For Direct Marketers, Personality Is Everything

I’m sure you’ll find this interesting. While recently wrapping up a CEO search for a leading consumer catalog and web company, nearly all the candidates who made our client’s short list had the same personality. Interesting, yes! But not peculiar.

The finalist candidates–four men and a woman–a talented mix of seasoned dm execs from across the country, were representing career backgrounds in a variety of product categories and company size.

In fact, after 12 years of assessment testing hundreds of men and women–senior-level direct marketing candidates for positions as CEO, President–for leadership roles in Finance, Marketing, Merchandising, IT, Operations, I’ve noticed the same thing. Over 75% of these individuals have the same personality and temperament type. So for me, testing this most recent group came as no surprise.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The direct marketing executive personality type I’m referring to–and the one you may not be aware of–is shared by only 12% to 15% of the American population, according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This is the standard-bearer of all personality assessments. In fact, it identifies sixteen distinctly different, universal personality types.

According to its publishers, Myers-Briggs is used by roughly nine out of 10 Fortune 100 companies and is administered to more than 2.5 million employees a year. The MBTI was developed 60 years ago based on the theories of psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It endures, because it does a great job of improving team relations by pointing out differences between how personality “types” perceive and process information.

The Right Fit

A Harvard University study found that for every dismissal based on failure to perform, there are two dismissals due to personality and communication problems. With the high costs of employee turnover, it’s no surprise more and more direct marketing organizations are turning to personality and behavioral assessments to help evaluate job candidates, build teams and resolve workplace conflicts.

Think about it. You’re already testing offers, testing copy, testing merchandise, and testing catalogs. So why not your people?

If your business is not doing so, you ought to consider using testing (and there are numerous pre-hire assessment options to choose from) to fine-tune your hiring process and bring in top talent. It may help you get a handle on which candidates are most likely to succeed–evaluating candidates before they are hired. And give you some kind of idea of what makes them tick.

This raises the question: Are certain people genetically bred to go into direct marketing? Or does the very nature of the business effect personality and temperament? Take your pick. In my judgment, it’s a bit of both. “We want to learn more about candidates as individuals,” says Andy Katz, President & CEO of pet supplies direct marketer, PetEdge. “Once a candidate is hired, this same information helps us understand and maximize their talents specific to the role they have,” Katz adds. “And we continue to work on developing employees’ self-awareness throughout their careers to help create an environment that ensures success.”

You Can’t Study For It

In taking a personality assessment, experts advise candidates to answer the questions truthfully, not the way they think the company wants them to respond. There is often a validity factor built in where many questions are asked solely to determine whether the subject is answering truthfully and consistently.

Even if the candidate does fool the test, he or she will only wind up in a job or assignment that doesn’t fit or will make you–and those around you–miserable. According to Bonnie Bass, a vice president of a professional dynametric programs testing organization, “When people feel the need to act unnaturally, they waste energy, experience stress and become unhappy and less productive. People are at their best when they’re doing work that draws on their natural strengths and allows them to be themselves.”

Executive Search International is a nationally recognized boutique firm providing best practice search and recruiting services to the direct marketing industry.

Les Gore, founder and managing partner is a 23-year veteran of the “recruiting wars” and who Don Libey, noted industry guru, calls “The Dean of Direct Marketing Executive Recruiters.”