Personality Assessments - They Still Don't Get it

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 @ 12:02 PM

On the heels of these three articles:

The following email was recently forwarded to me.  As you read it, look at the descriptors which the client references in the personality assessments.  They're not sales descriptors, so in essence, we have another example of an assessment which claims to be measuring one thing, but actually is measuring another:

"The reports I got from OMG on candidate [name omitted on purpose] are radically different from those I received from CPQ in Bradenton, FL and from MySalesTest.com (PXT for cognition and Interests; PSI for personality and behavior).  Both CPQ and MySalesTest.com rate him highly on topics such as Prospecting Skills (industriousness/energy, persistence, enterprising, drive) Closing skills (assertiveness, decisiveness, persistence), Internal vs. External Motivation (manageability, accommodation, independence, self-reliance),Occupational Interests, Selling Style (cognition and sociability) and Team Player (Sociability, Attitude, Accommodation, People Service, and Competitiveness).

OMG rates [his name] poorly on most of these same topics. The bottom line is that two scientifically reliable and valid tools are consistent with our face-to-face experiences in 4-5 interviews with [his name] and/or me. This afternoon [another name] is going to interview with [his name] and [another name]. If those interviews go well I intend to hire young [his name]."

You should have been able to see from that email just how disconnected the descriptors are from sales!  Here was my response:

"Of course they're different!

Prospecting - Personality and Behavioral assessments can't really be predictive on prospecting because they don't actually measure prospecting.  Look at the descriptors below (above in this post) for prospecting.  None of those have any influence on either will they prospect (vs. call reluctance) or will they be effective (skills).

Closing - Personality and Behavioral assessments can't really be predictive on closing because they actually don't measure closing in a sales context.  Look at the descriptors below (above in this post) for closing - assertiveness and decisiveness aren't measured in the context of selling or buying, just in general.  It's quite different from what happens in a buyer-seller context.  It's the same for persistence - theirs is a general finding, not sales-specific. 

Motivation - Personality and Behavioral assessments can't really be accurate on motivation because they don't actually measure motivation in a sales context.  Many people who work for your company are motivated, driven employees, but they may not have any desire to sell.  Motivation for sales must be measured in a sales context. 

Bottom Line - You already fell in love with the candidates and will default to whichever assessment supports your belief.  Our sales-specific assessments are the most accurate predictors of sales success on the planet and they've been scientifically measured and validated too. But we've gone the extra mile and conducted Predictive Validity - how predictive the assessment is of job performance, not just Construct Validity (whether the assessment actually measures what it sets out to measure)."

The nice thing about this email thread is that it allows you to read specific examples of how these assessments fool you into thinking they're relevant.  Do you get it now?

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

 

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales evaluation, Management Assessment, personality test, personality assessment

Personality Assessments for Sales - The Definitive Case Study

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:01 AM

Nearly two years ago, we began development of an exciting new way to evaluate Executive Management Teams.  We brainstormed, conducted surveys, performed research and identified 16 qualities which CEO's wanted their Executive Managers to possess, along with 9 Styles crucial to a Management Team's ability to grow their companies.  These Qualities and Styles are not presented in any other assessment on the market today.

Over a period of eighteen months, a team of PHD's, whose primary expertise is in testing, worked with us to map the formulas, measures and research of a very well-researched, personality instrument (the basis for many familiar personality tests) to our new Management Assessment.  When we were ready to have a small test group take the assessment, the results of round one were not impressive.  The scores were very inconsistent with the findings which we wanted to present.  I was extremely disappointed with our progress.

The project was escalated to two PHD's with even more expertise.  After six more months of understanding the findings which we wanted to provide and the formulas which they had in their "vault", the second round of testing yielded results which were no closer than in the first round.  We were failing to get accurate results, running out of patience and running out of time.

I've had many occasions to speak and write about how personality tests, behavioral-styles tests and psychometric tests (which are all very similar) differ from Objective Management Group's Sales Force Evaluations and Assessments.  As a matter of fact, you can read four such articles right here:

I always have said that personality tests, although they contain several elements which are important for sales, weren't built to predict sales success and, even when modified, can't go wide enough or deep enough to predict likely challenges or diagnose why salespeople get the results they get.  As a result, they cannot be used as development tools and they're very risky and inconsistent as hiring tools.

So, how did we come to go down this path where we were going to use a personality assessment as the instrument behind our new Management Assessment?  After all, weren't we being hypocritical?

We were convinced by a PHD/testing expert that the research existed to map to our findings.

Well, the research does exist, except their findings aren't the same as what we wanted to provide.  As with a sales assessment, they're identifying findings which they can measure (like emotional steadiness) and saying that they can provide a score for that.  Well, they can, except like nearly all findings from personality tests, the findings were out of context.  The questions have nothing to do with selling or managing, and someone, who might control their emotions quite well socially, might not be equally effective in a sales or business setting.  This example holds true over nearly every finding and the questions which they target to drive those findings.  And so, the findings which show up in most personality assessments are not necessarily what you need to know.  They are simply what these assessments are capable of measuring!

So back to the story.

We realized that we had gotten away from one of our core competencies - our ability to identify the right questions to uncover the data which would provide accurate, predictive, job-specific findings.  So, we wrote the questions, resumed the beta and went about the engineering required to complete the development of this very powerful, very different assessment.  As I reviewed the descriptors (the specific traits which we would "measure" to reveal our findings), I realized that over the last several months, the PHD's at the personality testing company had gradually and subtly modified the descriptors enough so that we too would report what they were capable of measuring, rather than what we wanted to measure.

Believe it or not, our in-house team was able to accomplish in about one week of intensive work, what the team of PHD's couldn't complete in the last year and a half!  Test answers in our third round appeared to be coming in exactly where they should have been and all questions were accurately driving the desired findings.  Exciting stuff!

So now, when I explain why a personality assessment (which wasn't built for sales), isn't predictive or sales-specific enough (even when modified for sales), I can now say that we have an eighteen-month research project which details, demonstrates and proves, once and for all, that a personality assessment doesn't measure much more than the various dimensions of personality or predict much more than some basic human behaviors.  They just don't measure the concrete, job-specific skills, competencies, capabilities and behaviors which we really need to understand about a salesperson's, sales manager's or Executive Manager's abilities.

Final Word - stay tuned for the March launch of what will be the most useful assessment to date for your Executive Management Team.  I think you'll love it as much as I do.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan


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Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales evaluation, Management Assessment, personality test, personality assessment

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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