This article was reprinted in Vol 7. No. 2 of the Australian Psychological Type Review, Phillip Kerr, editor, published by the Australian Association for Psychological Type, www.aapt.org.au
Practical Business Applications of the MBTI Myers-Briggs Personality Type Model By Ross Reinhold, INTJ
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Improving the Hiring & Staffing Process through Understanding Personality Type
Organizations operating under the influence of human resource policies and practices typically use job descriptions and hiring specifications as an aid in making hiring decisions. These tools were developed and refined from the 1920s through the 1940s, during the period of "scientific management" and "industrial psychology." Since that time they have been further shaped but not essentially altered.
Embedded within these practices is a view of human nature at odds with the Myers-Briggs/Jung insights. Under the "trait psychology" models that colored our understanding of human nature during the development of modern management, people came in combinations of major traits. The challenge was to discover which particular combinations were best for a given job, write them into the specifications, and then begin the recruitment process to find the individuals who best fit that prescription. This approach ignored the natural polarities of equally desirable (but different) characteristics produced by the type dichotomies.
This trait psychology model of human nature did not understand that qualities like "critical thinking" and "being a loyal team player" tend not to coexist in the same personality. Likewise, it failed to appreciate the "oppositeness" of "being well organized" and being "adaptive and spontaneous." This flawed model left us wide open to defining human specifications on paper that didn't exist in the real world. Additionally, this inaccurate understanding of human nature blinded us to the tradeoffs inherent in any specification. When we put a high premium on well developed "critical thinking," there is likely to be a downside in that such a person will not be the type who easily brings divergent viewpoints together and smoothes over interpersonal differences among people. While there are those who operate in the middle ground, flexing between such polarities, they are like generalists who tend not to be as proficient as the true specialist.
Becoming aware of the natural trait polarities (including the 20 pairs identified by the Step II instrument), allows hiring specifications to be analyzed and amended to insure they are "real world" and that the tradeoffs inherent in them are either not relevant to the job at hand or are approached with a realistic acceptance that some downside must come along with the benefit we seek.
Managing the Cloning Dilemma
While understanding Myers-Briggs can lead to writing more accurate and real world hiring specifications, doing this alone retains vestiges of the old understanding of human nature.
The process of writing a specification says that we endeavor to have clones in a particular job classification. Few of us have actually witnessed such a brave new world in practice because we've just not been good enough to reliably recruit people who exactly meet our specifications. (I hasten to add that add that one reason is that some of the specs are inherently contradictory). Yet the goal of having clones in a job needs to be squarely addressed. Is this really what we want, is it desirable?
When devising hiring specifications, we need to ask ourselves some key questions. 1. Are there effective practitioners of this job who bring different combinations of strengths to the table? Or are the demands of this job such that only a very narrow range of people can perform it with success? 2. If this job operates as a member of team, is the best team a collection of essentially the same kinds of people - with the same strengths and same weaknesses? Or are there some benefits of having diversity - with some complimentary strengths?
My own experience comes down on the side of diversity - within limits. For some jobs, it may be quite appropriate to have a narrower range of of differences. Yet even where the case for cloning is strongest, there are cogent arguments for loosening up a bit. One is that different personalities bring energy to a department or team that otherwise would exist in a stagnant environment. What a dull place a department of clones. Secondly, we live in a very dynamic changing world. Having a broader collection of perspectives among a given group of practitioners helps us better adapt to changes. Whatever are the new demands, having a diverse group means that it is more likely some in our group will be well equipped to meet these new challenges. Thirdly, there is an element of "group think" that creeps into a cloned team or department. The classic business example is the "old" IBM who became so good at recruiting and nurturing clones they created massive blind spots in their corporate vision, missing important business opportunities and failing to adapt to their changing business environment.
What we need to define for jobs are sets of alternative specifications. Seek to draw a profile of at least 3 different kinds of people who could make a good contribution to this job. Not only will this open up the recruitment process to a broader range of potentially "good" applicants, it will help craft the examination of each candidate to assess the potential tradeoffs of whatever strengths are presented.
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