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Birkman method personality tests

Birkman Personality Tests

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Birkman method personality tests

The Birkman Method Test is one of the most in-depth personality tests available, as it measures both how people behave and why they behave in those ways. It uses a system of assigning colours to personality types – so if you’ve ever heard people refer to themselves as ‘reds’ or ‘blues’, it derives from this test.

What is a Birkman test?

Developed by Dr. Birkman in 1951, The Test of Social Comprehension, now known as the Birkman Personality Test or Birkman Method, is one of the more common personality tests.

The test was inspired by Birkman’s time in the US air force, where he noted the differences between how people reacted to situations and training depending on their underlying perceptions and motivations. These factors are broken down into four main categories:


Also known as interests, this one is crucial to finding fulfilling and engaging work. Birkman Interests measure your passion for different roles and tasks that are commonly found in the workplace (eg numerical, creative, or persuasive). This can show which tasks you will thrive on and which will drain your energy faster.

Social perception

This is how you perceive and understand the context of the situation you are in, which shapes how comfortable you feel and can help you predict how you might react to a given situation. This is reported as ‘Needs’, since it can help you understand what you need from your workplace in order to feel productive and avoid ‘stress behaviours’. Examples of needs are direct supervision, definitive plans, and feeling accepted by your team.


Reported as ‘usual behaviours’, this assesses how you see yourself and how you feel you approach tasks, manage relationships, and generally contribute to your environment. Usual behaviours are generally learnt from previous experiences that garnered positive results. Essentially, it measures your productivity when your needs are met; such needs could include taking initiative, staying organised, or being competitive.

Stress Behaviours

Your stress behaviours are an indicator of what happens when your needs are not met and how your inefficiency manifests itself. For example, if you do not feel accepted by your team, you may become indecisive, perform tasks slower, and be less likely to use your initiative.

Why do employers use Birkman tests?

Thousands of mid-size and big companies, including Coca-Cola, Shell, and JP Morgan, now use a personality test of some kind in their hiring assessments, and the Birkman test is one of the most common.

From one questionnaire, employers can receive up to forty different reports, which can be used to compare candidates across all the different categories. It can take a Birkman specialist around 1 to 1.5 hours to fully explain all of the results of the questionnaire – so it is a very useful tool for companies looking to improve their hiring process.

Some of the issues that companies use personality tests to address are:

  • Improving cognitive diversity
  • Reducing employee turnover
  • Assisting in mergers and acquisitions
  • Leadership/team conflict
  • Understanding the relationship between people and performance

By learning how to support employees’ productivity, companies can retain high-performers and address issues of engagement and miscommunications in teams. Personality tests like the Birkman test can deliver impact by identifying the work needs and stress behaviours of employees, making it easier to manage the issues and thus improving productivity.

Personality tests also help to improve your self-awareness, which is a key skill for the modern workplace. By knowing your motivations and behaviours, you can demonstrate an understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses that can help you become better at your job.

Can you prepare for a Birkman test?

It is important to remember that there is no way to fail a personality test, and that being honest when answering is the best technique.

The Birkman test aims to improve diversity in the workplace and encourages employers to put aside stereotypes by understanding how to support all different kinds of people.

However, you can prepare by taking practice personality tests and becoming familiar with the types of questions that you will be asked and reflecting on your answers. Similar personality tests that you can practice are the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment, which measures four core drivers of behaviour: extroversion, patience, formality, and dominance. Or the McQuaig Word Survey, which goes into more detail and produces a report with ten different areas of interest.

Taking these tests can give you a better idea of your behaviours and motivators, which can help you perform better in interviews and be more reflective in your work.

You can read through our guide on how to answer personality tests for general help with this type of psychometric testing. Though there is no ‘wrong’ answer, they can still be daunting, and it is good to get as much information as possible before taking yours.

