Category Archives: hiring

Next Up: Talent Assessments

Looks like the recent wave of HR-vendor M&A activity is continuing into the new year—this time in the talent-assessment space.

Earlier today, SHL and PreVisor announced they’ve joined forces, making the newly formed SHL Group the world’s largest employer of business psychologists outside of the public sector. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the combined, privately-held company claims to deliver more than 15 million assessments annually in over 150 countries and more than 30 languages.

London-headquartered SHL brings to the table its global experience, particularly in Europe, the U.K. and Asia Pacific, and its strength in post-hire assessments. Atlanta-based PreVisor, meanwhile, brings its U.S. client base and a strength in pre-hire assessments.

SHL CEO David Leigh, who will become CEO of the new entity, describes the merger as an “industry-defining moment.”

Certainly, the merger makes SHL Group a force to be reckoned with.

“Both SHL and PreVisor tend to be very aggressive,”  Josh Bersin, CEO of Bersin & Associates, told me earlier today. “This is a market where a lot of the companies tend to be very scientific [and therefore] passive [when it comes to sales]. So this is going to certainly have an impact.”

Together, the two companies report revenues of $200 million.

Bersin expects the new SHL Group will continue to acquire other players in the talent-assessment field to further solidify its position.

“We’re just in this funny cycle [of] money seeking opportunities [in talent management],” Bersin says.

So stay tuned.

Ask No Questions. Tell No Lies

About a month ago, Mike O’Brien highlighted an article on the use of some off-the-wall questions used by companies that are designed to find the best employees.

Now, has released it’s list of the top 25 oddball interview questions users posted on its website. And, while you can sort of, kind of, catch a glimpse of the idea behind some of them, others are just bizarre.

After reading them, click over to HREOnline to see a recent story on some creative screening techniques used by companies as well as some questions job applicants may ask recruiters and hiring managers.


“If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?” – Asked at Goldman Sachs, Analyst position

 “How many ridges [are there] around a quarter?” – Asked at Deloitte,Project Analyst position

 “What is the philosophy of Martial Arts?” – Asked at Aflac, Sales Associate position

 “Explain [to] me what has happened in this country during the last 10 years.” – Asked at Boston Consulting, Consultant position

 “Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how weird you are.” – Asked at Capital One, Operations Analyst position

 “How many basketball[s] can you fit in this room” – Asked at Google, People Analyst position

 “Out of 25 horses, pick the fastest 3 horses. In each race, only 5 horses can run at the same time. What is the minimum number of races required?” – Asked at Bloomberg LP Financial, Software Developer position

 “If you could be any superhero, who would it be?” – Asked at AT&T, Customer Sales Representative position

 “You have a birthday cake and have exactly 3 slices to cut it into 8 equal pieces. How do you do it?” – Asked at Blackrock Portfolio Management Group, Fixed Income Analyst position

 “Given the numbers 1 to 1000, what is the minimum numbers guesses needed to find a specific number if you are given the hint “higher” or “lower” for each guess you make?” – Asked at Facebook, Software Engineer position

 “If you had 5,623 participants in a tournament, how many games would need to be played to determine the winner?” – Asked at Amazon, Manager position

 “An apple costs 20 cents, an orange costs 40 cents, and a grapefruit costs 60 cents, how much is a pear?” – Asked at Epic Systems, Project Manager position

 “There are three boxes, one contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges. The boxes have been incorrectly labeled such that no label identifies the actual contents of the box it labels. Opening just one box, and without looking in the box, you take out one piece of fruit. By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly?” – Asked at Apple, Software QA Engineer position

 “How many traffic lights in Manhattan?” – Asked at Argus Information & Advisory Services, Analyst position

 “You are in a dark room with no light. You need matching socks for your interview and you have 19 grey socks and 25 black socks. What are the chances you will get a matching pair?” – Asked at Eze Castle, Quality Assurance position

 “What do wood and alcohol have in common?” – Asked at Guardsmark, Staff Writer position

 “How do you weigh an elephant without using a weigh machine?” – Asked at IBM, Software Engineer position

 “You have 8 pennies, 7 weigh the same, one weighs less. You also have a judges scale. Find the one that weighs less in less than 3 steps.” – Asked at Intel, Systems Validation Engineer position

 “Why do you think only a small percentage of the population makes over $150K?” – Asked at New York Life, Sales Agent position

 “You are in charge of 20 people, organize them to figure out how many bicycles were sold in your area last year.” – Asked at Schlumberger, Field Engineer position

 “How many bottles of beer are drank in the city over the week?” – Asked at The Nielsen Company, Research Analyst position

 “What’s the square root of 2000?” – Asked at UBS, Sales and Trading position

  “A train leaves San Antonio for Huston at 60mph. Another train leaves Huston for San Antonio at 80mph. Huston and San Antonio are 300 miles apart. If a bird leaves San Antonio at 100mph, and turns around and flies back once it reaches the Huston train, and continues to fly between the two, how far will it have flown when they collide?”- Asked at USAA, Software Engineer position

 “How are M&M’s made?” – Asked at US Bank, Leadership Program Development position

 “What would you do if you just inherited a pizzeria from your uncle?” -Asked at Volkswagen, Business Analyst position.

