I love it when the experts agree with me. So imagine my glee when reading, Against Types by Drake Bennet. The subtitle is “Personality tests are everywhere — from the workplace to the courtroom. But critics say the tests themselves don’t pass the test.”
I don’t know anything about the academic personality tests used to diagnose mental illness. But I do know about and use MBTI in my work. For example, I find it useful to know if the person I’m dealing with is an I, Introvert or an E, Extravert. If the person is an I, I’ll tend to write down the issue first and give the person a chance to think before we speak. If I’m dealing with an E, I block out time to talk to the person. I use the same amount of time; I spend it differently. And of course, I use the other axes of MBTI as well. I see hiring managers and HR staff misusing MBTI when they assume a person can only act in one way. Just because I’m an E doesn’t mean I don’t know how to think and write without speaking. I prefer speaking first 🙂 but I can speak later.
Types are just one aspect of a person — a person’s preferences, not the only way that person knows how to act. If you ever saw me manage a project, you might think I was an SJ, given the level of detail I sometimes use for my lists. But I’m not. (NT here.) Does that mean I can’t be a good project manager? Nope. It means you should ask me behavior-description questions, such as “How do you manage the complexity of a project?” to understand what I think complexity is, and what I actually do. (BTW, in my highly non-scientific study of answers to that question, SJ’s ask “What aspect of complexity?” and NT’s answer.)
Understanding a person’s type can be useful when creating and maintaining a good working relationship — but not for a hiring decision.