Personality Tests: An Open Thread

the best personality tests for working womenHave you taken any personality tests, either out of curiosity or because your job required it? Did you get anything worthwhile out of it, or learn anything new about yourself? Which do you think are the best personality tests for working women? At my last nonprofit employer, we all took the DiSC assessment and then sat through an extensive training session about applying the principles at work. The training session was interesting and the tips seemed useful, and my seemingly accurate assessment results gave me some insight into my personality. Still, five years later I can barely remember what we learned — or my personality type. So, in the long run, I don’t think it was that helpful for me. (I do remember the facilitator said my results suggested good customer service skills, but then I already knew that.)

Pictured: this lovely little keychain is $1.95 at Etsy, available from seller Bohemian Findings

Today we thought we’d ask the readers about personality tests — your experiences with them and your opinions about how useful they are. (I’m thinking that some of you must have more intriguing stories than mine.) First off, though, 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 I’ve 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 WSJ reports 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

Readers: Which personality tests have you taken — any of these, or any others not listed here? Was it your choice to take them, or was it a job (or job-interview) requirement? Which ones have provided valuable insight for how you view the world? Have they caused you to reevaluate the way you see yourself, or the way you interact with others? 


  1. Anonymous :

    I find it hard to take them because I feel like I know what the “right” answer is and not what would actually be true for me.

    • pugsnbourbon :

      I overthink personality tests so hard … which probably says something about my personality.

      I found the DiSC assessment to be the most helpful to me because I had less than 15 minutes to take it. However, it was easy to see how my situation at the time influenced my answers, so I’m not sure how consistent the results would be if I were to take it again.

    • Me too. I also think the type of people that want to be self-aware enough to take these tests… are the same people who are already self-aware enough to identify their core personality attributes without sitting through them.

      • Anonymous :

        Exactly. In a world where I am rich and don’t work, I am not a planner. I call up my similar friends and we jet to Tahiti. Or go to my beach house.

        But I work for a living and have learned that if I don’t plan things, nothing gets done. So that skews things (and the fact that this is always in a work setting, as opposed to seeing if I make an awesome nextdoor neighbor in our fly-in fly-out private pilot subdivision where we have hangars for our planes instead of garages, which I would).

  2. I’ve taken three (for school, for work, for fun):

    Myers Briggs – INTP
    Strengths Finder – need to look it up, but Communicate was the big one
    Fascinate – The Anchor

    All of these describe me to a T. In house attorney, introvert :)

    • Anonymous :

      I have heard that “NT” is the lawyer type.

      I am an ENTP (with N that is off the chart). That seems to be rarer among lawyers.

  3. pugsnbourbon :

    Threadjack – pretty stoked to finally see some good political news coming out of my state (Indiana). Tanya Walton Pratt is kicking a$$ today.

    • ooh, i need to look that up! I have family members who worked with TWP when she was in state court, so good to hear she’s kicking a$$ :)

    • Another from Indiana! :

      I thought I was alone here. And yes, props to her!

  4. I’ve taken several, and they have confirmed what I think about myself. The best outcome, though, has been the insight offered into other personality types. I think I’m more patient now with, say, people who have to talk through a problem or those who want to include EVERYONE in a decision.

  5. I first did Myers Briggs over Thanksgiving with my huge family. My mother administered it. And then I did it again for a former employer.

    I’m an INTP

    I also did this Kiersey Temperament Thing when I was in a leadership role in Junior League:

    I’m a Rational. I was the only Rational on the board. I’m good at math. Problem solving is one of my skills. I’ll be the first to tell you if your idea doesn’t make any sense, but otherwise I’m quiet and I’ll be sitting in the back…

  6. I was in a leadership program where we took the Birkman. it is hands-down the best work personality assessment tool I’ve come across.

  7. Anonymous :

    I did MBTI as a government employee. INTJ. Fits me to a T.

    StrengthsFinder at my current gig as part of a leadership program along with another that I don’t remember the name–clearly it was life changing…
    Input is my #1, followed by Deliberative. It was really interesting, but I don’t think it helped me any with work.

    The most interesting thing I did was a StrengthsFinder workshop with me and my direct reports. You see everyone’s top 5, and it’s fascinating.

  8. I’ve taken several, and agree with previous comments that it can be easy to figure out the “right” answer and cheat the test. Also, it does depend on what’s going on in your life at the moment. Not quite the same, but the most insight I’ve received about myself came after reading the Love Languages book. That was a big “ah ha” for me and has helped in my communications with people going forward.

    • +1 to Love Languages as a helpful assessment. I see it improve my personal relationships, but I hadn’t considered it for workplace relationships. Our leadership model stresses ‘the right recognition for the right person’ (ie – a thank you note for some; stand up recognition for others), and LL could probably be adapted for that some how.

  9. Anonymous :

    We did Insite Discovery at work years ago and it was creepily accurate. Out of 17 pages there was only a phrase that didn’t apply to me. We spent a day learning how to work with each other and our staff depending on their personalities. It also gives you your dominant traits when you’re at work and then at home. Mine are significantly different, which explains why I can find work so stressful–I’m pushing traits that are out of my comfort zone at work.

