December 11, 2000, 5:19 PM — Years ago I spent some time filling out a personality test in a little book with the
corny title Please Understand Me. It gave me a reality check about my real
strengths and weaknesses, and it made me more accepting of style differences in myself
and others. The title didn't seem so corny anymore.
Turns out the book was a popularization of a respected psychological assessment test
called the Keirsey Character Sorter, developed by psychologist David Keirsey and based
on a theory of personality types by the psychologist Carl Jung. For years, corporations
have used the Keirsey sorter and another Jung-based test, called the Myers-Briggs Type
Indicator (MBTI) -- as well as more skills-oriented tests -- as tools for career
counselors, hiring managers, and human resource administrators to better fit employees
to jobs and coworkers. Consulting firms get paid just to administer the tests.
The questionnaires' multiple-choice questions and yes/no answers easily lend
themselves to computerization and the forms processing that the Web does so well. So
it's not surprising that you can find most of the tests and similar profiling tools,
usually for free, on Websites (see the list of links below). The more job-oriented ones
take automation a step further by linking your profile to detailed job descriptions,
job databases, career counselors, and recruiters.
By trying a few as I did, you'll probably approach the job market -- and make
life-altering career decisions -- with a clearer sense of what you really like and what
you're good at. Even better, an executive recruiter like Korn/Ferry International might
use your profile to match you with a more satisfying job.
Please Understand This
The Keirsey Character Sorter (free, along with the more Myers-Briggs-like Temperament
Sorter II at Keirsey.com) asks questions like "When the phone rings, do you hope
someone else will answer, or do you hurry to get to it first?" and "At the market, are
you likely to waste no time, or to chat with strangers?" The questions are designed to
gauge how introverted or extroverted you are, whether you get your perceptions from
sensing the outside world or listening to an inner voice, whether you pay more
attention to your thoughts than to your feelings, and whether you prefer to come to
firm judgments or keep your options open. Coworkers who favor one or the other might
clash over deadlines or fail to communicate clearly. With greater awareness of each
other's styles, they can essentially step outside themselves and learn to accept, even
appreciate, their differences, according to Keirsey.
Myers-Briggs uses a different set of questions but comes up with very similar
ratings of personality characteristics and temperament types.