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Employee assessment software matches job hopefuls

Software uses brain games to distinguish people and connect them with employers that are looking for applicants with preferred character traits and values.

Meryl Gibbs used an unusual method to receive an offer from Fidelity Investments to intern as an equity research associate.

Gibbs used employee assessment software that tested her character traits and found her to be a great match with Fidelity. A junior at MIT majoring in civil environmental engineering, Gibbs said she was unsure of her career plans until she took about a half-hour to complete neuroscience games offered by New York-based Pymetrics.

"It's a great tool," said Gibbs, who is from Houston. "I knew I was super confused about what I wanted to do with my life. I had no idea. I knew it wasn't in what I was studying. Pymetrics helped me find out what I would be good at and helped guide my thinking."

Pymetrics, which is two years old, is among a number of employee assessment software companies that uses online character tests and brain games to distinguish job hopefuls and potentially connect them with employers that are looking for certain character traits, cognitive abilities or values.

Knack, RoundPegg and Seedlink Tech are among the other companies offering brain exercise games and talent assessments.

On the Pymetrics site, Gibbs scored 100% apiece in tests of emotional intelligence and her ability to control her focus, keep it for an extended period and delay gratification. She is now a "campus ambassador" for Pymetrics and works to encourage other students to use the employee assessment software.

Gibbs scored a 98% match with a profile that includes the characteristics of a successful employee at Fidelity. After that, she clicked on a button to contact the company and landed an interview. She was hired for a 10-week internship.

Pymetrics says its games draw from cognitive and behavorial testing used in the neuroscience field. The first game on the Pymetrics website, for example, shows seven photos of people with different expressions and asks participants to choose the word that best describes the emotion.

Students or job seekers can go on the site and play games for free. Pymetrics will provide an analysis of a player's strengths and weaknesses, offer career suggestions and place people in a pool of candidates to be matched with companies if they are seeking a job, said Frida Polli, CEO and co-founder of Pymetrics. The vendor is paid by companies seeking job candidates, she said.

Companies slow to adopt

It is unclear if employee assessment software that uses online brain games will catch on in a big way.

Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said companies have been slow to adopt psychological games and assessments.

The approach intuitively make sense, but the methodology still needs to prove its practical value for businesses, he said. "The art is to go beyond what a smart and trained consultant can do, to have it done with little input, or mostly out of the box with software."

Mueller noted that Ceridian HCM Inc., a provider of human resources software and services, announced the purchase of a similar company, RelatedMatters, which has team members at companies complete self-assessments to provide insights into their relationships.

College students said Pymetrics can be helpful in figuring out their goals in life.

Kamber Hart, a junior at Princeton University, said her scores on the Pymetrics games were informative and that it was nice to learn about herself.

"It's exciting," said Hart, a psychology major from Paradise Valley, Ariz., who intends to obtain a doctorate in clinical psychology. "The tests were useful, particularly as a college student who is not sure exactly which direction to go and who does not really have a good sense of my strengths and weaknesses."

After playing 20 games on the Pymetrics website, Hart scored 100% on determining emotions in the context of a situation and attention duration on a specific task, and 98% on being able to delay gratification.

On a career report, her scores indicating best fits showed a 65% match with product development, 57% with hedge funds and 50% match with consulting. She said the results were a little surprising because she did not know she has the mind-set for those jobs, and while she's not interested in consulting or hedge funds, she might like product development.

Hart was a 99% match with beer maker Anheuser-Busch InBev, though she has not heard back from the company after indicating on the Pymetrics website that she would be open to an internship.

On other traits, she scored 50% on altruism versus self-interest, 55% for taking high risks and 92% for preferring low-risk situations. "I think it is pretty accurate. I like to learn a lot about the consequences of my actions before I do anything."

Tyler Richards, a freshman at the University of Florida majoring in biomedical engineering, said the Pymetrics games are easy to play and require only a short registration process.

"I did learn a lot of things about my personality when they put me in different situations and told me about the different strengths I have," he said. "I feel the tests helped me understand not only who I am but what kind of things I would be good at doing in the future."

It took him about 30 minutes to complete 20 games measuring more than 50 character traits.

Richards, who is from Orlando, scored 100% in preferring to delay rewards and ability to focus and 99% in ability to trust others. He was 50% in both altruism and altruism after financial stress.

Assessing competitors

Another option in employee assessment software, RoundPegg, presents 36 core values in the middle of the computer screen, with boxes on each side. Job applicants or current employees select the nine values most important to them and drag them to the left, then select the nine that are the least important to them and drag those to the right.

