This web page provides a handy overview of some key facts and information about personality and how to derive benefits from measuring and assessing it. It is brought to you by OPP Ltd, who developed the quiz on the BBC website and featured in the BBC1 programme “What am I like? The Personality Test”.

What is ‘personality’?

Personality is “that which characterises an individual and determines his (or her) unique adaptation to the environment”. Harsh and Schricknell, 1950.

Personality is comprised of “more or less stable factors that make one person’s behaviour consistent from one time to another, and different from the behaviour other people would manifest in comparable situations”. Child, 1968.

In other words, personality is our own unique and individual set of characteristics, traits and preferences, defined by our innate sense of self and influenced by our environment. It determines how and why we think, feel and behave the way we do, and also what motivates the choices and decisions we make. Understanding our own, or someone else’s, personality is a powerful way of revealing many secrets of behaviour and decisions.

How is personality measured?

There are a whole host of personality quizzes and so-called tests available on websites and in magazines. These include tests that offer to help you discover hidden aspects of your personality, find your perfect partner, or figure out why your best friend doesn’t always agree with you. Most of these are not very scientific and only appear to be accurate because they either take the information you’ve provided and feed it straight back to you in the form of a statement (‘The Horoscope Effect’), or use generic statements that apply to most people (‘Barnum Statements’).

Even the questionnaire you’ve just completed on the BBC website, while based on a real psychometric instrument and constructed using proven scientific methods, does not provide a real, validated and reliable measure of your personality.

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Psychometric questionnaires

Why do businesses use them? Psychometric questionnaires provide an objective and fair method for businesses to select the right people for jobs, facilitate individual and team development, and increase organisational effectiveness. Individual tests are among the best single predictors of job performance and are even more powerful when combined with other tests or interviews. They also help to remove bias and discrimination.

Different types and their uses. There are three distinct categories of psychometric tests: personality questionnaires, ability tests and interest inventories. Each has a specific use:

Personality questionnaires are extraordinarily powerful in predicting and explaining how someone will typically behave. Two of the world’s most widely used are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) and 16PF® questionnaires. They are used for job selection, individual, team and organisational development.
Ability tests show how someone performs when solving problems. Some now try to measure potential (aptitude) rather than current level of knowledge (achievement). Popular ability tests include: the ABLE Series and the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal. They are used for selection and career development.
Interest inventories identify the kind of work someone would suit. These include the Strong Interest Inventory and the Self-Directed Search. They are used for career counselling and development.

Using them fairly and ethically. Some questionnaires should only be used for the development of individuals, while others are designed and validated for use in selection. In recruitment, ability tests and personality questionnaires are most effective when used in conjunction with a variety of other proven methods.

If you are asked to complete a psychometric questionnaire at work, or when you apply for a job, you should expect to be:

Told why you are doing the questionnaire and what will happen to the results.
Given full instructions as to how to complete the questionnaire.
Given the opportunity to ask questions or seek clarification.
Given feedback on your results and what they mean.

Common myths

People and organisations are sometimes apprehensive about using psychometric assessment, however, many of their concerns are ill founded. Some common myths about psychometric testing include:
Psychometric tests can easily be faked: ability tests are extremely difficult to fake and there are built in checks to highlight if this has been attempted.
Psychometric tests are expensive: while there is an initial outlay in training administrators and test interpreters, running costs are minimal.
Psychometric tests are not cost-effective: their accuracy in predicting job-performance makes them cost-effective, particularly when compared with the costs of recruiting the wrong person
Some people are naturally good at tests: psychometric tests are not open to any more bias than interviews, where people can be trained in technique. People are best prepared by being relaxed and rested on the day of testing.
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More about OPP Ltd

OPP®, a business psychology consultancy, works with Europe’s leading companies to implement solutions that optimise the effectiveness of individuals, teams and organisations.

OPP delivers psychological solutions through consultancy and training services supported by a portfolio of world-renowned psychometric questionnaires. These include the MBTI, 16PF, CPI® and FIRO-B® questionnaires. OPP also sells a number of manuals, books and other resources.

Click here to enter OPP’s main website

Other resources

‘Psychological Types at Work’ by Rowan Bayne, PhD. An original and practical review of ideas and research on the use of the MBTI questionnaire in the workplace.

Rowan is Reader in the School of Psychology, University of East London and a chartered occupational psychologist. His previous work was as a psychologist and senior psychologist in the Civil Service. He has studied, taught and investigated MBTI theory and practice for over 20 years.

Buy the book on Amazon.

The British Psychological Society Psychological Testing Centre
The Myers & Briggs Foundation
The International Association of Psychological Type
The British Association of Psychological Type
Davies-Black® Publishing

® OPP is a registered trademark of OPP Ltd. ® Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and MBTI are registered trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust. OPP Ltd is licensed to use the trademarks in Europe. ® 16PF is a registered trademark of the Institute for Personality & Ability Testing, Inc (IPAT). IPAT is a wholly owned subsidiary of OPP Ltd. ® CPI and FIRO-B are registered trademarks of CPP, Inc. OPP Ltd is licensed to use the trademarks in Europe.

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