What Is the Birkman Method Personality Test?
Updated July 26, 2022
It delves into an individual’s character to uncover their perceptions, motivations and behaviors and how these impact on their social and professional needs and preferences.
Originally known as the Test of Social Comprehension, it is an empirical assessment used to formulate a personality profile through methods of observation.
Owing to the years of research and experimentation behind its methodology, it is regarded as one of the most reliable tests of its kind. You can learn more about the development of personality tests here.
Now administered worldwide in 20 different languages by Birkman International, it is a highly popular personality test, used predominantly by mid-to-large sized companies as part of the recruitment process. Designed to be taken online, the Birkman Method personality test is comprehensive, with 298 questions in total.
It is therefore impossible to fail a Birkman Method assessment.
This revolves around your general interests and how they correlate to your work-based preferences. Essentially, motivation is what you are passionate about and how this drives you, plus how these drives are best met in a professional context.
Understanding and acting on this leads to increased job satisfaction, high-level engagement and, subsequently, improved performance.
This is about your own view of your personality – what you consider as your strengths and weaknesses, and how these views influence your behavior.
Self-perception is measured through questions relating to relationships, social contribution and task management.
This area of your personality relates to how you view the world around you: what you expect from certain environments and situations and what you need to feel comfortable.
Social perception is considered highly influential to behavior and can determine how you will react under different circumstances.
It delves into your subconscious to uncover pre-existing beliefs regarding both yourself and others, how these beliefs impact your world view and the actions these likely lead you to take.
All four aspects measured throughout the test are used to build a personality profile based on a set of integrated scales:
Usual Behavior Scales – Your typical behavior when your needs and expectations are met. Usual behavior is seen as a representation of your best self – the type of person you present yourself to be in new situations.
Needs/Expectations Scales – How you expect, and ultimately need, to be treated in certain situations to be at your best.
Stress Behavior Scales – The type of behaviors you typically exhibit when your needs and/or expectations are unmet. These are seen as ineffective behaviors, as opposed to the effective ones described in the Usual Behavior scales.
Birkman Interests – This scale is determined by measuring your motivations and indicates which occupations you are most likely to find fulfilling based on what you enjoy doing.
Mindset – As you may expect, this relates directly to the assessment of your mindset aspect. Information provided in this part of your personality profile can help you become a more rounded individual, challenging your preconceived belief system and notion of self to broaden your world view.
On completing the assessment, you will receive a Birkman Report, which is explained in more detail later in this article. This report gives both you and prospective employers insight into your personality profile – your strengths, needs, typical behaviors and areas of interest.
As mentioned previously, you cannot fail a Birkman Method personality test. It is designed to give you and employers a detailed profile of your behavioral traits, what type of career paths are a good match and be an indication of how you are likely to perform in certain circumstances.
With that in mind, the most important way to approach your Birkman test is with honesty. This will result in the best outcome for all involved.
Your prospective employer gets a realistic interpretation of who you are now, and not find out otherwise further down the line after you have been struggling in an unsuitable position. From a personal perspective, you get assurance that your intended career path is one you are well suited for.
However, though not strictly a test, you can still prepare for a Birkman assessment:
Any type of psychometric assessment brings a certain degree of stress. Test day anticipation and nerves are not uncommon, but they can be overcome by ensuring you know exactly what is in store.
There are plenty of practice personality tests available online, and whilst these cannot imitate the exact nature of the Birkman test, as it is proprietary, they will get you used to answering questions that involve consideration of your own characteristics.
A full understanding of the job role you are applying for is useful, as is an insight into the working culture of the company or organization in question.
Researching its core values and working practices will help you assess how your personality type, as you see it, would align or perhaps would not. That is not to say you should manipulate your answers to suit, but it is more about achieving a level of self-awareness before your test.
The more familiar you are with your strengths and weaknesses, the better prepared you will be to answer questions with sincerity.
You should never try to manipulate a personality test. The Birkman test in particular has been around for over 60 years and is constantly improved on to provide more accurate profiling based on scientific methods.
It may seem like a smart move to try and create the type of personality you think the employer is seeking, but in doing so, you will likely give a very skewed version of yourself that could actually do more harm than good.
For example, you could be placed into a managerial position that is unsuited to your personality and gives you lots of stress and bad sleep, because you tried to craft the sort of personality you thought they were looking for.
Or it may be clear that you tried to trick the test because your answers do not fit together in the way a true personality would, so you do not get the job because of dishonesty.
Remember, if you are well suited to the role, this will be evident through your truthfulness. There are guides available for you to understand how your employer will see your personality through this test.
Misinterpreting a question may result in an inaccurate profile that does not show you in your best light. It is, therefore, crucial to read every question and every possible response thoroughly. Use your best verbal comprehension skills.
The Birkman Method personality test consists of a high number of questions, with many relating to the same or similar character traits. The different ways of asking similar questions investigate different facets of the same aspect.
To provide an accurate personality profile, your response to one mustn't contradict your response to another.
Again, this comes down to reading each question carefully and giving an honest answer. Sticking to this method will help you avoid a confusing profile that does not represent who you truly are.
