The Working Woman’s Guide to Personality Tests

Even if you haven’t yet taken a personality test, you’re likely to do so at some point in your career — companies from retail stores to investment banks include them in the hiring process, while some employers use them as part of staff training sessions. You may even decide to take one or two for your own curiosity or to help market yourself as a job candidate.

Let’s review some of the most common personality tests:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): If you’ve only heard of one personality test, it’s most likely this one, first published in 1944. (Its supporters say it’s technically not a “personality test,” but we’re calling it that anyway.) Myers-Briggs is so ubiquitous that you may have seen people indicate on their LinkedIn or Twitter profiles that they’re, say, IFNP. The MBTI was created by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, who looked to Carl Jung’s theory that humans experience their lives through four main psychological functions: sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking (and that one usually dominates). (Interesting women’s history tidbit: Briggs and Myers began working on the MBTI during WWII with an aim to help women figure out which industrial wartime jobs would suit them best.) The test assesses Extraversion (E) vs. Introversion (I), Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N), Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F), and Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P), which combine to make 16 possible personality types. Despite the test and types being frequently criticized over the years, the MBTI is still very popular, as Forbes described in this 2014 piece.

StrengthsFinder: This test originated in the 2001 bestselling management book Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. It was updated to the StrengthsFinder 2.0 in 2007. (You can take the test online with an access code from the book.) The StrengthsFinder aims to reveal a person’s “talent themes” that influence her skill development and success in certain fields. The Gallup Organization came up with the 34 talent themes — which include communication, empathy, harmony, and self-assurance, just to name a few — and the online test is supposed to reveal an individual’s top five. The WSJreports that Facebook (the company, that is, not the app) uses the StrengthsFinder test. Like the MBTI, the StrengthsFinder has received some criticism.

DISC: This behavior assessment tool, also popular in the business world, uses the DISC theory of psychologist William Moulton Marston, who saw people as having four core behavioral traits (now called Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Consciences). And as Wikipedia describes it, psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke “accidentally construct[ed]” the DISC assessment in 1956 using Marston’s theory. It was meant to identify these patterns in its subjects: Achiever, Agent, Appraiser, Counselor, Creative, Developer, Inspirational, Investigator, Objective Thinker, Perfectionist, Persuader, Practitioner, Promoter, Result-oriented, and Specialist, although today you can find a variety of versions of the test. DiSC with a lowercase “i” is this one, the test I mentioned that I took, and it measures four things: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness.

Fascination Advantage system: Sally Hogshead — author, speaker, and “world-class branding expert” — developed this personality test and wrote the book Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation. Her pitch for the test, which is meant to measure what makes a particular person “fascinating,” states, “this assessment is not about how you see the world — it’s how the world sees you.” The 28 questions take five minutes and determine a person’s primary Fascination Advantage (“who you are when you are at your best”: Innovation, Passion, Power, Prestige, Trust, Mystique, or Alert) and personality Archetype (of which there are 49). The online test is free, but you can pay to get more insight about your interactions with others. Marie Forleo once talked to Sally Hogshead on MarieTV, which you can listen to here.

Further reading:

(Originally published on Corporette.)

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