Limitations & Uses of Personality Trait Theories

Managers use assessment tests to analyze potential employees' personality traits.
Managers use assessment tests to analyze potential employees' personality traits. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The basis of personalit trait theories is that they can describe differences between people. The big five factors are openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion versus introversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. These traits are supposed to explain every aspect relating to personality; you can use this information to determine how someone's going to measure up to something. Although useful, personality trait theories have inherent limitations.

Hiring Process

Organizations use personality trait theories to determine what traits are useful for a specific job or career. Sales jobs will often have applicants take a self-assessment with questions relating to personality. The scoring for the test will rank applicants on each personality trait. Hiring managers use this information in conjunction with the applicant's credentials and interviews to determine who is the best fit for the job.

Self-Assessment Validity

Tests for hiring and recruiting processes may not always be valid determinants of who the best employee would be. Applicants looking to get hired for a sales job, for example, have every opportunity to lie about their personality to look more desirable to potential employers. Sales jobs will look for extroverts who are ambitious and competitive. An applicant could easily answer the questions on the test to match these personality traits rather than answering truthfully.

Career Assessment

Students use personality trait measurement tests to decide what careers they may be well-suited for. Students who are unsure of what major or career they would like to pursue can use the test results to narrow the options. The test attempts to match the student to potential careers that would be a good fit based on the student's personality. School counselors encourage students to take this test for a greater understanding of strengths and weaknesses when deciding on a major for college.

Future Behavior Predictions

Personality trait theories are limited in scope and are unable to accurately predict future behavior. A person with a specific personality trait may not behave in the manner associated with that trait in all interactions. It is expected that behavior will vary between personal and business situations. You may act very different around your friends versus people you are meeting for the first time. For these reasons, personality trait theories are unable to predict behavior with any consistency.

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