Recently on LinkedIn there have been several articles by featured authors that are highly critical of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and other personality assessments.(You can see my comments on one of the articles, Personality Tests: Modern Day Phrenology).
Why is it that businesses like these assessments and others, especially academics, hate them? And ultimately are they of any use to you?
The fundamental problem and source of confusion is there is a lot of misinformation and misapplication of assessments. If you read the LinkedIn article above and my comments on it you will see how I discuss how the author of the article is himself misusing the assessment and then criticizing the assessment as a result of that misuse.
Assessment or Test?
One of the fundamental issues in the discussions is the distinction between an assessment and a test and the use of each, so let's clear of this distinction to start with. On the surface they may seem the same – both require you to answer multiple choice questions and the answers are scored.
However that is where the similarity ends. An assessment measures the qualities of a person. There are no right or wrong answers, it's just a description of who you are. A test, however, is an evaluation of what you know with a judgment of correct and incorrect. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator, Disc, Wealth Dynamics profile are all examples of assessments. Tests might include an examination of your math skills, knowledge of the law, etc.
Why does an employer use a personality assessment?
Adding to the confusion is that some employers use assessments in the job application or promotion screening process. When this happens some individuals will try to choose responses they think the hiring manager is looking for, rather than answering genuinely. So why do employers use these assessments?
An employer that is properly using an assessment in the hiring process is looking for the certain personal qualities that people in certain positions tend to have if they are successful. For example, in accounting an employer will generally want someone who is naturally detail focused. In sales an outgoing personality is generally a plus. Assessments can measure these qualities in a person.
When building a team a manager may also want to specifically create a team with different, but complimentary personality types. For instance in financial modeling a manager might want to pair a big picture thinker with someone who is detailed focused. Each will approach the problem from a different angle and can produce a better result than if two people of the same type worked on the project.
Don't assessments box me in or label me?
A common misconception about assessments is that they are defining you in some rigid way. This is the way you are and you are no other way. Once you get an assessments label slapped on you that's the end. Assessments typically measure the way you tend to behave or your preference. It doesn't mean you always act in a certain way. It also does not mean that you can't change. In fact the fundamental principle in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator is that as a matter of personal development you may want to become more balanced in you preferences, though same may choose to dive more deeply and commit further to their preference.
How can I use an assessment myself?
There are many different types of assessments that you can use yourself, each with a different purpose. When you take an assessment you can learn more about yourself and your tendencies. You can use this information in your personal development plan. The assessments help you understand where you can most easily be successful and the types of other people you will want to associate with for greater success.
Once you understand how to apply an assessment to yourself you can start learning more about the assessment and other types. This will help you interact with people of different type more easily. It is akin to learning how to speak their language.
When I use assessments with my coaching clients I use it for the purpose of helping the better understand themselves and to chart a path of accelerated career development. The assessments become a both a development tool and a tool that can be used on the job right away.