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August 2011
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October 2011

Selling the Same Product to Different Customers

If someone told you about a firm that was selling the same product to multiple customers, you would probably have visions of Bernie Madoff or someone like him.  You would definitely feel that there was some type of scam occurring.  But, can you sell the same product to different clients—legally?  In the burgeoning market for testing and assessment services of job candidates, there is one Canadian firm doing just that.


Like others in this industry, this organization contracts with hiring firms, providing complete evaluations of potential employees.  The transaction is simple:  online testing is administered, the responses evaluated and a candidate report is generated and sent to the hiring firm, Company A.  The resulting report is what the hiring firm has paid for.  Now that this is done, the question is where else can this information be marketed.


Once the initial assessment has been completed by the assessment firm, the job applicant receives an e-mail confirming this.  Also, this same note offers the candidate the opportunity to acquire a copy of the results.  This becomes the second sale of the same data, creating a second revenue stream for the assessment firm.


More interestingly, however, is that the candidate’s e-mail also contains a third offer.  Now that a profile has been created and stored with the assessment organization, the candidate has the ability to reference this to any other company they may be trying to secure employment with, Company B for example.  Although the details about this final transaction are not identified, I can’t fathom the testing firm simply relinquishing the profile results without a payment from Company B.  This becomes the third revenue stream from the same profile data.


As the economy and competition directly impacts profits, companies need to discover innovative ways to improve top line revenues, ideally with minimal impact on costs.  This is a clear example of how one firm is trying to do this.  There may be some potential issues in this model, but they deserve kudos for their attempt.


Ryck Marciniak (guest blogger)

The Hiring Manager’s New Crutch

Every hiring process I’ve experienced over the past few months has utilized testing—in some cases personality and in others skills.  In one instance, the test, which was administered online, was the first step in the hiring process, and I later learned it screened out over a third of the candidates.  In another example, a friend was entering his second interview when the hiring company discovered that no one had reviewed his test results.  They suspended the interview, and after reviewing the results, which indicated he was not a good fit, they terminated the second interview, as well as his candidacy.  The increased reliance on assessment tools by firms is staggering.


Firms now contend with Gen Y’s, who view work differently than previous generations, and candidates who are well-schooled in the interview process, knowing the types of questions that will be asked, but more importantly, the most appropriate answers.  Privacy laws also compound an organization’s ability to check out a candidate.  Even validating educational background can be troublesome, at least without the candidate’s consent.  With challenges such as these, companies are resorting to new tactics, ones that will help them to peel back layers and get a true picture of an applicant.  Tests, profiles and assessments have become standard tools in the hiring manager’s tool kit.  And, with the plethora of firms offering these types of services, espousing their scientifically-based capabilities, it is easy to see why companies embrace these types of solutions.


It’s not the use of these tools that concerns me; it’s the fact that they are so heavily relied upon.  I could understand the assessment results corroborating interview responses or resume claims, but they are often used independently and definitively.  But in addition to the screening abilities that these tools offer, they also provide organizations with distance and protection from those same candidates.  Rather than having to justify their position to an applicant, they can simply point to the assessment tools, saying “It wasn’t us.  The tests showed you weren’t fit for our company.”


Rarely do firms share the full results with applicants, the tests used or the firms who provided these assessments—which is equally disturbing.  Offering candidates this type of information allows them to better understand themselves, to learn and possibly to improve themselves.  Moreover, this level of transparency lends greater credibility to the use of these tools.  Unfortunately, that is a double-edged sword, as it would also provide candidates with the information to question these tools and a firm’s use of them.


None of the firms offering assessment services claims 100% accuracy.  That would simply be foolish on their part.  So, the key question is:  what about unintentional errors.  If a company relies exclusively on tests as a screening mechanism, false positives and negatives will inevitably occur, and they would have no way to mitigate their effect.  However, if assessments are used in conjunction with interviews and background checking (Google is a powerful tool), other tools in a hiring manager’s arsenal, then the picture developed about a candidate will be more rounded and ultimately more accurate.  In this soft job market, it is simply a shame when someone is screened out for the wrong reason.


Ryck Marciniak (guest blogger)

Reclaiming Dignity in Today’s Hiring Process

With the economy flagging and unemployment rates soaring, it certainly has become an employers’ market.  The abundance of capable individuals available has made firms searching for talent salivate.  Unfortunately, this luxurious position has enabled companies to also act in insensitive and disrespectful ways.


A friend of mine, Joe, applied for two positions posted by an organization that he had already done contract work for, in fact for the same department and in the same role.  The postings were identical, including posting and closing dates, except for the fact that one was a permanent position, while the other was a contract for less than a year.  Joe, who was unemployed, applied for both, although his preference, obviously, was the permanent spot.


The permanent position was addressed first, and a committee was empanelled to perform a single interview of selected candidates, scoring them on a standard set of questions.   Weeks went by and finally Joe was informed of the firm’s decision to move forward with another applicant.  Nevertheless, Joe also learned that shortly they would begin the process to fill the contract position.  Joe questioned what that meant for him, as he had worked in this role in this department within the past year and had just completed an interview by committee for the matching, permanent role.  Despite this, he was told that he would need to be interviewed by committee again, to be considered for the contract position.  Joe wrestled with what to do, and finally decided, based on the redundancy and inefficiency of this hiring process, that he would forego it, and conveyed his decision to withdraw himself from consideration by e-mail.  A sense of vindication came over Joe, as he was simply not willing to succumb to the whimsical demands of the hiring organization—he stood his ground, drawing that proverbial line in the sand.


