Clive Palmer: perhaps the ultimate example of success linked to a personality type. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Many top-tier companies ask potential candidates to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [MBTI] as part of the process to determine their ideal candidate; but the test's professional influence doesn't necessarily stop there.
A recent report suggests certain personality types are predisposed to earning higher salaries compared to their corporate peers.
The Myers-Briggs test was created during World War II by mother-daughter team Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers to assist women entering the workforce to find suitable employment. It eventually evolved into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator still in use today.
Forget the crystal ball; your earning potential may be predetermined. Illustration: Karl Hilzinger
Using a psychometric questionnaire, the indicator places individuals in one of 16 personality categories. Where you fall depends on factors such as whether you're an introvert or extrovert, are judgmental or perceptive, and more of a thinker versus a feeler.
All of these factors combined determine your type, which is classified by acronyms such as ISTJ (introversion, sensing, thinking, judgment) and ENFP (extraversion, intuition, feeling, perception). The indicator then groups these types under four larger umbrellas: idealists, guardians, artisans and rationalists.
Employers have long considered these character types when deciding if candidates will make a good fit for the company. For example, ENTJs (extraversion, intuition, thinking, judgment) are generally thought to be charismatic, competitive, and quick-minded—characteristics that make for great leaders. Some examples of famous ENTJs include Steve Jobs, Margaret Thatcher, Al Gore, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Jonathan Bollag, operator of Career Assessment Site, drilled down further to identify broader patterns relating to these types; such as gender ratios, which type had higher levels of education, and, perhaps most interestingly, which was likely to make the most money.
What he found was that, generally, the more extroverted and judgmental you are the higher your salary.
ENTJs led the charge with an average of more than $80,000 per household. As a rule, the lowest earners overall were in the artisan category, but coming in at last place was a type falling under the idealist camp, the INFP (introversion, intuition, feeling, perception) with an average of $60,000 per household.
While extroverts fared better overall, INTJs (introversion, intuition, thinking, judgment) represented introverts well financially, ranking fourth out of 16.
So, why does one category outperform another financially? The findings suggest types focused on determination and rationality succeed in the corporate world because these qualities are seen as assets. Whereas being affectionate or calm, while offering potential benefits in other areas of life, typically make an individual less likely to land top spots on the business ladder.
To see where you fall on the spectrum, click here. If you find that you land on the side of the scale with lower earning capacity, remember that while the test is often touted as an important hiring tool, the Myers & Briggs Foundation itself states that results can be open to interpretation and warns employers not to lean too heavily on the results when it comes to hiring.
“Although there are many useful applications of the MBTI assessment in the workplace, there are ethical concerns in using it for hiring purposes. Please carefully consider this as you develop your program for employees,” they write on their website, adding, “Ethical guidelines are also meant to prevent the abuse of type. Abuse includes using type to assess people's abilities and using type to pressure people toward certain behaviours.”
Furthermore, critics of the test have pointed out flaws. Several studies question its reliability by stating that between 39 and 76 per cent of candidates fall under different types when tested at a later date.
And psychologist David J. Pittenger challenges claims that the MBTI is a useful tool to gauge an individual's likely success within any given profession, citing a lack of empirical evidence. While his review was published before the release of Jonathan Bollag's data, he argues that other factors should be taken into account when assessing a candidate's true capabilities.
“There is no evidence to show a positive relation between MBTI type and success within an occupation. That is, there is nothing to show that ESFPs are better or worse salespeople than INTJs are,” he writes.
“The MBTI reminds us of the obvious truth that all people are not alike, but then claims that every person can be fit neatly into one of 16 boxes. I believe that MBTI attempts to force the complexities of human personality into an artificial and limiting classification scheme. The focus on the 'typing' of people reduces the attention paid to the unique qualities and potential of each individual.”