"I recently returned to a customer service job with a company I worked for a couple of years ago. It was a good - but challenging - job then and still is, but it has changed. Now they are asking for some rather aggressive sales tactics. On my second day on the job I was given a 'test.' The test had a picture of 4 animals on the front. There was a dog, a hippopotamus, a lion and another animal that escapes me at the moment. I answered the stupid question, or questions, and was told I was the dog, specifically a 'golden retriever' type sales person. People LOVE them. They are not pushy, they are friendly, they come running to you without being intrusive, etc. Sounds good right? Not in this company's eyes. They told me "WE WANT LIONS, ROARING AGGRESSIVE SALEPEOPLE." Remember though, I wasn't hired for sales, I was hired for a customer service position. Poor me. I was just a dog, not a lion."

I came across this post from a woman in a business chat room chronicling her recent experience with a personality test in the workplace.

She obviously wasn't too pleased or impressed with the way it turned out, or even presumably that it was administered to begin with.

After all, she said, it was being used to measure some character traits that weren't even specifically called out on her job description, but nonetheless are apparently valued by her new employer (she actually didn't stipulate in her post whether she remained at the job).

It was being used to measure some character traits that weren't even specifically called out on her job description.

According to a recent SHRM survey, 71% of respondents say the tests can be useful in predicting job-related behavior or "fit" with a company's culture.

However, there is obviously a high potential for misusing them, even in a way that can get you sued.

In fact, in the society's survey, 12% of employers who use personality tests say they have received complaints about them from job applicants or employees, 8% of the hiring managers say they believe the tests risk leaving people "with negative views" about the company and should be used "sparingly or not at all." And 1% said they had actually been hit by lawsuits over the practice.

12% of employers who use personality tests say they have received complaints about them from job applicants or employees.

This piece by ABC News details the case of a West Virginia woman who applied for a job as a cashier, bagger and stocker at a Kroger supermarket. As part of her application process, she was asked to take a 50-question "Customer Service Assessment" ("CSA") that she was told would predict whether she would be friendly and communicate well with customers.

The applicant, who is hearing- and speech-impaired, scored a 40% on the test, indicating she was less likely than other candidates to "listen carefully, understand and remember."

The applicant, who is hearing- and speech-impaired, scored a 40% on the test, indicating she was less likely than other candidates to "listen carefully, understand and remember."

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the CSA suggested this job candidate listen for "correct language" and "clear enunciation."

As it turns out, she was not hired, and ended up filing a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In court Kroger admitted that at least part of their decision not to hire the woman was based on her low CSA score.

Every year the EEOC says it receives over 100,000 claims related to discrimination, and just over 150 of those in any given year allege discrimination specifically related to personality tests.

So statistically, it's not a huge number. But that's likely little solace for those on the losing end of a lawsuit.

On the EEOC website they say the use of tests and other selection procedures can be a very effective means of determining which applicants or employees are most qualified for a particular job. "However, use of these tools can violate the federal anti-discrimination laws if an employer intentionally uses them to discriminate based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, or age (40 or older)."

Justine S. Lisser, an attorney working in the communications office for the EEOC, says there would be discrimination if, for example, an employer only gave personality tests to a certain race, or if they gave the test to everyone, but it disproportionately screened out people of a certain race, color, sex, age, etc.

Even when administered properly - and legally - though, not everyone is convinced personality tests tell hiring managers anything particularly useful in terms of whether the candidate will have success on the job they are being considered for or not.

One of those personality test critics is Annie Murphy Paul. She is the former senior editor of Psychology Today, and is now a book author, consultant and speaker who she says "helps people understand how we learn and how we can do it better."

Personality tests "produce descriptions of people that are nothing like human beings as they actually are."

In her book The Cult of Personality Testing, later changed to The Cult of Personality, Paul contends personality tests produce descriptions of people that are nothing like human beings as they actually are.

"Human beings are complex creatures," she writes, "and we need simple ways of grasping them to survive. But how we simplify - which shortcuts we take, which approximations we accept - demands close inspection, especially since these approximations so often stand in for the real thing."

Tags: The Wall Street Journal, HR, Hiring Practices, EEOC, Human Resources, Industry, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Job discrimination, Illegal hiring practices, Personality tests, Annie Murphy Paul, The Cult of Personality