In this episode of the Recruitment Hackers Podcast, Max interviews Heather Myers, Chief Psychology Officer at Traitify. They delve into the world of psychological assessments, dispelling misconceptions on what a good or bad personality is. There isn’t. It just depends on what’s needed for the job, whether it be meticulousness and comfort with the repetitive or an eagerness for new experiences, there’s a job to match.
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Welcome to the Recruitment Hackers podcast. A show about innovations, technology and leaders in the recruitment industry brought to you by the leading recruitment automation platform.
Max: Hello, welcome back to the recruitment hackers podcast. I'm your host max. And today on the show I've got Heather Myers from Traitify. A company which gets inside the head of candidates and finds out what their psychology is made of. And Heather will tell us all about that and more welcome to the show, Heather.
Heather: Thanks, max. It's great to be here. Thanks for having me, Dr. Myers, should I call you doctor? You can call me. Heather is fine. I am doctor Heather Myers, but Heather's good.
Max: Okay. I'll stick to Heather. But for the audience out there Dr. Myers has got a PhD in psychology and statistics, so you've got the perfect background for this company. Tell us about your life pre Traitify. Where do you come from? How did you put this PhD to good use?
Heather: Sure. Well, I actually grew up in Pennsylvania. And when I was a kid, my friends used to call me the marriage counselor.
So I kinda knew from an early age that I wanted to go into psychology. Immediately I thought that was going to be therapy. It turns out though, when I actually got to College at Carnegie Mellon, went to university. I realized that I actually really liked research psychology and understanding kind of what makes people tick.
And then I went to Stanford for my graduate work and within a personality psychology program there, which I found really fascinating. And I actually got along with the PhD. I got the master's degree in statistics, so I have a master's degree in statistics. And so there, I found that the combination of psychology and statistics was amazing because a lot of people are afraid of statistics, but when you're not afraid of statistics and you really like it, you're so much better at evaluating the research that people put out and that you can see. So that's always been a passion of mine merging the two. And I did a lot of consulting.
A lot of helping people actually do. Figure out how to do research and analyze that that and understand it and define what variables they were looking for. So I did a lot of that. I have a couple of kids, I mostly stayed home with them and did consulting. And then I heard about Traitify through actually one of my professors from Carnegie Mellon who was, you know, knew some people who work there and she called me and said, Hey, they really are looking for someone to kind of up there statistics kind of prove their validity, reliability, those kinds of things. And that's how I got connected to Traitify. And for me, it's my dream job because it's the perfect combination of my psychology, the personality piece, statistics, all of it together.
So that's how I ended up here.
Max: Amazing. Yeah, I yeah, your, your resume looks. Yeah. It's just like the perfect match. Like actually we don't need to do a psychological assessment in your case, we just read your resume and match you directly to that company.
Heather: It's true. It is kind of dreamlike. I mean, and I think initially, you know, when I first started talking to them, it was really more around the statistics.
So you know, once I started doing some consulting for them, then it was like, also, I have a PhD in personality psychology, so it was like, wait, what? So when we kind of expanded and I started working full time, then I was able to put really my full skill set to use. Yeah.
Max: That's the beauty of a startup life. People are quite an opportunistic. They take advantage of who happens to accidentally come into their employment.
Heather: Absolutely. For sure.
Max: But from the little you've said, I can sort of glean that you were able to earn your living on the masters of statistics more than on the PhD of psychology.
Heather: I would say that's true. I mean, the PhD part helped when it came to teaching people how to do the research because that I didn't get through the statistics when teaching them how to better design studies. But the statistics is the piece that most people know that they don't have. They don't know, they don't understand research.
That's just kind of, they just don't know. They don't know, but they do know that they don't know statistics. So that was certainly a much easier in, when I was consulting for sure.
Max: All right. Well, tell us a little bit more about Traitify was my intro accurate when I said you helped to get inside the head of the candidates?
I don't think that's your official tagline.
