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To land a job in today's corporate world, you'll need more than the technical skills and knowledge you've learned in courses and the lab. Success also requires a fit between your personal style and the company culture. The recent corporate meltdowns have put a spotlight on the importance of employees' ethics and honesty. True, most academic programs provide you with the technical knowledge and skills you will need in your selected field. But few universities tell you about the other things that can affect whether or not you get a job offer or will succeed in a particular company's culture.
Given recent events in the business world, more colleges and universities are beginning to include, as a standard part of their curricula, courses on ethics. More importantly, many programs are teaching students to recognize their own personality style, to identify the styles of others, and to learn how to use this information to improve workplace interactions. In this article, I will share how recruiters assess personal style in addition to skills and knowledge.
Candidates often tell me they are "a people person." They say this because they think that it is what I want to hear and usually make the assertion without offering any quantitative evidence to support it. They based their claim on their perception that they get along well with people and people "like" them. But more and more companies are using psychological tests to identify an applicant's personal style so they can better determine his or her fit with the company's culture. Many factors contribute to one's personal style. Are you an introvert or extrovert? Do you prefer making decisions following considerable thought or do you make decisions based on what course of action feels right? Are you aggressive or passive? Are you quick to anger? These are but a few factors.
Generally, there is not a wrong or a right style. However, recruiters are trying ever harder to match a candidate's personal style to their client company's culture, because they know that it will play a role in the hiring decision. So, candidates should also try to assess their fit with a company's culture. Knowing your style is the first step to being able to improve your interactions with others, and it will help you identify companies that have cultures that are likely to be good fits.
What Is Your Personal Style?
Most university career centers offer personality inventories that you can take to learn your personality style preferences. Many management consultants, career coaching consultants, and placement services also offer these services. And, as you might expect, you can find similar services on the Internet at such sites as humanmetrics.com  or knowyourtype.com . Next Wave has published brief reviews of several popular personality and skill inventories (see Related Links, below). I recommend you consult with an expert, such as career counselors employed in many university career centers, to determine which test will best help you and to assist you in understanding the results.
In corporate America, one of the commonly used personality tests is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The Myers-Briggs, as it is commonly called, uses four preference dimensions grouped in pairs of opposites. They are extroverted or introverted, sensing or intuitive, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving. The Myers-Briggs helps you think of yourself in terms of those four dimensions. Your answers to a series of questions reveal your style preferences along the continuum of the four personality dimensions.
What's the Company's Style?
Many companies are using these personality tests because they also reveal how different personality styles interact and how to improve workplace interactions. Someone who prefers to be flexible and keep their options open (in Myers-Briggs terminology, a "perceiving" type) might find it difficult to work with someone who prefers a more organized and orderly process (in Myers-Briggs terminology that would be a "judging" type). But, knowing the other person's preferred style will allow each to adapt to the other. The value, then, is not only in learning your own personality style preferences, but also to be able to identify the style preferences of others.
As you get better at doing that, the next step is learning to adjust your personality style to improve your interactions. If you recognize that a colleague prefers to make decisions using logical, objective analysis, then you can improve your interactions with the person by emphasizing facts and data-driven responses.
What's in a Style?
When you are investigating companies to which you might apply, you can use personality style to guide you in determining the fit with your preferred personal style. When people describe a company's culture they often use the same words that they would use to describe a person's personal style attributes. That is because the personality styles of the individuals who work for the company create and influence its culture. One might describe a company's culture as structured, with decisions driven by facts and data, and a very fun and outgoing place. This same description could describe an individual.
Knowing your personal style inventory will help you determine your compatibility with a company's culture. You can learn about a company's culture by networking with people who work at the company and by talking with professors and career center personnel who know about the company.
Using a personality test, such as Myers-Briggs, can help you learn more about your preferred personal style. You will also learn about other styles and how you can modify your style to better relate to another person's preferred personal style. And finally, you can personality style model to determine whether or not your preferred style will fit with a given company's culture. By learning about personality styles you will have the Insider's Edge in interacting with people and choosing a company at which you can succeed.