A fresh career perspective: the 5-Factor Personality test

The popularity of personality tests has been on the rise in recent years, especially in job screenings. Many organizations make use of these tests when reviewing their candidates, in an attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff. One of the most reliable tests in terms of job performance predictions is widely believed to be the five-factor personality model (FFM). In this article, Josie will show you what this so-called ‘OCEAN-test’ entails and what it can reveal about your career potential.

The Five-Factor Model (FFM) is often known as the Big-Five Personality test, or the OCEAN model, and is a method based on the idea that the human personality consists of five basic dimensions. Raymond Cattel laid the foundation for its existence back in the 1940s, by developing a 16-item inventory of personality traits which led to the creation of the ‘Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire’ (16PF), an instrument to measure these traits. In a later stage, Robert McCrae and Paul Costa developed the FFM, which implemented five broad factors to describe personality traits. Later on, psychologist Lewis Goldberg coined the term ‘Big Five’ to refer to these personality factors, and developed the Internal Personality Item Pool (IPIP), a set of descriptive statements that relate to each factor. Within each factor, a set of individual traits relate to more specific aspects of personality. These five factors can be categorized following the acronym OCEAN, which stands for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Within the test, a subject gets presented with a wide variety of descriptions or adjectives and is asked to rate to what extent they correspond with their own personality on a Likert Scale. A lot of research has been conducted to support the personality model, and it’s widely considered to be a solid predictor of human behavior in real life. To gain a better understanding of how these 5 factors translate into human behavior, we shall now delve deeper into each one of them to see how these traits come about in daily life, and what they can tell you about job perspectives.  

  1. Openness

Openness is a trait that has to do with being open to experience, and it has been described as ‘the depth and complexity of an individual’s mental life and experiences, or imagination. If you score high on openness, it means you have a strong desire to try out new things, you’re open, and tend to be a creative thinker. A high score on openness also might imply you’re the artistic type and that you have a progressive mindset.

In the workplace

Employees that are more open often have an easier time adapting to changes within the work environment. They are often effective and creative leaders and tend to grow alongside the organization. It’s also a trait that is least likely to change over time, and people with a high score on openness should make use of it to travel the world, engage in self-development and follow their passions. It won’t come as a surprise that innovators tend to be highly open to new experiences.

Traits linked to openness:

  • Imaginative
  • Insightful
  • Wide variety of interests
  • Original
  • Daring
  • Preference for variety
  • Clever
  • Creative
  • Curious
  • Perceptive
  • Intellectual
  • Complex/Deep

Job for a high score on openness:

Artist, Travel writer, Pilot, Lawyer, Publicist, Designer, Entrepreneur.

Job for a low score on openness:

Banker, Professor, Financial analyst, Real estate agent, Scholar, Auditor, Accountant.

  • Conscientiousness

This is a trait that is often assumed as being on top of recruiters list, as it can be described as ‘the tendency to control impulses and act in socially acceptable ways, behaviors that facilitate goal-directed behavior’. It is also known to measure someone’s reliability, dependability, and is usually considered to be very organized. People who score high on conscientiousness are often very successful in school and in their careers.

In the workplace

Conscientiousness is generally believed to have the biggest influence on performance, meaning that people with higher scores on this trait are likely to have higher-level jobs, as they tend to have many aspects of a strong leader. The traits that should be exploited are organizational skills, planning, perseverance, and a tendency to aim high. An exaggeration of these traits, however, can lead to a tendency of putting work over everything and difficulties in adapting to changing environments.

Traits linked to conscientiousness:

  • Persistent
  • Ambitious
  • Thorough
  • Self-disciplined
  • Consistent
  • Predictable
  • Controlled
  • Reliable
  • Resourceful
  • Hard working
  • Persevering
  • Planner

Job examples for a high score on conscientiousness:

Freelance writer, Marketing consultant, Doctor, Actor, Business owner, Advertising executive, Politician

Job examples for a low score on conscientiousness:

Sales representative, Technical support, Mechanic, Janitor, Account manager, Translator, Driver

  • Extraversion

People who score high on extraversion tend to value many interactions with others, in contrast to introverts who often prefer solitude. Extraverts often make friends easily and enjoy interacting with others. They tend to hold the needs and feelings of others in high regard, and often show signs of assertiveness. Extraverts are commonly known to be active and sociable people that tend to be a lot more impulsive than introverts.

