INTJ Personality: Traits, Relationships, Career Matches

Roughly 1% of people will be classified as the precise and perceptive INTJ. What makes the INTJ type so unusual?

Greg Park
Greg Park

Roughly 1% of people will be classified as the precise and perceptive INTJ. What makes the INTJ type so unusual?

In this post, I’ll analyze the underlying Big Five personality dimensions of the INTJ type and describe how this combination of traits impacts the rarity of the type, relationship tendencies, and potential career matches.

The INTJ personality type

Before diving into the INTJ, remember that personality types are always an oversimplification of a personality. Nobody actually fits neatly into a single type, and relying on types will miss critical details about an individual’s personality.

For this reason and others, modern scientific research does not use popular personality types like the 16 personalities or Myers-Briggs types. Instead, personality scientists prefer trait-based systems like the Big Five personality framework. However, knowing your personality type can be a useful stepping stone on your way to gaining complete understanding of your own personality with a more mature system like the Big Five.

In the 16 personalities or Myers-Briggs type framework, each personality type has its own four-letter code, describing its psychological preferences: Introverted vs. Extraverted, Intuitive or Sensing, Feeling or Thinking, and Judging vs. Perceiving.

According to this typology, the INTJ prefers:

  • Introversion: oriented towards the internal world, rather than the external world
  • Intuition: oriented towards learning through internal intuition over sensory experience
  • Thinking: oriented towards judging new information through logical analysis, rather than by its emotional qualities or impact
  • Judging: oriented towards organizing, categorizing, and processing new information as soon as it is encountered

By using existing research that links these four preferences to the Big Five personality framework, it’s possible to estimate where INTJs tend to fall on each of these five core dimensions.

INTJ personality traits

The Big Five framework uses five broad dimensions to describe personality differences: Openness To Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

Personality types are far less precise than getting exact Big Five measurements, but knowing your personality type can give you a rough idea of where you fall on each dimension.

In the graph below, each dot is an INTJ, placed by where they fall on each of the Big Five dimensions. While there is plenty of variation on each dimension, we can see a few common patterns among INTJs.

INTJ personality traits as Big Five dimensions
INTJ personality traits as Big Five dimensions

To take one example, look at where INTJs fall along the Conscientiousness dimension. Almost all INTJs fall somewhere between the middle of the range (average) to the extreme high end. There are a few outliers, but in general, it’s safe to say that most INTJs tend to be above average on Conscientiousness.

Using this same idea, we can walk through each of the five dimensions and see the general trends for INTJs.

INTJs are higher on Openness to Experience

INTJs usually score higher than average on Openness to Experience.

INTJs and Big Five Openness to Experience
INTJs and Big Five Openness to Experience

INTJs are relatively highly open to experience, indicating a strong preference for new experiences, ideas, and feelings, as opposed to familiar ones. Highly open people also have greater tolerance for all things non-traditional and unconventional.

Based on their high openness, INTJs tend to be highly imaginative, curious, have diverse intellectual and artistic interests, and are more likely to have unconventional habits, ideas, or beliefs.

INTJs are higher on Conscientiousness

INTJs tend to score well above average on Conscientiousness.

INTJs and Big Five Conscientiousness
INTJs and Big Five Conscientiousness

INTJs are often highly conscientious, and Conscientiousness relates to planning, self-discipline, impulsivity, and tendency to follow socially accepted norms and rules.

INTJs’ high conscientiousness means they tend to be highly organized and systematic. They create detailed plans to achieve long-term goals and reliably stick to them. Their lower impulsivity means they are less easily distracted by new short-term opportunities and stay focused on the big picture. Lastly, INTJs tend to be highly aware of rules and regulations and closely follow them to achieve their goals.

INTJs are lower on Extraversion

INTJs tend to fall lower on Extraversion, or, tend to be somewhat introverted.

INTJs and Big Five Extraversion
INTJs and Big Five Extraversion

Big Five Extraversion describes tendencies around social engagement and positive emotionality. Socially, more introverted INTJs will be comfortable and prefer engaging in solitary activities. They may avoid highly stimulating situations and need occasional downtime.

Emotionally, the greater introversion of INTJs means they may also experience common positive emotions (e.g., joy, excitement, and enthusiasm) less often than most people, and when they do experience these emotions, they tend to be more subtle. As a result, they may seem emotionally restrained to others.

INTJs are lower on Agreeableness

INTJs tend to be less agreeable, or more demanding, than most.

INTJs and Big Five Agreeableness
INTJs and Big Five Agreeableness

Less agreeable (or more demanding) people, like many INTJs, are more comfortable with interpersonal conflicts and disagreement than most. In turn, they may have an easier time pursuing personal goals that can strain positive relations with others. Lower agreeableness may also enable INTJs to more easily give negative feedback and criticism to others.

INTJs vary widely on Neuroticism

INTJs show wide variation in their level of Neuroticism or Emotional Stability.

