Can you predict job satisfaction?

Are those assessed to have the highest levels of job satisfaction really the most effective and productive employees?

PCL research into the relationship between scores on key competencies and job satisfaction generated some unexpected findings. We anticipated that the most competent employees would be the most satisfied in their work. It seemed at first as if this might be the case, but a closer look at where the relationships between competencies and job satisfaction were most pronounced revealed an unexpected underlying cause. 

The PROFILE:MATCH2 profiling system can provide personality-based ratings on 27 different competencies. Ratings for each competency are based on the particular combination of personality dispositions that contribute to effectiveness.  The table below lists the nine competencies having the highest correlation with job satisfaction ratings in this study.

Results: Competencies related to job satisfaction across all job roles







Results Orientation


Project Management


Communication Skills


Customer Focus


Developing Others


People Management





** significant at .01 level (n=629)

A significant amount of literature in recent years argues that job satisfaction scores are influenced by personality dispositions. Indeed, an abundance of research suggests that Emotional Stability, one of the ‘Big 5’ personality traits, is one of the strongest correlates of job satisfaction (e.g. Judge, Heller & Mount, 2002). Furthermore, it has been suggested that Emotional Stability and Extraversion together are key aspects of the “happy personality” (DeNeve & Cooper, 1998).

With these findings in mind, we reviewed the personality characteristics contributing to each of the competencies listed above across five job roles: nurses, IT, recruitment consultants, accountants and marketing professionals.

A Deep Dive into the Data

It became clear that there was a recurring pattern for the competencies that predicted job satisfaction across the five different roles – all these competencies had at least one contributing personality scale related to Emotional Stability or Extraversion. Our findings therefore appeared to be consistent with the previous research.

Importantly, our research revealed three key trends, all of which are rooted in aspects of Emotional Stability and Extraversion. Firstly, it seems that regardless of job role, competencies related to self-esteem, optimism and stress tolerance all contribute to job satisfaction. Secondly, people who are socially skilled, enjoy being around others and offering help and support are more likely to experience job satisfaction. Finally, individuals who are goal focused and motivated to achieve are likely to gain more pleasure from their jobs.

It seems that the only time that job satisfaction is related to work performance may be when the very personality dispositions that lead people to report satisfaction are also the dispositions that are essential to do that particular job well. Two examples come to mind:

  • Pret a Manger have a very successful selection process. It is based on the idea that it is better to employ people who have a happy disposition and teach them how to make sandwiches than to employ people who can make sandwiches and try to teach them to be happy. The pay-off is that a happy disposition consistently delivers up-beat customer relations; something others may struggle with.
  • John Timpson, who has run the Timpson key-cutting and shoe repair chain for 42 years, asks interviewers to assess whether a job applicant is more of a “Mr Grumpy” or a “Mr Happy” during a half-day trial on the shop floor. Mr Timpson argues that you can teach someone how to do the job but you cannot shape their personality.


This approach works for both Pret and Timpson because the roles in question require employees to create a happy atmosphere and friendly customer service. The same strategy would be unlikely to succeed for jobs where the priorities may be very different. Happiness is a wonderful characteristic and nice to be around but, on its own, it won’t be enough to ensure the desired performance in most jobs. 

Some people are naturally optimistic, positive and imperturbable; even in very challenging circumstances they keep their spirits up. At the other extreme are individuals who may find it hard to pass up any opportunity to complain. You will, I’m sure, have met people from both ends of this spectrum. Results from job satisfaction surveys need to be considered with this in mind.

Contact us at or on 01892 559540 to find out more about Profile:Match2, which links personality to on-the-job performance, and how it can enhance your selection and development processes.