Hogan Assessment Systems: Testing Times - Rodney B Warrenfeltz

In a crowded recruitment market, a well-delivered personality assessment can provide the effective means to select the right candidate, Rodney B Warrenfeltz, managing partner of Hogan Assessment Systems, tells CEO.

Personality assessments identify factors that a typical job interview will not uncover,’ says Rodney Warrenfeltz, a managing partner with Hogan Assessment Systems. ‘For example, if a person is excitable and tends to shout when they are under pressure, they can usually manage those characteristics during an interview. Assessments look at characteristics that are hard to pick up.’

Personality testing took off in the 1990s and has gone on to become an invaluable tool in the hiring of key people throughout an organisation. Hogan Assessment Systems has 30 years experience in producing effective results for a wide range of clients, from Fortune 500 companies to small, private firms.

Its assessments create profiles that reveal a person’s reasoning skills, competencies, values and leadership characteristics, all of which helps HR and senior management understand the underlying sources and motivations of an employee's behaviour.

The key to personality testing is asking the right questions. ‘Do the questions you pose measure what you want?’ asks Warrenfeltz. ‘If all respondents answer in the same way, that’s not a good question. Questions need to challenge the person taking the test but not dictate their answer.’

There are three key elements to the Hogan approach: the Hogan Personality Inventory looks into the so-called ‘bright side’ of an individual’s personality; the Hogan Development Survey looks at the ‘dark side’; and the Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory looks at the sorts of things that people really value. These three perspectives offer a rounded view of a person.

‘Prior to the 1990s, academics didn’t rate this type of testing,’ says Warrenfeltz, ‘but today it is commonplace. I think people now realise that personality traits have a big impact on the way people do their jobs. Today, it is rare that a senior position is filled without there being some sort of personality testing. Good leaders need to be aware of themselves, their strengths and their weaknesses.’

Level of security

Warrenfeltz says it is an extraordinarily competitive industry. He estimates there are more than 2,500 firms offering these types of services, although Hogan’s approach to testing informs the basis for many of its competitors. ‘While the testing is not dissimilar,’ he says, ‘the key differentiating factor between companies – and the most competitive aspect – is in how they present the test results. Some provide in-depth text, others concentrate on pure numbers. It depends on what the client wants.’

Leadership derailment is often at the core of business failure and corruption. Warrenfeltz says there are four areas that it looks out for in its testing, under the headings of ‘bold’, ‘mischievous’, ‘colourful’, and ‘imaginative’. ‘If the leader is too bold, this can lead to arrogance,’ he says.

‘If they are too mischievous, this can lead to taking unnecessary risks. Too colourful means they are the sort of person that sucks all of the oxygen out of a room, and too imaginative can result in the person coming up with wacky ideas.’

Warrenfeltz cites some of the big US corporate failures in recent times, such as the likes of disgraced investment manager Bernard Madoff and former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers.

‘You can clearly see some derailment characteristics at work,’ he says, ‘traits that our testing would have picked up. Of course, whether the likes of Madoff would have submitted himself to such a test is unlikely.’ Testing is not only about the person’s personality traits. It also looks at the sort of environment they could expect to do well in. The person may be a great finance expert, but only work well in organisations with a certain type of culture.

‘In the current economic environment,’ Warrenfeltz says, ‘you are likely to see 20 to 30 people applying for one job. That makes these sorts of tests even more important. What companies must consider is whether they can afford to hire the wrong type of person.’

He notes that, today, many MBA students will take lessons in how to say and do the right things in interviews. Warrenfeltz says this type of personality testing is becoming the norm.

‘Increasingly though, people will put themselves through the tests and present the results at job interviews. That shows a confident person ready to find out things about themselves’

Rodney B Warrenfeltz, managing partner of Hogan Assessment Systems.