Wanted Relationship Builders

March 20, 2002

New Horizons uses pre-employment assessment testing to identify the mostpromising account executives in a sea of applicants, says Janice Panting, salessupervisor, trainer, and mentor. The online test, developed by Fitabilityspecifically for New Horizons, is part of a multi-phase process that weeds outunfit applicants, allowing Panting to spend more face-to-face time with thosemost likely to succeed.

Name:NewHorizons Computer Learning Centers of Colorado
Business:Franchisesoftware training company

"The first thing the test does is prove that candidates are Internet savvy,"she says. "New Horizons hires individuals with a great deal of technologysales experience. If they can’t figure out how to take an online test, we knowimmediately they are not going to be a good fit."

Beyond rating Web skills, the test is a comprehensive examination ofapplicants’ personality and job experience. "A lot of salespeople will tellyou they are the best," Panting says. "You have to have a quantitative and aqualitative process for screening them."

The 25-minute test includes 30 multiple-choice questions that evaluate traitssuch as motivation, reaction to stress, and sociability. Using a profile of NewHorizons’ top sales performers, it compares the applicants’ responses to thegroup norm. Applicants who fit the New Horizons profile will be industrious,trusting, and outgoing -- but not so social that they can’t get their workdone, Panting says.

This profile is very specific to the New Horizons sales process. Somecompanies prefer people who are more critical and driven, but Panting finds thatfor her needs, adaptable types are more successful. "We’re not a hard-sellcompany. We need associates who can work with all kinds of people to buildlong-term relationships."

The test also has 10 narrative questions regarding sales experience, salaryhistory, and technical expertise. Responses to these questions are also used tojudge writing skills. "Part of the job is writing proposals. The test shows uswhether they can write coherent sentences."

The test, along with résumé screening and phone interviews, eliminateshundreds of candidates, saving Panting hours of interview time. Only thoseapplicants that closely match the sales profile are called in for face-to-faceinterviews.

Panting recently placed an ad, for example, for three account executives The ad ran for 60 days, during which time it got 2,300 hits and shereceived 859 applications. "That’s common in today’s market," she says.

She reviewed each résumé briefly, screening for specific kinds of salesexperience. The strongest candidates were asked to participate in short phoneinterviews, through which Panting got a sense of their motivation, phone skills,and personality. Those who seemed promising were asked to take the test.

Of the 859 applicants, 115 took the test. "I don’t have time to interview115 people," she says. The Fitability test further narrowed the pool to 42prospects, each of whom Panting interviewed.

It’s an elaborate process, but it has several payoffs. The automaticreduction of the number of applicants reduces the time Panting spends recruitingand increases her chances for success. Before the test was used, only one infour account-executive hires was successful, she says. Since the test wasimplemented last August, every one of the seven account executives she has hiredis still on board. And, because her recruits are more successful, she has fewerpositions to fill, giving her even more time to spend on tasks such as trainingand mentoring new recruits. "Before using the Fitability tests, my predecessorwas a full-time recruiter," she says. "But because we are making betterhires now, I am able to do a lot more."

Workforce, April 2002, p. 68 -- Subscribe Now!