Automated Assessment at a Medium Company

New Horizons Computer Learning Centers doubled sales in 90 days with their prescreening test.

November 30, 2000
If time is money, Mitch Biskup should have a mint tucked away in a southFlorida bank, thanks to a prescreening test for his sales force at New HorizonsComputer Learning Centers. "It saves me tons of time not interviewing thewrong candidates," says Biskup, executive vice president of the Miamifranchise. The test, "The Dave Kurlan Sales Force Profile-ExpressScreen," from Objective Management Group, has paid even greater dividendssince its deployment last fall. "We actually doubled our sales about 90days after we started using the Kurlan test," he says.

    New Horizons bills itself as the largest independent IT training company inthe world, with 2.4 million students around the globe and nearly 7,000 employeesin 250 locations. The company provides a wide array of computer training, fromdesktop applications to Web design to corporate computer training.

The problem
    "It’s difficult to hire people for what wedo," Biskup says. The sales process starts with a cold call to adecision-maker with an invitation for a free day of computer training at the NewHorizons campus. "There are certain skill sets necessary for success in ourenvironment, and we didn’t have a real good way of measuring that with eachapplicant," he says. "Some people interview very well, but that’s asfar as it goes. They can talk the talk but can’t walk the walk." Biskupfound that he was spending inordinate amounts of time interviewing and hiringpeople who didn’t pan out.

    Biskup heard of Objective Management’s Kurlan salestest through New Horizons’ St. Louis franchise. According to ObjectiveManagement, the test predicts the growth potential of individuals, whether theindividuals are trainable, and what kind of help they need to reach theirpotential, as well as providing a time line for achieving those results.

    The test has a sliding scale on which the difficulty ofhiring criteria increases in proportion to the income level of the job. Inaddition to the prerequisites for success at selling, each client provides itsown criteria for what makes a salesperson successful in its business, therebycustomizing the test for each company. Applicants complete a traditionalwritten application and a quick interview with New Horizons’ recruiter. Thencomes a facility tour, followed by the Kurlan test, taken on a PC. Applicantswho do well interview with the sales manager, and finally Biskup.

    One feature of the Kurlan test that Biskup particularlylikes is a series of interviewing tips to probe problem areas. "It maysuggest asking candidates how they feel when a prospect rejects them, and howlong before they feel good again," he says. "In some cases, it wouldbe hard for an interviewer to identify that as a weakness just from aninterview. It really gives you guidance as to the proper approach to eachindividual applicant." Conversely, the follow-up questions can helpBiskup discover that an applicant with a so-so résumé or mediocre testresults is actually a good catch. "You’re going to get some people whoare right on the edge," he says. "The test can reveal strengths theycan build on and weaknesses they can improve."

    He read one set of results from a real but anonymousapplicant for the test’s strength-and-weaknesses category, which concludedthat the person would talk too much and not ask enough questions, not developbonding or rapport with customers, and fail to uncover a client’s actualbudget. The compatibility section revealed that the person had never madesales presentations involving the same dollar amount as New Horizons’product. "Making presentations under our circumstances wouldn’t workfor them," Biskup says. More precious time just saved.

Workforce,December 2000, Volume 79, Number 12, p. 104-105 SubscribeNow!