A personality profile is a tool utilized by employers to establish the individual personality of a prospective or current employee (Miserandino, 2011). This information is then used to enable better utilization of the employee’s skills and capacity for an already hired employee. It may also be used in recruitment to determine whether or not to hire a particular employee and in which department. Generally, when many employees are working as a team either together or in a virtual workstation, personality profiling is used to establish which employee fits which part of the work team matrix (Miserandino, 2011). Due to their amorphous nature, unreliability, and the negative portrayal of human character, personality profiles should neither be used nor relied upon in an interview process.
There are two general main aspects of a personality profile. The first referred to as trait focuses on characteristics. Examples of tools under trait based tools include Orpheus, 16 PF, and OPQ. The second is type which places individuals into general overall categories. Examples of tools under type include Myers-Briggs, Insights Discovery, and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (Miserandino, 2011). The fundamental negative attribute of personality profile as an interviewing tool lies in its nature. This tool is primarily based on the psychological and philosophical concept of personality as expounded by the personality theories (Miserandino, 2011). The word personality is derived from the Latin word persona, which means mask.
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In ancient acting, characters would wear various masks to represent the characteristics of the individuals they represent in the play. This mask is based on how the individual affects the surrounding or based on the cognitive and emotional attributes of the individual. Also, the particulars of behavior and motivations also come into play. An individual’s personality, from the perspective of personality profile can, therefore, be denoted as the mask a character would wear if they were acting the part of the aforesaid individual. It would, therefore, be fair to say that personality profile is premised on how different an individual is from the rest of the society.
The word different from the rest of the world is discriminative in itself. Indeed, it is personalities that define minorities in society with one of the most studied minority personalities being homosexuality. This makes homosexuality a good gauge to test the efficacy of personality profiles. Initially the American Psychology Association (APA), among the most respected research centres in the world, considered the personality trait of homosexuality as a mental disorder, and as late as the 1970s, renowned practitioners including William Masters and Virginia Johnson claimed ability to cure this disorder. When the classification as madness was reversed, many experts have sought to explain homosexuality, which is now considered as a personality trait.
The article by Jenkins (2010) is a personification of type tools for personality profiling. It inter alia indicates that individuals whose mothers were under intense stress during gestation generally develop homosexual personalities. Indeed, the research involved in the development of the journal entailed asking homosexual individuals how much pressure their mothers were under, during gestation. These are the extremities of indignity that an interviewee is taken through during personality profiling. The article by Johnston and Bell (1995) is less subtle about the topic even as it personifies trait. The authors argue that individuals who have gay personalities in adulthood generally had sissy-like tendencies and sex-confusion during childhood.
Lelutiu-Weinberger et al (2011), explains just how dangerous the personality of homosexuality is to those who portray it. It is almost impossible to imagine the psychological effect that a careful perusal of these three journals has heard on homosexuals who have read them. This is the effect that potential employee have as they undergo personality testing. Worse still, is the effect the process has on potential employees with impeccable academic records and good resumes who miss out on job opportunities because their personalities do not match the requirements of the employer.
The process through which personality profiling is undertaken in contemporary hiring is also another ground why the tool should not be used in interviewing employees. Interviews ought to be a personal experience for both the employer and the employee. This is because an interview is an avenue for a two way decision; one by the employer on whether to hire the interviewee and the other by the interviewee on whether to work for the employer. However, according to Kantrowitz, Dawson and Fetzer (2011), the entire process is better when undertaken using a computerized system.
A specialized computer can be set with algorithms that allow it to empirically come up with the personality traits of an individual using data fed into it (Kantrowitz, Dawson & Fetzer, 2011). This will involve the feeding of personal data into systems which may create a high propensity for abuse. Further, the continued innovations of the processes of analyzing humans creates a risk of how much further employers might be willing to go in search of the perfect employee. It would not be beyond the capacity of a major employer who needs ten thousand perfect employees to experiment with a wider database. A mind boggling example of a wider database is one kept by the National Security Agency (NSA). Perhaps an innovative employer is already considering using it.
