Friday, August 16, 2013

DiSC Does it Right!

If you’ve ever taken a test where the results described your personality in terms of four possible styles, you’ve taken a 4-quadrant (4Q) personality assessment. Perhaps you found out that you’re blue... or C... or 4...or a golden retriever... or a blueberry banana muffin (ok, I made up that last one).  But, what exactly are 4Q personality assessments designed to measure? And, what is the best use of this kind of tool?

The following is a summary of a report published by Inscape Publishing, the distributors of the DiSC Personal Profile System. This is an excellent explanation of what DiSC (and by extension, other 4-quadrant personality assessments) measures and how that information should, and should not, be interpreted and applied.

DiSC is a measure of “surface traits” or characteristic ways of behaving in a particular environment. It helps individuals recognize the environmental cues to which they are reacting and the strategies they are using to adjust to their environment. It is not designed to describe human characteristics that are not readily observed. It is designed to describe an individual in relation to his or her environment.

DiSC addresses behavioral responses based on the individual’s emotional reaction to a particular environment. This model is not designed to support inferences about what an individual is like at the core of his/her personality or to predict how he/she will behave in the future. Further, it does not attempt to determine how effective the person’s behaviors are. It is not appropriate to suppose one can match a person to an “ideal” environment and count on the match to remain intact.

The appropriate use of DiSC is to increase self-awareness of behavior in a particular situation so one can better understand where they may want to adjust their behavior to work more effectively with others or to better adapt to a situation. In the DiSC, respondents are considered the experts on themselves and the instrument is self-scored and self-interpreted.

Inscape says DiSC is used in business settings for employee development and team building. They do not recommend the use of this tool for the purpose of employee selection/hiring, because it is not designed to predict how effective someone will be in a job. If you are using a 4Q assessment for hiring, you may want to reconsider for two reasons: 1) there are some risks in using these tools for hiring from a compliance standpoint, and 2) there are other tools that are far more effective (have higher predictive validity) for use in a hiring context.

Look for the panel discussion “Personality Assessments Gone Wild” at the upcoming KY SHRM Conference!
Indented content taken directly from a research report published by Inscape Publishing titled “A Comparison of the Personal Profile System and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.” The full document can be found at:

Monday, August 5, 2013


(Based on a presentation by Dr. Michael Zickar at the July 2013 IPAC Conference)

Defined as reviewing content found on Social Media or other online sources when screening perspective employees, this is an area where the practice has significantly outpaced the research.  Since it is fairly na├»ve to categorically tell hiring practitioners not to do it, some researchers are focusing their attention on providing some structure to the practice and determining what kinds of information, if any, can be shown to be valuable predictors of future job performance.

One proposed model of how to organize information found online is to classify it into one of four categories: Professional, Proactive (or “helping” behavior), Deviant, and Irrelevant. For example, previous employment information found on LinkedIn would be considered Professional, posts about fundraising activities the candidate is involved in would be categorized as Proactive, comments about illegal activity or substance abuse would be classified as Deviant, and pictures of kids, opinions about movies, etc. would be deemed Irrelevant (likely the largest category since very little information found online is directly related to job performance).

The cautions of using such information are many. For one, how do you assign meaning to information you glean? For example, if someone writes a lot of product reviews on Amazon, do you infer that the person is exceedingly helpful? Overly critical? Or merely verbose with a lot of time on their hands? Also, how do you account for having a wealth of online data on one candidate and virtually none for another? Can you ascribe meaning to this in-and-of itself? Does the lack of an online presence show prudence and restraint? Is it an indication that someone has something to hide? How do you reconcile that the amount of information you are able to uncover about someone may be due largely to something that could potentially be discriminatory, like belonging to a particular generation, or the uniqueness of someone’s name?

In conclusion, cybervetting is a highly subjective and unstructured process with no data (at this time) to support that the information gleaned has any direct relation to job performance.  Hiring practitioners would be wise to use caution, and to rely on screening measures that have proven predictive validity, like structured interviews, cognitive ability tests, and integrity tests, and other multi-measure assessments.