Question of scientificity - what horoscopes & personnel selection have in common

Anna Albrecht
April 18, 2023

"What type of relationship are you?" - we've all come across these and similar "personality questions" in magazines - and our curiosity has led us to fill out the 3-minute test to learn more about ourselves. That the validity of these results are just as scientific as those of horoscopes, is clear to most - and the criticism to draw wrong conclusions from it loud.

Danger potential - personality diagnostics

According to an interview given to SPIEGEL by Matthias Ziegler, professor of psychological diagnostics at Humboldt University in Berlin, it is not only these "psycho-tests" in magazines that offer a potential danger: personnel diagnostics in personnel selection moves in a similar gray area. In certain tests, procedures are often used that assign people to certain personality types - on the basis of which teams are then put together. The assignment of these types is accompanied by some problems: on the one hand it reduces people very much by putting them into pigeonholes. Furthermore, type assignments are often not correct across situations, but only apply in a very specific situation. Thus, the test results are not stable and do not necessarily fit the real situation.

However, using tests as a basis for personnel decisions is not bad or inadequate per se; they just need to be selected carefully, ideally with the support of psychologists, and above all focus on the team as a whole. Because: the interpersonal fit of the team members is a decisive criterion in the selection of personnel and needs a stable basis. To ensure this, soft.fact integrates the empirically validated Big 5 of personality not only for the personality of a person, but also for the team personality.

The Big 5 of personality

Decades of research in the field of personality psychology provide an empirically supported and widely accepted answer to this question: "How can personality be measured?" Thus, on a global level, personality can be described along the five domains of Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Negative Emotionality (Neuroticism), and Openness. These five domains are combined to form the Big 5 model. They allow a tangible and at the same time accurate description of interpersonal differences in thinking, experience and behavior.

The Big 5 and role behavior in the team

Roles or role tendencies can be defined as the behaviors people exhibit in social contexts. Role tendencies are behaviors that a person finds easier or more difficult, depending on their personality. This leads to the logical conclusion of linking personality and role. In addition, roles are dynamic in that they are dependent on the social environment in which the person finds him or herself. The demonstrated role behavior of a team member is dependent on the demonstrated role behavior of the other team members - and visa versa.

Linking personality and role

Many role inventories do not link personality and role, nor do they integrate the interpersonal dynamics that arise when roles are assigned in a team. soft.fact, on the other hand, takes into account the personality of individual team members when assigning roles, the team personality as a whole, and the resulting dynamics between individuals. In this way, we distribute roles across situations based on stable components such as personality. In this way, the roles in the team fit all possible team situations and the role assignment does not remain a suggestion, but can be implemented directly. Diversity in the execution of tasks and thus successful teamwork are the result - win win for all.

You want to learn more about personnel selection now, which is really scientific and meaningful? Contact us at any time:


Diagnostica (2019), 65, pp. 121-132© 2019 Hogrefe Verlag

Hauschild, J. (2014). Psycho-tests are as informative as a horoscope. SPIEGEL Psychology

Rauthmann, J. (2016). Fünf Faktoren Modell. Dorsch Lexikon der Psychologie

Soto, C. J., & John, O. P. (2017). The next Big Five Inventory (BFI-2): Developing and assessing a hierarchical model with 15 facets to enhance bandwidth, fidelity, and predictive power. Journal of personality and social psychology, 113(1), 117.

Anna Albrecht
September 1, 2023