Heather: It's not our official tagline now, but what we do is help understand personality. Right. So it's all about understanding the candidates better the way they see the world. So I think of personality as the lenses, through which we see the world and it doesn't equate to behavior, but it is linked to behavior, right?
So it's understanding more the way a person views the world, the kinds of environments they tend to like to work in, the types of people they tend to like to engage with, the way they communicate. So, all of those things are sort of something that you can have access to, if you really understand the personality. And it's really just helping to understand candidates better to help candidates understand themselves better and really you know, providing this, I think that the key to Traitify’s success has been doing all of this.
Personality, obviously isn't new and understanding it. And it's been used to kind of help make good fits, but where Traitify really stands out is the experience. So it's a fun engaging candidate experience, you know, really that mobile first, but it's also steeped in the science. And so we help both employers and candidates understand the candidate better and understand where there will be a good match.
Max: The exercise of assessing someone's personality is as old as recruitment is.
Heather: it is
Max: Pretty much based on first impressions. Well, face-to-face interviews, phone interview sometimes. This is the part that Traitify wants to replace, is to have a more scientific approach to that first impression.
Heather: That's right. And I wouldn't say necessarily mean replaced, so we don't want to replace all interviews. Right. But it is to get to replace that first impression. And it's true that if you think about a job and you think about having an interview, right. Who tends to do well in interviews?
Well, very clearly people who are extroverted. Right. Yeah, exactly. We do fine in interviews. But depending on the job that we're looking to fill, that may not be a plus when it comes to actually doing the job, but when we make a great first impression and so part of what this is allowing companies to do is to have a person fill out this assessment, have a sense of what their personality is, where they fall on various dimensions. So we use the model called the big five or the five factor model helping, which is really the most predictive model of performance in the workplace. You know, over the research in the last 50 years and we see where people are in these things. And so what kinds of environments are they probably likely to be good at?
What kinds of jobs are they likely to enjoy and be a good fit? Right. And so it's providing this impression that is really, instead of just what they happen to be good at in a 30 second interview, it's really getting a comprehensive view of sort of the way they see the world and the way their personality is constructed.
Max: The risk I suppose with applying this methodology at scale is that you're going to have a very uniform workforce, where if you're only hiring people on a certain psychological profile you may impact the diversity of thoughts and of cultures. So I'm sure this is a conversation you've had a hundred times with a hundred potential customers.
What's your take on you know, maintaining a diversity of thoughts post application.
Heather: That's great. And actually that, I'm so glad that you brought that up because it seems like that would be the case. And that's true. If you were really looking for one narrow ideal profile across an organization, but we aren't.
So the truth is that when you look at the profiles that we have and that we sort of put together, they tend to be role specific. So a specific job. Sometimes they're even regionally specific, depending upon requirements of different locations. We evaluate them and change them over time as new data comes in.
But they're also relatively broad. So we're not saying you have to be an extremely narrow range on each of these five dimensions to do well. They're relatively broad. But for example, in some roles, we know that people who are very low on a dimension, aren't going to do very well.
And in other roles, people who are very high are actually not going to do very well. Sometimes either the very highs or the very lows don’t. Right. So, and sometimes you need them to be a little higher, a little lower, but the range is relatively broad. And so you don't have people who are all exactly the same.
In fact, you have people who might be higher on one dimension and lower on another, when someone else's high on both. So you really do still end up with a diverse set of really that diversity of thoughts. You're not restricting it so much that you are you know, decreasing the likelihood that you'll have diversity of thought as well.
Max: Right. And I suppose your ideology and your personality are not the different constructs, right?
Heather: Absolutely. That's right. That's right. Yeah.
Max: And so to put things to illustrate this with examples you would want someone who is affable, extroverted to be in a customer facing role. You would want somebody who is organized and meticulous to be working on the backend, things like that.
Heather: That's right. That's right. So I say one of the ones that I think is super cool is if you're looking at sales positions, so that's one where there's sort of this curvilinear relationship between extroversion and performance.
