Among the true/false questions: "I never attend a sexy show if I can avoid it"
This week’s issue of TIME explores the unexpected ways that personality tests are reshaping the workplace. The esoteric questions–what does understanding why stars twinkle have to do with getting a job?–are but the latest step in a process that’s been going on for a long time. Almost exactly 50 years ago—on June 18, 1965—TIME printed an earlier example of just such a test.
It isn’t hard to see how frustrating it could be to take. After all, how would an employer make use of an applicant’s answer to true/false statements like these? I have not lived the right kind of life. I brood a great deal. Once in a while I laugh at a dirty joke. I feel uneasy indoors. I dislike to take a bath. I like mannish women. I practically never blush. I would like to hunt lions in Africa. And, of course: I never attend a sexy show if I can avoid it.
Many of the concerns expressed by TIME readers over that 1965 story are similar to those faced by potential employees today: Is this an invasion of privacy? Is it accurate? Is it going to help? One TIME reader suggested a more puckish response, which ran in the letters section the following week:
Sir: If I were applying for a job with one of the Government agencies that test your personality via the MMPI quiz, upon receiving the test I would first scratch the tender top of my head, look around to see if someone was watching, then proceed to brood over my strange sex life, occasionally invoking the Devil while thinking bad, often terrible, words to fortify my strange and peculiar thoughts. Trying to be casual, I would then light a match, which is normal procedure before my daily conversation with God. After completing the quiz, I would leave the room (carefully using my new handkerchief on the doorknob) and hurry home to repair the door latch.
Read more about the contemporary use of personality tests in this week’s issue of TIME