I’ve earned some notoriety around the office as the anti-fan of personality tests. Don’t get me wrong, when they’re all in good fun I think they’re a kick. But when they pass for serious analysis, they’re a joke.

It started a year and a half ago during my first interview. My boss-to-be tried to get me to take a personality test, and I refused (politely). I asked him what he could possibly hope to learn from something with little more relevance than a horoscope. He hired me in spite of (or perhaps as a result of) my refusal.

Then, late last year, he had everyone on our team take personality tests (it’s a cultural thing at HCA, apparently). A woman from the “Organizational Effectiveness” group met with each of us individually and then together as a team. Apparently, I was the only one whose true personality bore no resemblance to the test results. My results said I was quiet, fearful of change, and that I needed a highly structured environment in which to excel. It wasn’t deliberate sabotage, but the point was proved at “quiet.” I maintain that it’s ridiculously easy to “mess up” test results, whether you intend to or not.

So I guess it’s only natural that when one of my colleagues ran across this article in the Wall Street Journal, he thought of me and sent me the link. I’m putting this book on hold at the library. It will be great to have anecdotes at the ready about the creators of these tests, should the need to refuse one ever come up again.

You Are What You Score
by Eric Felten

“If a personality test can’t identify an ax murderer, what use is it?”

One thought on ““If a personality test can’t identify an ax murderer, what use is it?”

  • September 26, 2004 at 6:22 am

    When you read it, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about it.


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