So, if you have people who are too extroverted in sales positions, they spend too much time talking about themselves and like not listening to the customer. So they don't do exceptionally well. But if they're too low, they don't engage the potential customer either. So it's kind of, there's a sweet spot in the middle.
You need just enough and you can't have too much. So things like that are really fascinating.
Max: I've definitely met that sales guy before. I think I might've been that sales guy. And so what's a good job for somebody who's too extroverted for sales?
Heather: Well, that's a great question.
So actually extra real extroverts people who are like really extroverted are very good in roles where you often like leadership or kind of visionary roles where you need to like energize people and you need to get everybody on board and get them really excited. And, you know, things like being a CEO, right. Starting your own company. Because you need to get people on board with your vision, a life coach. There you go. Things like that. So, yeah. So there are rules like that, for example , that really capitalize on that.
Max: And it makes sense. I have a lot of my former sales team that moved on to go on leadership roles.
Cool. Well, I wanted to ask you a little bit about the format on how we're capturing information from candidates and text versus voice versus video. I believe that at Traitify to find you. You help to assess talent pools, which have a diversity of languages as well.
And because you're focused on personality, you do not want to put the non English first speakers at a disadvantage, and you're trying to make things a little bit easier for them through the use of image. Could you tell us more about that?
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. So really the goal is to just find out as much as you can about the candidate that's, you know, not dependent on their language, for example, or other factors that might make it more difficult for them to respond to a standard personality assessment. So how do we do that? We pair images and short captions. So there's still some texts to anchor what you're supposed to look at within the image. We also have it translated into a number of languages depending upon what customer needs are.
And what you find then is that… So several people in my family have really bad dyslexia, for example. And so taking a standard personality assessment is really painful for them. Because it's like, by the time you get to the end of the sentence, you can't remember what was in the beginning and there's a lot of conditionality and it's just, it's harder.
So this makes it easier for that kind of thing. Right. And it's also more fun, more engaging, and it's just, so we're going more for a gut response. We're not asking you to rate it on a longer scale where they're seven points and you have to say it's very, very much like me or not very much like me and for some people that can be a little harder.
But we're really trying to get people to just sort of go with their gut. Go through quickly, look at the images, look at the short caption and really have a sense of, you know, kind of who they are across the assessment. So the way that you respond to any one image, isn't going to drastically change your results, right?
It's a pattern of responding across it. And I think what we do is make that so much more fun, so much more engaging, and it allows people to just kind of. You know, do it relatively quickly. And you know, not rely a whole lot on a lot of reading. And it's in the language that they speak. And so it just gives us, I think, a more accurate picture of their personality than if you had all of those other kind of confounding factors.
Max: Are there a lot of concerns from candidates that what are you going to do with the profile? Do you get a lot of like requests GDPR type requests? Like we want to please delete my information? I'm perceiving this as it's a gamified experience where perhaps you're giving them something fun to play with for a few minutes.
And so it's not intrusive.
Heather: Yeah, we don't have very much of that. Honestly, very rarely will we have a candidate coming and asking questions. Occasionally and it's funny, they tend to have a psych background and it's more of an interest in how we did the tool, which is kind of funny. But we don't get that often for sure.
And I think in part, it's sort of a fun experience, we do offer, and some people do give this a candidate report that you can give your candidates about their personality that just sort of describes them and talks about kind of what some of their strengths are, which I think some candidates really like as feedback for sure.
And some organizations choose to offer that and some don't, but I think in general people don't, you know, it hasn't really been something that seems to put people off. And our completion rates are very high. I mean, we have 96% completion rates, you know, for most of the candidates who start taking the assessment.
Max: And how long is the average duration of assessments?
Heather: It's like somewhere between 90 seconds and two minutes. So it's pretty quick. Yeah, so it's a very quick assessment, so that helps as well. You know, obviously some people take their time, take a little longer. Some people just go through it more quickly, but yeah, on average, it's still very quick.
