Personality trait theories may be defined as a key measurement of habitual outlines of behaviour, thought and emotion (Kassin, 2003). Cattell and Warburton (1967) defined the personality tests (about 200 objective tests with more than 800 variables) that can be objectively scored and whose purpose is hidden from the subject (Cattell &Warburton 1967). They manifested that they are difficult to fake (although they may be sabotaged), and thus such tests would be useful in selection if they could be shown to be valid.
The use of the personality traits in employee selection can be very important for understanding employees’ potential. Employers use these personality tests when they are recruiting staff and it provides significant information about candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. Despite this, some other researchers argued that well structured-personality tests do not predict job performance under certain conditions.
They suggested social analytical effects (Blickle, et al., 2009), frame-of-reference effects (Bowling & Burns, 2010), cultural variation (Borkenau, et al., 2013), gender variation (Costa et al., 2001) and the effect of the job description (O’Neill et al., 2009) may have an impact on the validity of personality measures in real-world settings. This is the major issue in personal selection criteria and this essay will critically evaluate these two concepts of probability to reveal whether personality traits can predict job performance or they are a poor predictor of job performance.
2. Personality traits and tests
The personality test is a conventional method to establish individuals’ suitability and capability for job performances. It provides insight into various aspects of individuals’ personality and it can help to fit people to the appropriate jobs.
Although different employers may use different constructed personality tests, the similarity of these tests raises the question of reliability, whether they all assess principally a single general construct. While diverse assessment publishers argue that their tests assess different constructs, such as responsibility, long-term job commitment, consistency, proneness to violence, moral reasoning, hostility, work ethics, dependability, depression, and energy level (O'Bannon et al., 1989), all the personality tests are based on the five factor module of personality (Hogan, et al., 2007).
It is constituent five essential components; openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism (Atkinson, et al., 2000). Personality traits theorists accept as true that these tests may all measure the general construct of broadly defined conscientiousness, one of the five dimensions of personality hypothesized in the Big Five theory of personality (Barrick & Mount, 1991; Digman, 1990; Goldberg, 1992; Goldberg, 1993).
According to Atkinson, et al., (2000) neuroticism also refers to the degree of emotional stability which compared with conscientiousness; is less effectuations conscientiousness being a more strongly related predictor of job performances (Barrick, et al., 2001; Bowling & Burns, 2010). Conscientiousness mirrors characteristics such as dependability, carefulness, and responsibility. Conversely, One et. al, (1993) have demonstrated the conscientiousness reflects such characteristics as dependability, carefulness, and responsibility.
They have demonstrated when individuals perform on personality tests due to the job recruiting, individuals score high in dependability, carefulness, and responsibility rather they self report. Those constructive behaviours of candidates put employer at risk. For example, employers may find very hard to find out candidates’ disciplinary problems such as violence on the job, excessive absenteeism, tardiness, drug abuse, in addition to theft. To sort out the problem in the integrity-testing literature, a construct appears to be looked and measured from its negative side as irresponsibility, carelessness, and violation of rules are examples of this aspect (One et al, 1993).
Furthermore, it is crucial to employ right approach for each study carried out. For example, to find out candidates’ punitive problems such as violence on the job, extreme absenteeism, tardiness, drug abuse, in addition to theft. Hogan and Holland (2003) postulated conscientiousness emotional stability and agreeableness could be the motive for individuals to get more in line with the personality traits criteria. Hogan and Shelton (1998), explained that particular performances issues may be a case study in poor validity of social interactive jobs predictors.
For example, the performances in sales jobs depend highly on social interaction (Blickle, et al., 2009). Those people with high ratings on this feature can then be examined as positive, self-confident, ambitious and striving for personal growth (Hogan & Holland, 2003).
This is in agreement with Hogan and Shelton (1998) who found that person’s social skills are an important element of the socio-analytic perspective on performance prediction in these types of jobs (Hogan & Shelton 1998). Those social skills are a moderator of the relationships between the motive to get ahead and along with job performance evaluations. Through social skill or effectiveness, one is able to transform intentions to get along and get ahead into actions that are perceived and evaluated by others (Hogan & Shelton, 1998, p. 135)
3. The role of job specification and the work specific personality measure
The job specification may be a subject matter in recruiting employees. It was explained that the job description provides well described and highly descriptive judgments as to the personality requirement of the job. They stated when employees are instructed with the job specification, it then makes it easier to fit on the personality test to meet the job description (O’Neill et al., 2009). Their group contended that the ‘surface-level’ trait description does not appreciate or identify the criterion-related evidence.
