Why is it “unethical” to base hiring decisions on MBTI?

Why is it “unethical” to base hiring decisions on MBTI?

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This is a discussion on Why is it “unethical” to base hiring decisions on MBTI? within the Myers Briggs Forum forums, part of the Personality Type Forums category; ...

  1. #1

    Why is it “unethical” to base hiring decisions on MBTI?

    I’ll start by explaining the situation that has prompted me to think about this question.

    I work in one-to-one language tutoring to adults in Japan, mostly businesspeople. At the high-end of the market, where I work, it’s a stressful job because if the students are paying a lot of money for a lesson, they are usually under intense the gun to improve their skills, and if you’re taking that money then you’re under pressure to get them to improve. Failure to produce these results means that the student will not renew their contract, which affects you because you’re working on commission. Success hinges on being able to do the following:

    1) Learning as much as possible about each new student’s job/industry, in a limited time.

    2) Getting to grips with a considerable amount of linguistic theory involving the English and Japanese languages, and how things are translated between the two.

    3) Combining the knowledge referred to in #2 with the knowledge gleaned by #1, to illustrate a particular linguistic point with example sentences that your student could imagine themselves saying. This almost always needs to be done “on the spot”, because you can’t predict what questions etc. are going to come up.

    I worked for 4 years in a very large company that specialised in this, and the vast majority of people who came in couldn’t keep enough students to survive, with over 95% of new hires quitting within the first few months. I can’t blame them for this because I could see both their earnings and the hours they were putting in, and they would have been better off working in a minimum wage job.

    Yet, out of the hundreds of people who tried this job, there were about a dozen who did far, far better, and usually stayed for many years. Usually at any one time they would comprise less than 10% of a branch’s staff, but every month they would account for more than 90% of the contract renewals. The gap was very striking, with not a single person in between them and the rest. So from here on I’ll refer to them as the 90% and the 10%, even though the number would have been considerably lower than 10% due to the high turnover among the 90%.

    The 10% came to the job from a wide variety of backgrounds. Off the top of my head I call recall that one had been a lawyer, one had been a car salesman and a few had backgrounds in science or maths. However what they had in common was that they were all either one of two MBTI types (a lot of tutors took the test together, and I was able to type the rest).

    Most were ENTP, with a handful of ENFPs (who interestingly enough had all majored in maths at university).

    What’s interesting is that, while there were some ENTPs and ENFPs among the 90%, they were a real mixed bag. I found people from every type among them.

    When you think about it, it makes sense, because Judging types struggle with on the spot creativity, Sensing types struggle with the abstract linguistic theory, and Introverts will burn out from having to talk to people all day. Also, the trans-contextual thinking associated with Ne is absolutely crucial to the on-the-spot synthesis of ideas required for the job.

    So now I’ve started my own business in this area and am thinking about recruiting staff. I keep reading that it’s “unethical” to make hiring decisions based on MBTI type, but I’m wondering why that is. Whilst there are some ENTPs and ENFPs that have failed in the role, the other types fail in the role every single time. So why shouldn’t I try to figure out the type of everyone I interview and weed out everyone except the ENTPs and ENFPs? Apart from it being bad for business, if anything I think it’s unethical not to do so, because if I hire other personality types then they’re just going to waste a few weeks or months of their time earning less than minimum wage, until they finally quit, at which point they’re dejected and bitter. Even within language teaching there are so many other different kinds of jobs that they’d be happier in.

    And I can’t imagine that this is the only job which some or most types simply cannot do. I’m ENTP and I’m very grateful that my ISTJ accountant loves what she does, because I know that kind of work would drive me insane. And I don’t think I’m the only one because I’ve never met an ENTP in that job.

  2. #2

    I dunno about unethical. It's just entrepreneurial nonsense, that's all.

