How would you answer these true or false questions?
- I read at least 10 books a year.
- I make new friends easily.
- Most of my friends are scientists.
- When I was little, I often thought about leaving home.
- I often fantasize about being famous.
- My parents often praised my accomplishments.
Your next job or promotion might depend on your answers.
These are typical questions of a rising trend in the hiring process — personality assessments.
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Many companies want to pinpoint the exact personality type that will reduce turnover and produce consistent, positive results.
Personality tests aren’t new. Carl Jung, one of the most prominent psychologists of the 20th century, assigned people one of 16 different personality types.
But then Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers — two housewives who didn’t have any formal training in psychology — used Jung’s theory to create what has become the most widely used personality test in history, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI.
Almost 2 million people take the MBTI each year. More than 10,000 companies, 2,500 colleges and universities, and 200 government agencies use the assessment. And the private company that publishes it rakes in $20 million each year.
Unfortunately, the results of this particular test may actually mean nothing. Still today, no major academic journal has ever published research on the MBTI.
Personality tests come in many shapes and sizes.
“The MBTI is not valid for use in hiring, but plenty of other assessments are,” said Adam Grant, professor of industrial psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Deniz Ones, professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, said the tests are designed to measure “enduring dispositions that consistently distinguish people from one another.”
In other words, your answers to these tests should remain largely the same five to 10 years later.
Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers — two housewives who didn’t have any formal training in psychology — created what has become the most widely used personality test in history.
Ones said the job skills of an applicant predict “whether the individual can perform the job duties,” but “personality characteristics predict whether they typically will.”
When your test comes up with a mismatch between your personality and career, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue it. But it could mean companies won’t hire you.
“Some people have natural wiring,” said Dustin Hunter, a consultant at Hogan Assessments, which provides personality assessments. “It doesn’t mean you’re unsuited for that career if you don’t have that same wiring, but it may consume more of your resources to get where you need to be. Companies want to hire employees who can hit the ground running.”
So a meticulous and detail-oriented personality will work in your favor if you want to be an accountant or a surgeon. But you probably shouldn’t go into public relations if you’re shy.
Uninformed leaders or management can misuse any tool, no matter how useful it is. If a company merger leaves veteran employees stranded in a new and unfamiliar work culture, some friction is virtually guaranteed.
And it can be intimidating to have your personality evaluated every five years, especially when your livelihood hangs in the balance. It makes rejection seem a lot more personal.
After all, how do you change the fundamental aspects of your character to match your dream job? You can learn new skills. But it would be tough for you to develop an entirely new personality.