Why Some Job Postings Attract Psychopaths

Only about 1% of people would be classified as psychopaths.

But in some jobs and professions, the numbers are much higher.


How much higher? We don’t really know.

Without an intensive interview conducted by a trained professional, we can’t really diagnose a psychopath.

That type of research is rare in the professional world, and the sample sizes typically aren’t large enough to draw strong conclusions.


On the other hand, survey research can’t actually diagnose anyone, but it can tell us which jobs and professions are most likely to attract psychopaths.

That’s a good starting point.



What the surveys show

According to one of the largest surveys to date, the top 10 professions for psychopaths are:

  1. CEO
  2. Lawyer
  3. Media (TV/radio)
  4. Sales
  5. Surgeon
  6. Journalist
  7. Police
  8. Clergy
  9. Chef
  10. Civil Servant


And the top 10 professions with the least psychopaths are:

  1. Home care
  2. Nurse
  3. Therapist
  4. Craftsperson
  5. Stylist
  6. Charity worker
  7. Teacher
  8. Artist
  9. Doctor (non-surgeons)
  10. Accountant


What does this mean?

The lists do seem to confirm a few common stereotypes.

But psychopathy is really just lacking the capacity to feel empathy, fear, and regret.

Is that the only thing about these professions that would attract a certain type of person?


It makes more sense when we consider that there are 2 other highly related personality traits: Machiavellianism and Narcissism.

Machiavellians do whatever it takes to get the job done. (No matter how unethical).

Narcissists are the best in their field, and highly motivated to gain the status, prestige, and recognition they deserve. (Or, at least that’s how they see themselves).


People with more of these traits are also more likely to be psychopaths.

To put it simply, jobs can indirectly attract more psychopaths by appealing to their Machiavellianism and/or Narcissism.


Imagine trying to write a job posting that would attract more psychopaths.

What would you say? You don’t have to discuss psychopathic traits at all.

Perhaps you are looking for someone:

  • Ambitious, motivated, driven
  • Willing to do whatever it takes
  • A natural leader, has the ability to take charge


Think about that the next time you look at a job posting.

Even if it isn’t directly asking for candidates that don’t feel empathy, fear, or regret, it just might be attracting them all the same.




Image credits: Daniel Zimmermann, JD Hancock

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