On the added value of really good personality assessments

On the added value of really good personality assessments


How do you recognize how motivated and team-oriented someone is? Doesn’t every reasonably experienced manager have a good sense of the candidate’s fit to team and task in the job interview?

In Memoriam Prof. Heinz Schuler, a unique professional mentor and personal role model of humor and effortlessness.

At RELEVANT, we work with our core team as well as with a close circle of hand-picked consultants on client projects. With guest contributions from our colleagues like this one, we would like to express the diversity, joy and competence in the service delivery of our extended team.

By Dr. Marco Behrmann, Tübingen, Germany

How do you recognize how motivated and team-oriented someone is? Doesn’t every reasonably experienced manager have a good sense of the candidate’s fit to team and task in the job interview? Investments in recruitment and a budget for diagnostics in the job interview or additional assessments in staffing decisions are often cut or not even approved. This is a flaw that often results in many times the additional costs.

Prof. Heinz Schuler, who is regarded as the founder of personality psychology in the German-speaking world, spent his life trying to explain the added value of really good personality assessments. His credo: potentials that can be unleashed and costs that can be avoided are immense. However, experts in personality psychology often lack simple words, phrases, and success stories to implement the sophisticated, complex and complicated science concisely, simply and convincingly in business. In interviews, he sometimes concluded: “[I] share the positive evaluation [of] Robert Hogan and Brent Roberts: psychological assessment is the main contribution of psychology in our everyday lives. For personality assessments are not only there to help companies make better people-related selection decisions and thus increase their returns, but also to give people more happiness, fulfillment, and success in life” (Schwertfeger, 2021). Heinz Schuler passed away on August 3, 2021, at the age of 76. His message shall continue to be heard.

Value = Impact – Effort

The added value of personnel selection can be reduced to the simple formula: Value is the difference of impact and effort. And it can be quantified in key performance indicators and can be turned into a KPI itself.
Possible benefits include productivity gains, time savings, work climate, employee satisfaction, speed of induction, pace of innovation, turnover, and others – depending on the field of activity of the job at hand. The magnitude of the value on recruitment decisions depends largely on the quality of the personality assessment used. Gut decisions are just as much a part of this as assessment centers, job interviews and personality tests. For each instrument, value measures can be quantified, recorded or at least estimated. Gut decisions are less expensive, but less precise and successful. Intuition is rarely consistent. Arguments against more systematic instruments are often cost, time, and resources on the effort side. These are also the arguments against the use of more accurate assessments, in addition to acceptance. This leads to the fact that the effect is sometimes even negative if personnel selection is delayed, left to team leaders alone or focused on the wrong criteria (cf. Görlich & Schuler, 2014).

When making a people-related decision, it is important to bring requirements, competencies, and attitudes into alignment – while keeping the business challenge in mind. After all, potentials for future and strategic innovation areas must remain possible. Let’s look at an example from our experience and do this without numbers. It shows how even with good intentions mistakes can happen and how with little effort a coherent and often even faster solution can be achieved for individuals and organizations.

Case study: The missing team member

In the quality management team of an IT chip manufacturer, a position was vacant for several months. The team leader was in charge of recruitment. In addition to selection based on application documents, the team leader conducted interviews based on his own experience and intuition. There were several applicants. Every now and then, an applicant was also presented to the team, who had the final say in the selection decision. No applicant seemed to fit. As a side note, this is probably how the vast majority of open positions are filled in the corporate world; the procedure is not unusual.

The manager was under a lot of internal pressure with his quality management team because testing and departmental approval were the bottlenecks before new products could go to market. In fact, the vacancy had already caused production, innovation, and delivery delays for the company. For certain products, it created problems in the global supply chain for certain high-tech equipment. First major customers began to complain. The team was clearly in the crosshairs of top management.

Team development with a vacant position

At the same time, the team leader planned a team workshop for and with the team to get to know each other better and to further develop the team. On the team day, the team therefore also completed a personality assessment. The result was that the team showed a clear focus on harmony and quality – two good characteristics for teamwork and for the main task of the department, namely quality testing and reassurance.

When the team leader reflected in the workshop with the trainer on what he and his team had been criticized for in the organization in recent months, the jaw-dropper hit. The time-to-market goal of a full product pipeline had previously failed because of the quality management department. Speed, courage, and direction of action were clearly called for. Until now, the team leader had always argued with the unfilled position for which the right candidate had not yet been found. However, he now realized that he and his team had rejected precisely those applicants who were dynamic, assertive, and ambitious. From the team’s point of view, such applicants had tended to be sources of conflict. The search for likeable new colleagues had led to the team itself creating and dragging out a competence gap. Competence and likeability go hand in hand in staff selection. But diversity can be a necessary complement to balance weaknesses or learning needs in the team.