The job specification provides only a brief indicator of the trait reflected in the description. Furthermore, they suggested that it does not appear conducive to engendering deep, well-reasoned judgments as to the personality requirements of employment. Eventually they proposed that personality traits are relatively complex constructs. The job specification requires more thorough, well-articulated descriptions in order to avoid misperceptions regarding the nature of the trait, and confusion regarding the distinctions between ostensibly similar traits. Lievens et al. (2008) and Heller et al. (2009) reported the work specific personality measure can outline the connection between employees’ personality and worked-related outcomes (Lievens, et al., 2008; Heller, et al., 2009).
This is reflected from traditional personality measures. It inquires about individuals’ behaviour in general and worked specific personality measures which ask the employee to report how they behave at work. The work specific personality measure was then found as a great predictor of job satisfaction (Heller, et al., 2009). According to O’Neill, et al. (2009), theinterpretation of the job description and the potential is to better understand about the specific job criteria (O’Neill, et al., 2009).
Therefore, it is an essential factor for the employees’ suitability and employment that candidates can perform effectively on the work specific personality test, rather than the general personality tests. Frame-of-reference research has also found that work-specific personality measure usually gives stronger relationships with job performance than general personality (Hunthausen et al., 2003; Bing, et al., 2004; Heller et al., 2009). The various behaviours impact on the specific job criteria in general personality measures that may put that personality test in low validity as a job predictor.
For example, a student may consider her own behaviour as a ‘student’ and a housewife may consider her behaviour as a ‘housewife’ when they perform on the general personality test. The work specific personality measure allows the candidate to consider his/her own behaviour as an employee when responding to the job related specific criteria (Bowling & Burns, 2010). In this regard, they can get a chance to decide whether there would be a potential to occupy the job without stress, or there would not be potential to occupy the position without stress. That is why work-specific measure may be of high validity as a job predictor (Lievens et al., 2008).
4. The role of a cultural factor
Recent researchers have conducted a cross cultural study throughout with 51 different cultures and the results suggested that cultural factors are important due to the reversal of personality variation within the female population and male population of 51 cultures (Borkenau, et al., 2013). This adds some credence to McCrae, (2002) who stated the Big-five personality tests are culturally tainted (McCrae, 2002). Consequently, the author contended that personality tests cannot be an effective job predictor. That may be a problem to employer when the candidates are coming from different cultures.
Cultural psychologists have also argued that there may be cross cultural variations on personality measure as a job predictor in western and non-western societies. Despite this intention of non-western phenomenon, Cross and Markus (1999) illustrated that personality traits, as distinctive and enduring aspects of individuals, are essentially a western phenomenon; in non-western, collectivistic societies (Cross & Markus 1999).
Responding to that contend of cross cultural variations on personality measure, the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) (Costa and McCrae, 1992) was shown to provide reliable and valid measures of personality traits in a wide variety of cultures, from Zimbabwe to the Russian Arctic (Draguns, et al., 2000; Piedmont, et al., 2002). Yet cultural psychologists are unable to address the problem involved between Asian culture and personality measures. As a result, referring to this notion, employers in Asian culture may be in risk at recruiting capable and suitable employers into the correct positions.
As mentioned previously in this study, the Revised NEO Personality Inventory is considered as a highly valid personality measure item with strong stability with cross-cultural variation. However, McCrae (2002) established that standard deviations of NEO-PI-R scales are consistently smaller in Asian countries than in the West (McCrae, 2002).
5. The role of gender differences
Instead of the cultural effect on personality measure, most of employers have claimed the problem with gender differences in recruiting staff as it is not testable due to the structure of the personality traits. When they completed the personality tests for the job purpose; most candidates have complained their low confidently against the gender variation of unjust faction. Eventually, experts have investigated there an unjustified condition cross masculinity and femininity measure as a job predictor.
For instance, women are higher in neuroticism, agreeableness, warmth, and openness to feelings while men scored higher in assertiveness and openness to ideas (Costa, Terracciano & McCrae, 2001). Thus women have more chance than men when they recruiting to a job which rich in neuroticism, agreeableness, warmth, and openness to feelings. This condition is against to the concept of Borkenau, et al. (2013) about gender- egalitarian of the societies.
