Association Insights

Personality Testing for Manager Hiring

The Problem

Those among us who have risen in our industry to the esteemed position of “hiring manager” have faced the problem of finding the right people. Whether your company is growing or just holding its own, you need to find and keep good, competent community managers – those folks who thrive on keeping all of the balls in the air, meeting multiple, overlapping deadlines, and maintaining the happiness and satisfaction of clients.

For arguments’ sake, let’s say that you find a candidate who looks good on paper. Now, you have to vet them to find out if they can really do the job, if they’re a good fit for your team, if customer service is in their DNA. Not being trained as an interviewing professional, you ask them about strengths and weaknesses or have them tell a story about dealing with a difficult customer. You even check a reference or three while the bluebird of logic chirps in your ear, “What kind of idiot would provide a bad reference?” Of course, it’s a rhetorical chirp and so you make the offer and they accept.

Things start. Your new hire shows up on time, writes mostly literate emails and seems to hold their own in a Board meeting. But, as time passes, little issues pop up – a missed mailing deadline here – a late board package there. Your spidey sense tingles and then comes the “We have some concerns” call from Madam President. Just shy of six months, the new hire resigns and, if you’re lucky, the client does not. Still, you have to make those calls to announce, “We’re giving you a new manager!” like it’s a positive. This has happened before and you begin to wonder if those clients are starting to question your ability to effectively evaluate talent. What’s a hiring manager to do?

The Idea

Years ago, at my own management company, I faced this same issue. How do you find (and keep) good people? In my case, I found the finding easier than the keeping so I focused on finding and I was pretty good at it. But, from time to time, a manager would start out well, then fade and the cycle would repeat with hope springing eternal with each new hire. While I was mainly successful in the human resources realm, I still sought the silver bullet of personnel perfection.

Then, one day at a CAI event, a keynote speaker whose name escapes displayed the results of a survey of successful community association managers ranked by industries where they worked previously. The #1 industry where successful CAMs had worked before? Flight attendant! Once the speaker explained, the “Why?” was obvious. These folks had been successfully, day after day, while locked in a steel tube at 33,000 feet serving impatient, demanding, and sometimes sweaty people, all the while smiling and meeting those demands. I imagined them becoming a CAM and thinking they’d died and gone to heaven! And the #2 “industry”? Public school teacher! Again, a blinding flash of the obvious! Thirty-five little heathens daily dropped in your lap, every one of them an Einstein (according to Mommy & Daddy). Your job? Realize and appreciate their greatness despite bureaucracy and chronic underfunding. Leave teaching and become a CAM? Piece of cake.

So, thought I, maybe there are folks with certain personalities that do well in these types of jobs – where folks aren’t always patient and thankful. Maybe their DNA chemically predestines them as happy, positive, helpful and patient. A bit of internet research on the subject revealed an entire field of study about personality research and testing with dozens of companies whose full-time business is working with clients to develop and implement personality testing programs to better match candidates (and current staff) with the right positions with the result of, happy customers.

The Experiment

Here at Sentry, we asked the question, “Do certain personality types make better CAMs?” To answer the question, we set up an experiment wherein we voluntarily personality tested a sample population of CAMs. At the same time, their supervisors independently and “blindly” (i.e., without having access to the personality test results) rated those CAMs in terms of job performance. Then, we looked for statistical trends in an effort to validate the hypothesis.

We asked for testing volunteers from all 300 Sentry community association managers and from all supervisors (Division Managers, VPs, SVPs). All test takers were told not to overthink their answers, but to respond with initial thoughts. The experiment used 16personalities.com, a free, online personality test which can be administered in about 10 minutes. The test blends aspects of the Five Factors Personality Model that evolved from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) that evolved from Carl Jung’s original research into personality types. Personality types include five independent aspects, with all letters in the type code (e.g., INFJ-A) referring to one of the two sides of the corresponding spectrum. The five personality aspects are Mind, Energy, Nature, Tactics and Identity. Each should be seen as a two-sided continuum with the middle of each continuum being neutral. With the letters corresponding to MBTIs bolded and underlined for ease of comparison, the five continuum pairs are:

  • “Mind” shows how a person interacts to their surroundings with Extroverts preferring group activities, being energized by social interaction, and tending to be more enthusiastic and easily excited that their counterparts, I Introverts prefer solitary activities and are exhausted by social interaction. They tend to be generally sensitive to external stimulation.
  • “Energy” determines how a person sees the world and processes information. Observant individuals are practical, pragmatic and “down-to-earth”. They tend to have strong habits and focus on current or past events. Intuitive persons are imaginative, open-minded and curious, preferring novelty more than stability with focus on hidden meanings and future possibilities.
  • “Nature” determines how a person makes decisions and copes with emotions. A Thinking individual is more objective and rational and prefers logic over emotion. Thinkers tend to hide their feelings and see efficiency as more important than cooperation. Feeling individuals are sensitive and emotionally expressive and are more empathetic and less competitive than Thinkers. Feelers prefer social harmony and cooperation.
  • “Tactics” reflects a person’s approach to work, planning and decision making. Judging individuals are decisive, thorough and highly organized. They value clarity, predictability and closure, preferring structure and planning to spontaneity. Prospecting individuals are good at spotting opportunities and improvising. They tend to be flexible, relaxed non-conformists who prefer keeping their options open.
  • “Identity” shows how confident a person is in their abilities and decisions. Assertive individuals are self-assured, even-tempered and stress resistant. They are not worriers and do not push themselves too hard to achieve goals. Turbulent individuals are self-conscious stressors. They often experience a range of emotions while being success-driven improvers and perfectionists.

