Rocket-Hire Blog

Hot News: Thoughts on the PreVisor and SHL merger

January 14th, 2011

In what is is surely the biggest move in the history of the pre-employment assessment space, PreVisor and SHL have joined forces to create the largest and most far reaching assessment company in the global market. Note this is a true merger with both companies’ private equity owners coming together such that one entity does not “own” the other.

So, why did this merger occur? Its actually pretty simple. Both organizations, while being quite strong in many areas, are less strong in others. True to the idea behind most mergers, the combined entity allows for a whole is greater than the sum of its parts scenario. For example, PreVisor offers the best technology platform in the business and leads the market in driving innovation but they lack a truly global reach. Furthermore, PreVisor’s approach to creating modular scales that can be “stacked” into situationally customized tests means they are always hungry for quality content. On the other hand, SHL while less competitive here in the US, is a powerhouse when it comes to assessment in other countries around the globe. Furthermore, SHL, while having a very sound stable of great content, has traditionally not been a strong technology player or a force in innovation. You do the math and see that these strengths and weaknesses are highly complimentary and will allow the bigger entity to be a serious player in global technology based assessments of the highest quality.

So what does this mean for the assessment space? We can’t know for sure but I expect that it will continue to drive the major trends we have been seeing unfold over the past few years. Namely increased aggregation within the HCM space, increases in the uptake of assessments, the continued commoditization of assessment content, an increase in assessment innovation, and an increase in the global use of assessment, including an increase in the presence of unified assessment programs amongst multinational corporations.

You may wonder what the drawbacks of this deal may be. Besides the obvious need for some time to get all the details sorted out with merging all aspects of the companies while removing duplication, I think the movement here is towards the ability to offer easily tweaked content in a very transactional manner. While this is not a bad thing at all, I wonder how such a big company will ensure the highest levels of customer service and how they will align to create high touch custom work. I’m sure these things will be sorted out but going for the gold globally is bound to make keeping the high touch element something to work on.

Overall, I feel good about this merger. I know both companies well and have a lot of respect for each of them. They are both innovators in their own way and now they have a chance to combine forces to really accelerate the cache and value of pre-employment testing

It’s Holiday Hiring Time Again!

October 17th, 2010

No, it’s not even Halloween yet, but data is emerging about a small recovery to the job market associated with holiday hiring in retail, seasonal and logistic roles.  Check out recent pieces in the LA Times and USA Today. Though there is some optimism, holiday hiring won’t pick up to pre-recession levels anytime soon, and there is some concern that both holiday sales and temporary hires won’t pick up much, if at all, particularly in more depressed areas of the US.

By the way, if you’re seeking seasonal work here in Rocket-Hire’s home state of Louisiana, there are many positions still available to help clean up the gulf in the aftermath of the BP oil spill.

Best Tweet Gets the Job? Not so Fast.

August 3rd, 2010

A kooky recruiting story has been getting pretty big play this summer, but the punchline isn’t necessarily what it seems. Mike McKay of media giant Saatchi was looking to hire a copywriter, and told the Atlantic Monthly that he was going to select his next employee based on a clever tweet. Unlike some bloggers proclaiming that the winner now has a $70k-a-year job, it actually appears that the winner simply did that: Won a contest.

Presumably, the Chosen One (Jonathan Pelleg of Austin, TX) will get interviewed at the very least, with the possibility of getting the job only emerging after some sort of selection procedure and conversations with management…right?

But as a sourcing strategy, it’s certainly clever and likely being duplicated already. It certainly is by job seekers, it seems.

Federal Government Hiring Made Easier-ish

May 25th, 2010

A recent Washington Post piece by V. Dion Haynes highlights both the Federal Government’s attempts to accelerate Federal hiring and a non-profit effort to help applicants. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Government Jobs has been released on the heals of an Obama administration directive to cut typical application processing times in half and make it easier to apply for an upcoming half-million job openings.