However, psychologists have recognized NEO-PI-R scales as a good job predictor due to high reliability and validity measures of personality trait with strong stability of cross-cultural variations and gender differences (Costa et al., 2001). Looking at 2301 participants from 26 cultures, it was suggested that gender variation in the personality measure is small relatively within genders (Costaet al., 2001). Therefore, the gender variations on NEO-PI-R scales have replicated by psychologist in a wide variety of cultures. Contrary to the prediction from gender variation on NEO-PI-R scales, Costa et al. (2001) stated the gender differences are less marked among Asians and Black Africans than among Americans and Europeans (Costa et al., 2001).
6. The relationship between personality traits and job performances
Although personality and performance research continue to show a wide variety of results, modern day meta-analytic studies of personality-job performance relations have begun to reveal the true predictive validity of personality traits.
Barrick, et al. (2001) carried out a second-order meta-analysis and found that conscientiousness is a valid predictor in the performance of those jobs studied. Emotional stability was also found to be a predictor but in less extent than conscientiousness. However, the other three Big Five traits (extraversion, openness and agreeableness) were not able to predict job performance in that study. In addition, they found that validity coefficients of up to 0.3, for predictions of job performance from personality checks in their study (Barrick, et al., 2001). This is in agreement with the study by Mount et al. (2006) who analyzed more than 141 cases of customer service employees and found that conscientiousness constantly predicted performance for all jobs from managerial and sales positions to skilled and semiskilled work (Mount, et al., 2006).
The relationships between personality traits, job satisfaction, and job performance of 117 certified nursing assistants also showed 21.3% of the variance in job satisfaction and the personality traits of adjustment, prudence, likeability, excitable, and dutiful with a p value of p < 0.001 (Kovach et al., 2010).
In another study on 96 police officers, age and attitude were shown to be better predictors of job performance than were personality traits namely the Big Five (Sanders, 2008).
Avdic, (2012) also showed that both personality dimensions of conscientiousness and extraversion were positively connected to general job performance in 295 professional and civil service employees with a mean age of 45.8 years and a median length of current employment of 5.1 years (Avdic, 2012). Conscientiousness was a stronger predictor of task performance, while extraversion was associated with contextual performance (Avdic, 2012).
In another study in Chinese government institutes, the relationships between job performance and two personality traits, agreeableness and conscientiousness, were studied (Jiang, et al., 2009). Conscientiousness was correlated to both task and contextual performance but agreeableness was associated negatively with task performance, and showed no relationship with contextual performance (Jiang, et al., 2009).
Recently, Honesty–Humility was emerged as a sixth measurement of personality traits and found to be a unique associate of job performance (Johnson, et al., 2011). In this study, honesty–Humility was remarkably found to be a unique associate of job performance even above the five other main factors in the model (emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience) (Johnson, et al., 2011). The more honesty-humility of an employee, the advanced job performance was found, as rated by the employees' supervisor in this study(Johnson, et al., 2011).
Nowadays, organizations employ personality tests to make hiring and promotion decisions. Thus, the five features can be important when predicting the job performance of an employee on the basis of personality. However, referring to recent studies, these five factors are not equivalent in their effects. It seems, conscientiousness has a stronger value on job performance. This is not surprising as employees with a conscientiousness approach are identified to follow guidelines, maintain regularity and avoid unethical behaviours. However, other four factors can also be important depending on different factors designed in that particular study to measure. There are also the roles for the culture factor and gender differences, which can be used as good job predictors if NEO-PI-R scales are exercised.
It can be concluded that a general personality test may generate completely unpredictable findings while a specially-designed personality assessment can be a good predictor of job performance ratings. Thus, the use of narrow-trait personality to predict general job performance augments criterion-related validity of the conduct and makes it a more efficient predictor of job performance.
As a result, according to the overview of the criticism of the personality measure as a job predictor, evidences are accumulated to show personality traits can be either a good predictor or a poor predictor of job performance depending on many factors exercised in that particular study.
Furthermore, since interpersonal skills become increasingly important for teamwork occupations and the notion that no classification system is now present for them, it can be more difficult to study these skills. This calls researchers to develop and examine models of job performance that hypothesize linkages between individual difference variables and elements of job performance. Therefore, new models for these assessments are required.