Should You Judge a Job Applicant By a Personality Test?

No, according to the publisher of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment, which says using the test for hiring purposes is unethical. Find out why using personality tests to hire may not be such a good idea.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wants to prevent companies from using credit reports to make hiring decisions. She introduced a bill this week that would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act and argued that a person’s credit report has no correlation to his or her job performance.

This sort of pre-employment screening is a trend among many organizations, and it’s not restricted to credit scores or criminal background checks. According to a 2011 Society for Human Resource Management poll, about 20 percent of organizations are using personality tests to determine whether a job candidate is a good fit for a position.

But CPP, Inc., the exclusive publisher of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment—one of the world’s most well-known psychometric tests—wants people to know MBTI is not intended to be used as part of the hiring process.

“It is unethical to use the MBTI tool for hiring,” the company states in a new infographic. “Completing the assessment must be voluntary (not required of job applicants), and the results are confidential and belong to the respondent. Furthermore, people of many different types excel at the same job for different reasons. Individuals should not be pigeonholed based on their personality preferences.”

The infographic is part of a series of articles, videos, and other infographics that CPP is releasing as part of its “Folk Tales and True Stories” campaign, intended to debunk myths and misconceptions about the test and how to use it.

Developed in 1943 by mother and daughter Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, the MBTI assessment is a psychometric questionnaire that classifies people according to 16 different personality types.

CPP argues that while MBTI results can be helpful in understanding how certain work environments might match an individual’s personality preferences, the results do not indicate how successful someone will be in a particular career.

Case in point: Common advice suggests that people who identify as introverted should avoid high-stress, high-visibility jobs. But, as CPP points out in its infographic, President Obama, Princess Diana, and Steve Jobs all indicated a preference toward introversion, yet none of these figures shied away from the public eye.

Or, walk into a newsroom or emergency room, and you’ll find any number of introverts handling high-stress jobs quite well because other parts of their personality—adaptability, for one—may enable them to thrive in such environments. That’s another of CPP’s arguments. MBTI test results “should be viewed as an important part of the personality puzzle, but not the totality of one’s unique personality,” the company states.

While the results of a personality assessment shouldn’t preclude you from particular jobs or professions, not to mention the fact that people may distort their responses to such tests in order to be selected for a job, they can help build team morale among current staff.

At Fitness Australia—a 27,000-member association for fitness professionals—employees took the DiSC behavioral assessment and posted their results on the organization’s intranet and at their desks.

It’s part of the organization’s commitment to a culture of openness and self-awareness—one in which people are hired based on cultural fit rather than technical ability. And for Fitness Australia, that approach seems to be working. The organization has increased its customers by 10,000 and its revenue by 45 percent since 2009.

When implemented correctly, personality tests such as the MBTI assessment can provide invaluable insight to help people and organizations perform better, Jeff Hayes, president, CPP, Inc., said in a statement. “However, if you try to tighten a screw with a hammer, you’ll end up frustrated. Likewise, we often find that criticism of the instrument actually stems from misconceptions about what it does, and what it should be used for.”

Do you think personality assessments should be administered in the workplace, either for hiring or team-building purposes? Let us know in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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