MBTI & Recruitment

can the mbti be used for recruitment

Can you use the MBTI test for recuitment?

One of the most frequent questions that we get asked in our MBTI events is “can we use the MBTI for recruitment?” Many people experience our MBTI programmes as useful and enlightening. Excited about the potential that the MBTI tool can offer, they naturally start to explore its uses including using the MBTI for recruitment.  So can we (or you) use the MBTI for recruitment, selection or assessment?  In short, the simple answer to this is no; using the MBTI for recruitment is unethical and could be viewed as illegal.

Reason Number 1

The MBTI reports preference.  It is not a valid predictor of performance.

The MBTI or Myers Briggs Type Indicator is a ‘type’ based personality instrument.  This means it reports a person’s degree of clarity for one preference over another.  For the MBTI, these preferences are; Introversion or Extraversion, Sensing or Intuition, Thinking or Feeling, Judging or Perceiving. 

There has been much research into the link between personality type theory and careers.  Are certain personality types attracted to certain jobs or careers?  The answer is yes.  It would make sense that we would look for environments that we can exercise our preferences.  After all, working to preference is easier than working against it. For example, ISTJ’s are attracted to accounting, management and administration.  ESFJ’s to teaching and nursing – environments where they can structure and meet the immediate needs of people.  ENTJ’s to leadership and management – where they can structure, organise and achieve their visions for the future.  So why can’t we use the MBTI for recruitment? 

The only thing we can say here is that there is a loose connection between personality type and certain job types.  But does preference correlate to ability?  Are all ISTJ’s good at accounting? ISFJ’s at educating? ENTJ’s at leading? Does that mean that all other types can’t do these skills well? Does it mean they don’t want to? The answer to all of these questions is, of course, no.  It is important to remember that Performance = Motivation x Ability.  Motivation does play a part in someone’s performance, but a fundamental part is their ability (their developed skill and competence).  Many people prefer to write with their right hand.  Many people have poor hand-writing!  It is deliberate practice, feedback, coaching and training that develops competence.  

Using the MBTI for recruitment is incorrect here two fold:

1. It assumes that preference is an indicator of performance – it is not.  Neither does it indicate motivation.

2. It assumes that people who do not have this preference cannot develop competence in the areas associate with psychological type – this is not correct.

Therefore, using the MBTI for recruitment, could leave you hiring someone who has little competence needed for the job (or not hiring the one that did).  It could also leave you liable for legal action on the grounds of discrimination.

Reason Number 2

You can manipulate the outcome.

Using the MBTI for recruitment would be foolish as the outcome can be easily manipulated. The whole premise behind the MBTI is that we all prefer a way of engaging with the world, but that no way is better or worse than an other. Therefore, there can be no right or wrong responses. Used legitimately and framed correctly, a respondents responses are likely to be more honest and a truer reflection of their preference.  As soon as we use the MBTI for recruitment purposes we invite desirability or pressure.  It wouldn’t take much to read a job specification and then answer the MBTI questionnaire to make it fit the role.

Using the MBTI for recruitment tells you little about their likely behaviour and nothing about their competence.

Reason Number 3

Ethical code of conduct.

Upon successful completion of the MBTI practitioner training programme, all licensed providers sign an ethical code of conduct which excludes the use of the MBTI for recruitment and other illegitimate uses. Any practitioner using the MBTI for recruitment or other illegitimate uses should be reported to the publisher. 

So if I can’t use the MBTI for recruitment, what are my options?

As we have explored, the MBTI is a type-based personality tool.  Personality ‘trait’ based tools, such as the 16pf, are a more accurate measure of behaviour (but again, not competence). The 16pf reports a person’s personality traits – the amount of behaviour they are likely to express in comparison to others.  Therefore, it can be used as part of an intelligent and balanced selection and assessment process and to explore ‘fit’ into your organisation.  If you are interested in using personality profiling tools to help you select the right person for your organisation or have more questions on why the we can’t use the MBTI for recruitment, please contact us