I’m an ISFP, according to a test I took this morning. Or going by the one I took years ago, an INFP who is “turbulent” and may get a different result each time. The Myers-Briggs test is a fun way to spend an hour in self-absorption, but a terrible way to make decisions that affect somebody’s livelihood.
If people are being passed over for opportunities because of how they scored on a silly quiz, that’s capricious and unfair.
Another way companies use the test is to get employees talking about how they prefer to communicate, or what kinds of work they find fulfilling. Honest communication is good! But the Myers-Briggs isn’t going to have any greater insights than having a team-building retreat where the employee reads their horoscope aloud or draws tarot cards.
Do you feel energised when you interact with people (E for Extrovert) or does it make you feel exhausted and you need to be alone to recharge (I for Introvert)?
When you gather information, do you focus on details and practicalities (S for Sensing) or do you think about the “big picture” and what you dream is possible (N for iNtuiting)?
When you make decisions, do you emphasise logic and fairness (T for Thinking) or compassion and personal values (F for Feeling)?
When you look to the future, do you make detailed plans and stick to them (J for Judging) or do you wing it and look for more information as you go (P for Perceiving)?
The result is a four-letter code, and you can google endlessly to read about what your personality type supposedly says about you.
What You Can Actually Use the Myers-Briggs For
I’m serious about the Myers-Briggs being like tarot cards. Say you’re asking the deck for advice on a problem you’re having. You draw one of the 72 cards — all deep in layers of symbolism, illustrated on the card and explained to you by the person doing the reading—and then you consider how this card applies to your situation.
The magic isn’t in the card, because it’s just a piece of paper chosen at random. But when you start thinking “How is my relationship with deadbeat roommate like The Magician?” you may see aspects of your problem that you hadn’t considered before.
Any personality test can work this way. “I’m an ISFP”, you can say to your co-worker, who has just been through the same silly test. And then you can bond over similarities or embrace differences. In the process, you’ll certainly talk about which parts of the description you match and which feel like a stretch.
For example, the first letter of your Myers-Briggs code is either I for introvert, or E for extrovert. Few people fall solidly into one or the other, so labelling someone for all eternity is pointless. But in discussing your “type,” you might realise that you find interacting with people to be exhausting in some scenarios and energizing in others. That’s good to know, and great to be able to communicate to the people you work with.
Why It’s Terrible for Making Meaningful Decisions
For anything beyond a conversation starter, personality tests are the wrong tool for the job. Even CPP, which sells Myers-Briggs-related services to companies, warns that “The MBTI questionnaire should never be used in recruitment or selection because it does not measure a person’s skills or abilities ̶ just their underlying personality preferences.”
If the right person for the job happens to be an ENFJ when you’re looking for an INTP, it’s usually perfectly legal to reject or fire them on the basis of that test. But it’s a boneheaded a move, just like if you fired them because they’re a Virgo and you somehow decided you’re looking for a Leo.
And because the test is so variable, and predicts next to nothing about future performance, it can feel like a waste of time and resources.
If you want to get your employees talking about how they like to communicate and solve problems, why not skip the test? In its place you can have a good, old fashioned, bullshit-free conversation.