Personality Profiling – What’s the Right Blend?

Staff recruitment decisions are always based on matching profiles against some kind of model or ideal. Psychometrics certainly provide the most objective way of measuring abilities and personality characteristics, but decision-makers rarely think in the language of psychometrics. Would a hiring manager ever describe needing someone who is, say, extravert, emotionally labile or high on openness? Instead, they’re more likely to think in terms of the tasks that need to be done; whether someone is good with customers and clients, able to sell or capable of accuracy and detail. So how do we bridge from an assessment of core personality traits to gauging whether someone has the desired competencies for a specific role?

The Rich Ambiguity of Language
As a species, we have developed an everyday vocabulary to describe the distinguishing features of the people we encounter (18,000 words in English). Although this ‘personality language‘ is a rich resource for expressive communication, it is full of ambiguity. For example, my online thesaurus reveals some 21 different synonyms for the word ‘conscientious’. In effect, we all use these words in subtly different ways.

FFM to the Rescue
The Big Five personality factors sort this everyday language by its core underlying meanings – openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism – to create a robust basis for psychometric measurement. It is statistically meaningful but has a downside; by increasing the consistency of personality descriptions, we have to sacrifice some of the subtle detail. It’s far removed from the informal language used to describe work-place competencies and performance.

In Search of Nuance
At PCL we refer to the Big 5 personality traits as the ‘primary colours of personality’. By blending these colours to create different ‘hues’ we recover some of the detail and subtlety of personality and predict specific workplace behaviours. The Profile:Match2 assessment uses sophisticated algorithms to weight and combine personality characteristics to assess the key competencies that decision-makers are interested in.

As well as being based on robust personality research, this competency-based approach to assessment ensures there is complete consistency in the interpretation of results. Unlike a typical assessment based purely on the Big 5, it does not require people to make their own judgements on how relevant specific personality characteristics are to a particular role.

This blending of personality traits through a competency-based approach also increases the predictive power of the assessment. Research recently presented at the British Psychological Society’s conference for Occupational Psychology showed that assessing competencies can be up to twice as effective in predicting sales assistant performance than individual personality traits alone.

Looking at personality through the lens of competencies enables us to access the rich language of personality, increase the definition of assessment and get straight to the heart of what decision-makers are looking for.

Want to know more? Contact us at or visit our Profile:Match2 page.


Join us for a webinar on 360 Assessment – How to Identify Performance and Employee Potential at 1pm GMT on Wednesday February 8th.