Recently someone close to me started back on the job hunt. Scouring posts, job boards and meeting with staffing agencies was just the first stop on this journey.  Brushing up the resume and making sure cover letters encompassed years of work experience in less than a page is par for the course. But today’s employers are as interested in cultural fit as they are in skillsets, and that means today’s job search comes with new requirements – with some companies asking potential employees to complete some form of personality test even before scheduling an interview. And here is the kicker: you don’t actually get to see those results. The company receives them directly. It was as if you took the SAT, but only colleges saw your score – you had no idea how you ranked.

Personality tests are nothing new. For years you’ve taken the Myers-Briggs to see if you were an INTJ or ESFP or somewhere in between. I remember taking the Myers-Briggs in college, when it was interesting how your personality type could correlate to a future career. But that was it: self-awareness. I am more extroverted, so that is something I am aware of in social or professional interactions: I tone it down, listen with more intentionality. But that personality test did not label me and put me in a box to tell me I’ll never be more than that score – it was informational. Are companies taking the same cue? Using these results to know the leaning of a potential candidate’s personality? Or are they using these tests to limit a person’s potential? Companies are investing dollars into paying for these tests to be completed, so they must feel there is value.

Another Day, Another Personality Test

Newer on the scene are Enneagram results.  Are you a 1? Or a 9? What if you’re a 7 married to a 2? I’ve seen countless social media posts about a person’s “number” and was surprised by the amount of discussion. The whole thing is eerily similar to horoscopes, if you ask me. Can a fire sign be married to a water sign?  The plot thickens.

Using Personality Data

Some companies may share personality assessment data with candidates, but the majority appear to be using it as a part of the pre-interview vetting process. The problem with that is that just because a person is wired one way does not mean they do not possess the skill set to never move beyond that.  Plenty of my friends and coworkers identify more as introverts, but are some of the best salespeople and presenters I’ve ever encountered. I dare say knowing your own proclivities makes you work harder to excel in areas that do not come naturally to you. It concerns me that personality test results are given so much influence in determining the correct fit for job roles.  Past experience and education should carry far more weight than a DISC assessment or Myers-Briggs result.

So where do we go from here?  Should you pad your answers to assessments to get the outcome most desired? How do you know what that outcome is? Should you ask how these results will be used before taking the test? These questions will vary by company, no doubt, but at the end of the day if you are taking a personality assessment of some kind, you should know how the prospective company will be using the data. If they are using that assessment to box you in, perhaps consider a different employer.  Is the employer making the candidate self-aware of their tendencies, or are they using it to make a determination of success? You know your worth and value based on your experience—not the results of a rote personality assessment. Make sure a potential employer feels the same.

And if they ever ask you your sign, I would definitely turn and run.

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Jennifer Thorndyke is a wife and mom who enjoys intelligent conversation, strong coffee, and southern food.