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 November 5, 1999

Online job searches may include tests

BOULDER – Technology has changed the face of human resources departments over the past decade, with the number of Internet job postings and e-mailed resumes increasing on a daily basis.

While online recruiting has made strides in increasing the quantity of applicants, many observers have complained that the process’ quality has not kept pace. Many job Web sites are looked upon as extensions of print classified ads, taking little advantage of the medium’s interactive nature.

Improving the quality of online recruiting through technology is the primary focus of SHL Inc., a British assessment and testing firm that relocated its U.S. headquarters to Boulder in February 1999.

Nels Wroe, product manager for SHL’s U.S. arm, noted that the Internet has not affected the philosophy of hiring employees. The primary question of the recruiter remains, said Wroe, “How do you assess and evaluate individuals during the recruitment process?” SHL’s behavioral tests, he noted, “measure things that are typically harder (for companies) to measure,” namely core competencies integral to success for specific occupations.

By integrating personality questionnaires into Web-based applications, companies can better predict what candidates should be called in for a face-to-face interview, Wroe noted. Wroe elaborated, however, on potential hurdles that Internet recruiting needs to overcome for it to be an effective recruiting tool: problems with validity and honesty.

The first such hurdle, ensuring that the assessments are valid, is devising tests that effectively measure the personality characteristics or core competencies desirable for the position in question. “That’s the biggest challenge and the biggest potential problem we see … generalizing the use of tests,” explained Wroe. “The Internet allows great access to information — the control gets a bit iffy.” Through structured processes, assessments are designed and validated by SHL, who then market them to clients for use online.

To provide a strong control of validity, SHL employs many industrial organization (IO) psychologists, including Senior Consultant Jurgen Bank. On the topic of assessment design, Bank noted, “There is a lot of research and know-how that went into the construction of personality questionnaires to begin with,” especially those testing for workplace behavior.

The medium of the Internet, Bank continued, is in many ways ideal for recruitment, for both the hiring companies and their potential employees. “The candidate has a lower investment into the situation,” he explained, while the employer more efficiently finds better matches for a face-to-face interview.

Along with test validity, the other prime concern for online assessment is the applicants’ honesty, due to their remote locations. Bank said that research does not support whether or not the anonymity of the Internet enhances or diminishes the chance that an applicant will misrepresent himself.

Due to the necessity for timing and strict control, SHL does not offer online timed ability tests to their clients, Wroe commented, stating, “We’re focusing on the pieces (personality and preference assessments) that we know we can do on the Internet.”

Ray Lewis, director of communications for national human resources at New York-based PricewaterhouseCoopers, an SHL client, sees online recruiting “in great evolution over the next two to three years,” growing larger and more specific simultaneously. “We see it really as the underpinning of our recruiting efforts,´ said Lewis. “(SHL has) done a great job for us on all aspects.”

“There’s no way … the Internet is going to replace a quality recruiter,´ said Wroe, noting that the company’s systems are meant to complement the human element. “They will never become the decision-making system … (or) replace the face-to-face interview,” he added.

SHL’s Bank predicted, however, that technology will further impact the current paradigms of recruitment. “Some years ago, some prophets (of the recruitment industry) said that the traditional resume is dead,” he remembered.

While such a demise has not occurred — due to online resume posting sites — Bank still feels the concept is on its way out, because it offers little in terms of structured information. “The technique that manages long-term recruitment with candidates will be the winner in this system,” he said, noting that developing a longer-term relationship with candidates will work to the benefit to both the hiring company and the potential employee.

BOULDER – Technology has changed the face of human resources departments over the past decade, with the number of Internet job postings and e-mailed resumes increasing on a daily basis.

While online recruiting has made strides in increasing the quantity of applicants, many observers have complained that the process’ quality has not kept pace. Many job Web sites are looked upon as extensions of print classified ads, taking little advantage of the medium’s interactive nature.

Improving the quality of online recruiting through technology is the primary focus of SHL Inc., a British assessment and testing firm that relocated its U.S. headquarters…

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