Our Assessments Don’t Discriminate, But Many Do


Recent EEOC agreements with two major US companies have once again raised concerns about adverse impact resulting from personality assessment use in hiring. Just as every automobile, electrical appliance, or medicine can negatively impact people’s lives if manufactured poorly or used improperly, assessments can be poorly developed, haphazardly applied, or purposefully misused to negatively and unfairly impact peoples’ lives and employment. At Hogan, we agree with the EEOC’s investigation and intervention on behalf of plaintiffs when any selection procedure results in unfair hiring practices, because our research shows that well-developed assessments predict job performance and that well-developed personality measures help companies make fair hiring decisions.

There are two key issues to consider when using any pre-hire assessment or test, and at Hogan, we encourage assessment users to attend closely to them. The first is validity. The validity of a test or assessment regards the predictions that can be made from it. The key issue in pre-hire assessment is whether there is scientific evidence that the assessment predicts job performance, turnover, safety behaviors, or other relevant business outcomes for a job or job family. Note the following from the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (1978).

Nothing in these guidelines is intended or should be interpreted as discouraging the use of a selection procedure for the purpose of determining qualifications or for the purpose of selection on the basis of relative qualifications, if the selection procedure had been validated in accord with these guidelines for each such purpose for which it is to be used. – Section 60-3, U.G.E.S.P. (1978); 43 FR 38295 (August 25, 1978).

Employers should demand validity evidence before they implement assessments, and that evidence should be produced in a way that reflects Uniform Guidelines requirements. Unfortunately, the assessment industry is unregulated, and many improperly developed assessments are sold and used without demonstrating that they predict anything of value. This is not only a legal issue; it is a practical one. Employers use assessments because they want to make better hires. Making better hires requires accurate prediction. Accurate prediction provides value to the company. Value is demonstrated through scientific evidence of validity.

Do Personality Assessments Discriminate?

However, an assessment can produce adverse impact or unfairness even when validation studies are professionally conducted. Hogan believes adverse impact and fairness are equally critical considerations for any assessment user, and there is ample research demonstrating that personality assessment, when properly developed and used, rarely results in adverse impact. Ethical assessment providers will provide evidence of validity and a statistical evaluation of the potential for adverse impact. Any assessment publisher who sidesteps or refuses to provide such evidence should be viewed with suspicion.

At Hogan, we believe every job candidate should be evaluated using valid and fair assessments. We have worked hard over the past 30 years to democratize access to employment by providing validation research that meets the highest professional standards and assessments that provide equal opportunity based on occupational qualifications. We welcome clients’ questions about validity and adverse impact and the opportunity to demonstrate our standard-setting approach on both fronts.

Want to learn more about personality tests? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Personality Tests