What keywords reveal about people’s personality

Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” If you want to find out more about people’s core beliefs and thoughts, pay close attention to the words they’re using regularly. Today, I’d like to tell you what these keywords can tell you about someone’s personality, and how you can use these insights for making better decisions when recruiting talent or selecting candidates for talent development.

Cognitive profiling method in talent acquisition and development

Nowadays, many companies use personality profiling methods —often long-established tools with well-known acronyms such as MBTI, DISC or HBTI— to learn about the preferred styles of employees, managers and prospective recruits. But what if a candidate intentionally cheats by ticking certain answer options that don’t reflect their true style, but promise to help them landing that job, or getting into that fancy talent development program?

Enter TIPS and a solution to the personality test dilemma

TIPS is a cognitive profiling tool that I’ve created for Thinkergy. TIPS stands for four base orientations (theories, ideas, people, systems) that reflect how social and economic change unfolds over time (the long cycles we touched upon in the last article). The TIPS bases also capture basic value orientations, allowing us to check if people fudge their test answers. How?

Imagine you’re applying for a talent development program focused on innovation. You’re keen to get into this company-sponsored program, because it allows you to learn more about this “hot” topic and to increase both your internal career chances and external employability. But deep down you don’t consider yourself a “creative” person.

Now imagine being asked to do a cognitive profiling test as part of the selection process. The test questionnaire has certain answer options that allow you to assert how creative you are. What will you do?

I don’t know about your response, but some candidates will intentionally tick the “wrong” answer options that favorably portray themselves as a creative type and increase their odds of being selected for the program.

TIPS addresses this problem in two ways:

  • First, I designed the test so that someone who tries to “game” the result will either end up with a balanced All-Rounder profile in the middle of the TIPS profiling map, or get a test score that just edges into one of the other 10 TIPS profiles.
  • Second, if the latter happens, we pay attention to the words that such “borderline” candidates use in a final interview to find out if they really lean more towards one the other TIPS profiles or are rather All-Rounders.

The keywords to listen for in TIPS

What are typical keywords that people with different TIPS profiles enjoy using? I recently jotted down a number of them while interviewing 50 applicants for an innovation talent development program (whom we had earlier tested for their TIPS profile). Let’s first get a flavor for the language favored by the four pure TIPS profiles (Theorist, Ideator, Partner, and Systematizer) who rest solely on one TIPS base:

  • Sitting at the top left Theories-base of the TIPS Map, Theorists  emphasize their passion for the truth through expressions such as “honestly speaking”, “if I am honest”, or “to tell the truth”. They use “reason” and are “reasonable”, and consider the “facts” or “evidence”. They “confront” people who talk nonsense, take intellectual short-cuts, or are not up to a job. They enjoy “thinking” in a “logical” way and use their “knowledge” to build an “argument”. They “define” concepts and “problems” and “weigh pros and cons” involved in a case. Their favorite question particle is “why”.
  • At the bottom-right People-base, Partners are in many ways a flip side of Theorists. They “enjoy” using verbs like “feel”, “touch”, “share”, “help”, “follow” and “lead”. They talk about “teamwork” and “partnerships”. They “care” for “people” and their “team” and “leader”, and cherish a work place that feels like “home” and “family”. Adjectives such as “happy”, “human” and “emotional” predominate. They also enjoy talking about “sales” and “closing deals”. For a Partner, the most important question is “who”.
  • Floating at the Ideas base on the top-right, Ideators like to use creative action verbs like “create”, “innovate, “make it better” or “make it happen”. They love to talk about “change”, “ideas” and “opportunities”, and use adjectives like “dynamic”, “entrepreneurial” and “meaningful”. You’ll hear a lot of “new” phrases — “new ideas”, “new products”, “new services”, “new business”, “new concepts”. Ideators enjoy formulating a lot of “what”-questions.
  • Anchored at the Systems-base on the bottom left, Systematizers are “accurate”, “diligent” and “responsible”. They enjoy talking about the “system” and “processes” that they “implement” and “optimize”. They “manage” “performance”. They make sure that everyone is “compliant” and “follows the rules”. As the profile most concerned with the past, they often use words with the prefix “re-” (meaning either “again” or “again and again” to indicate repetition, or “back” or “backward” to indicate withdrawal or backward motion): so, Systematizers “review”, “remove” and “renovate” where Ideators “view”, “move” and “innovate”. When Systematizers ask questions, they often start with “how” — including “how much” and “how many”.

How about the keywords of the six dual TIPS profiles (Conceptualizer, Promoter, Organizer, Technocrat, Coach and Experimenter)? Because they locate between two bases, they tend to borrow a lot of the words from the neighboring two profiles at each base. However, each dual profile type also employs certain words that hint at their dual profile. Let’s look at some two sample profiles here:

  • Sitting in between the Theories  and Ideas bases on the top line of the TIPS map, Conceptualizers love to “learn” about new “tools”, “methods” and “technologies” that they then “apply” or “teach”. They enjoy thinking “big” and focusing on the “big picture”. They enjoy asking “what”  or “why” questions.
  • Promoters connect Ideas with People (on the right side of the TIPS map). They are “lively” and “expressive”, “stylish” and “easy”-going. Promoters enjoy “life” and having “fun”, and love to “communicate” and “convince” people and to “present” in front of them. Promoters tend to ask a lot of questions starting with “what” or “who”.

Conclusion: Your TIPS profile is hidden in your words — and so is mine and everybody else’s. The keywords that we frequently use in conversations reveal what we value and what makes us tick. So, first pay attention to your own keywords to get hints of your profile. Then, enjoy listening to the conversations of others to learn more about what makes them tick and what personality type they probably have.

And what if you want to know for sure and do the TIPS online personality test for yourself or your team?  Contact us to find out how you can purchase a coupon for our online personality test.

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 3 August 2017.