‘Compass’ matches people’s and job’s personality traits

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The hidden personality dimensions of different jobs could be the key to matching a person and their ideal occupation, according to new research.

The findings point to the benefit of not only identifying the skills and experience in a particular industry, but also being aware of personality traits and values that characterize jobs—and how they align with your own.

It’s long been believed that different personalities align better with different jobs, notes lead researcher Peggy Kern, an associate professor of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Positive Psychology.

“For example, sales roles might better suit an extraverted individual, whereas a librarian role might better suit an introverted individual,” says Kern. “But studies have been small-scale in nature. Never before has there been such large-scale evidence of the distinctive personality profiles that occur across occupations.”

The research team looked at more than 128,000 Twitter users representing over 3,500 occupations to establish that different occupations tended to have very different personality profiles. For instance, software programmers and scientists tended to be more open to experience, whereas elite tennis players tended to be more conscientious and agreeable.

Remarkably, many similar jobs grouped together—based solely on the personality characteristics of users in those roles. For example, one cluster included many different technology jobs such as software programmers, web developers, and computer scientists.

The research used a variety of advanced artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics approaches to create a data-driven “vocation compass”—a recommendation system that finds the career that is a good fit with our personality.

The researchers were able to “successfully recommend an occupation aligned to people’s personality traits with over 70% accuracy,” says coauthor Marian-Andrei Rizoui of the University of Technology Sydney.

“Even when the system was wrong it was not too far off, pointing to professions with very similar skill sets. For instance, it might suggest a poet becomes a fictional writer, not a petrochemical engineer.”

With work taking up most of our waking hours, Kern says many people want an occupation that aligns with who they are as an individual.

“We leave behind digital fingerprints online as we use different platforms,” Kern says. “This creates the possibility for a modern approach to matching one’s personality and occupation with an excellent accuracy rate.”

Finding the perfect job was a lot like finding the perfect mate, says coauthor Paul X. McCarthy, a professor of the University of New South Wales in Sydney. “At the moment we have an overly simplified view of careers, with a very small number of visible, high-status jobs as prizes for the hardest-working, best connected, and smartest competitors.

“What if instead—as our new vocation map shows—the truth was closer to dating, where there are in fact a number of roles ideally suited for everyone? By better understanding the personality dimensions of different jobs we can find more perfect matches.”

The researchers note that while the study used publicly available data from Twitter, the underlying vocation compass map could be used to match people using information about their personality traits from social media, online surveys, or other platforms.

“Our analytic approach potentially provides an alternative for identifying occupations which might interest a person, as opposed to relying upon extensive self-report assessments,” Rizoui says.

“We have created the first, detailed and evidence based multidimensional universe of the personality of careers—like the map makers of the 19th century we can always improve and evolve this over time.”

The research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: Lito Vilisoni Wilson for University of Melbourne