ABA Journal


Question of the Week

Have you taken a personality test for a job or any other reason? If so, was it a useful tool?

Aug 14, 2013, 04:52 pm CDT


In order of questions: Yes and No.

I had to take the personality test where people get identified as one of four "colors". According to the pseudo shrink performing the test, people are strongly one color or another, and some small number of people are strongly two colors. I had the same score for three colors (and a much lower score for the fourth one) and was told that was impossible.

By OKBankLaw on 2013 08 14, 6:40 pm CDT

I took one years ago, in my senior year of college--because it was supposed to tell us what career we would be best suited for. According to test results, I could do anything I want, and have no personality. Bizarre....

By BMF on 2013 08 14, 6:48 pm CDT

Many years ago (not for a law job) I was given an IQ test as part of the hiring process. While I had doubts as to the legality of doing so, I was smart enough to know I'd do well and not to make a stink about it. I waited until after I was hired to express my concerns!

For personality tests I've taken many, but not as a job requirement, more out of self-interest and as an aid to understanding both my own personality and the personality of those I work with and for. I adapt my arguments to different people at work, based upon what I know of their personality and recognizing that for some people what would persuade me will not work as well with them. I'm always honest and in fact have sometimes joked with one person in particular that instead of giving reasons, I should just yell at him until he agrees...

By df on 2013 08 14, 8:48 pm CDT

BMF your comment is strangely profound.

By concernedcitizen on 2013 08 15, 12:13 am CDT

As a 1L my class was given Myers-Briggs and some other test I don't recall during law school boot camp. Unsurprisingly, at age 57, the tests revealed no new insights to me. My classmates, at least the ones I spoke to about it, thought it was a waste of time.

By W.R.T. on 2013 08 15, 2:01 am CDT

Bunch of 'em. Not highly useful.

By B. McLeod on 2013 08 15, 6:29 am CDT

Yes, for one job many years ago that I later declined. Have since learned that MBTI, while lauded and used by many, has never been validated by a formal study. Also learned that the results of personality tests should account for no more than 20% of a hiring decision.

By LTMG on 2013 08 15, 11:33 pm CDT

About 10 years into practice, I was wondering if I was cut out to do something different. I went into NYC and took the Johnson O'Connor aptitude tests. The results indicated that I was doing the type of job that best suited my abilities-- and so I remained a lawyer.

By Goldcoaster on 2013 08 16, 10:15 am CDT

I think they can be an incredible tool for improving the likelihood of making a quality selection for your firm. Meyers-Briggs can provide you with insight about yourself but doesn't work well for hiring. Also, if you take a personality test and it matches your self-perception, isn't that a good thing?

By ESBT on 2013 08 16, 11:48 am CDT

I have been required to take personality tests for positions in wealth management. I found the MBTI extremely helpful and disappointing. Helpful because I am part of a very small segment of tr population that is the "lawyer type" or ENTP. It is disheartening because firms want ESTJs, or people who enjoy detailed work inside a defined structure. They're really good at proofreading, not at constructing new arguments. Now I work in banking and wealth instead of law because problem solving and extroversion is valued there.

By Ryan on 2013 08 16, 12:22 pm CDT

just took the Predictive Synergistic System which consisted of selecting from among 87 adjectives. Intends to illuminate management style, influencing style and management stratiges designed to maximize job effectiveness. I found it 60% interesting and 40% crap. It does offer some insight into how to manage various members of a team. More time is needed to see if it is useful.

By Not a Fan on 2013 08 16, 12:25 pm CDT

I took one for a job at a company that I thought would be a career turning event to go from private practice to working at a privately held corporation in a non legal position. It taught me that you never want to work at a location that is so anal and insecure that they would rely on these ridiculous tests in hiring some one.

I did get the job, but was miserable from the start. Maybe I should have had the company take a test to see if they were crazy first.

