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These 5 Trends Are Shaping the Future of Pre-hire Assessments
by Dr. Charles Handler
2013 is going to present the start of a major tipping point in the way people find and are evaluated for jobs (and vice versa), and a blend of technology and assessment content will play a big role in these ongoing changes.
This opinion is not founded on trends within the pre-hire assessment industry, but rather on the bigger picture of emerging trends in internet technology. I’m talking about major changes in the way humans use information and connectivity to support business and social interactions.
The following are key technology trends that are bigger than any individual industry but are already impacting products being offered in the pre-hire assessment market. I know about many of these companies because I’ve worked with many of them over the past year. In many cases their products are still not fully completed (and some have even asked not to be mentioned due to this), but 2013 will be a year that sees a ton of new companies live and open for business.
While this is nothing new, the progress toward increasingly intelligent and deep levels of connectivity cannot be understated. The ability of data to drive useful connections with others who share the same interests and the ability to share information across relationships is rapidly gaining teeth. It is now possible to use personal preferences, connections, and interests to provide meaningful insights into almost everything (like Facebook social graph search). While far from perfect, the insights offered via social technology have a ton to offer when it comes to helping people efficiently and effectively find relevant jobs (and vice versa).
Immediate relevance to hiring and assessments: In terms of hiring, connectivity continues to make sourcing (and job searching) easier … no more needles in haystacks. We are about to see a number of new B-to-C focused companies in which assessments will be part of the matching intelligence powering the system.
These technologies are different in that they bring a B-to-C focus that is all about empowering the job seeker. The need to make more intelligent matches has led to a large number of new approaches (even eHarmony is getting into the job matching game). In each case the goal is to stock the pond with job seekers so that employers will pay to fish in the pond. While this is no different then the model job boards were founded on, matches are more precise because they are based on meaningful data (such as assessments) and artificial intelligence.
While there are many who will attempt to work out the matching equation via purely AI-based approaches, the winners will be the firms that add insight via reliable and valid measures of key traits/competencies critical for success at a job or organization. The market is about to be flooded with new companies who are taking this approach in order to offer something more than the lackluster matching currently available from the brand-name job boards. Many of these plug into existing venues such as LinkedIn in order to provide an additional layer of insight. Examples include: Company X (did not want to be mentioned yet); Clearfit; Hireology, Matchpoint Careers, Willbehired, and Findly.
The emerging Internet has introduced many sites and businesses who offer the ability to collect input from multiple persons, aggregate the data, and report on it such that one overall opinion creates an accurate representation of the views of many. When combined with increases in connectivity, we gain the ability to collect insight about a person, product, or service that may not be exactly in line with what is outwardly represented. This provides entirely new levels of insight into the reality behind all kinds of things, and helps everyone to become a much more savvy consumer.
A facet of this is crowdsourcing, described by Wikipedia as “The practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.”
Crowdsourcing will be a real game-changer when it comes to generation of ideas, opinions, and information to help persons find job opportunities for which they are well suited (and vice versa).
Immediate relevance to hiring and assessments: There are a number of new (and soon-to-be-emerging) companies on the market that are using ratings from references (or current co-workers) to help further an understanding of an applicant’s abilities relative to a specific job opportunity. Determining the effectiveness of pre-hire assessments has been difficult, due to challenges with collecting post-hire performance data. Collective-intelligence-based systems are providing the ability to look at performance via aggregated ratings collected from sources who have worked (or are working with) an individual in order to gain a reality-based picture of what they bring to the table relative to a specific opportunity. Firms in this area include: RightHire, Chequed.com, Checkster, and Skillsurvey.
Collective intelligence also provides a way for pre-hire assessment systems to capture the performance data that is needed to determine their effectiveness. This is a big deal because the inability to collect useful performance data has held personnel selection science back for decades. Companies such as FurstPerson and Logi-Serve are leading the market when it comes to creating “closed loop validation systems.” These systems have software that captures performance data streams and use this information to better understand the financial impact of assessments and to optimize scoring algorithms to ensure the systems are delivering maximum ROI.
Crowdsourcing is also starting to generate new and interesting developments in talent acquisition. For instance, one new company is using collective intelligence/crowdsourcing to develop and maintain skills testing item pools. This allows the test developer to tap into the collective wisdom of experts in an area to create and monitor tests.
