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Talent assessment tool supplements "gut feeling" in hiring

Making a bad hire can be costly. Find out how one sales manager bolstered his hiring process by implementing a talent assessment system.

Even the most seasoned hiring manager makes a bad hire every so often. When faced with building up a sales team from scratch, Swayne Hill, senior vice president of sales at Mintigo, a marketing lead generation company headquartered in San Francisco, Calif., didn't want to take any risks. So instead of relying on gut feeling alone, he implemented the talent assessment tool Talent Analytics to bolster the hiring process.

"It's really, really expensive to make a bad hire. It's not only the cost of paying someone that's not going to be successful, but more importantly, the opportunity cost of not having the right person in the job," he said. "It's too expensive to ignore the value data could bring." Each candidate Hill considers now takes Talent Analytics' assessment questionnaire before interviewing. 

Although Hill has only used the tool for three months, he said scoring patterns are emerging among successful performers, and he expects to gain greater insight from the system as more people are hired through it. However, he did name a few areas in which the Talent Analytics system currently falls short.

Scoring behavioral traits aids data-driven hiring

When he started at Mintigo in late 2012, Hill said he brought a belief in the power of data-driven decisions with him and seized the opportunity to implement Talent Analytics, a product he had heard about several months prior. Hill noted that he did not investigate any other talent assessment products.

Incorporating data in the hiring process at Mintigo was especially important because the company is relatively new, according to Hill, and top-notch sales talent is necessary to gain market share. Currently, Hill manages a team of five sales representatives and plans to hire another five to ten during 2013.

Talent Analytics' talent assessment questionnaire scores candidates on eleven characteristics and takes approximately 20 minutes to complete, according to Greta Roberts, the Boston, Mass.-based company's CEO. While she said a person is obviously much more than a number, she stressed that the "scoring" part is key. "The language of business is numbers, and so we need to ascribe numbers to ourselves," she said.

Roberts also listed several additional use cases for the system besides pre-employment screening. For instance, she said sales reps can have their leads fill out the questionnaire. In addition to scoring traits, the system's talent assessment report offers tips for how to effectively communicate with a person with certain characteristics. Roberts said this information could help sales representatives optimize relationships with their leads. 

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In Hill's experience with the tool, he's noticed a similar dispersal of scores across all metrics common to Mintigo's most successful sales representatives, rather than one highly scored characteristic emerging as the key predictor of success. "What I've seen is interesting patterns that my best sales people seem to share, [but] I don't think enough time has gone by to draw the correlation between a good rep and what they look like on the profile," he said.

In light of that, Hill said he primarily uses the talent assessment results as a jumping-off point, rather than something that could block a candidate from being hired. He explained that he introduces the survey midway through the hiring process, and if a candidate scores differently from the successful performers' baseline in a certain category, he crafts the interview to focus heavily on that characteristic and determine if it's an area that can be developed.

However, Roberts said the questionnaire measures intrinsic strengths, which cannot necessarily be fostered through training. "We come from the premise that people aren't interchangeable -- you can't stick us into a role and train us and we'll all perform the same way," she said. "We're measuring innate characteristics."

Talent Analytics integration with Salesforce.com

Hill uses the version of Talent Analytics offered within the customer relationship management system Salesforce.com, which became available in September 2012. Hill described the integration between the systems as "simple and useful"; after creating a contact record in Salesforce, he explained that the Talent Analytics survey can be directly sent from and received back into the record. Hill easily performed the implementation himself via the Salesforce AppExchange. "It took me about five minutes to install it, and I'm not terribly technical," he said.

While the deployment went smoothly, Hill wished there was more documentation available about how to analyze the talent assessment results. "It took me a couple of phone calls with their support people [until] I was confident in interpreting the report properly," he said. "As they scale their business, they'll have to make more educational information available." He added that he would like to have benchmarking information to reference to stack up his hiring practices against others in the same industry. 

The final item on Hill's wish list is expanded reporting capabilities, specifically reports correlating employee performance and scores on the talent assessment questionnaire. "I think I'm going to have to export data from Salesforce and do some spreadsheet stuff on my own, but over time I think they'll want to make reporting within Salesforce a little easier," he said.

Regardless, Hill is sure that the system's usefulness will continue to increase. "I may decide to use it with other things, but right now it's all about inserting the survey at the right point in the screening process and having information available in Salesforce, so I can draw conclusions about the correlations we start to see over time," he said. "I think [it's] a promising technology."

Emma Snider is the associate site editor for SearchFinancialApplications.com. Follow her on Twitter: @emmajs24.

This was first published in March 2013

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