As a candidate, you probably know that the hiring process involves taking a test or more. But what about pre-employment personality tests? What are they? And what do they mean for candidates like you?

Put simply, knowing what your character and personality are like can help you find a job that’s suitable for you.

Not everyone is fit to be a salesperson or marketer. Similarly, not everyone is fit for a desk job.

With pre-employment personality tests, you can understand yourself and discover what makes you tick and what makes you thrive.

These tests uncover the hidden aspects of your personality. They’re especially useful for candidates just starting out their careers and those considering senior or managerial roles.

In this article, we’re going to focus on a specific type of pre-hiring test known as the Big 5 Personality Test or the OCEAN test. Then, we’ll explain what the results mean for you as a candidate.

What are pre-employment tests?

In the full cycle recruitment process, there’s a testing or assessment phase.

This phase can include a technical skills test or a personality test. Or both.

The purpose of these tests is to show the recruiter that your skills fit the job they have. The personality test, specifically, isn’t about whether or not you’re technically fit. Rather, it shows the employer what you’re like before they meet with you.

You probably already know that it’s not easy to understand other people’s characters. Even amongst your friends. You probably didn’t fully understand them the moment you met them. You probably took a few months to figure out each one’s quirks.

The same applies when to candidates and jobs. And the truth is, not all candidates fit the jobs they apply for.

While there are many pre-employment tests out there, we’re focusing on the Big 5 Personality Test.


What is the big 5 personality test?

The big 5 personality traits test is a test that candidates take at some point during the hiring process. This type of test acts as an indicator of a candidate’s hidden character and traits.

And it’s the most commonly-used by employers and recruiters.

Why? Because it helps recruiters see what candidates are like and if they fit in with the work environment, culture, and the position they’ve applied for.

The big five test is designed to focus on five personality traits, which are:

  1. Openness
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Agreeableness
  5. Neuroticism


Combined, these five traits make up the acronym OCEAN, which is another name for the big 5 test.

It’s worth mentioning that a candidate’s big 5 test scores may change. But this takes time.

“While personality trait measures tend to be fairly consistent over a short period of time in adulthood, they do change over the course of a lifetime. There’s also reason to believe that deliberate personality change is possible,” notes Psychology Today.


The Big 5 Personality Traits

Now that you have an idea about the OCEAN test, let’s examine what each of the five traits means.

  • Openness
    The openness trait is one that involves imagination, creativity, and insight. People with a high-level of openness tend to be curious, eager to learn, and explore new things. The desire to explore could range from visiting an exotic country to trying a strange beverage or dish. People with high openness levels are adventurous and more willing to take risks when making decisions.
    On the other hand, those with a low level of openness tend to be more traditional in the way they approach things. Many may struggle when taken outside their comfort zone or when presented with a problem that requires out-of-the-box thinking.


  • Conscientiousness 
    Conscientiousness is a trait that indicates thoughtfulness and being organized and reliable in life and work. People with a high level of conscientiousness tend to be analytical, disciplined, detail-oriented, and able to prioritize. HR and project management teams often have highly conscientious people because the type of work involved requires organization and structure.
    A conscientious person is one who is constantly planning ahead while also focusing on the task at hand. However, people with low conscientious levels usually dislike having set schedules and are more prone to procrastinating tasks or being unable to complete them.


  • Extraversion or Extroversion
    You’ve probably heard of people being called introverts and extroverts. This is what this trait is about. Extroversion is the trait most people are familiar with. Extroverts are outgoing people, who like mingling and chatting with others.
    People with a high level of extroversion tend to be emotionally expressive and don’t mind being the center of attention. They feel at ease in crowds. The opposite of extroversion is introversion. Introverts are people who are quiet, dislike crowds, and prefer to be and work alone. Many introverts don’t like working in teams or engaging in small talk or social events or gatherings.
    The extroversion trait helps employers see if candidates are extroverts and therefore likely to be good team players, or if they’re introverts and more likely fitted for a desk job. Extroverts often occupy sales and marketing roles where they get to interact with a lot of people. They are often seen as good leaders and are more likely to fill teaching or politics-related jobs.

  • Agreeableness
    The fourth trait in the OCEAN test is agreeableness, which indicates affection and trust towards others. It looks at how well a candidate gets along with other people. People with high agreeableness levels are more likely to be empathetic towards others and are often seen helping others. However, they may also be seen as followers.
    People who work in charity organizations, volunteering roles, medicine, and mental health tend to have high agreeableness. On the other hand, people with a low level of agreeableness tend to lack sympathy and may be more manipulative, competitive, or even antagonistic.


  • Neuroticism
    As a personality trait, neuroticism gives a sense of moodiness, emotional instability, and general sadness. Neuroticism is sometimes mistaken as a psychological problem or being anti-social. However, a neurotic person is someone who reacts negatively to emotional or psychological stress.
    Highly neurotic people tend to be moody, anxious, and often irritable. They tend to overthink things and situations. People with a low level of neuroticism tend to be emotionally stable and are able to handle stressful situations.


It’s worth mentioning that when it comes to the big 5 personality traits test or any other pre-employment test, there’s no right or wrong. These tests don’t measure technical skills. 


How the big 5 personality test helps you as a candidate

As you can see, a high score in any of the five personality traits isn’t necessarily a good thing. The same with a low score. As a candidate, your target shouldn’t be to reach a certain score. It’s about understanding your personality and finding jobs that fit you.

As Psychology Today notes, sometimes candidates would deliberately attempt to change their personality traits. In most cases, this is a means of self-development.

For example, extroverts tend to be good at networking and in sales jobs, whereas introverts are the opposite.

An introvert would, therefore, try to be more comfortable around people to rise in their company or find better opportunities.

Similarly, jobs that require creativity might consider candidates with a higher ‘openness’ score, whereas those that are methodical might consider candidates with higher ‘conscientiousness’ scores, because they’re more organized and reliable.

At the same time, a candidate who scores higher in ‘neuroticism’ is likely to struggle in a fast-paced environment. They’re also likely to obsess about certain details, making them potential micro managers, for example.

Similarly, if you’re aiming for a managerial role, your test results will tell you if you’ll be able to handle the tasks associated with becoming a manager. Will you be able to manage a team? Or are you more likely to be disorganized and unable to handle stress?

If you’re an introvert-type, managing people might prove a handful. However, if you rank high in conscientiousness then you may be a good fit.


This means that the big 5 personality test isn’t about showing what’s bad or wrong with your character. Rather, it’s about how well you’ll fit in an employer’s role and team.


What the OCEAN test isn’t

Pre-employment tests, including the OCEAN personality test, aren’t designed to make you succeed in a specific job. Instead, they tell you – and the employer – if you’re a good fit.

However, if the job involves a technical skills test and you fail that test, the results of your personality may or may not encourage the employer to hire you.

This occurs with junior roles or jobs that don’t require creativity or advanced technical skills.

If a position involves making dozens of daily calls and attending events and networking with people, and your big 5 test shows you’re an introvert or have high neuroticism, an employer would instantly see that you’re not a good fit for that role.


Get your big 5 test with Velents

As a candidate, the big 5 personality test helps you understand yourself better and how and where you can thrive.

By knowing what empowers you – and what doesn’t – you can focus on finding work that suits your personality.

In doing so, you’ll find it easier to adapt, find security in your role, and grow at your own pace.

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