Personality assessments are everywhere; they are used widely by corporations, the military, and government to understand different leadership styles and the dynamics of working in groups. As we all know, disagreements are expensive and unproductive. Many firms cannot afford to pick the wrong people. Tighter profit margins also mean working under more stress and companies want to make sure their employees are capable of maintaining under that stress.
When we describe someone’s personality, we use words which characterize whatever makes that person unique. When we look at the words most often used to describe human personality, we find that they describe the extremes rather than the averages.
In some ways we are all the same. We share a common humanity, we all have human thoughts and feelings, conversely, no two people can ever have the same experiences in life, the same mind or even the same perspective.
It is this individuality in thought, behavior and emotional patterns which defines a personality. In ancient times it was thought that all people could be divided into just four personality types. Dividing people into a few groups may be a nice and simple way of looking at the world, but in reality it doesn’t get us very far.
In the US alone, there are thousands of personality tests available. If you’ve ever wondered about the personality type of a celebrity or historical figure, consider these:
- Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin and Leonardo da Vinci (Introvert, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving)
- Winston Churchill, Donald Trump and Madonna, (Extrovert, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving)
- Warren Buffett, Hillary Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II and Condoleezza Rice (Introvert, Sensing, Thinking, Judging)
Personality is the vehicle through which we operate in the world, selectively filtering who we truly are. There is a part of the personality that is simply all of the habits and traits instilled in us during our early years. It is built on a combination of voluntary and involuntary factors. Probably the greatest role is played by the interaction of the two, deciding how we learn to cope with life using the resources we have. Personality is simply the baggage we pick up during our day to day experiences. It is how our parents trained us to be; how our school friends wanted us to be; how we came to believe we ought to be.
Is there such thing as free will, or is everything we do determined by factors beyond our control; an unconscious process? Can people chose to change or are they doomed to remain the same throughout their lives?
Stepping back to see the bigger picture, it is clear that each is valuable, but in itself a limited perspective. Personality is about how we all have variations which appear in different styles of thinking, feeling, and acting.
After knowing all of this I wonder…
Are we basing too much importance on the outcome of a Personality Assessment when we are deciding who to hire and who not to hire?
Do we trust our interviewing skills?