Intimate personality tests for fraud finding

Seems as though the elderly man was not near his home church and was hoping to visit with a minister.


As they talked, the professor asked about his prayer life. Laying in bed, the terminally ill man pointed to an empty chair near the wall. The old man talked to Him about everything. His thanks for the many blessings in his life, his aches and pains and fears of the unknown, and whatever else was on his mind at the moment — all were a part of his daily conversation with God.

What a wonderful description of prayer the professor shared with the congregation that Sunday morning. The dying man had found a way to connect to Jesus in a very real form. More than 2, years ago, people longed to be close to Jesus. Children came running to him. The disciples loved being around him. The sick cried out to him. A woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years even reached out just to touch his cloak.

Because Christ is not physically among us today, many followers have a hard time feeling that same intimate connection with Jesus. All too often, we think of prayer only being observed in a place of worship, by clergy or around the dinner table. Some workers' productivity was falling, or they were late on their deliveries.

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Denise Noel, the director of quality at Dayton Freight, was stumped. These drivers all had good qualifications and had interviewed well, yet she saw no way to predict who would be an outstanding performer on the road. Finally she brought in a company called Hogan Assessment Systems and had the company present its extensive research on truck drivers. Noel had assumed all truck drivers were similar.

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But Hogan had found two distinct truck-driver profiles. The top city performers are social and gregarious, great with customers--which makes sense, because they pick up and drop off multiple times a day. The best line-haul drivers are quiet and introspective--which is good for people who never see a customer. Noel has adjusted her hiring now, having candidates take the Hogan assessment to find the best job for them.

Turnover for drivers has fallen to 22 percent the industry average is percent. Discussing the results of assessment tests with candidates--or even giving them the full report--is increasingly popular. This gives candidates the chance to explain themselves, gives the interviewer a chance to address weak spots, and, if someone is hired, points out ways he or she might best be managed. There are, by some estimates, 2, employment tests on the market.

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is using the wrong test. A classic example is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, that ubiquitous test that sorts people into 16 personality categories. Myers-Briggs, a test created by a Pennsylvania woman who was fascinated by how her merry personality differed from that of her straightforward husband, has a weak record of predicting job success. Indeed, its publisher warns that "It is unethical and in many cases illegal to require job applicants to take the Indicator if the results will be used to screen out applicants. With so many tests available, it's not a surprise that employers use tests meant for other purposes, like Myers-Briggs which is fine, by the way, for employee development , or even design their own tests.

But choosing the wrong one can mean dismissing qualified candidates and even getting sued for discrimination. Employers need to know whether a test is appropriate for hiring, what it measures, and how it's designed, along with making sure it's legal. Psychologists evaluate a psychological test by two measures, called reliability and validity. Reliability examines whether items that supposedly measure the same thing agreeableness, say, or conscientiousness correlate highly with one another.

Validity asks, in this case, for proof that scores on tests are related to success in specific jobs. Recent psychological research supports going beyond validity and reliability data. First, both for legal purposes and to ensure usefulness, make certain the test is designed for selecting--as distinct from developing or training--employees. It should be created or adapted for the workplace, not for clinical or medical diagnosis.

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Pre-employment tests are more predictive when they compare an individual's score against a group they use "normative" scales, in the lexicon instead of just presenting it on its own "ipsative" scales. For the best results, too, employers should continue to evaluate and revalidate the tests within their companies to make sure they are still predicting top performers.

A note about testing for hourly employees. There, employers might care most about who's punctual and honest. Rock Bottom Restaurants, a store chain based in Louisville, Colorado, switched three years ago from a pencil-and-paper application for its hourly employees to a test from Unicru. Kenexa and PreVisor are two other assessment companies focusing on entry-level and hourly applicants. For waiters, it tests for sociability and team orientation; for the back of the house, it asks applicants whether they've worked in on-their-feet jobs before; for all job candidates, it looks at integrity.

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Applicants in each pool--cooks, bartenders, and so on--are ranked according to their assessment scores, which gives the Rock Bottom management a good starting point. Rock Bottom's turnover for its 6, hourly employees has dropped by 20 percent, which Williams thinks is largely because of the system.

In , a pretty countryside residence in Fairfax, Virginia, was renamed Station S and repurposed as a testing site for Office of Strategic Services recruits. In an atmosphere of intense secrecy--candidates were stripped of their clothes and given military fatigues, then driven in a windowless van to Fairfax, where they would invent a cover story and fake name--the OSS studied their performance during job simulations.

One test had "couriers" giving candidates a map, which they'd need to memorize in eight minutes. Other exercises included interrogating ersatz prisoners of war, devising propaganda plans, and recovering papers from an agent's room and, aggravatingly, getting interrupted by a rifle-wielding "German" midway. The tests went on for three and a half days. By the late s, the candidate in the gray flannel suit was performing in-basket assessments in which he'd be graded on how he handled a set of letters, papers, tasks, and telephone calls that mimicked what he'd get on the job.

Work samples are a proven predictor of success and can be simple to arrange. A company can design its own by laying out the criteria for a job and asking a candidate to perform a task based on those criteria. At Sterling Communications, a technology PR firm in Los Gatos, California, CEO Marianne O'Connor knows her account reps have to be good at understanding technical information, at figuring out how to pitch to a media outlet, and at writing.

Logical enough. So she's started giving job candidates a two-hour test before she even meets with them. It describes a client's technology, identifies a target publication and its readership, and asks a candidate to distill the salient technical points and write a pitch to the magazine. Three staffers review the pitch, and that decides whether the candidate will get an interview. On the complicated end of the work-sample spectrum, Seymour Adler, the Aon Consulting psychologist, has created a four-hour online exercise called Leader, which Motorola and other companies use to test would-be executives.

Candidates see an in box with e-mails that came in the night before, answer phone calls and listen to voice mails, and have access to reports and research. They're asked to tackle tasks like ones they would see on the job, such as solving a conflict between two underlings or leading a team of workers in creating a presentation for the CEO. At the end, Adler's team assesses the candidates on whatever areas the company is curious about--decisiveness, leadership, and so forth--and issues a report to the company.

A company called Development Dimensions International offers similar exercises; these take place at one of its 75 assessment centers rather than online. Dan Weinfurter runs Capital H Group, a human resources consulting firm in Chicago, though he's not an HR guy but an entrepreneur at heart. He founded the accounting and consulting firm Parson Group, which hit No. Before that, he was second in command at Alternative Resources, an IT staffing company that was a two-time Inc. For all he knew about running a company, however, Weinfurter came to the conclusion that he didn't know much about hiring.

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