It is important to be aware that the personality
tests used in the recruitment and selection process are
the intellectual property of the companies that produce them. As a
result, they may use different terminology to describe the aspects
of personality that they set out to measure. This usually for
reasons of copyright and to differentiate themselves in a market
in which there are a large number of products that do more or less
the same thing in more or less the same way.
To avoid any bias and to steer clear of any copyright issues, we
will use the definitions placed in the public domain by the noted
psychologist Dr. John A. Johnson of Pennsylvania State University.
The personality traits used in the 5 factor model are
Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness to experience.
It is important to ignore the positive or negative associations
that these words have in everyday language. For example,
Agreeableness is obviously advantageous for achieving and
maintaining popularity. Agreeable people are better liked than
disagreeable people. On the other hand, agreeableness is not
useful in situations that require tough or totally objective
Disagreeable people can make excellent scientists, critics, or
soldiers. Remember, none of the five traits is in themselves
positive or negative, they are simply characteristics that
individuals exhibit to a greater or lesser extent.
Each of these 5 personality traits describes, relative to other
people, the frequency or intensity of a person's feelings,
thoughts, or behaviors. Everyone possesses all 5 of these traits
to a greater or lesser degree. For example, two individuals could
be described as ‘agreeable’ (agreeable people value getting along
with others). But there could be significant variation in the
degree to which they are both agreeable. In other words, all 5
personality traits exist on a continuum (see diagram) rather than
as attributes that a person does or does not have.
Extraversion is marked by pronounced engagement with the external
world. Extraverts enjoy being with people, are full of energy, and
often experience positive emotions. They tend to be enthusiastic,
action-oriented, individuals who are likely to say "Yes!" or
"Let's go!" to opportunities for excitement. In groups they like
to talk, assert themselves, and draw attention to themselves.
Introverts lack the exuberance, energy, and activity levels of
extraverts. They tend to be quiet, low-key, deliberate, and
disengaged from the social world. Their lack of social involvement
should not be interpreted as shyness or depression; the introvert
simply needs less stimulation than an extravert and prefers to be
alone. The independence and reserve of the introvert is sometimes
mistaken as unfriendliness or arrogance. In reality, an introvert
who scores high on the agreeableness dimension will not seek
others out but will be quite pleasant when approached.
Agreeableness reflects individual differences in concern with
cooperation and social harmony. Agreeable individuals value
getting along with others. They are therefore considerate,
friendly, generous, helpful, and willing to compromise their
interests with others'. Agreeable people also have an optimistic
view of human nature. They believe people are basically honest,
decent, and trustworthy.
Disagreeable individuals place self-interest above getting along
with others. They are generally unconcerned with others'
well-being, and therefore are unlikely to extend themselves for
other people. Sometimes their skepticism about others' motives
causes them to be suspicious, unfriendly, and uncooperative.
Agreeableness is obviously advantageous for attaining and
maintaining popularity. Agreeable people are better liked than
disagreeable people. On the other hand, agreeableness is not
useful in situations that require tough or absolute objective
decisions. Disagreeable people can make excellent scientists,
critics, or soldiers.
Conscientiousness concerns the way in which we control, regulate,
and direct our impulses. Impulses are not inherently bad;
occasionally time constraints require a snap decision, and acting
on our first impulse can be an effective response. Also, in times
of play rather than work, acting spontaneously and impulsively can
be fun. Impulsive individuals can be seen by others as colorful,
fun-to-be-with, and zany.
Nonetheless, acting on impulse can lead to trouble in a number of
ways. Some impulses are antisocial. Uncontrolled antisocial acts
not only harm other members of society, but also can result in
retribution toward the perpetrator of such impulsive acts. Another
problem with impulsive acts is that they often produce immediate
rewards but undesirable, long-term consequences. Examples include
excessive socializing that leads to being fired from one's job,
hurling an insult that causes the breakup of an important
relationship, or using pleasure-inducing drugs that eventually
destroy one's health.
Impulsive behavior, even when not seriously destructive,
diminishes a person's effectiveness in significant ways. Acting
impulsively disallows contemplating alternative courses of action,
some of which would have been wiser than the impulsive choice.
Impulsivity also sidetracks people during projects that require
organized sequences of steps or stages. Accomplishments of an
impulsive person are therefore small, scattered, and inconsistent.
