Can One Size Fit All?

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One size can't fit all

“…personality tests are often invalid, unreliable, and unfair…” according to Annie Murphy Paul in her book titled: “The Cult of Personality – How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves”.

If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you’ll know that I agree with this statement —- to a point. And that point is — when used *outside the scope of their original intent*, personality profiles, and tests of any sort for that matter, are a total waste of time. In fact, I think they do more harm than good.

For instance, let’s say you used a test developed to assess whether someone would be a good sales person and then used it for selecting inside sales-people. If you made a decision not to hire someone for an inside sales job based on their results of the test, you’d be doing both yourself and the applicant harm. And, of course open yourself up to litigation for discrimination.

Kudos to the Myers & Briggs Foundation

Kudos to the Myers & Briggs Foundation for recognizing this limitation. In the interests of fair disclosure, neither Dynamic Performance Systems Inc. or any of its employees have any affiliation with Myers-Briggs or derive any financial benefits from M-B or any of its affiliates.

They publish a “Be Wary” list at

Myers Briggs Ethics

Past Ethical Guidelines

“Here are some ways to judge if a website or web page has inadequate or misleading information about psychological type or offer services that may not be backed by professional standards and practices.

  1. Be wary if a site says it will reveal answers such as the best job for you, the type you should marry, or the type of employees you should hire.
  2. Be wary of a site that says or implies some types are better, healthier, or more desirable in any way than others.
  3. Be wary of a site that presents type preferences as skills, ability, or indicators of mental health or illness.

 Items 4 through 6 omitted for brevity sake.

   7. Be wary if a site offers instruments purporting to measure psychological type yet offers no information on reliability, validity, and research of these claims.”

I should point out here that our site at clearly shows the organization that’s conducted independent validation and reliability studies on the FranchiZe Predictor. I’d be happy to share this info with you. Just send me a private message for your copy.

Continuing the list…

Items 8 through 10 omitted for brevity sake.

”  11. Be wary of a site that presents type preferences as fixed behaviors or stereotypes that do not vary among individuals or insinuates that type explains everything about an individual.”

Note point #1 above “…the type of employees you should hire.”

The real failing of personality tests is not a function of the test itself, but rather the use of it in ways that were not originally intended. To put it bluntly, most tests simply weren’t designed to predict whether someone would be a good employee. Instead, they’re designed to describe a personality. There’s a huge difference between the two. Even leaving out the issue of how accurately the test describes personality.

One point we agree on

One point that Ms. Paul and I agree on. She writes on page 223:

“…assessments of workers and student should be concerned with their specific abilities, not with overarching judgments of their personalities.”

In fact, doing otherwise runs you afoul of EEOC legislation.

On the whole, I think the book was well researched and a surprisingly easy read. If you’re at all interested in personality profiles, I think the book will give you some new insights (and a few laughs as well).

However, Ms. Paul does seem to have a bone to pick with the industry. I have no idea what it may be. Perhaps the tone of the book and the quotes used for promotion are simply a result of the philosophy that “controversy sells”. Or perhaps she, or a relative was denied a job or promotion based on a personality test. I don’t know.

It’s a shame, because if this were an exploration of personality profiles without the injection of her dislike for them, I think her book would be much more effective. Especially if she focused more on the limitations and benefits of personality profiles rather than a single-minded attack.

Need credible research

If you’ve seen credible research by an independent third party on the effectiveness of personality profiles in selecting franchisees, I’d appreciate your sharing it with me. I’d also be happy to share it with other readers as well.

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