Success in any kind of assessment requires a clear head focused on the task at hand. Make sure you get a good night’s rest before your test date and that you are ready to fully invest yourself for however long it takes to complete the assessment.
The more relaxed and confident you feel, the more comfortable you will be assessing your own personality.
After all, the Birkman test is not just beneficial to the employer that requested it; it is also beneficial to you as an individual. So, you will want to ensure you make the most of the opportunity to get to know yourself better.
The 298 questions of the Birkman test may sound like a lot to work through but take them step-by-step, remember there is no time limit and these are all questions about you as an individual, requiring no preexisting knowledge.
Questions are split into two types:
- 250 require true/false responses. These question types are used to determine your usual behavior, needs/expectations and stress behavior.
- 48 are multiple-choice, designed to uncover your motivations and therefore determine which of the Birkman Interests match your profile.
As the questions do not require too much deliberation, most people only take around 30 minutes to complete the test. Once you have finished, you will receive a report detailing your personality profile.
On completion of the Birkman test, your results are subject to complex scientific analysis.
The exact nature of this analysis will depend on the requirements of the organization or individual that requested the assessment be carried out.
Several specialized reporting styles are offered, conveying results in various ways. These reports require analysis by a certified professional.
However, for broad-level evaluation, the Birkman Basics Report is given. This is the report made available to you once you have completed the test, as it does not require specialist analysis.
Within this report will be your Birkman Map. This is split into four color sections, each color representing a different personality type. It is rare to fall completely within a single color quadrant. Most people find their results show elements of each color and, subsequently, elements of each personality type.
To illustrate this, your Birkman Map also includes a set of symbols.
These are action-focused individuals who get things done. Red personality types are assertive decision-makers that enjoy practical problem solving and tangible results. They like to get hands-on with their work and typically take organizational responsibilities. They are competitive, enthusiastic and driven.
Green personality types are people-orientated. Their passion lies in communicating information or ideas that inspire, educate, persuade and motivate. They have a natural confidence and enjoy sharing ideas they firmly believe in.
Analytical and detail-focused, a yellow personality type performs best when working with systems and processes. Highly organized, they prefer completing tasks according to established rules and usually opt for indirect methods of communication.
Blues are creatives. They are the personality types that enjoy new ideas and new approaches to problem solving. Driven by innovation and abstract thinking, they thrive when surrounded by other creative minds, though they are typically introspective thinkers.
These are relative to the assessment scales previously discussed:
- Asterix – This shows your interests
- Diamond – This shows your usual behaviors
- Circle – This shows your needs/expectations
- Square – This shows your stress behaviors
Your symbols will appear on your Birkman Map. The left to right axis indicates whether you are more task- or people-orientated. The top to bottom axis shows whether you are more of an extrovert or introvert.
If your Asterix falls within the green quadrant, located in the top right of the map, your interests would revolve around working with people, communicating effectively to inspire results. As such, you are likely to enjoy roles like teaching, advertising or sales.
If your Diamond were also located in the green quadrant but edged towards blue in the bottom right, it would indicate that your usual behaviors are a combination of these personality types. This shows that you are competitive and enjoy new ideas, are assertive yet thoughtful and are typically sociable, though sometimes selectively.
This method of interpretation would continue, looking at where your Circle (needs/expectations) and Square (stress behavior) sit. Your results and what they mean are all explained to you in your Birkman Basics Report.
This section is divided into the 10 Birkman Interests:
- Social service
You will see a percentage score next to each. The higher the score, the more suited you are to roles in those areas.
It is important to note here that these percentages relate to your preference only; they do not indicate skill level or knowledge. They are designed to give you an idea of what you are most likely to find fulfilling in a professional environment.
Pulling everything together, the career exploration section of your Birkman Basics Report covers various career families and job titles associated with each.
These career families include things like:
- Life, physical and social sciences
- Office and administrative support
- Construction and extraction
- Sales and related
You will see a chart that shows how well suited you are to each career family, followed by a more in-depth explanation of your strongest matches.
Personality tests are an increasingly popular method of pre-screening candidates for job roles. They are predominantly used by mid-to-large-sized companies that receive high numbers of applications, allowing them to ensure those most suited are progressed to interview stage.
- JP Morgan
- Procter & Gamble
A company may issue a Birkman test to assess cognitive diversity in the workplace, understand staff personalities and how they relate to professional output or to address and resolve issues of conflict.
As one of the most reliable indicators of professional preferences, it is a useful tool for those starting out on their professional journey or for anyone considering a career change.
In particular, the career exploration section is highly beneficial, linking your personality type to suitable career families, some of which you may not have considered previously.
How much you pay for a Birkman test depends on the level of insight you are after. Pricing is not readily available but a basic assessment is said to be around $130.
If you are asked to take a Birkman Method personality test, there is no need to panic. The sheer number of questions can be quite intimidating, but it is not designed to be a taxing assessment. Just remember to respond with honesty and you should encounter no problems.
Keep in mind this test does not indicate your capability. It shows what type of role you are likely to take fulfillment from, but that in no way relates to skill.
To get a better idea of your suitability, an employer may use additional aptitude tests that give a clearer indication of your level of ability.