When personality profiles are useful in the hiring process

By Jennifer Hickl

Jeff was the new children’s pastor at a mid-sized church in Florida. He had come well-recommended even though all of his prior experience had been at a smaller church where he wore many hats. Jeff and the senior pastor at the church had developed an instant rapport and he had sailed through his meetings and interviews with the selection committee.

But soon after he was hired and much to everyone’s dismay, Jeff was crashing in the children’s ministry. He was having trouble connecting with the children and many of them were afraid of him. Six months later, Jeff was gone.

Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common. A new staff person is hired and they “looked so good in the interview,” but the reality plays out differently. Enter the advocates of assessments and personality profiles. They contend that the interview, while important, rarely breaks through the veneer that experienced employees put up during the hiring process.

Unique strengths

More important, they say, is for the employer to understand that each person has unique strengths and fundamental weaknesses. The challenge is to identify people whose strengths match the work they are asked to do.

Assessment and personality profiles strive to do just that. The assessment can include competency based role plays and behaviorally anchored structured interviews. The personality profiles are administered on-line or paper-based and consist of scores of multiple choice questions designed to measure various factors of one’s personality.

There are many different profiles on the market and each uses different terms based on the detail of what they are measuring. In general, you can expect dimensions such as the following:

  • Emotional Stability
  • Extroversion
  • Openness
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness

Requiring candidates to complete a profile, however, only gives half of the picture. Not only will you want to understand the candidates’ behavioral preferences (their strengths), you will also want to understand the behavioral characteristics needed for the role in question.

Interestingly, most churches that I have worked with and churches that I polled for this article either do not use any type of profile tool or if they do, they never tie it to the strengths needed for the position for which they are hiring. If that’s the case, why even go to the trouble of requesting a profile?

Profile open positions

Churches that opt to use personality profiles should take the extra step to profile their open positions as well. Most profile vendors offer tools to help with that process. For example, Leading From Your Strengths, offers a product called Position Insights that guides organizations through an online question and answer session. The result is a report that identifies “the unique strengths demanded by the position.” Another company called Caliper assigns a consultant to interpret each personality profile and during those conversations the consultant helps determine the job profile too.

What’s the result of effective profiling? Armed with an understanding of the needed strengths for an open position and the ability to accurately identify candidates with those strengths, churches can expect a higher success rate in selection decisions. One company even boasts that 85 percent of the people they recommend are performing at the top of their field after one year.

Sound too good to be true? You’re not alone! Detractors worry that great candidates will be missed because their profile was not an exact match for the job. This concern is valid for two reasons. Some organizations place too much weight on the profile and do not balance it with other important search and hiring steps. Also, in the sometimes willy-nilly world of church operations, the human resource function can be inconsistently administered resulting in a poor outcome.

Cost is another factor to consider. Some of the assessments are offered free of charge (but be careful of freebies — look for reputable test publishers with verifiable information behind their claims). Others charge a nominal fee for their test ($20-$60) and additional money to assist in interpreting the results ($200 and up). Profiling the positions can carry an extra charge. There are also full-service firms that will allow you to completely outsource this portion of the process. Many organizations simply find personality profiles too cost-prohibitive.

Considerations for profiles

My recommendation for personality profiles is to use them intelligently. I would counter the cost argument by pointing out that the cost of replacing an employee is far higher. When you consider all tangible costs like severance, travel and relocation as well as intangible costs such as lost productivity making personality profiles part of the hiring process makes sense. Check out the turnover calculator provided by the Department of Labor if you are still unsure.

Second, understand that personality profiles are a tool and effective use of them requires three things: selection of valid profiles; consistent use; and dedication to accurately identifying the strengths needed for the open positions.

Third, I would challenge you to realize that your church, like every church, has unwritten rules, unspoken codes of conduct and a culture that has developed based on who you are and what you believe. Understand your DNA and use it to your hiring advantage. For example, if your church has a strong culture of following the rules, then hiring someone who views rules more as general guidelines will cause unwanted conflict. Personality profiles can accurately identify traits like rule-following.

Finally, I will caution that profiles are not the end-all answer to the hiring challenge. The goal of the hiring process, simply put, is to find and hire the right person for the job It involves attracting quality candidates, screening effectively, utilizing perceptive interviewers trained to ask the right questions, checking references and running background checks. If you choose to use personality profiles, use them as a great way to obtain one more piece of valuable information in the overall hiring process.

Jennifer Hickl is a human resources consultant for Life Catalyst Consulting, based in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. [www.lifecatalystconsulting.com]


Personality profiles have different names depending on the developer of the profile and the nuances of the questionnaire. Some focus more on determining behaviors, some on personality traits and others on strengths and talents. Here are some of the more common terms:

  • Psychological Inventories
  • Behavioral Preference Measure
  • Strength Indicator
  • Talent Assessment Instrument
  • Behavioral Assessment


DISC — www.discinsights.com
Myers-Briggs —  www.humanmetrics.com
Strengthsfinder —  www.strengthsfinder.com
Leading From Your Strengths  —  www.ministryinsights.com
Caliper Profile — www.caliperonline.com


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