The five dimensions in the five factor model

Let’s say you want to hire a management trainee.  You give group of people a personality test that measures the five dimensions in the five-factor model.  Now, you have to decide which personality traits you would consider the most important for the management trainee position.  Let’s start of with the five dimensions in the five factor model.

Many contemporary personality psychologists/researchers have worked hard to boil down over 17,000 words that can describe an individual personality (according to organizational behavior book by McShane) into the big five, which are conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness to experience, and extraversion.  These five traits emerged to describe the essential traits that serve as the foundation of personality instead of 17,000 words that the researchers came up with that led to confusion.  McCrae and his colleagues say that these big five traits are also remarkably universal, so you can expect many companies to use these.

Conscientiousness describes a person who is well organized, dependable, goal focused, through, disciplined, methodical, and industrious.  Agreeableness describes a person who is trusting, helpful, considerate, selfless, and so on.  Neuroticism are people who tend to be anxious, insecure, depressed and temperamental.  People who are opened to experience are imaginative, creative, unconventional, curious, and aesthetically perspective.  Extraversion describes a person who are just extroverts.

Just from looking at these five traits, you’ll obviously say conscientiousness is the best one and you are correct.  For most jobs, this trait is the best trait to have in management position.  However, it does produce counterproductive work behaviors as well.

Second best trait will have to be extraversion due to assertiveness and positive emotion that extroverts carry.  They tend to transform messy situations into challenges rather than threats.  Extroverts are also good at being adaptive and proactive, possibly because they’re comfortable with engaging with their environment.

Being agreeable is a good trait, but not for a management position.  It does not predict proficient or proactive task performance very well.  It’s a trait that most employees have, since they have weak motivation to go after a change within the company.  Agreeableness is a great trait for a team member and will increase group performance when you have them in the team.

People with higher openness points have more curiosity, imagination, and tolerance of change.  It is one of the best personality predictors of adaptive and proactive performance.  They’re good with change and have high performance level in creative work.

Those with higher neuroticism tend to view change as a threat, so they tend to avoid change and experience more stress when faced with workplace adjustments.  This trait isn’t something you would want.

In my opinion, I wouldn’t know which personality traits to choose when hiring management trainee, unless I know what type of management position it is.  However, I would try to stick with either extraversion and conscientiousness in most management position.  For example, I would choose extraversion for sales management position or consulting due to their open minded traits that allow them to work well with others.  While I would choose conscientiousness for accounting and finance management due to its goal oriented and organized traits.

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