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.”

  • http://www.designedwork.com James Pepitone

    Todd, thanks for the update on this development. Personally, I can see the wisdom in your “dating” prediction, but more in the sense that intensive exposure (i.e., versus just a few interviews, however structured) or a trial relationship (e.g., contract, project, or trial work) consistently results in better candidate selection . . . at least that was our experience during the “humaneering” beta field trials ( http://eanpc.eu/insights/Focus/82 ).
    Where you lose me is with the suggested promise of eHarmony’s trait-based selection criteria, which earlier alpha trials (supported by substantial secondary research) demonstrated to be ineffective (i.e., worse than a coin toss) for the selection of knowledge workers and service workers (i.e., economic value created through achievement relative to an ill-defined and complex opportunity), now about 80% of the US workforce.
    That said, I should add that we did have substantial success with automated screening and selection (i.e., without job descriptions, resumes and interviews – see
    http://www.humaneeringinstitute.org/Materials/newmethods.pdf )
    , however this success was predicated on customized and pre-validated criteria for specific jobs (versus general characteristics and competencies).
    Perhaps the eHarmony approach will find its niche supporting the recruiting of people into mostly entry level highly standardized jobs, most of which are designed so that any person with a few basic qualities can be trained and told what to do? Given the turnover in these roles, this market alone can be substantial, plus once the technology platform is established, it can then be used as a test bed for the development of customized criteria suitable to recruit and select service workers (i.e., combination of standardized and discretionary work).
    Oh, thanks for skipping the typical predictions. Refreshing!

  • Shannon Lees Wagner

    I’m curious as to the potential validation/adverse impact issues?

    • toddraphael

      Thanks Shannon – can you explain further what you mean?

      • Shannon Lees Wagner

        For example, companies utilize assessment vendors with off-the-shelf assessments because they have already been validated and are defensible in the event of a claim. I’m wondering what sort of risk there would be in using this sort of tool.

        • Dan Erickson

          Hi Shannon, the Elevated Careers assessments are validated in the same
          manner as any off the shelf HR assessment tools. We have also worked
          with various HR staffs, industry experts, and of course our own legal
          entity to minimize risk, just as I would hope other assessment
          organizations would do as well. I would be happy to discuss this or any
          other questions or concerns you may have. Please feel free to contact
          me any time at derickson@eharmony.com
          Thanks, Dan

  • Ben Sian

    How are organizational “values” collected as the benchmark against which individuals are measured? Is it just some person in HR filling out a comparable survey based on his or her understanding of what the org culture is? Or do you ask a sample of existing employees to complete the survey to provide your comparison dataset, as mentioned in the personality component? (That said, this would be a good entry into the cultural assessment/engagement market.)

    • toddraphael

      It’s a survey of employees, and ex-employees. It’s not HR people describing what they think the culture is.

    • Dan Erickson

      Ben, as Todd mentioned, the values/culture tool is a survey administered only to individual workers (employees, ex-employees). We purposely do not provide any mechanism
      for companies to self define their corporate culture. Basically, this component of the matching asks three sets of questions:
      A. What are your core work values?
      B. Where do you see those values manifest themselves in your current place of work (or most recent place of work)?
      C. How satisfied and engaged are you in your current position and company?
      While the majority of the industry and press attention has been focused on identifying what cultural elements are universally “good” or “bad”, we have followed the scientific literature examining what value and culture factors need to match in order to predict worker engagement. Based on this paradigm we have identified 16 key factors we have combined into a predictive algorithm which can determine a user’s compatibility with a job based on his or her values and the cultural profile of a company. Please feel free to contact me any time at derickson@eharmony.com, with any questions you may have. I’d be happy to talk further. Dan

  • George Blomgren