In this episode of the Recruitment Hackers Podcast (the second in our assessment series) Joshua Spears, Chief Product Officer at Traitify dives into their product, especially designed for high volume hiring with a strong focus on the retail industry. The Traitify test follows a 90 second personality model, based on visuals to give employers human insights on potential candidates. Plus, they also offer a cognitive assessment to determine mental ability.
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MAX: Hello and welcome back to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. I'm your host Max Armbruster and today I've got a special guest in Joshua Spears, the Chief Product Officer for Traitify. I got to know Traitify you may recall from a previous episode when I interviewed Dr. Heather Myers, who's their head psychologist, and Traitify has established itself as one of the leading automated assessment solutions for the high volume retail, maybe blue-collar as well. And, Josh agreed to come on and we're recording this on the video to show us the platform in action so we can get a look and feel for it. So thanks, Josh, for joining.
JOSHUA: Yeah, Max. Great to be here, thanks for having me.
MAX: Great to have you and looking forward to seeing Traitify in action. I've heard that it's a visual experience that you use images to determine the psychology of candidates so that you're going to establish culture fit, although I may use some dangerous words I don't know, maybe you'll describe it better than I do.
JOSHUA: Yeah, I think you're close to about 90% there, I think. Certainly, we describe ourselves as a visual assessment in terms of how we collect this data that we use in our platform, as we can look at how we describe ourselves who would see ourselves as a human insights platform. So, we're helping organizations particularly high volume hourly organizations find best-fit talent, based on a 90-second personality assessment. We've also now introduced a cognitive assessment that measures general mental ability and, having been at this for quite some time, started the company back in 2011, myself and my co-founder and CEO Daniel Sines, and really started as a B2C company. So I actually had in 2010 moved back here to Baltimore Maryland where I'm originally from, from California where I went to university, and kind of in the process of moving back, Dan and I started a small social media management company for small businesses that try to help them kind of understand how to use social platforms to better reach clients and customers and that saw that there was this huge gap in kind of how those organizations and platforms were helping these businesses to personalize and reach out to clients who will ultimately be a good fit for them. So from that business eye if you're seeing that and then personally I was actually set up on a blind date, and had a very tough time figuring out what to do when to state with this person that I was set up with, and ultimately there was not a connection and it kind of burned but as a result, I came back to Dan and I said you know it'd be really interesting if we built a platform that could learn about a user's personality, and take that data and kind of combine it with whomever they were going in and doing an experience with and then recommend something for them to do, so 2011 that's really what we started out to do is develop a system to collect personality data and then recommend things to do almost like a Google or a Yelp, that kind of personality filter layered on that. As we sat down in the room and started to kind of develop this platform. I remember we had three huge whiteboards and we're kind of mapping out all the data that we wanted to collect as part of this system, and it became very apparent to us quickly that there was no way we could kind of go down the traditional path of some survey or form field and have users kind of volunteer this information, and both Dan and I are designers by trade, so we are very visual, very creative people so we had this kind of
interesting lightly crazy concept of, well, what if we gave a series of images, as the users interact with these images and based on that we collect the data. So that's what we did, we created the system whereby we'd show an image with a caption, and there would be a very simple input 'me or not me' so the user could go through and just identify, whether or not this image was them essentially.
JOSHUA: In the early days, it was an infinite amount of images. We had 1000s of images on, it was actually really interesting, on average, in each session, a user would go through over 100 images, or they would just go through and kind of interact with. When we grew that application.
MAX: It's so easy, right, because we scroll images all day long on Instagram on social media and so.
JOSHUA: Yeah, and I'll give ourselves a little bit of credit here. We actually felt that I believe it was prior to Instagram's launch and certainly prior to Tinders. Sure, we could get a lot of comparisons to Tinder but that's really where the origin comes from.
MAX: That's where it could have gone, Josh.
