Skip to content

Job Seekers Are Getting Tested

By: Ruth MantellAnd you thought vandalizing your high school’s drama club room wouldn’t haunt you in adulthood.  As it turns out, your childhood misdeeds, along with whether you care about someone else’s bad day and how much you read, may have an impact on how a prospective employer views you.  To get a read on applicants, more employers are using pre-hire assessments, which can check personality, cognitive ability and competency, among other areas. About 56% of companies are using some sort of assessment tool as part of the hiring process this year, up from 48% in 2010, according to Aberdeen Group, a Boston-based research firm.  Proponents say assessments are a relatively low-cost tool to increase the odds of finding a good match. “Culture fit is an absolutely critical determinant of longer-term fit, and not easy to discern in an interview,” says Jay Gaines, chief executive of Jay Gaines & Co., a New York executive search firm. “There are some short psychological tests that might provide reinforcement and support to observations we might make on candidates.”  While senior-level workers may face in-depth assessments, workers at any level should be prepared to face an assessment. For instance, since August 2010, all applicants to Bethlehem, Pa.-based St. Luke’s Hospital & Health Network have been taking an assessment that aims to pinpoint, among other things, an applicant’s attitude about customer service.  Here’s what job seekers should know about personality assessments and other hiring screens.  Honesty is the best policy. It might be tempting to fudge assessment answers to sound perkier, more honest or more diligent than you really are. But some assessments contain scales to detect such misrepresentations.  “When people try to fake, they try to fake in very characteristic ways, and it’s really easy to tell when someone is trying to game the test,” says Robert Hogan, president of Hogan Assessment Systems, a Tulsa, Okla.-based personality assessment and consulting firm.  Job applicants taking assessments may try to predict what the company is looking for and develop a profile they think fits the bill for a good candidate. Others may check the box on the positive end of the scale for every question — a pattern that employers may look for.  “Sometimes companies will put in a kind of nonsense question to make sure people are paying attention,” says John Hausknecht, associate professor of human-resource studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.  Tests don’t have the final say. “Bombing” a personality assessment won’t necessarily lose you a job, experts say.  “For companies that manage their staffing system well, personality tests are going to be a small part of the process,” Mr. Hausknecht says. With assessments, “there is no one magic bullet that works for all people and all jobs. Personality tests might be combined with an interview, plus some kind of a work sample.”  Dana Landis, vice president for global search assessment with executive search firm Korn/Ferry International, says the firm has assessed almost 700,000 applicants over about 10 years. Rather than taking negative assessment results at face value, Korn/Ferry uses results to dig deeper, she says.  “We don’t want to ignore the results, but we also take them in context,” Ms. Landis says. “We often try to circle back to the candidate to ask follow-up questions.”  Assessment results generally don’t come into play until there is a short list of candidates. “When you get down to the last three, they tend to be really impressive, present well, have excellent track records,” Ms. Landis says. “But one of those people is a better fit than the others, and it’s at that point that we need the extra information.”  Charles Wardell, chief executive of Oak Brook, Ill.-based Witt/Kieffer, which specializes in executive searches for health education and nonprofits, says he treats assessments as another reference. “If you do very well on tests, I consider it a very good reference,” he says. “And if you don’t do well, I look at it as OK, not everybody gets 10 great references.”  They help applicants, too. While companies pay for assessment tests, applicants can reap some benefits.  “A personality assessment is like a two-way interview for the individual,” says Michael Anderson, senior research scientist at CPP, a Mountain View, Calif.-based provider of assessment tools. “If you feel you have to stretch your answers on an assessment, then maybe it’s not the position that’s best suited for you.” For example, while being conscientious might be helpful for most jobs, being extroverted may be predictive of success only for certain positions, he says.  Michael McDaniel, a human-resources and organizational-behavior professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, says applicants see certain tests as “fair” if they include questions that clearly relate to the job. He says these tests have “pretty good acceptance by applicants and are easier to explain to management.”  But Mr. McDaniel adds that “for those who have been out of school for a while, the thought of taking a test can make one anxious. No one likes the idea of being evaluated and being found not to be good enough.”


How can I protect myself against job loss?

By Catey Hill

Question: How can I protect myself against job loss?  Are there any supplemental unemployment insurance products that I can purchase?

– Mark

Answer: There are a handful of companies, including Aflac and IncomeAssure, that offer insurance policies that will cut you a monthly check if you lose your job through no fault of your own. Typically, they work like this: You pay a monthly premium — usually 1% or more of your gross pay — to the insurer. Then if you lose your job and qualify for state unemployment insurance, you’ll likely also qualify for the insurer’s benefit, says Rosemary Haefer, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder, an online job site. The amount often depends on how much you get from the state: With a policy from IncomeAssure, together the two payments will be about 50% of your pay before you were laid off.

But job experts say these policies are rarely worth it. While in theory they make sense for someone working in an industry or company that’s been laying off lots of workers, many of these companies won’t insure these high-risk employees. And if you’re in jeopardy of losing your job in the near term, you’re out of luck: These policies usually must be held for several months before paying out benefits. On top of that, they aren’t cheap. If you make $100,000 a year, you may have to kick in $150 or more a month.

A smarter move is to “self insure” against losing your job by tucking away four to six months of income in an emergency fund, advises Gene Zaino, president of the consultancy firm MBO Partners.  To do this quickly and on a tight budget, consider temporarily diverting some of your retirement savings (at least the portion your employer is not matching) into a cash savings account, he says.  That, combined with your state unemployment benefits, should cover your basic bills for a while if you’re laid off.

