Designing scientifically validated, reliable personality assessments

The Big Five assessment

Our personality assessment is based on the widely used Five Factor (“Big Five”) model of personality. This model is considered the gold standard framework for using personality to predict workplace outcomes. It is known to have superior predictive validity for workplace use compared to other personality frameworks and appears extensively in the peer-reviewed research literature. Our use of the Big Five, including the specific traits each item is designed to measure, leverages industry and academic consensus.

Creating our Big Five assessment

Our version of the Big Five assessment is predominantly visual. We ask candidates to respond to an image with an accompanying short caption, with a simple choice of “Me” or “Not Me”. This approach allows candidates to quickly understand what they see while requiring only 2-5 minutes of their time.  In a series of studies using rigorous research design, we analyzed data from thousands of test users of diverse backgrounds to develop the images, captions, and characters. We carefully compared results from our assessment with other established measures in an effort to ensure that ours is a valid measure of the Big Five. 

The version using 3D images features custom images designed to enhance user comprehension. We engaged in extensive user testing designed to ensure the characters we created were relatable and free from stereotypes. Studies of user perceptions of the characters’ race, age, and gender aimed to create relatable yet ambiguous characters. Throughout the process, we leveraged data-driven decision-making to help establish the assessment's effectiveness and guide its ethical considerations, resulting in a scientifically sound and user-friendly assessment that meets or exceeds psychometric standards for validity and reliability. 

Scoring the assessment

Through a review of job descriptions, interviews with subject matter experts, analyses of in-role incumbent performance data, and decades of Big Five model research, our team of PhD-level research psychologists develops job-based scoring criteria against which a candidate’s pattern of personality may be compared. The scoring ranges of each personality dimension are updated on an ongoing basis in response to hiring, termination and performance data analyses.

How the assessment is used

The assessment plays a candidate-centered role in the hiring process. Typically administered after collecting basic candidate information, the assessment is an early way for candidates to communicate about themselves. Designed with the candidate experience in mind, it can be completed in just a few minutes from any device. Candidates may receive a Candidate Report via email or download, providing personalized insights into their personality traits.

These assessment results are then used by hiring managers and recruiters to inform decision-making processes, rather than make employment decisions. The use of the assessment encourages taking a holistic view of each candidate: by leveraging assessment data alongside other pertinent information such as resumes and interviews, hiring managers and recruiters can holistically determine the appropriate next steps for candidates. We frequently see our clients hire candidates whose assessment scores indicate a weaker personality fit but who are selected based on other criteria, while individuals who have atypical backgrounds who may otherwise be overlooked in hiring have a chance for further consideration based on the soft skills associated with a personality profile.  

Adverse impact

The assessment’s potential for adverse impact has been studied extensively with numerous participant samples. In addition to rigorous internal testing, the assessment has been thoroughly audited for bias by an independent, third-party auditor. With the responses of over 400,000 candidates included, their selection rates did not differ according to the protected attributes of gender and ethnicity. More information about the bias audits, including the applicable reports, and Paradox’s position on Ethical AI are available here.

Our team

Heather Myers

Ph. D. Psychology, MS Statistics

Dr. Myers received a doctorate in Personality Psychology and Master of Science in Statistics both from Stanford University. Throughout the course of her career, she has specialized in the development of assessments and the analysis of their internal consistency and validity. At Paradox, Dr. Myers runs a cross-disciplinary psychology team to design, create, and validate scientifically sound assessments as well as analyze their internal consistency and validity.

Mark Parkinson

Ph. D. Psychology

Dr. Parkinson holds a BSc in Psychology from University of Exeter, MSc in Applied Psychology from Aston University, and a PhD from University of Bath School of Management. He is an I/O Psychologist specializing in creating assessment systems for profiling individuals and teams. He is a recognized expert on the psychology of entrepreneurs, has authored five books and numerous articles on applied psychology, and co-authored commercially available assessments.

Rachel Stewart Johnson

Ph. D. Psychology

Dr. Rachel Stewart Johnson came to HR technology in 2018 from a background in human development. At Paradox, she focuses on research and development as part of the Psychology team for Traitify by Paradox. She has a particular interest in developing tools that enhance employee engagement. Prior to diving into behavioral science in enterprise software, Rachel spent many years in the classroom, teaching at the University of California, San Diego, and earning her doctoral degree in experimental psychology from Stanford University.

Cyrus Mirza

Ph. D. Psychology

Dr. Cyrus Mirza is an industrial/organizational psychologist in the product team’s psychology group at Paradox. He received his Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology from the University of Houston. At Paradox, Dr. Mirza focuses on helping develop tools and assessments that companies can use throughout their employment process. Specifically, Dr. Mirza focuses on job analyses and statistical analyses as they relate to the validation process, and has spent over 10 years in the assessment industry working with a wide range of clients.