Updated 1 June 2020
The ISTP personality is one of the 16 types identified by the Myers-Briggs Assessment, a self-report questionnaire that asks a series of questions to better understand an individual's perception and decision-making process.
Personality tests can help with deciding job suitability. Businesses often use tests like the Myers-Briggs test to gain more insight into a potential employee's work style and preferences. They can also help an individual to discover more about themselves and their potential career path.
This article explores the ISTP personality type, listing common character traits and the best ISTP career choices (as well as those best avoided).
The ISTP personality is much more common in men than women (9% versus 2%). It is the most mechanically-minded personality type of the Myers-Briggs assessment, and is nicknamed the ‘virtuoso’.
The acronym ‘ISTP’ stands for:
The ISTP personality is known for preferring a problem-solving approach to life. An ISTP enjoys understanding the way something functions and wants to know the details of how it works.
An ISTP is an introverted personality, preferring logic and pragmatism over dealing with human emotion. Although they may come across as reserved, they are very good at observing and understanding their surroundings.
In a crisis, an ISTP will manage the situation in a calm, non-judgemental and efficient manner. Their ability to troubleshoot is beneficial in such circumstances.
ISTPs do get bored quickly and enjoy new experiences; this might even lead them to take risks. One of the primary motivators for an ISTP is when their actions have purpose and meaning – this is especially true when it comes to their career. They enjoy jobs where there is a problem to solve or a goal to achieve, especially one that requires technical expertise.
The key strengths and weaknesses of an ISTP are:
The ISTPs keen sense of independence and freedom allows them great versatility. However, they also enjoy novelty, which can mean they are less suited to jobs with repetitive tasks.
If the ISTP enjoys their work and environment, they can be an exceptional employee. They are dedicated, solution-focused individuals who go the extra mile if needed.
An ISTP employee prefers to work independently and in quiet environments. Working in a close-knit team or an overly social work environment can be challenging for them.
The ISTP personality has an efficient, solutions-focused approach to teamwork. They will look for ways to take practical action and will consistently want to move their team forward.
However, they don’t have a lot of patience for abstract discussion or polite conversation. The ISTP team member looks at finishing a task well and quickly, and then moving on to the next job – and may do so even at the expense of informing other team members.
An ISTP personality as a leader tends to be practical, preferring to handle projects where results are achieved quickly. They have a flexible and hands-off approach to managing their teams.
An ISTP leader is beneficial in a crisis but they also find it simpler to handle a problem themselves rather than explain it to someone else. The ISTP manager can find delegating to team members challenging, choosing to do a lot of the work themselves.
An ISTP leader doesn’t offer a lot of detailed feedback; however, if there is a problem, they can provide fair and impartial solutions. They are best at leading a team of experienced, independent and efficient workers.
An ISTP is an analytical and critical thinker. They are fascinated by how things work, how facts can come together to resolve something, how tools or machinery operate, and can understand these concepts in minute detail.
The best jobs for an ISTP individual is one where they can use their skills but are not confined to traditional workplaces.
ISTPs like independence, flexibility and autonomy, and that is when they perform best.
The 10 best career matches for ISTP personalities are:
Any type of engineering work is highly suitable for an ISTP personality. Their jobs often require intricate thinking and problem-solving to find logical solutions; all key ISTP traits.
Specific careers include computer hardware engineer, flight engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer and civil engineer.
Most construction work requires a practical, hands-on approach. An ISTP personality would enjoy this type of work, as the challenges have logical solutions and it is a detail-oriented work environment.
This job requires a level of quick and critical thinking, and there is a degree of flexibility and independence that would suit this personality type.
An electrical technician conducts site visits and inspects machinery and electrical fixtures.
Like engineers, an electrical technician needs to understand a complex issue and troubleshoot to find solutions. This job is well suited for ISTPs as it is independent hands-on work that is technical and goal-oriented.
Inspecting and surveying are great career choices for an ISTP. These are jobs that involve a high level of attention to detail, making sure that all plans, construction, regulations, building codes and other safety issues are compliant.
These roles require an analytical mind and a quick-thinking, savvy attitude to help address potential issues. It is also helpful that ISTPs enjoy a hands-on approach to work, as this will benefit them in this role.
Plant operators make sure that an industrial plant is running smoothly and operating in line with safety regulations. They will be responsible for resolving any issues that arise.
This is a very appealing role for the ISTP personality type as it is highly detail-oriented and requires very little interaction with others. It is a technical role and requires someone who is thorough and can think on their feet.
An economist conducts research to collect data on economic issues, which they then analyse using mathematical models and statistical techniques. They will prepare reports and forecast trends.
Their work is often solutions-focused and requires logical and practical thinking skills. They need to be able to break down the information given to understand it better. These are all qualities that are well suited to the ISTP personality. Often, an economist works alone or in a small team with a lot of independence and flexibility.
Machinists apply their knowledge and experience to create, fix or maintain industrial machines.
This is a career that would allow the ISTP to see their problem-solving successes quickly, helping them to see the purpose of their work. A machinist is a solitary role that suits the ISTP well.
A forensic scientist requires excellent problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and a high level of attention to detail. This career is an excellent fit for an ISTP personality type.
A lot of the work is carried out independently and often in a quiet lab space. Even other aspects of the job, such as analysing samples and recalling details for the courts, are skills that an ISTP personality is good at.
If an ISTP has an interest in the healthcare field, a career as an EMT is a great choice. EMTs provide first-response emergency medical care to sick or wounded people, working independently or as part of the ambulance team.
EMTs work in a fast-paced profession where skills like problem-solving and attention to detail are crucial and can save people’s lives. These are all part of an ISTP's core skill set.
A private investigator researches and looks for clues, gathering evidence for court cases or private matters. They double-check and verify information, conduct interviews and background checks, carry out surveillance, and look for missing people or data.
For the ISTP, this is a fast-paced career that requires strong analytical and critical thinking skills. There is a lot of flexibility and novelty as a private investigator.
One of the main benefits of knowing your personality type is that it gives you the insight to help you choose a career you would enjoy. Similarly, it is also helpful to know which jobs and work environments an ISTP wouldn’t perform well in or enjoy. Here are a few examples:
A clergyman is a social job and requires interactions with others. It will require empathy and listening skills, and wouldn’t suit the ISTP who can sometimes appear insensitive.
It is also a repetitive job and doesn’t have a great deal of autonomy, as the clergy need to follow the confines of the church. There isn’t a great deal of creativity or problem solving involved, so many aspects of an ISTP personality would be incompatible with this career.
Although this is a career that has a lot of autonomy and freedom and requires close attention to detail, it doesn’t offer much in the way of solving problems.
A writer needs to be able to sit at a computer for many hours typing or thinking out what they need to write. While some shorter writing won’t be tedious for the ISTP, the monotony of putting together longer articles or a book will be challenging.
An ISTP is an introverted personality so a customer-facing role will not align well with their social boundaries. They also don’t like repetitive tasks and a lack of freedom and flexibility.
Customer service assistants or receptionists are somewhat constrained by their roles (for example, in their interactions and the hours they work) and there is a repetitive nature to their tasks, which would leave the ISTP looking for a more exciting role.
As a personality type, ISTPs are problem-solvers. They like freedom and unique experiences and, typically, get along with many other personalities, although they prefer their own company. They will fit into most environments, though they thrive in situations that require independent, goal-oriented work.
As a caveat, while the MBTI is used to understand personality types, not all ISTP personalities (or any other personality type) can be placed firmly into any category.
If you identify as an ISTP, you should note that there will be variances in how you as an individual grow and change based on your own experiences.
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