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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