The upshot of the foregoing clearly confirms that personality profiling as a tool should not be used in job interviews as is done currently. Indeed, leading experts in the field, through the article Morgeson et al. (2007) have raised the question of if the idea of personality profile was right in the first place. Through researching on the practical use of the tool in hiring, these experts have come to question its accuracy and overall efficacy (Morgeson et al., 2007)
In similar manner, the use of personality theories in general and testing in particular is both meaningless and unethical. The meaninglessness emanates from the manifest inaccuracy of personality theories. American psychiatrist, Professor Boeree in his article explains why personality theories remain theories and principles or laws (Boeree, 2007). Boeree looks at the infinite vastness of personality from an individual as well as a collective perspective. Personality from an individual perspective entails how that individual varies from the billions of the other human beings, in manners that cannot be scientifically established (Boeree, 2007). It is impossible to fathom a level of discrimination and stigmatization that places an individual on one side and the rest of humanity both past and present on the other.
The scope of the issue of personality according to Boree is so vast that particulars about it can only be speculative and these are the premises of them being called theories (Boeree, 2007). It, therefore, follows that a personality profiling tool can be as inaccurate as the renowned APA was when it termed homosexuality as insanity. Until personality theories are either done away with or hammered down into principles or laws, the theories remain academic and meaningless in practical use.
With regard to the philosophical issue of ethics, the practical use of personality theories is unethical. In Kantian Ethics, the category imperative of humanism emphasizes on human dignity as primary to ethics. This characterization of human beings through analysis clearly violates this principle making personality profiles unethical. Even before considering the efficacy issue, ethics already rule out the use of this tool and as usual, the normative ethics theory of utilitarianism will have a contrary connotation. Indeed, this is the theory that purveyors of personality theories will best rely on. Making the best of every tool whether human or otherwise, to achieve the best benefit is basically the connotation of utilitarianism.
It is however, the normative ethics theory of virtue in general and particularly consequentialism that settles the issue of ethics in personality theories. All one needs to look at is the negative effect of this theory to the individual on whom the theories are being utilized. The stigmatization of the minorities with its kindred negative consequences, the denial of jobs to disqualifying interviewees premised on personality profiles that use the amorphous personality theories, and the psychological damage occasioned when human beings are negatively classified and clustered clearly show that this cannot be considered ethical.
Boeree, D. C. G. (2007). Personality theories: An introduction. Retrieved from <http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/personalityintroduction.html/>
Jenkins, W. J. (2010). Can anyone tell me why I’m gay? What research suggests regarding the origins of sexual orientation. North American Journal of Psychology, 12 (2), 279–296.
Johnston, M. W. & Bell, A. P. (1995). Romantic emotional attachment: Additional factors in the development of the sexual orientation of men. Journal of Counseling & Development, 73 (6), 621–625. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6676.1995.tb01806.x
Kantrowitz, T. M., Dawson, C. R. & Fetzer, M. S. (2011). Computer Adaptive testing (CAT): A faster, smarter, and more secure approach to pre-employment testing. Journal of Business and Psychology, 26 (2), 227–232. doi:10.1007/s10869-011-9228-3
Lelutiu-Weinberger, C., Pachankis, J. E., Golub, S. A., Walker, J. J., Bamonte, A. J. & Parsons, J. T. (2011). Age cohort differences in the effects of gay-related stigma, anxiety and identification with the gay community on sexual risk and substance use. AIDS and Behavior, 17 (1), 340–349. doi:10.1007/s10461-011-0070-4
Miserandino, M. (2011). Personality psychology: Foundations and findings . Boston: Pearson College Div.
Morgeson, F. P., Campion, M. A., Dipboye, R. L., Hollenbeck, J. R., Murphy, K. & Schmitt, N. (2007). Reconsidering the use of personality tests in personnel selection contexts. Personnel Psychology, 60 (3), 683–729. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6570.2007.00089.x