Top 5 alternatives to the Myers-Briggs test

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (“MBTI” or “Myers-Briggs” to its rapidly dwindling group of friends) is the personality test people love to hate. Our spotlight on MBTI’s shortcomings was the most popular post of 2014. Now it’s time to talk alternatives.

“The mistake is that people look at it as if it’s the beginning and end of it all, and that’s a mistake,” says Jacob M. Engel, author of The Prosperous Leader. “You need a multi-disciplinary, multi-tool approach.”

Big Five

As MBTI comes under fire, the Big Five’s star is in ascendance. Unlike MBTI, which focuses on a set of binary, this-or-that results on four dimensions, the Big Five delves into degrees and relative strengths. This eliminates the “clubby” aspect of MBTI typology, in which support groups and “hate threads” are quite common. It also deals more directly with characteristics that are desirable, or otherwise, in an employee, teammate, or manager.

In last year’s article, Adam McKibbin remarked that “In Myers-Briggs, basically everyone is a winner.” Definitely not so in Big Five, where a measure of one’s neuroticism is on the table. (Agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and openness are also on the table.) Tested subcategories in some variants of the Big Five include “immoderation,” “depression,” “anxiety,” and “anger.”

Just as there are multiple instances of MBTI testing, there are several approaches to gauging the Big Five. Check out a free Big Five variant which provides a raw score readout, percentile ranking against other test-takers, and some basic personality conclusions.

Predictive Index (PI)

Administered by PI Worldwide, founded in 1955, the Predictive Index isn’t a test taken for laughs. It’s all business, baby. “MBTI is also used in academia and in personal coaching, but the Predictive Index was specifically designed for a business context,” says Matt Poepsel, VP of product management at PI Worldwide.

Unlike many personality tests which ask sliding-scale questions about scenarios (“I am easily distracted by shiny things”), PI has just two screens. The first is a grid of several dozen traits, and you are asked to select every trait which you believe others expect you to exhibit. The second screen is the same list, this time asking you to select the traits you believe you truly do exhibit. For example, others may expect you to be Conventional, Passive, and Reserved, when you truly see yourself as Spirited, Versatile, and Adventurous.

From these answers, PI crunches numbers behind the scenes and reaches conclusions about your levels of of dominance, extroversion, patience, and formality. “In the business world, those factors and drives account for a significant amount of on-the-job behaviors,” Poepsel says.

Like the Big Five, PI scores are a matter of degree rather than absolutes. The relationship between them is used not only to assess the current state of play, but how much people can be directed or managed—to become more assertive or more team-oriented, for example.

PI isn’t free, as many MBTI and alternative tests are. You need a specific invitation to get access to PI’s toolset. Results aren’t self-service, either. Results are “read back” by a trained analyst, although the company can also generate an automated report as a takeaway. The report provides a personality summary and a breakdown of the individual’s strongest behaviors and tendencies, along with an overview of their expected management style and suggested strategies to best manage them. If you’re on the fence about a key hire, PI analysis can help answer some nagging questions.

Traitify

Traitify is carving out a niche in personality assessment that feels more like Tinder than the stolid, Web 1.0 approach many of the entrenched tests offer. The startup shows test-takers a series of photos with representative captions, and asks you to click or tap “Me” or “Not Me.” After a few dozen images, you get an assessment.

Most Traitify results are chosen from a list of seven possible fits, and summaries are generated based on the top two results, such as “Analyzer/Visionary” or “Planner/Mentor.”

If you’re looking for a test that “gets” Millennials and even younger types, Traitify is it. “We’re able to take our solution to college campuses, and this approach allows us to get mass adoption,” says Dan Sines, Traitify co-founder. “The popularity of services like Snapchat and Instagram show that people are comfortable with pictures, and that’s making it easier for us to harness their personalities.”

Traitify makes the basic career-oriented test available for free on the main site, and has a few others, such as best movie fit and most similar hero type (Innovators and Berserkers, assemble!) available in exchange for an email address on a demo site.

The origin story of the Traitify system is that it was devised after the co-inventor flamed out on a blind date and wanted to develop a system to match fun activities with personality types. That resulted in the defunct Woofound Explore service, which Traitify shuttered when it rebranded and focused on reselling the testing platform to other businesses. A missed chance at love is a darling story to tell angel and venture investors, but may not have enough gravitas to displace more formal testing structures in every organization.

Emotion-focused tests: Adaptive Resilience Factor Inventory and the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso EI test

Business is business, but feelings matter, too. That’s why emotionally-oriented tests are also coming into vogue. The Adaptiv Resilience Factor Inventory uses the concept of emotional resiliency as a lens to the greater personality. “The course of people’s lives is rarely a straight line, and it’s important to know how people deal with setbacks and failures,” Engel says. “Certain types of people, especially serial entrepreneurs, go through a huge series of failures before they hit it big.”

Emotional intelligence (EI/EQ) scoring is a popular, non-proprietary approach. One of the most popular, the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso EI test, examines emotional perception, thought facilitation, emotional understanding, and emotion management.

Practitioners tout the ability of EI/EQ-based selection to boost productivity, increase sales, and cut costs. Think of it as a way to measure someone’s ability to make the right decisions for the right reasons, and to be aware of the emotional context (or baggage, if you will) that others bring to a business encounter. It also reveals how a task some people take for granted, such as being able to correctly identify and name the emotions most likely associated with a given facial expression, can completely elude others.

There are plenty of ways emotional intelligence can be used for selfish or nefarious ends. The Atlantic memorably chronicled the fact that dictators and master manipulators use EQ as a surgical tool.

That brings us to the most important lesson of all. No matter what any battery of tests tells you a certain person should be able to accomplish or shouldn’t take too seriously, don’t let the scoresheet stand in the way of forming your own conclusions and keeping them honest. “You still have to hold people accountable for their behavior even while you’re appreciating their uniqueness or who the test says they are,” Engel says.

Jason Compton
Post by Jason Compton

Jason Compton is a writer with over 15 years of experience covering marketing, sales, and service. Based in Madison, WI, he is a regular contributor to Direct Marketing News, previously served as executive editor of CRM Magazine, and has been published in over 50 outlets.

6 Responses to Top 5 alternatives to the Myers-Briggs test

  1. Brent Green, Ph.D.

    MB Type Indicator is NOT a test as some of your comments make note. Also, it is a door opener to self and other awareness of preferences and tendencies. It is useful for those with little other exposure to such tools. It’s use is for appreciation of differences and yes strengths for self and/or teams. The system indeed allows one to see degrees of strength. It is NOT a black or white stamp. Hope this clarifies some issues.

  2. Mitch

    Thanks for this list. The Strengths Finder 2.0 is making its rounds in our university. All faculty and incoming Freshmen were required to take it by August 2015. It seems similar to Big 5 (as it has a top 5 out of 34 possible strengths). It focuses on what to excel at especially on a team which helps in light of the MBTI which I sometimes felt “you are weak in this area; improve it!”

  3. Ashley

    Belbin team model is about the best test I have worked with. While it only describes personalities in their team roles, it makes a lot of sense – focuses on behaviours and ignores the hand wringing surrounding personality characteristics.

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