Max: Did you find that the requested personalities and the personality traits that succeed in a remote work culture are going to be different than in an office environment? And has that already trickled down to I mean I believe that a remote workforce requires people who can write well and who are a little bit more autonomous and things like that. And of course you have good internet connections beyond that can you add a layer to those comments?
Heather: Yeah. I mean, I think that, so we've been looking at that over time and across our organizations, as some of them have shifted from completely in-person to completely online now, remotely. Others have stayed sort of hybrid approach.
There are certainly some things that make it easier. Some personality traits, if you have them like, you know, being high in conscientiousness, like making sure you get things done that generally is associated with success period in a job. But now when it's work from home, there's that accountability piece.
But you know, it's interesting a lot of the work that we've done around work from home has been less about what specific types of people will succeed and more around what can you do as an organization to help all of your people succeed? You know, based on their personality. Right. So what do you do when you have the people who are a little lower on conscientiousness, how do you help them ucceed in a work from home environment? And so we've been writing some materials around that and things that people can do.
So I would say that in some of our clients we've seen a shift and in many of them, we haven't really yet seen a shift in terms of what the profile should be. You know, having like now we suddenly want to look for this versus that
Heather: And it may just be that we haven't quite had enough data over the time to really see that yet.
Max: Yeah. It's not like the remote worker thing is new, people have been working from home forever and ever. I talked to many people who've come on this show. No, like, I don't know what's up with the news that I've been doing remote for the last 20 years, what’s new? Nothing.
But we're knowledge workers and the majority of the workers are not knowledge workers still. Or maybe are, at the starts a little bit of knowledge workers. I don't know what that category is called. And I guess the majority of your volume is coming from jobs that require physical presence.
Heather: Many. Yes. Many of them are that's right. Many of them are call centers, for example, that don't, that have moved to all remote. And actually I'm analyzing some data for one of them. And now to see if we've seen any shifts, so stay tuned. But yeah. What were you saying, Max? I’m sorry, you asked the question at the end there.
Max: Yeah. What was the after this year of torment what were the industries that performed well overall and that think they have a bright future in 2021?
Heather: Yeah. I think it's still shifting in I mean, obviously as we all know, the hospitality industry has just been decimated.
So that's for sure been really challenging. I think, you know, a lot of, even things like restaurant chains some of which do well, depending on what state they're in or what country they're in and others, not so much certainly places where we've seen growth or things like warehouse packaging, kinds of roles people who are working in warehouses, right?
Obviously delivery services, those kinds of things. Other kinds of retail have done very well. People have nothing else to do, but shop online if they have the money to do so. And even if they don't the stores that provide the essentials, right. That you have to have like food. So I think those kinds of services have done very well and probably will continue to do so.
Max: Yeah, I heard those salaries keep going up for our warehouse and packaging roles. And it's becoming harder and harder to hire for these roles in spite of the high unemployment. Yeah. That resonates with you. What's the dream psychology for somebody working in a warehouse? Because for me, I don't care. I just want them to be big and strong, is that outdated?
Heather: Well, but they have to be there, so they have to be dependable. Right? So you want them to be dependable. You can probably things like introversion, extroversion, you probably have a wide range if they're going to be working by themselves a lot, though, that might drive an extrovert absolutely crazy. If they have a bunch of people to work with. So it a little bit depends on, you know, the environment. And there are things like agreeableness, right? Like how likely are you to think about what other people need? So if you're working by yourself, it probably doesn't much matter. But if you're in some sort of, you know, no con not like you have to work cooperatively with other people in the warehouse, then you probably should be a little bit higher on that.
So, yeah. Again, it sort of depends on, cause we've seen, look, we have a couple of different warehouses that we've done profiles for and sometimes they're different, depending on what the environment is and kind of how you work within that warehouse. But certainly someone, what is consistent, you want someone who's pretty high on conscientiousness.
And oftentimes you want someone who's a little lower on what we call openness to experience, which is that sort of intellectual curiosity, needing to do things differently all the time and be visionary and super creative. Doesn't always do particularly well in a warehouse where you often have to do the same task and you have to do them right. And over and over again, you probably want someone who's a little lower in that dimension.