An algorithm evaluates a number of things about the way people take the survey. It can help measure the "culture type" of a job applicant, for example. "Organizations are looking for a way to differentiate people," said David Lyon, chief revenue officer at RoundPegg. "Skills and experience may not be the only way to do that. Culture fit is another way."

Another vendor, Knack, uses smartphone apps to immerse people in game-play and learn from their play patterns. Scores measure character traits, talents, abilities and mind-set, said Guy Halfteck, founder and CEO.

"We use that to predict whether someone will be successful and in what kind of job that person is likely to be successful," he said.

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Do you use employee assessment software for recruiting?
Interesting topic. I personally haven't run across any companies using this method. I would definitely give it a try, if it were something available to me during a job search. 

That said, I'm a little bit skeptical. Presumably, a company's HR/recruiting department would take responsibility for the implementation of any assessment tests. It might be the official stance of HR that they're looking for candidates with such-and-such values, traits, or abilities, but that can vary greatly depending on each different department and each individual manager. 

An individual's fit for a job can depend on so many things such as the boss' style of management, the team culture, the physical work environment, and what the day to day tasks are like. It's not just about whether you'd be good at the actual work the job requires you to do. 
Abuell -- Try the Pymetrics games or the RoundPegg culture assessment and tell me how you do. Thanks for your comment.
I generally use a check list of things to look for and a list of questions I hope the resume owner can answer.   
No, we do not. I get the idea behind assessment software, but I'm honestly not interested in things like the exact words per minute they can type or how they rate on some abstract score. Good employees are not numbers - they're people, with individual quirks, and you can't get the most from them if you treat them like pieces of a machine. We prefer a recruitment process with a human touch, and it's worked well.
This reminds me of a company I worked for a decade ago that had a video game that was a zombie fighting game, only instead of shooting with bullets, you typed letters. It was a way to assess basic computer and interaction skills. It may have been able to make some baseline determinations, but I'm not convinced it helped hire anyone that was better suited for the job or vice versa. I'd be curious to see if these games have improved since then.
The article speaks of some serious software and seemingly deep enough assessment. I can still see a couple of risks.

1. Expected preferences might be set by people who don't quite understand required skills for the position. I see it with job descriptions all the time. So the matching will be run based on the wrong premise.

2. People presumably work in a team. So matching should include not only technical skills and personality types, but also matching with the manager and members of the team.
I have a bit of a mistrust for some of these 'games' and 'tests' that supposedly identify what you are supposed to do with the rest of your life.  I remember taking such tests in High School and finding I didn't end up with areas that made sense together.   

However, I can see value in perhaps identifying some key traits in an employee you hope to hire for a particular job set.  However, some people may like the challenge of going after a job they maybe aren't a full fit for yet, for the very reason that it would be a challenge.
Veretax - Thanks for the comment. A career or job search is rarely easy and often fraught with uncertainty and doubt unless you know precisely what you want and just dive into it. As one of the students told me, there is nothing to lose by taking the Pymetrics test and maybe something to gain.
@dring1 If it's indeed nothing to lose.. Remember obsession with polygraphs?
agareev - Thanks for the comment. I don't know if I would equate Pymetrics with polygraphs, but there is nothing wrong with a little skepticism either.
I know it's imperfect to have people with jobs sit face to face talking to the people who want those jobs, but it sure makes people feel a lot more human. It sets the right tone for people to interact with other people, for communication and collaboration..

Schools quickly learned that test-driven studies were poor indicators of success. I suspect the same will likely happen here.

As for me, I'd far rather work for a company that talks to me instead of tests me. If there are any tests to be given, I'd like to test senior management before I consider working with them.
ncberns - Thanks for the comment. Interviews and relationships are important when seeking a job, no doubt, but tests can be another good tool for hiring managers. Some of these cutting-edge personality tests, for example, can help companies find applicants with the same character traits as their best workers. As for myself, I think tests should measure an applicant's skills and talents. If I were applying to be a staff writer, for instance, maybe I would like to take an exam on writing, reading comprehension, grammar, diction and spelling. That could be a way for me to separate myself from the pack.
The problem with the test-driven approach is that it suffers from Goodheart’s law- when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. People work to do well on the test rather than to really understand the material they are being tested on. By focusing more on character traits and brain games, Pymetrics may be able to help mitigate that to some degree, and potentially get better suited people sitting in front of the hiring managers.

mcorum - Thanks for the comment. Anyone can go on line and take the Pymetrics test.