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Want better employees? Get somebody else to rate their personalities, suggests new study.

November 14, 2012

TORONTO, ON – Busi­ness­es will get more accu­rate assess­ments of poten­tial and cur­rent employ­ees if they do away with self-rat­ed per­son­al­i­ty tests and ask those being assessed to find some­one else to rate them, sug­gest results from a new study.

Pre­vi­ous job per­for­mance stud­ies have shown that out­siders are best at rat­ing an individual’s per­son­al­i­ty in terms of how they work on the job. But observers in these stud­ies have always been co-work­ers.

The recent paper by Prof.  Bri­an Con­nel­ly, who is cross-appoint­ed to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Rot­man School of Man­age­ment and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Scar­bor­ough, and Prof. Ute Hül­sheger of Maas­tricht Uni­ver­si­ty, is the first to delve into whether co-work­ers are the best judges of per­son­al­i­ty because they are more famil­iar with a job’s require­ments and know the indi­vid­ual in a work con­text, or whether any out­side observ­er can be a good judge.

Tak­ing results from a Ger­man-based study of 111 employ­ees who self-rat­ed and then were rat­ed by 106 per­son­al acquain­tances (includ­ing fam­i­ly mem­bers) and 102 co-work­ers, the paper found both types of out­side observers gave equal­ly fair eval­u­a­tions of oth­er peo­ple.

“It’s not so much that observers are think­ing only about the one par­tic­u­lar con­text that the eval­u­a­tion is for, but it’s more that they have a less cloud­ed view of a per­son,” says Prof. Con­nel­ly.

The study, pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Per­son­al­i­ty, also found that peo­ple who over­es­ti­mat­ed their agree­able­ness and con­sci­en­tious­ness (the most pre­dic­tive for per­for­mance) per­formed worse on the job than those who did not over­es­ti­mate these traits. This is some­thing Prof. Con­nel­ly com­pares to the “Michael Scott” phe­nom­e­non, refer­ring to the lead char­ac­ter on the pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion show The Office, who has lit­tle self-aware­ness or insight into why those work­ing for him do not enjoy their jobs more.

Despite these find­ings, self-rat­ed vs. observ­er-rat­ed per­son­al­i­ty assess­ments are the norm at orga­ni­za­tions that use per­son­al­i­ty tests as an eval­u­a­tion tool.

“One pos­si­ble thing would be for those apply­ing for jobs to nom­i­nate some­one else to rate their per­son­al­i­ty rather than doing it them­selves, and then you might have a bet­ter work­force,” says Prof. Con­nel­ly.

Observ­er-rat­ed per­son­al­i­ty mea­sures may also be more use­ful for cur­rent employ­ees get­ting devel­op­men­tal feed­back on the job.

“If we’re bas­ing all the respons­es on self-reports, which is the norm, rather than hav­ing some­body else giv­ing them the feed­back, then we may be hand­ing people’s biased per­cep­tions right back to them,” says Prof. Con­nel­ly.

For the lat­est think­ing on busi­ness, man­age­ment and eco­nom­ics from the Rot­man School of Man­age­ment, vis­it

The Rot­man School of Man­age­ment at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to is redesign­ing busi­ness edu­ca­tion for the 21st cen­tu­ry with a cur­ricu­lum based on Inte­gra­tive Think­ing. Locat­ed in the world’s most diverse city, the Rot­man School fos­ters a new way to think that enables the design of cre­ative busi­ness solu­tions.  The School is cur­rent­ly rais­ing $200 mil­lion to ensure Cana­da has the world-class busi­ness school it deserves. For more infor­ma­tion, vis­it


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Rot­man School of Man­age­ment
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
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