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Why Using the MBTI to Select a Career is Good, but Using It to Select a New Hire Isn’t

Why Using the MBTI to Select a Career is Good, but Using It to Select a New Hire Isn’t

Are you confused about Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment’s role in career selection? If so, you’re not alone. For decades, the Myers-Briggs assessment has been used in college career planning and other programs designed to help people identify and flourish in the right career. Yet, if you’ve followed the news, you may have heard that CPP, the MBTI instrument publisher, opposes using the MBTI as a hiring tool. So what gives? Does the MBTI assessment, or does it not, identify how someone will perform in a certain career?

In a nutshell, the MBTI tool provides a great deal of insight into how we’re likely to think, act and interact in a particular work environment–making it useful in career selection–but it isn’t designed to predict how we’ll perform within that environment, making its use in hiring selection inappropriate. Other instruments, such as the California Psychological Inventory™ (CPI™) assessments, are designed to be used in this capacity.

MBTI Use in career counselling

For several decades CPP has been collecting data regarding the relative frequency of each of the 16 personality types within a wide range of careers, published in MBTI Type Tables for Occupations. This data, along with individual MBTI results from a certified practitioner, typically serves two fundamental purposes in career counseling. First, it can help identify where people of similar personality type have found satisfying careers. This is particularly beneficial in exposing people to a wider range of careers than those they might normally consider. Second, it can help people make more informed career decisions by providing insight into the kind of work environment and work culture that predominates a particular profession.

For example, MBTI results yield a wealth of information regarding how our work style and communication preferences may play out within an engineering team, identifying potential areas of challenge and areas of advantage. The MBTI, for instance, may offer insight into how the way we naturally approach a project–in terms of planning, setting and meeting deadlines and milestones–meshes with how most engineering departments run. Knowing this helps us gain a clearer picture of what day-to-day life as an engineer will be like for us, and that insight can be factored into a career decision.

Preference vs. Aptitude

However, the MBTI isn’t designed to predict aptitude, or our grasp of fundamental skills or principles related to a certain profession. You may have a personality well-suited for life as an engineer in terms of work style, communication preferences, workplace culture, etc. and yet if you struggle in math, success in that field may prove challenging.

Conversely, you may have tremendous talent in physics, and possess above average visuospatial abilities, yet have type-related preferences that will present some challenges within a typical engineering environment. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t become an engineer. However, if you do choose that profession, you have a much better idea of what you’re getting yourself into, work culture-wise.

MBTI results can help complete the picture

If you want to gauge demand, salary, benefits or education requirements for a certain profession, that information is relatively easy to obtain. Insight into how your unique personality preferences may manifest themselves on the job, however, require the kind of deep dive into personality that the MBTI provides. Such knowledge helps complete the picture, so to speak, by offering insight that can be factored into career decisions alongside more tangible statistics.

Why we oppose using the MBTI in hiring selection

While the MBTI is informative in selecting a career, it should not be used as a selective tool for hiring or promotion of employers for the simple fact that it wasn’t designed to predict performance. Some confusion on this subject stems from correlations between personality type and reported income. Such correlations, however, aren’t necessarily predictive of one’s potential and don’t account for variations in individual talent, drive, intelligence or opportunity.

MBTI insights are invaluable once a hire has been made for team building, leadership development, conflict management and other uses, but as it’s not designed to measure aptitude or performance ability, it would be unethical to use it to make hiring decisions.

You can accomplish anything you put your mind to, and ultimately it is not one’s innate personality preferences, but rather their ability to fully leverage the strengths and avoid the pitfalls associated with their type that leads to success. Such self-awareness, therefore, should be considered the greater predictor of success. You don’t use the Myers-Briggs to predict how someone will perform – you use it to get the best performance out of the people you’re working with.

 

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