Big Five test

The Big Five personality assessment evaluates the 5 major dimensions of normal personality. This test has been used in thousands of academic studies, which have provided compelling evidence for the idea that people in any culture differ in these five personality dimensions, and that those differences predict important work-related outcomes, such as job performance, engagement, work stress and wellbeing, and leadership potential.

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Big Five
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

Expert in Big Five

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
Chief Innovation Officer at ManpowerGroup Professor of Business Psychology at Columbia University & UCL

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is the Chief Innovation Officer at ManpowerGroup, a professor of business psychology at University College London and at Columbia University, and an associate at Harvard’s Entrepreneurial Finance Lab. He is the author of 'Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (and How to Fix It)'.

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Big Five Test: Assess and Hire the Best Candidates!

Finding the best candidates for positions in your organization can be challenging. Employees will not only need the education and expertise to perform the job duties, but they should also work well with the existing employees and fit into the corporate culture. 

How can you assess and select the best people from a short interview for your company? One of the best ways to achieve this will be by using the Big Five Test for hiring processes. 

What is the Big Five Test? 

The Big Five Test is a comprehensive personality test that breaks down an individual's five basic personality traits. It is sometimes referred to as the OCEAN Test because of the acronym of this five-factor model. 

The five main personality traits outlined in the Big Five OCEAN Test include: 

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

The scores on each of these elements from an individual assessment will give hiring managers a deeper look into a candidate’s personality.

Openness

This trait reflects how open an individual is to new experiences, ideas, and opportunities. For example, candidates with an inquisitive nature will typically be more open to trying new things or willing to listen to new ideas. 

Individuals with a high openness score will often be more creative and imaginative and adapt well to changing environments. However, they will struggle in positions that require repetitive tasks and rely heavily on logic.

Someone with a low openness score will work best in positions with methodical tasks and prefer to remain stagnant in their job position. 

Conscientiousness 

Examining the conscientiousness trait reveals how well the individual pays attention to detail and diligence. Conscientious candidates will typically be well-prepared and can adhere to a schedule. 

Those with a high conscientiousness score will generally be hard workers who prefer to stick to a rigid schedule. They will plan and optimize their goals for effectiveness. However, their orderly nature can make them seem controlling in the workplace. 

Individuals with a low conscientiousness score are much more flexible regarding schedules and deadlines. However, they may have difficulty focusing or effectively managing their time. 

Extraversion 

The extraversion component of the Big Five Test outlines how well a person interacts with others. This trait also shows if an individual prefers to work alone or enjoys sharing ideas with team members. 

Someone with a high extraversion score is usually more engaging in team environments. They gain energy by working with others and are productive on team projects. However, they may struggle when it comes time to perform tasks alone. 

Alternatively, an individual with a low extraversion score will be highly productive while working independently and may find it challenging to share ideas in a group setting. 

Agreeableness

This personality trait indicates how far an individual will go to appease or assist others. Candidates with high agreeableness traits often ensure all team interactions are copacetic without disagreements. 

A candidate with a high agreeableness score reflects a person with problem-solving skills. They enjoy helping others and can collaborate to assist in disputes. 

An individual with a low agreeableness score may appear strong-minded and not always open to listening to other ideas. 

Neuroticism 

One of the best personality traits to show how candidates handle their emotions is the neuroticism element. Hiring managers can tell how well individuals take the pressure and if their feelings alter their decision-making skills. 

Candidates with a high neuroticism score work best in low-stress environments. For example, these individuals may focus intensely on what may happen when making a mistake at work. 

Those with low neuroticism scores are generally more positive, even in high-pressure situations. This is because they can keep their cool and remain calm even under stress.  

How to Use Big Five (OCEAN) Tests in the Hiring Process

Personality tests, like the Big Five (OCEAN) Test, can be helpful in many capacities, including when hiring new candidates. However, asking individuals to complete this test is only the first step. 

Candidates will rate 50 various statements by selecting a number on a scale of 1 to 5 on how much they relate to it, using a 1 to depict complete disagreement, 3 for a neutral stance, and 5 for an entire agreement. This personality test should not take a great deal of time, typically only ten minutes or so, and can help save recruiters the hassle of hiring the wrong person or deciding between two similar candidates. 

Results from this personality test can guide recruiters in selecting the best person for the job. For example, when short-listing candidates for an open position, many individuals may be relatively equally qualified, making a choice more difficult. However, taking personality into account can help make the decision simpler. 

In some instances, hiring managers will select the individual who will better suit the organization and ensure success for the business and its employees. Personality test results can also guide an employer to help their staff be more productive and successful in their roles. 

How to Assess and Use Big Five Tests for Hiring

Making the Big Five Test available for potential candidates can allow recruiters more insight into how an individual’s personality will affect their work performance. 

Naturally, hiring managers should examine which traits are beneficial for the open position and try to match a candidate with a score that resembles the need. 

For example, if an organization is interviewing for a new accountant position, focusing on someone who scores low in openness and high in conscientiousness can be advantageous. However, this approach should not be the only method for recruiting candidates for a role, as personality tests should supplement the current recruitment process

Recruiting for Big Five (OCEAN)

The benefits of recruiting for Big Five (OCEAN) traits are numerous. This common personality test is one of the more widely used tools in organizations that aim for the best possible work environment. 

