Purpose A prominent labour market feature in recent decades has been the increase in abstract and service jobs, while the demand for routine work has declined. This article examines whether the components of Type A behaviour predict workers' selection into non-routine abstract, non-routine service and routine jobs. Design/methodology/approach Building on the work by Barricket al. (2013), this article first presents how the theory of purposeful work behaviour can be used to explain how individuals with different levels of Type A components sort into abstract, service and routine jobs. Then, using longitudinal data, it examines whether the components of Type A behaviour predict occupational sorting. Estimations were performed based on the linear regression method. Findings The results show that the Type A dimension "leadership" was associated with a higher level of abstract and service job tasks in occupation. High eagerness-energy and responsibility were also positively linked with occupation's level of abstract tasks. These results suggest that workers sort into jobs that allow them to pursue higher-order implicit goals. Originality/value Job market polarisation towards low-routine jobs has had a pervasive influence on the labour market during the past few decades. Based on high-quality data that combine prime working-age register information on occupational attainment with information about personality characteristics, the findings contribute to our knowledge of how personality characteristics contribute to occupational sorting in terms of this important job aspect.