New Job-Matching Tool Uses Personality Traits Rather Than Skills

Talify tests college students for personality, leadership, empathy, and more to help hiring managers make better recruiting decisions.

New Job-Matching Tool Uses Personality Traits Rather Than Skills
[PHoto; Flickr user Andy]

It’s a conundrum faced by scores of recent graduates: You can’t get a job without experience, but you need have a job to gain said experience. Internships can help, but nothing spells “qualified” on a resume better than an actual full-time position.


Which is why many graduates accept the first job they’re offered, regardless of fit. A report by advisory firm CEB found that as many as one in five graduates apply for jobs that aren’t a match for their interests. It’s no surprise that CEB also reports that a quarter of all graduates leave those positions within the first year.

The onus isn’t only on the job seekers. An overwhelming majority (95%) of companies admit to recruiting the wrong people each year. As employers are planning to hire about 15% more college graduates this year, according to a Michigan State University study, simply finding a person to fill the position is costly.

Michael Novack is the founder of Kiosite, a platform for matching job seekers to career opportunities. He points out that each vacant position costs the average firm about $9,000 in recruitment expenses alone. Although it varies by position, the cost of making a bad hire can be up to five times the amount of that person’s salary.

There had to be a better way to hire the right people and cut unnecessary expense. According to Novack’s estimates, there are 1.87 million students expected to graduate or look for internships this year, which puts the recruitment market to be over $20 billion.

So Kiosite launched Talify, a new platform that uses intelligence and data to match college students with the best fitting job opportunity. Talify officially launched on March 1, after conducting a pilot test for about 24 months limited to five campuses: Harvard, Duke, University of Pennsylvania, Washington University, and Vanderbilt and scaling up this past fall to 200 schools. Talify is not to be confused with Kiosite’s other site, Talify Missouri, a similarly designed platform that only caters to skilled workers in that state.

Novack says that Talify also tapped into Kiosite’s experience creating and running its predecessor HireTrue, an automated applicant screening platform for all job levels. “We first worked to improve the quality of screening and selection outcomes for organizations, and then with that background, began looking at how we might transform matching more generally and apply those ideas to the university population,” Novack explains.


The result is a site where students can go and build a free profile that will help connect them to a company looking for their unique skills. Talify is unlike LinkedIn where a job seeker simply posts their resume and hopes they’ve added the right key words to attract a potential employer, or Anthology or Woo which focus on a passive job seeker’s list of requirements that would get them to switch to a new employer.

Novack explains that on Talify, “candidates complete one instrument, but embedded within it are multiple measures, including job interest, self-assessed skill, experience, and personality.” The tests can also assess leadership qualities, empathy, problem solving, ability to work on a team, and entrepreneurship, among others.

For instance, in one section of the assessment, students are asked to rank, in order of importance, what they prefer to do on the job. That includes tasks such as “solving complex problems” and “working with data” to “generating new business” or “working on a team” as opposed to “working with things.”

Another takes a common interview question, “Give me three words that best describe you.” But instead of prompting the candidate to recite a memorized list of traits that they think will present them in the best light, the assessment gives a list of attributes and asks candidates to choose whether they most or least describe them. “Gregarious,” “quick,” “industrious,” and “impulsive” are some of the choices. Others such as “weary” or “undisciplined” have the potential to be relegated to the “least” category (for obvious reasons), but the candidate must choose one of each in each section.

GPAs or the student’s major become less important in light of these more relevant qualities. Google’s head of people operations, Laszlo Bock, for example, has famously said that “GPAs are worthless as a criteria for hiring.”

Once complete, the profile goes into the Talify database, which is available to hiring managers to search. Candidates are ranked by characteristic, rather than skill. Hiring managers can then contact the students directly. Companies pay a subscription fee based on volume and expected usage.


So far, Novack says that more than 100 companies have subscribed to use the platform that he claims has over 50,000 student users in its database. Although Novack declines to share how many of these students have been placed in jobs through Talify, “representative examples include roles in new media, fashion, medical engineering, software development, finance, data science, and more,” adding that students hail from a variety of schools. Businesses range from AT&T and Siemens, to Warby Parker,, and Birchbox, among others.

But even personality assessments aren’t foolproof. Even the Meyers-Briggs test, which is one of the most popular, has been criticized by professional psychologists for more than 30 years for failing to accurately predict the best career path for test-takers.

“So much more goes into success than personality,” Novack admits. It’s a part of the equation, he says, but Talify is meant to go beyond a simple measure of personality by integrating and correlating job-specific skills, interest, and biographical data. 


About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.