Most Common Big 5 Tests Used By Companies (OCEAN Test)

by Sarah Duncan

If you’re job hunting in today’s market, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There are so many different requirements,  processes, assessments, and measures that it can feel very daunting – and may even make you put off from applying.

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However, you shouldn’t let uncertainty or anxiety about pre-employment tests stop you from landing your next job.

These are simply tools that hiring managers use to assess potential candidates, just like interviews and background checks.

One of the most common types of assessments that you are likely to come across are Big 5 Tests, sometimes called OCEAN tests. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how these assessments, including:

  • What are they?
  • Which ones are most commonly used?
  • How to prepare for Big 5 Tests.

Let’s dive in!

What Are Big 5 (OCEAN) Tests?

Big 5 Tests are assessments based on the psychological theory of the five-factor model of personality.

This model places everyone on a different scale for the five main personality traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN.)

Each of these traits is measured by a self-report questionnaire, and the participant’s rating and percentile for each trait are given.

Companies may be looking for specific traits for a role or a certain combination type. This varies between employers, based on the job and the company culture.

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Common Big 5 Tests Used by Companies

While all Big 5 tests have commonalities, there are slight differences between them as well. Here are some of the most commonly used variations of the assessment:

Big Five Inventory (BFI)

The most pared-down version of this test (and the closest to the original) is the Big Five Inventory or BFI.

It only has forty-four questions and takes about five minutes in total. It gives you a score on each of the OCEAN personality traits, on a sliding scale:

  • Openness: This category indicates your level of free-thinking, willingness to explore new ideas, and creativity
  • Conscientiousness: This measures organization, self-discipline, and planning
  • Extroversion: This score measures your level of extroversion, wanting to go out and about, being the center of attention, and being social versus introversion, which is a tendency to be quieter, less social, and prefer more alone time
  • Agreeableness: This measure assesses your level of compassion and care towards others
  • Neuroticism: Neuroticism refers to the frequency in which you experience unstable, changing, or negative emotions.

None of these personality traits is automatically good or bad; in fact, there are pros and cons to both high and low scores in each trait.

For example, while someone who presents with a lot of neuroticism could be seen as unstable or easily upset, they also tend to be passionate and inspired.

What a “good” score is depends on what the specific employer is looking for.

The 16 Personality Factor Test

This test is an expansion of the Big 5 test and features 16 different factors,  with each one being assessed on a sliding scale.

It has a hundred and eighty-five questions and takes anywhere from half an hour to an hour to complete. It assesses:

  • Warmth – Reserved vs Warm
  • Reasoning – Concrete vs Abstract
  • Emotional Stability – Reactive vs Emotionally Stable
  • Dominance – Deferential vs Dominant
  • Liveliness – Serious vs Lively
  • Rule Consciousness – Expedient vs Rule-conscious
  • Social Boldness – Shy vs Socially Bold
  • Sensitivity – Utilitarian vs Sensitive
  • Vigilance – Vigilant vs Trusting
  • Abstractedness – Grounded vs Abstract
  • Privacy – Forthright vs Private
  • Apprehensiveness – Self-assured vs Apprehensive
  • Openness to Change – Traditional vs Open to Change
  • Self-reliance – Group-oriented vs Self-reliant
  • Perfectionism – Tolerates Disorder vs Perfectionist
  • Tension – Relaxed vs Tense.

Some of these traits are more or less desirable based on what role you are applying for. For instance, for a creative role, more abstraction, openness, and relaxedness might be seen as ideal.

However, for a more technical position, perfectionism, rule-consciousness, and concrete reasoning might be preferred.

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The Caliper Assessment, or Caliper Profile, combines a Big 5-inspired personality test with a cognitive abilities test to give a comprehensive profile. It contains ninety-eight questions and takes around an hour to complete.

Participants with complete personality questions, such as ranking statements from most to least on how much they apply to you or reporting how much you agree with a statement.

The cognitive questions include things like pattern recognition, visual and numerical logic, and problem-solving.

The Inwald Personality Inventory

If you’re applying for a job in law enforcement, public safety, or a similar field, you may be asked to do the Inwald Personality Inventory (IPI.)

This metric takes the basic principles behind Big 5 tests and tailors them to this area.

The current version of the assessment, the IPI-2, consists of 202 true or false questions and takes around half an hour to complete. It measures seventeen different traits:

  • Guardedness
  • Substance Use
  • Rigidity
  • Passivity
  • Admitted Illegal Behavior
  • Criminal Accusations
  • Social Difficulties
  • Volatility
  • Anxiety Scale
  • Abnormal Thoughts
  • Depressed Mood
  • Elevated Mood
  • Non-Conformity
  • Unreliability
  • Risk-Taking Tendencies
  • Irritability
  • Health Concerns.

While sixteen of the traits are used to create a personality report for the applicant, the first one, “Guardedness”, is actually a validity measure rather than its own trait.

This metric refers to how open and honest a participant is, and therefore how likely it is that their results are accurate.

The Birkman Method

The Birkman Method is similar to the Big 5 in its aims: to get a distinct personality profile that can be used to inform employment outcomes. However, it has slightly different metrics and scales.

The test results place your Needs, Interests, and Behavior on a map with four quadrants, ranging from Direct Involvement/ Communication to Indirect Involvement/Communication on the Y-axis and from Task Oriented to People Oriented on the Y.

This complex assessment involves two hundred and ninety-eight questions – fifty of which are multiple choice (the rest being true or false) – and takes around half an hour to complete (though it can take longer to analyze and explain the results).

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Sosie Behavioral Assessment

The Sosie Behavioral Assessment is very commonly used by employers to vet candidates, especially when there is a very large applicant pool.

The test takes around half an hour to complete, and is made up of eighty questions, split into three sections which each assess different traits:

  • Personality Traits: sociability, responsibility, cautiousness, stress resistance, vigor, original thinking, personal relations, and dominance
  • Interpersonal Values: support, recognition, benevolence, independence, conformity, and power
  • Personal Values: variety, orderliness, achievement, conviction, materialism, and goal orientation.

Preparing for Big 5 Tests

In general, when preparing for personality tests, it’s a good idea to take the same steps you would for any other assessment.

Make sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before, that you’ve had enough food and water, and minimize distractions in the testing area.

Most personality tests are untimed, but some do have time limits – so make sure to do your research and be ready to stick to a pace if you do have time restrictions.

While you can’t “study” for these tests the way you can with some others, it is really important to be prepared.

Being familiar with the test style and question type that you’ll be getting is the number one way to ensure success with these assessments.

You can use study guides and practice tests that are available on JobTestPrep for a range of Big 5 tests to make sure you do your absolute best.

Final Words

Hopefully, this guide has made you feel more comfortable and confident approaching Big 5 personality tests.

Make sure to think about what your role requires, and have plenty of practice beforehand. You’ll be sure to knock these assessments out of the park!

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