Job Seeking Success Depends on Your Personality?

by Gary Kustis, Ph.D.

In the most recent issue of Personnel Psychology (Fall, 2009), Prof. Dan Turbin and his co-authors, Cynthia Stevens and Felissa Lee, found some interesting relationships between job seeking success and the personalities of the job seekers. Specifically, the more conscientious you are the more likely you are to be successful in the early stages of the job search. However, it is your emotional state that has the bigger impact on your ability to move further into the final stages of the job search.

The research team followed 232 graduating college students (undergraduate and MBA) as they began their job search, tracking them over time and following up with questionnaires about their efforts to land a job. They noted how many resumes were sent out, how many first and second interviews they got, as well as how many job offers they received. The results were interesting and even a little surprising.

All that hard work involving making plans, developing a job search strategy, learning from mistakes made, etc. (the “metacognitive” stuff, as Turbin, Stevens and Lee call it) only helps you get your foot in the door. That is, people who do that “metacognitive” stuff well—you highly organized folks out there—send out the most resumes and are good at getting first interviews. But that’s not what gets you the job. In fact, once you get the first interview, the advantage of that kind of high conscientiousness dissipates.

So what helps seal the deal? Positive emotions. Positive emotions were the reason that people got second interviews and job offers in the study. Why? Well, they’re not exactly sure. Turbin, Stevens and Lee suggest that it could be that positive emotions are related to affability and likability. Sometimes people see others who exhibit positive emotions to be more confident and self-assured. It could also be a case of “behavioral contagion” where the positive emotions create a favorable recommendation. Regardless, happy, enthusiastic people get called back for second interviews more than their more dour counterparts.

What do we take from this? The research by Turbin , Stevens and Lee suggest that a strong organizational effort is likely to reap benefits early in the job search, but putting on a happy face and being genuinely positive and upbeat is what gets you hired. Smiles, everyone, smiles.

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Views: 351

Comment by Hassan Rizwan on November 3, 2009 at 6:25am
Wow. I really like this one. Reminded me of my time. I got the job exactly on the basis of my positive expressions. This is what i came to know from my boss once i was selected. Its essential to be equally smart than just being a hard worker. Apparently what we see is totally the opposite than what we believe. All of us have come across hundreds of examples how smart people have outdone the conventional hard workers. Haven't we?
Comment by Charles Van Heerden on November 4, 2009 at 11:19pm
Intuitively this makes sense Gary. To me this resonates as a positive person comes across as enthusiastic, passionate and energetic - all reasons to interview again and appoint.


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