This article’s title in HBR says it all: Employees Can’t Be Summed Up by a Personality Test. I actually agree with that statement in that personality tests are weak. However, not all assessments are personality tests so this statement is a bit misleading.
The author’s take:
People are too interesting and too complicated to be summed up in a simple assessment.
Myers Briggs—and I would argue any personality assessment—is neither valid nor reliable. These tests identify a black and white version of people, a reduction of who they really are. They offer us the illusion of understanding at the cost of truth and freedom. Sure, they may make people more comfortable (“Oh, I understand you now”). But it’s a trick.
I couldn’t disagree more with his premise. I am not a fan of Myers Briggs as I do think it is an oversimplification. And, again, I am no fan of personality assessments. However, I think this author’s conclusion is a bridge too far. Assessments, especially the ones we use that assess communication style, motivations, aptitudes, provide an in-depth look at a person’s inner drive in ways we could never see. A dismissive wave of the hand regarding all assessments is foolish.
The most important impact assessments have is their objectivity. The assessment is not swayed by bias…it is impersonal and objective. Humans are subjective and filled with bias whether we acknowledge it or not. The biases we all have can contaminate a hiring decision with irrational, albeit subtle, decision making.
In the end, assessments are a tool to help mitigate our biases. They provide an objective view of a person in a defined and limited way. They are not the complete summation of a person, but they are a tool to help us better understand that person in ways we could not quickly determine ourselves.