Personality Testing and Defense Industry Hiring

Cleared Recruiting people

Human resources concept by Bigstock

Some jobs are all about the right skills, but many jobs require the right personality. Of course, some jobs need the right skill and the right personality. Just ask Ford – “and” is better than “or.” When it comes to highly technical positions, skill has to trump personality. However, jobs that require “people skills” can be difficult to hire based solely on a resume or profile. When the right personality is crucial, how can recruiters screen candidates when the options are often overwhelming? And when it comes to defense industry hiring, are some personalities better than others?


It is important to determine whether or not a candidate is a good fit for the organization or for a client. Especially when filling positions for the client site, it is vital to remember that the employees are the daily reminder of the organization’s brand. The wrong employee interacting with a client eight hours a day, five days a week can be the difference between winning or losing the recompete. Plus, it is cheaper and more efficient to conduct personality screening than it is to try to train or fire for personality issues.

Background checks simply weed out the candidates that have scary skeletons in the closet. Just because an individual is able to get a clearance does not make that person the right person for the job or the organization. So, if personality testing can be helpful, what pitfalls could recruiters encounter in the screening process?


It seems simple enough. Ask a few questions. Decode the answers based on the test guidelines. Weed out candidates based on the results. Pick up lawsuit at the end. Wait. What went wrong?

It is not bad to administer personality tests, but pay attention to the type of test and how it is administered. Some organizations have not carefully selected or properly administered personality tests, which has opened up the potential for a discrimination lawsuit. For example, it may seem simple to check on the candidate’s listening skills; however, a candidate that is hearing impaired may have answers that make it seem like s/he has poor listening skills. Any test questions that could put some at a disadvantage due to race, gender, or disability can get an organization into trouble.


If you go the testing route, make sure the test is useful and makes sense. Sounds logical, but often, logic is sacrificed on the altar of reducing hiring costs. It may not be realistic to hire an internal industrial organizational psychologist (IOP) to decode and apply the results, but maybe the $50 test and 1-day training is worth it. Do not fall for the cheap tests or use a test that is clearly made for a different purpose…like evaluating mental patients (this is not a hypothetical situation).

Standardization can save you…when it comes to personality testing. First, make sure the test meets federal discrimination law (1978 Uniform Guidelines). Second, ensure that the test meets educational and psychological standards (American Psychological Association). Next, tailor the test to the job. Irrelevant questions add in unnecessary responses that can not only complicate the screening process, but also weed out an applicant based on information that is not relevant to the work. Lastly, determine when the test will be administered in the screening process. Is the personality test intended to be part of the screening process or simply to provide a full picture of a candidate? Whatever your decision, the test needs to be administered in the same way for all candidates for a position.

If personality testing seems overwhelming, it is okay to skip it. The tests often receive mixed reviews. Developing great candidate screening, overall, will also help you screen for potential personality issues. Work closely with your development team and program managers to identify necessary skills, and spend adequate time on developing better job postings and candidate screening questionnaires.


Did you know the Cleared Network helps you out in the candidate screening process? Job seekers are able to indicate their top personality traits as well as their workplace preferences. Does this mean you weed out a candidate who says they don’t do mornings? Not necessarily – they may be a perfect fit for the position. But, if their skills are lacking AND their personality is in polar opposite of the office, you’ll save yourself time. Top personality traits are particularly important for individuals on a client site. Did your last candidate not work out because they were hard-charging and opinionated? Keep an eye out for candidates who list ‘teamwork,’ ‘adaptable,’ ‘considerate,’ or ‘courteous.’

Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.

About, the largest security-cleared career network, specializes in defense jobs for professionals with federal security clearances. Search thousands of jobs from pre-screened defense employers and government contractors. Learn More.

The Cleared Brief

Latest security clearance news - delivered monthly

Contact Us
12150 Meredith Drive
Urbandale, IA 50323
Tel: 800.947.3561

Stay Connected