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What is the Enneagram test? Understanding its significance in hiring

Talent Assessment | 6 Min Read

What is the Enneagram test? Understanding its significance in hiring


Using personality tests to assess the skills and past experience of candidates can offer recruiters deep insights and a holistic understanding of candidates’ core personalities. The Enneagram test is one of the most popular personality assessments used for screening candidates during the early stages of recruitment.‍


What is the Enneagram test?

The Enneagram personality test follows a personality mapping framework that categorizes behavioral traits on a nine-point diagram, which is known as the Enneagram. The framework was developed in the 1950s by Oscar Ichazo and popularized in the 1970s by the psychiatrist, Claudio Naranjo. There are nine personality types defined under the Enneagram test framework. Generally, people can find different aspects of their personality in all the nine types, but one Enneagram personality type tends to stand out as their core personality type.

The Enneagram test usually presents a series of questions that contain multiple statements. Candidates are required to choose the statement that best applies to them. Their answers help reveal their Enneagram personality type and the core beliefs that influence their actions, decisions, and reactions under stress or when offered an opportunity. Unlike most popular personality assessments, the Enneagram test focuses on the motivations of individuals instead of their behaviors.



The Enneagram test is more than a simple personality model, as it is not limited to traditional categorizations of personality. The test can evaluate the light as well as the dark aspects of the psyche.

This test offers multi-dimensional insights into human behavior. The Enneagram is not just complex, but it is also highly applicable, as it can support better workplace dynamics, personal growth, and improved relationships.


The origin of the Enneagram system

The roots of the Enneagram can be traced to different traditions. The system that is recognized and used today emerged in the 20th century from the amalgamation of psychology, spirituality, and philosophy. Early components of the Enneagram personality type framework can be traced back to around 600 BC in ancient Greece. Stories like Homer’s Odyssey and the geometric symbols by Pythagoras also showcase patterns that are associated with the Enneagram. Further, elements of the Enneagram were also hinted at by Plotinus, a Greek Philosopher, in 200CE, when he described nine fundamental qualities that define the nature of human beings in his writings. The first known diagram of the Enneagram, however, appeared in Spain in 1305.


How does the Enneagram system work?

The Enneagram system is built around a diagram that depicts the nine personality types and their connections to each other. The diagram has a circle with nine points on it, labeled from one to nine, nine being located at the top of the circle. These points represent the nine personality types as defined under the Enneagram framework. Inside the circle, points three, six, and nine are connected by an equilateral triangle, while a series of lines connect the other points. These lines follow a fixed path: One-four-two-eight-seven-one. To understand the Enneagram system, it is important to first explore the nine personality types of the Enneagram test:


The nine Enneagram personality types

  • Type One [Reformer/Improver]: This personality type is a perfectionist, idealistic, and purposeful. They have strong morals, set high standards for themselves and strive to explain their personal goals to everyone.
  • Type 2 [Helper/Giver]: This personality type is friendly, empathetic, and generous, and seeks connections with others. They can be good listeners and have a deep desire to feel important and needed.
  • Type 3 [Achiever/Go-Getter]: This type is goal-driven, energetic, and confident and defines success based on goals they have achieved. These individuals can prove to be strong leaders when they are in a team setting.
  • Type 4 [Individualist/Contemplator]: This personality type is reserved, sensitive, highly creative, and great at taking inspiration from the environment. These personality types tend to maintain distance from other people.
  • Type 5 [Investigator/Pioneer]: The rarest Enneagram type, type 5 individuals are independent, innovative, curious, and tend to have an entrepreneurial streak.
  • Type 6 [Loyalist/Devotee]: This personality type is cooperative, anxious, hard-working, and works well in teams.
  • Type 7 [Enthusiast/Cheerleader]: This personality type is extroverted, excited about new experiences, and has high energy levels that are quite contagious.
  • Type 8 [Challenger/Master]: These personality types are decisive, confident, problem solvers, and have the capability to become strong leaders.
  • Type 9 [Peacemaker/Agreeable]: These personality types are supportive, peace-loving, and easy-going. They are the ones encouraging people to work together and brokering compromises in conflicts.



The Enneagram test helps assess personalities, with nine types representing the core personality of an individual. However, there may be very few people in the world who fit precisely into one of these personality types. It is more common for people to have personalities that overlap with other adjacent types. The personality types on each side of the individual’s core personality type under the Enneagram test are called wings, and the core personality may include elements of one or both wings as well. One wing may even become more prevalent than the other in specific circumstances, like when one is experiencing fear or stress.


Centers of intelligence

  • Heart-centered [Types 2, 3, and 4]: People with these three personality types base their actions on their feelings, and they may have issues with feeling or their self-image.
  • Head-centered [Types 5, 6, and 7]: These individuals base their actions on their thoughts and are generally more anxious as compared to other personality types.
  • Body-centered [Types 8, 9, and 1]: These individuals base their actions on their instincts and may face issues with anger management.


Levels of development

Each of the nine personality types of the Enneagram test has nine levels of development. These levels are a representation of the intensity with which an individual experiences the positive and negative traits of their personality type.

Level one is the highest level of development and the healthiest, while level nine is the least healthy form of that personality type. The healthy levels of development include level one, which is liberation, freedom, and ego-transcended balance; level two, which is a psychological capacity where the ego is identified as the ideal self; and level three, which is social value with an ego that is functioning constructively.

