The Good, the Bad and the MBTI: Where do all the wrong people go?

Lately, I got entangled in a discussion about the MBTI. This personality inventory, based on Jung’s typology, was created by the American daughter mother couple Isabel Myers and Katharine Briggs during the second world war to stimulate American housewives to join the war industry. They had to feel that they could make a valuable contribution, so you need a simple, all positive instrument. Are you neurotic? No problem as long as you’re a thinking introverted type and good at assembling grenades… Are you rational or intuitional? Introverted or extraverted? Everybody knows these simple oppositions, that’s why the MBTI is so popular and easy to apply.

But, the MBTI is about typologies and typologies are wrong, because today you are an A and tomorrow a B and so on, they are not reliable. Furthermore they are a simplification of human personality (e.g The NEO PIR inventory has 30 relevant behavioral facets, grouped over 5 dimensions) and therefore only used by stupid- and fast thinking business people. To overcome this unreliable stereotyping, the MBTI typology was recently changed into preferences, based on eight principles. Everybody has preferences and the highest score is your dominant preference. That will become your life fulfillment!

Furthermore The MBTI police wanted acceptance from the scientific community. How do you get acceptance from the scientific community? By publicizing in a true scientific book or journal. Not in the Journal of Psychological Type, that’s more like peeing in your own backyard. So you connect the MBTI to sound modern science, to the Big five that is. The four scales of the MBTI do more or less the same thing as extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness from Big five inventories like the HEXACO (Big six) or the NEO-PI. But the MBTI scales leave out the unpleasant stuff, like instability and (lack of) integrity. Maybe for 2nd world-war housewives that didn’t matter, but in today’s industry it does.

So you cannot use the MBTI for the serious stuff, like high stakes selection. It’s working is shady, it’s construct validity is too simple, it ‘s content validity is limited and the criterion validity is nowhere in sight. But business is much, much more dynamic than dry scientific parameters. Who wants to talk about neuroticism or lack of integrity on a teambuilding or development event? You don’t blow the whistle when the paychecks are in sight….So that’s why the MBTI is used million times a year, for training and development purposes. No dark side, sunny side up, business is one happy family.

Isn’t it funny that to enter a company you have to pass all sorts of lie proof instruments and procedures, and once you’re inside, you are only allowed to talk about your positive side? You just wonder: where do all the wrong people go? The most valid selection procedure has a validity of lets say .50, so that roughly means 75%1 of the selected employees are true positives. And the other 25%? There must be some psychopaths or a few neurotics the least. But not according to the MBTI. It’s like Disneyworld: they don’t sell tickets, they make everybody happy!

And that’s what MBTI business is all about: the marketing of feeling good. In Britain the ‘nudge’ unit did it with an obligatory bogus personality inventory for jobless people. It was not validated and it is even said that the outcomes were a standard feel good profile for everyone. Well, we don’t need a ‘nudge’ unit, we have the MBTI. In the papers we read how many frauds and psychopaths are damaging the economy and on your MBTI seminar you keep staring around, wondering who is the real creep.

One small comforting thought: MBTI people are not alone, DISC, Belbin, Enneagram, Golden, whatever typology crap there is to make you feel good for a few dollars more…Don’t buy it. For a start, do a valid and reliable personality inventory (e.g. and find out your levels of neuroticism and integrity. It’ll make you feel good, I promise.


Assessment certification: respect your candidates and let the people judge

Assessment and other professional psychological activities are more and more hampered by loads and loads of red tape. Compulsory association memberships, special assessment certification programs (ISO), even some Linkedin groups come up with assessment certification programs. In itself there’s nothing wrong with regulation and guidelines. The question is just: How many guidelines do we need and whose guidelines? I think the SIOP assessment guidelines fit perfectly well, and a new one is on the way. They are compact, cover all the relevant aspects and are highly practical.

And who is the judge of assessment quality? You? Your psychology association? Your client? The candidate? The scientific forum? All this and more and world war Z?

All the red tape points to one thing in my opinion: doubts about assessment quality and possible laziness in performance behavior (‘we are certified, don’t worry…’). In Linkedin assessment groups you find people who have never heard of e.g. Schmidt and Hunter but who are surely certified in any possible way…..

What we need are qualified and responsible assessment psychologists, backed by guidelines, merely to safeguard clients and the candidates, but taking full responsibility for the quality of the assessment, thereby involving candidates. Guidelines don’t determine assessment praxis. In every assessment situations arise which nobody has forseen, let alone that some certification rule might help you out of it.

These days academic disciplines are dominated by output criteria, delivering more and faster master certificates but implying less and less quality, knowledge and skills. So it is time to take the wisdom of candidates into account. Candidates are the ones who are directly touched by assessment policy and assessment execution. Therefore, informed candidates (‘protoprofessionals’) are in the best possible position to judge the quality of assessments. A good starting point is the Selection Procedural Justice Scale, from Bauer et. al (2001) which focuses among other things on information, transparency, opportunity to perform, treatment, assessment content an relevance. Any candidate nowadays prepares seriously for an assessment (Bloemers, 2014), and sometimes candidates have more knowledge about assessments than their assessors. Involve candidates and use their knowledge and experiences wisely. It is the best source for continuing high quality assessments: let the people judge.



  • Bauer, T. N., Truxillo, D. M., Sanchez, R., Craig, J., Ferrara, P., & Campion, M. A. (2001). Development of the Selection Procedural Justice Scale (SPJS). Personnel Psychology, 54, 387-419. Download van: : What we know about applicant reactions on attitude and behavior: recent summary and best practice.
  • Bloemers, W (2014). De Nieuwe assessmentgids, een oefenboek, (A Practical Guide for the New Assessment), Amsterdam, AMBO.