Personality Tests, How I Have Learned to Use Them

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  • Personality tests were created as a cheap layer used to aid in selection processes.
  • There are three basic categories of personality tests that break down into Personality Types, Personality Traits, and Personality Spectrums. 
  • Each category of Personality tests have beneficial uses and drawbacks.
  • I have found one type of test to be most useful to aid in finding my best options moving forward. 

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have experienced all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

My First Personality Test

I have a fascination with personality tests. It all started in my Freshmen Orientation Class at Sonoma State University. We took the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator test and I found out I was an ENFP. Now I literally knew no one at this school. This was my second week and when I read the results I was awe struck. The description of “The Champion” personality type described what I had struggled to put into words my whole life. Needless to say I have had a strong fascination for personality tests since then. 

With my current self-exploration, my fascination with these tests has come into focus again. In the last six months I have taken eight of the biggest personality tests available. My goal is to share some of the incites from six of them. I have found to be more useful than others and want to share the processes I have used to gain incites into me. It is my hope to assist your navigation to the most effective tests for you. Most of the results do cost money and we do have limited time and money. 

Before we go any further I am not a psychologist and or a scientist. I am in no way affiliated with any of these tests. What I share in this post should not be considered medical, psychological or scientific advice. These are merely my own views after my experiences taking these tests. 

A Very Brief History of Personality Tests

The first applied use of the personality tests was during World War I by the US Military. Used to try and find people predisposed to “Shell Shock” or what we now know as PTSD. By screening out mentally weaker personnel shell shock cases reduced resulting a more resilient fighting force. During World War II the Army Air Corp created a test for the selection of pilots. The military needed to select large amounts of men, in a manner that was cost effective, efficient and ultimately safe. With the applications for the pilot program through the roof, personality, and intelligence testing became the first hurdle for candidates.

After World War II, the application of these tests moved in industry and soon into almost every facet of life. Through the years multiple tests have been created and used for any number of reasons.  Some try to predict your personality type of traits, others place you on a spectrum. My favorites predict your spirt animal, or what your birth year says about you. While I was born in the year of the Cock, my spirit animal is a Wolf.

us air force, pilot, aircraft, personality tests

Types of Personality Tests 

As I have come across these tests I have found that they fall into three type categories. to simplify I will cover 6 of the “top” tests and how they fit into the three different categories. Then share a couple benefits and issues that come up with each category.

Personality Types 

The first category we will cover is Personality type tests. After a battery of questions, you are placed into a group and given a general description of how you act or respond to stimulus. The issue with these tests is that they often make you choose between two extremes at diametrically opposed views. If you fall somewhere in the middle of these extremes, retests may provide a different result each time you retest. Another complaint is that the descriptions are often vague and are comparable to those of the pseudo-science of astrology. Two examples of these tests are the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator.

Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)  is probably the most famous of the Personality Type tests. Colleges and Universities use it in their career services. Many companies use this test during their higher process for job person match. There are consulting companies that use this test to assist their clients achieve better outcomes. By testing a group or organization, consultants can provide recommendations to balance out personalities. It has been used as effective tool by many people and organizations. If nothing else, it is the most marketed and branded test out there. 

As I mentioned before this was my first personality test and I felt it to be pretty accurate. One of the major complaints is that when people retest within 5 months 50% will get a different result. It is possible, especially if people are close to the middle in one of the four spectrums. I have taken this test six times over the last twenty years, with one exception I have been an ENFP. The one time I scored something different I was an INFP. I have known that I am fairly even on the intro/extrovert scale. So that wasn’t a big surprise to me.

My favorite part was when the test identified famous people that were the same type as me. Charles Dickens, Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain, Anne Frank, Robin Williams, John Lennon, Gwen Stefani, Tom Brady and Jerry rice to name a few. I feel so much closer to greatness as a result.  

overcoming, stone, roll

Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator

Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator is the second type indicator test. Enneagram is an interesting test and I don’t know how I feel about it. Over all, there are nine different archetypes. You will have one type that is dominant. This is your basic type. Your second and third highest scores are your wings. When I got my results, I felt they were pretty close. What I found fascinating or more useful were the dynamics and variations of each of the types. Each of the types leans toward another when induced by stress or for security. Meaning they have traits of other types when leaning toward growth or under stress.  

Another interesting aspect were the Levels of Development. This is a one thru nine scale, with one thru three being healthy levels, four thru six being average levels and seven thru nine being unhealthy levels. Reading through the various levels of development I could relate to various level at different points during my life. Turns out I believe I may be between average and healthy so things are looking up. 

