Retail Tests Personality

January 27th, 2009 | Sources: Wall Street Journal

Subjects: ,

Right now, 16% of all US retail hiring processes involve pre-screening job applicants with an online personality test created by Unicru, which was acquired recently by Massachusetts-based Kronos, Inc.

Kronos processed 10 million tests in 2008 alone, assessing things like self-control, adaptability and friendliness in an effort to weed out applicants poorly suited to retail work before the interview phase.

The test requires applicants to agree or disagree with 130 statements like, “you have to give up on some things that you start,” and “any trouble you have is your own fault.”

Many companies believe the test is effective. For example Kristopher Arnes, a Best Buy executive told the Wall Street Journal that Kronos’ automated screening process saves 250,000 to 300,000 hours in HR costs per year.

Whole Foods Market dropped the test however, finding that sunny personalities don’t necessarily translate into knowing how much cumin and allspice to throw into the couscous. 

Meanwhile, a whole subculture of cheating has bloomed around the test. Applicants often share answers and test-taking strategies, use answer sheets found online or even have a friend, presumably one with a pleasant disposition, take the test for them.

But Kronos isn’t worried about that, or if they are they aren’t saying. For one thing they claim, there’s been no drop-off in their tool’s performance when it comes to employee turnover, sales performance and what have you.

And Kronos executives don’t give much credence to those online answer sheets. “The way in which the answers relate to the job requirements is…not obvious,” test developer David Scarborough told the Journal.

They better hope not.


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