7 Things We Keep Getting Wrong About Personality Assessments21 April 2023 / By Elizabeth Harris Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on March 15, 2023
There are some really great reasons to take a personality test. Understanding your own strengths and motivations can help you make better decisions about what kind of career, lifestyle and relationships are right for you and, let's face it, it feels good to know yourself.
But if you’re trying to use personality assessments as a fix-all solution, you’re doing it wrong. While tests can be a helpful and effective tool to improve your understanding of yourself and others, there are limitations to what they can do for you.
Here are seven things we keep getting wrong about personality assessments, plus some tips for using them more effectively at work and in life.
#1: Thinking a test can tell you everything
Personality tests can be used as guides, but they don’t tell you everything about another person or about yourself. If you go into a personality test thinking that it’s going to fix everything in your life, you’re going to be disappointed. There’s still more that needs to be done!
A personality test can tell you your biggest strengths, weaknesses and even your fears and motivations, but it can’t tell you how to live your life. It can’t tell you your core values, your personal philosophy or the path your life is going to take. You’ll need to figure those out on your own!
Tip: Use your personality test results as a foundation to then dig deeper into what makes you unique. Look at your upbringing, values, experiences and choices to explore the full complexity and richness of who you are.
#2: Forgetting outside influences
Whenever you answer questions on a personality test, you’re also channeling the influences of your parents, teachers, environment and social context. That means there’s a high chance you’ve absorbed biases that make you think you are a certain way. For example, if you’ve ever been called bossy or aggressive when you were growing up, you might have taken that label and used it to shape your understanding of yourself. This may be reflected in your test.
Tip: It’s important to remember that your personality test results are just one version of you. They may be shaped by other people’s ideas of who you are, and they’re not something you need to define yourself by if you don’t want to. If it doesn’t feel right for you, ignore the results and move on.
#3: Thinking you can’t change
Behavior is fluid. The way you react to things can change depending on your environment, different phases of your life and your relationships - and you are not set in stone. There’s always space for personal development and anyone can increase or temper aspects of their personality type if they choose to.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. You may never change your basic personality type but you can learn new skills, increase self-awareness and work on your biggest weaknesses in an effort to change your ways. You have the power to control how you react to certain situations, people and challenges. Self-development is a powerful tool for shaping personality.
#4: Using personality tests in hiring
Personality tests are useful to give you an idea of where different individuals’ strengths and weaknesses lie in a team but using personality tests in hiring means you run the risk of ruling out qualified candidates. Every personality type has the potential to excel in a role; they just go about the job differently. When used incorrectly, personality testing can result in organizations excluding certain people from the workplace, reducing diversity.
Tip: Some tests like skills and aptitude tests can be used very effectively in hiring but they're not the same as personality tests. If you are using testing in your hiring process, make sure they’re tailored to career planning and development. Save personality tests like TypeFinder for after you’ve got your team together to help you figure out how best to work together.
#5: Using them to shift the blame
If you’ve ever heard someone use their personality type to explain away their bad behavior, that’s a red flag! Anyone who’s using their personality type as an excuse to act badly is getting it really wrong.
Tip: Knowing your personality type - for example, your Enneagram type - can give you an insight into your motivations, fears and unhealthy extremes. It’s a useful roadmap to see how you act and react in certain situations. But ultimately every person has control over their own actions. A personality test isn’t an excuse to act out of line and blame it on your ‘inherent traits;’ you will always have to take responsibility for your choices.
#6: Only doing one test
To get an accurate picture of your personality, it’s important to take multiple tests to get a clearer idea of your core traits, your emotional motivations and your desires. If you just take a Myers and Briggs test, for example, you’ll get a look at how you think, behave and interact with others. But you’ll be missing emotional insights into your personality like the Enneagram gives you. And you definitely won't know what love language your partner speaks!
Tip: Don’t make the mistake of taking one test and thinking you have a complete picture. To really make personality testing work for you, try to get a spectrum of different test results to see the rich patchwork of traits that make you, you!
#7: Taking them as read
While personality tests can be a useful blueprint for understanding your personality, they are not concrete. Some people might get inaccurate results or their results may change over time, depending on the context the test was taken in and their life stage. For example, if you’re taking a personality test at work or with a big group of friends, you might find you get different results than when you’re taking the test alone and are able to take more time to consider your answers and be self-reflective.
Tip: Think of your personality type as a handbook to help you know yourself better but also as something that can be changed and worked on. Viewing it as a tool rather than an immutable fact can help you work towards finding true self-actualization in a positive, productive and beneficial way.
Random personality junkie (not verified) says...
I used to put all my heart into personality tests, thinking they can tell me everything. I also used to think they were concrete, and forget that my feelings could influence the results. And I used to change my results on a personality test when it contradicted other tests. Now I know that this is not the way to use personality tests and I realise that they only take out what you put in. I also want to be truthful on tests and examine my results carefully.