So, those are sort of the, the key things really that higher conscientiousness, maybe some mid range, lower openness. And then beyond that it just depends on the environment and whether or not you're working with people or not.
Max: That is very insightful.
Heather: It might be more information than you wanted, but you know,
Max: I'm interested, I’ve never thought of it that way. Like you know, Oh, I would want to ask somebody who is low on openness. I mean, it's never crossed my mind, but yeah, it makes a lot of sense. If I were to do that through an interview question, I don't even know where I would begin.
Heather: Obviously you don't want to have a leading question. Like how low are you on openness? That's right. So we have some interview questions actually that go along with the results of our assessment, which helps that are personality based. But for things like openness, when you, when you're really trying to get at low openness, what you really are asking are you someone who's comfortable with routine, right?
Are you someone who's a little more rigid? Like, do you like to be able to do you know when you have like a set series of instructions or. You know, an outline, a checklist, like it's the checklist manifesto lover, right? It's a person who has checklists and likes to follow them, make sure they're right. And is okay repeating the same tasks every day they go into work. Right. How much variety do they need?
So I always say, for example, like quality control is often the way that I think of someone who's a little lower on openness. Because they're okay doing the same thing over and over. And usually it's paired with a higher conscientiousness.
Right. Cause they want to do it. They want to do it. Right. But they don't mind the monotony. And that's really kind of the thing, like there's something fulfilling to them about doing it the same way, knowing how they're going to do it. So you don't have to overthink it and doing it the right way. Exactly.
I can see that also being applied in a non, I don't mean that to be demeaning. I think that I've been to the studios of artisans in Japan, where they used to make the same clay pots over and over again, you know, passed on from generation to generation.
It blew my mind, like, how could you do this? Like, I would go completely insane.
Heather: Exactly. Right. And that's the thing about personality, it's so funny. I feel like as a society. We're super judgmental about people who are, you know, higher, low on specific dimensions, like at the U.S we are like are extroverts, right.
And we kind of diminish introverts, but really introverts are really good listeners and they like, don't talk unless they have something important to say. So there are these things where it's like being high or low is not necessarily good or bad. It just depends. On what needs to happen. Right. So there's no such thing as a bad personality, right.
It just depends on what needs to happen within that role. We all have the bias of hiring people who are a little bit more like us.
Heather: Oh, we totally do. Absolutely. The “just like me bias” as we call it. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Totally.
Max: Well lots to think about and I think I'd like to have your back on the show at some point to talk about how to interview specific job types because that's a series we'll be launching, I've already, I think we've gained a lot here on how to interview the warehouse folks.
What's the best way to get a hold of you, Heather? People get in touch with you if they have if they want to talk to you about all of this or about Traitify. Yeah, absolutely. You can find me email is always great on firstname.lastname@example.org, but I also have a LinkedIn and Twitter. And now you're going to ask me for my handles, which I can't remember.
You'll have to edit this out. Hold on. I've done that before. Anyway, you can find those and put those in, but I think it's Heather M Y E R S. We'll put the links in the show notes.
Thank you very much for joining the conversation today and yeah. Opening our minds on the beauty of diversity in psychology and the fact that we should be looking for our opposites and in some instances anyway, that's right.
Heather: Thank you, max. It was wonderful to be here. Thanks for having me. And I look forward to coming back again.
Max: That was Dr. Heather Myers from Traitify sharing with us some of the methodology behind Traitify of technology that allows us to assess personality within 60 to 90 seconds, a few minutes. Pretty cool stuff and some interesting insights on how you hire for a position, which is quite repetitive, such as working in a warehouse and what kind of characteristics and personality to look for and how to ask for those questions.
I got a lot out of it as I hope you have too, and if you want to hear more we'll be doing more on how to interview different professions in the coming weeks, coming months. And what we'd love for you to come back, to listen to more, please follow us on your. Favorite podcast platform and share with your friends.