Why not to use Insights, MBTI and other Jung-based models for your recruitment

As a recruitment consultant, who graduated in Psychology, I notice an increased use of assessments by companies to help them make choices in their recruitment process. Not only capacity tests are being used, but these tests are also frequently combined with personality tests. There are a lot of different personality tests being used by companies to assess their candidates. For example, tests based on the theory of Carl Jung like the de MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and Insights Discovery are quite popular. Despite scientifically sound, negative evaluations these tests are still popular. How come? And is there a better choice?

Recently I was reading an interesting article written by Patrick Vermeren (2013) where he discussed the issues and the (lack of) reliability of personality tests based on the ideas of Carl Jung. One issue he states is that there is no scientific evidence for the reliability of these tests. Another issue is that these tests classify people into a limited amount of personality types. This categorization is something our brain loves to do. It’s a survival skill that allows us to make sense of the world around us. Without it, we would have to analyse every person and object individually rather than assigning someone or something to a category. This is also the main reason these personality tests are still popular, it preys upon or evolutionary instinct to categorize and simplify.

Unfortunately, this ability can also have a downside as it can lead to prejudices, in-group versus out-group thinking and racism. It could also have problematic recruitment consequences. In the selection process, this could result in someone not getting hired because he has a certain personality type. But what a typological test doesn’t take into account is that personality isn’t a choice between two opposites, someone is not just introverted or extraverted. Between these opposites are a lot more variations, therefore there are a lot more possibilities in personality than you can describe by using types. Personality differences are not dichotomous but fall on a continuum scale.

One personality model that uses these continuum scales is the Five Factor Model (Big Five Model). The Big Five personality traits are Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (also referred to as OCEAN). Each trait represents a continuum and individuals can fall anywhere on the continuum for each trait. The literature review by Patrick Vermeer shows there is more scientific evidence for the use of a continuum model instead of a dichotomous model for developing personality tests. This is also why we included a personality test based on the Five Factor Model in our Treasurer Test.

There will always be new personality models trying to make an abstract topic like personality more simplistic and understandable. But to make sure the right decisions are being made, I believe it’s important we only use evidence-based tests when using them for something as crucial as the recruitment of new employees.

by Kim Vercoulen

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