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Priya Ganapati in Bangalore | November 10, 2003

Ever wondered what kind of person will be happy in a call centre?

Psychometric tests have the answer.

It is someone who is dependable, deliberate, hates change, likes to follow repetitive processes and finishes the job at hand, which does not necessarily mean with quality.

Or it could be someone who has a flair for accuracy, thrives in an environment which has procedures laid down and yet does not seek variety or change.

Officially, they are termed the 'steadiness' and 'compliance' personalities.

And that is the profile that call centres are now looking out for. With increasing attrition rates -- the industry average pegs it at about 25 percent currently, though it was much higher till a few months ago -- and a rapidly growing business, the cost of hiring has become a sizable investment for call centres.

To get this right, call centres are now investing in profiling services, or psychometric tests, that help determine a candidates' traits at work and see if they fit in with the requirements of the job.

"Psychometric tests have been around for a while, but in the down cycle people in the IT industry have been looking at these tests more closely. Today the cost of a wrong hire is immense so these tests are becoming popular," says Prahlad Rao, managing partner, Team Value Profiling Services.

TVPS is the India representative of Thomas International, a Britain-based company that has over 30,000 clients worldwide. It also has one of the world's most widely used behavioral assessment instruments.

Thomas International bases its tests on the premise that performance depends on a mixture of skills, intelligence and behavior.

"What we help assess is the behaviour at work and work related intelligence. We do a personal profile analysis that looks at a person's strength and initiative, do management audits, technical audits and call centre audits," says Rao.

Psychometric tests are not anything new. For years, fast moving consumer goods companies have been using them to hire people in key positions, but software companies and call centres have been shy of these tests.

But now with increasing demand from clients and the pressure to cut down on recruitment costs, call centres are increasingly exploring the usage of profiling tests to find the right candidate.

Today, a number of call centres including Wipro Spectramind, Intellinet, AOL, 24 By 7, Nipuna, and Mainstay use TVPS' profiling services regularly.

In case of the Thomas International profiling test, for a Personal Profile Analysis, the most basic of the tests, an interviewee has to tick the relevant answers on a questionnaire, a process that takes about ten minutes.

Based on the answers, a basic profile that explores the strengths and weaknesses of a person is churned out. A more detailed analysis that can compare the individual's skills and behavioral traits to that of the job at hand can also be generated.

For instance, inbound customer care processes require different attitudinal and behavioural competencies versus an outbound customer acquisition process.

In the former, ability to listen, build rapport, engage the customer and solve problems are more important, while in telemarketing the ability to generate excitement, handle rejection and keeping motivated are important.

Typically outbound agents tend to be more extroverts than inbound and psychometric tests help recognise these character traits.

The cost to company per candidate screening through the psychometric tests is expected to be between Rs 200 and Rs 300 and the test itself is estimated to be 85 percent accurate.

Demand from clients is also forcing call centres to use profiling tests.

"We are speaking to a couple of clients who want us to use psychometric tests but this is still at an implementation stage," says Prakash Gurbaxani, CEO, Transworks.

However, profiling tests have a way to go before they can find full fledged acceptability. Despite what the test administrators say about the efficacy of their methods, call centres are not completely relying on the tests to pick the kind of employee that want.

"While we do use psychometric testing to a certain extent, we do realise their limitations, especially in an Indian context. In fact, rather than using these tests as tools to recruit people, at Infowavz we utilize the tests more towards selecting people for specific roles and responsibilities once they have been recruited," says Zia Sheikh, CEO, Infowavz.

Also call centre honchos feel there is no substitute for a face-to-face interaction with a potential hire.

"We believe that there is no replacement for live human interaction and face-to-face interviews. While we use various recruitment tools these are more elimination tools, which are tailored to identify the basic skills for a BPO (business process outsourcing) environment," says Sheikh.

"It is really through group discussions, role plays, one-on-one interviews with HR, Training and Operations that one is able to judge candidates on their behavioral and attitudinal traits," he adds.

Check list

Here's a check list of what call centers look for in candidates. Apart from work related skills, there is also the emotional quotient that call centers are testing via psychometric tests.

Work Quotient that call centers test

  • Familiarity with computers and basic applications.
  • Good spoken English.
  • Confident attitude.
  • Pleasant voice.
  • Willingness to handle night shifts.

Emotional Quotient that call centers test

  • Dependability.
  • Willingness to follow procedures.
  • Ability to handle rejection.
  • Craving for stability.
  • For those who want to be on a sales job, the desire to prove oneself.
  • Ability to handle varied work timings and pressure on the job.
  • Ability to work in a team and the motivating factors.
  • Extent of ambition.

More Specials

Share your comments

 What do you think about the story?

Read what others have to say:

Number of User Comments: 4

Sub: feedback

I am a PG student of Psychology, was just wondering what all psychometric tests besides personality profiling can be utilized? Any feedback would be welcome.

Posted by Pragati

Sub: Info

I am a second year UG student with excellent computer and communication skills.I have tried in couple of call centres but there eligibilty was of ...

Posted by Mohit

Sub: Great article...

Well researched article...Good Job

Posted by Biswajit Das

Sub: Bpo enquirey

I am a chartered Accountant and I am interested in knowing prospects for me.Is there any possibility of potential in this area of BPO for ...

Posted by S.K.Lele


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