"The subject desires an environment that includes power and authority, prestige and challenge, opportunity for individual accomplishments, wide scope of operations, direct answers. . . ."

* * *

When Matt Hession heard that assessment of his personality type, the hair on the back of his neck stood up. The psychological test (the Personal Profile System; see below) was so accurate, says Hession, it was eerie. Now he wouldn't run his companies without the test.

Psychological tests aren't for every company. Many feel they're an invasion of privacy. And some question whether they'll be considered legal under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But company owners who use them are typically devout fans. Here's how two companies put them to work:

Personnel selection. Hession, CEO of Key Medical Supply and Key Nursing, in Thibodaux, La., uses the test as a hiring aid, not a litmus test. It's given after the decision maker understands the profile of the person sought and has narrowed down the field of applicants. "If we've got a job that calls for a person to come in and have very little personal contact, we don't want to hire somebody whose test indicates a highly social person," explains Hession. A mismatch of personality elements doesn't necessarily mean the candidate won't be hired. It simply alerts the new hire -- who sees the test results -- and his or her manager to potential weak spots.

Improving the CEO's self-knowledge. This is the profile's greatest benefit, says Hession. He claims he is better able to compensate for his weaknesses. For example, because he is at his worst with small problems over which he has minimal control, he systematically delegates such matters to others.

Triggering self-development. John Zitzner, president of Bradley Co., a software company in Cleveland, is such a believer in the transformative power of psychological tests that he uses two tests but doesn't even look at the results. Only the test taker does.

The first test, 16 PF, evaluates personality characteristics, determining whether a person is introverted, bold, meticulous, or sloppy with details. The second test, the Myers-Briggs, "types" a person according to predispositions in four basic categories. For example, it examines whether a person prefers to gather information in a sequential way or with a more random approach. (Both of these tests must be administered by professionals. Anyone may conduct the Personal Profile System.)

Since most of Bradley's 19 employees have taken the test, they know one another's preferred styles of communication. A Bradley manager who oversees a group of introverts, for example, would never ask them to brainstorm without giving them an assignment first. -- Ellyn E. Spragins

* * *

The American Psychological Association (202-336-5500) will refer you to industrial psychologists experienced in testing. Here are the publishers of the tests mentioned above: the Personal Profile System, Carlson Learning (612-449-2882); 16 PF, Institute for Personality and Ability Testing (217-352-4739); and the Myers-Briggs, Consulting Psychologists Press (415-969-8901). Type Talk at Work (Delacorte Press, 1992, $20), by Otto Kroeger with Janet M. Thuesen, tells you how to use the Myers-Briggs.

* * *