The young science of personality type analysis and implementation of behavioral pattern predictors provide Human Resource managers with new tools to aid in selecting high level candidates for positions of high level responsibilities and leadership. Careful candidate selection for upper level executive positions is of crucial importance to an organization’s long term viability. An organization’s success is as dependent on the compatibility of its people as it is on marketplace competitiveness. By combining questionnaires such as the Meyers-Briggs Personality Assessment, resume history profiling and body language analysis, today’s Human Resource managers have powerful tools to reduce hiring candidates that may prove to be a poor fit.
As early as the 1500’s the godfather of political science Niccolo Machiavelli wrote his still famous book “The Prince” on topics of distinct patterns of behavior that proved consistent among successful rulers of the time. Machiavelli served as a trusted political adviser to rulers of his time and was trusted to teach his scientific approach to the applied psychology of leadership to the future successors of power. It is his study of applied social psychology and his beliefs that public perception of a leader are more likely the product of careful marketing rather than actual leadership competency is the founding principal of political science. One of the most often quoted Machiavellian lines that captures personality profiling for rulers of his era is: “What makes the prince contemptible is being considered changeable, trifling, effeminate, cowardly, or indecisive; he should avoid this as a pilot does a reef, and make sure that his actions bespeak greatness, courage, seriousness of purpose, and strength” (Machiavelli 46)
The United States military later furthered the application of this science as far back as the 1800s and later became one of the first to nations to invest millions of dollars in computer software to calculate which enlisted men that would make the most effective military officers. It was believed that the officers to be trusted to follow and confidently implement orders from the chain of command fit a very small minority of the general population. It was generally agreed that the position did not rely as heavily on intelligence or charisma as it relied on an unwavering confidence in the mission’s orders. In fact it is rumored that unusually high intelligence is a disqualifier for entry level officer positions, however the military selection criteria are carefully guarded secrets. It would be safe to assume that the judging criteria is confidential to protect against potentially resourceful candidates from teaching themselves how to mimic the qualifying behavioral patterns (Ramsden 5-9).
For hundreds of years since political parties carefully study which potential nominees to back in order to ensure that the ideal candidate receives their financial backing. The party hopes that through superior job performance the correct candidate will provide his party with the greatest prestige, which in turn will provide increased power and financial backing for the party. The stakes are great not just for the political parties but the results of the actions of the new leaders will have far reaching and long term effects on an entire world of people. Selecting the best candidates for these positions of power justifies development of very precise tools to aid the selection process (Ramsden 43).
In the corporate world the stakes can run almost as high as the politics or military positions, since jobs, evolving technology and economies of great scale can have a great impact on a society. For example corporations such as Wal-Mart and General Motors have annual revenues greater than all but the most advanced countries gross national product. Selecting the top leaders of organizations of their scale justifies a considerable investment of technology, time and money. What research has shown is that the personality assessment tests and body language patterns among potential and retired upper management of these massive corporations is surprisingly similar (Tiger 21). However, upper management in other industries indicate different personality profiles than those largest blue chip corporations, while the profile of long term successful leaders in those industry remained consistent (Ramsden 174).
Leadership profiles for science and engineering fields are often measured by their natural process of problem solving and creative ingenuity, however personality profiling for upper management is weighted very heavily on the candidate’s process of information, tolerance for risk and resulting command for action as well as their interpersonal diplomacy (Cascio 395). In different industries various combinations of priority must be taken in relations to the investigative, exploring, determining, evaluating, commitment and timing of strategy changes. For instance in fast paced technology fields such as software an ideal candidate might be best suited to possess traits that causes them to skip quickly through the determining and evaluating stages of the process to get unique ideas onto the marketplace ahead of competitors. However successful candidates for mature, low tech industries with high environmental risks such petroleum production would be better suited to possess traits that prioritize determining and evaluative stages of decision making (Ramsden 266).
The field of human resources is widely recognizing that success in a particular type of industry almost routinely predicts failure at the helm of a company in another industry. However, many managers craving new challenges defect in response to offers from other industries. If the industry requires similar traits the new position will likely enjoy some success (Ramsden 328). However when moving to an industry of considerably different skill sets, the transition often results in a disaster. Imagine the founders of Google trying their hand at managing a corporation that produces nuclear power.
