Aptitude Tests

A few months ago, a young man who loved sales came to me for career counseling.  He was angry.  And when I say “angry” I mean “fit to kill” angry.

Sometimes, in order to break the ice, I offer to play a quick game with my new clients.  In his case, it was a mistake.

The “game” is an aptitude test that takes all of 3 seconds to complete.  I learned about it on AOL.  It’s called the Dewey Color System Test.  Pick one color from each of two rows and voilà: you will immediately know your ideal career choice.

Naturally, I preface the offer to “administer” the “test” with an explanation that it’s only for fun and to break the ice.  I explain that (and this is not scientific) about 70% of people who I have given the “test” to accept the results, 20% say they are spot-on, 5% disagree and 5% say they are absolute rubbish.

This “test,” when given, is given at the start of a two-hour session.  When the session ends, we have either forgotten about it, remember it and laugh because it’s silly, or laugh because we agree with it.

But let’s get back to my angry client.  He had only been working for three-four months.  His boss had told him that he was required to take an aptitude test.  According to his boss, the results were far from positive and they were considering letting him go.   He had the passion, but apparently not the aptitude, for sales.

I do not like criticizing tests, or anything else for that matter, without first trying them myself.  So I have taken two aptitude tests.  I gave totally honest answers.  The results were diametrically opposed to each other!  Thus my conclusion that aptitude tests are silly.

Here’s the best (or worst) example:

As I wrote in a White Paper on effective hiring, a couple of years ago an acquaintance tried to get me to use what I believe is called the DICE aptitude test to evaluate candidates for my executive recruiting clients.   I explained to him that I have always gotten positive results from just having an honest conversation with candidates.  But I said that I would give it a try, on myself, on the condition that all of the results were sent directly to me.  He agreed.  Here’s what’s written in the explanatory cover letter that came with my results:

This report analyzes behavioral style; that is, a person’s manner of doing things.  Is the report 100% true?  Yes, no and maybe.  We are only measuring behavior.  We only report statements from areas of behavior in which tendencies are shown.  To improve accuracy, feel free to make notes or edit the report regarding any statement from the report that may or may not apply, but only after checking with friends or colleagues to see if they agree. (Emphasis added.)

As I said, aptitude tests are silly.  When I read the above paragraph to my client, he began to calm down.  I then told him about a seasoned sales professional who I had interviewed on my radio show, Bruce Hurwitz Presents.  I had asked him about aptitude tests and he said, based on something like forty years’ experience, that a good supervisor can turn an introvert into a sales star and an extrovert into a disaster.  Anyone can learn sales if they have the passion and the interest.

So for persons new to the profession, if you are having problems, don’t look for a career counselor, look for a mentor.   Don’t be afraid to ask for help.   It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s the sign of a good professional.

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