WorkZone: Bracing for results of the pre-employment survey

By Kris B. Mamula / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

They call it an assessment tool and “TEST” flashes in your mind as a knot forms in your stomach over what in the world you need to do to pass.

This is your dream job and you don’t want to blow it.

Not to worry. The pre-employment survey they’ve asked you to do could be the best thing that ever happened to your career, said Dan Courser, CEO of Cranberry Township-based Predictive Synergistic Systems.

“People are perfect the way there are,” said Mr. Courser, sounding a bit like famously positive Pittsburgh children’s television show host Fred Rogers. “We just want to get them in the right role.”

A number of screening tools are available to managers who are looking for the right person to fill a job — some 800 tools are on the market. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Mr. Courser says his survey dates from the 1930s and it has been tweaked regularly.

Are you the kind of person who works best in a fast-paced environment where you have to think on your feet or do you prefer uninterrupted blocks of time to focus on a single task? Are you more analytical than technical? Do you do best in an orderly, stable work environment?

There are no wrong answers to the survey, only predictions about workplace behavior based on answers to simple questions, Mr. Courser said.

Employers use Predictive Synergistic System’s tools in developing job descriptions, as an aid in recruiting, easing conflict resolution and guiding succession planning. PSS’s Predictive Index is a five-minute survey that advocates claim reveals personality traits that better align the job candidate with the needs of the position.

The survey has been translated into 68 languages and Braille and it’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission compliant.

At Downtown-based software consultant Summa, employees post their survey profiles on their doors, said Mark Coy, chief human relations officer. Summa has used the survey in recruiting for eight years.

“It’s not pass-fail. It’s not a test,” Mr. Coy said. “It tells us a little more about you.”

The result: “We understand each other and that helps when we work together,” he said.

The Pittsburgh Technology Council recently partnered with PSS to offer the company’s Predictive Index to the council’s member companies. PTC has used the survey for about 10 years internally, said Justin Driscoll, senior director, people and culture initiatives.

“It’s very powerful,” he said. “It’s very expensive to get someone out of a role where they don’t fit.”

The need for such assessments is increasing, according to Mr. Courser. For every job opening in 2008, there were 40 applicants. By 2016, the number of applicants for every open position had shriveled to 1.4, making it all the more important for employers to make the right choice.

Annual performance reviews to gauge job satisfaction and fit, for example, have been used for years in making personnel decisions, but that sort of evaluation has been losing popularity in favor of more precise measurements, including self-rated competency surveys, 360-degree and personality assessments, according to a 2015 survey by New York City-based American Management Association.

Kris B. Mamula: or 412-263-1699

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