Prepare yourself for leading employers

Structure and format of the Birkman test

The Birkman Test is a very in-depth questionnaire, which is now mostly taken online. It consists of 298 questions: most are true-false, and around 50 are multiple choice.

While it is not usually timed, it takes around 30 minutes to complete the test and you should get your results immediately.

It is broken down into 11 scales per category - Interests, Needs, Usual Behaviours, and Stress Behaviours. Your scores are then translated into a four-quadrant report, which will give you your personality ‘type’, and then occupational profiling will sort over 200 jobs to find the best match for you.

How the results are scored

As mentioned, the Birkman test can provide up to forty different reports and most require a specialist to analyse and explain the results. However, there is a Birkman Basics Report, which can be read and understood by anyone, and reports only the core data.

birkman personality tests

Image credit: JobTestPrep

This is shown as the Birkman Map: The quadrants show if you’re more task- or people-oriented, and whether your communication style is direct or indirect.

It can also be broken down to show where your interests (star), needs (circle), usual behaviours (diamond), and stress behaviours (square) lie in the categorisation.

Red: The Do-er

Reds are action-focused people who enjoy a more hands-on approach to tasks.

Characteristics: decisive, good at managing crises, emphasis on speed, physical energy, prefers tangible tasks and results.

Stress behaviours: aggression, stubbornness, impatience.

Green: The Communicator

Greens are people-oriented and often enjoy roles in sales, teaching, and other professions that require a lot of social interaction.

Characteristics: communicative, flexible, focuses on others, friendly and approachable, enthusiastic about new things.

Stress behaviours: argumentative, unfocused, rebellious.

Yellow: The Analyser

Yellows tend to enjoy rules and processes, preferring jobs that require scheduling and handling details.

Characteristics: organised, loyal, consistent, maintain order and follow processes.

Stress Behaviours: rigidity, overly cautious, resistant to change if needs are not met.

Blue: The Thinker

Blues enjoy the more abstract and creative side of things, bringing innovation and intuition to their problem solving.

Characteristics: broad focus, creativity, sensitivity, planning, out-of-the-box thinking.

Stress Behaviours: indecision, procrastination, withdrawal when feeling discouraged.

The tests were well suited to the job that I’ve applied for. They are easy to do and loads of them.
Sophie used Practice Aptitude Tests to help pass her aptitude tests for Deloitte. Start your success story


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Birkman Personality Tests Tips

1Research the company and role

While there is no ‘right’ answer when it comes to personality tests, it is smart to understand the expectations of the job and the company culture. Depending on what kind of role you’re applying for, employers will be looking for certain traits and behaviours to be more dominant than others. So make sure you understand what is required of you and if it is the right role for you beforehand.

2Answer professionally

Honesty is the best policy when it comes to personality tests; lying about who you are will only lead to problems down the road. However, it’s also true that most people have a work persona, which is often different to how we are in our private lives, so remember to put your professional head on when taking this test. Remember to think about the questions in terms of the workplace, where you may have a different set of behaviours or motivations.

3Take your time

Personality tests aren’t usually timed, which means you have the luxury of taking your time. Some of the questions can be phrased in deliberately complicated ways or designed to catch you out if you aren’t giving natural answers. Make sure you read the questions carefully and review your answers at the end, since there’s no need to rush.

4Don't overthink

It might feel contradictory to answer a personality test both honestly and according to the job you’re applying for, but ultimately trust your instinct and don’t overthink the questions. It is very easy to spend a long time considering the ‘right’ answers – and while the Birkman test is not timed, you shouldn’t spend hours doing it. Trust the test to show your strengths and potential.


You’ll do much better on the day if you’re familiar with the types of questions that you’ll be faced with, so getting in as much practice as possible is the best way to prepare. Try out our free practice personality tests to understand how they’re structured and what it’s like to take one. It can also help to already have some idea of what kind of questions you get stuck on, and what results you get, so you can understand how to answer in relation to the role you’re applying for.

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