Until the first intercontinental crossings, five oceans separated the world’s peoples, but research has shown that the personalities of individuals within these cultures can be represented using the same theoretical model: the BIG 5. The name refers to the five main facets of personality that have been scientifically and internationally validated by researchers. Coincidentally, these five factors can be expressed using the acronym OCEAN.
We will present each of these five facets of personality to help you better understand how employee personality tests are designed to assess candidates and predict their job performance. We will also show that, like water, which runs along a continuum of fresh to salt water, each of the facets of personality is found on a continuum that runs from weak to strong, with their advantages, disadvantages, strengths and weaknesses related to performance at work.
O FOR OPENNESS TO EXPERIENCE
Openness to experience relates to the degree to which individuals enjoy richness, variety and novelty in their personal and professional experiences. People with a high score in this character trait generally have a great deal of curiosity about the external world and their internal world and tend to easily handle new, unconventional ideas. They are known for their creative ideas and ability to see the big picture. You can get the most out of this type of person by having them contribute to your company’s strategic planning. These people need a great deal of variety and novelty in their duties, so it can be hard to retain them if they have little opportunity for advancement.
On the other hand, people with a low score on this character trait are seen as more conservative, have a more limited range of interests and prefer familiarity to novelty. As a result, they are appreciated for their pragmatic side and are best used in positions that involve routine tasks. They may have difficulty navigating change at work.
C FOR CONSCIENTIOUSNESS
Conscientiousness is the point to which people are disciplined and able to plan, organize and structure tasks to do quality work. People with a high score on this personality trait are generally reliable, punctual and pay attention to detail. As such, they tend to perform well in duties that require following rules, conventions and quality standards (e.g., an industrial support position). They may have difficulty delegating responsibilities to colleagues, out of fear that their high quality standards won’t be met.
On the other hand, people with a low score on this character trait are considered more flexible, non-conformist and agile in situations where there are few instructions. As a result, they can easily work in a context that involves a great deal of unpredictability, such as telecommunications. They may also be easily frustrated by details and have difficulty planning major projects.
E FOR EXTRAVERSION
Extraversion is the point to which people like to be around others, are positive and dynamic and take their place in social situations. A person with a high score will be considered extraverted, approachable and gregarious. It would be a good idea to use the strengths of these candidates in positions that involve business development. But they may have difficulty taking on tasks that require working alone for a long period of time.
People with a low score are generally perceived as introverted and independent. They are promising candidates for positions that involve little interaction with others. These people also tend to be passive in groups and contribute little to group discussions.
A FOR AGREEABLENESS
Agreeableness is the extent to which people are altruistic, sympathetic and diplomatic in discussions with others. Candidates with a high score on this character trait will tend to consider other people’s needs. They are likely to perform in positions that involve maintaining long-term partnerships (e.g., clients, employees, partners). But they will have a hard time managing difficult situations with others, such as conflicts between employees and instances of underperformance.
A low score on the character trait of agreeableness tends to reflect people who are at ease managing difficult situations with employees and who are therefore excellent candidates when a company needs to be turned around. They may also have difficulty taking precautions to present the facts without hurting or offending others.
N FOR NEUROTICISM
Neuroticism is the degree to which people tend to feel negative affect, and be preoccupied by past mistakes and respond emotionally under pressure. People with a high score on this scale will tend to be receptive to feedback and try to solve problems. As a result, they may excel in positions that involve conveying a sense of urgency when challenges arise (e.g., a leader in a production plant). On the other hand, they may take criticism too much to heart and let problematic situations get to them.
People with a low score on this character trait will tend to be emotionally stable. They will likely stay calm and even tempered under pressure. They could therefore excel in duties that involve working under pressure over long periods. They are generally confident in their professional skills, but they could have difficulty absorbing and using constructive feedback from others to maximize their development potential.
Personality is complex, and there are no good or bad personality profiles. Some people may be a better fit for the requirements of certain positions than others. It is important to learn to navigate the subtleties of the OCEAN of people’s personality to maximize the predictive value of the selection process.