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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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