interbiznet: The Recruiting News

The Recruiting News

Please Click On Our Sponsors

Please Click On Our Sponsors

Recruiting News for the Human Resource Professional

Please Click On Our Sponsors

Please Click On Our Sponsors

Please Click On Our Sponsors

Please Click On Our Sponsors




Click On Our Sponsors

Click On Our Sponsors







Find out more
About IBN

Got a news tip?
Tell us at

Our Rate Card



Trends Reports



It is better
to not be on
the web than
to be on and
not know why

John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall


The Electronic Recruiting News is a Free Daily Newsletter For Recruiters, HR Managers, Advertising Agencies and Clasified Advertising Operations

Home | ERN | Bugler | The Blogs | Blogroll | Advertise | Archives | Careers

One Last Assessment Note
(October 06, 2000) Our mailbox filled with feedback from on our assessment series. Mostly positive, we suffered a couple of low blows and a few very constructive suggestions. The largest volume of input came from the short note on the impact of assessment on diversity.

Several readers rightly pointed out that we were far too general and should have included a series of deeper notes. They were right! Here goes.

Assessment is a tool that can be wielded with a variety of levels of sophistication in a broad range of settings. As hiring managers, we are familiar with the temptation to staff the company with people we easily like (finding chemistry). This understandable dynamic drives many bad hiring decisions. As our friends in the assessment business are fond of telling us "First impressions are often wrong."

Used as a tool to strengthen a weak hiring process, assessment has an important place as a component of the system.

In more complex assessment settings, where the development of a broad thread of innovation or rabble rousing is required, assessment tools must be coupled with broader moves to modify the corporate culture. As a component of a toolset, assessment can be useful in this case as well.

It's the rote application of assessment that leads to corporate monoculture (the risk we spoke of last week). Largely, this means that assessment tools can be used badly if they are deployed without adequate support and oversight. From our recent involvement in the assessment industry, we know that there are capable developers and development professionals who can properly deploy a hiring process that is improved through the use of assessment tools.

Often, however, companies deploy assessment 'instruments' without adequate guidance and support. In these cases, it's like putting any adult tool in the hands of unsupervised and untrained children.

The web raises a separate set of questions. When assessment is moved upstream (as is the case with ePredix), the technology is being delivered in a setting that is riskier than a controlled organizational environment. Tools like Futurestep generate assessment style screening without the benefit of cultural norming or sensitivity. The results shred high potential candidates out of the loop early on in the process. As we move towards a deeper integration of assessment in our online recruiting tools, we'll need to be very careful about unintended consequences.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

The Limits Of Assessment

(October 05, 2000) To the extent that predictability is a good thing, assessment can be a good thing. The process ultimately requires modeling (a mathematical picture of a desirable state) to work. While a model of excellent performance is achievable for a certain range of tasks, many of the most important components of company survival can not be simulated in a test.

In a very real way, assessment produces an increasingly homogenous output. It's useful to understand that assessment can be seen as the operational opposite of diversity. Assessment is a way to minimize difference. The broad use of assessment carries the risk of removing the foundation of innovation in an organization.

"Where do good new ideas come from? That's simple! From differences. Creativity comes from unlikely juxtapositions. The best way to maximize differences is to mix ages, cultures and disciplines."
- Nicholas Negroponte

"The counterpoint is diversity. Juxtaposition of truly different people opens the doors to creativity, to active testing and exploration of values, methods, styles, goals. Ferment and conflict lead to a tribe that is more responsive to change, strange new ideas, and opportunity. I've yet to see assessment tools that promote diversity and help me find quirky troublemakers to spice up my organizational soup."
- Phil Wolff

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Three Magic Beans

(October 04, 2000) Yesterday, we wrote about the powerful combination of the ePredix vision and PDI's 'crown jewels'. Certainly, some will portray this as a case of trading a cow for three not-so-magic beans. Others will be scratching their heads as the new combined unit gains traction. We tend to view it as a copy-able pattern for prying useful assets out of older institutions so that they may be managed for growth.

It's a problem that any company older than five years has to some extent; how do you manage all of the corporate assets to full leverage and return? The skills and expertise at the heart of any company, lose relative value over time as the company reputation (brand) becomes the central asset. It's a simple paradox: it takes more tangible assets to be known in the early days than it does when your reputation is built (in Sumserese, that's "It costs more to be rich until people know you're rich".)