INTJs and Big Five Neuroticism
INTJs and Big Five Neuroticism

In other words, some INTJs fall on the very low end of Neuroticism, some fall on the very high end, and most fall somewhere in between. Knowing that someone is an INTJ tells you nothing about their relative level of Neuroticism.

This is not specific to INTJs, either. One of the biggest weaknesses of using the 16 personality types is that they completely miss a critical dimension of personality.

Neuroticism is describes your emotional variability and tendency to experience negative emotions, like anxiety, anger, distress, and negative forms of self-consciousness.

Highly neurotic people have more frequent mood swings, have greater tendency to worry, are more easily irritated and susceptible to anxious or depressed moods. Less neurotic (or more emotionally stable) people worry less and are less reactive to stress, experience less depression and anxiety, and are generally more easy-going.

Neuroticism plays a central role in an individual’s emotional tendencies. You can easily learn where you fall on Neuroticism compared to others with TraitLab’s free personality test.

Rarity of INTJs

Only about %1 of people are classified as INTJ, making it one of the rarest types in the 16 personalities framework. What makes the INTJ so rare?

Like other rare personality types, INTJs tend to have a somewhat unusual combinations of traits.

Intellectually open and socially restrained

All types beginning with IN** share something special: they tend to be relatively low in Big Five Extraversion (leading them to be classified as an Introverted type) but also high on Big Five Openness to Experience, which is a big factor in being classified as Intuitive instead of Sensing.

The graph below shows thousands of people (INTJs and non-INTJs) by their Extraversion and Openness scores. You can see that many INTJs fall along the outer edge of the population, into the region defined by lower Extraversion and higher Openness.

INTJs are often lower on Big Five Extraversion but higher on Big Five Openness
INTJs are often lower on Big Five Extraversion but higher on Big Five Openness

This is noteworthy, because Extraversion and Openness are positively correlated with each other: people who score highly on Extraversion tend to score highly on Extraversion. INTJs show the opposite pattern — high Openness and low Extraversion.

The resulting blend of introversion and openness in INTJs might be seen in their strong drive towards gaining new knowledge and experiences, and desire to pursue these experiences alone. INTJs would be very likely to dive head first into a new hobby or big, complicated project completely on their own, and that’s exactly how they’d like to keep it.

Organized, industrious, and demanding

INTJs also display an unusual combination of higher Conscientiousness and lower Agreeableness. Typically, these two dimensions are positively correlated, such that highly conscientious people also tend to be highly agreeable.

Again, you can see INTJs on the edge in the graph below, falling into the area of higher Conscientiousness and lower Agreeableness.

INTJs are often lower on Big Five Agreeableness but higher on Big Five Conscientiousness
INTJs are often lower on Big Five Agreeableness but higher on Big Five Conscientiousness

Together, this combination could be reflected in INTJs’ industriousness, self-discipline, and occasional perfectionism (all of these following from high Conscientiousness), and a tendency to prioritize their needs and goals first, over the goals of others. This may make INTJs highly effective in work, school, and other long-term pursuits.

INTJ Relationships

Being both introverted and less agreeable, INTJs lean towards avoiding many close relationships, partially out of a need for self-sufficiency and independence, and also out of a lingering mistrust of others. These tendencies may be amplified if an INTJ is on the more extreme ends of introversion or disagreeableness.

Independent and self-reliant

INTJs highly value independence and are often perfectly content without a close emotional relationship. While INTJs are not dismissive about forming close relationships, they may avoid a new attachment that could threaten their own self-sufficiency and lack of dependence on others.

Aside from their concerns about independence, many INTJs are likely to express a desire and interest in having emotionally close relationships, but also a concern that becoming too close may lead to getting hurt or otherwise ending badly.

Common interpersonal problems with the INTJ

INTJs combination of introversion and low agreeableness may lead to some recurring issues around interpersonal warmth and closeness.

In particular, INTJs may find it difficult to feel close, display affection, or openly express admiration to others. INTJs may struggle with a tendency to undershare, as they often do not feel comfortable sharing more personal thoughts and details with others.

While their reluctance to engage in more personal conversations and or to show affection may sometimes shield INTJs, these same tendencies can limit the number of close relationships INTJs develop over time.

Adjectives that describe the INTJ personality

How do other people see and describe INTJs?

The tendencies of INTJs to be highly open and more introverted can lead others to view them as introspective, sophisticated, philosophical, perceptive, and contemplative.

The wordcloud below shows the top 100 words used to describe INTJs. Bigger words describe the more prominent aspects of INTJs.

Adjectives describing the INTJ
Adjectives used to describe INTJs

Because INTJs tend to be highly conscientious and systematic, others sometimes describe them as principled, foresighted, industrious, analytical, cautious, and even perfectionistic.

INTJs’ combination of lower agreeableness and introversion can also cause others to see them as skeptical, aloof, cynical, and serious. Occasionally, these same qualities can lead INTJs to be seen as withdrawn, untalkative, stern, and detached.