  10. Anonymous :

    ehhh every time I’ve taken a Myers Briggs test I’ve gotten something different so for me it’s kind of worthless. Why would anyone put their personality type in their linkedin profile? that’s ridiculous.

    • Did you do them in different settings? I get different MB types depending on whether I am taking it in a professional setting or in a personal life setting, but the two personality descriptions are spot-on – I’m just two different people depending on whether I’m home or in the office.

  11. Coach Laura :

    INTJ here. I remember taking Myers Briggs while working as a retail manager and was the only “IN” in a class of 30 retail people and realizing that that may have been why I was unhappy, prodding me to take a job in finance that fits me.

    I also remember taking a different one (can’t remember the name) about five years later and being forced, along with the rest of the group, to disclose our “color chart.” Then watched my manager denigrate those in sales positions who were introverts and saw that it affected her evaluation of those people’s strengths and weaknesses: that is, she felt that introverts would be unable to be successful in any sales position. So not always a fan of the way these tests can potentially be used.

    • I am currently reading Robert Herjavec’s book You Don’t Have to be A Shark, in which he discusses being an introvert in sales. It’s a fairly light read, I’m enjoying it thus far.

  12. My issue with personality/strength tests in the professional settings I’ve experienced them (including an official MB exam with two one-on-one sessions), is that I receive my own results and no one elses. So I’ve received confirmation about what I already know but no new information that would help me work with my colleagues. If I don’t see their information, what is the actual point of it??

    The most helpful for education/workplace that I’ve done was one long ago that identified learning styles. The materials associated with the results could have been much improved to layout specific techniques fir each style – but once I learned to adapt things to my strengths, I really saw improvement. (Ie, as a knetic learner I write and rewrite important instructions or plans).

  13. Meg Murry :

    The most useful personality test I’ve ever done is Social Styles – and even that is more about communication preferences than actual personality, and it was really only useful because I got a full day training to go along with it about how to best communicate with others who weren’t necessarily my same type, and because many people at my org have done the training, so we could all talk about who was which type.

    The key to the training I took was that I didn’t fill out a self assessment like MBTI – instead, I had to have current and former colleagues fill it in about me. So in the end it gave me a report that showed me how I am coming across at work – which I think is more important than what I think I am. It also pointed out some key “when you are stressed, you may tend to do X, which is good for reason A but could cause problems with B” – which, while I already kind of knew, it was good to have spelled out that clearly.

    In that personality test, the main factors are whether you are more or less assertive (do you tend to “ask” or “tell”) and whether you are more “task focus” or more “relationship focused”. It also gets into things like whether you tend to want to make decisions quickly or whether you are the type to want a ton of data to back up decisions, if you have a high or low tolerance for risk, etc.

  14. Minnie Beebe :

    I worked with a career coach a few years ago who administered both an Emotional Intelligence test (MSCEIT) as well as something called the Enneagram. I found both to be very interesting, and an accurate assessment of my personality, though I’m not certain I would have said that before reviewing the results with the coach– she was able to provide some clarity that I would not have had without her expertise.

    At work, everyone here takes a test called the Predictive Index as part of the hiring process. It’s okay – it’s a simplified view of your personality in specific areas. (I say it’s okay, but I just went back to read through my personal assessment, and it’s pretty spot on, even if I don’t really want to cop to that!)

    I’ve also done an MBTI, but it was many years ago and I’m not sure my results would be the same now.

  15. lost academic :

    I’ve been told that certain tests give valid results really only when they are administered by an experienced professional.

  16. I’m an INFJ, which totally fits with where I’m practicing and what I would do instead- if I wasn’t going into legal aid, I would be a social worker, 100%. I’ve also taken the Enneagram and I’m a 2, which is hilariously accurate.

    • Another INFJ over here! I’ve also done Strengths Finder, and my top five in order were Input, Intellection, Learner, Individualization, and Competition. It was actually pretty eye-opening for me to take the SF test because until that moment I hadn’t realized that being able to learn and disseminate information was a skill; I just thought it was something everyone did.

    • Funny I am an ENFJ and also a 2 on the Enneagram. I find the Enneagram fascinating and it has helped me and my husband so much in navigating our marital relationship. He is an 8. It seems to have the most depth in my experience. In addition to MBTI and Enneagram I have taken Sally Hogshead’s (“The Victor”).

    • I did career counseling (law is not a good fit for me…but I’m still in it). ISTJ and doing my duty, always.

      I felt like the MBTI kind of locked me into my personality, whereas the Enneagram helped me see where my personality can evolve and change. As a 5, I always felt a bit like a curmudgeon, but now I see that my loner tendencies can be put to good use.

  17. I’ve taken MB (I’m an ENFJ). I work as a business development manager surrounded by engineers…surprise, most are introverts. One in particular drove me nuts and I learned his type was INTJ. Well as I mentioned it at home my then 9 yr old son asked about it and for giggles we had him take the online quiz. Turns out he was also an INTJ. At that moment I was struck by the fact that while my son and I sometimes have disagreements, I love him greatly for the traits he does have. Seeing that humanity made me rethink the INTJ jerk in my office. It forced me to see him as a person and not encapsulate him in the test results. I kept thinking about how I’d feel if someone was as annoyed by my son as I was by my office mate. Now we never became friends but I did feel that this was a lesson in patience and communication for me.

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