JOSHUA: Yes, that's where it could have gone and maybe one day we'll get back to that. It's been an interesting evolution and ultimately that led us to get into the college university workforce board space and kind of help students find their career path using our unique assessment. We did pretty quickly bring in a psychologist because obviously Dan and myself are not psychologists, so we brought in psychoanalysts very early on to help us kind of imbue the system with science, and then over the years, we've grown our team of psychologists pretty substantial as you mentioned, Heather.
MAX: That's quite a unique foundation right, a tech company with two designers and some psychologists.
MAX: It's not how you would typically build a software business.
JOSHUA: And often not how you typically build an assessment company, two guys who were designers and didn't really have a strong background in psychology but I think that unique kind of perspective led to a pretty novel solution.
MAX: Yeah, well, the image component also has an appeal for workforces that way you do not want to discriminate for language expertise right. If you're having jobs that do not require a great command of the English language but that require stronger values and virtues, personality traits, then the image really makes sense for that purpose. And I guess it makes sense you're saying from an engagement perspective like people are just clicking away, and so you can get a lot of data points that way. Is there another angle to the image story
JOSHUA: It certainly began as a quicker, more efficient way to collect this data, and it was almost a coincidence that we actually kind of stumbled into developing something that was a reliable and valid measure of personality. Originally, that was not the aim of what we're building. We simply wanted to create something where people could get this information to us more easily. But it turns out that images are a much more efficient way to collect data, and humans process images 60,000 times faster than text, and in particular in this market that we're operating in the high volume hourly space. We've seen customer after customer tell us that they, in the past, had to give up on assessments because they had these very long form assessments that took upwards of 10 minutes or more.
MAX: Oh yeah, way more.
JOSHUA: Some cases even 20 minutes that were leading to a tremendous drop off in the funnel, so they just couldn't use those. So now that we've kind of created something that can be done in 90 seconds they can introduce that, not have any drop off we have above 95% completion rates, and still leverage that great data to help their team.
MAX: I love that, shortening attention span and improving the conversion rates. When people look at solutions like HireVue or like you said, a long assessment process where you need to spend 15 minutes 20 minutes in front of a computer. They sound great from a recruiter standpoint but if you're an employer who is competing for attention in a market where the candidates don't know you and have a lot of choices.
MAX: Then I think that that's really killing your recruitment marketing, and that's why these solutions do not transfer well, so that the space that becomes available for you right is like the speed component became strong.
JOSHUA: Yeah the speed component certainly and we've now kind of expanded the offering from just the core kind of pre-hire assessment space to also being used top of funnel for engagement and for personalization of communication to the top poll and then also post in there so, using all this great data that's been collected as part of the Apply process to help engage and develop employees because we've seen a tremendous impact on turnover and retention due to an organization using pre hire but still have that issue of now that you've made the hire how do you keep that person engaged and growing in the role. In a particularly high volume hourly space that is a huge problem is, we traditionally have been underserved in recruiter's eyes and focus.
MAX: Right. Well, show us the money, show us the good, Josh. If it's only 90 seconds to get an assessment I feel like we're gonna have a pretty end-to-end demo. We'll be able to stay together for 90 seconds and pretend we're a candidate right.
JOSHUA: Yeah so traditionally or typically we would be integrated directly with our tracking system, so we integrated into belief now for twenty tracking systems with all the major vendors, and as a candidate is going through and filling out the requisite question that I'm looking at the resume, this would be in line. So again within 90 seconds which is miniaturizing alongside the rest of the steps in the application. So the candidate would just see a brief set of instructions, asking them to go to the assessment: answer 'me or not me', basically then they're directly in the assessment, so our science is based on the Big Five framework so this measures, openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and emotional stability. This is not our framework, it's something that's been around since the 1980s and is generally considered the gold standard in personality, so that's very very predictable.
MAX: It's so engaging, I am just captured by the images. I think they're very engaging pictures.
JOSHUA: Yeah, what's really interesting Max is we've actually seen the companies that we're working with who implemented the assessment. We've seen overall application rates decrease. And we believe that it's because the candidates going through the assessment actually are having a good time and engaging experience and are actually more inclined to then go assessments.
MAX: Tell me, you said these images were a profile, not generated by you.