The movement of closely held, original assets into the hands of new entrants is one way that the Internet economy is gaining real ground. It's possible that, in new hands, the old asset can be converted into something that produces a huge return. And, in spite of all of the HR mumbo-jumbo, the ultimate job of a manager is to increase the return on the assets under management.

Market position (in the case of newspapers and ad agencies), sales forces, customer access, technology, scientific insight, intellectual property, product lines, marginal ventures and even the very center of a business are all assets that can be leveraged and invested. As markets change (and the boundaries of ours are certainly shifting), it becomes obvious that some managers are better than others at managerial harvest.

Often, two companies can't find mutual respect because they can not see the value of the other's assets. The naive wait for a cash rich prince to emerge is a noble suitor. The scrappy figure out how to go into the bean snack business. The shrewd know how to find partners who mutually overestimate the value they are getting. When both sides believe that they've gotten the bargain of the century and are joined to make the other successful, you have the basis of a powerful synergy.

That's how PDI and ePredix made the deal work.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


(October 03, 2000) We take it on the chin, from time to time. The mouthpieces of the status quo often suggest that we're writing about the future not the present. "Gibberish about a non-existent fairyland" is our most recent (and favorite) compliment. Confusing our refusal to pander with rudeness, mediocre CEOs of 'born to fail' ventures have stormed out of our offices. Was it something we said about their invisible suits?

After all, how could the future have come so quickly?

We're beginning to understand that the future arrives in waves around the globe. It never lands everywhere all at once. Not everyone can see it when it arrives. It's more available to some than others. The early partakers have to reach for it. The latter group wants it on a silver platter. In business, the advantage goes to those who reach.

This a long winded introduction to Katrina Dewars and her interesting company, ePredix. Katrina is a compact Australian blonde who whirls through space at the speed of a Tasmanian devil. One time manager of Microsoft's Asian Recruiting operations and an industrial psychologist by training, Katrina is building an assessment company like no one has ever imagined. Using funds from the sale of a prior enterprise, she is able to walk the corridors of the investment houses as a peer (rather than as an 'applicant').

ePredix intends to integrate bio-data, assessment testing and web generated data into a seamless standard for the assessment and prediction of behavior. In English, it means they are developing broad data structures capable of incorporating information about critical life events, on the job behavior, assessment testing, response to video stimulus and other data sources into a tool that can predict a broad range of behavior from purchasing to on the job performance.

Oh, and it's not a future product, it's today (a highly respected Silicon Valley leader in Recruiting practice is having the firm develop a video game interface for applicant testing.) Housed a floor above a great sushi joint on Mission Street in San Francisco, ePredix bustles with their brilliant entrepreneurial energy of a player who can see value where others see none. In a transaction that you probably missed, ePredix purchased the crown jewels from a time honored player, PDI. The traditional assessment industry is worth about $600 Million in annual revenues. PDI, one of the top two players in the game, was built around a core expertise in personality assessment and measurement. Although there are a few notable concerns, PDI's core product was the ability to accurately measure the likelihood that a particular person would fit into a particular culture. 30 years of company growth stemmed from a solid foundation in the 'low end' assessment business.

In what has to be a record in the assessment industry (and is as fast as an internet company can move), Katrina and her team were able to persuade PDI that the crown jewels would be better harvested inside of ePredix. The entire transaction, from introduction to the close of the sale took a mere 50 Days.

Certainly some observers will wonder about the quality of the chemicals and the quantities consumed. The less intelligent might view this as a political move. We're sure that this is a trendsetting deal as old companies unbundle their assets in the emerging economy. More about this trend and ePredix in the immediate future.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Why Assess?

(October 02, 2000) The value of assessment as a component of recruiting is rising rapidly. Long a small toy in the arsenal of Recruiting and Retention technique, soft skills assessment is blossoming as a discipline even while the traditional practitioners are under siege from the web. Over the next several days, we'll be taking a look at an astonishing new contender as well as the changing importance of the discipline.

Traditionally, the overall market for Assessment runs about $600M/year. A tiny component of HR, actual assessment is an even tinier piece. Most of the companies in the space have built high margin consultancies as an overlay to the traditional test and measurement business. Expanding into executive selection, 360 degree feedback systems, managerial training and 'change agency', their core businesses are built on the success of their operations in defining cultural norms and the likelihood that someone will fit.

(Just to be clear, we are not talking about the technical certification business. A straightforward online move, issuers of technical credentials simply test observable technical skills. When we speak of assessment, it is in reference to so-called soft skills which range from loyalty to leadership.)