By Steve on 2013 08 16, 12:56 pm CDT

My father is a psychologist and developed a personality test that is used by large corporations, as well as professional and collegiate sports programs. I've seen first hand the value of personality tests in the hiring/selection process. Employers, whether professional sports franchises, fortune 500 companies or law firms, invest substantial time and resources in acquiring and training new employees. That investment can be lost when a new hire is "not the right fit" or has some personality trait(s) that interferes with the new hire's job performance. I think law firms are wise to use personality tests in hiring new employees, whether attorneys or staff.

By Adam Midwest BigFirm on 2013 08 16, 1:12 pm CDT

I had to take a psychological/personality test when I applied for a X-mas job one year as an undergraduate - it was for a big national toy chain, and I suppose they were afraid of hiring pedophiles into their ranks. Halfway through the test I decided that this was ridiculous and I really didn't want the job if they were gonna be so ridiculously intrusive, so I decided to have some fun with the test itself. One question asked whether I'd ever gotten drunk to the point I didn't remember what happened (I answered "yes") while another asked whether I'd ever had sex with someone of the same sex or with an animal (I answered "not sure - see 'blackout' question above.")

They didn't call me back. Geez, I wonder why?

By Just Entering Law Market on 2013 08 16, 2:06 pm CDT

I worked for a judge that insisted all of her colleagues, and I mean all--clerks, externs, other judges, AUSAs, federal PD, etc--take the Meyers Briggs personality test. She was very knowledgeable about it, and loved talking with us about our answers. She found that without knowing it, she almost always hired! It was an interesting and fun tool!

By Mary on 2013 08 16, 3:17 pm CDT

Yes and yes. I took the Myers Briggs test 20 years ago in college, and found it fascinating, but I do worry that placement in one of two categories (for each of the 4 areas) gives people an excuse for how they act, more than information about how to better respond to situations.

Much more recently, I used a different instrument called iWAM (Inventory for Work Attitude and Motivation) that I found incredibly useful. It's a much more useful tool because it analyzes many more aspects of a person's personality and work-related traits, and it provides perspective on how you relate to other groups, whether nationally, by industry, by particular firm/company, or even two people compared to each other. It really helps identify not only strengths but ways to avoid and overcome interpersonal or personal-institutional conflicts. I understand law firms have found the instrument useful, particularly with identifying whether new hires, for example, would fit well in, work well with, and personally prosper in a particular firm's culture. And it can also identify skill sets that a firm lacks. Can't recommend it enough.

By Todd on 2013 08 16, 3:28 pm CDT

I once took a personality test many years ago. It was very extensive. After all was said and done, the test results were that I should be either a lawyer or a teacher. So, it confirmed my choice.

By Martin Olesh on 2013 08 16, 3:33 pm CDT

Yes, and probably not.

I took a personality test for my current job. My boss asked some questions about the results in my second interview, but I don't think it showed him anything he didn't already know. If you aren't great at reading people, it could help in determining if your employees will get along with each other, but if you are, it may be a waste of time.

By Julie on 2013 08 16, 5:58 pm CDT

My wife and I took one in conjunction with a career counseling seminar. It was incredibly revealing how negatively everyone there viewed themselves. My test showed that 21 percent of my responses were positive (about myself), 33 percent were negative, and 46 percent were neutral. My wife? 21 percent positive and 79 percent negative; nothing in the middle. OMG. Perhaps it is not surprising that she is now my ex-wife.

By Law Prof on 2013 08 16, 8:09 pm CDT

I worked for an employer that had standardized pre-employment testing that they decided to change to a personality test. I decided to be one of the guinea pigs and took the test. They told me they never would have hired me based on the results because I have a strong personality. I also took a test in high school to tell me what careers I would be well-suited for. First was a mortician, second was a lawyer, third was a florist. If I were smart, I'd be a mortician who did estate planning and provided the flowers.

