Author Bio: Sophie Summers is a freelance copywriter with a background in the Arts, an extensive behind-the-scenes knowledge of luxury fashion and retail, imminent traveller and writer of “motions-emotions”. 

Most of us have probably taken a personality test, whether knowingly or not, and there are two camps when it comes to the usefulness of personality testing within the workplace. Those who see an applicable benefit to everyday working practices and those who, well, just don’t.

Increasingly, human resource teams are turning to personality profiling pre-hire, to determine the types of characteristics that would benefit their workforce. In fact, according to 2014 research by business insight group CEB, around 62% of HR teams use this method when selecting which candidates they would like to pursue.

There are literally thousands of versions of personality tests on the market but probably the most famous of these is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – which breaks us down using four key differentiating factors;

  • Extraversion (E)/ Introversion (I)
  • Sensing (S)/ Intuition (N)
  • Thinking (T)/ Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J)/ Perceiving (P)

It’s argued that, from this list of eight choices, our character can be boxed into 16 possible trait combinations – each recognisably different in nature from one another and capable of delivering different benefits. For example:

  • INTJ The Scientists: Skilled at grasping particularly complex ideas and being able to strategise.
  • INFP The Artists: Not only do they tend to excel in the creative industries but they might also make great teachers – due to their ability to deliver information in an engaging way.
  • ENTJ The Executives: Born leaders with excellent organisational skills and powers of understanding.

This method of personality testing has enthralled the corporate world because it’s viewed as an effective means of understanding and developing, not only yourself, but your wider working team. Knowing what makes people tick can be a key to understanding how you can motivate and inspire them – which forms a vital part of a healthy business, which retains and grows its people.

Useful insight

What’s the real benefit of you knowing that I’m an ESTJ though, and how do you apply that knowledge? Well, determining interpersonal characteristics that may be required for certain jobs and, also, how someone’s personality traits might alter the way that they interact with others, allows you to tailor your own behaviours – to make for better working relationships.

If you know, for example, that an ISFP is averse to sharing their thoughts in group situation, you might choose a one-on-one approach to working with them. Introverts, after all, are deep thinkers who take their time to work things through, so it’s highly beneficial to find a way of working which allows ideas to be comfortably expressed.

One of the tricky things about personality testing, particularly introversion vs extroversion is that employers sometimes think they know what they want before they’ve found it. Introversion is often viewed with a slightly negative lens when it comes to employability, because businesses think they need the outward confidence of extroverts. But introverts are creative thinkers and problem solvers – which is a great thing to have in any team.

As a startup you’re seeking to better understand and develop your team. The key is understanding when and why to apply personality in the workplace.

The purpose of personality testing is increasingly becoming a means of weeding out unsuitable candidates ahead of hiring – as opposed to harnessing increased knowledge of personalities within an existing team, to work out how to strengthen it. This could mean that valuable and varied talent is being missed. Investigative Writer, Barbara Ehrenreich observes the perceptions of introverts and extroverts – from an employer’s perspective;

“In reality, they [employers] are not looking for introverts. Even if what you are doing is looking at figures all day. They want everyone in the environment to be perky and positive and upbeat at all times.”

It’s a great misconception that introversion equals unfriendliness or a lack of team spirit. On the contrary, introverts tend to be excellent listeners and so are much more likely to be able to help nurture talent within the team.

So instead of using it as a recruitment tool, a practical application of personality testing at work might be designing team building exercises which benefit the needs of all the various types – instead of having employees perform group exercises which involve standing at the front of a room, delivering the task.

Another way of using the insight gained, to yield further valuable ideas, might be to tailor think tank sessions within your business – so that the forum is varied and not only supportive of the very outspoken.

Then there’s the delivery of feedback and training – the method of which will be received very differently – and with differing effectiveness – depending on the employee personality type.

Using common sense

Whilst it’s certainly insightful to use personality testing, us human beings are far too complex to be pigeonholed into 16 categories. A common-sense approach to working with your team should be adopted.

The most important thing to foster within your business is diversity, since diverse teams serve a company much better than single-minded ones. If you’re searching for one type, you might stifle creativity – after all, bouncing ideas off one another would never happen if we all had the same ones.

“Gender and temperament equality… benefits everyone: such diversity is proven to enhance creativity and boost productivity. Without gender- and temperament-inclusive cultures, organizations suffer from innovation deficits.”


Take the test

Why not try a version of the test yourself? Here is an accurate free personality test.