The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is used by firms worldwide to test their employees. In her new book, Merve Emre looks at the system’s curious origins

Merve Emre was 22 when she found out she was an ENTJ, though she was yet to understand what an impact it would have on her life.

Emre had recently graduated from Harvard University and was working as an associate consultant at Bain & Company, one of the “big three” management consultants. Two weeks in, she and the rest of her intake went to a luxurious offsite facility. Here a career counsellor told them to work through an “instrument” – decidedly not a “test” – called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The MBTI is the world’s dominant personality questionnaire: more than 50 million people around the globe are estimated to have taken it. It has been administered since the 1940s (though its origins date to 1917) and now consists of 93 questions to which you answer A or B. At the end, you are assigned one of 16 different types. Many consider this “score” to be meaningless, no more scientifically valid than your star sign. But others – including companies such as Bain, the BBC and many universities – clearly do not.

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