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Fit can be as important as knowledge.


Fit can be as important as knowledge when it comes to doing a job well. The trouble is, it can be tough to evaluate how a prospective employee will fit into an organization based on an interview.

For that reason, some mutual fund and annuity firms are taking steps to use psychological testing to help evaluate whether a prospective employee will mesh with their firms.

Testing provides a method of going beyond the traditional interview and reference checks to learn more about a candidate, according to executives who use testing for prospective employees. And testing can help distinguish candidates who might otherwise appear equally qualified, according to fund and annuity executives.

"It gives you another angle of approach," said Matt Connors, a managing director in the Baltimore office of Deutsche Asset Management of New York. "It gives you some other way of judging."

Connors uses a form of testing known as behavioral profiling that the executive recruiting firm of DAK Associates of Conshohocken, Pa. administers as part of its searches for prospective employees. The test, which can be completed in less than 10 minutes, asks test takers to rate themselves for characteristics such as congeniality, aggressiveness and optimism. Job seekers are then asked to say how others expect them to act with respect to the same characteristics.

The results are analyzed and help identify individuals with respect to four personality types that can best be described as driven, persuasive, persistent or analytical. The employer then compares the test results to his expectations of the type of personality that will work best in the job.

The test is only one ingredient in trying to place an executive with a financial services firm, said Daniel A. Kreuter, president of DAK. Some firms pay little attention to the test results and others view it as an important ingredient in assessing a candidate, Kreuter said.

Andy Reiss, national sales manager for New York Life Insurance & Annuity Corp. of New York, said he has been using DAK's testing method for more than two years. The test results do not drive a hiring decision, but can be a deciding factor when two candidates appear essentially equal, Reiss said.

Whatever benefits psychological testing provides, this is a tough market for it, according to some executive recruiters. Often candidates can afford to refuse to take such tests because demand for employees is so high, some executive recruiters said.

"It's difficult enough to attract good people," said Joseph Preston, president of Preston & Co. of Clinton, N.J., a financial services executive search firm. Companies often are skeptical about the value of such testing, Preston said.

Indeed, although some companies conduct psychological testing for prospective employees, there is no broad demand for it, said Kimberly A. Raynor, an executive director in the Boston office of Russell Reynolds Associates of New York, an executive search firm. Recruiters can evaluate a prospective employee's fit by knowing the employer, meeting with a candidate and talking to the candidate's references and industry peers, Raynor said.

Testing can do more than just aid in recruiting, however, according to Connors. The approximately 30 wholesalers on Connors' staff have taken the DAK test. Armed with a profile of the employees' personalities, Connors said he is better able to tailor communications and manage employees. Over the long term, Connors believes use of the profiles helps employee retention and morale.