Personality assessments are popular. If you are applying for a job, you might need to take a test. Many employers believe the tests can help them avoid picking the wrong people.
Companies also want to make sure their employees can cope with stress. Disagreements can be costly and inefficient.
According to the BBC, in the US alone, there are about 2,500 personality tests on the market.
One of the most popular is called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI. Used by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies, it has been translated into 24 languages and has been adopted by governments and military agencies around the world.
Perhaps its attraction lies in its simplicity – according to the MBTI, we all conform
to one of 16 character types.
But that simplicity is precisely what makes some people skeptical.
“There is something about the wish to put everything in neat little boxes so that we can manipulate
them and make them serve our purposes,” says American author Annie Murphy Paul.
Her book, The Cult of Personality Testing, claims such tests are leading people to miseducate their children, mismanage their companies and misunderstand themselves.
To someone unfamiliar with it, MBTI may look like random
combinations of letters, but the first category is relatively straightforward – are you E or I? Extrovert
The second is a choice between S or N – Sensing or Intuitive – which means some people interpret the world by collecting data through their senses, others reply on their gut feelings.
Are you a T or an F? A Thinker or somebody more governed by their Feelings? And, finally, are you J or P? Judging types prefer to regulate and manage their lives whereas Perceivers favor spontaneity
The BBC reported that the overwhelming majority of the 2.5 million Americans who take the MBTI assessment
each year feel their results do fit their personalities.
But according to Paul, as many as three-quarters of test takers achieve a different personality type when tested for a second time.
She argues that the 16 distinctive types described by the Myers-Briggs have no scientific basis whatsoever.
Employees often sense that management is looking for a particular type for a specific post. This assumption may lead to test-takers cheating on the test.
The investigative writer Barbara Ehrenreich, who has been a strong critic of personality testing for years, thinks employers have a greater tendency to worry about whether a candidate is introvert
These days more employees are expected to work in teams. Sometimes, they are even expected to communicate effectively with people on the other side of the world whom they have never met.
There is a perception that extroverts are better at this.
“You will be told that no one type is better than another and you should be spontaneous in answering the questions,” she told the BBC.
“But, in reality, they are not looking for introverts. Even if what you are doing is looking at figures all day. They want everyone in the environment to be perky
and positive and upbeat
at all times.”