Is Myers-Briggs up to the job?

Murad Ahmed:

On the first day of his new job at the management consultants McKinsey & Company, Alick Varma, then 22, was asked to take a test. The questionnaire quizzed him on aspects of his personality, asking, for instance, whether he would “rather be considered a practical person or an ingenious person?” and whether he considered himself “a ‘good mixer’ or rather quiet and reserved?”

Varma, who joined McKinsey as a business analyst in October 2007, was taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) — a personality test that has become a rite of passage for millions of white-collar workers. Since the 1960s, when the test began to be rolled out across corporate America, more than 50 million people around the world are estimated to have taken it.

Myers-Briggs has a particularly strong influence at McKinsey, according to current and former staffers (when contacted for this article, McKinsey said it does not comment on its “internal processes”.) Included in the basic biographical information supplied on the company’s staff profile pages are addresses, educational background — and MBTI personality types. When a team begins a new project, associates often start by discussing their respective personality traits — are you an “E” (extrovert) or an “I” (introvert)?