INTJ Careers

INTJs tend to have a strong preference for careers that let them flex their capacity for organizing, systematizing, and planning all sorts of things, such as information, people, and projects. INTJs also have an analytical streak, too, so careers with opportunities for working with data or analysis of systems and/or processes can also be good fits.

INTJ career interests

The chart below shows how the INTJ personality type is related to eight core career interests: Production, Creativity, Erudition, Altruism, Analysis, Organization, Adventure, and Leadership. Your unique blend of these interests has a huge influence on how well a career feels like it “fits” with your personality.

INTJs and career interests
Correlations between career interests and personality traits of INTJs
  • Organization

    INTJs’ strongest career interest is in Organization, and they thrive in positions requiring rigorous attention to detail, clerical and numeric skills, and tightly controlled processes.

    People with strong interests in Organization prefer careers that involve categorizing, planning, and systematizing information and processes. Examples include financial officers, budget analysts, office managers, database analysts, and systems administrators.

  • Analysis

    INTJs have moderate interests in Analysis, so they also enjoy careers that allow them to analyze, investigate, and solve complex problems.

    People with strong interests in Analysis enjoy roles that require investigating, researching, and explaining concepts and ideas. Examples include medical researchers, chemists, scientific reporters, and statisticians.

  • Adventure

    INTJs do not consistently have a preference or dislike for Adventure. Any individual INTJ is likely to be different in their preference for this aspect.

    People with strong interests in Adventure prefer careers that involve working outdoors, competition, excitement, risk-taking, and even danger. Examples include police officers, military officers, professional athletes, and bounty hunters.

  • Production

    Like Adventure, INTJs’ do not have a consistent pattern in their Production interests. Individuals will vary on this interest.

    People with strong interests in Production enjoy careers that allow them to work with their hands or tools to create, repair, or maintain tangible products and things. Examples include farmers, builders, mechanics, forest rangers, and woodworkers.

  • Erudition

    INTJs are typically uninterested in Erudition, so they are less likely to seek careers that require continually mastering scholarly, complex, or arcane information.

    People with strong interests in Erudition enjoy roles that require mastery of complex, difficult concepts and information. Examples include translators, editors, research professors, literary scholars, interpreters, and foreign correspondents.

  • Leadership

    INTJs are also likely to avoid careers that demand strong Leadership interests.

    People with strong interests in Leadership fit well in careers that enable them to influence, persuade, and motivate other people. Examples include sales and marketing directors, politicians and political organizers, and executives.

  • Altruism

    INTJs have a fairly strong disinterest in Altruism, meaning they are unlikely to enjoy roles that are primarily centered on helping others.

    People with strong interests in Altruism fit well in careers that involve helping, comforting, caring for, and teaching other people. Examples include physical therapists, counselors, clergy, social workers, doctors, and nurses.

  • Creativity

    INTJs have a similar disinterest in Creativity. To be clear, this does not mean that INTJs are not creative! Rather, it means that INTJs are less likely to be interested in careers that demand a very specific kind of creativity — highly unstructured, intuitive, and often unconventional and unsystematic. These kind of careers lack the organization and structure that typically allow INTJs to shine.

    People with strong interests in Creativity prefer jobs that require innovation through artistic and intuitive skills in less structured tasks and environments. Examples include artists, novelists, actor or actresses, musicians, curators, and designers.

INTJ career matches and INTJ jobs

Examples of careers that align with INTJs’ preferences in Organization and Analysis include a variety of analytical, scientific, and engineering pursuits, such as:

  • Statistician / Biostatistician
  • Management Analyst
  • Operations Research Analyst
  • Pharmacist
  • Economist
  • Financial Quantitative Analyst
  • Archivist
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Civil / Nuclear / Robotics / Petroleum / Environmental Engineer
  • Software Developer
  • Forensic Science Technician
  • Food Scientist

Careers to avoid for the INTJ

INTJs may feel out of place in careers with a heavy priority on helping others and leading and influencing others, or artistic careers with less structure. Examples of careers INTJs might avoid include:

  • Graphic Designer
  • Interior Designer
  • Musician
  • Choreographer
  • Art Director
  • Copywriter
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Advertising Manager
  • Psychologist
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Educational Administrator
  • Librarian
  • Human Resource Manager
  • Insurance Sales Agent
  • Secondary School Teacher
  • Social Worker

Summary

INTJs stand out by their combination of high introversion and openness, leading to their quiet, meditative curiosity and interest in a wide variety of new experiences.

But INTJs are also rare in their unusual blend of conscientiousness with lower agreeableness. INTJs can become deeply engaged in difficult, long-term pursuits, and often display impressive self-discipline and focus, sometimes at the expense of others.

However, not all INTJs are alike, and personality types are generally a poor way to describe the personality of a single individual. To learn about your own unique personality, you can try the free personality test here at TraitLab.


Header photo by Arif Riyanto on Unsplash

Greg Park
Greg Park

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