Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Matching Job Tool

Companies sprout up in bunches. In tough times, for example, lots of companies started up to help job candidates with their resumes. In an improving job market, as social media recruiting expands, a number of companies are working on the employee-referral social media connection.

Now, a growing cluster of new vendors is in the matching-screening business, a field already occupied by companies like JobFox as well as the one called StrictlyTalent I mentioned previously. These vendors are trying to go beyond the job board by serving employers only the candidates who could be a fit, not the 300 who email a resume in.

Just a sample of the new tools includes:

Roundpegg. It has a number of products. One’s a culture survey you take to see if your culture matches what you say about your company. Another is a 1:1 interaction guide to work individually with an employee so they can use their strengths and weaknesses to their advantage when dealing with colleagues. Another is a fit guide measuring values, personality, and communication style for current and prospective employees; with that, you can see “what makes your teams tick” and compare a job candidate to that culture.

Roundpegg’s emphasis is on whether candidates have the characteristics that define success at the organization. “Every company is different,” says co-founder Brent Daily, “you can’t just hire your competitor’s top salesperson and expect them to thrive right out of the gate.” Daily is a founder of Yahoo Green, a project that helped teach him how to go from 0 to 60 very quickly, he says, which has helped with his Roundpegg work. He says that with many products, “employers assesses employees and the results don’t see the light of day again,” but with his product “as people move in and out, you can update performance ratings and markers of success.”

I asked Daily if his tool is anything like HRVision. “The process is not too dissimilar to their offering,” he says, “but A) we provide a living, breathing profile of your team; B) we fit a candidate to multiple levels — company, team, and the direct manager; and C) we’re exclusively focused on knowledge workers, HRVision on high-turnover positions.”

Roundpegg started in May 2009, and shares a spiffy office with Jive, which is also a customer. Roundpegg’s largest customer is the Dish Network, which uses the culture gap analysis. Roundpegg is meeting with Dish this week to talk about the company using the Fit Guide.

Matchpoint Careers. With this site, which uses some assessments from SHL, candidates are given four questionnaires: verbal reasoning, work environment, personality, and numerical reasoning, questionnaires which generate a profile of a candidate.

Meanwhile, employers are asked to describe their company and the job; for example, how much responsibility the new employee will have. Employers are given a “Preliminary Job Profile of the competencies required for high performance in that job, as developed over years of research on thousands of similar jobs.” Employers can modify that profile.

Now about those “years of research” I just mentioned: founder Paul Basile says that decades of studies by the government and private sector show what makes a person effective in a given job. “Why are high performers high performers and others not?” Basile asks rhetorically. The answer, he says, is competencies. That’s what’s used on the back end to create the profiles that match future boss to future employee. The database evolves over time, as more workers are added to the research, shaping the needed competencies. Experience, which is heavily emphasized on resumes, is less important to Matchpoint; what your current employees are like is also less important.

Anyhow, candidates who fit the bill are given information about the job and can join a “shortlist” if they choose. Employers are sent the shortlist of candidates who are a match and who chose to be included on the list. Candidates are ranked according to how strong a match there is.

Over many years, quite a few of them in Europe, working for companies like Boston Consulting Group, DBM, and Computer Sciences Corp., Basile realized there needs to be more of a science to recruiting. He started talking to people — hiring managers and others — about his ideas a year and a half ago and got mostly thumbs-up. He moved from Paris to New York last summer, where the company is based, and has just recently launched the Matchpoint tool. Says Basile: “I proceeded with it, we built it, and it works.”

Clearfit. Here, candidates take a “15-minute personality assessment test” that generates a career report about them. They use this to decide what career’s best for them — it doesn’t get sent to employers.

Employers fill out a short survey about the job title, location of a job, and so on. They can pick the job profile that best fits their job: for example, for a sales manager job, there may be multiple profiles for them to choose from. These profiles are built mainly in-house. If they want, they can customize the job profile based on their top performers, something Clearfit calls a “JobFingerprint.”

Now, the matching part. Employers get a list of applicants, how well they’ll fit in to the company, and some interview questions to ask them (see graphic). Suzy may be a “strong fit” and Johnny may be a “weak fit”; someone else may show up with a “distortion” notice, indicating they may not have answered the questions so honestly.

Clearfit has been around a while and boasts 1,000 businesses as clients, many small businesses, but some as big as McDonald’s, which has used Clearfit in managerial and franchisee hiring. Co-founder Ben Baldwin says he has worked to simplify the tool, make it easy to use, and easy and free to test it out. “We thought we were in the assessment business, but we are in the easy-to-use business,” he says. “We did 10 things before, now we do one.”

Baldwin says that tools like his are necessary because after decades of innovation in the recruiting/human resources world, there’s still a lot of guesswork done when hiring, and “the results like turnover measures and accuracy of the actual product — hiring — haven’t improved.”

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Clearfit, which has 12 employees, is based on Toronto. Most all of its customers are in the U.S.

Wendell Williams is generally pretty skeptical about these sorts of companies. He says in an email: “While matching sounds intuitively attractive, there is scant evidence showing scores on interest tests actually predict job achievement. The reasons are clear: interest tests are self-reported descriptions (i.e., subject to personal opinion); they seldom evaluate the skills to accomplish them (KSA’s); organizational cultures often change dramatically when new senior management takes command; culture can change when moving from one boss to another; jobs with the same title often are entirely different; individual job expectations can change substantially over time; and, personal preferences change as we age. Don’t even ask me about the negative effects of hiring a group of personality clones on productivity!”

Charles Handler says that if you take a “super analytical” point of view he agrees what Williams is saying. But, he says, as long as companies don’t rely on these screens for a score to make a hiring decision, but rather as one piece of a larger hiring puzzle, they can be useful. For one, Handler says, they can help companies find candidates who may not have been interested in or known about a company. And, he says, they can indeed help narrow down the right person for a given job, so long as the assessment questions are done the right way, a job-specific way.

SuccessFactors’ Steven Hunt, who wrote Hiring Success: The Art and Science of Staffing Assessment and Employee Selection, says without commenting on the specific companies listed above that this sort of thing has been tried before — unsuccessfully. “Job matching is inherently difficult, since jobs change so much over time and across companies.”

“But,” he says, “I think the concept in general is worth exploring, especially given the changing nature of the job market. There are often jobs out there that people might like (especially if they are willing to move to new cities), but they just haven’t heard of them.”