Conaty on Squawk Box: Are You Ready?

Caught Human Resource Executive Forum® closing keynote speaker Bill Conaty (former GE SVP of HR) on CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning discussing his new book (The Talent Masters), the economy and jobs.

Conaty noted the leverage at this time continues to be with employees and not employers. “Employees right now are on the short end of the stick … they’re kind of stuck; they can’t move, they can’t sell a house, the job market isn’t that robust,” he said.

“But when the sun comes out in this economy, and it will at some point in time, I think those so-to-speak loyal, dedicated employees are going to start answering phone calls from search firms.”

You can read a Q&A we did with Bill in the November issue of HRE on “Mastering Talent,” here.

An Interactive Study in Background Checking

I came across this interesting feature in today’s New York Times. It’s a case study about a small business owner — a guy by the name of Prasad Thammineni — whose company, OfficeDrop, scans clients’ documents to create digital files. His challenge: to make sure his employees aren’t the types to leak clients’ private information, but aren’t so put off by his background-screening methods that they can’t feel good about where they work.

The piece walks us through all his dilemmas, like how to search for good background screeners, how to pick one, which checks to go with — such as criminal checks — and which to decline — such as drug testing. (Essentially, he felt secure enough in his own ability to decide whether one of his employees, even one of his new hires, had a problem with drug use or addiction to forgo this one.)

“The last thing we want to do,” he tells the Times, “is tell people how to live their lives outside the office.” (Not everyone concurs with that sentiment these days, but I do.) He also decided to conduct background screens after his employees were hired and simply keep them out of reach of sensitive material until the check was finished. (Now that one raises the eyebrows.)

So far, pretty standard fare. But what’s fun about the piece is its interactive arm. Readers get to click on a link at the end, entitled “You’re the Boss,” where they can chime in — for publication — on what they think Thammineni should or shouldn’t have done.

Some of the critiques are pretty pointed. All are eye-opening for anyone close to, or especially new to, the background-checking routine. My take-away? Never underestimate the power and potential to further a journalistic discussion.

Most Read HREOnline™ Stories Last Week

See what our readers found most interesting last week:

Enough with the Generation Studies!

Peter Cappelli’s new column on the entire industry that has grown around the concept that differences exhibited by the younger generations are long-lasting and important for employers to understand and accommodate. But what if the younger generation today is similar in most respects to the younger generations of past years? 

Despite Recession, Labor Shortage Looms

Career interest from high-schoolers graduating this year is much lower than the projected job openings in the five fastest-growing industries for 2018. But how can companies even address a potential labor shortage when unemployment is currently so high?

Reassessing Work/Life Balance

As a result of the recession, employees are re-evaluating what work really means to them, according to new academic research, and the results aren’t pretty. But therein lies an opportunity for HR to step up and make a difference, experts say.

Defining the Employee Relationship Chain

This article by Ed Cohen and Priscilla Nelson addresses the three stages of a successful employee relationship — which converts to strong retention. The relationship begins with onboarding and evolves into alignment with the organization and recognition for his or her contributions. The final stage, which often is not achieved, is when the employee views the organization and its leaders as trusted advisers.

Lattice vs. Ladder

Some companies are finding retention and engagement benefits in encouraging employees to consider lateral career moves as new paths to success.

Job Creation on the Ballot

Politicians can get somewhat imaginative during the election year, as an item under the heading “Tax Breaks for Jobs” in today’s New York Times reminds us.

The short piece focuses on Frank Caprio, a Democratic nominee for governor of Rhode Island, who has included in his economic plan a “finder’s fee,” in the form of a $1,000 tax credit, for any company that helped recruit a business to Rhode Island.  If 20 or more jobs are subsequently created, the two businesses would share in a $10,000 tax credit.  (I suspect it’s not going to be enough to get Walmart to pick up and move its headquarters from Bentonville.)

The story cites other job-creating incentives being proposed or implemented around the country, but describes Caprio’s as “one of the more novel proposals from candidates seeking to tilt the tax code toward new jobs or new businesses.”

Of course, Caprio is first going to have to get elected if he has any hopes of fulfilling his campaign promise. (The Rhode Island governor’s race continues to be a close contest between Caprio and Republican-turned-Independent candidate Lincoln Chafee, according to Rasmussen Reports.)

But whatever the outcome, this and the other examples featured in the NYT’s story serves as a reminder of the part job creation, or more to the point the lack of it, is likely to play on Nov. 2.

Leveraging Assessment Software at Tenet

No one wants to be hospitalized for a serious illness. But if that happens to be your fate, I’m sure you’d find it comforting to know that the nurses caring for you were at the very least a good fit for their jobs.

