Trigger factor (TF) is a highly conserved multi-domain molecular chaperone that exerts its chaperone activity at the ribosomal tunnel exit from which newly synthesized nascent chains emerge. TF also displays promiscuous substrate binding for a large number of cytosolic proteins independent of ribosome binding. We asked how TF recognizes a variety of substrates while existing in a monomer–dimer equilibrium. Paramagnetic nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and electron spin resonance (ESR) spectroscopy were used to show that dimeric TF displays a high degree of structural polymorphism in solution. A series of peptides has been generated to quantify their TF binding affinities in relation with their sequence compositions. The results confirmed a previous predication that TF preferentially binds to peptide fragments that are rich in aromatic and positively charged amino acids. NMR paramagnetic relaxation enhancement analysis showed that TF utilizes multiple binding sites, located in the chaperone domain and part of the prolyl trans–cis isomerization domain, to interact with these peptides. Dimerization of TF effectively sequesters most of the substrate binding sites, which are expected to become accessible upon binding to the ribosome as a monomer. As TF lacks ATPase activity, which is commonly used to trigger conformational changes within molecular chaperones in action, the ribosome-binding-associated disassembly and conformational rearrangements may be the underlying regulatory mechanism of its chaperone activity.