Dear Ready to Hire:
In assessing potential applications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) instrument, it’s helpful to think of it as an owner’s manual, rather than a buyer’s guide. You don’t use the MBTI to predict performance — you use it to get the best performance. It doesn’t hold any type as better than another; that’s not the point. Just like you don’t use the owner’s manual to select a product but rather to make best use of one that you already own, the MBTI helps to make people into better versions of themselves. This value-neutral approach makes it a very valuable tool for unlocking human potential, and may be the secret to its enduring popularity.
As a psychometrically validated tool built on decades of research, it is continually updated and conforms to all requirements for educational and psychological tests. However, while its value is well established in settings such as conflict management, leadership development and team building, the MBTI isn’t designed for selection, and using it as a hiring tool can mean overlooking otherwise excellent candidates.
CPP, the tool’s publisher, has always been against using it for any kind of selection, as it would generate invalid results in such a context. While instruments such as the California Psychological Inventor are designed to predict performance, the purpose of the MBTI has always been to develop people.
The Power of Understanding Personality Preferences
The MBTI helps clients identify innate preferences. These are not skills or abilities, but rather dispositions to think, behave and respond in certain ways, much like our right- vs. left-hand preference. MBTI type categories identify four dimensions of personality, allowing us to explore where we derive energy and focus our attention, how we take in information, the way we make decisions and how we’re oriented toward the external world. While other tools measure an amount of a behavior you may show, the MBTI is unique in that it helps you identify the deeper preferences that may fuel your behaviors, stressors, motivations and biases.
Everyone has a natural affinity for one of the two opposites on each of the four MBTI dimensions. We use both at different times — just as a person may use either hand — but we’re generally at our best and feel most competent, natural and energetic when we use our preferred functions. Through this increased self-awareness and ‘other-awareness,’ it offers insights for further developing strengths and identifying areas for improvement, as well as how to best engage with others — both of which can improve performance.
Preference vs. Potential
It’s true that personality type influences career choice, and data shows that certain MBTI types are more prevalent in various careers — this may be a source of confusion over its proper use. However, attraction to certain types of work doesn’t necessarily equate to performance potential. In any profession, you’ll find successful people of varying types.
Read Should Myers-Briggs Be Used in Entry-level Recruiting?