Profiling puts CVs, recruiters under pressure

A New Zealand IT company recently found itself in need of a project manager. Using an online candidate assessment tool, its recruitment firm cut the number of applicants from 35 to a shortlist of eight, who were then all offered interviews within 24 hours.

A New Zealand IT company recently found itself in need of a project manager. Using an online candidate assessment tool, its recruitment firm cut the number of applicants from 35 to a shortlist of eight, who were then all offered interviews within 24 hours.

The assessment tool was BrainBench, a product from the US east coast which claims 3.7 million registered users including Cable & Wireless, EDS and recruiter Sapphire Technologies and promises to put 375 different professional and personal skills under the microscope.

It's Linda Sollitt, Sapphire's Wellington general manager, who's telling the story. BrainBench offers a comprehensive library of assessments "to validate skills relating to the candidate and marry these skills against the company's products and/or services", she says. "It also enables us to objectively measure the candidate's knowledge rather than rely on CVs and gut feel."

Sapphire says the arrival of email and the web has led to growing numbers of job applications, many from underqualified or overseas people. Employers and recruiters need new tools to cope with the deluge. Alongside, there's is the issue that CVs can't always be trusted, with US surveys suggesting perhaps 70% of them contain "embellishments" of one form or another. Sapphire also argues that CVs have a lack of standardisation and format, and are unable to ascertain job performance or cultural fit to an organisation. Tools like BrainBench allow "an initial cut" to streamline the recruitment process. The time it takes to fill a position has been cut from weeks to days, occasionally even to within a day after candidates have been tested online.

Online candidate profiling, wrote Australia's Age newspaper recently, "is shaping up to as the new look application form". It involves job candidates filling out surveys on themselves covering such characteristics as their ability to manage stressful situations and to work as a team member, their creativity, dependability, emotional stability, leadership analysis and style, problem solving abilities and self-motivation.

Also in the assessment market are Carter Holt Harvey offshoot Mariner7 and Christchurch-based Staff CV, headed by software designer Jason Kerr, who is now based in Chicago trying to sell the product globally.

Mariner7's Talent Engine is an online "psychometric" recruitment tool first developed for CHH. Mariner7 general manager of products and technology Pat O'Connell says Talent Engine looks at the fit for a job, rather than just skills and qualifications. Candidates are questioned online about their work preferences and how they relate to their work activities.

This, he says, is now to be integrated with StaffCV, which looks more at traditional skills, qualifications and experience and manages the logistics of the recruitment process.

Even as recruiters like Sapphire begin to offer such services, O'Connell says online assessment software has the potential to replace what agencies do and save firms much money, allowing them to run job boards and recruitment arms using very few staff.

Even simple e-recruitment measures such as advertising jobs on corporate web sites can save money and staff time. Almost a year ago, the army moved to e-recruitment, aiming to reduce the hiring process from up to 12 weeks to just a few days. New Zealand Defence Force CIO Ron Hooton says the system is "working very well", saving much time as paperwork can be transferred more easily.

Other firms, such as Zespri and Sealord, as still assessing the gains of using online hiring tools.

In Australia, StaffCV quotes discount airline Virgin Blue as saving $700,000 in using its software to filter CVs rather than outsourcing recruitment work, while Eastern Australia Airline says it's saved 30% of its recruitment costs.

Recruiters are also using software tools to filter potential candidates. TMP Worldwide New Zealand says it receives around 800 CVs a week.

IS manager Graham Plowman says every resume goes into the company's computer system but many are processed automatically. The electronic tools used vary on whether a job appears on a TMP website, in a newspaper ad or TMP's Monster website.

"Tools allow us to respond as quickly as the application is made -- either positive or negative. This took ages under old postal systems, says David Doyle, TMP's practice manager of professional services.

The system can update and check candidate details. Questions can also be asked such as how long someone has done a certain role, whether they have the right work permits or are experienced in .Net.

However, Doyle says e-recruitment is very effective for volume and junior roles, while at the higher-end executive level, hard copy resumes still have much credence.

"Most jobs still need a person making a decision," says Doyle.

Greenwood is Computerworld's human resources reporter. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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