My own experience recently was different, but equally disconcerting.  Working through a recruiter, I applied for a position with a local technology firm.  Having passed through the first stage, an online profile test, I was scheduled for my first interview with a vice-president and a hired consultant.  The first meeting was orchestrated, unbeknownst to me, to be demeaning, condescending, obstinate, disrespectful and unprofessional, specifically designed to test the mettle of candidates.  Leaving that interview, I was livid.  There was no way I could work for a firm like this, I thought.


The recruiter called me later that day and informed me that the company loved me.  As well, I was one of only eight who had survived this ordeal, and they wanted to see me in two days for a second interview.  Although still seething, I was curious to see what kind of company would concoct such a subterfuge, and, I think, my ego had been somewhat stroked, as the only one to pass through this gauntlet successfully.  The second interview was more traditional, and it led to a third.  Despite my original misgivings, things appeared to be moving forward in a positive way.


In preparation for the third meeting, an agenda was developed by the firm, mostly focusing on my thoughts on strategies the company could utilize in their target markets.  This last meeting went well, evidenced by the fact they asked for references.  I believed we were heading down the home stretch, and I provided those references.  Days went by and nothing; I began to wonder.  Then the recruiter sent an e-mail announcing that the company was moving in a different direction—they didn’t see me as a ‘fit’ for their organization.  I wondered:  did I get played? 


Like Joe, I sent an e-mail, not as an attempt to resurrect my candidacy, but to communicate my disdain for the company’s hiring process.  My note addressed the lack of respect they displayed for the applicants, as well as the firm’s lack of professionalism.  Although it wouldn’t change what happened, it certainly was cathartic, and Joe echoed similar sentiments regarding his e-mail.  Did I regret having gone through this?  No, my only regret was not following my initial instinct, as Joe had done, and walking away after the first interview.  Our communications, to the respective firms, were liberating and energizing, and it signalled a renewed self-respect, one that we would not easily surrender again.


It’s easy to talk about principles, but having the conviction to act on them can be costly.  In a weak job market, as we are currently experiencing, a strong stand may result in a candidate being screened out.  However, yielding to the demands of an organization, especially from the outset, allows firms to assume control and power, eroding one’s dignity and respect.  The question is:  are you willing to pay that price?


Ryck Marciniak (guest blogger)

Employee Loyalty Begins or Ends with the Hiring Process

Managers lament the lack of loyalty and commitment that today’s employees exhibit, but considering how employees are treated and how easily they can be disposed of, it’s not surprising.  Many develop a perspective on their employer as early as the hiring process.  With the current economic doldrums and the paucity of job opportunities, firms now embrace a new approach, one that helps them combat the flood of resumes for any job posting, but one that also inadvertently exposes their true work culture.  Importantly, it would take so little for companies to change this.  Here are some of the missteps, I think, organizations make:


Mistake 1 – adding this to the bottom of job postings, reduces a company’s efforts:  “Only those selected for interviews will be contacted.”  Applicants invest in a company when they complete their application process—providing demographic information through online forms, uploading a resume and cover letter, completing skills surveys, even preliminary online testing, so simply sending a form e-mail acknowledging receipt of their application should be the minimum, standard response;

Mistake 2 – after determining a short list of candidates for the next step, firms only contact those who will move forward.  Not informing the others may cause applicants to stalk the organization, trying to understand what’s happening in the hiring process.  A simple form e-mail, one generated through the HR system, would cut down on the harassment and allow candidates to move their focus to other opportunities and other firms;

Mistake 3 – the interview has now become a very one-sided event, sometimes even a blood sport.  Using specialized and aggressive tactics—some which are highly questionable or professional— firms flush out those candidates worthy of moving forward in their process.  Regrettably, their methods may test the mettle of the applicants, but may also provide a clear indication of a day-in-the-life of working for Company ABC, apparently not in a very flattering light;

Mistake 4 – related to Mistake 3, the unbalanced emphasis on grilling candidates for most of the interview leaves little time for the company to sell itself to the candidate.  Firms miss the opportunity to present themselves as a great company, one that excels in the market and values its key stakeholders, including employees, and one that is a desirable place to work.  This short-sightedness positions the organization as no different from all the other mediocre firms;

Mistake 5 – timelines for the hiring process are established and conveyed to candidates.  Quite often, however, the schedule is overly aggressive, and the milestones are not met.  Informing a candidate of this slippage could avoid the candidate’s perception that what is said and what is done are two very distinct things.  Unfortunately this is a common oversight;

Mistake 6 – communications is critical during the hiring process, as this allows each to learn about the other.  Similarly, it is incumbent upon firms to update applicants, most importantly when one is no longer considered a candidate for the position.  Many assume the applicant will simply figure it out at some point, leaving them to twist in the wind.  Considering the investment made by an interviewee, a straightforward notification is the right thing to do.


The current job market offers organizations considerable choice from a field of highly skilled and competent people.  This, however, does not absolve them of the responsibility, in fact duty, to treat all applicants thoughtfully and respectfully for a couple reasons.  First, all of their actions during the hiring process may impact the firm’s brand.  Be careful that the hiring process doesn’t tarnish what is normally a great brand.  Second, loyalty, like friendship, trust and respect, is earned.  Your hiring process outlines the corporate culture, so it is important to ensure that the process treats all candidates equitably and courteously.  Avoiding these pitfalls from the outset certainly helps to develop employee loyalty.


Ryck Marciniak (guest blogger)