The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, frequently shorted to MBTI, is the most common and most popular personality test in the world. With some estimations suggesting 89 of the Fortune 100 companies use MBTI during or after hiring, and somewhere between 2 and 3.5 million assessments administered each year, it would be difficult to refute the cultural significance of the test.
While the validity of using MBTI in hiring is often discussed, much of this discussion revolves around making hiring decisions based on MBTI, “pigeonholing” candidates based on test results, and determining that a candidate might not be suitable for a role based on assessment results. The MBTI foundation maintains these practices are unethical and outside the reach of what MBTI can or should do.
At the same time, MBTI can still provide valuable insight into hiring, people, and their choices. Modern assessments typically use multiple personality tests, IQ tests, and capacity tests to attempt to get a full picture of a candidate before hiring, and MBTI can definitely add value.
What the MBTI Does Not Do
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessments are based on scientific research by Carl Jung and closely align with concepts such as the Big 5 Personality types. However, these assessments are delivered in work settings, without validation, and are sometimes biased because of the intent or perceptions of the persons administering them. Therefore, MBTI is not a foolproof, scientific personality assessment. In fact, such a thing does not really exist because personalities are constantly changing.
MBTI is not fool-proof – People change, candidates can answer based on what they think employers want to hear, and candidates can test multiple times and receive different results. Don’t use the MBTI as a definitive personality map, but rather as a personal reporting tool.
MBTI doesn’t predict performance – While many organizations are prone to using MBTI to determine job performance, MBTI cannot be used in this way. The Myers-Briggs Foundation maintains that all types are equal, and most will excel in the same ways. Motivational and capacity tests looking into knowledge, skill, training, character, interpersonal dynamics, personal life, and company culture are much more adequate for determining performance.
Myers-Briggs should not be used to make hiring decisions. It can be used to inform hiring decisions and to help you in a variety of ways when evaluating and considering candidates.
Understanding Success for the Candidate
While each of the types are equal, they are also different. You shouldn’t use MBTI to decide not to hire someone for a role, for example, not hiring a person for sales because they rank high on introversion, but you can use it to determine what they might need for success in their role.
MBTI can help you determine factors such as:
- Motivators – Is the candidate motivated by career opportunities? Financial incentives? Social recognition? Personal development? Opportunities?
- Culture-Fit – Will the candidate fit neatly into the existing culture? Will they bring dynamic and change? Will they clash?
- Autonomy – How much autonomy does the candidate want or need? Will they excel with a manager who works with everything they do? Will they excel in flat structures? Are they a potential candidate for leadership?
- Change – Will the candidate adapt well to upcoming change? How much preparation do they need?
Answering these kinds of questions can help you get a better picture of the person you’re hiring, fit them into a better team, and ensure that management and HR have the tools needed to work with them.
Improve Team Placement
Teams should be made up of diverse personalities and therefore diverse MBTI types. Unfortunately, people tend to flock to others of the same type. Myers-Briggs assessments can aid in team placement in two ways:
1) Leadership Fit
What MBTI type is the team manager or scrum leader? Does it work with the candidate’s communication style? NF types communicate in abstracts and make decisions with groups. SP types communicate pragmatic decisions and concrete ideas. While you want some diversity in teams, it’s important that your candidate be able to work with leadership, understand them, and communicate well with them.
2) Team Diversification
Diversity breeds creativity and culture. People tend to flock together and create silos. Purposely hiring to build teams of different personality types can greatly aid in changing that by putting different types of people together, forcing that creativity, and creating balance. Here, team composition frameworks can be of use, and Myers-Briggs will simply complement that.
Making Hiring Decisions
Myers-Briggs is one tool out of dozens and should be just a tiny fraction of your hiring decision. While there are stories of people hiring based on specific personality type or excluding personality types such as those showing introversion, this is likely a mistake. Instead, Myers-Briggs should be combined with data from other hiring assessments to determine personality, to assess how honest the individual likely is on assessments including the MBTI, and to diversify personality types being hired.
This can extend to:
- Ensuring personality types don’t clash
- Complimenting strengths and weaknesses across teams
- Ensuring communication types match up as much as is practical or feasible
- Developing guidelines for personal motivation and development
- Creating development guidelines for the individual as they onboard
MBTI assessments are popular, and for good reason. They can make a difference in your hiring processes, most notably by giving you a larger and more informed picture of the candidate. While they won’t make hiring decisions for you, understanding a candidates MBTI can help you to place them, fit them into the right team, and make the right decisions during hiring to ensure everyone benefits.