Like the MBTI results it also identifies famous history people that are also your type. According to this test I am similar to Galileo, Mozart, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Brad Pitt and George Clooney to name to a few. Also like the MBTI, I was similar to Robin Williams. Somehow Humor has not been on any of my tests results.

Personality Traits 

Some more recent tests have decided that identifying top traits, strengths or virtues are the way to go. The relatively recent creation of Positive Psychology has found that people derive greater benefits from knowing their strengths. By focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses it can shorten the distance to happiness. The benefits of these tests allow the users to identify their strongest subset strengths or virtues from a larger set. This facilitates individuals to find more meaningful ways to express those strengths or virtues. Studies have shown that people are measurably happier with jobs that use two to four of their top strengths. Two of the top Traits tests are the Clifton Strengths Finder and the Virtues in Action tests. 

Clifton Strengths Finder

Clifton Strengths Finder tests to find your top five of thirty-four traits. The report is in depth and provide your specific natural strengths. By using those strengths you can excel in work or career environments. Often these strengths directly transfer to your leadership or management capabilities. The likelihood of someone having your specific top five strengths in the same order are one in thirty-three million. 

If people are working in areas of their strengths then naturally they will see higher levels of confidence and competency. Imagine being right handed, but your job requires everything you do to be done left handed. You may be able to do it and you may incrementally improve, but no where near the same rate if you are allowed to use your strengths. If you are allowed to use your dominant hand, your quality and quantity of work will increase and it instantly feels easier for you. Why struggle when a few changes can help you thrive? 

Clifton Strengths have been helpful in identifying the specific strengths that I can improve how I lead or manage. As I am looking for ways to translate my current knowledge, skills and abilities that will help in future jobs. The results provide language for the skills that come naturally for me, but I may not recognize as a strength.  

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Virtues In Action

Virtues In Action was part of the Coursera Yale course called the “Science of Well Being” I took when the Remain in Place order started. This test is one of the results from work in the field of positive Psychology by Dr. Martin Seligman. Through his work he and his colleagues identified 24 individual virtues within the human psyche. Dr. Seligman and his colleagues created the VIA to assist people in understanding their strengths. Their hypothesis is that if people utilized their strengths, they would be happier. Dr. Seligman and other Psychologists have proven through multiple experiments and studies that people who utilize their strengths are in fact happier with their jobs, and lives.  

In terms of usefulness this is probably the border. While the psychologists can use these results in experiments and test their hypothesis’s, the results that they provide for the individual is also very helpful in how they operate or see the world. Within this study of psychology, the focus has taken the traditional view of identifying what is wrong in order to fix it and flipped that on its head. Instead of focusing on the limiting aspects, focus on developing the strengths and that will allow people flourish. 

It may be difficult to translate some of the virtues like gratitude, prudence, or appreciation of beauty into a work place. While it may be difficult to translate some of the virtues into something actionable with your job, imagine the power and perspective shift it could have. Like the Clifton strengths finder, why continue to swim upstream, if you can achieve the same quality and quantity of work floating to the goal.  

Personality Spectrums 

I do not know if this is the best way to refer to these tests or not. While these test for identified traits, they place the tester on a spectrum to be more accurate for Psychologists. Due to the scientific nature and study applicability the results are not user friendly. The most popular of these tests would be the Big Five and another frequently sited is the HEXACO PI-R. While the science and professionals find these tests more more reliable for data, the results are harder to use practically. They information may be more reliable and useful but not in there present state. Both tests could use some marketing and communication assistance for popular practicality. The biggest problem is that the results are not written in a way that are relevant for consumer. 

brain, thinking, mind, Personality test

Big Five

Big Five is a personality test that is based on the five common themes that Psychologist identify over multiple studies over multiple years. An easy way to remember the traits is OCEAN, Openness to Experiences, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism. As you can tell, just the names alone are not very user friendly. It seems that creators reached an intelligence plane that makes it difficult to relate to normal people. Even in the results can be difficult to understand. 

When you take the test, either prior to or after you will have to select your demographic data. Your results place you in a percentile of a large sample group of a similar demographic population. The most prominent category this occurs in is Agreeableness. Results still require the same vague interpretations. You may score in the middle but the results only provide you low or high traits. So it still provides little detail to you disposition.

Personality Tests curve

A low score: Traditionalist – down-to-earth – practical – conservative – prefers traditional outlooks and technical problem-solving

Openness to Experience 48%

A high score: Imaginative – open-minded – experimental – prefers creative conceptual problem-solving

The Big Five has its place, but in terms of what I am doing at the moment it is not that useful.


