ESFJ Personality: Traits, Relationships, Career Matches
ESFJs are compassionate, caring, and enthusiastic about making things better.
The ESFJ is one of 16 types from the popular Myers-Briggs tradition. In this post, you’ll learn about how the ESFJ type is related to the modern, scientific personality system known as the Big Five. You’ll also see the interpersonal behaviors and career interests that many ESFJs have in common.
You can jump straight to any section by clicking the links below. Otherwise, we’ll start with the classic definition of the ESFJ personality type.
I. Definition of the ESFJ Personality Type
II. Big Five Personality Dimensions of the ESFJ
III. Remarkable Personality Patterns in ESFJs
I. Definition of the ESFJ personality type
In the popular Myers-Briggs or 16-personalities tradition, all personalities belong to one of 16 types. Each type is defined by preferences across four cognitive functions:
ESFJs are Extraverted, Sensing, Feeling, and Judging.
Extraverted people are focused outwards. They prefer exploring and engaging with the external world of people and objects rather than reflecting on the inner world of ideas and thoughts.
People who prefer Sensing tend to gather information through direct observation. They prefer using their five senses to learn about their world rather than more intuitive, theoretical approaches to learning and understanding.
People who prefer Feeling use empathy, consensus, and harmony to guide their decisions. Unlike those who prefer Thinking, they are less constrained by logic, correctness, and consistency in their decision-making.
People who prefer Judging tend to relate to other people through their decision-making preference, which is Feeling for ESFJs. Other people will see FJ-types, like the ESFJ, as empathetic and concerned for others.
Beyond personality types
While the 16-personality framework and its complex cognitive functions are fun and intriguing, they are less useful for predicting important life outcomes, like relationships, health, happiness, hobbies, educational and career outcomes.
The reality of personality differences is much more complicated than 16 types. This complexity is why modern personality science uses dimensions or traits to describe personalities, rather than simple categories or types.
For example, labeling someone as “Extraverted” or “Introverted” is a vast oversimplification. Every individual falls somewhere on a broad spectrum between highly extraverted and highly introverted.
Moreover, a single dimension like Extraversion/Introversion is inadequate for fully describing someone’s personality. In general, several dimensions are necessary to create a complete picture of an individual’s unique character.
Below, I’ll describe how ESFJs fit into the modern world of personality dimensions.
II. Big Five Personality Dimensions of the ESFJ
In personality studies, scientific researchers often use a trait-based approach to describing the differences between people instead of using personality types. The most well-established method is the Big Five, which describes differences along five broad dimensions:
- Openness to Experience
Your combined positions across all Big Five dimensions describe your personality.
How does this relate to the ESFJ? People with the same type tend to have similar (but not identical) Big Five dimensions.
The graph below shows how ESFJs score on the Big Five dimensions. Each blue dot is an ESFJ, and darker blue areas mean more ESFJs are in that area.
For example, on the Conscientiousness dimension, ESFJs tend to score higher than average, so the High and Very High areas are very dark blue. But, you might notice that there are a few blue dots in the Low area of Conscientiousness.
So, while most ESFJs tend to score higher than average on Agreeableness, there are a few exceptions.
Below, you can see more detail on how ESFJs score on each Big Five dimension.
Openness to Experience
ESFJs tend to score lower on Openness to Experience, meaning they are often more conventional or traditional. About 90% of ESFJs score below average on Openness to Experience.
Openness to Experience describes your need for new information, feelings, and experiences.
Less open people prefer the familiar ways of doing things. They are less interested in trying new things or seeking out new experiences. They also tend to be less eccentric and have more conventional tastes in hobbies, music, and reading material.
Highly open people have diverse interests, and they may feel a constant need to learn and try new things.
ESFJs typically score highly on Conscientiousness, with about 85% of ESFJs scoring above the average.
Conscientiousness describes your tendency to plan, organize, and persistently focus on long-term goals.
Highly conscientious people are more likely to set goals far in the future, then come up with detailed plans on how to achieve these goals. They are also more likely to stick to the goals they set and more persistent in working through difficulty to reach them.
Less conscientious people tend to be more spontaneous or impulsive. They are more interested in the present or short-term future, and more likely to change their mind, or change direction when obstacles arise.
ESFJs generally score higher on Extraversion, with about 90% of ESFJs scoring above average on this dimension.
Extraversion describes your assertiveness, enthusiasm, and experiences of positive emotions.
Like many ESFJs, highly extraverted people tend to be more socially outgoing and talkative, and they often seek out more stimulating environments (think loud, crowded, or risky and exciting situations). High extraverts also feel and express positive emotions (e.g., joy, laughter, excitement) more intensely and more frequently.
