What Are The 5 Main Personality Traits?

Marsha Hebert, professional resume writer

What Are The 5 Main Personality Traits?

If you sit down to make a list of every personality trait you can think of, the list will likely be very long. There’s everything from friendly and mean to lazy and energetic. However, most of the things we think of as personality traits aren’t actually classified that way by psychologists. 

Of course, there is still much debate as to how many personality traits actually exist, but the commonly accepted theory is that there are five. Research has led to the creation of the “Big Five Model” or the “Five-Factor Model.” 

What are the 5 main personality traits?

According to the theory, many things people think of as personality traits can be placed under umbrella traits. The easiest way to remember the five main traits is to use an acronym. There are two to choose from:

  • OCEAN: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

  • CANOE: Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Openness, and Extraversion.

The importance of culture in today’s workplace cannot be understated. In order to determine whether you’re a good fit for a particular company, it’s important to be able to define your personality traits. Knowing where you fall on the personality trait continuum will not only help prospective employers decide if you’re good for them, but it will also allow you to decide if the new company is good for you

You’re not likely to fall into a single personality trait category. If you are an open person, you’re probably also very extraverted. Here are the personality characteristics and descriptions. 


As a person who displays the personality trait of openness, you are likely very curious and willing to try new things. Consistency and routine are things you consider boring. You excel at solving problems because of your knack for creativity and imagination. If a job description mentions wanting someone who can easily see the big picture, you’d be a great fit. 


A conscientious person is very careful and organized. You are not prone to impulse and likely despise change. Procrastination is also a bad word in your book. When applying for new roles, look for keywords like task-oriented, goal-oriented, and deadline-driven. 


There is some debate over the spelling of extrAversion/extrOversion. Famous psychiatrist Carl Jung uses the “A” spelling. Jokingly, he says that using the “O” is just bad Latin. 

However, no matter how you spell it, you are very outgoing and sociable. Of course, just the opposite is introverted. Introverts need quiet time to reflect on events and don’t perform well in social settings. If you fall into the extraversion category, look for positions that require you to interact with others. 


Are you compassionate and willing to help others? If so, you fall into the agreeableness category for personality traits. You easily employ sympathy and empathy to understand others. The ability to connect with people allows you to build trusting relationships. You’d fit well with jobs that require you to take care of others, including healthcare, teaching, and human resources.


If you are easily stressed out or are moody, then you fall into the neuroticism category of personality traits. It can also be difficult for you to bounce back when going through challenges. Emotionally sensitive may also suffer from low self-esteem. As you search through job openings, look for roles that allow you to express yourself in a safe way. Some good examples include writers, artists, florists, freelance designers, and yoga instructors. 

Personality traits don’t fit into a box

One thing to remember is that the Big Five Personality traits are umbrella characteristics that fall onto high and low continuums with many other traits beneath them. If you are on the high end of the openness continuum, your personality features include things like insightfulness and positivity. Conversely, if you are on the low end, you are probably not very imaginative. 

Each of the Big Five Personality traits has positive and negative characteristics. 


  • Alert

  • Ambitious

  • Calm

  • Confident

  • Courageous

  • Diplomatic

  • Enthusiastic

  • Funny

  • Generous

  • Honest

  • Independent

  • Kind

  • Loyal

  • Meticulous

  • Objective

  • Optimistic

  • Passionate

  • Persuasive

  • Professional

  • Resourceful

  • Sensible

  • Sophisticated

  • Talented

  • Wise


  • Abrasive

  • Apathetic

  • Compulsive

  • Confrontational

  • Controlling

  • Disorganized

  • Evasive

  • Forgetful

  • Grumpy

  • Haughty

  • Indecisive

  • Judgmental

  • Martyr

  • Mischievous

  • Nervous

  • Perfectionist

  • Prejudiced

  • Rebellious

  • Self-Indulgent

  • Suspicious

  • Temperamental

  • Uncommunicative

  • Unethical

  • Withdrawn

When you can objectively look at your personality and define the positives and the negatives, you’ll be able to define your career path. Many hiring managers value soft skills (i.e., personality characteristics) and ask a lot of interview questions to try to predict if you’ll do well in the role they have open. 

By defining the positive and negative personality traits you possess, you’ll know what you need to work on. There are a lot of professional development courses, seminars, and exercises you can do to brush up on those negative characteristics. 

What influences personality?

It can be difficult to list negative things about yourself. Not only is being inwardly objective hard, but it can be disheartening to learn that you possess a trait that could negatively impact your career. Don’t let it get you down. Research has shows that biology and environment both play a part in shaping personalities. 

It’s the age-old nature versus nurture debate. While studies show that the Big Five Personality traits tend to stay the same during adulthood, maturation can impact personality qualities. The University of California recently found that persistent intervention can effect change when needed.

What are the most common personality traits?

With all of this being said, there are some common personality traits you’ll find across employers and industries. These traits are the ones that will land you an interview. 

1. Adaptability and flexibility

If there’s one thing you can count on in life and business, it’s that things will change. In fact, it’s been said that businesses that don’t adapt to change fail. Employers want staff members who can go with the flow and adapt to the changes that take place. On top of that, you may find yourself in a work environment that needs you to take on additional duties as change occurs. As such, being adaptable and flexible is one of the top personality traits employers look for. 

2. Critical thinking

Almost every job out there wants people who can analyze information and make judgment calls on what needs to be done. It’s rare that a hiring manager will hire someone who simply

wants to go to work to collect a paycheck. If you can show that you are a big-picture thinker who can make autonomous decisions, you’ll stand out from the crowd of job seekers. 

3. Teamwork and collaboration

Businesses desire employees who are able to work together and exchange information in a way that increases cohesiveness and efficiency. As the world comes closer together through technology and the digital workplace expands, the ability to work in a team and collaborate is more important than ever. Being able to collaborate within your office and with external stakeholders allows you to share experience, knowledge, and skills to achieve goals. 

Key takeaways

Personality traits and the characteristics/features of those traits go a long way to making you successful at work. When you leverage your personality with the tasks required for your job and can show prospective employers what you bring to the table in the way of soft skills, you’ll present as someone who is right for the job and the company’s culture. 

ZipJob has a team of career experts who can help you showcase your personality traits to show that you’re the best candidate for the job! 

Extended reading:

Marsha Hebert, professional resume writer

Written by

Marsha Hebert, Professional Resume Writer

Marsha is a resume writer with a strong background in marketing and writing. After completing a Business Marketing degree, she discovered that she could combine her passion for writing with a natural talent for marketing. For more than 10 years, Marsha has helped companies and individuals market themselves. Read more advice from Marsha on ZipJob's blog.

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