Incorporating “Personality” into the Hiring Process, Part 3: Call-Center Candidates

Jun 22, 2004

The last two articles outlined a few personality basics and sales examples. This article will discuss call center types. Why Not Use a DISC, MBTI or other Communications Profile to Hire? As mentioned before, there are plenty of tests that predict style differences or general personality. However, aside from the “gee whiz” factor, few personality traits are associated with job performance and job fit. Some are overly complex, some overly simple, some are backed by sound research, and some are just silly. Take the DISC, for example. Originally developed long before most of us were born, the original DISC was based on a four-factor theory that a person can be either active or passive when faced with either a favorable or hostile environment (i.e., dominant, influential, supportive, and compliant). Its adjective checklist structure is better at comparing within-person preferences (i.e., I like this better than that) than comparing an applicant to a job requirements (i.e., Does a Hi D, Lo I, Mid S and Mid C outperform a Mid D, Mid I, Lo S, and Mid C?). Nice, fun and easy. Everybody gets classified into a four-factor generic behavioral profile that may or may not apply to performance level. How about the MBTI? This test was developed in the early part of the last century by Isabel Myers Briggs, an energetic lay person with a B.S. and no academic affiliation. It was based on her interpretation of Karl Jung’s personality theory and has four scales that progressively range from one extreme to another (i.e., introvert to extravert, sensing to intuiting, feeling to thinking, and judging to perceiving). The continuous scale structure yields a potentially infinite combination of personality types. Again, nice, fun and easy ó but everybody still gets classified into a four-factor generic behavioral profile. There are dozens of other examples, but the important things to remember about most personality tests is that they were developed at a time when:

  • Personality theory was in its infancy.
  • Computers were only for techies.
  • Statistical analysis was done manually.
  • Test development was based more on “good ideas” than formal practices.
  • Correlating test scores with job performance was a radical concept.
  • Most studies were so inconclusive that one scientist loudly proclaimed personality hiring tests were worthless.

Bottom line:

  1. Any test that was not designed to predict job performance probably won’t predict job performance.
  2. Only a professional-level statistical study will determine if a test score predicts job performance.
  3. A general personality test is fine for a training workshop, but it has No place in hiring except to provide misleading data to unsuspecting people.

Establishing Call Center Patterns Here is another practical AIMs example. This time we’ll address a call center position. First, we first need to recognize that not all call center positions are created equal. Some require drive to overcome objections; some require considerable problem solving and idea generation; and still others need sensitivity and caring to cool-down hot tempers. The important thing to remember is that most call center jobs: 1) are highly stressful, 2) strongly affect customer impressions, 3) are often undervalued, and 4) are usually staffed with unqualified people. Here is a target AIMs profile for a technical customer service position serving a stable base of repeat customers. Remember we need to discuss and agree with job experts (managers and job holders) what AIMs levels are needed for the specific job. Here is the profile the company wants: High scores desired for: Attitude toward work (likes working), problem solving (every technical issue needs a diagnosis), idea generation/innovation (innovation often necessary), teamwork (need to develop customer loyalties and strong relationships) Mid-range scores desired for: Resistance to change (tolerates average), administration (follows most rules), expressiveness (friendly, not overwhelming), impulsiveness (takes action, but not pushy), perfectionism (cares about quality, not obsessive) Low scores desired for: Self centeredness (focused on customer needs) Candidate 1: Fibbing Francis High scores: Administration 100, attitude toward work 90, idea generation 100, impulsiveness 95, problem solving 70, teamwork 96 (Translation: Francis loves following rules, working, generating crazy ideas, being pushy, solving problems, and depending on others. As a matter of fact, she’ll be anything you want to get a job.) Mid-range scores: Perfectionism 50, self centeredness 56 (Translation: She usually likes to do a job right the first time and she really knows how to manipulate people ó see above.) Low scores: Expressiveness 25, Change 5 (Translation: She won’t draw attention to herself and will be whatever you want.) Truthfulness: 47 (Her truthfulness scores are mid range.) This is a case where the applicant is trying to outsmart the test. The administrator should treat anything she says as manipulation. Candidate 2: Manipulating Marvin High scores: Administrative 76, expressive 91, idea generation 100, self centeredness 72, teamwork 100 (Translation: Marvin likes rules, is very outgoing, is a real idea generator, and uses these skills to manipulate people to get what he wants.) Mid-range scores: Attitude 45, impulsive 62, perfection 60, problem solving 59 (Translation: Marvin likes work, is average impulsive, wants to do things right, and is okay at solving problems.) Low scores: Change 5 (Translation: Marvin is okay with whatever happens.) Truthfulness: 47 (Marvin’s truthfulness scores are mid range.) Candidate 3: Middle-of-the-Road Michael High scores = Attitude (100) (Translation: Michael really, really, really, really, really loves working. You should doubt this 100% response because its magnitude is not matched with any other factor.) Mid-range scores: Expressiveness 64, Idea generation 52, Perfection 60, Teamwork 59 (Translation: Michael is right in the middle when it comes to being outgoing, generating new ideas, being right the first time, and working with others.) Low scores: Administration 35, impulsiveness 29, change 5, self centeredness 25, problem solving 38 (Translation: Michael doesn’t like rules, is slow to make decisions, and prefers a flexible work environment.) Truthfulness: 28 (Michael’s truthfulness scores are mid range.) Candidate 4: Polly Potential High scores: Ideas 100, problem solving 100, expressive 77 (Translation: Polly is an idea person who loves the challenge of solving problems. She is very outgoing.) Mid-range scores: Administration 62, attitude 56, perfection 60 (Translation: Polly is okay with rules, has a good work attitude, and cares about doing a good job.) Low scores: Impulsiveness 29, change 26, self centeredness 25 (Translation: Polly thinks before acting, is not concerned about change, and doesn’t put herself first.) Truthfulness: 28 (Polly’s truthfulness scores are mid range.) Comments AIMs should never be confused with skills. AIMs represent the kind of work a person likes to do and their attitude about doing it. Provided the candidate has the right skill set for the job, AIMs can make the difference between high performance and low by their ability to uncover undisclosed feelings and attitudes.

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