Companies seeking a more holistic approach to hiring new employees may find the answer in a personality test like the Big Five. The Big 5 Personality Test is a respected and comprehensive personality test that examines one person’s unique mixture of the 5 major personality traits. Tests like this one are also referred to as a model of personality, or human personality test.
This test can provide further insight into an applicant’s natural strengths, inclinations, and preferences. Also referred to as OCEAN, a Big 5 personality test can give employers and employees further confidence that they have the potential to perform a job well.
Though companies should always exercise caution in formulating relevant tests for recruiting, this personality indicator offers stable and trustworthy information about how an employee may perform.
What is a Big 5 (OCEAN) personality type test and how does it work?
The Big Five model, or Five-Factor Model, was created through contributions from many experienced psychologists and researchers in the mid-1900s.
It aims to describe the psychological tendencies of an individual through the degrees in which they satisfy 5 broad categories represented by the acronym OCEAN:
- Openness: willingness to learn
- Conscientiousness: willingness to comply
- Extraversion: willingness to engage
- Agreeableness: willingness to empathize
- Neuroticism: lack of stability
Each of these factors of personality will be present in every person. However, varying degrees and emphases on one trait or the other will contribute to predictable and normative behaviors. This test does not assert that some personalities are superior to others. Rather, it sheds light on how people can be so different and still relate through such simple terms.
How was it created?
The first men to propose a comprehensive list of human personalities were Gordon Allport and Henry Odbert. With the help and work of researchers before them, Allport and Odbert cataloged 4,500 personality traits in 1936. A few years later, Raymond Cattell applied a statistical technique called factor analysis to these terms to create 16 larger categories.
Other psychologists interacted with Cattell’s proposal to discover that those 16 personality traits could be encapsulated in 5 super-traits. Perhaps the most enthusiastic member of the foundational psychologists was Lewis Goldberg who strongly believed in the credibility of those primary factors. Eventually, McCrae & Costa developed the complete model of the Big 5 dimensions of personality that is still used and respected today.
How is the test administered?
Since these traits came about through an organic process of deduction, there is no single questionnaire that reveals the results. People may complete a self-assessment by reading descriptions of traits or take one of many tests on the internet. It can also be assessed through a credible personality program.
After answering prompts such as “agree or disagree” to daily scenarios, individuals will obtain percentages of each category to indicate where strengths and weaknesses lie. Some traits can be in the average range and others may be higher or lower than normal.
Is the Big Five model reliable for recruitment?
Yes, the Big Five model is the most well-known personality test in the world. There is a large body of research to support its claims. Many compelling studies show relationships between age, work habits, and even individuals across cultures.
A company using the OCEAN model must exercise discretion in the timing and weight given to the test. However, it does present many helpful and objective tools to aid the recruitment process.
What does data reveal about the Five-Factor model?
HR standards suggest that personality tests used in the workplace should be normative, stable, and reliable. A test must be trustworthy enough to allow the extrapolation of appropriate generalizations and expectations. While no personality test can fully encapsulate people’s tendencies and preferences, it is possible to find consistency in relationships between some typology systems and participants’ behaviors.
Based on decades of research and analysis, the Big Five personality system offers a robust collection of reliable patterns that provide insight into people’s habits, dispositions, and goals.
Studies show that the OCEAN model can be trusted in the following areas:
- Results remain relatively stable as individuals age, according to a longitudinal study
- Productive work habits are related to Big Five traits, determined by a quantitative review
- The scores of participants largely hold up to generalizability standards, this study says
How can employers seek out job-related traits?
For any personality test to be relevant to the hiring process, it must identify specific skills that illuminate a person’s ability to perform the job. An employer should always avoid making unnecessary assumptions or generalizations about a potential applicant.
For those who are new to the workforce, a personality test can be a helpful way to showcase their tendencies without having much prior work experience. In this way, personality tests can increase the reliability of applicants who might have otherwise been overlooked.
