ESFP Personality: Traits, Relationships, Career Matches

Uninhibited, flamboyant, and friendly, ESFPs often feel energized by being in the spotlight.

Greg Park
Greg Park
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The ESFP is one of 16 types from the popular Myers-Briggs tradition. In this post, you’ll learn about how the ESFP 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 ESFPs 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 ESFP personality type.

I. Definition of the ESFP Personality Type

II. Big Five Personality Dimensions of the ESFP

III. Remarkable Personality Patterns in ESFPs

IV. Relationships

V. Careers

I. Definition of the ESFP 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:

  • Introverted-Extraverted
  • Sensing-Intuitive
  • Thinking-Feeling
  • Perceiving-Judging

ESFPs are Extraverted, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving.

Extraverted

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.

Sensing

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.

Feeling

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.

Perceiving

People who prefer Perceiving tend to relate to other people through their perceiving preference, which is Sensing for ESFPs. Other people will see SP-types, like the ESFP, as observant and more reactive to their sensory experience, rather than as slow and cautious decision-makers.

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 ESFPs fit into the modern world of personality dimensions.

II. Big Five Personality Dimensions of the ESFP

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
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Your combined positions across all Big Five dimensions describe your personality.

How does this relate to the ESFP? People with the same type tend to have similar (but not identical) Big Five dimensions.

The graph below shows how ESFPs score on the Big Five dimensions. Each blue dot is an ESFP, and darker blue areas mean more ESFPs are in that area.

ESFP personality traits across Big Five dimensions
ESFP across the Big Five personality dimensions

For example, on the Agreeableness dimension, ESFPs 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 Agreeableness.

So, while most ESFPs tend to be on the higher end of Agreeableness, there are a few exceptions.

Below, you can see more detail on how ESFPs score on each Big Five dimension.

Openness to Experience

ESFPs tend to score lower on Openness to Experience, meaning they are often more conventional or traditional. Almost all ESFPs score below average on this dimension.

ESFPs and Big Five Openness to Experience
ESFPs and Big Five 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.

Conscientiousness

ESFPs typically score lower on Conscientiousness, with about 95% of ESFPs scoring below the average.

ESFPs and Big Five Conscientiousness
ESFPs and Big Five Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness describes your tendency to plan, organize, and persistently focus on long-term goals.

Less conscientious people, like many ESFPs, 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.

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.

Extraversion

ESFPs almost always score on the high end of Extraversion, with about 95% of ESFPs scoring above average on this dimension.

ESFPs and Big Five Extraversion
ESFPs and Big Five Extraversion

Extraversion describes your assertiveness, enthusiasm, and experiences of positive emotions.

Like many ESFPs, 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.

Agreeableness

ESFPs usually score highly on Agreeableness, with about 90% of ESFPs scoring above average.

ESFPs and Big Five Agreeableness
ESFPs and Big Five Agreeableness

Agreeableness describes your interpersonal warmth, politeness, and empathy.

Highly agreeable people, like many ESFPs, 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.

Neuroticism

ESFPs vary widely in Neuroticism, and there is no significant trend for ESFPs in this dimension. You can find ESFPs along the entire range of this dimension.

ESFPs and Big Five Neuroticism
ESFPs and Big Five Neuroticism

Neuroticism describes how frequently and how intensely you experience negative emotions, like anxiety, anger, and sadness.

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.

Highly neurotic people tend to worry more, have more frequent mood swings, withdraw when feeling distressed, and feel more self-conscious.

III. Remarkable Personality Patterns in ESFPs

There are several exceptional patterns commonly seen in the ESFPs:

Impulsive and exhibitionistic

ESFPs don’t mind occasionally showing off or causing a scene, when the mood strikes them.

ESFPs are often highly extraverted and less conscientious
ESFPs tend to be more spontaneous and thrill-seeking due to their lower Conscientiousness and higher Extraversion.

ESFPs often score higher on Extraversion and lower on Conscientiousness. Together, this combines to form an unpredictable blend of thrill-seeking and rebelliousness. Most ESFPs are comfortable being at center stage and know how to use the attention to accomplish their goals.

Lives in the moment

ESFPs are often more conventional and less conscientious
ESFPs tend to be more spontaneous and present-focused due to their low Openness and low Conscientiousness.