Highly introverted people are more socially reserved and quiet. They have a lower tolerance for highly stimulating environments and often retreat to calm and quiet situations in solitude. They also experience positive emotions less intensely and less frequently. For example, others may notice that introverts tend to smile and laugh less often than most.
Almost all ESFJs score above average on Agreeableness.
Agreeableness describes your interpersonal warmth, politeness, and empathy.
Like most ESFJs, highly agreeable people feel a deep need to maintain warm, friendly relationships and are naturally more hesitant to impose their will on others. They will be more considerate of how their actions impact others and try to reduce or resolve interpersonal conflicts when they arise.
Less agreeable (or more demanding) people are often less concerned with others when pursuing their own goals. They are more willing to create conflict or express disagreement across most situations and feel less discomfort during interpersonal disputes.
ESFJs vary widely in Neuroticism, with no apparent trends between ESFJs and this dimension. You can find ESFJs across the entire range of Neuroticism.
Neuroticism describes how frequently and how intensely you experience negative emotions, like anxiety, anger, and sadness.
Highly neurotic people tend to worry more, have more frequent mood swings, withdraw when feeling distressed, and feel more self-conscious.
Less neurotic people are more easy-going, have more predictable moods, and are more resilient under stress. They also experience less of the harmful types of self-consciousness, like rumination and self-doubt, reported by more neurotic people.
III. Remarkable Personality Patterns in ESFJs
There are at least three exceptional patterns commonly seen in the ESFJs:
ESFJs love rising to a challenge, especially when it involves opportunities to lead.
Their combination of high Extraversion and high Conscientiousness often leads to enthusiasm, persistence, and confidence. ExxJs typically prefer taking a leadership position rather than staying back or following others. They generally set high expectations for themselves and like taking responsibility for planning and making decisions.
Honest and accommodating
For most ESFJs, honesty is always the best policy.
With their blend of high Agreeableness and lower Openness to Experience, ESFJs tend to be highly trustworthy and highly trusting of others. They are more likely to take others at their word, and they often find it deeply uncomfortable to argue or take advantage of other people. Instead, ESFJs prefer to be themselves, openly and honestly, even if it sometimes puts them at a disadvantage.
Principled and orderly
With their high Conscientiousness and lower Openness to Experience, ESFJs often have a robust set of internal principles. ESFJs tend to see ideas and actions as either unambiguously good or evil, true or false, and right or wrong. They usually have straightforward, concrete opinions on moral and ethical concerns and are more likely to trust and value traditional institutions and conventional belief systems.
How others describe the ESFJ
How do other people see and describe ESFJs?
The wordcloud below shows over 50 words used to describe people with similar Big Five personality dimensions as a typical ESFJ. Larger words describe the more prominent aspects of ESFJs.
Because no two ESFJs are the same, some of the words above may be better descriptors of a particular individual than others. You can see your personality’s own unique set of words with TraitLab’s free assessment.
Interpersonal style, strengths, and challenges
You might have noticed that some individuals have a consistent effect on you every time you interact with them. For example, one particular friend might make you consistently laugh and smile more than usual. Or, one reliably passive coworker or classmate may tend to bring out your bossier, more demanding side.
Each of us has a typical interpersonal style. This style influences how others think and feel when they are around you, and in turn, it can affect how they interact back with you.
A classic method of visualizing interpersonal style is using the circular figure below. The vertical axis shows your style in terms of dominance, with a highly assertive style at the top (Assured-Dominant) and a highly passive style at the bottom (Unassured-Submissive). The horizontal axis shows your style in terms of warmth, with a cold and impersonal style on the left (Cold-Aggressive) and a friendly, empathetic manner on the right (Warm-Agreeable).
The shaded blue area shows the typical interpersonal style of ESFJs across eight dimensions. Notice the areas where the blue area extends closer to the outer edges of the circle. These are the aspects that most heavily influence ESFJs’ interactions.
To summarize the graph above, three aspects most heavily influence ESFJs’ interpersonal style:
- They often agree, trust, and cooperate with others.
- At their best, they are friendly, affectionate, and bring out the warmth and sympathy in others.
- They may be too agreeable and quick to compromise.
- At their worst, they may seek approval and agreement too much, and be dependent on the approval of other people.
- They often support, openly sympathize, and actively offer help to others
- At their best, they are gentle sympathizers, who are easily trusted and accepted
- They may be overly revealing and have difficulty being alone
- At their worst, they can require too much attention and admiration from others and be excessively involved in the affairs of others
- They often respect others, conform to expectations, and ask for guidance.
