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How to assess the personality traits of your potential employees

Talent Assessment | 8 Min Read

How to assess the personality traits of your potential employees

What are personality traits?

Personality traits are behavioral and emotional patterns developed over time rather than during isolated occurrences. For example, it does not reflect a personality trait if someone is occasionally agitated. However, when someone’s typical behavior is grumpy rather than calm, “being angry” is likely a personality trait of that person. And such traits can often indicate success or failure in specific professional roles. Therefore employers need to measure personality traits as part of their recruitment process.


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An overview of positive and negative personality traits


Various ways and means have been adopted to ascertain an individual’s personality. People often try to judge others through their body language, small talk, facial expressions, dress sense and choices. Occasionally, these parameters fail, as people’s personalities have many layers. Understanding personality traits meaning helps understand that people are not just good or bad. They tend to be a mix of both, having grey areas with mixed characteristics. Despite their positive traits, some people fail due to certain dominant negative traits. If not taken care of, the negative traits derail their careers.

Positive personality traits

Personality comprises several positive traits. In recruitment, emphasizing positive personality traits can help find the right fit. For example, if you are looking for a candidate to handle sensitive data, you may want to look at people with high loyalty ratings.

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Examples of personality traits to seek in potential employees

  • Persistence: Some individuals work with a “come-what-may attitude” that is a valuable quality for assignments where one should continuously strive for the desired outcome.
  • Loyalty: To be a dependable employee is a great asset.
  • Fearlessness: Some people are risk takers; such candidates are essential for job types where risk evaluation and risk-taking are critical.
  • Meticulousness: Precise and careful candidates help in particular tasks.
  • Sociability: People who are charming and good with people skills can be good team builders. Such people do well in jobs related to hospitality and entertainment.
  • Fairness: Making decisions without bias is essential in a competitive work environment.
  • Ability to encourage: Leaders who constantly inspire and motivate their teams can do wonders in achieving a sound work output.
  • Humility: Emotional intelligence and humility help connect well with people during work and get the best from everyone.
  • Energy: Energized people pass good vibes to other people and ensure the energy is maintained till goals are accomplished.
  • Discretion: To be discreet is a highly desirable positive personality trait, especially in areas where data sensitivity is a concern. Also, respecting other people’s space makes it worthwhile for people to collaborate.
  • Good communication: Good listeners adept at giving clear instructions make great employees who can boost a company’s overall performance.
  • Discipline:  Discipline is the key where attention to detail is critical for a quality output.
  • Ambition: This trait is the fuel that boosts creativity at work.
  • Creativity: Thinking out of the box is essential to ensure project novelty and efficiency.
  • Patience: This trait is handy across industries and helps de-escalate many workplace issues.
  • Team player abilities: A person with this trait can deal with different personalities and focus on getting the job done.
  • Independent thinking: People who are bold enough to share their viewpoints bring something new to the table.

Negative traits of personality

While a potential employee’s qualifications may be sound, certain traits should serve as a red flag for employers. It is ideal to go for an evidence-based discovery of these traits. Sophisticated technology-driven background checks can serve the purpose well. Here are a few negative traits of personality that reduce a candidate’s employability.

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  • Lying: People who are habitual liars come across as irresponsible and are a liability to a company. Having a relevant educational degree is not a sign of integrity.
  • Rigidity: In this ever-changing world, flexibility is a must-have trait. To be able to adapt to changes, one cannot afford to be rigid.
  • Procrastination: People with traits of laziness end up missing deadlines, which can cost a lot to a company.
  • Apathy: Compassion can help nurture workplace bonds and boost problem-solving. The inability to do so can affect a company’s overall functioning.
  • Self-centeredness: An efficient work environment demands collaboration and teamwork. Hence, selfishness can be quite detrimental to professional success.
  • Arrogance:  Arrogance is a major hindrance because it eliminates other perspectives one must consider in a professional setting.
  • Unpleasant attitude: Some people have a repulsive attitude, which makes it very difficult to maintain a healthy work environment.
  • Lack of courage: If candidates cannot face difficult situations, they can never fare well in critical situations.
  • Finicky behavior: People obsessed with perfectionism tend to cause delays and create confusion.
  • Impulsiveness: This is among the negative traits of personality that can go against jobs where specific facts and analyses must be patiently considered before decision-making.
  • Overcautiousness: A leader may come in the way of innovation and progress with this negative trait.

Interestingly, certain personality traits may be good like being energetic and vibrant, but they may also create unpredictability. Hence, it is vital to set parameters specific to job profiles when assessing a personality traits list.


Dark and light personality types


People are an amalgamation of both dark and light personality types. Therefore, employers and recruiters need to understand the significant difference in both and employ means to identify them in their potential employees.

