Precise, perceptive, and disciplined, INTJs bring an intense focus to achieving their goals.
Reading time: 16 minutes
In this post, I’ll analyze the precise and perceptive INTJ through the scientifically-accepted Big Five framework. You’ll also see the interpersonal behaviors and career interests that many INTJs have in common.
You can jump straight to any section by clicking the links below. Otherwise, we’ll start with the classic definition of the INTJ personality type.
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In the popular Myers-Briggs or 16-personalities tradition, all personalities belong to one of 16 types. Each type is defined by preferences across four cognitive functions:
INTJs are Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging.
Introverted people are focused inwards. They prefer the inner world of ideas and reflection over the external world of people and actions.
More Intuitive people are comfortable with more abstract, ambiguous things and ideas. Compared to those who prefer Sensing, they prefer to focus on the world of meanings, connections, and insights, rather than more direct sensory observation and hands-on experiences.
People who prefer Thinking often lean heavily on logic, consistency, and correctness when making decisions. Unlike those who prefer Feeling, they are less easily swayed by empathy or other social considerations when evaluating a course of action.
People who prefer Judging tend to relate to other people through their decision-making preference, which is Thinking for INTJs. Other people will see TJ-types, like the INTJ, as exacting and precise.
While the 16-personality framework and its complex cognitive functions are fun and intriguing, they are less useful for predicting important life outcomes, like relationships, health, happiness, hobbies, educational and career outcomes.
The reality of personality differences is much more complicated than 16 types. This complexity is why modern personality science uses dimensions or traits to describe personalities, rather than simple categories or types.
For example, labeling someone as “Extraverted” or “Introverted” is a vast oversimplification. Every individual falls somewhere on a broad spectrum between highly extraverted and highly introverted.
Moreover, a single dimension like Extraversion/Introversion is inadequate for fully describing someone’s personality. In general, several dimensions are necessary to create a complete picture of an individual’s unique character.
Below, I’ll describe how INTJs fit into the modern world of personality dimensions.
In personality studies, scientific researchers often use a trait-based approach to describing the differences between people instead of using personality types. The most well-established method is the Big Five, which describes differences along five broad dimensions:
Personality types are far less precise than getting exact Big Five measurements, but knowing your personality type can give you a rough idea of where you fall on each dimension.
In the graph below, each dot is an INTJ, placed by where they fall on each of the Big Five dimensions. You can see that INTJs can vary quite a bit on any single dimension.
For example, some INTJs fall near the top of the Openness dimension, while others fall closer to the middle or average. However, almost no INTJs fall below the average on Openness. So, we can be reasonably confident that an INTJ will be average or higher than average on Openness, and an INTJ is unlikely to be lower than average on Openness.
Using the same principles, we can profile the INTJ personality type across every Big Five dimension.
INTJs are often highly open to experience, with less than 1% of INTJs falling below the average on Openness.
Openness to Experience describes one’s preference and tolerance for new experiences, ideas, and feelings.
So, INTJs tend to be highly imaginative, curious, have diverse intellectual and artistic interests, and are more likely to have unconventional habits, ideas, or beliefs.
INTJs typically score highly on Conscientiousness, with about 95% of INTJs scoring above the average.
INTJs are often highly conscientious.
Conscientiousness describes your planning, impulsivity, and tendency to follow socially accepted norms and rules.
High conscientiousness means INTJs are organized and systematic, create detailed plans, are less easily distracted, and more likely to carefully follow the rules and guidelines across many situations.
INTJs usually score lower on Extraversion, with about 95% of INTJs scoring below average or on the more introverted side of the scale.
Extraversion or Introversion describes your tendencies around social engagement and positive emotionality.
As a result, INTJs tend to engage in more solitary activities, avoid highly stimulating environments, and be more passive, inhibited, and reserved.
Besides the social aspects of introversion, there is an additional emotional component: INTJs generally experience positive emotions less frequently and less intensely across most situations.
In other words, INTJs report feeling of joy and happiness less often than most people, and when they do experience these emotions, the feelings are less intense. As a side effect, INTJs may have fewer public displays of positive emotions, like smiling or laughing.
INTJs typically score lower on Agreeableness, and about 90% of INTJs score below average on this dimension.
Agreeableness describes your interpersonal warmth, politeness, and empathy.
Less agreeable (or more demanding) people, like most INTJs, are often less concerned with others when pursuing their own goals. They are more willing to create conflict or express disagreement across most situations, and they feel less discomfort during interpersonal disputes.
Highly agreeable people feel a more substantial need to keep warmer, friendlier relationships with others and are naturally more hesitant to impose their will on others. They will be more considerate of how their actions impact other people, and they will try to reduce or resolve interpersonal conflicts when they arise.
INTJs vary widely in Neuroticism, with no strong trends between INTJs and either extreme of this dimension. You can find INTJs across the entire range of Neuroticism.
Neuroticism describes your emotional variability and tendency to experience negative emotions.
Highly neurotic people have more frequent mood swings and a greater tendency to worry, are more easily irritated, and susceptible to anxious or depressed moods.
Less neurotic (or more emotionally stable) people worry less and are less reactive to stress, experience less depression and anxiety, and are generally more easy-going.
Simply knowing whether you are an INTJ tells you almost nothing about your relative levels of neuroticism or emotional stability. Some INTJs score very high and others score very low. This variability isn’t particular to INTJs, but a shortcoming of using personality types in general.
Knowing exactly where you fall on each of the Big Five dimensions is simple with TraitLab’s free personality test.
You are more complex than four letters
No two INTJs are the same. Discover your own unique blend of five core personality dimensions.