The manager is the emotional bottleneck of the team

The manager is the key person for the team process. The entrepreneurial view of what the team needs requires the courage to challenge oneself and the team. Often “Decisions by Hippo” (Hippo = “Highest Paid Person‘s Opinion”) are not questioned in organizations. In addition, depending on the work and leadership culture, team members cannot be expected by mandate to be as strategically or entrepreneurially aware as their leader.

The manager must therefore be able and willing to enable the team to allow, access, and use diversity. And it is precisely for this purpose that the manager must have a clear view of reality and be aware of his or her own potential, preferences, and risks. In the team context, people often only look at likability when discussing personality. Business focus is not on everyone’s mind. Few managers use team development systemically to apply relevant assessments. An analysis of the team personalities has a triple meaning for leadership, cooperation, and business:

  1. Selection (e.g., identifying and defining competencies, fit, strengths, learning topics),
  2. Team fit (distribution of attributes, assignment planning, comparison to mandate, diversity), and
  3. Development (goal orientation, deliberate action, control of reflexes and habits, learning).

The investment of such a deployment of assessments for the selection, placement and development of team members and managers can easily be counterbalanced against the benefits. The example of the quality management team shows how performance problems are often home-made and can even result in the loss of market presence, competitive advantage, and customers for companies.

Balancing fit and potential with ambition from the job

Why is it often not done systematically? The short answer is: because there is usually no control group. Effects and missed benefits such as opportunity costs can often only be estimated. This is a good argument, but not a good excuse. Test providers report key figures on measurement accuracy and prediction quality precisely for estimating the quality of assessments for the respective application. Hogan Assessments, for example, document not only high correlations with professional success in different requirement situations, but also the effect on others in cooperation (see study overview in the Hogan Technical Manuals 2007, 2009, 2010).

It is therefore worth taking a close look at staff selection and development and making decisions on a multilevel basis underpinned by more instruments (principle of multimodality, Schuler & Schmitt, 1987). And, of course, the professional application of the assessment and a coherent embedding in relevant HR processes is also important. This is part of the social validity that Heinz Schuler demanded for appreciative and high-quality personality assessments (Schuler & Stehle, 1983). The demand for quality, relevance, and fairness has thus long been formulated. And it has also been incorporated into coherently defined requirement criteria for instruments, providers, and users of personality assessments (DIN, 2002; ISO, 2011).

Really good personality assessments are not trivial. Even though they sometimes look so simple.

At RELEVANT, we use Hogan Assessments every day in the selection and development of people, teams and organizations. Hogan is the world’s leading provider of research-based assessment solutions. RELEVANT helps organizations use Hogan personality assessments to reduce turnover and increase productivity by hiring the right people, developing key talent, and identifying leadership potential. Talk to us. We’re just an email or phone call away.

We know people. We care for your business. We provide solutions.


Deutsches Institut für Normung e.V. (2002). DIN 33430 – Anforderungen an Verfahren und deren Einsatz bei berufsbezogenen Eignungsbeurteilungen. Berlin: Beuth Verlag.
Görlich, Y. & Schuler, H. (2014): Personalentscheidung, Nutzen und Fairness. In: Heinz Schuler & Uwe Peter Kanning (Hrsg.) Lehrbuch der Personalpsychologie, 3. Aufl. (S. 1137-1200). Göttingen: Hogrefe
Hogan, R. & Hogan, J. (2009): Hogan Development Survey Manual. Tulsa: Hogan Assessment Systems.
Hogan, R. & Hogan, J. (2007): Hogan Personality Inventory Manual. Tulsa: Hogan Assessment Systems.
Hogan, R. & Hogan, J. (2010): Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory Manual. Tulsa: Hogan Assessment Systems.
International Organization for Standardization (2011). ISO 10667-1:2011. Assessment service delivery. Procedures and methods to assess people in work and organizational settings. Part 1: Requirements for the client. Genf: International Organization for Standardization.
International Organization for Standardization (2011). ISO 10667-2:2011. Assessment service delivery. Procedures and methods to assess people in work and organizational settings. Part 2: Requirements for service providers. Genf: International Organization for Standardization.
Roberts, B. W., & Hogan, R. (Eds.). (2001). Personality Psychology in the Workplace. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Schuler, H. & Schmitt, N. (1987). Multimodale Messung in der Personalpsychologie. Diagnostica, 33 (3), 259-271.
Schuler, H. & Stehle, W. (1983). Neuere Entwicklungen des Assessment-Center-Ansatzes beurteilt unter dem Aspekt der sozialen Validität. Psychologie und Praxis 27(1), 33-44.
Schwertfeger, B. (2021): Den Menschen mehr Glück bringen. Wirtschaftspsychologie heute [09-2021]. https://www.wirtschaftspsychologie-heute.de/zum-tod-von-professor-schuler-den-menschen-mehr-glueck-bringen/