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I Took the Strength Finder Test Twice

The company I work for have stacks and stacks of the Gallup Press’s Strengths Finder books.  Everyone that work for us have to take the test to find their top 5 strengths.  New recruits will have a print out of their strengths by the end of the orientation process, to be taken to their cubicles to proudly display it on their desks.

When we got acquired by Rackspace in 2007, this was one of the things we had to do as part of the HR transfer process.  I played along (I’m not a big consumer of self-help books).  There were reasons for me to believe that this test was a bit bogus, which I will get into in a bit.  But overtime, the results and philosophy of this process grew on me, and I’ve come to change my mind about it.  So recently, as Borders was closing its stores all over the country, I went into one and grabbed a couple of extra copies.  I gave one to my friend and kept one for myself, so that I can retake the test completely independent of the first test and see if the results match up.

Here’s how it works.  Each book contains a code that allows the owner to go to their website, register, and create an account.  It can only be used once, so you’d have to buy multiple copies of the same darn book if you want all of your employees to take it.  Once registered, the user can take the strengths finder test by answering a series of eHarmony-like questions.

The format imitates some personality tests I’ve seen in the past, where they offer two different statements that best describes you, and you are to pick which statement you’d lean more toward.  Here are some sample questions:

  • I am a sensitive person;  I am a logical person.
  • I get to know people individually; I accept many types of people.
  • My view of humanity guides my life;  My ambition guides my life.
  • I enjoy giving recognition;  I enjoy receiving recognition.
  • I enjoy relaxing;  I enjoy cleaning.

As you can see, some of these descriptions are pretty obvious in terms of what type of person would pick them.  But others are a bit more vague.  I mean, I enjoy both giving recognition and receiving them!  Some days I enjoy relaxing, other days I want to go clean things!  You can’t put labels on people this way because our moods change from day to day. Furthermore, the answers I gave became almost arbitrary.  When I came up against a vague question, I would randomly just pick a radio button, without analyzing it and making sure that it even matches my personality, because any answers could be correct depending on the day of the week and what was happening at the time.  So I became skeptical on how accurate the result would be going through these tests.

The first time around, these were my top 5 strengths:

  1. Connectedness
  2. Intellection
  3. Includer
  4. Strategic
  5. Input

If you want to get in depth with what each of those strengths mean, you can read the descriptions of a few of them on my About page.  But apparently, they were able to categorize the whole spectrum of human skills and capabilities into 34 different labels.  Another bogus flag went up for me.  It sounds almost zodiac-like!  Indeed, if you read some of the descriptions of these strengths, they read like a paragraph out of a horoscope.  For example, here is an excerpt from the Intellection strength:

This need for mental activity may be focused; for example, you may be trying to solve a problem or develop an idea or understand another person’s feelings.  The exact focus will depend on your other strengths.  On the other hand, this mental activity may very well lack focus.  The theme of Intellection does not dictate what you are thinking about; it simply describes that you like to think.

I mean, doesn’t that read like a horoscope entry describing people of the Pisces sign or something?  Also, many people will be able to identify with the above statement, going “Yea!  That’s me!”.  Furthermore,  I noticed they sprinkled their descriptions with these tidbids of general facts that makes you inadvertently agree with them.  Sentences like “The earlier time was a simpler time.  It was a time of blueprints.”  And “The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity.”  Yes!  Those statements are true!  So the whole paragraph seems to be more truthful and official.  Sneaky sneaky!

But despite my skepticism, I did eventually buy into the whole thing.  Yes, take the test with a grain of sand, but it can be useful in its own right.  Firstly, it forces the test taker to analyze his or her own personality, making that person spend more time thinking about what they are good at.  We often go about our daily lives without spending so much as a second for introspection.  But introspection is the ultimate catalyst for growth, and we should really do it more often.

Secondly, sometimes the person grows into the role.  The test says I’m an “Arranger”, so I’m just gonna go start arranging things!  Yea, more meetings! This placebo behavior did have its effect on me.  One of my strengths was “Includer“.  Most people I work with would go “Oh yea … you are definitely an includer” whenever they see my strengths.  Which really just means I’m friendly and sensitive to people’s feelings at certain times.  But it did make me become even more empathetic and making sure no one feels left out more so than before.

And lastly, they make great icebreakers and water cooler discussions, and provide a legitimate way to throw labels on each other and not waste too much time trying to actually figure out what a person is really like.  Yea, sarcasm.

So, all that said, let me reveal what I learned after taking the test the second time around.  I wanted to see how accurate (or precise?) this test was based on how closely the results of the two tests reflect each other.  To my surprise, they were pretty similar.  Here is the result of my second test:

  1. Intellection
  2. Connectedness
  3. Context
  4. Developer
  5. Input

As you can see, my top two strengths are still there, but swapped places.  Of the 5 top strengths, 3 of them still remain after the 2nd test.  The two that got swapped out were Includer and Strategic, which honestly I feel that I’ve care less about those traits recently.  I bet they’re still in my top 10 though.  And you can also argue that people strengths do change over time, as the environment or the experiences they went through slowly shape them.  An ideal test would be to force a subject to take the test once, wipe his memory of taking it, then make him take the test immediately after.  Regardless, the test doesn’t seem as arbitrary to me anymore after seeing these results.

