Five factor model of personality and work performance

Researchers have long been absorbed in relationships between personality and work performance. With the development of personality in the field of psychology, organizations realize that employee characteristics that influence how people think, feel and behave on and off the job are arduous to change. They select suitability of job applicants for positions and evaluate employees’ work performance through personality measures, for example: psychological test. In this essay, I briefly describe the dimensions of Five-Factor Model (FFM) and then review previous and current studies of FFM of personality in psychology, which include emergency, limitation and scope of FFM and the criticism of FFM. Finally, two cases are illustrated to analyze the relationships of FFM and Work Performance.

Five-Factor Model Dimensions

Five-Factor Model or FFM is also called the big five traits (Costa&McCrae, 1992). Agreement has arisen by investigators that Five-Factor Model, often referred to as the “Big Five” (Goldberg, 1990), can be used to characterize the most outstanding parts of personality over the last two decades (Heller, et al 2002).Contemporary, according to the results of large appraisal which has been tested by Eysenck and Cattell, consensus that most of what can be said about personality is supplied by FFM (Wiggins, 1996). FFM of personality are five expansive fields or aspects of personality scientifically ascertain to delimit human personality. The FFM and descriptions are presented below:

Extroversion-warmth, gregrariousness, assertiveness, activity, excitement-seeking, positive emotions.

Neuroticism-anxiety, angry hostility, depression, self-consciousness, impulsiveness, vulnerability.

Conscientiousness- competence, order, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, deliberation.

Agreeablenes-trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, tender-mindedness.

Openness to experience-fantasy, aesthetic, feelings, actions, ideas, values. (Arnold,2005, p.119)

Extroversion and Neuroticism are essential to Eysenck’s N and E dimension. Extraversion, can construct originally advanced by Eysenck (1990), and broadly construed as sociability. Extroverts are more talkative, lively, sociable, excitable than their introverted counterparts. Neurotics are depicted as high levels of anxiety and tension. Furthermore, neuroticism is commonly related to a dearth of effective psychological arrangement and emotional stability. A person with high scoring neuroticism is generally characterized as anxious, nervous, insecure, temperamental, fearful and depressed. Conscientiousness is related to a person’s characteristic which is well organized, self-disciplined, reliable, and concentrate on targets, goals and deadlines. Agreeableness involves that someone is good natured, trusting, sympathetic, kind amiable, generous, keen to collaborate with others and concerned to evade clash .Openness to experience is someone whose feature is that new experience can affect an individual’s tendency and have a wide interests, imaginative, wise, knowledgeable. FFM of personality is a noticeable development in the trait-factor analytic method (Arnold, et al 2005).

Any description of human personality includes a helpful idea of the least factors provided by FFM (Arnold, et al 2005). In many situations it may add up to exploit a more detailed set of dimension.

3. Literature View

3.1 Emergency of Five-Factor Model

A taxonomy of personality has developed over the past 30 years or so, however, this systematize construction has attained eminence only in the past decade when especially the emergence of Cattell’s (1943, 1946, 1947, 1948) comparatively abstruse taxonomy of individual difference that compose of 16 pristine factors and 8 second-order factors. Nevertheless, it was ineffective for researchers to counterfeit his work although their repeated endeavor (Fiske, 1949; Tupes, 1957; Tupes & Christal, 1961). Contemporary, investigators found that outlining a large number of traits only need five factors. Take Tupes and Christal (1961)’s as an example, they reanalyzed Cattell’s and Fiske’s earlier work and found that there was good evidence for five factors: Surgency, Emotional Stability, Culture, Dependability and Agreeableness. Today, factors what was extensively accepted by researchers were greatly similar to these factors.

