Does your personality affect your job performance?

In the competitive working landscape of today, having a university degree, a resume with impressive internships and an above average IQ is often not enough anymore to get that dream job. It’s also your personality that is said to be able to predict job performance and that is why a personality test is sometimes included in personnel selection. There are different models to measure personality traits. In their just published research Personality, personnel selection, and job performance Dimitri van der Linden, Dirk Pelt and Marise Born from the Erasmus University explain how they relate to job performance and question if they actually do predict job performance.

The Big Five

There has been done quite some research on the correlation between personality and job performance. The majority of this previous research has been focused on the Big Five personality traits. Conscientiousness was found to be the best predictor of job performance of the Big Five dimensions. Nevertheless, the association between conscientious and overall job performance still remains moderate at best.


The HEXACO personality model

One model that seems to provide an increasingly accepted alternative for the Big Five model is the HEXACO model, which includes the Big Five, but has added an extra dimension to it, namely honesty-humility. This specific trait includes aspects such as the tendency to be honest and a lower drive for status and material gain. Many studies have now shown that this additional personality dimension can add to the prediction of job performance, particularly with regard to the ethical aspect of job performance.


Dark triad

A more recent development in personality research is the focus on dark side traits that are associated with socially undesirable outcomes. The three negative traits are Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. The nature of the relationship between the Dark triad and job performance is not straightforward and unidirectional, but may depend on the type of job.


Emotional Intelligence

The last trait that is sometimes linked to job performance is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence started receiving increasing attention in the nineties. In its broadest definition, emotional intelligence comprises either competencies and traits that are associated with adequately dealing with one own emotions and those of others. Initially, expectations of emotional intelligence as a predictor of job performance were very high. However, those expectations were lowered in the following decades, because it is difficult to obtain consensus on the theoretical definition of emotional intelligence as well as it operationalization.


Different measurements of personality

Based on this previous research Dimitri van der Linden, Dirk Pelt and Marise Born conclude that personality can be used to predict job performance, but the predictive values remain moderate to low. Therefore there are on-going attempts to improve the predictive validity of personality measurements. One example is the use of frame of reference. Most personality surveys asses how people behave in general, but people behave differently in different situations and therefore frame of reference focuses on how people behave in work situations. Another method to predict job performance is the use of other-ratings, because with self-report measurements there is the problem that people can give social desirable answers. The use of other-ratings of personality does lead to increase in the predictive validity of job performance, but the problem is that it is difficult to obtain other-ratings of personality for candidates applying for a job.

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