So will a 332-page book help? Probably, but there’s something that’s both frightening and disappointing about the need for a book that enlightens a process that’s normally quite simple (judging from most corporate application procedures) in a format that often describes otherwise complex skills such as C# Programming or financial planning.

Improving the inconsistent, complicated Federal hiring process is definitely worthwhile, but one troubling aspect of the Administration’s initiative is a movement from assessment of relevant knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAO’s) to greater reliance on job experience. Unlike our own complex and individualistic career patterns, however, assessment is meant to cut straight to what’s required for the job. By attempting to quantify a vast array of job histories, this directive may make the applicant scoring and screening process actually more complex for the hiring manager.

On the other hand, anyone who has successfully navigated the Federal hiring process may have already displayed high cognitive ability, tenacity, attention-to-detail and dependability, so maybe most newly-hired Federal employees will have a lot of those KSAOs covered anyway!

Answers for Sale- Pre-employment Assessment is Here to Stay

April 15th, 2010

I just saw something extremely interesting. All I need is five bucks and I can be sure to pass the Wal-Mart pre-employment assessment test. It says so right here (link removed at request of Wal-Mart)

I copied the following text right off the web:

April 15, 2010

Title Wal-Mart Pre-Employment Assessment Test answers

Description I have the answers to pass the Pre-Employment Assessment Test from Wal-Mart! I took the test the other day and passed!

Don’t fail the Pre-Employment Assessment Test from Wal-Mart, if you do, you can NOT re-take the test till after 60 days. If you pass it, it stays on file for 2 years.

By the way, there are 45 questions on this test. Just send $5 to my paypal e-mail address… and I will e-mail it to you ASAP.

Thank you!


Check it out fast before Wal-Mart’s laywers lay a cease and desist on this clown.

This amazing offer really shows that pre-employment assessment is here to stay.  Congratulations to all of us I/O geeks, we’ve hit the big time!!  The need for qualified advice when it comes to testing is stronger than ever!!

Post-script- Wal-Mart has asked me to remove the link to the aforementioned site.  The site is no longer active anyway.  The main idea of the story remains however.

New Assessment Trends Report- Worth Reading

April 14th, 2010

I highly recommend that anyone interested in learning about trends in pre-employment assessment usage take a look at PreVisor’s newest report.

This report is an excellent compliment to our own yearly assessment usage survey, the results of which are available from our website.  PreVisor’s report confirms some of our major findings and adds some insight in areas that we did not cover.  The key finding of interest across both studies is that…

  • While almost all companies report that quality of hire is very important to them, a relatively small number actually evaluate it.

What’s it going to take for companies to get with the program and understand how important it is to understand the value of their pre-employment assessment programs?

Some key findings not included in our report include:

  • Companies have use the downturn to concentrate on developing existing talent as opposed to hiring new talent.  Most companies have placed plans to adopt new assessment tools on hold until the economy improves (happening now!!!).
  • Most companies are still working on determining exactly how to to use social media as part of a formal recruiting strategy.
  • While applicant reactions to the recruiting process are seen as critical, few companies actually have any formal programs for evaluating them.
  • While career development is seen as a high priority, few companies surveyed actually  have any formal promotional processes.

Sum total, the results of PreVisor’s study confirm a “wait and see” attitude when it comes to hiring and hiring related initiatives.  Results also reinforce the lack of formalized evaluation for initiatives that are deemed important.

We look forward to the results of the 2010 survey and expect that they will reflect the results of economic recovery in terms of an increase in the use and evaluation of hiring related assessments.

What Are Employees Saying About Your Company?

March 15th, 2010

Anything good? Everything bad? On the heels of the long-celebrated – and notorious – F***, several workplace critique sites have popped up in the last few years. The latest to catch on are, and JobVent, both of which attempt to quantify ratings of the work environment. Like others, these sites rely on the comments and attitude ratings of current and former employees. JobVent actually makes an attempt at scoring the organization’s desirability as a workplace, whereas Glassdoor cultivates its registered users to cull more accurate ratings. Recently in the news, Jobs of the Damned is focused on collecting material for a book on bad bosses.