Understanding the importance of identifying personality types that have proven successful in similar companies or similar positions is the first step. Consistently identifying those personality types among the applicants is the second step. Some of the clues will be found on the resume with what types of jobs the candidate has the longest experience with, it is unlikely to find someone such as a detail oriented analyst that would fit an opening for the new staff accountant that also has a 5 year history in outside sales on his job history. It is equally unlikely to discover a successful candidate for software developer position has resume history that includes of 12 years as a bartender (Ramsden 146). On a very consistent level people are drawn to careers that they are most comfortable with and 10 years or more in the workforce typically reveals a gradual migration to positions where the job requirements mirror the person’s talents (Oglive).
In today’s hiring processes most large organizations require candidates for all positions to complete a Myers-Briggs style personality preferences questionnaire while submitting the standard application for employment. The 70-210 question test uncovers if the natural decision making preferences of the applicant coincide with the duties they will likely find in their new position. Many applicants do not have a clear vision of what the daily work regimen would be like in the position they are applying for. If hired into a position that requires them to perform tasks far outside of those they are most comfortable with, both the employee and the employer suffer.
A large mature company may have hundreds of employees in similar positions that an applicant is applying for, the personality assessments for those contented and productive employees can be analyzed and compared to the personality preferences of potential applicants. The same company will likely also have data records of new hires that did not work well in the position and can use this data to discover that their profiles differed considerably from those successful new hires. Myers-Briggs style personality assessments uncover preferences that can identify which candidates are not only qualified, but those who will also enjoy the work and work well with teammates (Oglive 3).
The latest tool integrated into the process was popularized by the 1993 book that founded the science of body language analysis written by Pamela Ramsden and Jody Zacharias titled “Action Profiling –Generating Competitive Edge Through Realizing Management Potential.” Ramsden’s research added a new abstract art to the science of behavioral profiling. Their revolutionary book is still considered the reference book that founded the scientific study of body language profiling as a predictor in upper management candidates success. The book provides initial analytical interview notes and the subsequent long term performance case studies of 15 high level corporate executives. These long term case studies showed that the prototype analytical system used during the interview process accurately predicted these executives long term success with their new employer. “Action Profiling” had later become so highly regarded in the field of human resources that it had become required reading for Harvard Business School MBA program for several years (Ramsden 3).
Over the past 30 years the interpretation of body language analysis has earned its place as a credible subset in the sciences of applied psychology. Gradual technological advancements in high speed digital cameras and computerized analysis are building a precision field of body language profiling. For example with extremely high levels of consistency individuals that test high in the test area of Sensory inclinations areas also exhibit erect postures a graceful gait and typically have a history of athletic success. With some measure of predictability these erect sitting stiff candidates are also measurably less likely to have graduate degrees or excel in positions that require creative outputs. In another example candidates that walk with an exceptionally fast pace regardless of where they are walking to typically test high in Decisiveness and are also normally extremely well groomed and dressed, these types also routinely prefer positions with authority to manage subordinates (Oglive 4)
Long term studies of predictive reliability of pre-employment Meyers-Briggs self-assessment questionnaires give hope that once broken down into consistently measurable analytical parameters employee productivity and further developed that body language analysis can become one of the highest profit tools in business management (Tracy 36). Analytical models for body language predictors were based on finding consistent correlations between patterns of body language types and their remarkably consistent Meyers-Briggs answers (Demarais 18). It is with those correlation findings that psychology researchers are gaining confidence that long term behavioral patterns can be predicted by combining a battery of written tests along with an interview to help isolate which candidates will ultimately provide a large organization with its most effective leadership qualities (Cascio 53).
Ultimately much is at stake in the selection process of top level executives and a successful human resources manager will employ an arsenal of scientific tools to aid in making the best selection of available candidates for the position. Beginning with resume history, criminal and personal credit evaluations, candidates that have successful experience in similar positions will be invited to take skills based testing and Meyers-Briggs style personality assessments to further identify candidates most likely to excel in the job description. Once the field has been trimmed to the final 10% of qualified applicants, a multi session personal interview with several trained analysts in separate settings is justified. These interviews should include evaluations by several body language experts to confirm that the personality measured on their Meyers-Briggs is consistent with body language interpretation. The economy of massive scale that depends on CEO level positions performance justifies the application of as much science and research as is available to protect against the costs of a bad hire at the highest levels.
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August 2009. Internet June 18, 2012
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Tracy, Brian. Hire and Keep the Best People: 21 Practical and Proven Techniques. San Francisco:
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