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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kenneth Iverson, June 11, 1999. Interview I-0083. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Description of hiring practices

Iverson describes how he hires managers. Usually, they climb the ranks within the company, and upon recommendation, if they pass a psychological test, they get the job. The test itself appears to have arisen somewhat organically—the company Iverson contracted to design the test simply asked sets of questions to good and bad managers. The answers good managers provided became the right answers for future test-takers.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kenneth Iverson, June 11, 1999. Interview I-0083. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JM: The principal task that you've set your managers is to -- as you've observed in various places and in your book -- shape an environment that encourages a certain kind of opportunity for employees to realize their potential and contribute in an unencumbered way to the company's success by aligning their interests with management's and the company's generally. I want to ask a few questions about picking people along the way. KI: Oh, that's critical. JM: Do you have a theory? Do you have a rule of thumb? You fly by the seat of your pants? I know you have employed a professional to help you with the design of certain psychological tests that you give to managers. I wonder what sorts of things you think are interesting to find out. KI: We have used a psychological test for managers not particularly to find out how good the manager is. We know before that he is technically proficient, knowledgeable and so on. What we're trying to find out is what are the weaknesses where we need to shore him up as a general manager, if he's the one that's selected. We had a basic process that we went through. Normally most of the managers came from inside the corporation. They had come up and been recognized and were foreman and even department heads at one point. When we came to select a general manager for a new plant, he first of all had to be recommended by the manager of that plant, which he was in now. Secondly, he had to go and be tested psychologically in Chicago. He had to be interviewed by myself, by John Correnti, and by our manager of personnel sevices. If any five said, “No. I don't think he's the person,” we didn't pick him. Now I've had good and bad. I've had, the four people and I've picked for manager and the one I picked for manager or Sadler and Associates, which was in Chicago and did the psychological testing said, “Don't take him. He won't be a good manager.” We did not. Subsequently that turned out to be the right opinion from what history showed. But he's also been wishy-washy on what we could or could not do it. Sometimes we picked them and were disappointed. JM: What impressed you the most and at the same time, what caused you most concern in evaluating a perspective manager? KI: I guess I was looking for someone who was really interested in people and in managing people and who could get along with people. That's the criterion that is the most important. You can always find someone who has the technical abilities or appears to -- we made mistakes in that area -- but to find somebody who can really get along and be a leader of people is a difficult. It is not an easy job. JM: Just to pursue the point of these psychological tests, profiling tests that you did and so forth, what were you most interested to find out? Did you get involved in the evaluation of these tests and the design of these tests? KI: No. That we left to Sadler and Associates. He designed a test for us to select foremen, and it was a simple test. What he did was take a bunch of good foremen and a bunch of not very good foremen and found out differences to various questions and he used that as a guide to selecting foremen, which worked out pretty well surprising. Strange questions [such as,] “Do you like to watch baseball games?” “How much sleep do you get at night?” Psychological questions that look peculiar to you and I, but actually from which he could get really good insight.