“This is not a test”: How do human resource development professionals use personality tests as tools of their professional practice?

Henriette Lundgren*, Rob Poell, Brigitte Kroon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
262 Downloads (Pure)


Although human resource development (HRD) professionals enjoy the use of personality tests in their practice, the appeal of these tests to some is harshly criticized by others. Personality tests attract through optimistic descriptions and ease of use for individual and team development while often lacking predictive and discriminant validities. Despite those concerns, the personality‐testing market can be characterized as a dynamic industry, with many professionals using assessments in developmental settings such as management training and executive coaching. The aim of this article is to explore how individual meaning‐making and organizational sensemaking theories help to explain the widespread and sustained use of personality tests in developmental contexts among HRD professionals. Using grounded theory and inductive analysis, we distill meaning from semistructured interviews with 18 HRD professionals. Through pattern analysis, we establish six strategies that describe practical approaches in personality testing: 1. Ethical‐protective, 2. Scientific‐selective, 3. Cautious‐avoiding, 4. Cautious‐embracing, 5. User friendly‐pragmatic, and 6. Knowledgeable‐accommodating. We find that HRD professionals deal with cognitive dissonances and paradoxical situations in their professional personality test use practice on a regular basis. Research limitations and implications for practice and future research are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-196
JournalHuman Resource Development Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • HRD
  • MBTI
  • WORK
  • cognitive dissonance
  • grounded theory
  • individual meaning-making
  • organizational sensemaking
  • pattern analysis
  • personality test
  • practitioner strategies


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