The dark triad personality type consists of the following:

  • Narcissism: People with this trait feel entitled and self-importance is critical to their existence.
  • Machiavellianism: It indicates being good at strategic exploitation and people with this as a dominant personality trait can be very deceiving.
  • Psychopathy: This is marked by a display of callousness and cynicism.

The light triad personality type consists of the following:

  • Kantianism: People with this trait have a high sense of morality and justice.
  • Humanism: It reflects valuing the dignity and worth of every person.
  • Faith in humanity: People with this trait believe in the goodness of humans. This trait is evident in how often an individual grants second chances and new opportunities to others in a professional setting.


The importance of assessing potential employees’ personality traits

Qualifications and work experience assessments have been part of the hiring tradition. However, we need to make the extra effort to spread ‘personality assessment consciousness’ in hiring managers. Managers now have tools to evaluate human elements in a candidate.

Work is an extension of personality. It is achievement. It is one of the ways in which people define themselves, measure their worth and humanity.

Peter Drucker

The way people think, feel, and act forms certain habits over a period. Therefore, being aware of such habits is essential not only for individuals but also for their workplace.

Candidates may have the best resume, the right confidence and work experience. Still, if their personality is not aligned with the company’s requirements, it is not easy to crack an interview. Thus, educational qualifications alone cannot decide recruitment. It is critical to predict future success because if the hiring decision fails, it can cost a company a lot and impact the business negatively. Employees who do not fit in the company’s culture will eventually not live up to their job expectations and will be more likely to leave. Therefore, evaluation of personality is crucial, especially for organizations that strive for and promote a great work culture.


Organizations should have an evidence-based hiring process

Candidates should be filtered, assessed and picked for the right job. Through understanding one’s personality, a company can predict one’s performance and determine what possible contributions one can make toward one’s career.


Objective data enables better decision-making

Understanding how candidates’ personalities will impact a workplace allows for understanding how candidates will manage their emotions or relate to the workforce or how they would approach challenges. Such data enables organizations to identify and hire the right candidate and improve their productivity and effectiveness.


The evaluation of personality traits helps in role-specific hiring

For hiring a CEO (Chief Executive Officer), overall personality traits must be considered, whereas for hiring a sales executive, certain personality traits like sociability may need to be prioritized.  If you are looking to employ entrepreneurial employees, this Harvard Business Review study can serve as a handbook for HR (Human Resource) (Human Resource) managers.


Assessing personality traits to improve hiring

Several tools enable the efficient assessment of personality traits. For example, psychometric tests are assessment tools that objectively measure one’s personality traits, aptitude, behavioral styles and intelligence. Similarly, virtual assessment centers and role-based simulators gauge behaviors in real-world professional settings.


Key aspects of candidature


Employers must set screening parameters based on three key aspects.


An employee must have the ability and qualifications to do the job.


The values that an individual brings to an organization should be in line with the organization's values.

Culture fitness:

One needs to be able to get along with the company culture.

Essential personality traits list: Five primary personality traits to seek in potential employees


An employee’s personality type has relevance to the specified jobs. So, we need to map their overall personality types with those required for various job descriptions. While every employee is unique, an HR professional can broadly categorize them based on the following favorable personality traits.


The extroversion and assertiveness of people with this trait help them be good leaders.


This trait exhibits the extent to which a person is kind, empathetic and helpful. People with this trait are organized, efficient, punctual, hardworking and abide by the rules.


This trait highlights the extent to which a person appreciates different experiences and is open to working differently. They are perfect for initiating projects, as they use their imagination and curiosity to flourish in an innovative culture.


These are the optimistic and cooperative types who get along with everyone and bind the team members. They plan rather than go with the flow.


This trait showcases the extent to which a person is vulnerable, which is needed, especially when venturing into unknown territory. Such people create a healthy balance with their skepticism and challenge their teams. Excluding extreme levels of this trait and adding conscientiousness to their anxiety can help them keep a check and have a healthy bond with others.



Advanced technology allows employers to assess personality traits better. As remote hiring continues to be significant, an HR manager or recruiter no longer have to rely on an intuitive judgement of the candidate’s personality traits. Instead, various assessment methods can enable a more fair view of a person. Such methods further enable HR teams to ponder over and devise their hiring strategies. Examples of factors that can improve hiring include an assessment of positive and negative personality traits, overall personality types, light and dark personality types and more.


Frequently asked questions

What traits are important to you when hiring employees?

What are the top three strengths that employers look for?

What are examples of a dark side?

How do dark personality traits influence people's careers?

How do personality traits affect career success?

Originally published September 29 2022, Updated November 22 2023

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About This Topic

Personality assessments are a method of identifying candidates whose characteristics match the role and organization’s requirements. Personality assessments help HRs make effective people decisions by placing people in positions suited to their disposition.

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