Because Tupes and Christal’s study was issued in an inconspicuous Air Force technical report which was not paid closely attention by personality researchers, there was only a slight affect in the area of personnel psychology (Digman, 1990). Norman (1963) was an exclusion, he went ahead duplicate the five-factor model which came out to be the first in a string of corroborating studies (Borgatta,1964; Costa& McCrae,1985; Smith, 1967). As Barrick and Mount (1991) points out, Borgatta’s studies are extraordinary because he used five approaches of data gathering to acquire five constant factors. Norman’s theories are mainly meaningful as well, because his definition of five-factor (Agreeableness, Emotional stability, Conscientiousness, Extraversion and Culture) was widely adopted in the literature and have been adverted to as “Norman’s Big Five” or easily as the “Big Five” (Barrick & Mount,1991). Generally, across a great number of studies, researchers have reached a consensus that five factors were exuberate to constitute taxonomy of personality. However, for naming the five factors, there is an apparently divergence. Table 1 is the different names of five factor model.

Table 1 Five Robust Dimensions of Personality from Fiske (1949) to Present








Social adaptability


Will to achieve

Emotional control

Inquiring intellect






















Task interest






Superego strength




Social activity

Paranoid disposition

Thinking introversion

Emotional stability



Friendly compliance

Will to achieve




Socialbility and ambition
























Positive emotionality


Negative emotionality


Interpersonal involvement

Level of socialization






Some debates which have arisen between researchers about the dimensions of Five-Factor Model should be pointed out, especially the deficit specification of these dimensions (Briggs, 1989; John, 1989; Livneh & Livneh, 1989;

Waller & Ben-Porath, 1987). Some researchers stated that the scope of personality is not only five dimensions, more dimensions should be included. For example, Hogan (1986) built up six dimensions (Ambition, Likability, Intellectance, Sociability, Ambition, and Adjustment). On the basis of the five dimensions, he separated the extraversion into Ambition and Sociability.

3.2 Evaluation FFM and Work Performance

During the last decade prior to the 1990s, personnel researchers were investigating the relationship between personality and job performance. Most researchers gained a general view that personality measures did not manifest sufficient predictive validity to certify their use in personnel selection. For example, Guion and Gottier(1965) stated that the advancement for multifarious meta-analytic researches of personality-job performance relations has mostly depended on an efficacious review of the accessible study and attained a pessimistic conclusion across his qualitative review of the personality testing literature, confirmed that little evidence can be used to summarize the validity of personality measures in personnel selection. Similarity, Schmitt, Gooding, Noe, and Kirsch (1984) obtained the same view through their many meta-analytic of diverse personnel selection techniques. Actually, through the measures of an overall mean sample-size weighted correlation of .21 for predicting job performance, Schmitt et al. (1984) ascertained that personality measures were less valid than other predictors of job performance.

However, with the alteration of methodological in meta-analysis and the development of taxonomy of personality characteristics-the “five-factor model” or FFM over the past several years, there has been an aggrandized sense of optimism for personality measures to predict job performance (Behling, 1998; Goldberg, 1993; Hogan, Hogan, & Roberts, 1996; Hogan & Ones, 1997; Mount & Barrick, 1995). Mount and Barrick (1995) indicated that FFM can be widely accepted that spurred the interesting in relations between personality and performance”The importance of this taxonomy cannot be overstated as the availability of such a classification scheme provides the long missing conceptual foundation necessary for scientific advancement in the field”(Mount and Barrick,1995,p.190). Goodstein and Lanyon (1999) also revealed that it was a broadly acceptance of the FFM for interpreting human behavior in the job and advance their use in companies. Investigators have pointed out that it is ambiguous for the accurate predictive validity of personality during the prior study by the short of a common personality framework for organizing the traits which was used as predictors (Barrick & Mount, 1991; Hough, 1992; Mount & Barrick, 1995; Ones, Mount, Barrick, & Hunter, 1994). By the 1990s, there has been an increased in believing the robustness of the Five-Factor Model of personality (Digman, 1990; Goldberg, 1993; John, 1990), researchers started to accept the FFM constitution in predicting the job performance (Barrick & Mount, 1991; Tett, Jackson, & Rothstein,1991).