JOSHUA: No, so our team does select the images. So we are based on this kind of long-standing framework and what our team does is, it's actually a unique kind of process between our psychology team, and our design team. So our psychologists will come up with several hundreds of concepts that they want to measure that will actually derive the personality components. So this assessment that I just went through has 73 images. When we first started developing it was over 300 images that we were testing.
MAX: Sorry to interrupt, now that we're looking at your results. I gotta ask, did you answer those questions honestly or randomly?
JOSHUA: No, I just went through randomly for the demo.
MAX: We're not looking at data about you, that's all.
JOSHUA: Yeah, so. But going back to the development questions. So yeah we went through a pretty rigorous process of developing the assessment, testing out many different concepts, many image capture errors, looking at things like endorsement rates so ideally, you want to select images and actions that kind of have an even distribution between folks who meet and not meet, so you don't want anything too steered. And then he actually does testing alongside traditional measures that we would administer our version of the Big Five frameworks against the traditional longer form version, and you're looking at what's going to get the conversion rate, so do those two assessments stand shoulder to shoulder, even though our measure is much shorter and we have a very very high rate of conversion. So, it is a very rigorous process. We validate our assessment, just like any other psychology process for our company with validated assessment, there's no even though the formatted obviously is much more engaging and much bigger.
MAX: Can a customer change the the images to pick images that are industry specific or is that going to be detrimental to the performance of the assessment?
JOSHUA: Yeah, so that's a great question and we do have clients who ask us to do that and we have done that in several circumstances. What you have to do when you switch any of the images, you just have to go through that process again to validate the assessment. So all the candidates have to state to ensure that the assessment is still measuring what it intended to measure and it still has to happen but once that happens, it kind of shows that it still works.
MAX: Okay, great. Well, we've seen the candidate experience, more or less I guess there's a couple of tips here.
JOSHUA: The only thing I'll say here Max is, what you're seeing here is actually a candidate report so we developed this last year. And really as a company I think is creating a great candidate experience and we saw that there is huge frustration from candidates in the Apply process. They often would go through and submit their application and then more or less went into this black hole they got no feedback. So what we've done is developed something that can be shared back with the candidate. So this is the report that you're seeing here so they can get information regarding their personality, what their strengths, weaknesses are. And then also what their scores are for the five dimensions of personality and what benefits are.
MAX: That's quite extensive, yeah. Can they print that and attach it to their resume?
JOSHUA: Yeah they can print it, they can share it via social media which actually is pretty interesting in that we've had clients use it and I've can share this actually pushing more candidates, which is a nice little unexpected benefit of that but yeah, again, just trying to create something that candidates can get back for all this.
MAX: So that's what the candidate sees and then on the recruiter side.
JOSHUA: Yes. So let me update this right now and show you the report and frequency. So again typically we're integrating directly into the tracking system.
MAX: Can you share with us some numbers on that new feature you just talked about that you released last year and like, how often do people share their score of assessments.
JOSHUA: Yeah, I think we're now around 60 to 70% of our clients who are actively sharing the candidate report with the candidates and another thing that we look at is what we call face validity. So we're actually asking candidates to give us feedback on their results, asking how closely their results will match their view of their personality, and we actually have over 90% of clients or candidates who are going through and saying, this is a good representation of me, which is really exciting. As I was saying with the ATS integrations, typically what we would send to an ATS is what we call a fit score, so that's a numerical score and shows how much of a fit candidate is relative to the role they're applying for, so we create a unique profile for each role. The candidate comes in with the combination of big five factors that should be with that role. We then send a text descriptor that is acceptable for that fit. And then finally the URL. The candidate. And that's what you're seeing here are Big Five hiring managers reports. So, when the hiring manager clicks on this they're able to get a kind of overall fit score, relative to the role, the candidates are applying for. They also see this fit breakdown so they're able to see across the five dimensions of personality, where the candidate falls, so the green cells are kind of the ideal range that you want to be in, yellow is acceptable and anything that is kind of a risk, or an area where you don't really see them hired So they kind of visually get the idea of what their strengths or weaknesses are.