Average or regular levels of development include level four, which is imbalanced with increased defenses; level five, which is interpersonal control that is defensive and manipulative; and level six, which is overcompensation, interpersonal conflicts, and inflated ego. The unhealthy levels of development include level seven, which is a violation, neuroticism, and survival tactics; level eight, which is compulsion and delusion, also considered to be a major personality disorder; and level nine, which is pathological destructiveness, breakdowns, and psychosis.



These refer to the lines that form the equilateral triangle connecting types three, six, and nine, and the lines that connect the rest of the personality types. These lines represent the direction in which an individual’s personality may develop. Understanding how traits can be channeled from adjoining personality types is a great way for individuals to develop. Their core personality type will remain, but they will be able to develop flexible psychological and emotional response mechanisms for managing different situations.


Enneagram instincts, subtypes, and their significance

The system on which the Enneagram test is based has three ‘instincts,’ which are biological drives that are deeply rooted in the physical body and psyche of an individual. While all humans have all three instincts, there is always a dominant instinct that reacts to threats, real as well as perceived. Subtypes refer to the combination of an individual’s personality type and dominant instinct.

Understanding an individual’s dominant instinct and subtype is as crucial as knowing their personality type. Subtypes define major concerns, and they focus on candidates, providing deeper insights into how they will fit into a specific job role and the organization. They can also help enhance communication, build better professional development plans, and improve workplace dynamics.


The three instincts

  • Self-preservation [SP]: This is the instinct to preserve the well-being of an individual, physically, mentally, and financially. This instinct may lead people to hoard resources like money or even energy during stressful times.
  • One-on-One [SX]: The one-on-one or sexual instinct, derived from the biological instinct of humans for progeny, is the inclination towards forming deep and meaningful one-on-one relationships with others.
  • Social [SO]: This is the instinct to work with others cooperatively towards achieving a common goal. This is the instinct that enables a strong awareness of interpersonal relationships in a group and of social norms.


Benefits of using the Enneagram test in hiring

Understanding candidate motivations:

An understanding of the drives and desires of candidates can help predict their likelihood of succeeding in a specific job role and whether they are likely to stay with the organization for the long term.


Predicting candidate fit:

The Enneagram test can help understand if a candidate who has the right skills will also be a good fit for the organizational culture.


Building effective teams:

The Enneagram test can help build cooperative and effective teams with a mix of personality types that work well together and bring out the best in each other.


Developing employees:

The results of the Enneagram test can also help plan the training and development of new hires.




Tips for using the Enneagram test effectively during recruitment

Match Enneagram personality types with job role requirements:

Think about the requirements of a particular job role overlap with Enneagram personality traits. It is important to consider the company culture when defining the Enneagram personality traits that would match the requirements of an open job role perfectly.


Assess personality types of existing employees:

Using the Enneagram test helps assess the current workforce. It highlights which personality types are most prevalent in the organization, which types are more likely to stay with the organization longer, and which personality types are working best at which job roles.


Keep team compatibility in mind:

Personality types are most compatible with their wings or types that are connected to them through lines. For job roles involving a lot of teamwork, it may help to consider the personality types of the current team and figure out which personality types would work best with them.


Include interview questions that are specific to a personality type:

The results of the Enneagram test can help tailor interview questions according to the particular personality types of candidates.


Things to watch out for when using the Enneagram test

The Enneagram test is helpful in identifying and hiring the right talent. However, there are several things that must be kept in mind before integrating this test into the recruitment process.

Firstly, the Enneagram test should never be the sole criterion for selecting or eliminating candidates. For the results of the Enneagram test to be accurate, candidates will have to be highly self-aware, which is not always necessary. There may be candidates who, instead of being truthful, start choosing statements that represent how they want to be seen rather than how they actually are and how they behave. Such situations can lead to candidates being categorized into the wrong Enneagram personality types, leading recruiters to miss out on great candidates who may have been a great fit but were classified into a personality type that they were not looking for.




To reduce such risks, it becomes important for recruiters to include tailored interview questions that are guided by the results of the Enneagram test and the traits of the candidate’s personality type. This can help identify potential misclassifications.


How Mercer | Mettl can help

The Enneagram test is an important tool for streamlining the recruitment process, but it should always be a part of a comprehensive recruitment strategy that includes skills tests, role-based assessments, personality tests, cognitive abilities tests, structured interviews, etc. Identify the business needs and explore a range of assessments at Mercer | Mettl, a leading talent assessment solutions provider in the country. Check Mercer | Mettl’s expansive library of pre-employment assessments and choose a pre-built test or customize assessments based on the hiring requirements of the organization.



1. Is the Enneagram test better than the MBTI?

2. What Enneagram personality type is the INTJ?

3. Which Enneagram personality type is the smartest?

Originally published June 24 2024, Updated June 24 2024

Written by

Vaishali has been working as a content creator at Mercer | Mettl since 2022. Her deep understanding and hands-on experience in curating content for education and B2B companies help her find innovative solutions for key business content requirements. She uses her expertise, creative writing style, and industry knowledge to improve brand communications.

About This Topic

Human Resource Management, also known as HRM, is the function that manages employees, starting from their recruitment and induction to development, appraisals and promotions, with the aim of maximizing their performance in-line with organizational objectives.

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