at the recruitment stage we can also try to understand a candidate’s motivation: what kind of working style is meaningful to them, and in what kinds of work environments and situations they find comfortable. Indeed, Motivation plays a particularly large role when an individual’s future performance and potential are being assessed in the recruitment stage. The importance of motivation should also be considered in terms of well-being and engagement at work. If an individual’s working style is better understood at the recruitment stage, competence and potential can be accessed quicker. 

Enhancing team dynamics and candidate experience with PAPI

When a new person joins a team, the team dynamics may change. During the recruitment phase it is valuable to consider the change from the point of 4iew of the team, too; what kind of diversity already exists in the team, and what kind of similarities are there? Organisations that utilise personality assessment will, over time, gain large amount of data to analyse. With the help of analytics, it is possible to explore, for example, what kinds of personality traits are prominent, the differences exist between the hired and not hired candidates, or what similarities can be identified in individuals who succeed in a particular role. This valuable additional information can help refine and develop the recruitment process further.

Candidate experience of personality assessment at the recruitment stage?

While there is surely a vast range of opinions, the feedback we at Cubiks PSI have received indicates that many candidates truly value the effort of trying to get to know them better at the recruitment stage with the aid of a personality questionnaire. In addition, the opportunity to get to know oneself better through the assessment of work personality - and to think about self-development – are considered as useful. Candidates may put a lot of time and energy in the recruitment process, and the assessment provides them with something valuable regardless of whether they are successful or not. 

A list of achievements from prior career experiences does not sufficiently predict performance in job roles when we cannot necessarily even imagine what those previous roles may have involved! While we cannot predict the future perfectly, utilising a variety of scientific, reliable assessment methods will help us make best possible recruitment decisions. 

Has this increased your interest in the PAPI work personality questionnaire? Get in touch for more information or complete the form below and we'll be in touch!

Mari Mäkelä

Mari is a psychologist who has graduated from Helsinki University and works for Cubiks PSI on projects involving talent assessment and development. She utilises assessment methods herself in competency-based assessments, and provides assessor training to clients who want to use assessments internally in their own organisations. 


  • Schmidt, F. L., Oh, I. S., & Shaffer, J. A. (2016). The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 100 Years of Research Findings, Fox School of Business Research Paper.
  • Psykologiliiton Henkilöarvioinnin sertifiointilautakunta (2019). Henkilöarviointi työelämässä: Ohjeistus hyviksi käytännöiksi. Download it here

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