By Joanne on 2013 08 16, 10:53 pm CDT

These personality tests need to be carefully done as to their timing and their content so as to not run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

By William D Goren on 2013 08 16, 11:43 pm CDT

I was asked to take such a test when considering a job change. A number of professional colleagues indicated they would "tell the prospective employer to take his job and shove it". I took the test, passed apparently with flying colors, because I was offered the position. Before actually moving, circumstances developed that caused me to revoke my acceptance. The search committee chair told me, " I was making a big mistake". I had already called the tester and explained my concerns and received his opinion that my decision was logical, well founded, and had he known the facts driving my decision, would have predicted I would not accept the position. I found out I knew myself better than I thought. It was reassuring to know I wasn't reacting to some emotional stress and had a test result to validate my decision making process. Best decision I ever made with respect to employment for me and the prospective employer.

By Turner on 2013 08 17, 2:14 am CDT

A guy I know who works in IT keeps telling people he has to take Turing tests all the time.

By OKBankLaw on 2013 08 19, 6:04 pm CDT

Fresh out of law school in 2010, when all the banks had failed and most of my friends from my top tier law school were out of jobs, I got a job interview. I was ecstatic.

I drove to the middle of nowhere in a southern state for the interview -- postponing that week's bar exam studying and spending money I didn't have on gas. I show up in a suit, ready to talk myself up to the firm's hiring partner, only to find that my "interview" was just a Wunderlich test. I drove 5 hours to take a test used to gauge football players' aptitude for throwing a ball around a field.

At the end of it, I was told that I was smart enough to be a quarterback, and that they'd like to have me back (on another day, after another 5 hour drive) for a real interview. I declined.

By Virginia Lawyer on 2013 08 20, 1:58 pm CDT

I have taken a number of personality tests over the years as part of extra curricular programs, school, etc. I find that some are very illuminating as far as how I view the world and interact with others, and I even used questions from one during my voir dire practice in Trial Advocacy class. The problem with personality tests is usually not the test itself - it's how the person using the test relies on it. They are not the be-all and end-all of knowing a person, but they can help us figure out 1) how we interact with others, particularly under stress and 2) how we might interact under stress, and 3) our preferences for our environment - what makes us optimal? But they are tools, and have to be used with common sense and the knowledge that people are inherently adaptable and don't always fit snugly into categories.

By RecentGrad on 2013 08 20, 3:30 pm CDT

In the mid-1970s, I applied for a legal job with a multi-national corporation. After a nice interview, they asked me to take a personality test. They suggested I do it the next day, but I asked to do it a couple of days later.

In the interval, I read William H. Whyte's book, _The Organization Man_ which discussed these tests and had a sample personality test as an Appendix. Wouldn't you know that that was the same test I took?

I didn't get the job then, but a year later, after I had a different job and had moved far away, they came back and offered me the position.

By Martin Snitow on 2013 08 20, 10:25 pm CDT

Regarding MBTI, and some other personality tests, it is mind-boggling to consider that all 6.5 billion people in the world can be conveniently pigeon-holed into a few handfuls of categories in a given personality profile. I'm highly skeptical.

By LTMG on 2013 08 21, 3:10 am CDT

I don't know if this qualifies as a personality test, but one position I applied for required that I take an online Wonderlic test, which I believe is the same test given to football players prior to the NFL draft. I was never told the results, but I probably did well enough to play quarterback, if it wasn't for the fact that I'm 5'2" and never played football before.

By Lynn on 2013 08 22, 4:06 pm CDT

OKBankLaw #1 - Was it the "Emergenetics" thing with 4 colors? I was with an airport authority when those of us in the then Business Development and Property Management Section had to take a test which psychobabbleanalyzed us based on our favorite geometric shape. Years later, everyone had to take Emergenetics. My main colors were green and blue, showing logic, reason, organization - hey, I'm a lawyer, you know? - presumably good qualities for a government entity dealing with federal, state and local laws, airport businesses and development projects. (I cheated to up the green and blue scores anyway.) End result: Section was "restructured and reorganized," and all of us are gone. (Long term happy ending: I'm with a state government agency now, much happier, and no psycho-testing!)

By PhillyGirl on 2013 08 24, 2:35 pm CDT

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