My coworkers and I love personality tests. We share them with each other to have fun and get to know each other — an important task since half of our team is remote and sprinkled across the country.

Personality tests have allowed us to gain insight into our lives outside of work. They’ve also helped us better understand our communication and collaboration styles, which has made projects, meetings, and feedback sessions much easier to navigate.

Personality tests can be major assets for teams of any size, location, and skill set. They unlock professional preferences such as how each coworker likes to receive criticism and feedback, and they can boost camaraderie and communication between even the most polar opposite team members.

Let’s dive into the accuracy of personality tests and how to navigate results in the workplace.

How accurate are personality tests?

Personality tests are like going to the gym — you only get out what you put in. If you don’t take personality testing seriously, you shouldn’t expect accurate results.

This is true for any questionnaire you take, but it especially applies to the handful of scientifically-designed personality tests that are often taken within, and applied to, professional settings.

Certain tests — such as the DiSC Assessment, Myers-Briggs, and Holland Code Career Test — were developed by psychologists with a background in mental health and scientific experimentation. Professional opinions about each test vary, but companies around the world still use them, if only just to learn more about their employees and coworkers.

In my opinion (which is not that of a trained psychologist or test-maker), personality tests do have some merit. I’ve taken quite a few professionally-designed tests — and a healthy serving of the fun ones on Buzzfeed, but we won’t count those — and have seen a lot of accuracy in my results.

I’ve also seen some crazy, out-of-character results.

The fact of the matter is, while there are some truths in the Myers-Briggs, DiSC, and Enneagram, our personalities, preferences, and day-to-day dispositions vary too much to take those results as concrete truth.

I think the question here isn’t as much about the accuracy of personality tests (because that question is directly proportional to how seriously your employees take the test, and you can’t count on everyone to do so). I think the more important ask is this — what should you do with the results?

Personality tests are fantastic conversation-starters. They’re good at helping us articulate those intangible preferences, aversions, habits, and weaknesses we otherwise don’t know how to name. They’re also fun for making connections and bridging gaps at work.

As insightful as personality tests are, however, they shouldn’t be the guiding light in how you treat and collaborate with your team — nor should they be the defining factor for hiring and firing decisions. Now, let’s unpack the pros and cons of personality tests.

Pros and Cons of Personality Tests

Personality tests are fun, insightful activities — unless they’re used for major employment and business decisions. If this is the case, it’s wise to scrutinize the benefits and drawbacks of such tools to avoid blindly relying on nuanced results.

Employers can examine results to see how a candidate may fit into the team and company culture. Employers can neglect to get to know the candidate and instead assess his or her fit based on test results.
Managers can use results to better understand how to communicate with and provide feedback to employees. Managers can miss out on important communication opportunities if the setting doesn’t perfectly align with the employee’s test results.
Personality tests provide a relatively unbiased, consistent means of assessing candidates and employees. Not every candidate or employee may take the personality test seriously and/or not have the capability to fill the test out to the best of his or her ability.
Personality tests look into what a candidate will do in a given situation, versus what he or she has done. Companies may administer the wrong personality test for the wrong situation.
Personality tests can be fun (more so than the SATs) for candidates to take, and they may be personally invested in the results as well. Personality tests can be costly and time-consuming for companies, candidates, and employees alike.

When it comes to using personality tests as management tools, don’t allow the results to speak for your employees. Let them complement each person, not replace them — and be careful not to judge a person by their personality test results.