Hiring Up — and Big Brother Screening Resumes

By Abby Ellin

Apr 27, 2012 7:00am
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Ray Bixler of SkillSurvey. (SkillSurvey, Inc.)

Finally, some good news on the jobs front. According to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 40 percent of companies added jobs in the first quarter of 2012, up from 36 percent during the same period last year. What’s more, 35 percent predicted that in the second quarter of 2012 they’ll begin hiring, compared with 33 percent in the second quarter of 2011.

While this is certainly a step in the right direction, it’s not going to alleviate job competition any time soon. Which means that job seekers are going to have to be that much more careful about how they position themselves — and recruiters are going to be even more discerning in their hiring.

More than  500 companies — including eBay, QVC, McDonald’s and Citigroup — use SkillSurvey Inc., a provider of online reference checking solutions, to get feedback on potential candidates. In a nutshell, the technology verifies if the applicant has lied about his or her job experience.

Here’s how it works: Early in the interview process, candidates are asked to contact a minimum of five references for recommendations. References then receive emails directly from the candidate with a short survey and a signed waiver releasing them and their employers from any liability stemming from their disclosures.

The survey, which includes some 25 behavior-based questions, takes only about 10-15 minutes to complete online. References rate the candidate’s professionalism, problem solving and  adaptability, interpersonal skills, and personal values. Confidential comments can also be added.

“The idea is to collect feedback from a number of people with different perspectives who’ve observed the candidate on the job over time,” said CEO Ray Bixler. Because of the legal-liability waiver and the fact that the results are aggregated, guaranteeing anonymity, he said, references usually provide very honest insights and candid assessments about an applicant.

Some people tend to fib about their education, their salary and job title, and the dates of past employment. To ensure that the applicant isn’t entering five imaginary people as references, SkillSurvey also captures the IP address from which the applicant has sent his emails.

Bixler says it’s important to remember that the areas applicants exaggerate on their resumes might be rated negatively by their references. “Sales applicants are always great examples of this,” he said. “You’ll never see on a sales applicant’s resume, ‘I occasionally missed my quota.’  You will almost always see something like, ‘I always hit my targets and frequently won sales awards.’  In our surveys, we ask former managers and colleagues if in fact the applicant consistently met their sales targets.  If the rating is low, this means ‘no, not consistently,’ and thus the embellishment on the resume is seen.”

Translation: Big Brother is watching. And fact-checking.

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