Beyond Personality Type: How to Use the Right Words to Land a Job
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a common personality assessment tool used by career counselors and employers. Behavior preferences are tested across four scales resulting in a total of 16 types. As a job seeker, it’s helpful to study personality tools such as the MBTI to gain a solid understanding of your own strengths and preferences. It’s also helpful to study types other than your own so that you can communicate more effectively. A lot of disputes on the job could be prevented if people accepted differing views of the world.
One scale measured by the MBTI is “Sensing” vs. “Intuition.” While everyone takes in information from their five senses, we have different ways of filtering this information. According to “Type Talk at Work” author Otto Kroeger, “Sensors prefer to focus on the facts and the details of something and have less need to interpret what they mean.” They tend to be pragmatic, literal and communicate with concrete language. Because “70 percent of the U.S. population prefers to gather information in this way,” according to Kroeger, much of the world’s business communication is oriented toward concreteness.
Intuitives gather information and translate it through their intuition, “looking for possibilities, meanings, and relationships among various things,” according to Kroeger. They like to see the big picture. Intuitives see the forest first and then the trees. Sensors work the other way around. The wide-open orientation of Intuitives means they prefer to use abstract language. They tend to speak in generalities and summaries, and they look for symbols and analogies rather than interpreting information in a literal fashion.
Because 70 percent of the population communicates with mostly concrete language, and 30 percent prefers abstract language, there is likely to be conflict based simply on differences in communication preferences.
If you are Intuitive, you’re likely going to have a harder time expressing yourself in a way that the majority of people—including prospective employers—understand. If you’re a Sensing type, your literal mind might be slow to understand figurative language that evokes theory and symbols. Some companies that have a high Intuitive appeal such as think tanks and branding firms may not appeal to you. Likewise, an Intuitive type might not be attracted to jobs that have strong real-world components, like transportation or law enforcement.
Wherever you land on the scale of Sensing (concrete language) versus Intuition (abstract language), it’s important to understand the communication styles of different types and translate them to the job search. When reading job descriptions, you’ll notice that position responsibilities are usually listed in concrete terms. It’s up to you to provide recruiters and hiring managers with a clear summary of your experience as it correlates to the position’s requirements in your cover letter and the interview. Your resume is the best place to express the concrete details of what you have accomplished.
It’s also important to have enough self-understanding to know what type of environment and role you are looking for and be able to articulate it. If you can express your abstract desires in concrete terms, you will be able to determine when your sense of mission is aligned with a position and make better decisions about which positions you apply to, and which offer you ultimately accept.
For example, say you have worked as a customer service representative and you are a health and fitness nut. It motivates you to be around other fitness-oriented people and you desire to share this passion with others. While your skills could qualify you to work at many different types of companies in your area, you might decide to work at a health club or company that makes health or fitness products. “Sharing my passion” is an abstract desire that becomes concrete when you add “with individuals who want to improve their health.” You will not apply for a job at a semiconductor company.
However, you may also be a health and fitness nut with customer service skills whose primary desire is “to work in a cooperative team environment.” You will apply to any type of company, whether it makes health products or semiconductors, and will and ask questions about how the team communicates in your interview. You know that you can pursue your fitness goals outside of the office.
It’s important to articulate your desires to yourself first, rank them in terms of importance, and then determine how that translates to (1) what types of positions you apply to, (2) what you write in your resume objective statement (3) what you write in your cover letter, and (4) what you say in the interview.
The MBTI is scored on a continuum, with few people exhibiting 100 percent of all of the identified traits on any of the four scales. Thankfully, the world doesn’t work in polarities. The beauty of the MBTI and other personality assessments is that they view all perspectives as necessary and valid, and they acknowledge our ability to value these differences. The world exists in both concrete and abstract terms, and the more you can learn to communicate in both styles as needed, the more valuable you will be on the job, whatever your “type.”