The BBC asks: Personality tests: Can they identify the real you?
I should start this post by admitting that I didn’t actually read the article, but I’m going to respond to it anyway for reasons that will probably become clear by the time you reach the end of this post.
My answer to the question is: No, for several reasons.
Firstly, and most fundamentally, personality tests ask you to asses your personality and then tell you how you assessed your personality. This is hopelessly circular and, at best, can only tell you what you already think about yourself.
Secondly, personalities are not as neatly defined as these tests try to imply. Assuming that people can be categorised as simplistically as this is a mistake and one that can lead you into all sorts of bizarre beliefs.
And finally, given that the starting point of the article is employers using psychological tests, these things are trivially easy to game. I am aware that there are supposed to be no right answers, but if I am applying for a customer facing role, there is no way that I will tick the “I hate people” box.
On the other hand, I am a sucker for silly quizzes (I’m as interested to find out what sort of vampire slayer I am as my Meyers-Briggs personality type), so when I noticed that the article linked to a quiz I gave it a go.
It turns out (surprisingly enough) that the Beeb thinks I am a Realist.
Realists are loyal to the people around them and work hard to keep their promises. They are honest and straightforward with others and expect the same in return. Realists believe in standard procedures and will only support change when there is a demonstrable benefit.
Realists respect factual information, which they store up to use when making decisions. This group likes to have time to think quietly and carefully before taking action.
These extremely productive people like to be occupied in their leisure time with pursuits such as craftwork, hiking or reading.
In situations where they can’t use their talents or are unappreciated, Realists may become obsessed with schedules, be critical of others or have trouble trusting other people to get the job done properly. Under extreme stress, Realists may complain loudly that events have taken a turn for the worse and predict negative outcomes.
Realists typically only share their opinions or personal experiences with trusted friends.
Yup, that’s me.