Soul Searching #6: personality tests

Hi there, and welcome to another episode of my introspective story. This is part 6, and the other parts are:

  1. Introduction
  2. Values
  3. Energy
  4. Intuition
  5. Flow

I’ve talked about a lot of fuzzy things in the first few part, and today I feel like something more concrete: personality tests. When I started writing part 1, I tried to stick to the chronological order in which I investigated the various topics. But, honestly, they have overlapped so much in the past months, that I’ll just pick a topic that I’m in the mood for for each post. 

Today I’ll share my experiences with personality tests. I’ve been confronted with the wretched things regularly, and I never liked them. I used to do these IQ-tests where you have to choose which figure is the next in a series of figures. I’m bad at those. Extracting information from big tables of information? Nope, not my cup of tea. Result: low IQ, so now I’m stupid all of a sudden.

I once took a test as part of the application procedure at a company I wanted to work for. When I got back the test result, my overall suitability score for the job was 3 out of 10. I got bad marks on just about every personal skill: adaptability, customer focus, collaboration, taking initiative, etc. It deeply hurt my feelings, and I just reread it and still feel that way. Another test comes to mind (also from an application procedure) where my score in abstract thinking was ‘average’, and my numerical skills were ‘below average’. My experience here was quite positive by the way, because I had enough experience by now to know beforehand that the type of questions would yield that result. I talked it over with the recruiter, and we had a good laugh about it.

pair of glasses, with eye-test board behind it.
Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

My first positive experience was with the Belbin test. I don’t have the test results anymore, but I remember that it contained both my own view of myself, and others’ view of me. And they matched up quite well. The most recent test I liked is the MBTI test (there is a free version here). After doing the test, I got the label ‘Advocate’ (INFJ-T). I read the description and was absolutely mind-blown: I recognized both the strengths and the weaknesses. In particular, it gave me some insight about how it can be that I like being the center of attention on a stage, whereas I’m also a really private person.

About 2.5 years ago, I started taking the MBTI test periodically, and I have added another one since. I use these to reflect upon my strengths and weaknesses periodically, and to perhaps get some insight in whether I’m changing or not. In the past, I used to read personality tests as a final verdict on my person. Now, I regard them as a pair of distorted glasses that I put on before I look in the mirror. Just like all the other schematics I use to try to understand the world around me, these tests are just another model (i.e., a schematic view of reality) of me.

One final thing comes to mind. I’m a bit surprised about how strong my reaction was to that test where I scored 3 out of 10. Since a few weeks, I have a new habit: whenever I react very positively or negatively to something, I stop and consider what triggered that emotion. These are the moments when lessons can be learned, I think. So I have some reading to do.

Update, several days later, after rereading the test results: I think it picked up some noteworthy traits, but the descriptions and resulting conclusions seem to be overdrawn. It feels like an overly, unfair, negative view.

Thanks again for taking the time to read my post, and see you next time!

One comment

  1. Hi Martijn,
    Thanks for your thoughts. They are nice to read.

    The problem with most of the tests is that they want to put you in a box.
    So much for diversification.
    When you work in a team, be it work, orchestra or football, you simple need different personalities. You need your stars, but also need some water carriers.
    Tests don’t take that in account. Not that I know of and I have taken plenty.
    I know they have a nice personality test at UWV.
    Kind regards,
    Marcel

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