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Apr 30, 2015

Introversion, neuroticism, disagreeableness — these are not the first traits you typically think of when interviewing new hires.

In fact, 2014 research published in the journal Perspectives in Psychological Science shows that, of the Big Five personality traits (Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Extroversion, Openness and Neuroticism), Agreeableness and Conscientiousness are the most valued by organizations.

But what happens when a candidate doesn’t come off as highly agreeable or calm as a cucumber in a job interview? Should the candidate’s talent be passed on because they are more neurotic or disagreeable than typical hires? Not necessarily.

Here are three (3)personality traits an organization would typically avoid and why they may want to reconsider the next time they are hiring:

1. Introversion

Typically, Introverts are viewed as the quiet loners. Because they need environments with less stimuli than Extraverts, they are often seen as being “low energy,” which can hurt an Introvert’s chances for being hired or considered for leadership positions.

Introverts are not all shy, and they are not against being part of a team. They look inward for energy, things like team meetings and group lunches tire them out. But that doesn’t make their skills less valuable to an organization. In fact, an Introvert’s inclination towards quiet, stimulus-free work environments often leads to increased work efficiency and higher productivity.

When it comes to leadership, organizations tend to seek out more extraverted leaders for their outgoing, often dynamic personalities. However, an Introvert’s ability to listen, stay calm in stressful situations, and encourage deeper discussion makes them ideal candidates for leadership roles.

Consider Bill Gates who, as a “Quiet and bookish” Introvert — according to Susan Cain in her popular 2011 Psychology Today blog post — leads one of the world’s largest corporations. Despite needing personal time to recharge his batteries, Gates leads symposiums, manages hundreds of employees, and leads his organization from the front on a daily basis. Clearly, Introverts can be — and are — wildly successful leaders.

2. Neuroticism

Neuroticism is the Big Five personality trait that deals with an individual’s tendency towards exhibiting anxiety and negative feelings. High levels of neuroticism can cause stress in the workplace and lead to health and productivity issues for employees.

Obviously, an organization should avoid candidates with higher than normal neurotic tendencies, right? Not always.

When it comes to neuroticism, what matters is how a person handles stress, not how stressed a person gets. That’s where healthy neurotics come in.

Healthy neurotics combine high stress levels with high levels of conscientiousness — one of the personality traits organizations are most looking for in a candidate. According to Nicholas A. Turiano Ph.D. — author of a 2012 study that showed neurotics with higher levels of conscientiousness were less likely to exhibit the same chronic illnesses as unhealthy neurotics — “[H]ealthy neurotic individuals somehow find a way to channel that anxiety they have to motivate them to do good work.”

In other words, healthy neurotic individuals use the stress of a deadline or the chaos of a brainstorming session to focus their minds and be productive, instead of feeling burned out and making mistakes. The next time you’re looking for candidates who can work under pressure, consider taking a second look at how the more neurotic candidates handle the pressure they are under, and you may find the perfect new hire.

3. Disagreeableness

Agreeableness measures an individual’s tendency to want to get along with others and be sympathetic, kind and affectionate. Highly agreeable people build strong relationships with their team members, are optimistic about human nature, and tend to “go-with-the-flow.”

Individuals with lower levels of agreeableness tend to be more focused on their own self interests. While this sounds like a bad thing, a disagreeable team member can be very valuable to the team dynamic, especially if the team is full of “yes-men.”

Disagreeable team members are not afraid to play devil’s advocate. If an idea rubs them the wrong way or is not as fool-proof as others think, a disagreeable employee is not afraid to let the team know. Instead of overlooking small inefficiencies for the sake of personal relationships, disagreeable employees tell it like it is, which ultimately helps the team.

Look for candidates who are not afraid to share their opinions in a respectful way, even if they are unpopular. Having a devil’s advocate will make your team prepare more thoroughly and think outside the box more often.

Think differently, find great talent

Finding the best talent is a challenge, but it doesn’t always have to be hard. The next time your organization is hiring, take the time to consider how different personality types may fit into your organization’s culture.

Think differently about how Introverts, healthy neurotics, and more disagreeable employees can balance out your team and you’ll find great talent.