“Are you an introvert or an extrovert?”
That’s the teaser for so many online personality tests, and why not? People like to talk about themselves (especially in quiz form it seems). Never mind that you already know if you are reserved or outgoing. Sometimes you need to validate it by answering: What would you rather do on Friday night? A.) Sing Karaoke in a Manhattan nightclub –or– B.) Watch Netflix alone with your cat.
The scientific validity is so sharp you could cut yourself.
When it comes to hiring people, employers want intel on introverted and extroverted job applicants as well, and plenty of business websites and blogs are happy to oblige.
However, these two personality styles are not so neatly divided. That is, there’s more nuance and dimension to interpersonal dynamics than can be described by a single scale or be listed under one of two broad categories.
Instead of an on/off switch, think of interpersonal dynamics as a mixing board with a row of faders. A fader for empathy. One for self-assurance. Another for service orientation. Openness. Skepticism. The degree to which you demonstrate these qualities will affect how you interact (and are perceived) socially.
An article on a popular business website claims that extroverts volunteer for group projects and that introverts get angry when interrupted from a task. Another says that introverts like intellectual challenges and that extroverts respond well to frequent meetings.
If this blog post were a preview for a goofball comedy, a record-scratching sound would appear here.
Those sites are not offering good advice.
Surely there are data out there showing many introverts do indeed enjoy intellectual challenges. But there are also data showing analytical and creative thinkers can be extroverted as well. Furthermore, many introverts exhibit a strong service motivation and like to volunteer, and plenty of extroverts get frustrated by interruption. In other words, it depends on the person and her array of interpersonal qualities. People respond to social stimuli based on their overall blend of interpersonal attributes, not necessarily because of an introvert/extrovert dichotomy.
At Caliper, we slice it even further with a “sociable” dynamic to measure relationship building, and an “outgoing” dynamic to assess comfort with meeting new people and interacting in group settings. People who score low in sociability and high in outgoingness on the Caliper Profile can throw the introvert/extrovert dichotomy completely out of whack, since they show attributes of both in equal measure.
If you are an employer, you’ll want to discover the full range of your applicants’ interpersonal dynamics. Then you’ll really know who responds well to intellectual challenges, who enjoys volunteering, who gets grumpy when interrupted, and who likes frequent meetings.
Actually, no data—or anecdotal evidence for that matter—shows that anyone likes frequent meetings. Seriously, internet?