A large sample investigation of the presence of nonlinear personality-job performance relationships

Philip T. Walmsley, Paul R. Sackett, Stephen B. Nichols

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10 Scopus citations


We examine 123 data sets from validation studies of a single five-factor model-based occupational personality measure for evidence of curvilinear relationships with job performance. Research has produced discrepant findings about whether and when to expect curvilinear relationships between normal range personality measures and job performance. Previous studies have relied on small and unsystematic sampling, a variety of noncomparable performance criteria, the use of personality inventories for which construct validity evidence is not immediately available, and a focus on only one or two of the Big Five personality factors. We report minimal evidence of curvilinearity, suggesting that these effects are unlikely to undermine typical uses of personality test scores in decision making. Any expected declines in performance at high ends of the predictor range were very small on average and would be highly unlikely to produce scenarios in which those passing a realistic cut score would underperform those screened out. Indices of job complexity and the importance of the personality trait did not moderate the forms of each personality–performance relationship. The results are useful for evaluating whether curvilinearity is likely to be an issue when self-report personality assessments are used to make decisions with tangible employment consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-163
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Selection and Assessment
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - Dec 2018

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© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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