Publication Date

July 1999


Traditional models and research on employee job search and separation focus on situationally-specific variables, those that change with time or between particular employment situations. More enduring individual characteristics, such as personality and cognitive ability, may create predispositions that affect search and separation in consistent ways across different situations. The research reported here extends traditional turnover models by incorporating two enduring individual characteristics – personality and cognitive ability – into the search and separation process. This extended model is then tested on a sample of executives. Cognitive ability as well as the personality dimensions of agreeableness, neuroticism and openness to experience related positively to job search. The effects of cognitive ability and the personality dimensions of agreeableness and openness to experience on job search were partially mediated by the array of situational factors, while the effect of neuroticism on job search was fully mediated. The relationship between extraversion and job search became significant in the presence of situational factors, suggesting a suppressor effect. With regard to separation, a similar suppressor effect was found for extraversion. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.


Suggested Citation
Boudreau, J. W., Boswell, W. R., Judge, T. A. & Bretz, R. D. Jr, (1999). Personality and cognitive ability as predictors of job search and separation among employed managers (CAHRS Working Paper #99-13). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies.
Replaces 98-16.
Published in Personnel Psychology, 54, 25-50.