A recent Harvard Business Review article examines the hiring practices of four low cost retailers: Costco, Trader Joe's, QuickTrip and Mercadona. The study was interested in understanding why these four retailers were so much more profitable than most of their competitors. Retail is traditionally a low margin business, and the conventional wisdom is that tightly restraining labor costs is key to maintaining profitability. This study found exactly the opposite: these leading retailers typically spent more on the hiring process than their competitors, and invested more in their employees post-hire, which in turn, had a direct, positive impact on the bottom line. Spending more to hire better-trained, customer-focused sales staff leads to more sales per employee and per square foot.
In a series of blog posts last year I discussed the evolution of employment personality testing, from the Myers-Briggs to the "Big Five" to more job-specific personality inventories. The last of these continue to grow in popularity, especially in the fields of customer service and sales.
Criteria's employment test portfolio includes three personality tests: the Criteria Personality Inventory (CPI), the Customer Service Aptitude Profile (CSAP), and the Sales Achievement Predictor (SalesAP). The CSAP and SalesAP are actually the same test instrument and measure the same personality traits, but they produce different score reports and recommendations because customer service and sales positions require different personalities. For example, personality traits such as Assertiveness and Competitiveness are traditionally associated with sales roles, while traits like Cooperativeness and Patience are associated with customer service roles.
To finish off our discussion about personality tests, I wanted to discuss ways in which test developers are moving beyond the Big Five. The Big Five is sometimes too broad to predict work behaviors for specific jobs, where more fine-grained personality measures may be useful. For example, it has been shown that certain jobs such as sales positions are best performed by people with a set of personality characteristics that correspond to the work activities involved in sales jobs. Sales jobs often require cold-calling, initiating social interactions, prospecting, and building relationships. It won't be surprising to most people that qualities like assertiveness, extraversion, competitiveness, and self-confidence might be qualities that could help an individual perform well in such roles. For work in the field of customer service, on the other hand, qualities such as patience, cooperativeness, and personal diplomacy would be most important given the job activities of most customer service positions.