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Persona: The Dark Truth Behind Personality Tests: A Revelation at the Heart of America

How many of you have taken the Myer-Briggs personality test? Many of us have it for fun, leadership, or trending purposes, but have any of us taken it for a job? The CNN Documentary which premiered on HBO takes a very dark, and saddening turn when watching. I was well aware that Myer-Briggs was used by some companies as an assessment for how you’d fit into the company culture. What I didn’t realize, is how discriminatory this practice actually is. Like anything co-opted in the U.S. without due education, this practice of using personality tests has detrimental effects on populations that do not fit the cis, straight, white, male, able-bodied, and neurotypical ‘type’ for which the workplace was designed around to benefit. A personality test is another category that the U.S. uses to maintain a certain status quo in a workplace. Or candidly known as Eugenics. 


The U.S. has an obsession with categories. Filling out boxes upon boxes about your unique personality on forms is something we’re all used to doing, unfortunately. Categorization goes from your race, gender identity, to disability and veteran status, and Myers-Briggs is another category. I like to conceptualize Myer-Briggs as the zodiac signs of the workplace. Sure, you might be a Pisces and your hiring manager might be a Sagittarius but god forbid if you’re an INFP and they’re an ENTJ. See what I mean? The way zodiac signs can’t encapsulate a whole person, neither can these personality tests. Yet the fact that the U.S. chooses to blindly use such a practice (which was not created by a certified psychologist) is a strong indicator of where U.S. values lie, not that there were many in the first place. 


What these tests don’t account for is the cultural differences in people who do not fit what you may look for in a workplace. For example, in the U.S. there tends to be a preference for Type A personalities, constantly socializing, being outgoing, etc. The Myer-Briggs is used as an indicator for personality ‘type’, putting people into their respective categories and providing yet another label to promote individuality. No, you’re not quirky for being an introvert, please get over yourself. This is harmful towards people who are not from the U.S. who have different behaviors and may even speak English slightly differently. Your cultural background should never be a detriment in finding a job, especially if it isn’t a problem for straight, able-bodied, type A, White men. 


There was a point in the documentary when the HireVue CEO was speaking about the video interviewing platform and how AI actually filters out expressions and mannerisms to find the ‘right candidate’. Like many of us in this COVID age, I have taken a HireVue interview several times, thinking nothing of it and perhaps naively believing another person was seeing my video. As my Dad watched this, his jaw dropped and he spoke to me about how this practice is morally wrong on many levels. I couldn’t see it initially, explaining to him that it makes sense we do this in our time, we’re all on video anyway. 


However as the documentary progressed, I was shocked upon understanding that AI cannot take into account different cultures, expressions, mannerisms, ways of speaking, etc. so it cannot truly be objective if it caters towards White American men and their personality ‘type’.  This means that because AI and perhaps systems like ATS which are so prevalent in the workplace now are filtering out people automatically based on these categories which are in no way indicative of the work you will perform. It’s rather disheartening for me to consider that I may have been filtered out because of my race or gender or both, rather than inexperience which is why I thought I was getting rejected in the first place. To know that I have to impress a robot to get an interview makes the job search even more daunting, and it was perhaps a romantic notion of mine was that I was being judged on my quality of work or writing (which I know is not mediocre). 


In a place that is as diverse as the U.S., you have to take into consideration a person’s experience and ability to perform the task at hand more than their background. Shocker, I know but people of color are still people before the category you would like to put them in. Their background may elevate and enhance certain practices, however, it should not automatically be filtered out without due reason. This documentary shows how increasingly apparent it is that the U.S. has no interest in finding thinkers to elevate ideas, but rather workers who keep the White, male corporate status quo in place. On the bright side, I at least have more confidence in the work I do, and I can add direct communication to my skill set. 

Pramila Baisya (commonly known as Prim to her friends) is a third year writing student at Lang, trying to figure her life out. She enjoys poetry, photography, films, and comedy to an unhealthy degree and hopes to end up as an answer on the which famous NewSchooler are you quiz. Go Narwhals!
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