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MBTI vs DiSC vs Big-5: Which assessment is best for my business?

July 7, 2023
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Personality assessments are a hot topic right now, with roughly 100 million candidates taking one every single year. However, with so many different types of assessments, it can often get complicated for an HR professional or manager to distinguish between them and pick the best one for their purposes.

At Thrive, we are firm believers that personality is one of the most important factors for job success — when done right. To help make sense of the mess, here’s a short introduction to the biggest personality assessments on the market, and where we think they shine.

What are personality assessments?

Personality assessments are a tool used by businesses and individuals alike to gain a deeper understanding of a person's character. They utilise questionnaires to identify certain traits and behaviours. These assessments are, ideally, based in rigorous psychological theory and practice, and are meant to produce results with scientific validity.

Because of this, there are a variety of approaches. Three of the most common ones are the MBTI, DiSC and Big-5 assessments, which we will consider in this article.

Further reading: The history of psychometrics

MBTI (AKA Myers-Briggs)

As an individual, when you think of a personality test, you think about Myers-Briggs — there are even dating apps that use it to match you with a potential partner! The tests are simple and easy to use, and provides results that are made up of any combination of four letters — E (extraversion) / I (introversion) ; N (intuition) / S (sensing) ; T (thinking) / F (feeling) ; J (judgement) / P (perception). These create 16 unique personalities that have even received titles that are meant to indicate the essence of their type — for example, the Mediator (INFP) or the Entrepreneur (ESTP).

Unfortunately, despite its popularity, the MBTI test lacks scientific backing. While loosely based on the thinking of renowned psychologist Carl Jung, it tends to have low validity and reliability, which makes it difficult to trust in any context beyond a fun, risk-free exercise. When it comes to hiring, though, it’s possible that this type of test will not serve the desired results.


Influenced by emotional temperament studies, the DiSC assessment was introduced by psychologist William Marston to tackle specific business-related problems, and is widely used in the corporate world and by HR.

It’s simple to use and understand, as it tests for four ‘dimensions’ of personality — Dominance (active use of force to overcome resistance in the environment), Inducement/Influence (use of charm in order to deal with obstacles), Submission/Steadiness (warm and voluntary acceptance of the need to fulfil a request), and Compliance (fearful adjustment to a superior force). Each of these gets a colour (red, yellow, green, and blue, respectively), and their place in your personality is represented on a pie chart. As you can imagine, these categories are particularly useful for understanding personality from a business perspective.

However, since its inception in 1928, the scientific backing behind it has been found to be shady at best, with some even referring to it as pseudoscience. So, while it was constructed to be particularly useful for HR purposes, it doesn’t necessarily hold water.

Big-5 (AKA OCEAN or Five Factor Model)

One of the most glaring issues with the previous assessments is that they divide personality into boxes. Unlike MBTI and DiSC, the Big-5 assessment doesn’t rely on predetermined categories of personality, but rather aims to score each desirable trait separately, creating a unique picture of an individual. It also brings an added value, as it allows businesses to give more or less weight to specific traits, making the tests highly tailored to individual organisations and even roles. As you can already imagine, this contributes to the fact the Big-5 model is the most scientifically valid assessment there is.

This model sought to identify different adjectives that are used to describe personalities, across different modes of literature and throughout different cultures. Out of this study, researchers managed to recognise five clusters of attributes that explain pretty much all the variance among the adjectives (within which other, more specific, traits can be found):

  • openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
  • conscientiousness (efficient/organised vs. extravagant/careless)
  • extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
  • agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. critical/rational)
  • neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. resilient/confident)

Based in linguistics and latent factor modelling (for our purposes, this means 'finding clusters of grouped-together adjectives'), the Big-5 model has a vast theoretical and research background, making it highly valid and reliable. In fact, the findings upon which the model is based are so accurate, that, across studies on different populations and cultures, these five clusters remain.

Of course, the model still suffers from some weaknesses, like any psychological study — for example, the requirement of relying on an individual’s own perception of themselves — however, with years of testing across cultures and populations, the five factor model is by far the most scientifically robust test for business purposes.

Further reading: The Big Five model — overview, origins, and use in human resources

A table comparing MBTI, DiSC, and Big-5

Should I use personality assessments for business?

Personality assessments can be a great tool for businesses — both for recruitment and personal development. Certain behaviours and personality traits are serious indicators of job performance, as well as cultural fit within an organisation, and a scientifically valid and reliable assessment can identify those in a candidate. All the while, understanding the way employees work, act, and react, is vital in the ability to train them and help them get to their full potential.

That said, if you utilise a personality test that isn’t backed by rigorous studies, you may do more harm than good. When it comes to employees, it’s essential to use the most valid assessments. To be sure, however, our psychologists always recommend to refrain from using only one method of evaluation for hiring purposes. For example, Thrive recommends using a combination of cognitive testing, personality assessments, and structured interviews to gain a fuller picture of a candidate. We also recommend including the results within your interviews — the Thrive assessment provides you with helpful interview questions tailored around your candidates’ results.

Which personality assessment is best for business?

In business use, the MBTI test should almost always be avoided. The assessment itself was never intended for corporate application, and therefore lacks the specific evaluation you’d benefit from as an HR professional or manager. Combined with its low validity and reliability ratings, it’s best to steer clear of Myers-Briggs.

While constructed for business purposes, the DiSC assessment is not much better from a scientific perspective. It may test for traits that are relevant for your organisation, but it still attempts to categorise personalities into boxes, which does not present an accurate picture of your candidate, even if it was valid or reliable enough (which, unfortunately, it isn’t).

That leaves us with the Big-5 model. Providing unique results for each candidate, this assessment is not only the most valid and reliable one, but is also the most tailored option for businesses. At Thrive, we based our assessments on this theory as the most advanced and scientifically robust choice. Picking this can prevent many issues, including bias.

If you want to learn more about how the Thrive assessment can help your business, book a demo with us today.

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