Anyone who has been through business training of any kind, even a college business course, has run into some version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the psychometric questionnaire rooted in Carl Jung’s four-pronged theory on how we experience the world.
Indeed, Myers-Briggs has a cult following that espouses the test for many uses, from screening potential employees to helping managers understand their employees. Through a series of questions, we seek to know how an individual’s behavior is primary governed: through sensation, intuition, feelings or logic.
The goal, of course, is to better understand employees’ strengths and weaknesses and, with luck, decrease turnover rates. It can also be used as an indicator of whether a particular individual is suited to a particular field.
Some Experts Are Skeptical of the Test’s Validity
But some psychologists doubt the validity of the Myers-Briggs, and have for several decades.
Studies have found a 50 percent chance that someone can take the test, wait a few weeks and take it again and receive two different ratings, according to an article at CNNMoney. Others criticize the way it pigeonholes people into one category (extrovert) or another (introvert). People are never just one or the other.
None of that criticism should surprise us, and in a sense it’s not fair. No test is perfect, not even Myers-Briggs, one of the best-known tests of its kind. Tests can sort answers into different categories, but they can’t think. They can’t talk to the test-taker to clarify any conflicting answers or ask follow-up questions.
So if tests aren’t perfect, why do we put so much stock in them? We certainly wouldn’t make a decision about our money or our safety with 50/50 odds, so why do we take that kind of risk with our careers (or hires)?
We Use an Imperfect Test Because It’s Easy
Simple. Humans like order. We (secretly) like being told what to do, especially when we’re stressed. We need to know that we can take a short quiz and have a nice, neat answer about what career path suits us best. This is especially true of high school and college students who are overwhelmed with trying to decide what major to declare or what job to seek.
Does the fact that the Myers-Briggs is not as accurate as commonly believed discourage anyone from taking it? Nope. Why? Accepting advice from a test with dozens of professional accolades and decades of use is more reassuring than accepting advice from a family member or best friend. Besides, a big point of tests like this is just to make us think – about ourselves and the people around us – and consider factors that might be important in workplace success.
If You’re Dead-Set Against Tests, Try Answering a Few Questions
There is a way to sort through the thousands of possible jobs without relying on a test. For those who are hesitant about entering a new career field, simply ask yourself:
For example, someone who likes a fast-paced environment and new challenges may really enjoy an entry-level sales job. The key is to remember that choosing a career is not a once-in-a-lifetime decision. Today, it is common for people to go through several careers until they find what makes them happy. So, when searching for a new job, feel free to take a Myers-Briggs test as a jumping-off point, but realize that the answers it gives are not absolute.
Rather, think of Myers-Briggs and other personality tests as the starting point in a discussion about your own qualities and where you might best succeed.