top of page

How do you make sure you hire the right person?

"You can teach a turkey to climb a tree, but it is easier to hire a squirrel."

Do you ever feel disappointed that you didn't hire the right person, recognize that you have to fire them because they don't fit, and then have to start the process all over again?

One of the first steps in the talent management process is to recruit the right people - those who have potential and whose profile is a good fit with the work expected and the values of your organization.

Research has shown that hiring candidates with the behavioral characteristics and motivation to perform well consistently increases productivity, reduces turnover and improves work culture.

Understanding the factors that influence your employees' work performance becomes the key to their success and yours.

What are the factors that have the greatest effect on job performance?

Our performance at work depends on many factors: our motivation, our personality and our cognitive abilities.

Research shows that personality only explains about 20-30% of the variation in job performance. In fact, cognitive abilities (overall mental intelligence) are a more powerful indicator. They are thought to explain nearly 50% of our performance at work.

How does personality still help us choose the best candidates?

Our personality can be defined by the way we, as human beings, react to the constant stimuli around us, including those in our work environment. Personality therefore encompasses a person's feelings, thoughts and relatively stable behavioral patterns.

Each individual has a unique personality that sets them apart from others, and understanding their personality gives us clues as to how they are likely to act and feel in various situations.

Personality itself can be broken down into smaller, measurable components, allowing researchers to better understand the dominant traits likely to be expressed in certain situations and to measure them on certain scales.

Tests (NEO Pi 3 or IPLC) based on the Big Five personality model are used by Human Resources as recruitment or coaching tools to select the people most likely to have the expected attitude and behavior.

As a manager of a team, it is also useful to understand the personalities of the various employees that make up the team. This knowledge is especially necessary to give each person the right role.

Personality as a predictor of performance

Large-scale research, using data from tens of thousands of employees, on the relationship between the Big Five personality traits and job performance has shown that certain traits significantly predict job performance.

Indeed, not all personality traits have the same influence on performance. For example, conscientiousness is a consistent predictor of job performance, while emotional stability is a good predictor of personality derailment, and thus of harmful behaviors in a job context.

Such results provide evidence to support the use of personality profiles for employee selection in the following job categories:


In sales positions, conscientiousness is the best predictor of future performance, followed by extraversion.

Customer Service

In the area of customer service, conscientiousness is again the best indicator. However, agreeableness and openness are also correlated with job performance. Looking specifically at call center employees, conscientiousness, emotional stability and agreeableness are significantly related to productivity . This unusual mix of traits provides a personality pattern that reflects the complex and demanding nature of interpersonal interactions experienced in this type of job.

Skilled and semi-skilled jobs

When it comes to the skilled and semi-skilled category, conscientiousness is once again the strongest predictor of performance. It is followed by emotional stability, which is weaker but still significant.


For professionals, conscientiousness is the only one of the Big Five traits that significantly predicts performance.

Regardless of the job category, personality is a potentially important predictor of work behavior. That's why, during job interviews, companies try to assess a candidate's personality and potential fit with a desired profile. But these interviews are only as good as the people conducting them; in fact, they are often colored by all the biases that the interviewer may have.

To remember:

  • Personality contributes to performance, but only at a moderate level. For this reason, most psychologists recommend using personality tests in addition to other selection tools, such as structured interviews and reference checks.

  • The trait of conscientiousness is the only one of the Big Five personality traits that predicts performance across all job types and levels.

  • Different combinations of personality traits are needed for jobs that have specific demands (such as customer service and management work).


Instead of testing personality alone, you should also test your candidates on cognitive skills, which may be more effective in predicting who will perform well. Personality is certainly an excellent predictor of job satisfaction and other attitudes that contribute to productivity, but ruling people out based solely on the likelihood that they might be unhappy at work is a difficult argument to make in a recruiting context.

It is best to use both personality and cognitive ability tests to select your employees; combined, they have a very strong predictive value for employee performance.

We invite you to read the other posts in which we examine this time the link between work performance and cognitive abilities


Barrick, M., & Mount, M. (1991). The Big Five personality dimensions and job performance: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 44, 1-26.

Barrick, M. R., Patton, G. K., & Haugland, S. N. (2000). Accuracy of interviewer judgments of job applicant personality traits. Personnel Psychology, 53, 925-951.

Dalal, R., Baysinger, M., Brummel, B., & LeBreton, J. (2012). The relative importance of employee engagement, other job attitudes, and trait affect as predictors of job performance. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42, 295-325.

Hurtz, G., & Donovan, J. (2000). Personality and job performance: The big five revisited. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85, 869-879.

Judge, T. A., Bono, J. Y., Ilies, R., & Gerhardt, M. W. (2002). Personality and leadership: A qualitative and quantitative review. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 765-780.

Judge, T. A., Jackson, C. L., Shaw, J. C., Scott, B., & Rich, B. L. (2007). Self-Efficacy and Work-Related Performance: The Integral Role of Individual Differences. Journal of Applied Psychology, (92), 107-127.

Kanfer, R. (1992). Work motivation: New directions in theory and research. In C. L. Cooper & I. T. Robertson (Eds.), International review of industrial and organizational psychology (Vol. 7, pp. 1-53). Chichester, England: Wiley.

Ones, D. S., Dilchert, S., Viswesvaran, C., & Judge, T. A. (2007). In support of personality assessment in organizational settings. Personnel Psychology, 60, 995-1027.

Quiñones, M., Ford, J., & Teachout, M. (1995). The relationship between work experience and job performance: A conceptual and meta-analytic review. Personnel Psychology, 48, 887-910.

Skyrme, P., Wilkinson, L., Abraham, J., & Morrison, J. (2005). Using personality to predict outbound call center job performance. Applied H.R.M. Research, 10, 89-98.

[1] Loose translation of "You can teach a turkey to climb a tree, but it's easier to hire a squirrel." [2] Barrick and Mount, 1991. [3] Hurtz and Donovan, 2000. [4] Barrick and Mount, 1991; Hurtz and Donovan, 2000. [5] Skyrme et al. 2005. [6] Ones et al. 2007. [7] Ones et al. 2007.

18 views0 comments


bottom of page