- At their best, they are loyal and reliable, and encourage others to guide and help.
- They may be overly clingy, gullible, and have difficulty expressing anger, even when appropriate.
- At their worst, they will try to please others too much, put others’ needs ahead of their own, and allow others to take advantage of them.
The chart below shows how the personality traits of ESFJs are related to the classic RIASEC career interests: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. Your unique blend of these interests dramatically influences how well a career feels like a good fit.
On each dimension, you’ll see areas where ESFJs tend to crowd up (shown by the dark blue bars). These are the areas where ESFJs are most likely to fall.
But, you’ll also find ESFJs the entire range of each dimension. While most ESFJs tend to have relatively higher Enterprising interests, there are still a few ESFJs who score very low on them.
Most ESFJs tend to have the following pattern of interests:
High Social interests (Helpers): People with strong Social interests fit well with careers that involve helping, comforting, caring for, and teaching other people. Examples include physical therapists, counselors, clergy, social workers, doctors, and nurses.
Average Enterprising interests (Persuaders): People with strong Enterprising interests are often skilled communicators who enjoy influencing, persuading, and leading others. They actively pursue leadership roles and opportunities to bolster their status and reputation. Examples include sales and marketing directors, politicians and political organizers, and executives.
Average Artistic interests (Creators): People with strong Artistic interests prefer jobs that require innovation through artistic and intuitive skills in less structured tasks and environments. Examples include artists, novelists, actors or actresses, musicians, curators, and designers.
Average Conventional interests (Organizers): People with strong Conventional interests excel in roles that require categorizing, planning, and systematizing information and processes. Examples include financial officers, budget analysts, office managers, database analysts, and systems administrators.
Low Realistic interests (Doers): People with high Realistic interests enjoy careers that allow them to work with their hands or tools to get a job done, rather than thinking or talking about it. They may also gravitate towards jobs with opportunities for working outdoors, competition, and risk-taking. Examples include police officers, military officers, professional athletes, farmers, builders, mechanics, forest rangers, and woodworkers.
Low Investigative interests (Thinkers): People with strong Investigative interests prefer roles that require observation, researching, and understanding ideas. They tend to prefer working with data and ideas rather than working closely with other people. Examples include medical researchers, chemists, software engineers, scientific reporters, and statisticians.
Remember that these rankings only describe the average ESFJ, and personality types can only offer very general descriptions of career interests. Even if you see yourself as an ESFJ, your unique set of career interests may vary from the above descriptions.
Potential career matches
Most ESFJs share intense Social interests and will gravitate towards careers that help others. This includes an incredibly diverse set of possible career paths, most of which have a central altruistic, helping, or teaching component.
Examples of careers with high Social, or helping, demands include paths in healthcare, teaching, counseling, including:
- Nurse Practitioners and Registered Nurses
- Physician Assistants
- Occupational Therapists
- Healthcare Social Workers
- Child, Family, and School Social Workers
- Health Educators
- Education, Preschool, or Childcare Administrators
- Community Health Workers
- Substance Abuse Counselors
- Speech-Language Pathologists
- Marriage and Family Therapists
- Mental Health Counselors
- Genetic Counselors
- Clinical Psychologists
- Special Education Teachers
- Music Therapists
- Kindergarten, Elementary, and Middle School Teachers
- Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, and Religion Teachers
- Art, Drama, and Music Teachers
- Physical Trainers and Instructors
- Arbitrators and Mediators
- Municipal Firefighters
Careers to avoid
ESFJs are usually less interested in jobs with heavy Investigative and Realistic demands. These positions tend to focus on ideas, data, and hands-on work with tools and machinery, rather than working directly with people. ESFJs may be highly competent in any of these roles, but their natural strengths may be underused.
Examples of these roles include:
- Materials Scientists
- Computer Scientists
- Electrical and Civil Engineers
- Automotive Engineers
- Software Developers
- Construction and Building Inspectors
- Commercial Pilots
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
How to learn about your personality
Your personality type only gives you a rough approximation of your underlying traits. As described in this post, ESFJs can vary widely in their Big Five dimensions, interpersonal style, and career interests. Just knowing that you are an ESFJ doesn’t tell you that much.
So what’s the next step? Skip the types entirely and learn about your unique blend of personality traits, interpersonal style, and career interests by directly measuring them at TraitLab. Get started for free and see your Big Five dimensions with the Basic assessment.
Header photo by Zach Vessels
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