How to Take a Personality Test

A medium-skinned person with shoulder-length dark hair uses a laptop. The person is wearing a gray sweater and has a tan coffee cup on a saucer at their left. Out of focus in the background is a plant. The photo accompanies a blog post about how to take a personality test.

A personality test isn’t quite like other job-related tests. There’s no such thing as passing or failing, for one. And it’s not even truly a test—it’s an assessment, which is more like a measurement. Because of that, we have a few important tips for how to take a personality test.

Recently on The Science of Personality, cohosts Ryne Sherman, PhD, and Blake Loepp discussed Ryne’s recent blog post about taking getting assessment advice from ChatGPT.

The short version is . . . don’t.

But in that case, what is good advice for taking a personality assessment? This article covers what a personality assessment measures, how to take a personality assessment, and how not to.

What Does a Personality Test Actually Do?

A personality test is a test only in the same sense as testing someone’s height. Everyone has a distance from the ground that we can measure. It’s the same with personality.

The Hogan personality assessments measure characteristics that describe a person’s reputation. Reputation is based on observable behavior and social skills, which are what make it measurable. Our assessments are designed to predict workplace performance. Someone who tends to behave in an organized and process-oriented way will likely bring that focus and method to their work tasks. Our assessments also provide data-based personality insights. Someone with a direct, straightforward communication style will likely be seen by others as candid and perhaps even blunt. This characteristic might be helpful or unhelpful in different contexts.

Results on a personality test aren’t scored for correctness or accuracy because there are no right or wrong answers. Instead, results on the Hogan assessments are normed against a representative global sample of working adults and are given in percentiles. Getting a 17th percentile result means that 17 out of 100 global working adults are likely to score lower and 83 out of 100 are likely to score higher. Having high or low results is neither good nor bad. Personality assessment scores are simply data points that describe personality characteristics.

How to Take a Personality Test

The Hogan personality assessments don’t have questions on them. They have statements, called items. For example, “I enjoy performing in front of an audience” or “Being loyal to my boss is important to me.” Test takers can respond to items in four ways: (1) strongly agree, (2) agree, (3) disagree, and (4) strongly disagree.

Remember that your results don’t depend upon one single answer. Personality data are aggregated across a whole series of items to produce a raw score. The raw score is then compared to a norm to produce a percentile score. Even if you respond only with extreme answers, you won’t necessarily get an extreme percentile score. “One of the beauties of a personality assessment is that you can just take it,” Ryne said. “You don’t have to overthink it.”

1. Be honest and authentic.

Ryne encouraged test takers not to feel self-conscious about how they respond or worry about being inconsistent. People are naturally consistent in our responses. In general, the best way to respond to an assessment is to think about how we generally behave across many situations, relative to other people we know, he explained. Doing so will result in results that feel most accurate and genuine.

2. Respond as though you were at an interview.

In an interview, we show the best and brightest side of ourselves. We should respond to assessment items with a similar mindset of making a first impression, so to speak. On a personality test, it’s OK to describe yourself as you’d like to be seen by others because Hogan assessments measure reputation.

3. Give the assessment your attention.

Focusing on the assessment should be your priority to give consistent responses. Make sure to remove any distractions. Close your email, silence your phone, and find a comfortable and quiet space. Without spending too much time on any single item, pay attention and respond consistently to the assessment.

How Not to Take a Personality Test

Social conditioning, the stress of a job search or a potential promotion, and other factors may lead some people to believe that it’s possible to ace a personality test. Web searches for “how to pass a personality test” are incredibly common. But as we’ve noted already, passing or failing isn’t possible, and there are no right or wrong answers. For the best potential outcomes, here’s what you shouldn’t do when completing an assessment.

1. Don’t deliberately distort your responses.

“Intentionally going out of your way to say that you’re someone that you aren’t seems to backfire much more than you might expect,” Ryne cautioned. Trying to make yourself sound extremely ambitious or extremely unambitious could harm your prospects, especially if the resulting data are inaccurate. It’s fine to respond that you strongly agree or strongly disagree with an item—if it’s true. Strongly disagreeing doesn’t mean you will seem like a disagreeable person. The assessments are looking at your pattern of responses across a whole series of items. In other words, don’t try to “beat” the test.

2. Don’t use advice from AI tools or let AI tools answer for you.

It isn’t a good idea to ask an artificial intelligence for advice on a personality assessment. Not only are AI tools prone to error, but you aren’t being honest and genuine if you accept any external input on your responses. If your assessment results don’t match you, that data won’t help you and might even hurt you.

It’s probably wisest to avoid taking personal advice from artificial intelligence tools in general. “If you really want advice, you should talk to an expert,” Ryne said.

3. Don’t overthink.

Taking a personality assessment when applying for a new job or participating in a talent development initiative can feel stressful. Do your best to avoid the anxiety of trying to decipher the right answer. Remember that there isn’t one, and trust your instinct.

Listen to this conversation in full on episode 98 of The Science of Personality. Never miss an episode by following us anywhere you get podcasts. Cheers, everybody!