  3. #3

    Nothing unethical. Base your hiring decisions on anything you want, honestly. Try segregating your soon-to-be employees by their skill level though, it's more efficient than doing so by their personality. ESTP here and being an accountant would make me insane as well.
    On this ethics subject; it's already "ethical" that you take the risk of setting up your own business, private entrepreneurship is one of the main pillars of a decent society.
    Monandock thanked this post.

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  5. #4

    I hadn't heard anybody saying that it would be unethical to hire somebody based on their personality - MBTI or not, most employers will probably tell you that they're trying to hire people whose personality fits the company.

    But now that I googled it, the MBTI organization's stand is that it's unethical to make people take the test as a part of the hiring process, because it should be voluntary, and people have a right to their privacy. (Also, I would guess that they don't like the idea of all those people lying about their personality to get hired, that would mess up their stats.) But again, MBTI or not, every single company that's hired me in the past 20 years has done some sort of a personality test to me as a part of the hiring process. If it's unethical, it's at least very frequent. Also, the company I currently work for did the MBTI test for a bunch of us when we were already working there, AND shared everybody's results publicly.

    MBTI supposedly predicts job success quite poorly, which makes sense to me. We don't go around doing only things that we naturally prefer; people have skills and manners and all sorts of motivations to do what's needed in a job.
    Bunniculla, Sensational, Aelthwyn and 1 others thanked this post.

  6. #5

    Because type is actually bullshit. People are beyond a type. And even then, type is about cognition, not about how well you can do your job or how quickly you learn. I work in a lab, not really a typical ESFJ thing, yet I am one of their hardest working, longest lasting, and most accurate emplyees.

    Not only is it theoretically unethical because it's baseless discrimination, but you'd be the one losing out in the end by willingly giving up potential employees who could have been great.

  7. #6

    I think it depends, but overall, think type isn't so important to finding a good potential candidate for a specific job. You can practice something that isn't your preference or specialty until you become so good at it, people would have to look twice to find any abnormalities. Also, what if you're naturally talented but are lazy and won't actually do any work...well that's another "depends" scenario. However, I do see some merit in using type in your hiring decision making process, because certain fields can be widely applied to a variety of skill sets and certain jobs just require something very specific. For example, if the job requires you to talk to people all day and be very enthusiastic at it, I really don't know if you can find a lasting employee in an Introvert. They might eventually quit instead of having long term plans, since it's so draining to them.

  8. #7

    Eh, I wouldn't say its "unethical" but honestly, people are so much more than their type that it would be ridiculous to assign a job to someone solely based on it.
    eatery125, Suntide, Helendleof Loc and 2 others thanked this post.

  9. #8

    It's unethical because it's pseudoscientific. We have no proof that MBTI types are a real thing, we just base it on happenstance and observation, it just happens to "seem" to fit correctly. Someone can come out with a list of reasons why they think MBTI is nonsense and we'll really have no argument against them. If you choose to hire based on what you think a person's MBTI type is you could be hiring based on fairytale. Not to mention there's no real reliable way of determining a person's type.

    It'd be like hiring someone based on their astrology sign. You may hypothetically believe it's a real thing, but the people you chose not to hire sure didn't, and they'll feel pretty wronged if they found out you turned them down because they were born on the wrong date. To anyone who doesn't believe in astrology it's beyond unfair.
    Suntide thanked this post.

  10. #9

    I think the best procedure would be:
    -hire who you think is best for the job
    -let them hang around for a month or two and then once they're settled in, give them the MBTI Test
    -whatever their results are, use their results to motivate them to be the best employee they can or to determine what area of the company they'd be best in, or just how to treat them in general
    Sensational thanked this post.

  11. #10

    To me comparing MBTI to astrology is pointless and impossible. Of course MBTI is pseudoscientific if "it" even tries to be scientific (I beg to differ). But in here, you get "your type" mostly by, I don't know, answering some questions etc. And in astrology, you get "your sign" by comparing your birthday to the chart. So of course MBTI's more accurate, even if someone is lying while being typed - we know his/her projection of himself/herself or whatever. In astrology, we don't know shit.
    Janna and katnip thanked this post.

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