Certainly, the folks in Tenet Healthcare’s HR department are operating (forgive the pun) under that assumption. In a session entitled “Tenet Healthcare Uses New Assessments to Reduce Nursing Turnover” at the HR Technology® Conference, Tenet’s Vice President of HR Joe Gage shared how the hospital successfully leveraged assessment software to ensure the right nurses were being hired for their jobs.

For many in the audience, I suspect hiring has yet to become a high priority, with unemployment still near 10 percent.  But as Gage reminded attendees, it continues to be very much an issue for hospital, which still stuggle to fill key nursing positions.

Gage told attendees on Thursday afternoon how Tenet uses PeopleAnswers to build custom Performance Profiles based on incumbent population for its hospital units, such as emergency, medical/surgery or critical care units. The net result of this was a more rigorous, though not necessarily time-consuming, assessment process that led to an improvement in quality of hire and a reduction in early turnover of 47 percent over an 18-month period.

Having the best talent in place is obviously good news for patients and hospital administrators alike. But Gage noted that it’s also good for recruiters, who automatically receive candidates in their applicant racking system (Taleo, in this case) who are ranked by fit.

Gage noted how the software also supported Tenet’s onboarding process by generating a guide that tells managers about new hires, including their likes and dislikes and how they respond to stress.

Among the various components of a comprehensive talent-management suite, assessment software certainly isn’t the first piece that comes to mind. But Tenet’s presentation hammered home its importance—especially in a hospital setting.

States Beat Ivies (No, We’re Not Talking Football)

After reading the front-page story in the Wall Street Journal today entitled “Employers Favor State Schools for Hires,” I called the National Association of Colleges and Employers to get their take on the study’s findings, particularly the bias of recruiters toward state schools.

“After I read the article, my reaction was ‘no duh!’ NACE Director of Strategic and Foundation Research Edwin Koc told me.

Recruiters are going to state schools because of the size of their student populations, Koc says. “You’re going to go to Penn State for accounting candidates because it’s the most efficient way to recruit them, not because of the quality,” he explains.

Of course, employers are paying a price limiting the number of schools they have a presence at. They’re missing some strong candidates.

Despite this, Koc doesn’t believe recruiters are going to change their way anytime soon, even as the economy gets some footing. “Once you incorporate these efficiencies, you’re not going to do things differently until you’re dissatisfied with the candidates you’re finding,” he says.

For those who don’t subscribe to the WSJ, the five schools recruiters favor most are: Penn State, Texas A&M, University of Illinois, Purdue and Arizona State.

Jobs Slow to Return, Even for Tech

Catch today’s front-page New York Times story, entitled “Once a Dynamo, the Tech Sector is Slow to Hire?”

As the nation struggles to put people back to work, the story reports, “even high-tech companies have been slow to hire, a sign of just how difficult it will be to address persistently high joblessness.”

The piece points out that the disappointing hiring trend raises questions about whether the tech industry can help power a recovery and sustain American job growth in the coming years. “Its tentativeness has prompted economists to ask, ‘If high tech isn’t hiring, who will?’ “ the story says.

For areas such as computer systems design and Internet publishing, the story notes, job growth has been slow during the past year. Employment in areas such data processing and software publishing has actually fallen.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that I found another story in my mailbox this morning from entitled, “H-1B Visa Cap for 2011 Has Not Been Met Yet.”

“With less than one month before fiscal year 2011 begins in October,” the story reports, “there are about 30,100 available visas for technology companies to apply for through the temporary work visa program …”

A few years ago that was unthinkable, thanks to the thirst of high-tech firms for talent.  (In years’ past, these visas used to be gone in a blink of an eye.)  But today, it’s simply further proof of how cautious businesses are these days when it comes to adding jobs, even those in the high-octane sectors like tech.

Everybody’s an Intern!

Came across an interesting legal alert from the folks at Jackson Lewis today reminding employers to pay attention to the rules and regulations governing the use of interns.

Mind you, we’ve heard, read and written about this fairly regularly through the years, but what caught my attention was just how prevalent interns may be in American businesses this fall. Seems the recession’s layoff victims who’ve given up trying to get traditional full-time work anytime soon will be trolling for internships right alongside college students.

Many of you have probably heard that as well, too. I had. I just didn’t know how many there might be, and what a range there would be in years of experience and age.

A survey by CareerBuilder,  included in the alert and released earlier this month, shows more than half of the employers polled saying they’ll probably hire interns as full-time, permanent employees. It also shows nearly a fourth of them saying they’re seeing workers with more than 10 years of experience and those ages 50 and older applying for internships at their companies.

Better check out the criteria from Jackson Lewis on how these “unorthodox” interns should be treated, and paid or not paid. It may be great to have the pick of the litter for positions you’re opening in the coming months, but make sure you don’t crash this handy system by breaking the law.