Gary Eichhorst, owner of Eichhorst & Co. in Spring Grove, Ill., needed someone to sell the Owens Corning basement finishing system his company operates as a franchise. But instead of putting an ad in the paper and hiring someone on the basis of gut instinct -- his past practice -- Eichhorst decided to screen the candidates first. He hired Bob Handwerk, of local human resources firm RLH & Associates, to handle the hiring process.

The process worked like this: With input from others, including RLH, Eichhorst first benchmarked the personal attributes he wanted in a sales candidate. "Because someone sells successfully for one company in one culture doesn't mean they can sell well for another company in another culture," Handwerk notes. The attributes Eichhorst sought included the ability to work with numbers, to analyze, and to solve problems.

Applicants first underwent a 20- to 30-minute telephone screening with Handwerk. Those who passed were then interviewed by Eichhorst. The candidates he liked moved forward to an online personality assessment test -- called Profile XP, costing $190 per person -- after which RLH performed a background check.

Not many made it past Handwerk. "If we received 50 resumes, I phone screened 10 and invited two of the 10 for interviews."

In the end, five people ended up taking the personality test and returning for second interviews.

Eichhorst found the personality assessments revealing. Most people were flushed out, including "people I would've hired in a second," he says. For example, "one guy scored extremely low on being accommodating," Eichhorst says. "He didn't care what the customer wanted. Another guy [showed he] wouldn't take suggestions from anybody in the organization."

At press time, an offer had been made to only one of the candidates.

"All these things are part of the process," Handwerk says. "You shouldn't hire on the basis of an interview, a psychological assessment test, or background checks." Hiring, he says, should always be based on "a combination of these tools and what management thinks about the person."