Among early meta-analytic investigations, two studies were particularly dominant in analyzing the relationships between personality and job performance (Barrick & Mount, 1991; Tett, Jackson, & Rothstein, 1991). Barrick and Mount (1991) and Tett et al.(1991) provided evidence advising that Five-Factor Model is very helpful for organization to selecting employees into variety of jobs (Hurtz & Donovan, 2000). The investigators adopted studies which supplied relations between any kind of personality variables and job performance, classifying the distinct personality variables into one of the Five-Factor Model dimensions to assess the intensity of these variables’ relationship with job performance(Hurtz & Donovan, 2000). Investigators and practitioners reached an agreement in which personality has some utilization as a predictor of job performance in spit of their results have some difference (see Ones et al., 1994, and Tett, Jackson, Rothstein, & Reddon, 1994, for a discussion of reasons). All these studies provided evidence for personality-job performance relations, especially relationship between FFM and job performance. For example, Behling (1998) declared that Conscientiousness is one of the most valid predictors of performance for plentiful occupations among the dimension of Five-Factor Model, general intelligence is only arranged second.


Implication of two cases

Case One: The Big Five Personality Dimensions and Job Performance: A Meta-Analysis

In this study, Barrick and Mount (1991) investigated the correlation of the big five personality dimensions (Openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, emotion stability also called neuroticism Costa&McCrae(1985) ) for three job performances criteria and for five occupational groups by utilizing meta-analytic technique. They hypothesized different relations of the dimensions of “Big Five” with job performance.

In this research, they adopted three mechanisms (computer search, manual search, and personality test publishers and over 60 practitioners known to utilize personality inventories in selection contexts were contacted by letter) to search the relevant literature included published and unpublished criterion-related research of personality as a range between 1952 and 1988. Although these searches afford 231 criterion-related validity studies, 117 were accepted in the analysis. They gained 162 samples form the 117 studies. Sample sizes from 13 to 1401 (M=148.11; SD=185.79), producing 23,994 samples.

This study used an approved taxonomy to investigate the relationship between personality and job performance criteria, so it was classified into five major occupational groupings and three criterion types. Five major occupational groupings are listed below: professionals (5% of the samples); polices (13% of the samples); managers (41% of the samples); sales (17% of the samples); and skilled/semi-skilled (24% of the samples). Three criterion types were job proficiency (included in 68% of the samples), training proficiency (12% of the samples), and personnel data (33% of the samples).

Using this taxonomy, Barrick and Mount (1991) demonstrated that personality dimensions have differential relationships with occupations and performance criteria. In the study, conscientiousness dimension is the consequential findings. Conscientiousness dimension is an invariably validity predictor for all occupational groups studied and for all criterion types (Barrick & Mount, 1991). Extraversion predicts two occupations, managers and sales. Openness to experience was discovered to be a valid predictor of training proficiency, but can not predict job proficiency and personnel data. Furthermore, it is also conspicuous that extraversion was found to be as a predictor of training proficiency comparatively well. Most of relationships with emotional stability were comparable low. The result for agreeableness advised that it is not a significant predictor of job performance in the study. In all, the ‘Big Five’ dimension has relations with occupations and performance criterion.

Case Two: Personality and Job Performance: The Big Five Revisited

In this study, Hurtz and Donovan (2000) used meta-analytic techniques to estimate of the criterion-related validity of specific big five measures for adumbrating job performance. Hurtz and Donovan (2000) adopted four separate literature search measures (a computer-based literature search, a manual search, conference programs search, a citation search) to gain validity coefficients for the present review. 26 studies were founded by using worker occupation and criterion type, producing 35-45 independent interrelations for each of the Big Five dimensions.

They classified all participants into four types categories: sales work (22% of the samples), customer service representatives (27% of the samples), managers (9% of the samples), and skilled/semi-skilled workers (31%of the samples). Because the amalgamate samples and insufficient information, approximately 11% of the samples were not categorized into one of these classifications. Criterion type was categorized two types: job proficiency criteria (93% of the samples), training proficiency (only 7% of the samples).

Providing an affirming meta-analysis of the relationship between FFM and job performance is the purpose of this study. In the study, Hurtz and Donovan (2000) revealed that the dimension of conscientiousness was found to be a predictor for overall job performance. Additionally, the estimated true-score correlation of .22 (and true validity of .20) was basically similar to Barrick and Mount’s estimate. Emotional Stability is regular (although low) levels of criterion-related validity. Agreeableness, Openness to Experience, and Emotional Stability had rather low levels of validity when jobs particularly involving customer service. Furthermore, Emotional Stability and Extraversion had low levels but stable validity (Hurtz & Donovan, 2000).

