Using personality tests as hiring or evaluation tools in the workplace is very controversial.
Discuss the personality assessments most commonly used in the workplace and the controversies surrounding such use
Personality tests have been used by some employers in the assessment and selection of potential employees, with the goal of reducing turnover rates by identifying candidates that are a "better fit" for the job.
The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is a highly validated psychopathology test that is often used in the hiring of police officers, fire fighters, and other security personnel required to carry weapons.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a popular test that measures psychological preferences for how people perceive the world and make decisions. It identifies 16 personality types along four scales: extroversion-introversion, sensing-intuition, thinking-feeling, and judging-perceiving.
Because studies using the MBTI show clusters of different personality types in different professions, the test has become popular with recruiters and managers.
A key concern about using personality tests in the workplace is the potential they create for illegal discrimination against certain groups resulting from narrow samples in which those groups are underrepresented.
The MBTI in particular has been criticized for its lack of validity and its lack of accuracy in measuring a person's personality.
A personality test is a questionnaire or other standardized instrument designed to reveal aspects of an individual's character or psychological makeup. These tests are used in a range of contexts, including individual and relationship counseling, career counseling, and customer interaction management. They are sometimes frequently used as a hiring or evaluation tool in the workplace.
Employment testing is the practice of administering written, oral, or other tests as a means of determining the suitability or desirability of a job applicant. The premise is that if test scores are found to correlate with job performance, then it is economically useful for the employer to select employees based on scores from that test. Personality tests have been used by some employers in the assessment and selection processes because they believe that they can reduce their turnover rates and prevent economic losses by identifying candidates that are a "better fit" for the job.
The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is a highly validated psychopathology test that is generally used in a clinical psychology setting and may reveal potential mental health disorders. Notable situations in which the MMPI is often used include final selection for police officers, firefighters, and other security and emergency personnel, especially when the employees are required to carry weapons. The controversies associated with assessing mental health for the purposes of job selection are discussed below; in these cases, however, an assessment of mental stability and fitness can be reasonably related to and necessary for optimal job performance.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the name of a personality test designed to measure psychological preferences for how people perceive the world and make decisions. Based on Carl Jung's Psychological Types, it was developed during World War II by Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs and is perhaps the world's most popular personality type description tool today. This 16-type indicator test uses two opposing behavioral divisions along four scales which, when combined, yield a "personality type;" the four scales include extroversion-introversion, sensing-intuition, thinking-feeling, and judging-perceiving.
The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator is used by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies, and is very popular in businesses around the world. Because studies using the MBTI show clusters of different personality types in different professions, the test has become popular with recruiters and managers. For instance, the proportion of engineers who are INTJ (scoring high on introversion, intuition, thinking, and judging) is higher among this profession than the 1% found in the general population.
Many companies use personality testing as part of their hiring process, but research has found that personality tests are often misused in recruitment and selection when they are mistakenly treated as if they were normative measures.
Discrimination and Accuracy
A key concern about using personality tests in the workplace is the potential they create for illegal discrimination against certain groups. A major criticism of many personality tests is that because they are sometimes based on narrow samples in which white, middle-class males are over-represented, they tend to skew test results toward this identity. That is, they normalize one identity while pathologizing other identities. For example, the sample used to develop the original MMPI consisted primarily of white people from Minnesota. While the MMPI-2 intentionally expanded this sample to address this bias, critics argue that Asian Americans, Hispanics, and under-educated people are still largely underrepresented.
As mentioned above, tests like the MMPI are often useful in identifying mental illness. When they are used to assess potential employees in the workplace, however, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can interpret them as an attempt by an employer to gain knowledge of a medical condition prior to an offer of employment. This is a form of discrimination and an illegal basis for a hiring decision in the United States.
Another danger of using personality tests in the workplace is that they can create false-negative results (for instance, honest people being labeled as dishonest), especially in cases when the applicant is stressed. Privacy issues also arise when applicants are required to reveal private thoughts and feelings in their responses and perceive this as a condition for employment.
Criticisms of the MBTI
There are several criticisms specifically regarding the validity of the MBTI as a useful measure of personality. The MBTI is not yet scientifically proven, and skeptics—including many psychologists—argue that the MBTI has not been validated by double-blind tests (in which participants accept reports written for other participants and are asked whether or not the report suits them). Some even demonstrate that profiles can apparently seem to fit any person due to ambiguity of their basic terms.
Critics also argue that people do not fit easily into one of 16 types because they use different styles of thinking at different times. This can be especially true when comparing behavior at home or with friends to behavior at work—limiting the test's accuracy for employment. Critics argue that the test results of the MBTI should not be used to label, evaluate, or limit the respondent in any way. Since all types are valuable, and the MBTI measures preferences rather than aptitude, the MBTI is not considered a proper instrument for purposes of employment selection. Many professions include highly competent individuals of different types with complementary preferences.