Given that prosocial personality traits and self-regulation are among the employability skills sought by employers, the current study aimed to analyze anti/prosocial personality and self-regulation sources of dispositional employability. Narcissism is the most significant predictor of dispositional employability, together with low HH modesty. HH modesty correlates with DT more than any other HH facet , which may explain this. Narcissism tends to overuse character strengths, except modesty . Narcissism positively predicted all employability dimensions and HH modesty predicted three. The results shed more light on the cultural universality of narcissism as a positive predictor of employability . Partial and full mediation of BAS drive (motivation to follow one's goals) supported narcissism and low modesty predictions. On average it added 46% to the explained variance of predicted employability. The results confirm that a strong need for success, related to career exploration, is significant for narcissistic personalities .
But BAS drive was not a significant mediator for all the analyzed predictors. Psychopathy negatively predicted two employability dimensions (work/career resilience, work identity), and Machiavellianism positively predicted one employability dimension (work identity) . BAS drive did not support these predictions. Neither did it support predictions by LT humanism. Psychopathy (callousness and impulsivity), the negative predictor of employability, is the opposite of LT humanism (valuing the dignity and worth of each individual). Showing respect for others predicts employability, regardless of goal achievement orientation. Workplace dignity can enhance employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention . Respect for one’s dignity results from the notion that we are autonomous beings, capable of being ruled by self-given moral laws , in other words, be autonomous . For people who are not driven by a goal but with higher levels of LT humanism, the workplace with respect for autonomy and dignity can be very attractive.
LT faith in humanity, with an average BAS drive contribution of 23.5%, predicted openness to changes at work and work/career resilience. In other words, believing in the fundamental goodness of humans, and goal orientation, predicts receptiveness, willingness to change, optimism about change, and future career. LT faith in humanity can be an effective trait for workers in demanding dynamic work environments (e.g., sales positions), where optimistic expectations relate to increased motivation and superior achievements , or in the academic field [77, 78]. The connection between optimism and achievement orientation is crucial here. People with high LT faith in humanity and goal orientation can be attracted to the work fields of high demands that require resilience and openness to change.
HH fairness (avoiding fraud and corruption), with an average BAS drive contribution of 31%, predicted career motivation (setting work/career-related goals), work/career resilience (optimism about future career), and work identity (defining oneself in terms of the organization, job, profession, or industry). As employers seek ethical behavior skills and moral integrity [2, 3, 79], it is crucial they focus on their attraction and retention tools. Employability plays a role in the voluntary turnover process. People high in employability have a lower turnover rate because they see more opportunities within the organization than do employees with low employability . Regarding the current results, an ethically and morally integrated, goal-oriented employee is primarily focused on planning their future career. Therefore, such employees need support for their professional and personal growth and in planning their future careers. Nadelson  analyzed educational institutions that developed ethical and moral behavior in students. Besides other recommendations (like role modeling), she recommended developing ethical and moral behavior in students by fostering their personal growth. Akaah and Lund  pointed out that there is a significant relationship between organizational values and the ethical conduct of marketing employees.
Kantianism and HH sincerity did not predict employability. People who score high in HH sincerity are unwilling to manipulate others. Kantianism is defined as “treating people as ends unto themselves, not as mere means to an end”, which is the opposite of Machiavellianism  (p. 7). The tendency not to manipulate other people does not seem relevant in predicting employability, even in the context of behavioral activation towards goals. Similarly to Machiavellianism, HH sincerity and LT Kantianism appear irrelevant in employability predictions . Thus, the current study contributes to existing knowledge on weak relationships between Machiavellianism and perceived employability that may be culturally universal.
If we disregard narcissism, the dark traits (psychopathy, Machiavellianism) repeatedly predicted only one employability dimension – work identity. It relates to a genuine interest in others’ impressions . If we disregard HH modesty, then prosocial traits (HH fairness, LT humanism) most often repeatedly predicted three employability dimensions: career motivation, work/career resilience, and work identity. Prosocial characteristics are more complex when it comes to predicting employability dimensions (with or without BAS drive contribution), and they affect more aspects of employability than simply dark traits. Nonetheless, their impact is not as strong as that of narcissism/low HH modesty.
Narcissism is typically found in grandiose self-promoters who continually crave attention . People with a low HH modesty think they are superior and entitled to privileges that others do not have . People with high narcissism and low modesty make a great impression on others [84, 85]. Their tendency to make a good impression may explain higher employability. Narcissism or low HH modesty, supported by BAS drive are the strongest predictors of employability. But it is not the narcissism or HH modesty that makes the self-presentation impressive. It is the skill of self-presentation and presentation skills that generally impress others. It is self-presentation that matters. Basic personal presentation, assertiveness, confidence, verbal presentation, and basic interpersonal and communication skills are included in individual factors – employability skills and attributes, according to McQuaid and Lindsay . Guilbert et al.  recommend developing social, linguistic, and paraverbal skills that enable vulnerable people to behave adequately with their future employers. Self-presentation skills are known as one of the crucial antecedents of employability . We suggest that for people with high modesty and low narcissism, developing self-presentation skills can increase their employability. Orientation toward self-presentation and goal achievement positively predicts employability dimensions.
To attract and retain ethical and moral employees, employers could use tools to encourage future career planning and personal and organizational growth [80, 81]. Developing learned optimism in prosocial young adults could aid adaptability to organizational changes . These recommendations are valid in the context of personal goal orientation. Looking beyond BAS drive (activation toward goal), young people’s employability could be developed through respect and preservation of human dignity .
