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The Must-Have Personality Traits When Hiring Employees

Mark Parkinson

Business Psychologist | Executive insight, new psychometrics and entrepreneur specialist. in Work

"Look for three things in a person - intelligence, energy, and integrity. If they don't have the last one, don't even bother with the first two."

  • Warren Buffet

This take on finding the right person for the job is difficult to argue with. Integrity surely is a key trait. However, in a psychological sense, it's very hard to measure. That's why most employers go for the other two attributes. In fact they often just focus on "intelligence," or to be more accurate, someone's general mental ability (GMA).

GMA is about the capability someone immediately brings to the job. And it's useful stuff. It concerns their ability to plan, think things through, process information, and learn to do new things. It's also the best single predictor of work performance we have. And, among other things, it's what people often mean when they say they want someone who can hit the ground running.

So if GMA is the best predictor of work performance, why bother with anything else?

Smarts or Style?

Obviously, as an employer you want both smarts and style. You need people who can immediately contribute - who have the knowledge, experience, and raw capability to make a quick impact. But if you rely only on track record, and maybe an assessment of GMA, you won't know anything objective about someone's interpersonal style, creative potential, reliability, ability to handle pressure, or likely contribution to a team.

The crux of the matter is that all these things influence how someone is likely to apply their abilities. In particular, "how" is concerned with personality. And it's personality that predicts the way a person will go about their work.

The Traits to Look For- Thinking about personality, conscientiousness is the most predictive factor there is. Someone who is conscientious is hard working, self-disciplined, and effective at pursuing their goals. Research shows that this predicts work performance, academic success, and even well-being.

Next up is emotional stability. Emotionally stable people experience few negative emotions and feel they are in control. So it stands to reason this trait is useful in predicting performance in high-pressure situations, and is also an indicator of lower rates of job burnout.

Then there's extraversion. In those jobs that require high levels of social interaction, and lots of outwardly directed energy, being extraverted is predictive of success. So it's highly associated with performance in sales teams, and management and leadership roles.

Finally, there's openness. This is about having an open and creative mind coupled to a curious and often playful nature. This sort of exploratory and divergent thinking style is a good predictor of performance in all areas requiring rapid change and innovation.

These are not the only personality traits there are, but hopefully the point is made. It's important to discover how your potential recruits' personalities will affect what they do as individuals and their style of working with other people.

Me and You

As it happens one of the most fascinating things to come out of research is that the personalities of individuals are important predictors of ultimate team performance. Psychologists talk about this as individual level variables predicting group-level outcomes. What do they really mean?

At one level it means that a team with a higher overall level of conscientiousness is likely to be more productive than one that has a lower level. No surprises there. However, it also means that just one team member with a lower level of conscientiousness can negatively impact the entire team, and thus lower performance.

The fancy way of explaining this is that cross-level research has shown that individual performance is an important determinant of the performance of an entire organization. And I haven't even started talking about the influence of organizational leaders yet! But here's a quick thought: the personality profile of the CEO, alone, has a direct impact on the financial performance of an organization.

To learn more about how to deploy personality data in creating great teams at your organization, download our new Guide.

And if you're ready to get serious about assessing personality - both for new recruits, and for your existing employees - reach out for a demonstration of Traitify's revolutionary assessment tool.

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