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Personality and Job Success


Disciplines > Human Resources > Selection > Personality and Job Success

Key success factors | Other success factors | So what?


When you use or take personality tests, what are the factors that lead to job success?

There are several personality factors that have been correlated with general success in jobs, although it has also been shown that too much of one factor can cause problems.

Key success factors

A couple of factors have been shown to be highly correlated with success in jobs.


A number of studies (including Hunter and Hunter (1984) and Schmidt et al, (1992)) have shown that general intelligence ('g') often correlates well with job success. Basically, it means that intelligent people are generally good at jobs. Hire bright people and they will be able to do what you ask of them.

There may also be other related factors in this. For example you could argue that intelligent people are able to understand not only the task factors required to succeed in a role but also the social factors. Following the conjecture, if you link intelligence to education and a 'good upbringing' then values-based factors such as conscientiousness and agreeableness may also be seen as related.


Conscientiousness has also been shown by several studies as being highly correlated with job success (e.g. Barrick and Mount (1991) and Robertson and Kinder (1993)).

If a person is conscientious, then they will work hard to complete work they have committed themselves to doing. They can also be left alone without need for constant supervision.

Other success factors

Other factors have also been shown to be linked with success, although (Barrick et al, 2003) showed that these tend to be more related to some jobs more than others (particularly those with more significant social elements).

Beyond (and as well as) these, you may well need to do a thorough job analysis with some kind of factor analysis that isolates both individual and clusters of success factors for specific openings that you have.


If you are open to experience, are ready to challenge yourself and learn and welcome feedback from others, then you will not only learn far more, you will also be perceived as a pleasant person by others who will be more ready to work with you. Unsurprisingly, this tends to make people better at jobs.


When paired with conscientiousness, a person who is easy to get on with becomes even more successful in many jobs. Particularly if the work requires working with other people, a person who is disagreeable is not likely to gain good cooperation.

Sometimes agreeableness is not required in large quantities. For example a salesperson who is too nice to customers may not win the tough bargaining deals.


If you are outgoing and get your energy from being with other people, you will probably do better in many jobs than others, especially (of course) those that require you to work actively with others, whether in managerial or team environments.

See also

Personality, Validity

Barrick, M.R. and Mount, M.K. (1991). 'The big five personality dimensions and job performance: a meta-analysis', Personnel Psychology, 44, pp1-26

Barrick, M.R., Mount, M.K. and Judge, T.A. (2003). 'Personality and performance at the beginning of the new millenium: what do we know and where do we go next?' International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 9, pp9-30

Hunter, J.E. and Hunter, R.F. (1984). 'Validity and utility of alternate predictors of job performance', Psychological Bulletin, 96, pp72-98

Robertson, I.T. and Kinder, A. (1993). 'Personality and job competencies: the criterion-related validity of some personality variables', in Cooper, C.I. and Bosseau, D.M. (eds) Trends in Organisational Behaviour, 1, 75-89

Schmidt, F.L., Ones, D.S. and Hunter, J.E. (1992). 'Personnel Selection', Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 2, pp445-65


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