Can you name the Big 5 Personality Traits Used for Pre-Employment Testing?

HINT: Remember O-C-E-A-N

Using personality tests for hiring top performers is a best practice for hiring.

 For years managers have been trying to understand if and how personality traits can predict the future performance of an employee. In fact, you can trace pre-employment testing back nearly 100 years. But thanks to science and technology pre-employment testing is now faster, affordable, convenient, and much more accurate.

While there are dozens of personality models, one of the most researched and accepted models for hiring is one based on Costa & McCrae’s Big 5.  This model evaluates how strong [or weak] a person is on five personality traits.  These traits are often broken down into subscales too, allowing managers to receive even more details before they hire or promote an employee.

Let’s take a quick look at these Big 5 traits.

An easy way to remember the Big 5 personality traits is by using the acronym OCEAN.

The O stand for openness.  This trait describes how open or closed a candidate might be to new ideas. Open people tend to be curious. They appreciate unusual ideas, imagination, adventure, and of course, having new experiences.  That doesn’t mean the people who are less open aren’t willing to adapt or don’t appreciate a good idea. Their instinct, however, is to believe “if it ain’t broken, why fix it?” They tend to be more traditional and prefer familiarity over doing something new.

Next comes the C which represents conscientiousness. This trait describes how disciplined or spontaneous a candidate might in his or her work style. Highly conscientious people tend to be organized, reliable, and like to plan ahead. A clean desk and organized workspace down to the inside of their drawers are often the signs of a high level of conscientiousness. As managers they will likely set a very high bar but as a result have a difficult time delegating – they believe no one can perform the work quite as good as they can. On the other end of this spectrum are employees who love variety and enjoy flexibility. They are often impulsive and disorganized.

The E stands for extroversion. This trait is likely the most misunderstood.  People tend to think of extroversion and introversion as how outgoing or people oriented you are. But, it’s actually about how you get your energy. Extroverts are energized by socializing with others. Introverts are energized by reflection.  Extroverts thrive on events and believe there are no strangers in the world, just a lot of people they haven’t met yet. Extroverts are the people on the train or plane who sit down next to you, talk to you incessantly, and give you a hug although you just met. Introverts, on the other hand, are more private and reserved. They feel rejuvenated and energized by spending time alone. They tend to be quieter, lower key, and more deliberate. After attending an event, they are drained and may have to recover the next day. But don’t confuse introversion with shyness.  Introverts can be super-friendly and personable with people.  They just need some downtime to recharge, otherwise you can visibly see them wind down, just like a toy whose battery is draining.

Next comes the A for agreeableness. This trait measures cooperation and antagonism. Highly agreeable people are adaptable, considerate, friendly, and helpful. They go with the flow and just wish we could all get along. They make sacrifices for the team and will go out of their way to avoid rocking the boat. They prefer participation to competition. Consequently, they may be seen by others as naïve or submissive. At the other end of the spectrum we have people who see everything as a competition with only winners and losers. They are not afraid to challenge you just for the sake of a good challenge. Since half the population are agreeable, “Non-agreeable” people often win by default. As a result, they are often awarded with positions of leadership, qualified or not.

And last but not least, the N stand for neuroticism or how resistant or susceptible a candidate might be to stress.  Highly neurotic people are easily stressed out. They’re reactive, thin-skinned, and more likely to be frustrated, anxious, or even angry. Less neurotic people tend to remain cool, calm and collected. They don’t really sweat the small stuff – or at least they don’t show it. Unfortunately, they are so cool that others may often see them as unempathetic and complacent because they don’t openly show urgency or fear in a crisis.   

The Big 5 factors have become synonymous with pre-employment testing. Read to learn more about how pre-employment testing can help you hire smarter, give us a call or schedule a demo right now.