As Americans, we’re often hyper-aware of – even proud of – our regional differences. (Don’t we endlessly defend the superiority of “soda” over “pop?” Don’t we relish a heated argument about the merits of Carolina-style barbeque vs. the Texan variety? Or vice versa?)
These linguistic and taste-based differences are obvious, but what about what lies within the residents themselves – the hard-to-pin-down details that make up our personalities? You may have heard before that New Englanders are ‘cold’ or that Californians are ‘laid back,’ but now we have millions of survey answers to support and/or upend these notions. A group of researchers led by expat psychologist Jason Rentfrow spent the last 12 years collecting personality data from citizens of the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C. They measured the intensity and prevalence of five personality concepts, also known as the Big Five, which comprise the acronym OCEAN:
Openness to Experience/Intellect
Interestingly, the researchers were able to carve up our country into three distinct mood-based regions. You can take a test to find out where your particular personality “belongs.” (Supposedly, conscientious South Carolina would be a good fit for me).
But this provokes an interesting question for the recruitment world. If you’re a national recruiter looking for certain soft skills or personality traits, would you target some areas of the map over others? Though there are always exceptions to the rule, isn't your job to maximize your likelihood of striking candidate gold? All you have to do is go fishing in the right "pond:"
- The “Friendly and Conventional” Pond
Yah, you bet! You might want to tap the Midwest if you’re on the hunt for a customer-facing role where small-talk mastery is a must. In this particular study, the state of Wisconsin (my home state) scored highest on extraversion, which means your retail/sales team wouldn't shy away from customer interaction. If you're recruiting recruiters or HR folk, this might also be the place to look, as you all know the industry revolves around relationship-building. People who are naturally friendly would also make great flight attendants or public relations representatives, since customer service hinges on that genuine tone of voice and welcoming demeanor. The upside of their so-called "conventionality" is that your employees would crave routine, and thus wouldn't be itching to move or change careers often. Nine-to-fivers, no complaints.
- The “Relaxed and Creative” Pond
Given that the West Coast encompasses the Silicon Valley (and thus some of the most innovative companies on the planet), is it any wonder that the area is known for its creativity? This region's people exhibit the strongest traits of the American pioneers -- including openness, curiosity, and flexibility. Perhaps their ancestors moved the furthest west because they were extremely restless -- even by pioneer standards. (The researchers found that the later a state joined the union, the higher their "relaxed and creative" profile turned out to be). Though it's hard to say whether the region attracts or "produces" innovators, it's still a smart place to look for graphic designers, fashion designers, advertising managers, copywriters, and chefs. There's a wealth of new ideas here -- just remember that they value their flexibility and downtime. Maybe they need a nap to recharge in the afternoon (Google sleeping pods, anyone?), but afterward will write a brilliant jingle. And it's going to blow the marketing director's socks off.
- The “Temperamental and Uninhibited” Pond
Why target temperamental, uninhibited people, you ask? What if we rephrased it as moxie, a steely confidence, honesty, and a will to not back down? These fearless New Englanders might be perfectly suited for investigative careers, social activism, TV/media, acting, and politics. Think about famous CEOs, too: Steve Jobs was known for his innovation, but he also fits the personality profile of the northeast for being brutally honest, moody, and confident to the point of narcissistic. Nothing could inhibit his drive for success. (Except being fired from the board. But even that wasn't the end). Uninhibited people also have the resolve to carry out difficult decisions, like firings and layoffs, that might make others squeamish. Hey, someone's gotta do it.