Compare Two Cases

These two cases use the partly similar techniques to investigate the relationships between Five-Factor Model of personality and job performance. Table 2 shows the similarity between the two cases.

Table 2: Similarity in Case One and Case Two

Case One: The Big Five Personality Dimensions and Job Performance: A Meta-Analysis

Case Two: Personality and Job Performance: The Big Five Revisited

Literature Review

Three methods(computer search, manual search, and personality test publishers and over 60 practitioners known to utilize personality inventories in selection contexts were contacted by letter)

Four methods(a computer-based literature search, a manual search, conference programes search, a citation search)

Worker Occupation

Professionals, Police, Managers, Sales, Skilled/Semi-Skilled Workers

Sales Workers, Customer Service Representatives, Managers, Skilled/Semi-Skilled Workers

Criterion Type

Job Proficiency, Training Proficiency, Personnel Data

Job Proficiency, Training Proficiency

From table 2, we can gain a conclusion of two identical parts. Firstly, both of them use literature review methods as samples, such as computer-based literature search, a manual search. Secondly, the two studies investigated the relationships between FFM and job performance through meta-analysis technique, and classified all the samples into worker occupations (managers, sales and skilled/semi-skilled workers) and criterion types (job proficiency, training proficiency).

Two studies gained mostly same results. For dimension of conscientiousness, it was found to be a constantly validity predictor for all occupational groups and all criterion types (Barrick & Mount ,1991; Hurtz & Donovan 2000). It has declared that the identical results in educational settings in which connection with scores on conscientiousness and educational achievement (Digman & Takemoto-Chock, 1981; Smith, 1967) and vocational achievement (Takemoto, 1979) have regularly been addressed in the range of .50 to .60. In addition, in two studies conducted as part of the U.S. Army Selection and Classification Study (Project A) still can find the evidence of conscientiousness predict job performance (Hough, Hanser,& Eaton 1988; McHenry, Hough, Toquam, Hanson,& Ashworh, 1990). This feature of personality is very vital in accomplishing of work tasks in all jobs. In other words, employees with strong sense of self-discipline, dutifulness, achievement striving, dependable, persistent and efficient are more regularly perform better than those who do not. Thus, managers should take consider of job applications’ personality especially conscientiousness during the recruitment, and select candidates with positive pole.

Although in the two cases, extraversion had low levels but stable validity (Hurtz and Donovan, 2000). Extraversion predicts two occupations (across the criterion types), sales and managers in the two studies. In case one, extraversion is a predictor of training proficiency as well. Intercommunication is certainly crucial tool for both of the job. Hence, individuals with the traits of talkative, energetic, enthusiastic, and gregarious will have an effective performance in these jobs. The feature of extraversion should be the first considered element by organization in recruiting managers and sales. When company selects the suitable candidate, it will have a significant influence for the development of the company.

Agreeableness, Openness to Experience, and Emotional Stability had different levels of validity depend on what kind of job involved and criterion categories. In case one, openness to experience predicts the training proficiency, however, openness to experience had rather low levels of validity. Most of connections with emotional stability in two cases were apparently low. According to the case one, the results for Agreeableness suggested that it is not a crucial predictor of job performance, even in those jobs involving social component (e.g., sales or management). In case two, agreeableness is relative low when jobs particularly involving customer service.


In summary, although there was still have controversy between researchers about the dimensions of Big Five Factor and whether it can predict the job performance , the present meta-analytic studies of Five-Factor Model provide a validity predictor to job performance in accordance with these studies, particularly, the dimension of conscientiousness was found to be consistently as a predictor for worker occupations and criterion types. Similarly, other dimensions have an extent influence on certain occupations and criteria. Consequently, I concluded that personality traits are more important for certain occupations and criteria than Conscientiousness, in spit of they are less generalizable. Personality traits are extremely significant in personnel selection and employee management for organizations. What kind of candidates employers selected should be in line with the organization strategy, at the same time, personality measure should be considered as a useful technique to assess employees.

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