Coach Shari: Personality Tests
My husband came home from a week of job training that included test taking to discover personality traits. He was excited to share it with me and wondered if I had come across this assessment in my career. As he explained his results, he tried to ascertain where I would fall on this test’s continuum. I listened with amusement; he obviously took the whole process very seriously.
When I was in high school, I took a so-called career test to help me discover what I should do with my life. I waited with anticipation as the results were passed out to each one of us. I scanned the paper feverishly to find the key to my future. On the bottom of the page, it showed my results. I read the description of my future and slumped in my chair. According to the career inventory test, my perfect career was as a Nurses Aide.
I’m not quite sure how this was decided, but I felt instantly depressed and defeated. To me, that seemed to be the farthest thing from who I was and what I wanted to do in life. As I processed this information, a thought popped in my head: Why do I think that this test knows what I want in life? Only I can decide who I am and what I will accomplish in my life. How dare that test determine my destiny!
That experience was pivotal for me. It proved to me that tests are not always accurate and they should be treated as a guide and tool in the process of learning more about self. Below are a few reasons why I feel that these assessments sometimes fail to deliver.
You can answer the questions as your wishful self, instead of who you actually are. People are not always honest when they take a test. Sometimes, even though they’re instructed to give real answers, they can’t help but answer as the individual they desire to be in life, instead of how their traits and behavior actually play out. For example, maybe they believe only extroverts are successful in life. In lieu of this, they unconsciously slant their answers to convey this trait.
Some individuals don’t understand “self” well enough to answer appropriately. It comes down to knowing you. If you haven’t done your work to learn more about who you are, it’s very possible that your test won’t clearly reflect the true you. Many of the questions demand an individual to reflect on their own behavior, and some people just don’t see themselves very clearly. They may not be able to recognize some of their behaviors and actions in life.
The test results could change according to how you’re feeling about yourself. I remember taking a test at a time in my life where I was miserable in my career. According to the administrator, it was to reveal my strengths and my personality. If I shared the results, you would have one of the biggest laughs of your life. I wasn’t in a good place in my life, and that really came through in the results. I didn’t answer the questions like my usual self, and the results were quite skewed. Looking back now, I’m thankful that I didn’t take them to heart and build my life around them.
I use assessments daily in my coaching work. However, I see them as another tool to use in the process. Healthy discussion on key topics is often more helpful in uncovering the information that will help us find your path. Don’t put more trust in these assessments than they actually deserve.