Monday, December 10, 2012

MBTI - How your McKinsey colleague thinks of you in 4 letters (an introduction)

McKinsey consultants change teams frequently and must quickly understand new colleagues' and clients' personalities, working styles, and preferences.  MBTI is a 4-letter shortcut that the McKinsey consultant in your life uses to do just that.

In this post I'll give you a brief overview of how to figure out your own MBTI type and understand what they're talking about


MBTI is short for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  The MBTI reflects your personal preferences along four dimensions.  Each dimension is expressed as one of two choices or dichotomies, so there are 16 possible MBTI types.  Each type is summarized by a combination of 4 letters based on your preferences across the following dichotomies:
    • (E) Extraversion vs. (I) Intraversion
    • (S) Sensing vs. (N) Intuition
    • (T) Thinking vs. (F) Feeling
    • (J) Judging vs. (P) Perception
A person's MBTI type consists of one letter for each of the dichotomies (e.g., ENTJ, ISFP).  There is no shortage of great online resources for learning more about MBTI and its roots in Jung's theory of personality types.


Right or wrong, MBTI is frequently used at McKinsey as a shortcut for understanding and communicating working styles.  The more familiar you are with this alphabet soup, the better equipped you'll be to make the best of it.

Even if you don't know your MBTI type, your McKinsey consultant has already guessed what it might be and is likely adapting their working style accordingly.  It might also influence the type of work they assign to you or how frequently and in what ways they interact with you.  The more you understand your own and your McKinsey colleague's MBTI, the better you can work together.


There are plenty of great, free, online resources to help with this.  I find this one in particular to be a quick, easy way to get to a preliminary assessment of one's MBTI type.  Before you begin, please consider these...


Please keep in mind that neither I, nor any of my McKinsey colleagues were MBTI experts.  This information is based on my exposure to MBTI at McKinsey, business school, previous employers who also used it, and psychology classes during undergrad.  But based on those experiences, I can offer you some tips about MBTI assessments:
  1. Take it with a grain of salt - like anything you find for free, online (like this blog!) consider your results unofficial.  My understanding is that a true MBTI assessment requires an extensive questionnaire followed by an interview with a trained professional.  That said, in general, I've found these results to be directionally accurate.
  2. Be honest with yourself - don't answer based on the personality type you aspire to be or think that you should be.  To get the most accurate assessment of your MBTI type, you must answer based on your current, actual self.
  3. This is about preferences - for both answering questions and interpreting the results, remember, this is all about what you prefer to do, not necessarily what you do.  So, for example, if a question is about how you spend time by yourself, answer based how you want to spend that time, not necessarily how circumstances are forcing you to.  Similarly, when interpreting your results, remember that MBTI is assessing your preferences.


One helpful method I've seen help those new to MBTI understand what each type represents is the one-word descriptor.  Here's how each type is often viewed or described:
  • ISTJ - Inspector or Detective
  • ISFJ - Protector
  • INFJ - Counselor
  • INTJ - Mastermind
  • ISTP - Artisan
  • ISFP - Composer or Artist
  • INFP - Healer
  • INTP - Architect
  • ESTP - Dynamo or Doer
  • ESFP - Performer
  • ENFP - Champion or Inspirer
  • ENTP - Visionary or Inventor
  • ESTJ - Supervisor
  • ESFJ - Caregiver or Provider
  • ENFJ - Teacher
  • ENTJ - General or Commander


You are a unique, complex, interesting person.  Everything about you is not going to fit neatly into one of 16 MBTI buckets.  But, this could prove to be a helpful tool in helping you understand how to work better with others and how others can work better with you.

In future posts, I'll address:


  1. It is clear that majority at McKinsey are either ENTJ or INTJ. Luckily enough, some ESTJ/ISTJ may eventually join the company. I'm, as INTP or ENTP, has a really small chance to join, while ISFP/ESFP I believe can be just within HR team, if at all. Am I right?

    1. - good answer to my own question

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  3. Trying to pigeonhole the world's 7 billion people into 16 slots is McKinsey-stupid.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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