In the workplace

Those who score high on extraversion often also have strong leadership abilities due to being able to communicate and socialize, and it’s a strong predictor of leadership that contributes to the success of managers and salespeople. In the lifespan of a career, scoring high on extraversion often goes hand in hand with high incomes, strong social relationships, and the ability to adjust to challenges.

Traits linked to extraversion:

  • Sociable
  • Assertive
  • Merry
  • Outgoing
  • Energetic
  • Talkative
  • Articulate
  • Fun-loving
  • Affectionate
  • Friendly
  • Socially confident
  • Expressive

Job examples for a high score on extraversion:

Flight attendant, Event planner, Teacher, General manager, Mediator, Financial advisor, Politician, Lawyer

Job examples for a low score on extraversion:

Writer, Engineer, Artist, Pilot, Librarian, Programmer, Jurist

  • Agreeableness

Agreeableness is an indicator of how well you get along with others. It is different from extraversion since that is based on the individual sources of energy and the pursuit of interactions with others, agreeableness is focused more on your orientation to others. In general, people who score high on this trait are considered to be well-liked and affectionate. In general, they are likely to have few enemies and they are sympathetic towards friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

In the workplace

People who score high on agreeableness are generally considered to be liked more by co-workers and they tend to follow the rules. Their job satisfaction is often higher and they steer clear from workplace accidents. Some people with a high score on agreeableness could face the danger of valuing the well-being of others over their own development. High agreeableness might also imply a lack of drive to being successful, preferring a healthy work-life balance and the company of friends and family.

Traits linked to agreeableness:

  • Altruistic
  • Trusting
  • Modest
  • Humble
  • Patient
  • Tactful
  • Polite
  • Kind
  • Loyal
  • Helpful
  • Sensitive
  • Considerate

Job examples for a high score on agreeableness:

Counselor, Nurse, Teacher, Teacher, Religious leader, Veterinarian, Judge, Non-profit organizer, doctor

Job examples for a low score on agreeableness:

Accountant, Scientist, Surgeon, Computer programmer, Author, Venture capitalist, Engineer

  • Neuroticism

Neuroticism is a trait also known as emotional stability, and it’s an indicator of how a person is capable of controlling emotions such as anxiety and sadness. A high score on this trait could imply low self-esteem and is also related to having more difficulties in life, leading to having more worries and being angrier than others. In addition, people who score high on neuroticism tend to see the negative sides of things and generally need more time to overcome setbacks. More concerned types are generally sensitive by nature, experience emotional ups and downs more and could suffer from stress and uncertainty.

In the workplace

A high score on neuroticism is generally linked to poorer job performance and a lack of motivation, which includes goal setting and self-efficacy. Emotional instability may lead to vulnerability and stress at work, which are major drivers of performance. Neuroticism may also lead to a higher tendency toward employee burnout since these employees have a harder time managing their emotions. People with lower emotional stability tend to also have difficulties with a change in demands, especially in a fast-paced environment.

Traits linked to neuroticism

  • Awkward
  • Pessimistic
  • Moody
  • Jealous
  • Nervous
  • Anxious
  • Timid
  • Self-critical
  • Unconfident
  • Insecure
  • Unstable
  • Oversensitive

Job examples for a high score on neuroticism:

Writer, Artist, Accountant, Florist, Yoga instructor, Freelance designer

Job examples for a low score on neuroticism:

Police officer, Firefighter, Surgeon, Lawyer, Diplomat, Social worker, Psychiatrist

See for yourself

Now that you’re aware of the basics of the FFP, it’s time to discover your very own career perspective. Take the test now!

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