Pre- Employment Testing Is Important Tool in Hiring Process

Posted on April 1, 1998 by Tom Mazza, Contributing Editor

In 1993 the Boston Red Sox baseball team was in the market for a new field manager. General manager Dan Duqette narrowed the field of candidates to three, then hired the services of Profiles International, Inc. The Waco, TX-based company used its “Prevue Assessment” test to recommend hiring manager Kevin Kennedy.

His first season was among the most successful in team history, with the Sox reaching the American League playoffs. Eventually, Kennedy was fired, but the Red Sox continue to employ the services of Profiles International.

The field of pre-employment testing has been identified by the Wall Street Journal as one of the best business opportunities currently available. Because of landmark federal legislation in 1991, companies have become severely restricted as to what questions are permissible in an employment interview.

Each question asked must explicitly concern the applicant’s ability to do the job he or she has applied for. Today, it is difficult for personnel managers to obtain an honest reference from an applicant’s prior employer because of the possibility of litigation. Enter the pre- employment test phenomenon.

Donald Petroski is the owner of Air Brook Limousine in Rochelle Park, NJ. With the nation’s 11th largest fleet, according to LCTs1998 Top 50, Air Brook employs more than 225 chauffeurs. Including the interview and training process, Air Brook invests more than $600 in each new hire. Classified advertisements alone, placed in local newspapers to attract quality drivers, have cost up to $3,000 per month. The company also employs a full-time chauffeur trainer. Calculating his salary and the number of new employees to be trained, Air Brook’s expenses in this area are near the six-figure mark annually.

Petroski was approached by Frank Schuck, a personnel consultant and the local representative from Profiles International. The four best chauffeurs that Air Brook currently employed were tested extensively by Schuck. A “benchmark description” of what personal qualities make a good chauffeur was determined. Three factors emerged as critical to a good chauffeur:

1. Good spatial ability. Chauffeurs who have this quality are able to think three-dimensionally and are less likely to get lost.

2. People who genuinely like people. The personality test has 110 questions. Chauffeurs who like other people work best with both customers and fellow employees.

3. Poised and relaxed individuals. High-strung, overly excitable chauffeurs are a problem on many levels for a busy limousine company.

This tool of identifying the traits of a successful employee and making an effort to locate a similar person has worked in a number of fields.

Jim Maloney, president of United Freight Service Inc. in Phoenix, AZ, has used this test in all new hiring for his company United Freight has developed a “success pattern” for all company positions. “We have a remote distribution center manager,” says Maloney. “There is no experience that we are aware of that would specifically qualify someone to handle this job. We did “Prevue Assessments” of people who have been top distribution managers. We recently found a candidate whose Prevue almost exactly matched the most successful manager for this department. Prior to using the Prevue, this decision would have just been a flip of the com.”

Working with Air Brook, Schuck set out to consistently target for hire chauffeur candidates who were a composite of the best chauffeurs. The cost is about $100 per applicant, but Petroski believes the process saves money.

“We are only a few months into this program, but I already see a huge savings potential,” says Petroski. “I believe we are actually getting a fair look at an applicant and by targeting certain areas, the test allows us to ask much better interview questions. This test is not the whole hiring program. It is one tool that we have at our disposal.”

Steve Glasberg, general manager at Air Brook, believes the company is hiring better informed chauffeurs. “We are asking questions about potential problem areas in the interview process,” he says. “Instead of finding out if a chauffeur becomes very restless when forced to wait for long periods of time, we can ask the applicant about this in the hiring process.”

Develop a Hiring Method

The following process is used by Air Brook when recruiting chauffeurs:

1. Run a classified advertisement. Ask your current chauffeurs to recommend possible hires. Recruit chauffeurs from other industries.

2. Bring candidate in for a preliminary interview where verbal skills and personal grooming are observed. Applicant fills out a job application and must include his or her work history.

3. Perform a criminal background check, obtain a motor vehicle report, and drug test the applicant.

4. Candidate takes Prevue Assessment test from Profiles International.

5. Candidate is re-interviewed, this time targeting specific areas identified by the Prevue test.

Test Closely Examines Applicant’s Personality

The final section of the Prevue Assessment test used by Air Brook Limousine in Rochelte Park, NJ, is designed to get an accurate look at the applicant’s personality. Among the 110 questions are:

  • I have never made up a false excuse for something I did wrong.

A. agree

B uncertain

C. disagree

  • Should an arguable topic arise:

A. I tend to be rational

B. in between

C. I express my views regardless of any controversy

  • If people gave more attention to tried and tested values, many of the world’s present problems would be reduced.

