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The Role of Personality in the Job Search

Several articles have been written about how one’s personality traits impact the job search, either positively or negatively. Most employers seek job candidates who are positive,  reliable, punctual, dependable, flexible, and good communicators.

"When companies are assessing job candidates they’re looking for … the right personality,” said Rosemary Haefner, Career Builder’s Chief Human Resources Officer. “It’s important to highlight soft skills that can give employers an idea of how quickly you can adapt and solve problems, whether you can be relied on to follow through, and how effectively you can lead and motivate others.”

Hiring executives have studied the personality traits that can “make it or break it” for job seekers. Some of the important personality traits are:

  1. Team Player – Ability to work with others
  2. Cultural Fit - Every organization is different and you may fit into one place and not another
  3. Multitasking - The ability to do more than one project at a time
  4. Strategist - Ability to think critically
  5. Decision Maker - Ability to use your own judgment when necessary because your boss can’t be involved in every decision
  6. Passion for the task at hand (even when it’s not fun or interesting)

Positive people and positive personalities are very important in the political world. No one wants to work with “Debbie Downer” or “Donald Downer." In a job interview, the interviewer is looking at whether you have the skills and “fit” to do the job. The person who conveys a positive personality and ability to adapt to new environments will be chosen over the person who comes across as negative and not passionate. Some people call it the “beer test," although I’m not one to encourage students or job applicants to drink. The “beer test” is whether the interviewer would want to have a beer with the applicant if stuck in the airport or working on a long project together.

Knowing how important one’s personality may play in the job search process, my advice is to always try to convey interest and positivity even when you don’t feel like it. Some people call it “fake it until you make it”.

Good luck to all during these trying times!

Margaret “Mag” Gottlieb is the Career Director at the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University. Connect with Mag on LinkedIn at or contact via email:

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