Psychological Predictors for Career Success Beyond Dispositional Personality


Summary. Both trait personality and intelligence aspects contribute to the predictive power of psychological measures related to job performance. The validity of predictors depends on specific context and content. To most effectively operationalize relevant performance assessments, combinations, adaptations, and even new tests should be carefully chosen to best map performance criterion and predicting variables as accurate as possible. 

Intelligence for the ‘What,’ Personality for the ‘How’

The relative broad personality trait tendencies as measured by the Big Five can be seen as predictors for ‘how’ a person is approaching work, while intelligence concepts may better explain how individuals perform in ‘what’ is required of them in a particular occupational setting [1]. It was found that facets of the Big Five factor ‘consciousness’ stand-alone do not predict job performance, in aggregate, however, they do [2]. Self-control, for example, is a facet of consciousness, and at the same time (emotional) self-control is an aspect of emotional intelligence that is considered to improve managerial performance [3]. Beyond the relatedness of self-control as a trait to consciousness as well as to emotional intelligence, it is also a distinct psychological concept that is specifically predictive of behavior in, for example, challenging or tempting, situations [4].

Contextualization of Measures and Implicit Motives

In summary, the relatively stable personality traits are useful in explaining an individual’s behavior as a general tendency. In contrast, what specific behavioral tactics they use to respond to the environment can be more accurately predicted when adding intelligence-type measures. For example, in one study, the ability to experience and express interest was more relevant for performance/success than was personality, which demonstrates that validity of a predictor can depend heavily on specific contextualized information in which it is evaluated [5]. Another study showed that adding person-organization fit as a context-specific measure significantly increased the prediction of employee’s commitment related behavior [6]. Considering that organizational commitment for its part is influenced by emotional intelligence [7], it can be seen as a closer approximation to the target job performance results. Others are putting it the way that explicit traits are used as sensors for more implicit motives [8]. There are other examples of work attitudes and behavior that are influential above and beyond the broad personality traits.  For example, intellectual curiosity is especially useful in predicting academic performance [9], proactivity is part of a self-reliable and purpose-driven sense of career development [10], and creativity was found to be crucial for occupational performance too [11].

Need for Integration, Alignment, more Specificity, and New Measures

There is lots of potential for further integration of psychological frameworks in personality, intelligence, and job performance [9]. Furthermore, the operationalization of concept to measure more specifics according to context and content may result in increased validity [12]. It is therefore important to choose the instruments that are mapping performance assessment criterion and predictors as accurate as possible [13]. Even recently, new measures have been developed (and these may be not the last ones). The goal orientation measure targeting workplaces is one example. Its explanatory power that goes beyond those of related dispositional traits, again, has to be attributed to specifically taking the work environment into account as well [14].

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[2] Salgado, J. F., Moscoso, S., & Berges, A. (2013). Conscientiousness, Its Facets, and the Prediction of Job Performance Ratings: Evidence against the narrow measures. International Journal Of Selection & Assessment, 21(1), 74-84. doi:10.1111/ijsa.12018

[3] Gerli, F., Bonesso, S., & Pizzi, C. (2015). Boundaryless career and career success: the impact of emotional and social competencies. Frontiers In Psychology, 6

[4] de Boer, B., van Hooft, E., & Bakker, A. (2015). Self-control at work: its relationship with contextual performance. Journal Of Managerial Psychology, 30(4), 406-421.

[5] Rounds, J., & Su, R. (2014). The Nature and Power of Interests. Current Directions In Psychological Science, 23(2), 98-103. doi:10.1177/0963721414522812

[6] Tsai, W., Chen, H., & Chen, C. (2012). Incremental Validity of Person-Organization Fit Over the Big Five Personality Measures. Journal Of Psychology, 146(5), 485-509.

[7] Shafiq, M., & Akram Rana, R. (2016). Relationship of Emotional Intelligence to Organizational Commitment of College Teachers in Pakistan. Eurasian Journal Of Educational Research, 621-14.

[8] Lang, J. B., Zettler, I., Ewen, C., & Hülsheger, U. R. (2012). Implicit motives, explicit traits, and task and contextual performance at work. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 97(6), 1201-1217. doi:10.1037/a0029556

[9] Sbarra, D. A. (2014). New ideas on intellectual ability, interests, sex differences, and achievement: Three ‘integrative’ commentaries on four target articles. Perspectives On Psychological Science, 9(2), 209-210. doi:10.1177/1745691614523137

[10] Herrmann, A., Hirschi, A., & Baruch, Y. (2015). The protean career orientation as predictor of career outcomes: Evaluation of incremental validity and mediation effects. Journal Of Vocational Behavior, 88205-214.

[11] Barrett, J. D., Vessey, W. B., Griffith, J. A., Mracek, D., & Mumford, M. D. (2014). Predicting Scientific Creativity: The Role of Adversity, Collaborations, and Work Strategies. Creativity Research Journal, 26(1), 39-52.

[12] Woo, S., Jin, J., & LeBreton, J. (2015). Specificity Matters: Criterion-Related Validity of Contextualized and Facet Measures of Conscientiousness in Predicting College Student Performance. Journal Of Personality Assessment, 97(3), 301-309.

[13] Rojon, C., McDowall, A., & Saunders, M. K. (2015). The Relationships Between Traditional Selection Assessments and Workplace Performance Criteria Specificity: A Comparative Meta-Analysis. Human Performance, 28(1), 1-25.

[14] van Dam, K. (2015). Workplace goal orientation: Development of a measure. European Journal Of Psychological Assessment, 31(1), 62-68. doi:10.1027/1015-5759/a000207

About mathias sager

Independent researcher, artist, social entrepreneur, and leadership and strategy advisor I was born in Zurich in 1975 and grew up in Switzerland. Currently, I’m living in Tokyo. I love open-minded people everywhere and the passion to working relentlessly for developing human potential, which is an overarching theme throughout all his work. I have extensive experience in leadership and management, organizational psychology research, and learning & development practice. I have worked as a teacher, a leadership trainer, as well as a senior manager responsible for client relationships, counseling, and virtual teams around the world. Also, I’m a social entrepreneur and serving as a strategy and leadership advisor in different ways. My goal is to inspire with interdisciplinary, innovative, and cross-cultural approaches to personal and professional development for the people’s individual well-being and common good alike. Continuously learning himself and keen to help, I appreciate any questions or feedback you may have at any time. Please connect here on any social media, as well as per direct email
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