Conscientiousness is the personality trait of being careful, or vigilant. Conscientiousness implies a desire to do a task well. Conscientious people are efficient and organized as opposed to easy-going and disorderly. They exhibit a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; they display planned rather than spontaneous behavior; and they are generally organized and dependable. It is manifested in characteristic behaviors such as being neat and systematic; also including such elements as carefulness, thoroughness, and deliberation (the tendency to think carefully before acting.)Conscientiousness is one of the five traits of the Five Factor Model of personality and is an aspect of what has traditionally been referred to as having character. Conscientious individuals are generally hard-working and reliable. When taken to an extreme, they may also be “workaholics”, perfectionists, and compulsive in their behavior.
So how do you know whether to list this particular trait on your resume? Here are six common characteristics of conscientiousness below.
- You Can’t Leave Anything Undone
It’s literally in the definition: According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, conscientious means being “concerned with doing something correctly.” If you can’t leave something alone until it’s done right, you’re super conscientious.
- You’re Ridiculously Organized
The personality trait is usually associated with organization; when you think about all the people you know who get stuff done, they’re usually well-organized. As Glenn Geher, PhD, wrote for Psychology Today, “Conscientiousness is characterized by a strong tendency to be diligent and reliable – keeping things organized and on-task.”
- You Have Tons Of Self-Discipline
It’s no surprise that marathon runners tend to display high rates of conscientiousness; the personality trait is often linked to high levels of self-control.
- Appearances Are Important To You
In a 2011 study, researchers studying the behavior of conscientious people wrote, “Conscientious people tend to write down important dates, comb their hair, polish their shoes, stand up straight, and scrub floors.” Basically, they’re more concerned with appearances and keeping things tidy than someone who doesn’t score as highly on the trait.
- You’re The Parent Of Your Friend Group
Part of being conscientious is a strong sense of responsibility; people who are conscientious tend to plan ahead and take obligations seriously. As a result, you’re probably known as the mom or dad of your friend group, always ready with water bottles, self-adhesive bandages, and solid advice.
- You’re Successful
All that planning apparently pays off: Research has shown that people who are highly conscientious are less likely to commit crimes, have higher grades, and tend to stay married longer. For the sake of us Type Bs, though, try not to rub your happiness in our faces.
Why conscientiousness people are so successful
“Highly conscientious employees do a series of things better than the rest of us,” says University of Illinois psychologist Brent Roberts, who studies conscientiousness.
To start, they’re better at goals: setting them, working toward them, and persisting amid setbacks. If a super ambitious goal can’t be realized, they’ll switch to a more attainable one rather than getting discouraged and giving up. As a result, they tend to achieve goals that are consistent with what employers want.
Roberts also owes their success to “hygiene” factors. Conscientious people have a tendency to organize their lives well. A disorganized, un-conscientious person might lose 20 or 30 minutes rooting through their files to find the right document, an inefficient experience conscientious folks tend to avoid. Basically, by being conscientious, people sidestep stress they’d otherwise create for themselves.
Being conscientious “is like brushing your teeth,” Roberts says. “It prevents problems from arising.”
Conscientious people also like to follow rules and norms. You can spot the conscientious kids in the classroom. They sit in their chairs, don’t complain, and don’t act out — which also, of course, contributes to earning good grades from teachers. While conscientiousness doesn’t correlate with high SAT scores, it does predict high GPAs.
To spot conscientious people at work, Roberts says to look for punctuality. If someone shows up on time, that’s a great clue toward conscientiousness, since a punctual person has to be organized enough — and care enough — to arrive on time.
The bigger, and less visible, indicator is how people deal with setbacks. Do they give up or redouble their efforts?
“The conscientious person is going to have a plan,” Roberts says. “Even if there is a failure, they’re going to have a plan to deal with that failure.”