In the current research model, we examined all rather stable personality and employability factors, raising the question of how we could affect employability effectively. Although we examined the individual level of employability, employability is generally understood as the broader concept . Broader concept of employability includes individual factors (employability skills and attributes, demographic characteristics, health and well-being, job seeking, adaptability, and mobility), personal factors (household circumstances, work culture, access to resources), and external factors (demand factors, enabling support factors). All dynamic parts of the employability system are open for development. For example, Guilbert et al.  define employability as “the possibility to access a suitable job or to remain employed, resulting from the dynamic and evolving interactions between governmental and educational policies, organizational strategy, individual characteristics, and the social, economical, cultural and technological context (p. 85).“ For employability development, all these contexts create opportunities. Our talents are nothing without effective ways of behavior, and everybody needs to develop employability skills in the time of huge technological, information, and environmental changes that society currently lives in. A high level of disposition can not save anybody without proper work and training. On the other side, working skills/experience contribute to predicting work performance, besides stable features . The theory of social learning  can bring the inspiration to the development of dispositional defined employability models. The current study can point out the possible employability environments attractive to high/low goal-oriented people with specific dark/light profiles.
The results of the current study indicate that some of the behavioral and personality characteristics of dark traits, namely narcissism, can relate to positive outcomes, for example, in employability. The research revealed some positive features of narcissism too. Compared to psychopathy and Machiavellianism, narcissism overuses character strengths (apart from modesty). Underuse and overuse of character strengths can result in negative outcomes in addition to the socially valued positive aspects . Narcissism is associated with a positive mental attitude as an indicator of pro-health behaviors . People with high narcissistic trait claim to invest less effort in reaching their goals, although they invest not less but the same amount as other people do. In poor performance, they argue with a lack of effort rather than a lack of ability. They would benefit more from considering all objective feedback to improve their self-regulation . But what lessons can we take from them? That it can be beneficial for us to be motivated by future aspirations than by past performance. It is good to invest more effort when the results are publicly evaluated, although some successful people say they invested only a small amount of effort.
Future research implications
Even if employers do not seek dark traits in employees, some of the strategies adopted by dark personalities, underlined by goal orientation, are very successful in predicting employability. Generally, DTs predict work/career identity, focusing on making an impression on others. Narcissism predicted the most career/work resilience, which relates to an optimistic view of the future. Regarding these results, future analyses could focus on whether interventions in the form of strengthening self-image , self-presentation skills , presentation skills , or learned optimism  contribute to employability.
BAS drive contributed to the prediction of dispositional employability by HH fairness, HH modesty, LT faith in humanity, and narcissism. Behavior activation through BAS drive helps to increase employability where there is a tendency to attract attention and impress others (modesty and narcissism), avoid fraud and corruption (fairness), and to believe in the fundamental goodness of humans (faith in humanity) [11, 63, 83]. But it contributed most to predictions of employability by narcissism and modesty.
Other typical employability competencies include self-awareness , which can generally be developed through mindfulness . Future research could explore the role of mindfulness in the employability of prosocial personalities. The use of mindfulness to foster university student employability  is based on the premise that developing coping strategies makes it easier for students to cope with job search stress and thereby enhances their employability. Mindfulness is a protecting factor against automated and maladaptive behavior and increases self-determined autonomous regulation . Mindfulness also significantly mitigates aspects of emotional lability, such as neuroticism , and is recommended when training individuals with sensitive BIS . The relationship between prosocial behavior and emotional lability is limited and inconsistent and has yet to be unequivocally confirmed . For example, empathetic women focus more on BAS rewards, which is associated with prosocial behavior . They have a lower BAS drive and seek to secure rewards through prosocial behavior, specifically empathy. Therefore, mindfulness could significantly contribute to employability, especially in prosocial personalities with high emotional lability, BIS, or low BAS drive.
The study has several limitations. Convenient sampling was used for the data selection process and so the results are not representative. The results are valid for the sample of Slovak university students investigated. Nonetheless, they align with those of researchers  who measured employability using different instruments on samples of different nationalities and support their validity. The research sample consisted of young adults at university. Although they may have had work experience, their focus was on their studies. Therefore, the results may be valid for students or graduates, but not undergraduates working/experienced adults, or adults without a university education.
We considered only two control variables (age and gender). However, many other variables that impact openness to organizational change may influence the examined associations, e.g., the need for achievement . The need for achievement could have impacted the results, especially because the participation in the research was voluntary, which suggests that selection bias may be present. Peeters et al.  did not confirm any significant control variables among age, gender, educational level, contract type, or job level on perceived validity. Because of that, they reported results without control variables. In the next research, it would be beneficial to control the effect of various variables on dispositional employability.
The analysis did not include the employability facet of work/career proactivity because it had a non-standard distribution. The role of pro/antisocial traits and self-regulation in predicting work/career proactivity remains unclear. Some variables had lower internal consistency (e.g., modesty α = 0.55; ω = 0.57), although still higher than in the Slovak standardization sample (N = 1624; α = 0.53) . Other research examining employability and dark traits  in Belgian, Swiss, and Togo samples faced these same issues.
The research design was cross-sectional. All the data were collected from the same sample at the same time. Given the novelty of research aim, we decided to focus on cross-sectional approach for obtaining initial results in an area with little or no empirical knowledge .
Prosociality and self-regulation were shown to be significant predictors of dispositional employability. Despite not being required by employers, dark traits, namely narcissism, play a significant role in predicting employability. As a factor of self-regulation, BAS drive was the common source of dispositional employability, regardless of pro- or antisociality. Prosocial behavior significant for employability is showing respect to people, believing in the goodness of people, and avoiding fraud and corruption. The results provide higher education institutions and employers with an argument for developing self-presentation competencies in goal-oriented prosocial personalities. Employers could attract and retain goal-oriented prosocial employees by setting the right organizational values, providing learned optimism training, and supporting their personal and professional growth.