A hallmark of intelligence, what potentially separates human
beings from earlier life forms, is the ability to think about
future consequences before acting on an impulse. Intelligent
activity involves contemplation of long-range goals, organizing
and planning routes to these goals, and persisting toward one's
goals in the face of short-lived impulses to the contrary. The
idea that intelligence involves impulse control is nicely captured
by the term prudence, an alternative label for the
Conscientiousness domain. Prudent means both wise and cautious.
Persons who score high on the Conscientiousness scale are, in
fact, perceived by others as intelligent.
The benefits of high conscientiousness are obvious. Conscientious
individuals avoid trouble and achieve high levels of success
through purposeful planning and persistence. They are also
positively regarded by others as intelligent and reliable. On the
negative side, they can be compulsive perfectionists and
workaholics. Furthermore, extremely conscientious individuals
might be regarded as stuffy and boring. Unconscientious people may
be criticized for their unreliability, lack of ambition, and
failure to stay within the lines, but they will experience many
short-lived pleasures and they will never be called stuffy.
Freud originally used the term neurosis to describe a condition
marked by mental distress, emotional suffering, and an inability
to cope effectively with the normal demands of life. He suggested
that everyone shows some signs of neurosis, but that we differ in
our degree of suffering and our specific symptoms of distress.
Today neuroticism refers to the tendency to experience negative
Those who score high on Neuroticism may experience primarily one
specific negative feeling such as anxiety, anger, or depression,
but are likely to experience several of these emotions. People
high in neuroticism are emotionally reactive. They respond
emotionally to events that would not affect most people, and their
reactions tend to be more intense than normal. They are more
likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and minor
frustrations as hopelessly difficult. Their negative emotional
reactions tend to persist for unusually long periods of time,
which means they are often in a bad mood. These problems in
emotional regulation can diminish a neurotic's ability to think
clearly, make decisions, and cope effectively with stress.
At the other end of the scale, individuals who score low in
neuroticism are less easily upset and are less emotionally
reactive. They tend to be calm, emotionally stable, and free from
persistent negative feelings. Freedom from negative feelings does
not mean that low scorers experience a lot of positive feelings;
frequency of positive emotions is a component of the Extraversion
Openness to experience.
Openness to Experience describes a dimension of cognitive style
that distinguishes imaginative, creative people from
down-to-earth, conventional people. Open people are intellectually
curious, appreciative of art, and sensitive to beauty. They tend
to be, compared to closed people, more aware of their feelings.
They tend to think and act in individualistic and nonconforming
ways. Intellectuals typically score high on Openness to
Experience; consequently, this factor has also been called Culture
or Intellect. Nonetheless, Intellect is probably best regarded as
one aspect of openness to experience. Scores on Openness to
Experience are only modestly related to years of education and
scores on standard intelligent tests.
Another characteristic of the open cognitive style is a facility
for thinking in symbols and abstractions far removed from concrete
experience. Depending on the individual's specific intellectual
abilities, this symbolic cognition may take the form of
mathematical, logical, or geometric thinking, artistic and
metaphorical use of language, music composition or performance, or
one of the many visual or performing arts. People with low scores
on openness to experience tend to have narrow, common interests.
They prefer the plain, straightforward, and obvious over the
complex, ambiguous, and subtle. They may regard the arts and
sciences with suspicion, regarding these endeavors as abstruse or
of no practical use. Closed people prefer familiarity over
novelty; they are conservative and resistant to change.
Openness is often presented as healthier or more mature by
psychologists, who are often themselves open to experience.
However, open and closed styles of thinking are useful in
different environments. The intellectual style of the open person
may serve a professor well, but research has shown that closed
thinking is related to superior job performance in police work,
sales, and a number of service occupations.
Subordinate Personality Traits or Facets
Each of the big 5 personality traits is made up of 6 facets or sub
traits. These can be assessed independently of the trait that they
Openness to experience
Friendliness. Friendly people genuinely
like other people and openly demonstrate positive feelings toward
others. They make friends quickly and it is easy for them to form
close, intimate relationships. Low scorers on Friendliness are not
necessarily cold and hostile, but they do not reach out to others
and are perceived as distant and reserved.