With their combination of lower Conscientiousness and lower Openness, ESFPs will often prefer living for the here and now, rather than making detailed plans for a distant future. Their preference for the present may lead them to change their minds frequently, depending on their current circumstances.

While their spontaneous and flexible nature can make them more adaptable in the short-term, these same qualities allow them to be easily distracted while working towards longer-term goals.

Tolerant and peace-loving

ESFPs are often empathetic, sensitive to others’ pain, and optimistic about peaceful solutions to conflict.

ESFPs are often highly agreeable and less conscientious
ESFPs are often compassionate and lenient due to their higher Agreeableness and lower Conscientiousness.

With ESFPs’ high Agreeableness and lower Conscientiousness, they tend to trust other people’s inherent goodness. They have more faith in friendly, gentle methods of resolving differences, and often shun heavy-handed, strict, or combative approaches.

Honest and accommodating

For most ESFPs, honesty is always the best policy.

ESFJs are often more conventional and highly agreeable
ESFJs' straightforward and accomodating nature is due to higher Agreeableness and lower Openness.

With their blend of high Agreeableness and lower Openness to Experience, ESFPs 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, ESFPs prefer to be themselves, openly and honestly, even if it sometimes puts them at a disadvantage.

IV. Relationships

How others describe the ESFP

How do other people see and describe ESFPs?

The wordcloud below shows over 50 words used to describe people with similar Big Five personality dimensions as a typical ESFP. Larger words describe the more prominent aspects of ESFPs.

Adjectives describing the ESFP
Adjectives used to describe ESFPs

Because no two ESFPs 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).

Typical interpersonal style of the ESFP
How the ESFP typically falls on common interpersonal dimensions

The shaded blue area shows the typical interpersonal style of ESFPs 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 ESFPs’ interactions.

To summarize the graph above, four aspects most heavily influence ESFPs’ interpersonal style:

Assured-Dominant

  • They often manage, direct, and try to lead others.
  • At their best, they provide guidance and leadership, and naturally command respect.
  • They may be domineering, forceful, or overly direct.
  • At their worst, they can be overbearing and micromanaging.

Talkative-Extraverted

  • 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

Unassuming-Trusting

  • 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.

Warm-Agreeable

  • 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.

V. Careers

Career Interests

The chart below shows how the personality traits of ESFPs 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 ESFPs tend to crowd up (shown by the dark blue bars). These are the areas where ESFPs are most likely to fall.

But, you’ll also find ESFPs the entire range of each dimension. While most ESFPs tend to have relatively low Investigative interests, there are still a few ESFPs who score above average.

ESFPs and RIASEC career interests
Patterns of career interests among ESFPs

Most ESFPs 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 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 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 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 ESFP, and personality types can only offer very general descriptions of career interests. Even if you see yourself as an ESFP, your unique set of career interests may vary from the above descriptions.

Potential career matches

Most ESFPs share intense Social interests and will gravitate towards careers that help others. There is an incredibly diverse set of possible career paths with high Social demands, most of which have a central altruistic, helping, or teaching component.

Many ESFPs will also have strong secondary interests in Artistic and Enterprising domains.

Examples of positions and titles with strong Social, Artistic, and Enterprising interests include:

  • Healthcare Social Workers
  • Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
  • Mental Health Counselors
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
  • Marriage and Family Therapists
  • Counseling Psychologists
  • English Language and Literature Teachers
  • Philosophy and Religion Teachers
  • Art, Drama, and Music Teachers
  • Speech-Language Pathologists
  • Special Education Teachers
  • Music Directors
  • Choreographers
  • Public Relations Specialists
  • Stylists

Careers to avoid

ESFPs are usually less interested in jobs with heavy Investigative and Conventional demands. These positions tend to focus on ideas, data, and detailed processes in highly structured environments. ESFPs may be highly competent in any of these roles, but their natural strengths may be underused.

Examples of these roles include:

  • Pharmacists
  • Economists
  • Financial Quantitative Analysts
  • Biostatistician
  • Transportation Planners
  • Software Developers
  • Robotics Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Database Architects
  • Chemists
  • Electricians

How to learn about your personality

Your personality type only gives you a rough approximation of your underlying traits. As described in this post, ESFPs can vary widely in their Big Five dimensions, interpersonal style, and career interests. Just knowing that you are an ESFP 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 Mazhar Zandsalimi

Greg Park
Greg Park
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