A. disagree

B. in between

C. agree

  • I enjoy the excitement of going on the big rides at the amusement park.

A. agree

B. in between

C. disagree

  • There are a lot of issues that I am rather sensitive about and easily upset or annoyed.

A. agree

B. uncertain

C. disagree

  • If I take part in a competition or a game, I get upset if I do not win.

A. agree

B. uncertain

C. disagree

  • People tend to see me as a mild-mannered, quiet-spoken sort of person.

A. agree

B. in between  

C. disagree

Schuck says, “Individually, the answers are not significant, but when ail of the answers are viewed collectively, the personality of the candidate emerges. We learn a great deal more than with a traditional employment interview.”

Schuck reviews the completed test, and, via computer technology, identifies appli­cant character traits. Air Brook looks to find applicants who have similar traits to their benchmark employees.

The process can be stopped at any time. A candidate who is not acceptable in steps 1 or 2 will not proceed to steps 3 through 5.

Bud Haney president of Profiles International, Inc., claims that only one in seven employees who are hired through conventional interviews will succeed. “Using the Prevue Assessment as one-third of the hiring decision will dramatically improve a company’s chances for hiring a good employee,” he says. “The test acts as an emotional X- ray of the applicant. It takes some of the guesswork out of the interview process.”

Not only will the test measure an applicant’s response in certain critical areas, but it will allow the employer to gain information from the applicant about specific potential problem areas.

Several years ago, the Utah Jazz professional basketball team selected center Luther Wright from Seton Hall as its number one draft pick. The seven-foot Wright was potentially a quality professional basketball player. But the team was unaware that Wright’s personality would make him unsuitable for a career in professional basketball. More than $5 million was invested in the young player, but he appeared in only a handful of games before he was released by the team.

“We absolutely would have seen a potential problem if we had tested that young man,” says Haney. “You cannot fool the test and we would have thrown up a big red flag for our client.”

Haney contends that a company with more than six employees has the same need as Air Brook or a professional sports team. “We believe that 75 percent of the applicants that we identify as good potential employees will, in fact, turn into successful employees,” he says. “A smaller company has less of a margin for error than a larger company. An organization that has 12 employees may require the owner to personally train a new employee. Their time is even more valuable than the trainer’s for a big operation. We have taken most of the guesswork out of the process and we allow businesses to concentrate on what they do best.”

Air Brook Chauffeur Candidate Report Highlights

The following excerpts detail a few highlights from a recent pre-employment test conducted by Air Brook Limousine in RochellePark, NJ.

[Fictional name used to protect employee]

John Smith will most likely choose to be with others rather than be alone. Despite his sociable nature and desire for attention, he is highly competitive and quick to assert his own needs and views. Mr. Smith will be a conservative Air Brook chauffeur. He prefers to plan for change, but without the opportunity to prepare, he is still reasonably adaptable. Others see Mr. Smith as a high spirited and energetic person who is normally agreeable and handles things well. He may react strongly to criticism that he perceives as personal.

...A traditionalist, this person works from a firm moral platform and generally abides by the rules. He does what he sees as right He also sees himself as organized and methodical. He is comfortable when he can predict events. Such people are often dependable and predictable, preferring to plan ahead and think through their options before acting, They may be slightly intolerant of others who do not share these beliefs. However, their own work is often meticulous and ultimately reliable.

..Mr. Smith enjoys the company of other people and would be frustrated by extended periods of solitude. Most people will find him to be friendly and personable. He is quick to talk to others and enjoys the attention of others. While he can listen effectively when concentrating; his instinct is to be the one telling the story. His enthusiasm is a tremendous tool when presenting ideas. Mr. Smith would be a good match for most business environments in which working with other people is essential.

Most Common Mistakes Made by Job Interviewers

The following mistakes are most commonly made by a person interviewing a job applicant:

1. Lack of preparation. The interviewer is not prepared to conduct the job interview. The questions posed are off the top of his or her head and do not elicit pertinent information from the interviewee.

2. The interview is dominated by specific stories about the job itself and reveals nothing about the candidate, which is the purpose of the meeting.

Bud Haney, president of Profiles International, Inc., comments, “What typically happens out of these interviews is that companies hire ‘twins.’ By this, I mean employees that sit in the interview and agree or empathize with the interviewer’s stories about the job. This in no way ensures the hiring of a quality employee.”

3. The interviewee is better prepared and has stronger goals than the interviewer The job hopeful places much more importance on the entire process, He or she sees a potential improvement in his or her life via the new job. The interviewer, either company owner or manager, has multiple tasks and multiple concerns in a normal work day. The resulting interview is not productive and neither party benefits from the process.

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