Hiring and the Enneagram

Mario Sikora
Aug 21, 2011

“I need to hire a new (fill in the blank). What Enneagram type would be best?”

It’s a question I hear with surprising frequency, and I can understand why. Hiring employees is a tricky business, and there are no foolproof ways to do it perfectly. A mis-hire can be expensive to a company–costing money, time, and potential interpersonal strife. Companies look for any edge they can find in finding the right employee for a job.
The Enneagram, however, does not provide such an edge in employee selection, for a number of reasons. I’ll discuss three here.

Accuracy Identifying Enneagram type is not easy. The longer I work with the Enneagram and the more in-depth assessment interviews I conduct (and I’ve done hundreds over the last 15 years), the more cautious I am in thinking I know someone’s type. I know there are people who say they can do it very quickly–I heard of someone recently who claims to have it down to a fool-proof, 15-minute interview–but I find that such speedy assessments tend to be inaccurate but circular in their rationalizations.
The conversation goes like this: “You answered X in the interview; therefore you are an Ennea-type Y. How do I know I am correct? Because you answered X in the interview.”

If only it were that simple…
Even more problematic are attempts to identify Ennea-type by physical characteristics or body language. In my experience, people of all types come in all shapes and sizes, and body language in small doses tells almost nothing useful about individuals.
In my experience, a person’s type may seem to jump out early in a conversation, but people are complex and multi-faceted. More data points make better assessments. It is important to give an assessment of someone’s type time to develop so that more data can be collected. Better yet, it helps to form an initial hypothesis about someone’s type and then set out to disprove it. This is how the scientific method works–trying to disprove a hypothesis–because falsification ultimately leads to stronger theories.

Very few interviewing situations allow for the necessary time to identify a person’s Ennea-type with the accuracy necessary to in any way inform a hiring decision.

Ethical and Legal Issues I’m assuming that anyone who would be attempting to use the Enneagram for hiring is typing people in their heads and not telling the candidate or other people their assessment of the person’s Ennea-type. Publicly assessing a private individual’s type is extremely inappropriate. Leaving aside this very critical ethical consideration, there are other ethical and legal considerations when it comes to choosing employees, and I think using Enneagram-type as a criteria would easily run afoul of the law in many places.

Validity If the first two reasons are not sufficient, here is the biggest reason not to use Ennea-type as a hiring criteria: It is simply not a valid and reliable predictor of success. Too many other factors come into play in determining job success that are independent of Ennea-type–technical competence, experience, intelligence, interpersonal skills, maturity, cultural fit, etc.

It would be easy to stereotype role suitability based on type: Put Sevens in sales, Fives in engineering, Threes in marketing, etc. Unfortunately, real life contradicts these stereotypes and I have seen people of all types succeed or fail in all kinds of roles–Eights who were good engineers, Sevens who were good financial controllers, Fives who excelled in marketing, etc. There is simply no correlation between Enneagram type and job success.

It may be appropriate for a person, especially a young person, to consider their Enneagram type when deciding on what career or type of job to pursue, and I think Liz Wagele and Ingrid Stabb did a nice job discussing this in their book. Further, the Enneagram can be very useful in helping someone understand the behaviors that are causing them to fail in their job, and providing a map to growth and improvement. But if someone encourages you to use the Enneagram to make hiring decisions, place your hand over your wallet and slowly back away.

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