Job Seeking Success Depends on Your Personality?

November 3rd, 2009 by jpassen Leave a reply »

Guest Post by Gary Kustis, Ph.D., Sr. Consultant, The Aldridge Group

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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