Practice makes perfect. That’s why Atlanta-based Gables Residential vice president of human resources Philip Altschuler warns on-site property managers to be wary of the job candidate who talks the talk, walks the walk, and nails each interview question. “It’s a simple fact: Bad job candidates get the most experience interviewing,” says Altschuler, who has overseen the hiring of 5,000 people over the course of a 25-year career in human resources.

Companies have relied on psychological and behavioral profiling tools to help winnow the keepers from the creepers, but for decentralized firms with high turnover metrics, profiling programs have been difficult to implement across enterprises. Testing typically has been paper-based, has required a proctor, and has been time-consuming to score. Enter recently developed Web-based behavior profiling solutions from Dallas-based PeopleAnswers and Vernon Hills, Ill.–based Wonderlic, among others, and industry verticals are suddenly plugging pysch tests right into online application processes, improving the likelihood that new employees will survive and thrive.

First Things First

Behavioral profiling tests work quite simply: Subjects answer questions that evaluate cognitive, analytic, and reasoning skills, as well as organizational and personality traits. By comparing those traits against predefined profiles for different job descriptions, hiring managers get a first-pass ­Rorschach test to make a go/no-go call on hiring a candidate.

For firms employing new profiling software, “first pass” has become a critical concept, and most testing is now being conducted as part of the application process. “We’ve built an integration [step] where our prospective associates are funneled directly from the online application process to Wonderlic, which we use to perform an initial personality screening,” says Scott Pechersky, VP of technology and ancillary services for Phoenix-based Alliance Residential. “This is done without any interaction needed by our recruiting department. Only after the assessment is given does the candidate move along in our workflow, and we’ve definitely seen reduced turnover and a higher-caliber associate come through at Alliance since we started this.”

Gables likewise executes assessments up front and offers applicants entry into a $500 drawing as an incentive to complete the testing. “Whether an applicant is successful as a candidate or not, they’re still a potential resident, and we want them to know that we value the time commitment,” says Altschuler. “But definitely do assessments up front. You’re trying to prevent a scenario where a candidate interviews with four different managers only to find out afterward that it wasn’t a good fit. That’s just a painful waste of time and resources.”

Power Profiling

Automating behavioral testing has not only made systems more scalable for dispersed apartment firms like Gables, it’s produced a wealth of aggregate data that firms can use to logically match applicants to job functions as well as appropriate career paths.

“Succession planning and career-pathing are something a lot of our clients are looking for,” says PeopleAnswers president and CEO Gab Goncalves. “[Profiling] allows a firm to hire an entry-level person into property management but know that person is cut out to one day make a great asset or portfolio manager.”

Behavior profiling also cuts down on turnover, especially for leasing agents and maintenance staff, positions often plagued by retention issues. “Out of 137 positions at Gables, when comparing assessed versus nonassessed hires, we’ve seen a 41.9 percent lower turnover rate among assessed employees,” Altschuler says.

“The value of this tool is evidenced by the reduced turnover we’ve had in our leasing consultant position, where we’ve reduced turnover by nearly 50 percent,” says Kristy Simonette, senior VP of strategic services and CIO at Houston-based Camden Property Trust. “As a result, we’ve expanded the assessment to our maintenance supervisor and community manager positions, as well.”

Complementary Systems

Testing tech isn’t just for onboarding, either. Irvine, ­Calif.–based Western National Group is planning a hosted software the firm will use to track employee acceptance of new policies. “This system will be a great tool to ensure that our distributed workforce is all on the same page,” says the firm’s VP of information technology, Ken Hodges.

According to Altschuler, comparing the personality of job applicants with the personality of your company is just as critical as the behavioral and cognitive comparisons with specific job categories. “Hiring the right people is as important for the applicant as it is for Gables. We want you to be successful here, and we want to be successful, and that’s only going to happen if there’s a good match,” he says. “These technologies help us move away from hiring by chance and closer to hiring by purpose.”