The Results

We received test results from 59 of 300 (about 20%, a good statistical sample, of) Sentry CAMs and from 26 other Sentry employees ranging in title from Administrative Assistant to Senior Vice President. The analysis focused on CAM responses. Of the 59 responses, 44 (71%) fell into one of three personality types. These were:

  • Consul (ESFJ-A/T) – 28/59 (45%)
  • Protagonist (ENFJ-A/T) – 9/59 (15%)
  • Executive (ESTJ-A/T) – 7/59 (11%)

Note the prevalence of “E’s” and “J’s” in these results and keep that in mind as you read the detailed descriptions of these personality types listed in the sidebar and ponder whether the traits described fit the profile of a good community manager.

The Ratings

To minimize rating subjectivity, we kept the rating system simple with CAMs being rated with a single number, 1 through 3, in response to the question, “How likely would it be that you (i.e., the supervisor) would assign a new and important community (that could lead to other new business) to this CAM?” The ratings were:

  • Unlikely – I have service and/or competency concerns about this CAM.
  • Somewhat Likely – He/She could do a reasonable job, but may not be my 1st
  • Very Likely – He/She is a top performer.

Of the 59 CAMs that took the test, eight (14%) were rated as a 1 (including 5 Consuls and 1 Protagonist). Our sense of the low percentage was that poor managers are not around for long while the high percentage of Consuls within that low number stemmed from Consuls being the most prevalent personality type in the population at large (12%).

Moving up the rating scale, 23 CAMs (39%) received a 2 rating. These included seven Consuls, five Protagonists and four Executives. Finally, 28 CAMs (47%) were rated as 3’s. These included 16 Consuls, three each of Protagonists and Executives. This total (22 of 28 or 79%) was significant. Clearly, we saw a trend of the incidences of the top 3 personality types increasing as the rating increased.

Drilling Down the Aspects

Finally, we mapped CAM ratings to each of the five aspect pairs to determine which, if any, of those personality “slices” carried more or less weight with our good (or not so good) CAMs. In doing so, we identified certain specific tendencies common to our sample of good managers.

In terms of Mind, most CAMs, regardless rating, tended to be more Extrovert than Introvert with 3’s leading the way with an average of 72% extroversion versus 28% introversion per CAM. This makes sense given that managers must deal with people as a basic part of their job.

On the matter of Energy, Observant types prevailed “gut instinct” types. Across all three ratings, Observers predominated, but not overwhelmingly, hovering between 60% and 65% observant versus 30% to 35% intuitive per CAM. Again, this is reasonable since a large part of a manager’s job involves making decisions and providing fact-based recommendations.

Moving to Nature, Feelers outnumbered Thinkers, but again, not overwhelmingly. Across all ratings, Feelers led with an average of between 57% and 61% versus 39% to 43% thinking. With this in mind, compare how a Thinker versus a Feeler would handle being on the receiving end of an angry client phone call. Feelers are probably better equipped to handle these situations gracefully and empathetically while the true Thinkers among us might be tempted to a more unemotional, clipped, “solve the problem” response.

When we analyzed responses in terms of Tactics, we saw a significant statistical trend. Again, Judgers are “Complete the action item!” types while Prospectors tend to ask more questions and collect more data. Working up the rating scale, CAMs rated 1 averaged 69% judging and 31% prospecting while 2’s averaged 72% judging and 28% prospecting and 3’s topped out at 74% judging and 26% prospecting. In short, the better the CAM rating, the stronger the judging personality aspect, not surprising in my experience as management companies tend to be fired, more often than not, because action items are not getting done.

Lastly, we looked at Identity. Here, again, we noted a statistical trend along the rating scale. CAMs rated 1 by their supervisors averaged 53% assertive and 47% turbulent. CAMs rated 2 increased assertiveness to 67% assertive with turbulence at 33%. The spread was even wider for CAMs with 3 ratings, 71% assertive to 29% turbulent. In short, the numbers strongly suggested that better managers handle stress better, are more confident and don’t sweat the little things.

The Recap

After cross analyzing the data, we ended up with a suggested profile for an “ideal” community association manager. In short, that manager is:

  • More extraverted than introverted in relating to people
  • More observant than intuitive when processing information
  • More feeling than thinking when dealing with emotions
  • More judging than prospecting in their actions
  • More assertive than turbulent in terms of self-confidence and focus

When you add all of these together, the “perfect” CAM is an ESFJ-A “Consul”. For personality testing purposes, this would be the “superstar” profile against which you would test incoming manager candidates.

Conclusion

In today’s tough job market, with low unemployment and job seekers hunting for high pay, the savvy hiring manager cannot afford to waste resources screening bad candidates. Identifying and politely declining to interview these manage mismatches should be the hiring manager’s raison d’etre if they want to continue “etre-ing” in the future. The alternative, making an offer and hoping for the best, is not just internally unwise, but bad for business and the industry.


By Dave Ciccarelli, AMS, PCAM

Dave is the Vice President of Virginia for Sentry Management, Inc., a full-service community association management company with offices in 17 states. In 1997, Ciccarelli founded Loudoun Management Associates, Inc. (d.b.a. Horizon Community Services), which he merged with Sentry Management, Inc. in 2015. Dave holds the AMS and PCAM designations and is an active member of the Washington Metro Chapter of CAI.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *