Banks Using Personality Tests for Lower-Level Hires

By Moyer, Liz | American Banker, August 5, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Banks Using Personality Tests for Lower-Level Hires


Moyer, Liz, American Banker


Personality testing could quickly become a fad among bank human resources directors.

Racine Hall, executive vice president at $100 million-asset Citizens Bank in Clearwater, Fla., paused recently to examine a personality profile completed by one of her job applicants.

"We've got a 1-3-5-7, here," she said in a telephone interview. "We want that. It means this candidate makes things happen. This candidate would not be happy behind a desk."

The profile indicates an ideal match for an available position as a branch manager, said Ms. Hall, who first turned to personality profiling in 1989 as a way to combat high turnover at the bank.

Citizens, with 60 employees, used to see 20% to 30% of its staff leave each year, mainly tellers and bookkeepers, said Ms. Hall. Since she began profiling prospective employees, the turnover rate has dropped to 5% annually.

Psychological testing is not new to job recruiters. Such tests have been used for years by everyone from federal government officials to Fortune 500 recruiters to assess the appropriateness of a candidate for high executive office. But rarely has personality profiling reached into the rank and file.

Nevertheless, it has become popular at banks, insurance agencies, and other companies that are bulking up on staff-particularly sales positions, said Mary Ruth Austin, a consultant at Omnia Group Inc., a Tampa-based management consulting and executive search firm.

Ms. Austin said the tests can be especially effective in measuring the sales skills of an applicant by indicating his or her propensity to be aggressive and competitive.

But others aren't so sure. "I don't use them because I don't believe in them 100%," said Len Adams, an executive recruiter at KPA Group in New York. "I'm a firm believer that you don't really know anyone until you live with them for a while."

Objectivity seems to be a key selling point. "Some of these tests are fakeable," said Hal Eskenazi, a marketing manager at Profiles Worldwide, which sells a profiling kit named Prevue.

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