Personality Traits Can Predict Job Performance

Personality Traits Can Predict Job Performance

Dec. 15, 2021
Conscientiousness, which predicted performance across all jobs, was stronger in jobs with low and medium levels of cognitive demands and weaker in highly cognitively demanding jobs.

A true story. One day my boss called me into his office and in those days that wasn’t always something good.

Do you want to go to Jamaica he asks? I thought it was a trick question, but I said yes anyway. “Great, “he said, “there is a conference there and with your sunny personality I think you would be a great fit. “

I wanted to call up everyone who said that I had better take off my rose-colored glasses if I were to succeed in life and let them know that in the business world this turned out to be an advantage.

Well, it seems that personality does affect job performance.  Deniz Ones, professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota and Michael Wilmot, assistant professor of management in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas conducted an analysis of five personality traits — conscientiousness, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and neuroticism — and examined their effect on job performance.

In an article published in the  Journal of Vocational Behavior,  the authors looked at those traits across nine major occupational groups — clerical, customer service, healthcare, law enforcement, management, military, professional, sales, and skilled/semiskilled.  They took into account job complexity and what occupational experts rate as the relevance of these personality traits to job requirements.

Here are some conclusions:

  • Conscientiousness predicted performance in all jobs. However, its effect was stronger in jobs with low and medium levels of cognitive demands and weaker in highly cognitively demanding jobs.
  • Extraversion was stronger in jobs with medium levels of cognitive complexity.
  • Other traits showed stronger effects when they were more relevant to specific occupational requirements. For example, agreeableness predicted better in healthcare jobs and extraversion predicted better in sales and management jobs.

The researchers also compared the empirical findings to occupational experts’ ratings of the relevance of personality traits to job performance. They found that for a majority of the occupational groups (77%) the two most highly rated traits matched the two most highly predictive traits revealed in the analysis. The authors concluded that jobs with moderate occupational complexity might be ideal for relying on personality traits to predict job performance.

“These findings should prove useful for organizations honing employee talent identification and selection systems,” said Wilmot, in a University of Arkansas article. “They should also benefit individuals trying to choose the right vocation and, really, society at-large, which would reap the collective benefits of better occupational performance.”

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