The OCEAN Big 5 reveals multiple personality traits that can enhance career performance. In addition to other application materials, showcasing these skills can increase the credibility and desirability of a promising candidate.
Here are some work-related applications of Big 5 results:
- People with a high degree of extraversion will naturally enjoy roles in sales, customer relations, and public speaking
- A highly conscientious individual will likely excel in meticulous careers like lab work, accounting, or law enforcement
- An emotionally stable person may thrive in demanding roles like therapy and social work
- Those with a high degree of openness are well-suited for jobs that demand creativity such as art, creative writing, or design
- Someone with high agreeableness can excel in customer service, nursing, or caregiving jobs
What are the Big Five personality traits?
As the name indicates, these five inclinations seek to encapsulate every potential human expression through these major categories. Though each of the five tendencies is intentionally general, the results can predict how a person will choose to express themselves within these categories.
When a person receives their Big 5 personality test results, they will see a numerical value for each category. This represents a percentage or score for that trait. All of these attributes appear in everyone in some capacity. Relative degrees seek to reveal which modes a person gravitates to in their daily life.
The trait of openness may best be described as a desire to experience new things. Individuals who favor this trait are often creative, curious, and interested in many cultures or ideas. They may be more likely to appreciate art, music, or language as these are all opportunities for expression and adventure.
Some weaknesses of a highly open person may be that they tend to assume more familiarity with subjects that they know little about. A highly open person can sometimes become suspicious of tradition, repetition, or routine to a destructive degree.
If an individual receives a low openness score, this indicates that they gravitate towards stability, familiarity, and tradition. These people may prefer more conservative lives, seeking out fewer daring experiences. They might appear more practical or sensible. A less open person may feel more comfortable in familiar routines, cultures, or situations.
The downsides of a less open person include close-mindedness and fear of the unknown. These individuals may dislike change or have trouble acclimating to new environments. A less open person may also have more difficulty engaging in creative ideas.
A highly conscientious person places a high value on following rules and achieving goals. Individuals with this trait may divert more attention to maintaining their integrity and performing a task with efficiency and skill. This tendency often correlates with greater attention to detail and awareness of consequences and implications.
The struggles that a highly conscientious person may face can be connected with obsessive behaviors which limit productivity. These individuals may fear the prospect of not being in control of their situation and may suffer from anxiety.
The converse of conscientiousness in personality is impulsivity. These individuals may be more carefree and spontaneous since they prefer not to spend time planning or organized habits. A less conscientious person can be lively and optimistic about his situation since he focuses less on the details.
A weakness of people with low conscientiousness is simply an aversion to organization. While focusing on the big picture, these people may be prone to reject rules or cultural norms because of their own beliefs. These individuals may have difficulty completing goals or objectives for a lack of self-control.
Perhaps the most well-known trait within this system is extraversion. People who score high percentages in this category tend to be more outgoing, eager to share their opinions, and energized by social situations. Though recreational settings will allow many extraverts to make their presence known, these individuals are also more assertive in professional situations and may be more prone to activity or exercise.
The weaknesses that arise with high extraversion include speaking up too often at the expense of the speaker or others. This person may dislike being alone or subordinating to others.
Introverts score lower on the scale of extraversion and are characterized by their preference to speak less or work independently. An introverted person may appear more withdrawn to others. Though many introverts can enjoy social gatherings, they may be more likely to decline such events than an extravert. Commonly, introverts possess the ability to listen well.
Introverts may have more difficulty in prolonged social settings with less desire to interact with others. They may suffer from feelings of loneliness or isolation despite their independent nature.
Agreeable people usually prioritize harmony and empathy among people. A highly agreeable person is more likely to consider the feelings and comfort of others through their speech and actions. Agreeable people will choose a less offensive response in favor of maintaining peace and order. Others may see highly agreeable people as warm and cooperative.
Those who are highly agreeable may find themselves neglecting their own needs or beliefs to keep others happy. Some may sacrifice honesty to remain agreeable or even sustain mistreatment to defer to another person.
