I recently took a personality test as part of a lengthy hiring process and found it to be a strange and unsettling experience. Originally, I was kind of looking forward to it. What would the questions be like? What would my answers say about me? How would the experts expose the special sparkling little jewel that is my personality?
But looking over the test, I felt the sinking sense of disappointment. There were about 30 questions and each one had three choices for the answer. The first answer was one extreme, the second answer was a “Neither” or a “Sometimes”, and the third one was the opposite of the first answer. The instructions warned you in a very serious and threatening tone that you were NOT allowed to pick more than 4 of the middle answers or the test would be invalid. Four! That didn’t seem like very many times to be unsure of an answer! But I had no choice but to plunge in. I had been working on getting this job for six months now. There was no way I was blowing it over a 20 minute online multiple choice.
I briskly rubbed my hands together and tossed back the remains of my room temperature seltzer. It was go time. This was the first question:
Q: When you’re under a deadline at work you feel like:
A. I wish my co-workers would just be quiet so I can get some work done!
C. It’s so nice to have company when you’re trying to get something done.
I mean, I didn’t know! First of all, while taking this test, I was sitting at our kitchen table where I do all my work. Our apartment is basically two bedrooms and a living space, so I’m never alone. Did that make the boys my co-workers? I guess, right? Ok, fine. So, when I’m trying to think about something that’s time sensitive and everyone is screaming because the Optimus Prime has a slinky tangled in his nether regions and someone is tugging at the hem of my shirt and relentlessly but gently patting my arm to tell me that he “goed poo poos”, I guess I did wish that everyone would be quiet. BUT, when I’m trying to finish designing a workout on the fly and I have the music cranked and my “co-workers” are dancing around and hilariously screaming, “Go, mom!! Ten more reps!!!” and no one has on any pants, well, then I loved it! So, the answer was B. Neither.
It went on:
Q: When you must accomplish something through a bureaucratic office do you:
A. Follow every single rule to the letter, even if it is to your personal detriment.
C. Find any way you can to undermine the rules to make the best outcome for yourself.
I mean, neither, right!? Who the heck would follow “every single rule” when it doesn’t help them? I pictured that sad sack eating their canned soup under terrible overhead lighting. But answer C. seemed so sleazy! That was like some doucher trying to relieve old ladies of their pensions with his house painting scheme. What was with the wording, “any way you can”? That sounded so crazily desperate! So, the answer was B. Neither.
Then, things got weird. The next question was surprisingly disturbing. It said:
Q: Do you dislike yourself? Do you think everything you do is wrong?
A. Yes, always
C. No, never
What the-! Who would say yes, always??? If you felt like that, would you even admit it? Maybe that one was there to weed out the psychos. But other answer, C., was that true? Did I never dislike myself? Well, of course not. Were there ever days when I felt like everything I did was wrong? Yes! Just the other day I tried, in a kind of mean and bullying tone, to get my two-year old to verbally agree that tigers could sometimes be green just so I could reuse old Halloween costumes. Ok, so the answer was B. Sometimes.
Then things got even weirder.
Q: When contemplating a trip to Carlsbad Caverns you feel:
A. A little bit uneasy
C. Excited for the adventure
A trip to Carlsbad Caverns??? Why so specific? Couldn’t they just say a cave? Was there something special about Carlsbad Caverns I was supposed to be considering? Should I Google it real quick? No, I wasn’t supposed to take more than 20 minutes to complete the whole test and I had already wasted a ton of time laboring over the first three questions. Maybe just power through. But when I thought about going into a cave I wasn’t just, A. a little bit uneasy, I was terrified! I hate caves! They’re so damp and claustrophobic. There’s no fresh air and there are stalag mites and tites and one is mighty and one is tighty and it all means the same thing and there’s bats and Gollum and all sorts of terrible bullshit down there. So, not A., definitely not A. And definitely not C.! So, B. Neither, again!
I had already used up my 4 middle answers and there were still 26 questions to go. I floundered on for the rest of the test, forced to pick extremes I didn’t agree with for fear that the whole thing would be rendered invalid. I was hoping for a comments section or survey at the end. I wanted a chance to set the record straight on the Carlsbad Caverns thing, at least. But once I clicked my answer for the last question a window popped up thanking me for taking the test and offering no other options.
I stared at the bold text for a while feeling disproportionately upset. How could a test like that ever get a sense of anyone’s personality with such polarized options? I felt like it was more telling of the personality of the author of the test than anything else. I sat there for kind of a long time in the fading daylight trying my best to imagine that man or woman and what they were doing in their small, flat, three answer world.