WORKPLACE / NOV. 17, 2014
version 6, draft 6

Research Reveals What Makes The Perfect Employee

There is a commonly used saying that organisations should hire for attitude rather than ability. The feeling is that skills can be improved, but that it is much harder to change a persons core character. Just what is that ideal character like, and more importantly, does that define you?

A recent study that was published in the Perspectives in Psychological Science journal believes it might have the answers.

What characteristics do employers want?

This is a crucial issue to get to the bottom of, because more and more employers are using some kind of personality test as part of their recruitment process. The researchers, from the University of Minnesota, scoured over a number of substantial data sets from both recruitment and performance review processes to try and understand just what it is that employers want and value in a person.

The basis of their research revolved around the so called ’big five’ personality traits.  These are agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, emotional stability and our openness to new experiences.

Data from a large number of job interviews was examined by the team, with much of the data derived from structured interviews whereby each candidate was assessed for particular personality traits in a bid to ensure they were a good cultural fit for the organisation.

So, for instance, interviews for a sales role may focus on traits such as extraversion and friendliness in a bid to ensure the successful candidate would get on well with potential customers.

Employers love conscientiousness

Once the analysis was complete, the data revealed that the most sought after characteristic by employers was undoubtedly conscientiousness. They craved employees that would persevere, were dependable and orderly. This trait trumped the other four by quite some margin, with agreeableness a somewhat distant second. What’s more, this trait was popular across the board of careers and roles, which only emphasised its value in the workplace.

Next, the researchers wanted to explore whether personality traits were a good predictor of how that candidate would subsequently perform in their new job.

They matched up the character traits identified earlier with three core performance criteria:

  1. Did the employee complete their work to the satisfaction of their boss?
  2. How often did the employee go above and beyond?
  3. How often did they exhibit negative behaviours?

Once again, it emerged that both conscientiousness and agreeableness were the main predictors of strong scores in each of these areas. Strong conscientious characteristics was most closely associated with excellent job performance.

“In conclusion, our findings provide robust evidence that attributes related to Conscientiousness and Agreeableness are highly important for workforce readiness across a variety of occupations that require a variety of training and experience qualifications,” the authors concluded.

Before those of you that aren’t especially conscientious get too depressed, the authors do note that it is not ideal for every job or profession. They suggest that certain occupations may have the need for very different characteristics in its candidates.

Nevertheless, they believe that their research is valuable in identifying the kind of character traits that employers are looking for in general.

Do you regard yourself as a conscientious individual? Have these traits helped you in your own role? Let us know in the comments below.


Image: iStock

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