Like the ubiquitous and the broader issues associated with merchants and service providers profiled on Yelp, some question the reality behind the ratings, thinking that isolated and overly irritated employees will dominate postings and unfairly characterize a firm as a bad place to work. On the other hand, each of the sites named above contains glowing reviews of many employers.

So will the new transparency affect recruiting efforts at less-than-positive workplaces, or will this trend fade away like F’ed Company? And does your organization deserve its online profile?

Webcast Preview: Top 5 Assessment Innovations for 2010

February 22nd, 2010

I am honored to have been asked to team up with my friend and colleague Ken Lahti of PreVisor to conduct a webcast about innovations in pre-employment assessment.  I encourage anyone who is interested in learning about the newest trends and what they mean for the long-term future of assessment to join us for the webcast.

Here is a preview of the top 5 innovations we will be discussing:

Evolution of technology platforms- Many assessment vendors are now offering a technology platform that greatly adds to the usability of assessments.  These platforms provide the ability to quickly configure assessments, manage applicants through the hiring process and provide flexible reports to help support good decision-making.   These platforms have the most benefits for small to medium sized businesses because they provide access to many of the functions previously available only to enterprise level users.  Today’s assessment platforms also support easy integration with other systems, allowing users increased flexibility.  This trend is an important because it reinforces the fact that assessment is not always just about “a test”.  The ability to configure, manage, and interpret tests is also essential to the success of any testing program.

Off the shelf tests- The past decade has seen a huge increase in the amount of assessments that have been given and as a result we have unprecedented amounts of data about what assessments work in what situations.  This has allowed test providers to create a new generation of off the shelf tests that are more accurate then ever.  In the past, using an off the shelf test meant that you may end up missing some important constructs and measuring others that were not relevant.  Today’s off the shelf tests, while still general in nature, are able to provide excellent information about a candidate’s potential for specific types of jobs (i.e., customer service, sales).  These tests have also made quality testing more accessible to small and medium sized businesses.

Improved security- Test security has been a hot button issue since the start of Internet testing.  There are legitimate concerns about remote, un-proctored testing that have definitely limited the uptake of testing.  Despite this research and practice show that security is not seriously compromising the effectiveness of testing.  More good news here- many vendors have begun to offer solutions that greatly reduce the risks involved with remote testing.  The best amongst these utilize advanced computer adaptive testing techniques to ensure that every test is slightly different but provides equal measurement results.  Advances in biometrics will allow for increased ability to ensure that the test taker is actually who they say they are.  Remote testing may never be fully secure but advanced strategies for test security will continue to help provide piece of mind for those using remote testing.

Better simulations- Simulations have always been an excellent way to provide test takers with a realistic assessment experience while also measuring ability to perform a specific job.  The future is very bright when it comes to simulations but there are still significant barriers to be overcome.  Simulations are expensive to create and they are still relatively basic.  It will take new technologies and innovative thinking to create simulations that can realistically approximate a real job.  The exception here is call centers where some really great simulation products are readily available.  Another type of simulation that is really strong is the on-line in-basket.  These exercises measure how well a candidate can communicate, solve problems, and interpret information by simulating a real work environment.

Integration with broader talent strategy- Assessment is slowly moving away from its academic and clinical roots towards a more business focused future.  The most significant force in this regard is the ability to link assessment results directly to business outcomes and to other people-related functions within the organization.  This has traditionally been a challenge because of the extra time and effort required to set up measurement systems and a lack of strategic vision around the value of assessment.  The change in mindset is happening, but has proven to be unfolding slowly.  An increasing number of vendors are working to create products and systems that are focused on bottom line results and on integrating assessment into the bigger picture.  I believe we are really at the tip of the iceburg when it comes to this trend.

On-line assessment is really only about a decade old and looking back, we have come a really long way in a short time.  The next decade is going to bring some changes that I feel represent quantum leaps forward and the issues discussed here.