HEXACO PI-R is essentially a Big Five test with an added trait of Honesty-Humility added into the test. The results pages have your trait average score, the Median score (50th Percentile) and the Middle 80 percent scores (10th thru 90th percentiles.) Out of all the results reports I received this was the least useful. It felt like I donated money to an academic project some BS results as an afterthought. I was even less impressed with this test and results. Sometimes I like to nerd out, but these results lack any thought of a consumer using it outside of a required college class assignment.

Honorable Mention 

The Kolbe A Index was a useful test. It does not fall neatly into one of these categories, it is between the type and traits style of test. Kathy Kolbe, the test’s creator developed the test to help elementary and high school kids figure out how they learn. With a similar idea as the Strengths Finder and VIA the Kolbe Index provided students with their specific ways they acquire and implement information they are learning.

In the 1990’s Kolbe began to look at how these tools could be useful for adults and larger organizations. While the tests are looking out your view or your perceptions of information, the Kolbe Index provides how you acquire and implement that information. The results help you focus on how you process information and what order those process most effectively take place. 

Benefits of Personality tests

What are the best types of tests? It depends on the what problem you are trying to solve. If you are looking for what makes you tick, I think the type tests like the MBTI and Enneagram are good places to start. If you are trying to identify your specific strengths to make immediate improvements, then the traits type of tests. I would only recommend the Big Five If you have taken all these and want to dig a little deeper.

I view these tests as tools. They are not a solution. Your result reports may feel very accurate. Maybe they describe you perfectly. For me, I found that the reports provided me the words to describe my personal strengths. Until that time, I had difficulty explaining why I thought differently from others. It was only after reading the results that I could find the words to explain these thoughts. When you see the results for the first time and you get a little chill down your spine, you’ll understand. I am probably saying that because as an ENFP I “Feel” or use my gut to make decisions. This sense to follow my intuition is present in almost all my results.  

How I Use The Results

If this is all new to you, I recommend taking the MBTI or Enneagram. You can even do both and see if the results are reflective in both tests. If there results resonate with you, the themes are broader topics that you can explore within yourself. This board comparison can be useful in sparking some excitement to continue to dig deeper and find your motivators or strengths. I find that the act of writing or journaling about the findings a very liberating process.

If your chosen method to learn is video check out any of the thousands of videos describing the various MBTI or Enneagram types. The deeper you go you may realize that you have aspects of multiple types as I did. This is where the Clifton Strengths Finder and Virtues in Action tests became more beneficial.

Using the Clifton Strength Finders or Virtues in Actions reports can be incredibly helpful. The descriptions of your unique strengths can be a great starting point for both historical reflection and future implementation. They can literally be starting descriptions of your knowledge skills and abilities. Once you review the results think of two or three stories that reflect your using those strengths. Do those stories resonant with you? Are they representative of who you are as a person? It is the linking of the traits to past experiences that strengthen the link of who you are and what you do.

Additional Book Resources

The makers of both Strengths finders test have created additional resources to help you further translate your results. For Clifton Strengths Finder the book is, “Strengthsfinder 2.0 Expanding your Strengths Theme Dynamics: A Deeper Dive into Your Talent Themes and How They Influence Each Other.” This seems to only be available on kindle, but it is pretty interesting. You pick your theme and it provides the specific information for that theme. It also allows you to pick how that theme relates of works with another theme. I got very nerd like and created a spread sheet so be able to see the results in a consolidated area. I saw this on a image in google and decided to do the same with my results.

Strengthsfinder 2.0 Personality test results

The Virtues in Action test has many books that can go deeper with your results. I am using and recommend, “The Power of Character Strengths: Appreciate and Ignite Your Positive Personality.” This book further explains each strength and then has a process of exercises to improve your recognition and usage of these strengths. Going though the various exercise, that practical and actionable steps have directly improve my application of these strengths.

Final Thoughts

I have created a page that has copies of my reports from each of the different personality tests. It will also have ways I have used the reports to gain more knowledge about myself. This is will be a semi-active page that I will update as I use and report on different exercises.   

Have you taken any of these personality tests? What personality tests have you tried and what were your views of the results? Share what your experiences in the comments below. I am genuinely interested in how these tests can help others.

One last thing, If you are a current service member and you are looking to get out, or have already gotten out I would love to have you answer some questions. Just follow this link and follow the on page instructions. Thanks for your help.



Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have experienced all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

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