On first glance, the 'soft skills testing' process would seem to be a dying remnant of the days of labor surplus. A provocative approach to maintaining cultural integrity (that's right!), assessment gained traction as a way to respond to EEO suits. Although the science has been argued up and down, the essence is pretty smart (if the implications are a bit seamy).

Cultural values are measurable! The likelihood of a particular fit is a function of relative correlation to the company value system (norms). Change can be delivered by tweaking the fit incrementally. Stellar performance can be modeled and taught. A way to defend corporate culture in the old days, the techniques are finding a striking new application today.

Although you can complicate it immensely, the core of the right response to population decline is an expanded pool of potential employees. Given a burning requirement to invest in these new corporate allies, the problem of 'cost-effectiveness' emerges quickly. When they are applying in droves, an applicant tracking system is a powerful weapon. When they are hard to find, screening becomes critical. It seems paradoxical that as the requirement for assessment declines at the moment of hiring it would grow earlier on in the development of potential employees.

'You only need to pass a pulse test to go to work but you have to be screened to earn the benefits of a potential employee.'

That's the gist of the new model.

In other words, the only way to control the cost of maintaining a viable pipeline of candidates in a profound shortage is to be sure that they fit. Since the numbers grow in proportion to the length of time until you hire (10 candidates for today's job; 100 candidates for next year's job and so on), being certain that you are dealing with the right people increases in importance the further away you are from hiring them. It's very counter-intuitive.

Meanwhile, Recruiting, Retention and Labor Supply Management are really just proving grounds. Once assessment technologies are driven into the mainstream, the ability to measure and predict behavior (including cultural participation) will generalize to the rest of the web. Part of the reason that web-driven deconstruction is so powerful is that it provides a method for older companies to relaunch their core expertise.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


The price has gone up, and will continue to do so until December!

The only comprehensive Industry analysis is being offered for a pre-publication price of $2695.00!

Scheduled for release in January of next year, the 2001 ERI provides access to critical information and is essential for companies that want to succeed in today's new economy. 

**Call NOW to get this limited-time, pre-publication price**

This website and its content is copyright of interbiznet.
© interbiznet 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Any and all materials on the site written by John Sumser are © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

You may download a copy for personal use.
Redistribution without permission is strictly prohibited.

To Subscribe or Unsubscribe From the ERNIE...
Enter email:
Enter name:
Subscribe Unsubscribe
interbiznet this week
(through October 06, 2000)

1st Steps In The Job Hunt
    - My Cubicle is a
      Double-Wide Casket
    - Alexa
    - Habla Espanol?
    - Job Auctions


  • 2003 Trends Whitepaper

  • interbiznet Bookclub

  • interbiznet Listings

  • interbiznet Trends

         - Bugler
           Daily Industry News

         - ERNIE
           ERN in Email


  • BlogRoll
  • Integrated Employment
          Branding Presentation
  • Trends Whitepaper
  • interbiznet Listings
  • interbiznet Trends
  • interbiznet Bookclub
  • Top 100 E-Recruiters
  • Presentations
         - Recruiting Then/Now
  • Recruiter's Toolkit
  • Seminar In A Box
  • ERN Archives
  • 1st Steps In The Hunt


  • Our Rate Card
  • Demographics


  • BlogRoll
    Last Week's ERN

    October 01, 2000
  • How Down Is Down?
  • Chief Monster
  • How It Works
  • Passive Candidates
  • Phil Wolff

    ERN Archives

    Past Issues
    About interbiznet
    interbiznet publications

    Stocks We Watch
    Public Companies in
    Electronic Recruiting

    Central Newspapers
    Dow Jones
    General Electric

    Knight Ridder
    New York Times
    Restrac (Web Hire)
    Student Advantage
    Top Jobs On The Net
    US Search Co
    Washington Post

    Pending IPOs

    - None

    Public Staffing Cos

    AHL Services
    Alternative Resources
    American Consolidated
    Analysts Int'l
    Career Horizons
    Computer Horizons
    Computer Task Grp
    Consolidated Tech Grp
    Data Processing Resources
    Employee Solutions
    General Employment
    GTS Duratek
    Hall Kinion
    IT Staffing
    Kelly Services
    National Technical
    National TechTeam
    On Assignment
    Outsource Int'l
    Right Management
    Robert Half
    SOS Staffing
    Staff Builders
    Western Staff
    Winston Resources
    Work Int'l