Common Misconceptions About Assessments

January 28th, 2010

One of the most important factors in determining the “success” of an assessment program involves the extent to which the assessments used meet the expectations of their users. Unfortunately, expectations for assessment are often a bit misguided due to a slick sales job or a misunderstanding regarding how to use assessments correctly.  Using assessment in a manner that will allow results to align with expectations requires a bit of effort and understanding.  Getting results starts with ensuring that you clearly understand the traits required for successful job performance and choose quality measures of these traits.  Beyond this, the most important aspect of using assessments correctly is a clear understanding of what assessments can and cannot tell us.

What assessments can tell us:

  • The basics about certain work related attributes- Assessment is great for providing a rough sketch of an applicant.  This is especially true when it comes to certain personality characteristics or mental abilities.  Expecting more than just a rough sketch from most pre-employment assessments is unrealistic.
  • Mastery of specific knowledge areas- Assessment is also good for measuring someone’s knowledge or skill level when it comes to a specific body of information.  Knowledge of a specific computer program is a good example.
  • How applicant compares to others on certain important work related attributes- Assessment can provide a good measuring stick for where an applicant is vs. other applicants or a general population of similar individuals.  This information is very helpful when evaluating applicants relative to one another.
  • The best and the worst- Assessment is a great way to identify those applicants who are very likely not to work out.  That is they are good for providing red flags on certain attributes that are required for job success.  Assessment can also help provide insight into those who rise to the top when it comes to potential and ability.

So, assessment is a really good way to get a snapshot of applicants relative to certain traits required for success but it is important that users do not expect it to tell the whole story all the time. There is plenty of important information that assessments generally do not tell us.

What assessments do not tell us:

  • Everything we need to know- Overreliance on assessment results can be problematic. Assessments are best used as rough indicators of specific things that candidates bring to the table.  Job performance is a complex composite of many different aspects.  It is best to try and use a variety of assessments and other data collection methods (i.e., resumes, interviews) to build a more complete picture of an applicant.  At the end of the day, it is the experience and skill of the hiring professional that should be used to make a decision and assessments are just one piece of information that helps them do their job.
  • Past job performance- Assessments do not tell you how well an applicant performed in a past role.  Of course there are other ways to gather this information.  Just don’t expect assessments to provide it.
  • Contextual issues that may impact performance- Assessments do not tell you about the many life-related factors that may cause someone to perform poorly or leave a job.  We have all performed at less than ideal levels or had problems with a job due to things such as commutes, difficult bosses, low salary, etc. These factors are just as likely to cause problems.
  • How traits translate into work behaviors- Just because an assessment provides insight into certain traits that may be important for job performance does not mean that it always tells you how an individual will actually behave when they are on the job.  It is important to understand that assessments use past data to make broad based predictions, not highly specific insight.

Work within your expectations

Remember humans are complex and interactions with other humans within a work context are often hard to predict.  Assessment is a far from perfect science and expecting too much from an assessment can set you up for disappointment.  However, assessment still has tremendous value when used correctly because it can provide meaningful data to help expert hiring personnel make informed decisions.

How Bad (or Good) was Holiday Hiring?

January 11th, 2010

by Mark C. Healy

Not that bad at all, at least according to new data released by the ubiquitous Challenger, Gray, and Christmas. As summarized by Tom Johansmeyer:

“Last November, retailers hired 100,000 more workers than they had in November 2008, with the December hiring up 68,000. Nonetheless, these gains weren’t sufficient to bring the 2009 holiday season to pre-recession levels. From 2004 to 2007, retailers hired an extra 722,300 additional workers in October, November and December.”

Does the uptick (though not “recovery”) provide at least a rough – and positive – indicator of things to come? After all, the rise over the doldrums of the 2008 holiday season represented a 47% gain. On the one hand, this represents a substantial increase over a truly depressing time in US economic history. On the other, hiring certainly did not decrease, and retailers may never reach those stunning 2004-2007 numbers due to gains in both online retailing and the ability of major retail chains to sell more with fewer floor staff.

Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ December 2009 employment summary to further complicate matters.