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The flaws with personality testing
18 February 2007

by David L. Mount

One should be careful when interpreting the results of a personality test. Just because someone tests one way does not necessarily mean that they are that way. People are made up by a combination of several personality traits. There also is the chance of incorrectly labelling a person. Employers should be aware that there is no hard evidence that personality tests, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® test, are accurate measures of one's personality. Inaccurate test results could prevent someone from getting a job. Using personality tests to match a person with an occupation also is a flawed practice. The validity and consequences of personality tests should be taken into account when they are given to someone.

I recently took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test on the internet. I tested out as an INTJ. This means that I am introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging. Our textbook describes INTJ's as visionaries with great minds and a strong drive for their own ideas. They are said to be skeptical, critical, independent, determined, and stubborn. Our textbook also says that NT's are intuitive thinkers that make up only 5% of the population. In a recent study thirteen prosperous businesspeople who created successful companies were NT's. This includes companies like Federal Express, Honda Motors, Microsoft, and Sony. I must admit that I have a hard time disagreeing with the bulk of these characterizations. However, the textbook said that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test is not necessarily a valid measure of personality. There is the possibility that I am not an INTJ. I could be an ESTJ. These people are characterized as being organizers. I do have a strong need and desire for organization. I also could be an ENTP. These people are characterized as being conceptualizers. I am resourceful and good at many things. It is wrong to label a person as just one thing and nothing more.

Most people are a combination of several personality traits. Even though I tested out to be introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging, I know I can be extroverted, sensing, feeling, and perceiving in certain situations. A person most likely will fall somewhere in between the bipolar personality traits. Just because a person may favor one trait does not mean that they do not possess some characteristics of another trait. An outgoing person can be reserved in some situations. A serious person can be happy-go-lucky at times. A relaxed person can be tense under certain circumstances. Labelling a person as possessing only one trait is a faulty practice.

Incorrectly labelling a person also can lead to adverse circumstances. Again, the textbook said that certain personality tests, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, are not necessarily a valid measure of personality. If a person is incorrectly labelled as having low intelligence then they may never reach their full potential. If a person is incorrectly labelled as group dependent they may always depend on other people instead of themselves. There is the potential for mislabelling people as having a personality trait that they do not actually possess.

The use of personality tests in the hiring of employees is a practice that has no merit. Our textbook did say that there is no evidence that certain personality tests are valid measures of personality. However, this still does not stop over 2 million companies in the U.S. from using these tests, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, in the hiring of new employees. What surprises me is the number of well-known companies that use these tests. This includes companies like GE, AT&T, and Citicorp. One of my friends, who recently took a personality test, is a prime example of what can go wrong when companies rely on these tests. My friend took the test in his quest to get a job at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kentucky. When his test results came back the company concluded that he should not be hired because he was not trustworthy or loyal. I have known this person for some time and do not agree with the results of the test. My friend basically said that the company was afraid that he would embezzle money. I personally have never have found him to be untrustworthy, unloyal, or even capable of embezzling money. He now has a different job at another healthcare organization and to my knowledge has yet to embezzle any money from that company. This example shows that personality tests do not always yield accurate results. Even worse, inaccurate results can harm a person's chances of getting a job. Employers should not use these tests in the hiring of new employees.

Personality tests also should not be used in an attempt to match a person with a specific job. Under Holland's Typology of Personality and Sampling, I would describe myself as being an enterprising person. This means that I am self-confident, ambitious, energetic, and domineering. I would be best paired with a job such as a lawyer, real estate agent, or public relations specialist. However, this label is in direct conflict with the label generated by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. Not only that, but I know I possess other characteristics that are considered to be parts of the other types of personality. I am shy, independent, practical, and imaginative. This means that I am realistic, investigative, conventional, and artistic. According to Holland I could be a farmer, news reporter, bank teller, or interior decorator. A person should not be constricted by the pairing of a test with an occupation. Each person is different and may be a combination of several personality types. It is possible that a person could be happy at a job that is not listed under their personality type's occupation list. It is wrong to tell someone that they can only do certain jobs because of one test. Like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Holland's Typology of Personality and Sample Occupations also may not be a valid measure of someone's personality.

Personality tests can be flawed and lead to inaccurate findings. Most people can not be characterized by just one trait. Most people fall somewhere in the middle of the bipolar trait spectrum. By using tests that may not be able to accurately determine someone's personality, employers may not be hiring the best person for the job. Also, by using personality tests to match people with an appropriate occupation, those people may be led into the wrong profession. In short, the results of these personality tests should not be taken so seriously.

Source: http://cbpa.louisville.edu/bruce/rflct600/mount1.htm
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