Excerpted from "EMPIRES OF THE MIND
"Reprinted with the permission of Denis Waitley"
Behavioral assessment testing is the most objective, economical way of obtaining necessary information for predicting an applicant's probability of success in any position."
-Dr. Denis Waitley
BETTING THE FRANCHISE ON BEHAVIOR
Knowing that scouting reports can miss potential behavior problems that could cause difficulties later, most professional baseball, basketball and football franchises use behavioral assessments before selecting their draft picks. If professional athletes need behavioral testing, so do business executives and professionals in other fields. I've never had a business problem that wasn't in some way a "people problem".
Billy Kelley argued the case for testing in "Assessment at the Top," an article in the March 1994 issue of Human Resource Executive magazine. Kelley began by quoting Jim Clayton. CEO of Clayton Homes in Knoxville, Tennessee, about hiring someone a year earlier without giving him an assessment tests. "To this day Clayton regrets it. ‘What we did,' says the self-made millionaire, ‘is hire someone who was good at interviewing but not right for the job.' Clayton is hardly the first businessperson to feel that way and undoubtedly won't be the last. Hiring and promoting executives is a challenging task with no guarantee of success."
Still, many business people are finding ways to increase their chances of hiring or promoting the right person for the right job at the right time. Consultants and industry experts are increasingly turning to behavioral assessments for many reasons. First, the cost - in money and nerves - of hiring or promoting the wrong person is rising relentlessly.
THE BEST PEOPLE, THE FIRST TIME
Most information on applications for employment is predictably subjective. Resumes present only positive information, some of it exaggerated. Stricter EEOC regulations and the threat of lawsuits for discrimination make it difficult to obtain negative information from an applicant's previous employers. Even former employers willing to comment on an applicant rarely give the real reasons he or she left the old organization. Experienced interviewers can often obtain additional information, but many applicants are more skilled at being interviewed than they'll ever be in the jobs themselves. Behavioral assessment testing is the most objective, economical way of obtaining necessary information for predicting an applicant's probability of success in any position.
The tests provide valuable information about twenty-four characteristics related to success - information unavailable from any other source. Those twenty-four items consist of interpersonal traits, which include sociability, recognition, exhibition, conscientiousness, nurturance, and trust; organizational traits such as alertness, structure, order, flexibility, creativity, and responsibility; dedication traits, including ambition, endurance, assertiveness, boldness, coachability, and leadership; and the self-control traits, of self-confidence, composure, tough-mindedness, autonomy, contentment, and control, or the lack of it.
A LEADER'S CRITICAL TRAITS
The Winslow Research Institute in Antioch, California, one of the finest behavioral testing organizations anywhere, has combined its data from working with Olympic athletes, coaches, and professional teams with another data base on high-performing executives in nearly every field and job description, from technical to sales, from top management to hourly workers. Winslow found that certain core behavioral traits generally define the high achiever and the leader. Prognosis for success is marginal without high scores in:
Tough-mindedness Ambition to achieve
Candidates who score low or moderately low on any of the above, or whose tests show a high degree of emotionality and/or difficulty of control, may require careful screening and interviewing to predict their probable impact on performance. The most difficult behavioral traits to modify are those related to emotion.
Winslow's very detailed, individually specific reports for position analysis and career development are almost uncannily accurate in predicting performance results. What resume has ever done that? Many managers decline to use assessment tests based on a misapprehension that they are illegal or invite litigation, but this isn't true. The Labor Department's EEOC and other government agencies have declared that valid and reliable testing contributes substantially to nondiscriminatory selection, placement and development practices. Testing can also be a strong defense against complaints of, and lawsuits for, discrimination and wrongful dismissal.
Another myth is that applicants can falsify test results by giving answers they believe to be desirable rather than those they know to be true. The fact is that the latest tests use control questions very effectively to detect dishonesty. Experience has shown that from 10 to 30 percent of applicants try to "improve" their answers, usually in hopes of getting the job. When told that their answers are inconsistent, most individuals are honest when they retake the tests and the results are validated.
"Winslow's very detailed, individually specific reports for position analysis and career development are almost uncannily accurate in predicting performance results."
"Much of the information obtained used to be too technical to be useful to the typical manager, but testing programs are becoming user friendly, even for managers with no background in psychology. Should applicants for all jobs be tested? The general consensus is that only the two or three finalists for a position should be tested, and that current screening procedures should be continued, if effective, for the preliminary selection stages.
In the past, tests were usually limited to applicants for management and sales positions. However, high turnover rates and rapid increase of hiring costs have prompted many organizations to test for most white-collar and technical positions. In deciding which applicants to test, organizations must consider the importance of the position and hiring and training costs. Applicants uncomfortable with testing or opposed to it often have high levels of suspiciousness, aggression or rebelliousness - or a low level of self confidence. In any case, those possibilities should be explored before hiring. For most organizations, the cost of testing is less than five percent of the applicant's salary for a single month, an insignificant expense in comparison to the cost of hiring and training the wrong person.
Behavioral assessment is also an excellent tool for skill development, and very helpful to those who recognize that they must be life-long learners. In the leading companies I know, behavioral and personality assessments can identify employees skills and match them with jobs into which they can grow, helping to prepare people to assume key positions in the near or even the distant future. The idea is to assess personality and talent, then provide the coaching or mentoring to develop it. But most important is that testing for this purpose spurs the subjects to keep learning.
It's worth noting that personality assessment is not primarily for investigating tastes or styles. The analysis that counts is for helping determine whether this person will be successful in that job.