CEO and founder of Princeton’s Caliper Corporation receives award from alma mater
Herb Greenberg may have lost his sight when he was just 10, but as the CEO and founder of Princeton’s Caliper Corporation, he can predict an employee’s future with great clarity.
Greenberg, who was recently awarded the Presidential Award at his alma mater, City College, has made a living out of changing people’s lives. He founded Caliper based on the idea that people can be best matched to the perfect job using personality tests and assessments to predict success in sales, customer service, management and even sports.
The 85-year-old executive believes that resumes sometimes can be misleading, often asking corporate bosses, “How many times have you hired someone with 10 years experience, only to find you have gotten one year of rotten experience repeated 10 years?”
To illustrate this point, the Princeton resident proudly points to what he considers one of his many great success stories, going back to Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration and the War on Poverty. Caliper tested 7,000 of the “hardcore unemployed” for job placement.
“These were people with no valid resume. Many had prison records, or were not even high school graduates. Most of them were on welfare,” he said. “Of those 7,000, we placed 3,600 people with 52 New York companies in 55 job categories.”
Even more impressively, fewer than 3 percent of those people dropped out of the workplace in their first two years because of an inability to do the job.
Greenberg has countless stories with similar outcomes. There is one candidate whose sole employment background was bagging groceries, but wound up selling more than $1 million in life insurance. Another had an “18-year rap sheet,” but was hired at a store and promoted four times to higher positions.
What is Greenberg’s secret?
“Companies typically interview people by looking at the resume,” he said. “We want them to start in a different place.”
Greenberg’s competitive, can-do spirit was evident at a young age. Born in Brooklyn, he wanted to become a lawyer, a cross between “Perry Mason and Clarence Darrow saving the downtrodden,” he said. He began to go blind at the age of 9, the result of a childhood illness, but he told his parents if he were sent to a school for the blind he would “break every window in the place.”
“I’m a passive person,” he joked.
After a yearlong fight with the board of education, the young man got his wish and was educated in public schools, he said. Although he was accepted into an Ivy League college, Greenberg said he received a top-notch education in psychology and sociology at City College, where his instructors included Kenneth Clark, the psychologist and educator whose 1950 report showing the destructive effect of school segregation influenced the United States Supreme Court to hold school segregation to be unconstitutional.
It was at City College where Greenberg, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology from City College and a Ph.D. with highest honors in human relations and psychology from New York University, learned he could “do as much or more with psychology than with the law.”
He put that into practice when he founded Caliper.
Greenberg was working as a professor at Rutgers when he was approached by a colleague about finding a test for an insurance company that lost 60 percent of its sales staff. The company wanted to see if there was a way to identify future successful salespeople. When Greenberg and his colleague concluded no test was up to the task, they spent four years creating their own. Greenberg then quit Rutgers, took out a loan, and in August 1961 started Caliper.
For months, Greenberg faced rejection, until Gail Smith, vice president of merchandising for General Motors, decided to take a chance on Caliper, saying, “Let’s find a division that’s hurting badly enough to try this.” Today, 28,000 organizations worldwide have used the Caliper Profile to assess the potential of more than 3.5 million individuals, according to company statistics.
Greenberg said his work at Caliper mirrors the philosophy of City College, a place where someone who couldn’t afford an Ivy League education could get a fair shake and the same quality education for little or no cost.
“To me, City College in its way represents exactly what I hope Caliper is, in the sense that they are both devoted to help people regardless of their start in life, what they’ve done before or their economic situation,” he said.
So how does Greenberg measure success? Greenberg, who also wrote the New York Times best seller, “Succeed on Your Own Terms,” said there are four elements: loving your work, finding your own definition of success (not necessarily money), knowing who you are, including weaknesses, and having the courage to take advantage of your defining moment.
Looking toward the future, Caliper is developing a “campus-to-career” program, which he said will help students, particularly student-athletes, focus on their “second loves,” especially if the student isn’t chosen by the NBA, Major League Baseball or NFL.
“They have got to have something else in life they love also or life will be over at 22,” he said.
This is the core philosophy of Caliper, he said.
“The reality is, we spend a vast majority of our lives involved in work, and if that’s miserable, boy that’s a waste of a short life,” he said. “If you do what you love, the odds are you will contribute to make this a better world.”