Personality Tests in Profession

I had to take a personality test as part of a job interview.

Danger. The alarm is “who’s looking at the results?”

I am a lifelong student of Psychology. I’ve taken countless personality tests, ability assessments, intelligence exams, … , you name it. The big problem I have with the tests is the unknown education and critical-thinking of the person reviewing the results.

There’s a world of difference between testing against the Myers-Briggs versus testing against houses of Harry Potter. Yet to the untrained eye, the results read the same – it’s all horoscopes to the non-expert.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is not sound science. There’s no evidence of dichotomies in types. Because of the MBTI, people are led to believe that they are one or the other (eg. introvert versus extrovert). If true, the statistical distribution of scores would be bimodal. But research shows that the statistical distribution is bell-shaped, normally distributed…meaning that most of us are gradients in the middle. When people re-take the MBTI after nine months, a sizeable portion of testers’ results change. It’s more appropriate to call it the Myers-Briggs How I Felt At The Time Indicator, rather than a foundational Personality Type Indicator. MBTI is more appropriately MBHIFATTI. Hi Fatti.

Are you comfortable with HR reviewing your dental x-rays?

It takes a lifetime of training, research, and knowledge to interpret personality exams. You have to know how to craft an exam. There’s nuance, priming, direction, and technique behind creating and then administering an exam. The variables to consider are immense. One needs a deep understanding of how the tests were created before one can come close to interpreting the results.

You’ve got to experience the world of ingredients before you can taste a dish and know instantly that your cereal’s got too much paprika.

People understand psychology in different ways. It’s because psychology is literally the brain trying to understand itself. And our understanding is limited by what we can see, explain, hear, and express, weighted against our limited universe of knowledge.

An outsider can’t discern someone’s expertise in psychology. We can see Shaun White flipping on a half-pipe and immediately grasp his expertise in boarding. Dude defies gravity. But what immediate traits can we see to grasp someone’s expertise in psychology…other than the elbow pads on their blazer? Some fields take immense training just to see skill. Astronauts can see the difference in skill among other astronauts. All we see is space.

Personality tests are flat out dangerous because the results read simply. Anyone can read the results of a personality test and think that they have an immutable encapsulation of another person.

The most important thing to understand about personality types is…how much does it really matter? The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Two people with the same personality type will produce different results. Two different people with two different personalities can reach the same goals.

The purpose of personality exams is to provide a starting point for an individual to better understand oneself. It’s not for other people to understand you. That’s the danger. People will pigeonhole you. And they’ll never reassess what they think of you because it’s hard to break schema. No one will ever break their schema of you. In this digital economy, we discard each other for anyone else new because it’s easy; the overall modern schema is that the person is a disposable commodity.

People are dynamic. We’re fluid and can stretch in any direction. We’ve forgotten why we love stories of personal transformation. We’ve forgotten our love of the stories where the cool guy in school mentors the nerdy girl on how to be pretty, get the guy she wants, and then later discovers that the cool guy was her one true love the entire time.

All that matters is “are we better together?”

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