What are the most important personality traits in predicting career success?

IQ has been found to be the most important factor in predicting career success (CNBC interview of John Antonakis):

″[IQ is] the single most important predictor of work success,” Antonakis, a professor of organizational behavior at Switzerland’s University of Lausanne who focuses on leadership and management research, tells CNBC Make It. “It’s a very robust and very reliable predictor.”

Apart from IQ, personality traits also predict, although to a lesser extent than IQ, career success.

Neuroticism has been, apparently, consistently found to predict negatively career success, together with other life dimensions (Lahey 2009):

It is important to note, however, that neuroticism is an important trait partly because it is inversely related to marital satisfaction (Gattis, Berns, Simpson, & Christensen, 2004), occupational success (Ozer & Benet-Martinez, 2006; Roberts, Kuncel, Shiner, Caspi, & Goldberg, 2007), and overall quality of life (Arrindell, Heesink, & Feij, 1999; Lynn & Steel, 2006; Ozer & Benet-Martinez, 2006).

Wilmot et al. (2019) state that Conscioutiousness is the most important in work performance:

Conscientiousness (C) is the most potent noncognitive predictor of occupational performance.

And the famous study of Judge et al. (1999) found that consciousness is the most important personality trait for career success:

The most general findings were that conscientiousness positively predicted intrinsic and extrinsic career success, neuroticism negatively predicted extrinsic success, and general mental ability positively predicted extrinsic career success.


(1) Has this findings that Consciousness is the most important personality trait predictor of career success been confirmed?

(2) What about other personality traits, such as Extraversion and Agreeableness? Concerning Agreeableness, Judge et al. (2012) found that agreeableness is negatively correlated with income, but the CNBC article points that it "being friendly" is important for work success.


Career success: Career success was argued to be comprised of intrinsic success (job satisfaction) and extrinsic success (income and occupational status) dimensions.

(Judge et al. 1999)


Judge, T. A., Higgins, C. A., Thoresen, C. J., & Barrick, M. R. (1999). The big five personality traits, general mental ability, and career success across the life span. Personnel psychology, 52(3), 621-652.

Judge, T. A., Livingston, B. A., & Hurst, C. (2012). Do nice guys—and gals—really finish last? The joint effects of sex and agreeableness on income. Journal of personality and social psychology, 102(2), 390.

Lahey, B. B. (2009). Public health significance of neuroticism. American Psychologist, 64(4), 241.

Wilmot, M. P., & Ones, D. S. (2019). A century of research on conscientiousness at work. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(46), 23004-23010.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think it's possible to answer the title question generally; results will depend on how everything is measured, who is measured, and other conditionals. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 25, 2023 at 16:41


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