2015 Recruiting: The Year of the Blind Date

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 12.42.54 PMWhen I was asked recently for my thoughts on what 2015 will bring for talent acquisition, I responded: dating.

Partly, I just couldn’t get myself to repeat the endless series of annual predictions proliferating around the Internet: the year of the mobile, social, collaboration, telecommuting, people are important, blah, blah, yadda, yada. But, truly, this will be the year when the vendor talked about for years as a potential entrant into the recruiting game will finally emerge: eHarmony.

Yes, for years (like this from 2011) we’ve profiled startups who say they’ll be the eHarmony of recruiting, matching employees with candidates through mobile apps and surveys and cultural fit and so on. But in 2015, there’ll literally be an eHarmony of recruiting.

The Santa Monica, California, company is working on both a screening tool as well as a larger website that’ll house it, the latter being built with help from Infosys, an Indian multinational. The website — which some expected to launch last month — could launch for candidates as early as late this month. Companies might start using it this spring, with the whole enchilada launching around June.

One key player within eHarmony is Dan Erickson, director of special projects. Advice has come to eHarmony from the outside via many folks. Charles Handler, one of the biggest names in the whole workplace assessment arena, consulted with eHarmony about a year ago. Lee Webster, a talent acquisition leader at University of Texas Medical Branch, emailed eHarmony with some bullet points on the benefits and risks of an eHarmony recruiting tool, and has ended up being an important advisor to the company, particularly as a conduit for eHarmony to meet others in the talent-acquisition field.

The eHarmony recruiting assessment will have three parts: 1) skills and competencies; 2) values and culture; and 3) personality.

The skills and competencies part will be automated, meaning candidates won’t fill out a questionnaire, Erickson says. Instead, Burning Glass will be used to try to statistically match jobs with what people say on their resumes.

Now for that second part, the values and culture part, expect about 75 questions (hey, finding a date isn’t so easy, either). eHarmony wants to figure out about people’s “core work values” — and eHarmony has organized work values into 16 categories — and how they play out in people’s current or most recent job. Perhaps I work for an ultra-competitive company, but I’m really collaborative (or vice versa); this should all determine my values aren’t being satisfied, it’s lowering my engagement, and another job is a better fit.

This screen took about six months to build last year, and eHarmony has run it by human resources people to make sure it makes sense in their real worlds.

This brings us to the last part, personality, which is perhaps most similar to the whole dating thing. eHarmony will survey existing employees; in particular, colleagues, and especially a manager of the person being hired, and figure out if there’s a match. Is a candidate competitive? Ambitious? Do they have integrity?

eHarmony’s research tells it which personalities work well together, and which don’t.

I told Erickson I’ve always been a little skeptical about personality screening. Some companies say they want “passion,” but passion is so fleeting that the bubbly candidate in the interview quickly changes when she finds out she’s unappreciated and underpaid. A manager hires someone they want to have a beer with, but when the person ends up not being the greatest employee, the beer time becomes awkward and the manager wishes they could share a Corona with the person who wasn’t hired; the silver medalist wasn’t so bubbly, but, gosh, they could’ve done a great job after all.

Erickson’s with me. He says he gets it. That’s why, he says, personality is just one component in the eHarmony screen. Some companies, he says — particularly at first — won’t even do personality, but just start with competencies and culture.

Webster, the Texas talent-acquisition leader I mentioned above, and I also had a very interesting conversation about this topic yesterday. “What if I’m pretty verbose,” I asked him, “and some company is convinced their salespeople should be very quiet, because their existing ones are. Will they screen me out?” Yes, it’s possible, Webster says. But, he adds: this is more of a tool to help companies find who they want. It’s not necessarily a tool for fixing your problems. There are plenty of talent-acquisition consultants out there who can tell you what’s wrong with your hiring process, and even fix it. A company with a lousy workplace, Webster says, will still be able to use eHarmony and find people. (Sounds a lot like the thing my grandmother told me about a lid for every pot; I guess this dating and recruiting thing is all coming together.)

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Anyhow: eHarmony will email a nightly match for candidates with their matches. It’ll email employers the candidates who match. If you’re an online dater, you get the drift.

The jobs will be posted by employers, though SimplyHired will be used at first to get some jobs populated in there. eHarmony is still testing just where the “pay wall” will be (I think both employers and candidates could end up being charged something).

But, it’s safe to assume eHarmony expects money to be spent on this. In fact, at one point it went to its large database of people — its single people looking for romance — and asked them: is a recruiting tool a good idea? If we offered it, would you want it? Would you pay for it? How much?

The folks in eHarmony’s database will be logical marketing leads for the company’s new product. Though eHarmony is well known in online dating, Erickson says, the recruiting field is “a much larger industry.”