Using Personality Tests to Choose a Career

Using Personality Tests to Choose a Career
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What is your personality type anyway? Take a personality test. This one is based on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator instrument. It makes a series of statements (like “You rarely do something out of sheer curiosity”) and asks the test taker to agree or disagree with the statement. Then it ranks you on the following preference pairs:

  • Extraversion vs. Introversion – Are you more focused on the world around you or your own thoughts?
  • Sensing vs. Intuition – Are you grounded on physical, real information or do your deal more with impressions and interpretations?
  • Thinking vs. Feeling – Do you make a decision based strictly on facts and data or do you consider the feelings and opinions of all people involved?
  • Judging vs. Perceiving – Is your life and work structured and rigid or are you more loose and adaptable?

The test determines which side in each category you favor, providing one of sixteen four-letter combinations (with N being Intuition.) For example, ENFP would mean Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling and Perceiving.

The Truity Study

In 2015 Truity presented an MBTI style test followed by questions about career and income. Twenty-five thousand people participated, yielding some illuminating results.

  • ENTJ and ESTJ personalities earned the highest income while ISFP and ISTP reported the lowest. Overall Extraversion, Sensing, Thinking and Judging ranked above their opposite sides.
  • ENTJ types were also on average in charge of managing or supervising more people. ISFP and ISTP were again at the bottom. Extraverts were, without surprise, more likely to be leaders in the workplace.
  • ESFJ types reported the most satisfaction with their jobs. ISFP reported the lowest. The high-earning ENTJ and ESTJ types were above average.
  • ENTP personalities were by far most likely to be self-employed. ISFP were notably the least likely.

What Does This Mean?

Extraverts, especially the analytical and organized ones, lead the way in income, leadership and satisfaction. Introversion is a sure-fire way to be left behind. If you are an ISFP, is there no hope?

The MBTI measures how you interact with the world, process information, organize yourself and make decisions. While your basic nature contributes to this, it is not the final word.

The things that make an ENTJ successful are all behaviors you can learn. You can become more confident and assertive. You can improve your information gathering or work habits. You can quiet your emotional side when making decisions.

Yet the things that make an ISFP special are harder to teach. How does an outgoing, data-based leader on an executive track learn how to interpret and consider the feelings of individuals? How can they relinquish control of their routine to adapt to the unpredictable?

If a personality test says you aren’t cut out for the major or career you want, take it as a learning opportunity and not a rejection.

Want to learn how your natural strengths and interests translate to college majors? Try this College Major test, based on the Myers Briggs personality types.

MBTI as a Tool

Personality tests are not a predictor of the future. They assign a value based on the preferences of the test taker. Why not use it in reverse?

If your desired career favors a certain personality type, how can you adapt your style to be the worker your job wants?

Go back to the test. Think about the answers you should be giving. When it says, “You do not usually initiate conversations” are you inclined to answer with a firm “No?” This is probably not the way to get ahead. This is what an introvert would say. This is also how to be ignored at the workplace and be in the same position years after being hired.

The person who closes deals, gets promotions and knows everyone would say “Yes.”

Should Human Resources use personality tests? In a big organization that receives many applications, it is a good screening tool. Beware of applicants who give the answer that’s expected but not true. Never forget the “human” part of HR. Once an applicant gets through the screen, use your own IFP to pick the right hire.

Personality tests are a good start for choosing careers, but they are more a guide than a determination. Qualities measured by the MBTI can all be changed. Use these tests to navigate your education.