What is personality and how can you bottle your essence for employers so they know what they are getting? One of the mantras of personal development is ‘know thyself’. Employers are keen to know who they are employing and what they bring. Most people spend their whole lives wrestling with who they are. It’s not a simple task, especially when you are an emerging adult and life has so far only thrown a few of its challenges at you. Personality has become a key differentiator between job candidates of similar experience and qualifications.

We’re all unique – just like everyone else! John Allen Paulos, Mathematician

One of the problems in talking about personality is the dichotomous nature of so many explanations. For example, nature v nurture, traits v types, character v personality. There are endless inventories, questionnaires and assessment tools designed to increase your self-awareness and give you a language to articulate who you are. The majority draw from current and past behaviours and preferences. The more difficult questions are about your potential and who you might be or become.

All of these well-intentioned approaches are only ever a guide. We are far richer, more complex and mysterious than a questionnaire. Looking inwardly is one obvious way to explore your personality. Looking outwardly to see how others see you is also helpful to reflect back those blind spots we all have.

Personality and your many selves

Why does it feel like we have several different selves? Here’s a way of looking at it:


We come into this world with a unique nature (core self). Our inborn tendencies develop as we experience the world and our characters and brains, as neuroscience is enlightening us, get shaped by the environment (contextual self). We’re all unique so we develop at different times and speeds. According to research different mental abilities peak at different ages from 18 to 70 plus. We play up to or ignore aspects of our core self depending on our self-awareness or the choices we make (developed self). Although our core may prefer to see the world in a particular way, we learn how to view things from other perspectives. 

Part of being employable means making the most of your various selves – understanding your personality, being adaptable and flexible to different situations, and continuously developing the behaviours, mindsets, skills and knowledge needed for the workplace.

5 ways to show off your personality

People sometimes say that someone “has a bit of personality” or a spark about them. They recognise their core attributes because they are clear and distinct. An unsaid comparison with being ordinary or even dull is perhaps implied. If you want to give off your sparks to employers:

  1. Show, more than tell – people can’t always see you are organised and analytical or may not believe you are spontaneous and empathetic just because you say so. What can you do to show them in the way you apply for the job and engage with employers?
  2. Join the dots up – knowing and saying you are a creative person isn’t enough. So what? Explain how that will meet the job requirements and help the employer.
  3. Use other people’s words to describe you, especially if you are naturally modest. How do other’s see you at your best?
  4. Psychometric profiles use words or phrases you can pinch if you struggle to articulate your personality. A health warning! No questionnaire will ever be the ‘truth’. It can only ever be a starting point for exploring yourself. Understanding yourself is an eternal audit.
  5. Just be yourself with skill – obvious I know, but incredibly powerful when you feel anxious or your head is too full of dos and don’ts. Nobody wants to employ a robot.

Showing an employer you at your best will always be a challenge during the process of getting a job, keeping a job and making a career move. Capture your essence and mix with a dose of confidence for the sweet smell of success.