Gregariousness. Gregarious people find
the company of others pleasantly stimulating and rewarding. They
enjoy the excitement of crowds. Low scorers tend to feel
overwhelmed by, and therefore actively avoid, large crowds. They
do not necessarily dislike being with people sometimes, but their
need for privacy and time to themselves is much greater than for
individuals who score high on this scale.
Assertiveness. High scorers
Assertiveness like to speak out, take charge, and direct the
activities of others. They tend to be leaders in groups. Low
scorers tend not to talk much and let others control the
activities of groups.
Activity Level. Active individuals lead
fast-paced, busy lives. They move about quickly, energetically,
and vigorously, and they are involved in many activities. People
who score low on this scale follow a slower and more leisurely,
Excitement-Seeking. High scorers on
this scale are easily bored without high levels of stimulation.
They love bright lights and hustle and bustle. They are likely to
take risks and seek thrills. Low scorers are overwhelmed by noise
and commotion and are adverse to thrill-seeking.
Cheerfulness. This scale measures
positive mood and feelings, not negative emotions (which are a
part of the Neuroticism domain). Persons who score high on this
scale typically experience a range of positive feelings, including
happiness, enthusiasm, optimism, and joy. Low scorers are not as
prone to such energetic, high spirits.
Trust. A person with high trust assumes
that most people are fair, honest, and have good intentions.
Persons low in trust may see others as selfish, devious, and
Morality. High scorers on this scale
see no need for pretence or manipulation when dealing with others
and are therefore candid, frank, and sincere. Low scorers believe
that a certain amount of deception in social relationships is
necessary. People find it relatively easy to relate to the
straightforward high-scorers on this scale. They generally find it
more difficult to relate to the low-scorers on this scale. It
should be made clear that low scorers are not unprincipled or
immoral; they are simply more guarded and less willing to openly
reveal the whole truth.
Altruism. Altruistic people find
helping other people genuinely rewarding. Consequently, they are
generally willing to assist those who are in need. Altruistic
people find that doing things for others is a form of self-fulfilment
rather than self-sacrifice. Low scorers on this scale do not
particularly like helping those in need. Requests for help feel
like an imposition rather than an opportunity for self-fulfilment.
Cooperation. Individuals who score high
on this scale dislike confrontations. They are perfectly willing
to compromise or to deny their own needs in order to get along
with others. Those who score low on this scale are more likely to
intimidate others to get their way.
Modesty. High scorers on this scale do
not like to claim that they are better than other people. In some
cases this attitude may derive from low self-confidence or
self-esteem. Nonetheless, some people with high self-esteem find
immodesty unseemly. Those who are willing to describe themselves
as superior tend to be seen as disagreeably arrogant by other
Sympathy. People who score high on this
scale are tender-hearted and compassionate. They feel the pain of
others vicariously and are easily moved to pity. Low scorers are
not affected strongly by human suffering. They pride themselves on
making objective judgments based on reason. They are more
concerned with truth and impartial justice than with mercy.
Self-Efficacy. Self-Efficacy describes
confidence in one's ability to accomplish things. High scorers
believe they have the intelligence (common sense), drive, and
self-control necessary for achieving success. Low scorers do not
feel effective, and may have a sense that they are not in control
of their lives.
Orderliness. Persons with high scores
on orderliness are well-organized. They like to live according to
routines and schedules. They keep lists and make plans. Low
scorers tend to be disorganized and scattered.
Dutifulness. This scale reflects the
strength of a person's sense of duty and obligation. Those who
score high on this scale have a strong sense of moral obligation.
Low scorers find contracts, rules, and regulations overly
confining. They are likely to be seen as unreliable or even
Achievement-Striving. Individuals who
score high on this scale strive hard to achieve excellence. Their
drive to be recognized as successful keeps them on track toward
their lofty goals. They often have a strong sense of direction in
life, but extremely high scores may be too single-minded and
obsessed with their work. Low scorers are content to get by with a
minimal amount of work, and might be seen by others as lazy.
many people call will-power-refers to the ability to persist at
difficult or unpleasant tasks until they are completed. People who
possess high self-discipline are able to overcome reluctance to
begin tasks and stay on track despite distractions. Those with low
self-discipline procrastinate and show poor follow-through, often
failing to complete tasks-even tasks they want very much to
Cautiousness. Cautiousness describes
the disposition to think through possibilities before acting. High
scorers on the Cautiousness scale take their time when making
decisions. Low scorers often say or do first thing that comes to
mind without deliberating alternatives and the probable
consequences of those alternatives.
