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  • Writer's pictureVal Agnew

Personality Tests: A Love/Hate Relationship

I have such mixed feelings about personality tests. Over the course of business school and business jobs, I have taken at last 10 different ones. I even helped implement a pre-employment test at one of my old jobs. When I now see that test attached to applications it makes me cringe.

The issue with personality tests in the context of workplaces, or even worse, in the context of job applications, is that it is taking an enormously complex, multifaceted human being, and boiling that person down into a handful of broad descriptors. At its best, a personality test can help you understand your own work style or help a manager find the best way to motivate and communicate with a team member. At its worst, a result can spin into a self-fulfilling (or management fulfilling) prophecy. And at it's saddest, it can mean a company completely overlooking someone for a role because they ticked one box over another.

I like taking personality tests just like I enjoy looking at my horoscope. I find it enjoyable when something does fit. Or when something is inspiring. Or when a type of job I like or want matches with my results. I wish more people would limit their use of tests for these kinds of encouraging and positive/affirming needs. Rather than precluding themselves or others from jobs or opportunities.

It is also helpful to take more than one test and pay more attention to the constants. For example: every test I have ever taken says I'm an extrovert. I also have piles of my own anecdotal data that says, yes I am definitely an extrovert. So I think it's pretty safe to say I am one. What are commonalities across tests for you? Those are probably the core truths you can safely take away from a test.

I did take a test recently that was new to me and felt really accurate. It was kind of a Myers-Briggs test on steroids. It's called 16 Personalities. They are not sponsoring this or anything. I just liked the test and those around me who took it also said the results were pretty accurate. See if that's the case for you.

Here are some resonant pieces from my results:

Strengths: Curious, Observant, Enthusiastic, Good Communicator

Weaknesses: Overthink Things, Sensitive, Independent to a Fault

Potential Careers: Politician, Diplomat, Teacher, Writer, Journalist, Actor,

These people tend to embrace big ideas and actions that reflect their sense of hope and goodwill toward others.

They tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle where everything is connected

There are two basic things that Campaigners seek most in the workplace: The chance to explore new ideas, and the chance to conduct that exploration alongside other people who share their excitement.

Campaigners thrive on the ability to question the status quo and explore the alternatives

Campaigners’ ability to network and match the communication styles of their audience means that even as they explore new challenges on their own, they will be able to work with others, explore others’ perspectives and glean new insights into their projects.

Much of modern progress stems from incorporating other studies into typically disassociated fields, and no one is better equipped to merge broad interests than talented, energetic and future-minded Campaigners.

Now on the one hand you could say "Val, you just cherry-picked the things you liked or that you already knew about yourself and ignored the things that didn't resonate" and to some degree that is absolutely what I did. But like I said before, why is that wrong? Instead of letting this test tell me I can't do something or I'll inevitably be bad at a particular path if I try it, I am looking at where it says I'm adaptable and intuitive and creative and innovative. Those qualities will serve me well as I work to serve you in your diverse projects and industries. I look at the part that says I don't like regimented or hierarchical or micromanaged workplaces and interpret that to mean I made the right choice in not pursuing work in areas like that. I feel good about being entrepreneurial because I am more likely to be successful working on my own or with peers who share my passion. I guess you could say I'm using confirmation bias to my advantage. I'm allowing it to give me a little boost of courage.

So I guess if I had to have a thesis for this winding string of thoughts, it would be that all personality tests should be taken with a grain of salt. They should never be used as a singular judge of anything in any context. But if you seem to see the same results across multiple tests and those results affirm choices that you have made or want to make, I say enjoy the support these results provide you.

And also: this Campaigner is at your service!

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