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Are Personality Tests the Best Way to Evaluate Agents?

Introvert, extrovert, Type A? Several brokerages expand teams based on personality test results, but some experts wonder how effective that is in the workplace.

NEW YORK – Several real estate brokerages expanding their teams have turned to personality tests for job applicants to make the select the best personality matches. But some experts wonder how well those personality tests fare in the workplace.

Brokerages generally use one of several tests, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that sorts subjects on introversion or extroversion and more; the DISC model, which shows a person’s dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness; CliftonStrengths, which reveals a test-taker’s five best professional qualities; and Insights Discovery, which assigns a color and an associated workplace archetype, such as coordinator, inspirer or observer, among others.

Adam Grant, professor of organizational psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, told The New York Times that there’s a lack of evidence for many of these tests’ results.

“The Myers-Briggs is like asking people what you like more: shoelaces or earrings?” Grant told The New York Times. “You tend to infer that there’s going to be an ‘aha!’ even though it’s not a valid question. It creates the illusion of expertise about psychology.”

Yet personality tests have bloomed into a $500 million industry. As The New York Times reports: “Personality assessments short-circuit the messiness of building what is now referred to as a ‘culture.’ They deliver on all the complexities of interpersonal office dynamics, but without the intimate and expensive process of actually speaking with employees to determine their quirks and preferences.”

Some workers say they appreciate the tests when starting a new job. Katherine Wang, a consultant with a large global management consulting firm, told The New York Times that she took the Myers-Briggs test at her first company training. She was seated with others who were to complement her personality traits. She told The New York Times that she appreciated how the test led to being able to address her personal needs in the workplace, such as how much she likes to fill her calendar and how she prefers managers offering her feedback.

However, other workers were concerned that the results of their personality tests put them in a box or even limited the work that managers trusted them with.

“It shouldn’t be a tool to assign work or decide who to promote,” said Alison Green, creator of the blog “Ask a Manager.” “That’s not how these tests are designed to be used. And pushing it on employees who aren’t into personality tests ends up alienating them or making them uncomfortable.”

Source: “Personality Tests Are the Astrology of the Office,” The New York Times (Sept. 17, 2019)

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