- Overall, the personality trait that is most highly associated with career and academic success is conscientiousness.
- Conscientiousness is characterized by doing things by the book, having a vital concern for detail, and being deeply committed to personal responsibility.
- If personality tests are ever used in a place of work, employers should use them only with employee consent and make the workplace more inclusive for a diversity of personalities and their cooperation and comfort.
Personality traits are reliable predictors of workplace compatibility, and managers must understand their employees’ personalities in order to manage them correctly — as unique individuals have unique requirements.
Contemporary psychology understands personality in terms of big five traits. The big five personality traits consist of agreeableness, openness to experience, extraversion, neuroticism, and conscientiousness. Psychologists measure personality by the degree to which an individual exhibits these five traits through comprehensive questionnaires.
Each of the big five personality traits has two subtypes.
Agreeableness splits into compassion and politeness; openness to experience splits into openness and intellect; extraversion splits into enthusiasm and assertiveness; neuroticism splits into withdrawal and volatility; and conscientiousness splits into industriousness and orderliness.
Humans are widely variable concerning the intensity with which they exhibit or do not exhibit such sub-types. In this respect, it is appropriate to think of everyone as a unique individual, as it is exceedingly improbable for any two people to have the exact same personality measures, though there are exceptions.
Overall, the personality trait that is most highly associated with career and academic success is conscientiousness.
Conscientiousness is characterized by doing things by the book, having a vital concern for detail, and being deeply committed to personal responsibility. In other words, hard work with integrity is significant to conscientious people.
The sub-type of conscientiousness most highly associated with career and academic success is industriousness, which is embodied by dutifulness, exceptional focus, and a live-to-work, not a work-to-live attitude.
It follows readily, therefore, why someone who scores high in industriousness would be highly likely to find success in the world of work. Hard work does pay off if it is channeled into the correct avenues.
Likewise, it follows that someone who scores low in industrious will have a more challenging time with success in academic and work environments without accommodations. Severely low levels of industriousness are, in fact, a sign of attention-deficit disorder.
Nevertheless, just because someone is highly industrious does not guarantee that they will be academically successful, and someone who scores low in industriousness is not doomed to a life of academic and work-related failure.
For instance, if someone who scores high in industriousness also scores high in neuroticism, this will decrease their odds of general academic and career success.
How should employers interpret personality traits?
The essential takeaway is that personality is not a means by which employees should be screened or evaluated. There are many reasons for omitting personality tests from admissions or employment vetting.
The two most salient reasons are the potential for discrimination that using personality tests for recruitment can enable — in some cases, it has already enabled discrimination, such as in the case of Ivy League discrimination against Asian applicants — and its invasiveness.
Objectively, these tests are extensive and intrusive, asking deep and often even troubling questions; 44% of people feel that using personality tests for employment is invasive.
When such questions are mandatory to answer to acquire a job, a substantial portion of applicants may be uncomfortable doing so, making the likelihood of them wanting to work for that company decrease significantly.
Personality psychologists do not recommend using personality tests for recruitment, as they do not present an objective measure of the best personality for specific jobs, and are only a good predictor for general academic and career success.
Being conscientious and industrious does not mean that a person will be good at everything they do and employable in all places of work. Rather, chances are higher that conscientious person has accumulated many skills and a good resume.
Apart from a repertoire of skills and a good resume, there is little else employers truly have to evaluate potential employees on — this tends to be, however, where personality comes into the mix and if you’d fit into the generally extraverted office culture.
In other words, industriousness will not and should not matter without proven requisite experience and credentials. And even if you’ve narrowed the pool of applicants such that all of them have the right experience and credentials, personality tests are easily manipulatable and intrusive. Therefore, personality tests are inappropriate when used as recruitment tools.
If personality tests are ever used in a place of work, employers should use them only with employee consent and make the workplace more inclusive for a diversity of personalities and their cooperation and comfort.