Big Five Personality Traits: Finding the Right Jobs for You
Updated March 10, 2023
Employers sometimes use exams to determine a candidate’s suitability for a position. Of these tests, many focus on personality traits, which determine what motivates employees and how they respond in workplace situations. In the mid-20th century, researchers developed the Big Five personality trait model, which gauges openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. In this article, we will define these traits, guide you through a Big Five exam and explain how this knowledge can help your job search.
Related: How to Find Your Passion
What are the Big Five personality traits?
The Big Five personality traits are a set of descriptions of your personal qualities, including your emotions and how you function in certain situations. Although you are likely to have a higher tendency toward one specific trait, your personality contains a mix of the following:
Openness: If you score highly on openness, you are likely to prefer new, exciting situations. You value knowledge, and friends and family are likely to describe you as curious and intellectual.
Conscientiousness: If you’re a conscientious person, you have a lot of self-discipline and exceed others’ expectations. You have a strong focus and prefer order and planned activities over spontaneity.
Extroversion: Extroverts thrive in social situations. If you have a high score in extroversion, you are action-oriented and appreciate the opportunity to work with others.
Agreeableness: A high score in agreeableness shows that you’re considerate, kind and sympathetic to others. As an agreeable person, friends and colleagues likely seek you out to participate in group activities since you’re adept at compromise and helping others.
Neuroticism: Although this measure typically indicates anxiety and pessimism, some tests focus on low scores, which researchers call emotional stability. This measure can mean you have a more hopeful view of your circumstances. As a low-neurotic or emotionally stable person, others likely admire your calmness and resilience during challenges.
Testing your personality for the Big Five
Although you can take a Big Five personality test with a trained psychologist, many free personality tests are available online.
These questionnaires ask you to rate on a scale from one (strongly disagree) to seven (strongly agree) how well a variety of statements describe you. For all these tests, each question relates to one of the Big Five traits, with some questions reverse-scored. For example, “Disorganized, careless” is a reverse measure of conscientiousness. If you take the test on paper, you will count and average your scores, which will reveal the balance of the Big Five in your personality. Most online tests, however, will score your responses for you.
Some tests might present statements like “I see myself as” and ask you to rate each word pair:
“Open to new experiences, complex” (Openness)
“Dependable, self-disciplined” (Conscientiousness)
“Extroverted, enthusiastic” (Extroversion)
“Friendly, generous” (Agreeableness)
“Anxious, easily upset” (Neuroticism)
Other tests are more elaborate and ask you to rate your agreement with full sentences like:
“I enjoy the beauty of nature.” (Openness)
“I keep my promises.” (Conscientiousness)
“I enjoy being part of a group.” (Extroversion)
“I try to anticipate the needs of others.” (Agreeableness)
“I get irritated easily.” (Neuroticism)
There is a wide variation in the length of Big Five personality tests, from the Five Item Personality Inventory through the International Personality Item Pool, which has more than 3,000 items. However, you can likely complete most of the free, online tests in about 15 minutes.
Related: Guide: 16 Personality Types
Using the Big Five in your career search
In addition to salary and duties, an important part of career success is how you fit with your company’s culture. Company culture includes work environment, company mission and core values. Knowing your Big Five composition can help you find a workplace environment that matches your personality. For instance, if you’re a highly conscientious person, you might thrive better in a formal business environment. As an extrovert, you would likely prefer a more casual atmosphere where you work with a large group of people.
After testing yourself for your Big Five traits, consider these jobs based on your unique personality makeup.
If you scored highly in openness, you will probably appreciate one of these careers:
National average salary: $14.01 per hour
Primary duties: Tour guides arrange trips with groups of people. As a tour guide, you will ensure the safety of your group while explaining landmarks of cultural or historical importance. To be a successful tour guide, you will need excellent communication and presentation skills. Tour guides need at minimum a high school diploma and extensive knowledge of their chosen subject, and some even pursue bachelor’s degrees in a field related to their tour specialty.
National average salary: $72,854 per year
Primary duties: Commercial pilots operate airplanes while maintaining a safe flight for the crew and passengers. However, you could also be a cargo pilot who delivers important items between destinations or a helicopter pilot who offers sightseeing trips. As any kind of pilot, you will need to monitor weather patterns and communicate with air traffic controllers to ensure a quick and safe arrival. Most pilots need a bachelor’s degree and a pilot’s license.
As a conscientious person, you likely have excellent attention to detail. Consider one of these careers for your personality type:
National average salary: $53,978 per year
Primary duties: As an accountant, you will review the expenses and income for businesses or individuals and make recommendations for more effective fund management. You will also likely prepare tax documents and maintain a system for keeping financial information secure. Accountants also manage budgets and prepare expense-related reports. Most accountants need a bachelor’s degree, and some pursue a Certified Public Accountant certification for a higher earning potential.
National average salary: $74,703 per year
Primary duties: In a sales management position, you will set sales goals and quotas while creating strategies to expand your customer base. Your responsibilities will also include hiring, training and supervising members of your company’s sales staff. Many sales managers earn a bachelor’s degree in business or marketing, and most have relevant sales experience.
If you like to be around people, one of these jobs might suit you:
National average salary: $15.79 per hour
Primary duties: In your career as an event planner, you will be the point of contact for clients and be responsible for coordinating guest lists as well as scouting and booking event locations. You will likely also be responsible for ordering food, music and audio/visual equipment. Event planners need excellent time-management and communication skills in order to coordinate multiple concurrent activities. Many positions require a bachelor’s degree in business or hospitality, though some roles may only require relevant experience.
National average salary: $21.10 per hour
Primary duties: As a personal trainer, you will create fitness plans for and teach exercise techniques to clients. Personal trainers set goals for their customers’ diet and exercise and monitor progress toward health goals. To be successful, personal trainers need to enjoy working with a variety of clients and have a strong focus and dedication. Many personal trainers have a high school diploma and need to earn certification in personal training.
As an agreeable person, consider a job where you can help others:
National average salary: $19.05 per hour
Primary duties: In an elementary school teacher role, you’ll produce lesson plans for students between kindergarten and sixth grade. You will usually teach a variety of subjects including math, science, history and language arts. Your responsibilities will also include grading assignments and communicating with parents. Elementary school teachers need a bachelor’s degree in education and a state teaching license.
National average salary: $51,660 per year
Primary duties: As a human resources specialist, you will be responsible for preparing documents for new hires, promotions and terminations and insurance benefit forms. You will likely also be responsible for ensuring workplace safety and that employees follow company policies. HR specialists typically help resolve employee challenges as well. To become an HR specialist, you need a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field.
If you can stay calm under pressure, consider one of the following jobs:
National average salary: $56,596 per year
Primary duties: Social work is a broad field, but most people in this role assist clients of a variety of age levels with mental, emotional or physical ailments. Your duties could include individual or family counseling and communicating with law enforcement in certain circumstances. As a social worker, you’ll need strong emotional intelligence. Social workers need at minimum a bachelor’s degree, though many choose to specialize by earning a master’s degree.
National average salary: $110,262 per year
Primary duties: As a psychiatric nurse, you will diagnose and treat a range of mental health issues. In addition to dispensing medication, you might also direct your patients to non-medical care providers like social workers or family therapists. Psychiatric nurses must first become registered nurses before specializing in mental health.
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