Different types of personality test


The world of personality (or psychometric) tests is rich with models. Not the Naomi Campbell variety, but theories that govern an approach to asking candidates and employees about how they make decisions, live their lives and behave in certain situations. This article looks at some of the models and explains their rationale

Personality tests rely heavily on your ability and willingness to buy into and focus on a standard set of questions asked of a large number of people. By definition, however sophisticated the questionnaire, the test is limited to what is being asked, rather than what you want to say about yourself. But such questionnaires cover the key areas employers are most interested in and allow a simple filtering into a small number of personality types.

You have to be able to put yourself in the environment being suggested and visualise clearly what your preferences and decisions might be. The more you can situate yourself in the relevant context, the more the test will ring true and help you make informed decisions about a job or career.

The most important advice is: use these tools, but remember they are tools, not the end itself.

The most popular personality indicator is Myers-Briggs. Practitioners of Myers-Briggs avoid the term ‘test’, to emphasise that there are no right or wrong answers. It was created by Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers, a mother-daughter team who took 20 years to develop the questionnaire, and inspired by the work of psychoanalyst Carl Jung.

The model divides people into 16 main personality types. Depending on their answers to Myers-Briggs questions, candidates are assigned one of the 16 types. The questions are based on four principal preference areas. In each area, Myers-Briggs presents a choice of two alternatives:


  • Where do you draw your main source of energy? Myers-Briggs sets out two options: the outer world of people and events or the inner world of thoughts, ideas and experiences. These two categories are called extroversion and introversion. People are a combination of the two, but most people are more one thing than the other
  • How do you take in information, or find out about the world? Again, there are two options proposed: if your preference is for facts and details, it is called sensing; if it’s for the big picture and relationships, it is called intuition. Somebody with a preference for sensing would be more interested in concrete reality than possibility. The way such a person would communicate would be direct, rather than creative
  • How do you make decisions and judgements? If your emphasis is logical consequences, it is called thinking; if it is on the basis of personal values, it is called feeling. Thinkers would tend to play on analysing and criticising; feelers would tend to err on sympathising and appreciating. The Myers-Briggs questionnaire teases out these very broad distinctions in greater detail
  • How do you organise your life? If it is in a planned, structured way and you are very clear about where you stand, you prefer judgement. If it is in a more spontaneous, take-things-as-they-come way, your preference is perception


Another personality profiling example is DISC, an abbreviation for the four personality factors identified in the psychometric theories of William Moulston Marston, an American psychologist. The four elements are:


  • Dominance: individuals with high dominance are competitive and assertive, driven by power, success and control
  • Influence: if this rates highly in your questionnaire you are outgoing, like to communicate and are driven by praise and recognition
  • Steadiness: people with a high steadiness factor are patient and amiable and are driven by well-placed appreciation
  • Compliance: individuals with a high compliance score prefer to work to certain rules and procedures; what they hate most is one-to-one personal conflict


Our team sat the DISC test and found it very helpful at opening, rather than closing, discussion about a particular person’s strengths. It allowed the team to reassess what forms of motivation are at work within a group. With greater awareness, there is the possibility of greater understanding and more effective behaviour.

Some sitting the test scored higher or lower in the four personality areas than others. The results do not necessarily mean that you are not steady or compliant enough – only that in your perception these factors are not as important as other factors. But it’s a simple and clear questionnaire worth checking out and feeding into your career assessment.

  1. Meredith Belbin
    Employers rarely are looking for a single personality type, but a mixed bag to fulfil different roles within a team. The pioneering study on teamwork by R.Meredith Belbin deliberately puts a high value on teams being made up of individuals with very different strengths. Belbin identifies within one team the roles of co-ordinator, shaper, resource investigator, team player, monitor-evaluator, plant and completer-finisher.

If everybody were a plant (for Belbin this means the more reflective person with ideas), nothing much would ever get done. If on the other hand the whole of British industry were staff only with dynamic, pushy shapers, there would be lots of tension and not much team-building.

If you sit the Belbin test (a very popular choice on leadership and management courses), the trick is to identify not one dominant preferred role, but to have a good understanding of other team-playing strengths you can contribute.

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