The Myers Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) is one of the most widely used and well-respected personality instruments in the world. About two million people in the U.S. take the MBTI each year, and it’s been translated into over 30 languages.

The MBTI provides fascinating insight into what drives an individual, how they interact with others, and how they might react in certain situations. But is it the right tool for talent selection?

Despite its popularity, and the fact that the MBTI provides gratifying narratives that describe what type of person you are, this test doesn’t have much utility beyond self-understanding. People find it interesting to learn about themselves. The MBTI might help someone decide on a general career path (“INTJs make good scientists”), but it’s not meant for employers to evaluate a candidate’s fit for a particular job.

Why not? Unlike assessments that are designed for talent selection, the MBTI doesn’t measure work-related aspects of an individual’s personality, and it doesn’t compare the results to specific job requirements, or a job success model.

Ipsative vs. Normative: What’s the Difference?

Myers Briggs and other ipsative tests like DISC (which measures Dominance, Influence, Conscientiousness, and Steadiness) are type-based tools. In the MBTI, test takers fall into one of sixteen personality types, indicated by four letters, such as INTJ, ESFJ, ENFP, etc.

An ipsative test compares traits within an individual and identifies which traits are stronger than others. For example, someone might be more assertive than they are energetic. But this type of test won’t tell you how that person compares to other candidates in your applicant pool.

When you break down the scoring on a personality test used for talent selection, you need to know two things:

  1. Where does a candidate fall on a particular trait (like assertiveness) compared to others? For this, you need to use a normative test, which measures an individual’s traits against a norm of standard performance. On an ipsative test, candidate A may show high assertiveness, but on normative test, you might see that candidate A is actually 2X less assertive than candidate B.
  2. How will a trait like assertiveness effect job performance? For customer service jobs, assertiveness isn’t as important as a trait like energy or accommodation or sociability. Measuring assertiveness for a store associate position might be interesting, but it won’t help you choose the candidate who will perform best on the job.

When to Use an Ipsative Assessment, and When Not To

As you can see, it’s essential to choose an assessment that fits your purpose. Myers Briggs and other ipsative tests work well for personal development, coaching, and vocational counseling. These tests can also be used for team building, as learning about coworkers’ personalities and work styles can help manage interactions within a team or department.

But when it comes to making hiring or promotion decisions, where you must compare and rank people against each other, an ipsative test is not the way to go.

For talent selection, you need a normative test, like Outmatch Assessment, which identifies candidates as a strong, good, fair, or poor match for the job, and provides a ranking that compares candidates to others applying for the same job. Outmatch Assessment also identifies areas where candidates are likely to struggle, and provides a development guide to help them become more effective in the role.

Want to learn more about using assessments for talent selection and employee development? Tour the Outmatch Platform today.