There are several exceptional patterns commonly seen in the INTJs:
INTJs are usually highly motivated by goals and have strong opinions on how to accomplish them.
INTJs enjoy a good challenge and will often look for ways to add a competitive aspect to ordinary activities and several areas of their lives. When the pressure is on, they like taking the lead and making quick decisions. When they become intensely focused on winning or achieving a particular goal, they can sometimes come off as overly stern and critical.
INTJs are often genuinely interested in the world around them. However, they are usually much more curious about the world of ideas and information than relationships and other people.
These preferences follow from INTJs’ blend of low Extraversion and high Openness, two dimensions that shape styles of exploration. INTJs will happily immerse themselves in new ideas and become fully absorbed in consuming any information available about it. Yet, they might struggle to find a fraction of that same enthusiasm in most social engagements.
INTJs’ combination of lower Extraversion and higher Conscientiousness often results in a more serious, cautious, and principled nature.
In many different contexts, INTJs will hold back their enthusiasm, preferring to analyze cautiously and carefully. They will often find it difficult to be spontaneous, silly, or impractical, even when the situation calls for it.
How do other people see and describe INTJs?
The wordcloud below shows over 50 words used to describe people with similar Big Five personality dimensions as a typical INTJ. Larger words describe the more prominent aspects of INTJs.
Because no two INTJs are the same, some of the words above may be better descriptors of a particular individual than others. You can see your personality’s own unique set of words with TraitLab’s free assessment.
Which words describe you?
Cautious or impulsive? Combative or compliant? Sentimental or cynical? Discover 100+ words that describe your unique personality.
You might have noticed that some individuals have a consistent effect on you every time you interact with them. For example, one particular friend might make you consistently laugh and smile more than usual. Or, one reliably passive coworker or classmate may tend to bring out your bossier, more demanding side.
Each of us has a typical interpersonal style. This style influences how others think and feel when they are around you, and in turn, it can affect how they interact back with you.
A classic method of visualizing interpersonal style is using the circular figure below. The vertical axis shows your style in terms of dominance, with a highly assertive style at the top (Assured-Dominant) and a highly passive style at the bottom (Unassured-Submissive). The horizontal axis shows your style in terms of warmth, with a cold and impersonal style on the left (Cold-Aggressive) and a friendly, empathetic manner on the right (Warm-Agreeable).
The shaded blue area shows the typical interpersonal style of INTJs across eight dimensions. Notice the areas where the blue area extends closer to the outer edges of the circle. These are the aspects that most heavily influence INTJs’ interactions.
To summarize the graph above, three aspects most heavily influence INTJs’ interpersonal style:
The chart below shows how the personality traits of INTJs are related to the classic RIASEC career interests: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. Your unique blend of these interests dramatically influences how well a career feels like a good fit.
On each dimension, you’ll see areas where INTJs tend to crowd up (shown by the dark blue bars). These are the areas where INTJs are most likely to fall.
But, you’ll also find INTJs the entire range of each dimension. While most INTJs tend to have relatively lower Realistic interests, there are still a few INTJs who score very highly on them.
Most INTJs tend to have the following pattern of interests:
High Investigative interests (Thinkers): People with strong Investigative interests prefer roles that require observation, researching, and understanding ideas. They tend to prefer working with data and ideas rather than working closely with other people. Examples include medical researchers, chemists, software engineers, scientific reporters, and statisticians.
High Conventional interests (Organizers): People with strong Conventional interests excel in roles that require categorizing, planning, and systematizing information and processes. Examples include financial officers, budget analysts, office managers, database analysts, and systems administrators.
Average Realistic interests (Doers): People with high Realistic interests enjoy careers that allow them to work with their hands or tools to get a job done, rather than thinking or talking about it. They may also gravitate towards jobs with opportunities for working outdoors, competition, and risk-taking. Examples include police officers, military officers, professional athletes, farmers, builders, mechanics, forest rangers, and woodworkers.
Average Artistic interests (Creators): People with strong Artistic interests prefer jobs that require innovation through artistic and intuitive skills in less structured tasks and environments. Examples include artists, novelists, actors or actresses, musicians, curators, and designers.
Average Enterprising interests (Persuaders): People with strong Enterprising interests are often skilled communicators and enjoy influencing, persuading, and leading other people. They actively pursue leadership roles and opportunities to bolster their status and reputation. Examples include sales and marketing directors, politicians and political organizers, and executives.
Low Social interests (Helpers): People with strong Social interests fit well with careers that involve helping, comforting, caring for, and teaching other people. Examples include physical therapists, counselors, clergy, social workers, doctors, and nurses.
Remember that these rankings only describe the average INTJ, and personality types can only offer very general descriptions of career interests. Even if you see yourself as an INTJ, your unique set of career interests may vary from the above descriptions.
INTJs typically have intense Investigative interests, making them a good fit for careers that demand analysis, researching, and synthesis of ideas. Many INTJs will also have relatively higher interests in Conventional areas (e.g., systematizing and organizing).
Examples of careers that blend Investigative and Conventional interests include:
INTJs are usually less interested in jobs with heavy Social and Enterprising demands. These positions often focus on helping, caring for, or motivating other people. INTJs may be highly competent in any of these roles, but their natural strengths may be underused.
Your personality type only gives you a rough approximation of your underlying traits. As described in this post, INTJs can vary widely in their Big Five dimensions, interpersonal style, and career interests. Just knowing that you are an INTJ doesn’t tell you that much.
So what’s the next step? Skip the types entirely and learn about your unique blend of personality traits, interpersonal style, and career interests by directly measuring them here at TraitLab. Get started for free and see your Big Five dimensions with the Basic assessment.
Header photo by Arif Riyanto