February 07, 2005
Personality Types
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Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor

by Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor
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What's Your Personality Type?

No this is not a new pickup line like “What's your astrological sign?” Why would anyone care what their personality type is? When one is trying to make a career decision it is prudent to understand upfront how much education, special training, and experience will be required in order to be successful in that career. For example to become a brain surgeon requires 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, plus internship, residency, and specialization It would also be prudent to understand what skills are desirable, what income level can be expected, what lifestyle (travel, hours, pressure, environment… ) an occupation entails and so forth. What is often
overlooked is the fact that
certain personality types are statistically more likely to become successful and to be more satisfied in one occupation versus another. Perhaps personality type may not be as deterministic as physical characteristics are for a professional athlete but nonetheless it is important. High school and college guidance counselors often urge their students to take personality type into consideration as they choose a major or plan for a career.

Most of the readership of this commentary are already well into their careers. Does the question on personality type have any relevance for you? Many professionals face unemployment or uncertain employment due to circumstances beyond their control such as mergers, acquisitions and downsizing at individual firms. There is of course the business cycle of the semiconductor industry which also impacts the EDA community. These external events can give individuals an unsought opportunity to revaluate their career decision. Also many face the choice between climbing the technical ladder and the managerial ladder to higher paying positions and greater recognition.

Persons approaching retirement may wish to consider ways to spend those golden years in areas far afield from their professional career.

Many people are dissatisfied with their current employment. In fact according to a Gallop survey 15% of employees are actively disengaged from their jobs. In the book “The 7 Hidden Reasons Why Employees Leave” the author Leigh Braham makes the point that money is not the dominant issue in dissatisfaction but rather mismatch of job to talent and interest, the perception of limited career advancement and not feeling appreciated are the issues. Self examination of the source of frustration may guide an employee to seek a new role within the current company, with a company in the same or similar industry, or with a company outside the current industry.

Not only should individuals be concerned about the issue of matching personality type to job but companies as well. Here the concern is on hiring fit, employee retention, productivity and team building. Decisions have to be made routinely on new hires, promotions, assignments, team composition and so forth. There are real bottom line consequences for making the wrong decision.

When a company goes about the process of hiring a new person, the company incurs considerable expense. There are external costs in the form of agency fees (~30% for contingency firms and more for executive search firms), help wanted advertisements, T&E for interviews, possible relocation costs and so forth. Internal costs are the time spent by Human Resources, hiring managers and others to review resumes, interview candidates, discuss internally and negotiate offers. Then there are the training costs as the new person comes up the learning curve in his new position. If this is a replacement position, there is lower productivity due to the absence of the previous employee and due to the
distraction of bringing another person on board. Lastly, there is a risk that the new person will not be a good fit. A poor fit could lead to starting the process all over again.

The cost and risk are greatest when the position to be filled is at the top of the organization. Since the start of 2004, 52 CEOs or equivalents resigned, retired or were fired from semiconductor-related companies, compared with 42 semiconductor CEO departures in 2003 and 22 in 2002, according to Who's Who in Semiconductors published by Lightpoint Group Ltd. In addition to the CEOs who stepped down during 2004, several have announced planned departures for 2005 including Craig Barrett of Intel and Pasquale Pistorio of STMicroelectronics. Of course not all of these changes were due to mismatches on personality type.

Firms are also interested in developing leadership, mentoring and communication skills. Achieving these goals requires insight into one's own and into others personality characteristics.

Personality Test
All of the above might be interesting but only if there is some way to validly assess personality types. The tests I have in mind are not to determine whether one has a personality or has a personality disorder but to determine one's basic personality type. There is not a correct or right personality type.

It seems rather obvious that all things being equal a person with an extroverted personality type would be more suited to a sales related occupation than one with an introverted personality type. One might be tempted to assign dominant personality types to various occupations and simplistically match people to jobs based upon this categorization. There is an old joke among psychologist that there are two types of people, namely those who divide the worked into two types of people and those who don't. In reality, there is a continuum from extreme extrovert to extreme introvert. Humanity is broadly distributed along this spectrum, probably described by a normal distribution clustered
about the midpoint. A two dimensional approach might be better.

The figure below shows the extravert-introvert orientation along the horizontal axis and the people-task orientation along the vertical axis. The stereotypical salesperson would be in the upper right-hand corner and the stereotypical engineer in the lower left-hand corner.

Where would you put customer service representative, accountant, scientist or lawyer on this grid? Of course it would be better if the matching between personality characteristics and occupations were based upon a data base of responses from people in a given industry rather than on stereotypes. Not surprisingly this is the situation with several well known tests described below.

A popular tool for career planning and choice of major at colleges and universities is the Strong Interest Inventory (SII). The SII assessment tool measures an individual's interest in a broad range of occupations, work and leisure activities, and school subjects. Interests in these areas are then compared to those of people who are successfully employed in a variety of occupations. Many schools offer on-line computer-based assessment that takes about a half hour to complete. The test contains over three hundred items that measure interest in a wide range of occupations, occupational activities, hobbies, leisure activities and types of people. Typically one is asked to rate
interest in an activity such as giving a speech as Like, Indifferent or Dislike. Some tests use a 5 point response (Strongly Like, Like, Indifferent, Dislike, or Strongly Dislike). The purpose is to help people understand their work interests and to illustrate the kinds of work in which they might be comfortable. The test does not attempt to measure skills that might be required for the career.

A Strong Profile generally consists of
Snapshot summary of results

General Occupational Themes (GOT) - measures 6 board interest patterns

Basic Interest Scales - shows interest in a set number of specific activities

Occupational Scales - shows how similar one's interests are to those currently in a list of occupations

Personal Style Scales - shows comfort level with different ways of approaching people, learning, leading, making decisions, and participating in teams
The results are usually presented as a series of graphs or gauges. The six GOTs themes are Realistic, Conventional, Investigative, Enterprising, Artistic and Social shown in the diagram below where neighboring themes are similar, opposites are dissimilar.

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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.


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