Paul Sackett and Philip Walmsley, both of the University of Minnesota, have published a very important and skillfully developed study addressing “which personality attributes are most important in the workplace?” They used the Big Five as the framework for their analyses: Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Emotional Stability, Extraversion, and Openness to Experience. They approached the question three ways:
- A literature review of studies using the Big Five to predict job performance
- An analysis of results reported by Huffcutt and others (2001) based on 47 studies of employment interviews.
- Their analyses of personality attributes found in two categories of the job-analytic data provided by the Department of Labor in O*NET (Occupational Information Network).
1. I like the breadth and depth of Sackett and Walmsley’s study. They used three different approaches that all pointed to the importance of Conscientiousness, which is “being dependable, achievement-striving, hardworking, persevering, and orderly” (p. 539). We look for these characteristics in interviews. We know they are usually related to good job performance.
2. I especially liked the researchers use of O*NET. If you are not familiar with O*NET, I highly recommend you explore this government site. It contains detailed analyses of nearly a 1000 occupations based on detailed survey data. Additionally it offers (1) occupation forecasts as to what’s hot and (2) a survey to help people determine occupations for which they may be best suited. For several years I have constructed course exercises for my university students so they would become familiar with this information source.
3. An argument could be made that conscientiousness is the most important personality attribute for success in the workplace and for a healthy life, as discussed in an earlier blog. To what degree is conscientiousness learned? Or are we born with a tendency toward conscientiousness? Or both? This I do know. We can teach and learn attention to detail – and attention to detail can make or break careers.
Huffcutt, A. I., Conway, J. M., Roth, P. L., & Stone, N. J. (2001). Identification and meta-analytic assessment of psychological constructs measured in employment interviews. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 897-913.
Sackett, P. R., & Walmsley, P. T. (2014). Which personality attributes are most important in the workplace? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9(5), 538-551.
Image, “Backpacking,” courtesy of NASA, public domain. NASA - http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/ABSTRACTS/GPN-2000-001156.html.
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