Another interesting facet of collective intelligence is the ability for distributed groups of individuals to provide collective opinions about aspects of a company that may be relevant in the job search.
Glassdoor is already providing a quantum leap in this area. In the near future, expect to see companies that provide insight into even more specific aspects of companies (such as culture or the fit with a specific boss) via collectively sourced ratings. This information will be used to drive job searches and will bypass official input from a company about their culture, in favor of the opinion of those who have experience working there. It’s truly revolutionary stuff. ManageUp is an example of a firm working on this kind of matching process.
Attention spans are getting shorter as we interact with a growing number of devices via touching screens, swiping, and using easy-to-access apps.
Business are developing ways to make accomplishing things such as learning and research more fun and are having a good deal of success. Many of the major trends in gamification are relevant for the staffing industry. This trend cannot be ignored. Those entering the workforce in the near future will expect to be entertained and engaged at a meaningful level. Failure to meet these expectations will not do your employment brand any favors.
Immediate relevance to hiring and assessments: Even an advocate for pre-hire testing such as myself can admit that most tests are no fun at all. Few people like slogging through hundreds of radio buttons and being asked questions that don’t necessarily make sense. Recruitment branding is one area where there has been some great examples of games that can engage applicants while helping them understand what a company is all about. While some companies are starting to get it, when it comes to recruitment branding and engagement, the typical experience is still pretty mundane. This is especially true as one moves from sourcing candidates to their actual evaluation as a job applicant.
Gamification (and increased levels of interactivity) has yet to really penetrate into the actual evaluation of candidate fit for a job. The reason for this, and the major challenge to be overcome, lies with the analytics and data interpretation related to game play. While games make it easy to collect a ton of data, using this data to gain insight into specific job-related competencies is much harder. This type of measurement takes a ton of data and requires major research efforts, and without it there is no way to ensure that games can reliably or accurately predict meaningful outcomes.
We are just now seeing the first companies who are attempting to breach the chasm. What I have seen is very encouraging, and perhaps in a few years’ time we will see games that can be used as predictive tools. This area will be huge in the decades to come. Companies currently making headway in this area include: Knack.it and Selleration Games.
The Internet is about learning, and it providing a ton of non-traditional pathways to gaining useable knowledge. We are just at the start of a movement to help those learning on their own to have a way to demonstrate their mastery of a subject area. There are both open source credentialing movements such as the Mozilla open badges initiative as well as more proprietary credentialing systems. The resume is morphing to an online profile that provides the ability to add evidence of certifications gained via online learning venues. This is another trend that cannot be ignored.
Immediate relevance to hiring and assessments: One of the major challenges with credentials is ensuring that they will be seen as credible. Some controls will be needed to ensure sure that the badge provided has really been earned and represents a meaningful level of mastery. Skills testing companies (and other assessment companies) will have a big role in providing a reliable and accurate way to measure and certify subject area mastery.
At present this area is still wide open but success will require the ability to buy into the measurement process driving certifications. This creates a significant opportunity for companies who specialize in proper measurement to fill this need. This trend to take a bit longer to unfold to the point where it will be accessible, but the wheels are definitely in motion now. Companies currently working in this area include: Smarterer and Jobfig.
These are exciting times when it comes to the ability for just about anyone to build a company around a vision or idea. Increased visibility, easier access to resources, the ability to build on existing platforms via APIs, and the ability to source funding via kickstarters and other incubators has led to a huge increase in new companies. This is definitely true when it comes to recruiting and talent acquisition. Just take a stroll through the tradeshow at the HR Technology Expo or the ERE Recruiting Conference and Expo, or read Todd’s columns and you will be amazed at the number of new companies emerging in our area.
Immediate relevance to hiring and assessments: Pre-hire screening and assessments are just as hot when it comes to new companies. I have seen a ton of really interesting stuff lately. While existing pre-hire assessment firms are doing great things, true innovation in the pre-hire assessment space will not come from within, but rather from new businesses. The biggest issue I see is ensuring these new companies respect the basic truths of test development and validation enough that they do not cut corners on the science side. Managing the interplay between pure AI and scientifically based and proven measurement will be the key to building effective products that will truly provide meaningful prediction.
So get ready to be amazed in 2013. It will be a year that will definitely provide some excitement when it comes to technology-based hiring tools.