Enhances Understanding and Empathy in the Workplace

Using personality tests like the Big Five (OCEAN) method help enhance individual understanding with co-workers and management. By knowing a person’s dominant traits, interactions with them can provide insight into their emotions and how they navigate situations. 

Promoting empathy to management with employees can be more straightforward when it is apparent which individuals respond better to close interactions. In addition, navigating different personalities in the workplace is easier for management when they know more about an employee’s traits. 

Promotes Individual Development

Naturally, no individual is perfect and will possess every ideal trait for a position within an organization. Therefore, the benefit of using a personality test is that it can show a person’s strengths and the areas that need enhancement. 

Choosing the best possible candidate for the job may provide a company with an individual who has outstanding abilities but lacks others. In addition, it is easier to pinpoint which areas require work when assessing results from a Big Five Test for hiring. This way, employers can offer additional development for their staff to enhance productivity and efficiency. 

May Predict Future Issues 

Recruiters might be able to predict future issues, like employee burnout, from an individual’s personality test results. 

For example, hiring managers can work with management for potential burnout if a candidate’s score reflects a dedicated, hard worker who puts their job before everything. This way, they can ensure the employee has ample resources and will not burn out from taking on too much or trying to handle everything independently. 

Recruiters can discuss the results of an individual’s Big Five Test with them to verify they know which areas are less dominant. This way, employees can consciously monitor these areas to maintain a productive work environment.  

Big Five Test: Considerations for Recruiters

When using the Big Five Test as part of the recruiting process, hiring managers should consider these elements. 

  • Possible inaccurate predictions  
  • Potentially misleading results 
  • It does not predict job performance
  • Use with other recruiting methods
  • Inform potential candidates of its use
  • Individuals will possess all five traits 
  • Dominant traits can change over time 

Possible Inaccurate Predictions 

Of course, recruiters should not rely solely on the results from the Big Five Test when choosing potential employees. Unfortunately, this personality test may not accurately depict how every individual will function in a work environment. 

Personality tests like the Big Five OCEAN Test often aim to provide insight into an individual’s dominant traits rather than employment selection. While these tests can assist recruiters, they do not accurately depict how an individual will fare in a role. 

Potentially Misleading Results  

Hiring managers should also consider the possibility of a potential candidate selecting scores they believe an organization wants to see rather than how factual it reflects their personality. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to determine if an individual is truthful in their answers, which could produce misleading results. 

Does Not Predict Job Performance

Although there are many benefits to using the Big Five Test for hiring, it does not accurately predict an individual’s job performance. Instead, the results may shed some light on how well the candidate works with others or in specific situations. 

Use With Other Recruiting Methods 

Hiring managers should recognize using several tools in the recruiting process. However, they should not rely solely on the Big Five Test when choosing a candidate due to possible inaccuracies. 

By including other recruiting methods, hiring managers can ensure they use the most comprehensive tools to select the best possible individual. 

Inform Potential Candidates of its Use

Not everyone applying for a job will know about the Big Five Test or other personality scoring methods. When screening individuals for a position, it is vital that you inform them of the test, how the results are analyzed, and what you use the information for. 

Reassure potential employees that this personality scoring is not the only element hiring managers look at when selecting a candidate. Some individuals may be reluctant to complete the test or nervous about its results. Recruiters should explain all the tools they use in the recruiting process to help them choose the best person for the job. 

Individuals Will Possess All Five Traits 

Recruiters should understand that everyone will possess all five traits to some degree. However, the mixture of each attribute will help provide a unique personality that can complement other employees. 

Candidates who do not score well on the extraversion element of the Big Five Test may not be comfortable at first with new colleagues, but with time, they can be regularly contributing members of a team. Encouraging and helping individuals improve in areas can create a well-rounded employee that is efficient and works well with others.  

Dominant Traits Can Change Over Time 

Alternatively, an individual’s dominant traits can change over time, depending on their circumstances. While a potential candidate may score showing one element as a driving force in their personality, they may use other traits more often to compensate for the current circumstance when working with teams or being put into new situations. 

Additionally, some individuals will evolve in the workplace and enhance their skills and abilities, which can alter their dominant traits. Therefore, recruiters should consider some variations in personality scores that may happen over time. 

The Takeaway 

Organizations can be quite successful when utilizing several tools, like the Big Five Test for hiring candidates. Knowing how to analyze a candidate’s results can help hiring managers choose the best individual to fit in with the corporate culture and existing employees. 

Although personality tests can indicate an individual’s dominant traits, recruiters should not rely solely on these assessments when choosing new hires. Instead, this tool should be part of a comprehensive hiring process that will reflect a candidate’s education, skills, aptitude, and personality traits. 

Big Five Test results can also guide an individual’s progress and future goals within an organization for personal development. This way, management can follow up with new hires and encourage further growth for success in their roles. With many alternative ways to choose the best candidates, including the Big Five OCEAN Test is one valuable tool. 

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