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Automated Assessment at a Medium Company

15:09 01 December in News

New Horizons Computer Learning Centers doubled sales in 90 days with their prescreening test.

By Gilbert Nicholson

Workforce MagazineIf time is money, Mitch Biskup should have a mint tucked away in a south Florida bank, thanks to a prescreening test for his sales force at New Horizons Computer Learning Centers. “It saves me tons of time not interviewing the wrong candidates,” says Biskup, executive vice president of the Miami franchise. The test, “Objective Management Group’s Sales Candidate Assessment®-Express Screen,” from Objective Management Group, has paid even greater dividends since its deployment last fall. “We actually doubled our sales about 90 days after we started using the Kurlan test,” he says.

New Horizons bills itself as the largest independent IT training company in the world, with 2.4 million students around the globe and nearly 7,000 employees in 250 locations. The company provides a wide array of computer training, from desktop applications to Web design to corporate computer training.

The problem
“It’s difficult to hire people for what we do,” Biskup says. The sales process starts with a cold call to a decision-maker with an invitation for a free day of computer training at the New Horizons campus. “There are certain skill sets necessary for success in our environment, and we didn’t have a real good way of measuring that with each applicant,” he says. “Some people interview very well, but that’s as far as it goes. They can talk the talk but can’t walk the walk.” Biskup found that he was spending inordinate amounts of time interviewing and hiring people who didn’t pan out.

Biskup heard of Objective Management’s Kurlan sales test through New Horizons’ St. Louis franchise. According to Objective Management, the test predicts the growth potential of individuals, whether the individuals are trainable, and what kind of help they need to reach their potential, as well as providing a time line for achieving those results.

The test has a sliding scale on which the difficulty of hiring criteria increases in proportion to the income level of the job. In addition to the prerequisites for success at selling, each client provides its own criteria for what makes a salesperson successful in its business, thereby customizing the test for each company. Applicants complete a traditional written application and a quick interview with New Horizons’ recruiter. Then comes a facility tour, followed by the Kurlan test, taken on a PC. Applicants who do well interview with the sales manager, and finally Biskup.

One feature of the Kurlan test that Biskup particularly likes is a series of interviewing tips to probe problem areas. “It may suggest asking candidates how they feel when a prospect rejects them, and how long before they feel good again,” he says. “In some cases, it would be hard for an interviewer to identify that as a weakness just from an interview. It really gives you guidance as to the proper approach to each individual applicant.” Conversely, the follow-up questions can help Biskup discover that an applicant with a so-so résumé or mediocre test results is actually a good catch. “You’re going to get some people who are right on the edge,” he says. “The test can reveal strengths they can build on and weaknesses they can improve.”

He read one set of results from a real but anonymous applicant for the test’s strength-and-weaknesses category, which concluded that the person would talk too much and not ask enough questions, not develop bonding or rapport with customers, and fail to uncover a client’s actual budget. The compatibility section revealed that the person had never made sales presentations involving the same dollar amount as New Horizons’ product. “Making presentations under our circumstances wouldn’t work for them,” Biskup says. More precious time just saved.

Workforce, December 2000, Volume 79, Number 12, p. 104-105

Gilbert Nicholson is a business writer in Birmingham, Alabama.