Inaccurate assessments lead to stigma against applicants

By Brianne Angell, Student Writer

Job applications – you need them to get a job, but sometimes filling them out is more stressful than the job search itself.

After you plug in the demographic information, fill in the work experience, and try to find the Word document where you wrote down your references’ phone numbers, you are ready to get it over with.  However, most job applications have an “assessment” or “questionnaire” section at the end, which essentially amount to personality quizzes on steroids.  These types of assessments and questionnaires are ineffective and they increase the stigma against certain types of people, such as introverts and those struggling with mental illnesses.

“Do you work well with others? Do you like people?” the questionnaire asks. “I function well in stressful situations. I am happy most of the time,” the statements read.  You know the company wants you to fill in the “yes” or “strongly agree” bubbles, but sometimes that is a lie.  You fill in the correct bubbles anyway, because you want the job.  You fill in the correct bubbles because you know the company wants you to be a cheerful extrovert who handles chaos with a calm attitude and dignity.  You fill in the correct bubbles because you feel like you should be that person, although mostly likely, you are not.

Not everyone loves being the center of attention. Not everyone is chipper and energized every second of every day. For some people, whether they deal with depression, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, or are simply just shy, certain situations beget different reactions. Different does not mean wrong. It does not mean that the applicant is incapable of doing his or her job or that they are not a good fit for the company. It simply means different.

However, when questions like those that are typically on personality assessments are geared toward the extrovert and the perpetually cheerful, those with other personality types are left feeling inadequate. They think that if they answer the questions honestly, the company will view them as less of a person.

“People with depression will be flaky. People with anxiety will not be able to handle the stress of the job. People who are introverts will be too scared to talk to clients,” are some common misconceptions employers think when they don’t see the answer they are looking for. These thoughts are entirely false. Different personalities do not equate to inabilities. A personality type, or even a mental illness, does not always have to be a limitation. This is a false stigma made worse by these traditional personality assessments.

The solution? Meyers-Briggs personality tests. I propose that when you fill out a job application, the company should instead require you to take a Meyers-Briggs personality test and report your four-letter result. The result will be four letters, with each letter being one of two options: I – Introversion or E – Extroversion; N – Intuition or S – Sensing; F – Feeling or T – Thinking; and J – Judging or Perceiving. The Human Resources director at the company, or whichever employee reviews the incoming job applications, should be trained to know what the different letters and combinations mean, in the context of the workplace.

This method is beneficial to both the applicant and the company. The applicant gains a sense of belonging and identity. Meyers-Briggs lowers the stigma, so applicants feel safer answering questions honestly. The company thus gains a better understanding of the individual applying for the position. Before an interview even takes place, the company will be able to see more of the aspects of the applicant’s personality, both good and bad. With proper training, they will be able to determine how the applicant’s personality type can fit into the company.

Of course, as with any such personality assessment, there is a risk of dishonesty, but the likelihood of accurate answers is much greater. Traditional personality assessments are skewed towards certain types of people. Meyers-Briggs allows the applicant to answer questions honestly without fear of misperceptions. It says, to both the applicant and the company, “Here are the good things about my personality. Here are the ways in which I may struggle. Here am I.”

That is a lot more refreshing than lying your way through a job application.