Anxiety. The "fight-or-flight" system
of the brain of anxious individuals is too easily and too often
engaged. Therefore, people who are high in anxiety often feel like
something dangerous is about to happen. They may be afraid of
specific situations or be just generally fearful. They feel tense,
jittery, and nervous. Persons low in Anxiety are generally calm
Anger. Persons who score high in Anger
feel enraged when things do not go their way. They are sensitive
about being treated fairly and feel resentful and bitter when they
feel they are being cheated. This scale measures the tendency to
feel angry; whether or not the person expresses annoyance and
hostility depends on the individual's level on Agreeableness. Low
scorers do not get angry often or easily.
Depression. This scale measures the
tendency to feel sad, dejected, and discouraged. High scorers lack
energy and have difficult initiating activities. Low scorers tend
to be free from these depressive feelings.
individuals are sensitive about what others think of them. Their
concern about rejection and ridicule cause them to feel shy and
uncomfortable abound others. They are easily embarrassed and often
feel ashamed. Their fears that others will criticize or make fun
of them are exaggerated and unrealistic, but their awkwardness and
discomfort may make these fears a self-fulfilling prophecy. Low
scorers, in contrast, do not suffer from the mistaken impression
that everyone is watching and judging them. They do not feel
nervous in social situations.
Immoderation. Immoderate individuals
feel strong cravings and urges that they have difficulty
resisting. They tend to be oriented toward short-term pleasures
and rewards rather than long- term consequences. Low scorers do
not experience strong, irresistible cravings and consequently do
not find themselves tempted to overindulge.
Vulnerability. High scorers on
Vulnerability experience panic, confusion, and helplessness when
under pressure or stress. Low scorers feel more poised, confident,
and clear-thinking when stressed.
imagination. To imaginative
individuals, the real world is often too plain and ordinary. High
scorers on this scale use fantasy as a way of creating a richer,
more interesting world. Low scorers are on this scale are more
oriented to facts than fantasy.
Artistic Interests. High scorers on
this scale love beauty, both in art and in nature. They become
easily involved and absorbed in artistic and natural events. They
are not necessarily artistically trained or talented, although
many will be. The defining features of this scale are interest in,
and appreciation of natural and artificial beauty. Low scorers
lack aesthetic sensitivity and interest in the arts.
Emotionality. Persons high on
Emotionality have good access to and awareness of their own
feelings. Low scorers are less aware of their feelings and tend
not to express their emotions openly.
Adventurousness. High scorers on
adventurousness are eager to try new activities, travel to foreign
lands, and experience different things. They find familiarity and
routine boring, and will take a new route home just because it is
different. Low scorers tend to feel uncomfortable with change and
prefer familiar routines.
Intellect. Intellect and artistic
interests are the two most important, central aspects of openness
to experience. High scorers on Intellect love to play with ideas.
They are open-minded to new and unusual ideas, and like to debate
intellectual issues. They enjoy riddles, puzzles, and brain
teasers. Low scorers on Intellect prefer dealing with people or
things rather than ideas. They regard intellectual exercises as a
waste of time. Intellect should not be equated with intelligence.
Intellect is an intellectual style, not an intellectual ability,
although high scorers on Intellect score slightly higher than
low-Intellect individuals on standardized intelligence tests.
Liberalism. Psychological liberalism
refers to a readiness to challenge authority, convention, and
traditional values. In its most extreme form, psychological
liberalism can even represent outright hostility toward rules,
sympathy for law-breakers, and love of ambiguity, chaos, and
disorder. Psychological conservatives prefer the security and
stability brought by conformity to tradition. Psychological
liberalism and conservatism are not identical to political
affiliation, but certainly incline individuals toward certain
It is possible, although unusual, to score high in one or more
facets of a personality trait and low in other facets of the same
trait. For example, you could score highly in Imagination,
Artistic Interests, Emotionality and Adventurousness, but score
low in Intellect and Liberalism.
Personality Profiles are Used >