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Career choices and success: Why personality matters

Career choices and success: Why personality matters

Four students in Business Administration from the University of Leuven collaborated with Hudson R&D to investigate the relationship between personality and career path and were invited to write a blogpost about their work:

Personality is a combination of different characteristics that makes each person unique. Therefore, it’s not surprising to find its influence on nearly every aspect of our lives, including our work. Choosing the right job after graduating is a very important decision in your life. At school, your preference for mathematics over languages (or any other two subjects) is due to your own individual characteristics shaped by your personality. Similarly, later in life, your personality influences the job you’ll choose to a certain extent.


Influence of personality on career choices

Firstly, you should understand that most personality characteristics can be grouped under five traits, the so called ‘Big Five’: emotional stability, extraversion, openness, altruism and conscientiousness. For instance, our results indicate that young graduates who scored low on emotional stability are less attracted to procurement jobs (e.g. supply chain manager or purchasing agent). Why? Because people with lower emotional stability choose jobs that produce less stressful situations. Meanwhile, those who score high on this trait don’t mind facing tense negotiations and spending decisions in their professions.

Some other similar findings were:

  • Teaching or human resources jobs: high extraversion (socially confident, talkative)
  • Marketing or public relations jobs: high openness (creative, try new things, unconventional)
  • Accountancy or legal jobs: lower openness (routineness, follow rules, conventional)
  • Research and development jobs: high altruism (like to work in a team, get on well with others)
  • Administration or finance jobs: introversion & lower altruism (solitary, competitive)
  • Construction, production or installation jobs: high conscientiousness (discipline, planning)


Influence of personality on career development

The two traits you should be aware of that we found had an effect on how often and how quickly young graduates get promoted are extraversion and altruism: a higher score on extraversion and a lower score on altruism were shown to increase the speed of career development. This might be explained by the fact that extraverted employees usually have a stronger desire to dominate their environment, and are therefore more attracted to leadership positions than introverted people. On the other hand, highly altruistic people are often modest and strongly prefer cooperation above competition. They are simply not as driven by the prospect of being promoted, which - on average - makes them climb the hierarchical ladder more slowly than their less altruistic counterparts.

For their final year of their Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Omer Malak, Toma Vitkeviciute, Ai-Linh Choi Chi Kwong and Lisa Van Gestel collaborated with Hudson R&D on a company project to investigate the relationship between personality and career path. They looked at the scores of around 900 young graduates on a personality questionnaire and related them to how these graduates’ careers evolved three to nine years later. This project received the “Best Company Project” award from the University of Leuven.


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About InTALENTgence

Hudson’s InTALENTgence blog is a qualitative source of HR-knowledge. Read and share interesting stories with insights on current HR issues and trends. Blog posts are written in Dutch, French or English.


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Hudson has more than 35 years of experience and is the undisputed market leader in the HR consultancy sector. Every day, the Hudson HR experts use all their specialist knowledge regarding the recruitment, interim management, development, coaching or compensation of employees to support our customers so they can achieve their ambitions.


Hudson has more than 35 years of experience and is the undisputed market leader in the HR consultancy sector. Every day, the Hudson HR experts use all their specialist knowledge regarding the recruitment, interim management, development, coaching or compensation of employees to support our customers so they can achieve their ambitions.