First Georgia Puts Its Job Applicants' Personalities to the Test

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- Richard D. Jackson believes that his bank can beat the competition by hiring the right people and placing them in the right jobs.

"We want to have the best people we can, so we can be a little better than the bank down the road," declares Mr. Jackson, president of First Georgia Bank in Atlanta for more than 10 years. "I want people who will bend over backward to help our customers."

To help identify the "right people," with the traits necessary to excel at a specific job, First Geogia uses as personality assessment program called the Predictive Index.

Mr. Jackson, 49, says he was searching for a way to measure extroversion in job applicants when he first learned about the Predictive Index nearly three years ago at a management seminar. Like many bankers, Mr. Jackson says he believes that banking is a "people business" and he wants to hire "people who like people." He feels the targeted hiring of extroverts to staff the bank will improve customer service and enhance the bank's sales orientation.

The Predictive Index, or PI, is a psychological testing technique that was developed 30 years ago. The program is owned by Praendex Inc. of Wellesley Hills, Mass., and is marketed through franchisees. Praendex says the Predictive Index is used by about 1,000 corporations worldwide.

At the seminar Mr. Jackson attended, a Praendex representative accurately profiled Mr. Jackson's work style through the standard PI survey. The bank president was identified as being aggressive, very optimistic, and sales-oriented, and as an independent operator who doesn't like details, but knows that he has to pay attention to them.

"Everything was right," Mr. Jackson says, recalling how his colleagues at the bank also were impressed by the index's accuracy.

The Predictive Index is administered to employees and applicants through a two-page questionnaire that asks how they feel they should respond in certain work situations, and how they do or would respond. The replies are then analyzed and translated into "personality scales." Praendex franchises train managers in each client company to administer the test and analyze the results. Praendex says employees are assessed in a "raceless, sexless, and colorless man ner," because the Predictive Index cannot be affected by management prejudices.

Mr. Jackson says the Predictive Index measures ranges, or levels, of such personality characteristics as drive, aggressiveness, assertiveness, extroversion, patience, emotional adjustment, and detail orientation.

He instituted the PI program at his bank more than two years ago, and, until recently, about 90% of the bank's employees, including management, had participated in the program. All First Georgia job applicants answer the PI survey questionaire, and Mr. Jackson says the bank's senior management has had extensive training in grading and analyzing the tests.

"We want to make sure we hire the kind of personality that fits the profile for that particular position," he says. …