The Science of People

Behavioral DNA: The 23 and Me of Predicting Career Success

Behavioral DNA

In the age of the quantified self, technology is helping deliver insights on what we are doing and how well we are doing it. Fitbits and health and fitness apps help motivate us and track our progress. And there are even DNA kits like 23 and Me that report on what makes us uniquely who we are…and enticingly, offer a peek not only at the genealogy of our past, but into the future of how our chromosomal pairings may impact our future health and lifestyle options.

It surfaces a powerful philosophical question:

If you could see into the future, would you change the course of what you are doing today?


When it comes to careers, Gallup research points to a resounding “yes.”
-7 out of 10 working adults believe they are in the wrong career
-1 out of those dissatisfied 7 believe they are in career hell.

What if, like your chromosomal DNA can predict your future health, you could analyze your unique behavioral make-up and career interests (let’s call it your behavioral DNA) to predict your potential success across 500 of the most sought-after job roles?

That is a vision I’ve pursued vigorously for most of my career. And the short answer is: yes, your career success can be predicted. And it can be done with up to 85% accuracy.

Human behavior is as unique as fingerprints

In graduate school, I was struck by the vast imbalance between what we knew about chemical behaviors via the periodic table of 115 natural elements and the paltry little we knew about human behaviors, captured with just five personality factors: openness to experience, extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism.

Certainly, much business has been made from looking at the inter-relations of those five human factors, including well-known personality assessments like Hogan and Myers-Briggs that can aid in team awareness and collaboration by grouping people into personality types.

But for nearly 100 years, behavioral psychologists and business people alike have pondered how such human factors could be used to predict job success or failure. Indeed, if we could crack the DNA code for predicting career success and passion for work, it would have broad impact on not just individuals or businesses, but, over time, could radically change the global Gross Domestic Product.

Here’s the challenge: like chemical elements, people’s behaviors are complex, diverse and individualized. With just five characteristics, we only have 120 different variations of personality types. A true gauge of human behavior requires much more granularity, teasing out true distinctions. If no one else in the world has the same thumbprint as you, what are the odds that there only 120 types of personalities in the world?

The Power of 85

So I set out to round out the picture of human behaviors. After close analysis of all the variants identified across every psychological assessment I could find, I netted out a list of 85 statistically distinct behavioral traits. To become meaningful in terms of predicting career success, I then grouped behaviors by:

  • problem solving
  • work habits
  • self traits
  • lifestyle priorities
  • coping strategies

The number of combinations of these is astronomical—even more so than DNA.

I designed the SuccessFinder solution to measure—in one test— the full 85 behavioral propensities and 35 career themes. An individual’s answers across the 125 scales, presented in multiple combinations can predict success against 500 job roles currently benchmarked by SuccessFinder. Benchmarks are created from the behaviors of the leading professionals worldwide in each role. Over the years, we’ve actually developed 2,000 job role benchmarks, but changing business needs have required adapting, adding or obsoleting roles over time.

What about the resume?

I don’t discount skills, knowledge and experience. I will never go under the knife of surgeon who doesn’t have board certification credentials.

But skills and experience alone cannot accurately predict which person will be better than the other in a given job.

Rather than trying to type people or put them in boxes like Myers-Briggs type personality tests do, we look to find how each one is unique. And, we look more precisely at what separates the exceptional performer in each role. These are our benchmarks that we then weight against exceptional, average and marginal performers.

Proven Success

Our scientifically proven accuracy: 65-85%. We continually endeavor to maintain the highest level of psychometric standards as defined by the American Psychological Association’s standards for educational and psychological testing.

That power is resonating. While today we are launching a new standalone company to develop, market and sell our methodology, which is also newly available in the Cloud, SuccessFinder is already in use by CEOs, Board of Directors, HR leaders and Organizational Development counselors to lend science to high impact hiring, development and succession plans for their talent.

I am incredibly proud of broad and growing application of our talent assessment and career prediction system by global mid- and large-sized companies. Even more fulfilling is understanding the impact on individuals to find and pursue more meaningful, rewarding careers.

Self-efficacy is the foundation for SuccessFinder. Its thesis is: whatever human beings can imagine is what they are capable of doing. If you can imagine it, then you know you can do it.

We love being able to help open up the imagination about what is possible through our work with Behavioral DNA.


About the Author:  At the age of 9, Dr. Larry Cash’s life was almost destroyed by a test that concluded he was mentally challenged. In fact, Larry was dyslexic. A member of the Ontario Psychological Association and an International Affiliate of the American Psychological Association, he’s dedicated his life to understanding the intricacies of human behavior, working to develop training and testing that accurately looks at unique individuality and potential. Larry is the founder and developer of SuccessFinder, a talent assessment and career prediction platform that benchmarks behaviors from more than 40,000 highly successful professionals worldwide, across more than 500 roles. He can be reached at




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