The Birkman Method Personality Test

A Gallup poll conducted in 2011–2012 revealed that almost 75% of Americans often feel disengaged with their jobs. It's becoming clear that entering the workforce without knowing what interests and motivates you can result in an unfulfilling and uninspiring career.

As engagement at work grows in focus, it's increasingly likely that prospective employers will require you to take a personality test to identify your underlying motivations and occupational needs.

One such test is The Birkman Method personality test. Scientifically proven to boost employment successes and opportunities, the Birkman assessment is routinely used by employers to identify the most suitable candidates during their hiring processes.

Contents

  1. The Birkman Method
  2. The Science Behind The Birkman Method
  3. Why Is The Birkman Method Important?
  4. Is It Possible to Prepare for a Personality Test?
  5. Structure of the Birkman Test and How to Prepare
  6. How Are the Results of the Birkman Test Reported?
  7. Final Thoughts
  8. Further Reading

The Birkman Method

The Birkman test was developed by organizational psychologist, Roger Birkman, who began to develop his interest in occupational psychology during the 1940s while he was serving in the US Army Air Corps. He observed his fellow pilots and noted that placement within the Air Corps was not based on personality. He also noticed that pilots’ behaviors were directly affected by their own perception of events around them.

In the late 1940s, Birkman began to develop his method. Focusing on perceptions and the impact on personality, he stated:

“The reality of life is that your perceptions – right or wrong – influence everything else you do. When you get a proper perspective of your perceptions, you may be surprised how many other things fall into place.”

Birkman’s goal was to measure employees’ occupational needs and behaviors. The results could then be used by employees or their employers to discover their strengths and motivations and to improve their performance at work.

In 1951, Birkman founded Birkman International Inc. to bring The Birkman Method personality test to people across the world.



The man himself (source: birkman.com).

The Science Behind The Birkman Method

One way to understand The Birkman Method is to apply a model developed by Doctor Kurt Lewin. Lewin states that B = ƒ(P, E) or, in other words, “Behavior is a function of the Person and his/her interaction with their Environment.”

The test assesses your personality across broad categories, as follows. 

Underlying Needs

We all require certain treatment from the people and environment around us, and needs vary from person to person. When our needs are satisfied, we feel comfortable, confident and able to perform productively. It can be difficult to identify your needs as they are not visibly perceptible.

Interests

This relates to what you enjoy doing both in your personal life and your occupation.

Personality and Perception Relative to Societal Norms

People do not cultivate their personalities in bubbles but are influenced by the society in which they live. A better understanding of one’s own perceptions of the world can promote empathy, a must for people working within collaborative, professional environments.

Usual Behavior

This relates to how your interests, motivations and perceptions result in behaviors which influence your performance at work. Your usual behaviors are the visible result of your needs being fulfilled.

Stress Behavior

This is how you react when your workplace needs are not fulfilled.

Why Is The Birkman Method Important?

Self-awareness is now classified as a basic requirement for graduates across all fields, from customer service to medicine. For example, the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education states that Doctor of Pharmacy graduates must be “…able to examine and reflect on personal knowledge, skills, abilities, beliefs, biases, motivation, and emotions that could enhance or limit personal and professional growth.

Around 80% of midsize to large companies now use personality assessments during their hiring process. You may also be required to take a Birkman test if you are applying for postgraduate study.

Some employers currently requiring applicants to take a Birkman test include:

  • JP Morgan
  • Coca-Cola
  • Shell
  • AT&T
  • IBM
  • Philips
  • Procter & Gamble
  • MailChimp
  • Walmart
  • Duracell
  • Chevron
  • Goodwill
  • Right Management Manpower Group
  • Sage Hospitality

Is It Possible to Prepare for a Personality Test?

The good news is there is no “wrong” sort of personality and you cannot fail The Birkman Test. However, it is possible to prepare.

As the aim of the test is to assess self-awareness; the more self-aware you are, the better you will perform. To do well you need to understand the format of the test and be familiar with the way the results are reported. The less you need to worry about the logistics of taking the test, the more you can focus on answering the questions thoughtfully and accurately.

Structure of The Birkman Test and How to Prepare

The test is taken as an online assessment. It is comprised of 298 questions: 250 true/false questions, and 48 multiple-choice questions. It is not timed, although the average time for completing all the Birkman test questions is 30 minutes. The results are available immediately after the test is completed.

Preparing for a test you cannot fail is surprisingly difficult. However, here are some tips to consider in advance of a Birkman personality test:

  • Learn about the organization or company you are applying to. The type of job and the qualities an employer is looking for in a candidate are linked. Gaining insight into what the job requires will help you think about your own strengths and weaknesses. As previously mentioned, the more self-aware you are, the better you are likely to perform.