So, for $24.95, this book maybe worth it for you if you’re into this kind of thing.   The analytical self-help setup adds a level of legitimacy to the process.  And it does help you think about yourself in clearer, more productive terms.  I know my company believes in its value, and on certain days, certain parts of my brain do too.

22 replies on “I Took the Strength Finder Test Twice”

Thanks for reading Ben. And yea, at times the test feels like a personality test. Strength and personality goes hand in hand, what type of person you are dictates what you are good at, wouldn’t you agree?

I definitely agree, huey. One if my top strengths is empathy, which I completely agree with, and I feel it defines me and therefore my personality.

FYI, my top 10 strengths:

Includer People who are especially talented in the Includer theme are accepting of others. They show awareness of those who feel left out, and make an effort to include them.
Empathy People who are especially talented in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.
Restorative People who are especially talented in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.
Adaptability People who are especially talented in the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.
Strategic People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.
Input People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.
Developer People who are especially talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from these improvements.
Competition People who are especially talented in the Competition theme measure their progress against the performance of others. They strive to win first place and revel in contests.
Positivity People who are especially talented in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.
Ideation People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

Sebastian, dude, we share 6 top strengths: Includer, Empathy, Adaptability, Strategic, Input, and Developer. These are traits I really value in other people too. No wonder I <3 you so much :).

Thank you for a really informative post and your honest perspective. I have been trying to work out if it was worth investing the time and money to read the book and take the test. It’s a shame they don’t include a follow up test after 3 months.

Well, first of all thank you Huey for opening this discussion
Also I have some questioning as well,

I have done the test twice ( several months apart from one time to the other)

The first time results:

Intellection
Developer
Ideation
Learner
Context

But in my second time, my results were:

Learner
Command
Focus
Significance
Activator

ONLY one in COMMON !

I think this entire test should not be taken so seriously only as a tool in the process of growing and learning oneself.

I am an entrepreneur and just started to build a robotics engineering company, I re-took the test couple months ago and I was shocked by the results, it seems that would depend much of what one is doing (focusing) at the moment, so in my opinion every body has the 34 talents , the test should be renamed as “Find out what strengths are you using(needing) at the moment”.

To confuse thing even more there is another test (personality test) http://www.16personalities.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers%E2%80%93Briggs_Type_Indicator

and I endup getting ENTJ as result, before it was ENFJ…
I was trying to combine this with Gallupstrengfinder idea…

there some Zone (behaviours) that one might feel more comfortable but everybody can change that.

You made a good point Emil. It certainly does make sense that the result is very much affected by what the test taker is focusing on at the moment.

We shouldn’t take these test too seriously, but it does work as a good gimmick to force us to evaluate our own behaviors and practice more self reflection. something lacking in this hyperactive age 🙂

Hi Huey and everyone. I felt I should comment on this after reading the post and the comments.

I don’t know if you all read the book entirely or just made the test, but the Gallup speciallists state that this test is not final. The best way to find out your strengths is by daily observation.

However, they also state in the book and on the beginning of the test that “whenever you feel both answers apply, none of them apply, or they just apply sometimes, hit the MIDDLE button”, after all, if it happens just sometimes, it cannot be a strength. You get that by reading the book entirely and understanding what a strength really is to them.

So, maybe you’ll get a definite result if you just answer the questions the way they guide us because the test was made to follow that logic.

I hope it helps you getting better and more accurate results.

Thanks for your feedback Sidney 🙂

Have you come across any other similar books that you would recommend for further self improvement or reflection?

Hello, last fall I took a Saville test for a job application which labels itself as a personality test but it had similar type questions. I ran into your site because I may have to take the Strengths Finder test coming up soon for another job application. Very useful feedback here, I won’t stress over it so much now!

Hi Huey, this is really a good post.

The comments by Emil and Sidney makes more sense. I am researching about these kind of tests and this is very helpful for me.

Thank you all.

I know this article is 5 years old, but you just saved me from buying another code. Was about to conduct this same research.
If you do still look at this post, let me know if you still hold these values or apply them to this day? Or do you think they changed? Etc.
Thank you very much!

Hi Phillip,

That’s a good question. It’s been years since I took the last test, but I think if I were to take it again today a couple of my old top strengths would still show up. I think this is because, intrinsically, most people have distinctive personality traits that carry over into these evaluations. Someone had mentioned before that this isn’t a personality test, but I think it’s all connected 🙂

At the same time, I believe some of the top strengths I had years ago would not show up. This to me reveals that tests like these are only effective for a short amount of time, and would differ greatly depending on the test taker’s life experiences and current priorities and problems.

At the end of the day, if you think it’s worth it to use it as a guide for you to evaluate yourself then by all means grab another code. But if you are able to the same without it that’s fine too.

I like the idea of talent plus investment is strength. The strenghtsfinder test is, according to the books, are actually talent finder. I believe that there are more than 34 talents and we have those talents in various proportions.

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Tom Rath’s differed by 2 on his second attempt. That’s a difference of 40%!??! Hardly convincing evidence of its accuracy in what is being measured.

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