How to Choose an Ideal Husband or Wife (for Your Career)

For an ambitious, career-ladder climber, what sort of person makes the best mate? The human heart is not known for being coldly calculating, but pretend, for a moment, that it could be. What personality traits should be preferred?

One no-brainer is finding someone who is conscientious. Conscientiousness is one of the so-called “big five” personality traits, which are fairly measurable and stable. (The other four are extraversion, agreeableness, openness and neuroticism.)

Researchers Brittany Solomon and Joshua Jackson analyzed data from over 4,500 married people and found that of the big five, only conscientiousness had a meaningful impact on the other spouse’s job satisfaction, income and likelihood of being promoted. Regardless of their gender, partners who are reliable, organized and hard-working are an asset, perhaps because they take on more housework.

They may even serve as role models for their spouses. Whatever the cause, the effect is measurable: Andrew O’Connell, writing about these findings for Harvard Business Review, notes that for every one standard deviation increase in a partner’s conscientiousness, their lucky spouse was likely to earn $4,000 more a year.