The traits of those who score lower in agreeableness can appear to be cold or brutally honest. These people may prioritize their own opinions over the opinions of others at the expense of social harmony. Though this trait may be interpreted as rude, a less agreeable person can also thrive in debates or situations that require a strong sense of self.
A person who scores lower in agreeableness may appear to others as standoffish or overly critical. These people may struggle with trusting others as they tend to be highly suspicious or unsympathetic.
Individuals who receive a higher score in neuroticism may find more difficulties in processing their emotions. These people may suffer more harm from criticism or insecurities due to a lack of self-regulation. However, battling through one’s sensitivities may increase one’s compassion for others in similar situations.
Those who struggle with higher levels of neuroticism may find it more difficult to move on from past trauma and require more time to recover from personal setbacks. A highly neurotic person may struggle with illnesses such as depression or anxiety.
People with low neuroticism scores are considered to be more emotionally stable individuals. These people exhibit greater resilience and find more ways to practice mental wellness. Maintaining greater internal security allows these individuals to stay calmer and happier.
Though there are a few disadvantages to being low in neuroticism, this person may tend to ignore emotional difficulties or minimize problems.
How to interpret the results of a Big 5 personality assessment?
For companies in need of their applicants’ Big Five personality test score interpretation, context is one of the most important features. Using this test to supplement other evaluation methods is the recommended practice since humans can’t easily be compartmentalized.
Compiling a list of desirable skills and underrepresented personalities is a great place to start in assessing test results. Since no personality type is better or worse than the other, it is necessary to maintain an objective stance on which skills are needed for a certain position.
Interpreting personalities relative to other skills
As with any recruitment technique, Big Five personality test results must be interpreted within a larger framework of inquiry and screening. The OCEAN Big 5 personality score is a reliable indicator of a person’s disposition, but no singular test can definitively say whether a person is fit or unfit for a job.
Remember that every skill within the OCEAN assessment can be learned or sharpened. Viewing a promising applicant’s results in context with other inclinations such as experience, career goals, and education can show the company an even fuller picture of how they might work well on the team.
How to pinpoint desirable traits
When organizations are looking to fill a specific job opening, they seek out individuals who can best match the demands of the job. It can serve a recruiter very well to include relevant personality traits in this list of skills.
Here are some possible responsibilities that would benefit from a certain behavior:
- High creativity can be found in those with high openness
- Meticulous focus is traced back to conscientious traits
- Eloquent speaking abilities are related to extraversion
Using personalities to cultivate a productive workplace
For recruiters who need to exercise consideration in creating teams or groups of employees, understanding the Big 5 personality test results meaning can be a helpful way to encourage social harmony and cultural growth. While the exclusion of an applicant based on irrelevant traits is not warranted, it may be useful to explore nest-fit scenarios within employee groups or positions with social demands.
Over half of the positions which use personality tests involve management positions. Therefore, it is beneficial for a company to examine how compatible individuals may be with each other by using data instead of general impressions.
Reminders for recruiters
To protect the fairness of the recruitment process for both employers and applicants, the principles of inclusion and diversity are helpful to keep in mind.
How to maintain inclusion?
By carving out an appropriate space or personality indicators within a recruitment system, a company can prioritize the values of honesty between applicants and fairness among all. By promoting vulnerability in its appropriate scope, a company can recognize the humanity of each potential employee. Simultaneously, by providing other complementary tests and processes, the company can preserve the equity of every applicant.
How to promote diversity?
If an employer chooses to integrate a personality test into the hiring process, this added component of objectivity can protect individuals from bias or discrimination. Since interviews and portfolios may provide a limited picture of one’s full range of capabilities and goals, a company may find that they are facing stagnation in diversity with limited criteria.
A personality test can enhance the range of factors and encourage a more open-minded approach to onboarding with such variations in the human mind. When you use a tool such as this one, you can ensure you have all kinds of different minds tackling a problem, and you are less likely to suffer an oversight.