MAX: I can sense the origin story when you were talking about your dating story.
MAX: Because of emotional stability, agreeableness, do look like traits that people rank each other for in the romantic field.
JOSHUA: That's true. Yeah, actually.
MAX: It's not always necessary as well to be a good retail employee.
JOSHUA: That's absolutely right.
MAX: Although you shouldn't date your cashier, without his or her consent.
JOSHUA: Absolutely, absolutely. And the Big Five actually has been shown to be predictive in a multitude of areas including relationships as well.
MAX: Why is the openness, read on the nine and ten for a retail worker, explain to us how there can be too much of a good thing here.
JOSHUA: Yes, so, openness is really like corresponding to someone's creativity, to them finding a novel approach to things and something that we've seen it's more looking at the kind of the research that has been done over many many decades. We have some in their role and they are too open, they actually will not do as well in roles that require them to kind of do the same thing over and over again, that's going to be something that will burn them out quickly because they are looking to be more creative. So it's actually really interesting because again when an interview occurs and you have someone who is very open and very extroverted you're like oh this is great. This is someone who's going to do well in the role but then when they go into the role it's something that, again, it's kind of the same actions and behaviors over and over again. So again, trying to let the data drive decisions as opposed to subjectivity.
MAX: Yeah, it's definitely better than telling your recruiters, we're looking for somebody who is uncreative which is not another good message but rather, someone who is not going to try to change things up constantly.
JOSHUA: That's right. So then, based on the scoring, we then would surface review questions in each of these responses based on the results of the candidate. We do kind of stack rank these based on any areas where there might be an issue. As you can see a candidate here marked as red, yellow and green, red obviously being an area that they fell into that was kind of risk, and then we will show questions. So, a major recruiter in terms of what they should be looking for and in as well. So trying again for the audiences hourly armed these managers with the tools and have an interview because often, I'm sure you know a lot of these folks aren't getting trained on how to interview or getting the resources trying to make.
MAX: Yeah, and you're not sourcing people here, so you're not fixing that side of the problem although maybe there's a bit of word of mouth that happens through this assessment and candidates referring their friends and things like that, but I suppose the main benefit for an employer would be to avoid making hiring mistakes, which is the most costly thing right.
JOSHUA: Very costly. So turning over attention is a huge metric for us also looking at things like performance. So we do our clients, kind of, the healthy hires, using that assessment as a form of hire has an impact on performances and also time to hire by helping recruiters and hiring managers to prioritize candidates are drastically running down.
MAX: Okay, great. Well, Josh, I promised not to keep you too long and to keep this as under 30 minutes under 20 minutes. So I think that'll be all the time we have, but you know the thing that stuck with me was how fast it was for the candidates. The fact that it really was engaging so I don't think you're gonna lose, you're gonna have a very high completion rate, I imagine. And the easy to consume content. I suppose based on your track record, it is based on millions of data points.
JOSHUA: Yeah, innovative approach, but founded based on very very strong, long standing science. So,it may look novel and look new age but it is something that is very exciting and very helpful.
MAX: Yeah, it's definitely more interesting for the candidate, than please upload your resume, and maybe more interesting for the recruiter too. Although, I suppose most of your customers will be merging this data that you're showing us with other data from the ATS or from the application process, then combining them to come with come up with a combined score.
JOSHUA: That's right, yeah, we do have the ability to kind of break our scoring into other factors that just gets better scores. But again this is just helped me kind of validate that crucial kind of skills or soft skills element that can be hard to get at. Someone can have all the right skills and kind of right resume for the job, and the soft skills part is also very important.
MAX: Cool. Great, well if you want some help on measuring some of the soft skills and psychology of your candidates you can reach, Joshua Spears, on LinkedIn as I did, or perhaps was the best way for them to get ahold of you.
JOSHUA: Yeah, just my email, firstname.lastname@example.org, and then our website is just traitify.com, and kind of feel free to reach out.
MAX: Awesome. Thanks, Josh, and thanks for showing us the goods.
JOSHUA: Thanks Max, appreciate it.