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The Myers-Briggs and What it Tells Us About Job Suitability


Among personality assessments, none is so well-known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. But despite the fact that it’s a household name, it can be a confusing topic for many people. Is it really a valid assessment of personality? Can your type change over time? Is your type useful in figuring out what sort of work you should do, or where you should do it?

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When oversimplified, the Myers-Briggs can be used poorly as a way to weed out people who don’t share a personality with their manager, or who don’t meet stereotypes for their chosen occupation. But can it be used effectively?

What is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator?

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (often shortened to MBTI) was created by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katharine Cook Briggs, based on a theory of personality developed by Carl Jung. The MBTI addresses personality as a combination of four opposing pairs. Most people are inclined towards one or another side of each dichotomous trait, and the combination of all four inclinations gives an overall picture of your personality.

Keep in mind that these terms have specific meanings with regards to the MBTI, so some of them may be defined differently from what you’re used to seeing.

The four dichotomies

Extraversion vs. Introversion

What is the world in which you prefer to live? Extraverts are drawn to the outer world, with its people, sights, and sounds. Introverts are pulled instead towards their inner world of thoughts and ideas. Everyone spends some time with each, of course, but most feel more energized and comfortable when focused on one or the other.

This is represented with an E or an I, depending on which side is stronger in you.

Sensing vs. Intuition

Do you prefer to focus on information or meaning? Sensing types focus more on exactly what comes to them through touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste. They are concerned with details, facts, and the present moment. Intuition types are concerned with the meaning and patterns behind what they see. They would rather think things through than try it with their hands. They are interested in the future more than the present or past.

This is represented with an S or an N.

Thinking vs. Feeling

How do you prefer to make decisions? Are you more interested in the objective facts, or in the individual concerns of the people who will be impacted? Thinking types like to find the logical principle involved and try to avoid being swayed by personal concerns. Feeling types are concerned with values and accommodating people’s needs and their points of view.

This is represented with a T or an F.

Judging vs. Perceiving

How do you prefer to structure your interactions with the outside world? Judging types prefer to make firm decisions and keep their daily activities well in hand and organized around particular goals. Perceiving types prefer to stay open to new possibilities and adapt their lives to what they perceive in the outer world, rather than attempting to make the world fit their lives.

This is represented with a J or a P.

Your combination of dichotomies makes your type.

For example, an who chose Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging would have the type ISTJ. These people tend to be quietly analytical, systematic, decisive, and efficient. An ENFP, by contrast, is enthusiastic, creative, warm, spontaneous, and optimistic. Given the possible combinations, this leaves 16 possible personality types, each with their own inclinations when it comes to interacting with the world.

Critiques of the MBTI

While many people find the MBTI to be helpful, it is not without its critics. Some people find that they are given different types when they take the questionnaire multiple times, which could indicate that the tool is flawed. Others point to more recent models of personality such as the Big 5, and note that there are key parts of personality that are left out of the Myers-Briggs model altogether. And Jung’s own theoretical foundation has been called into question many times. For these reasons, it’s best not to rely too heavily on a candidate’s Myers-Briggs type when considering hiring and promotions.

Can the Myers-Briggs be used effectively in the workplace?

Absolutely. These are some tips for doing so well.

  • Provide it as an opportunity for self-reflection. Finding out one’s Myers-Briggs type can help people understand why it is that they love their job—or why they can’t seem to feel great about it despite everything looking fantastic on paper.
  • Provide you with possible pain points to discuss during an interview process. If a position requires someone who is very actively customer service focused and you find that a particular candidate scores high on introversion, it wouldn’t make sense to reject them based on a single score. Rather, this is something to bring up during an interview. Have they worked in a similar role before? How did it affect them? What were some things they were able to do in order to make the position work?
  • Use it to give you additional insight into why an employee didn’t work out. Exit interviews are key, of course, but it may be that one of the issues was that of a fundamental personality mismatch with the role, rather than lack of ability or will.
  • Use it to help diagnose interpersonal problems within a team. If two or more teammates are finding it difficult to communicate, make decisions, or work together towards a goal, they may be approaching the work through the lenses of differing personality styles. Knowing this can enable you to help your employees gain a better understanding of how the other functions, and how to work together more effectively.

The Myers-Briggs can allow us to peek under the hood of someone’s personality.

While it’s not a substitute for a thorough vetting and interview process, it can tell us whether someone’s personal inclinations are in alignment with the tasks and responsibilities of a given job. This can be a powerful opportunity for hiring managers to look beyond certifications and skills and think about their real needs when it comes to a particular role. Interested in learning about how SelectOne hires for personality? Get in touch.

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