  • Do not try and “trick” the test. You may be tempted to try to answer the questions the way the employer wants you to answer them. However, The Birkman Method has over 60 years worth of data against which to test the reliability of your results. Trying to give the 'correct' answers may result in skewed and inaccurate data that makes you appear less capable than you are. The best-case scenario is that your strategy works and you end up getting hired for a job which you are not suitable for. Instead, make sure you answer the questions honestly. Let your natural qualities shine through.

  • Take practice tests. If you can anticipate the types of questions that may come up, you are likely to feel less anxious about taking a Birkman test. Try searching for “personality test practice questions” or “Birkman test practice questions” online. Take a look also at JobTestPrep

  • Take your time. You do not have to answer the questions within an allotted amount of time, so don’t rush. Try not to take too long either, as this may suggest you are indecisive.

  • Take care of yourself. Ensure you are in a good mental state to take the test. If you feel good within yourself, you are more likely to be capable of accurate introspection. Ensure you get a full eight hours of sleep the night before taking the test, eat well and drink plenty of water.

How Are the Results of The Birkman Test Reported?

The Birkman Method offers a complex system of reporting. There are over 40 report styles, including one-on-one comparisons and group comparisons. The type of report will generally depend on the needs of the person or organization requesting it.

For many of the report styles, a Birkman Certified specialist is required to analyze the data. However, there is a core report called the Birkman Basics Report that does not require specialized analysis.

This report identifies core behavioral data. The data is then presented in the form of a Birkman Map, scales depicting Areas of Interest and possible suitable Job Families and Job Titles. The data is represented through colorful pictorials to make it easy to analyze your results.

Four colors are used to depict individual styles and fundamental differences between people:

Red = Doer

Doers are action-focused. They enjoy hands-on work, project management and solving practical problems. However, doers can sometimes be aggressive or hard to reason with if their needs are not met. 

Green = Communicator

Communicators enjoy working with people. They excel at selling, pitching, counseling, teaching and other vocations which require working with people. Communicators often have a natural confidence and make friends easily. They often need praise to excel and can appear argumentative if their needs are not met.

Yellow = Analyzer 

Analyzers love rules and processes and have great attention to detail. They enjoy order, record-keeping and developing systems. They also tend to be cautious and value fairness. Analyzers tend to prefer indirect communication and may become stressed by change.

Blue = Thinker 

Thinkers love ideas and concepts. They can think abstractly. They are innovative problem solvers and tend to work best alongside other creative people. However, they may find it difficult to cope with demanding problems and require extra support.

1. The Birkman Map

One of the main features of the Birkman Basic Report is the Birkman Map, which provides a broad overview of your personality in two dimensions. See below for an example of how the map looks.

Left to right of the map depicts whether you are more task-oriented or people-oriented. Top to bottom depicts whether you are more introverted or extroverted (whether you prefer direct or indirect communication).

The map is also divided into quadrants, depicting each of the four colors. Symbols are used to display where you fall within the two dimensions and which color quadrant you fall within.

The symbols are:

* = Interests – The asterisk represents the things you enjoy doing.
◊ = Usual behavior – The diamond depicts how you generally behave. These tend to be your areas of strength and result when your needs have been met.
○ = Needs – The circle depicts your needs. How you expect to be treated by other people and your environment.
□ = Stress behavior – The square depicts your behaviors when your needs are not fulfilled.

(source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHPq7TZiMKo)

The image above demonstrates how a Birkman map may appear. For example, the asterisk representing interests falls within the green quadrant (communicator) and appears to be more extroverted and people-oriented. This person likely enjoys people-oriented work and activities.

The circle (needs) and square (stress behavior) fall within the blue quadrant (thinker). Therefore, this person may find problems difficult to cope with and could require extra support from the people around them.

The diamond (usual behavior) falls within the yellow quadrant (analyzer). Therefore, this person’s behavior is task-oriented and they tend to be more introverted in their approach.

2. Areas of Interest

The Birkman Basics Report also scores you based on your interests. High scores indicate things you enjoy and low scores vice versa. Your interests may translate to actual skills or they may just represent things that motivate you (and in turn make you a more productive employee). For example, if you score 75% in literary interests, you probably enjoy reading and writing.

3. Job Families and Job Titles

In this section, your results are compared to employees working across 22 job families. The report then suggests the job families you may be best suited to and also specific job titles. For example, if you are suited to a construction and extraction occupation, you may enjoy a career as an electrician.

This section is more suited to individuals who take the test to explore potential careers, rather than employers during their hiring process.

Final Thoughts

We all want to feel engaged and satisfied with our jobs and the Birkman test is designed to ensure you find the perfect fit for your personality.

Prepare appropriately but try not to worry too much or overthink things. Remember, there is no “wrong” sort of personality. Ultimately, The Birkman Method personality test is about identifying your strengths and tapping your hidden potential.

Further Reading 

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