How Are Older Workers Faring in Today’s Economy?

By Alicia Munnell

Although the economy is technically in a recovery, unemployment remains high.  And the Fed’s August 9 decision to keep rates low through mid-2013 suggests that policymakers expect weak growth for the foreseeable future.  What’s happening to older workers in this never-ending malaise?

The answer turns out to be a little complicated.  Two forces are at work.  On the one hand, labor force participation among older workers has risen significantly since the mid-1980s, a reversal of the long-standing trend toward ever-earlier retirement.  The reasons for this reversal include changing incentives in Social Security and employer pensions; better education and health coupled with less strenuous jobs; and the decline in retiree health insurance.  Participation rates among older men even continued to rise during both of the recessions in this decade – a dramatic change from previous experience (click on the figure below).  Most likely the upward trend was reinforced by the financial crises that depleted 401(k) balances.

On the other hand, the edge that older workers used to have relative to younger workers when it comes to layoffs seems to have disappeared.  The conventional wisdom was that when workers are young, they and their employers share the costs of acquiring skills that are particularly useful at the particular firm.  When workers age, employ­ers are reluctant to lay them off because they would lose their investment and be forced to train new younger workers.  Until recently, virtually every study looking at displacement rates concluded that the probabil­ity of being displaced declines with age.  But things are changing.  Data from the Displaced Worker Survey show that the difference in displacement rates between younger and older workers has disappeared.  The key factor explaining this loss of relative job security is a decline in the tenure of older workers as workers increasingly shift jobs in their 50s.  It was long tenure, not age, that had been protecting older workers from being laid off.

Of the two forces, the trend growth in labor force participation appears to dominate the loss of job security.  As a result, the employment rate of older workers – the percent of the population with a job – declined only slightly during the 2007-2009 recession.  This pattern contrasts sharply with the far more typical decline in employment rates for workers under age 55 (click on figure below).

Not all is well, however.  The number of older people who want to work is much greater than the number of available jobs.  As a result, the unemployment rate for older workers has increased more than in any previous post-war recession.  And older workers who lose their jobs have a very hard time finding a new one.

LinkedIn Gets Closer to Job Seekers


The application process for millions of job hunters will soon be simplified — as long as they’re on LinkedIn, that is.

Yesterday, the professional networking site announced a partnership with Taleo, the country’s largest job applicant tracking system provider, to allow job seekers to auto-fill basic biographical and professional history information from their LinkedIn profile into online job applications.

Taleo powers the careers pages of about 5,000 companies, including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and United Airlines. Job seekers applying with those companies will soon see that they can use their LinkedIn information to fill out job applications. Applicants already have the option of auto-filling information from the Taleo “Universal Profile” service. Users will still be able to manually fill in their data, or upload their resumes on Taleo-powered sites.

The LinkedIn option will be available with the next updated version of Taleo’s enterprise software on September 23. Each company will have the option of displaying the LinkedIn tool and Taleo expects a high percentage of them to do so, said Karl Ederle, the company’s vice president of product strategy.

“We want to make it easier for candidates to apply for jobs and remove the friction in the process,” Ederle said. “We realize that now people are digitizing their profiles, and LinkedIn has critical mass.”

As of August 4th, LinkedIn says it has 120 million users.

Professional Advantage Salutes Millions of Temporary and Contract Workers During National Staffing Employee Week, September 12–18

Fargo, ND (PRWEB) September 13, 2011

Professional Advantage of Fargo joins staffing companies across the country in celebrating National Staffing Employee Week, September 12–18, established by the American Staffing Association to pay tribute to the millions of Americans who are employed by staffing firms every business day.

“In the current economy where every job counts, we are honored to be able to celebrate National Staffing Employee Week and recognize the important and talented temporary and contract employees who make vital contributions to the nation’s work force and economy. We are honored to be able to work with these firms not only as a vendor, but also as a satisfied customer who is able to utilize the quality people they provide in order to maintain our skilled internal staff,” said Brent Hitterdal, General Manager of Professional Advantage.

Businesses, according to ASA, tap staffing companies for quality talent in virtually all occupational sectors, from call center service representatives to skilled tradesmen to attorneys. ASA also reports that 79 percent of temporary and contract employees work full-time (35 hours or more per week), virtually the same as the rest of the work force.

And for those who are seeking their first job, re-entering the work force, or looking for something new, temporary and contract employment offers many benefits:

  • Jobs: The staffing industry matches millions of people to millions of jobs every day. Two million temporary and contract employees work through U.S. staffing firms on an average business day.
  • Flexibility: Employees can choose when, where, and how they want to work. Companies can get the skills they need to keep fully staffed during busy times.
  • Bridge: Temporary and contract work provides a bridge to permanent employment. People can try out a prospective employer and showcase their skills for a permanent job.
  • Choice: Many people choose temporary and contract work as a preferred employment option. They can select their work schedules and choose among a variety of diverse and challenging assignments.
  • Training: The staffing industry provides free training for millions of temporary and contract employees to help meet today’s demand for skilled workers

Ohio staffing company buys West Allis-based job-placement agency

By John Schmid of the Journal Sentinel

An Ohio-based staffing group acquired the Eagle Technology Group of West Allis, a specialized job-placement agency that works with engineers and information technology trades.

The Reserves Network of Fairview Park, Ohio, announced the deal Tuesday, calling it its seventh acquisition in five years, and its first in Wisconsin. The Ohio company now says it has offices in eight other states: Ohio, Illinois, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1993, Eagle Technology Group plans to place nearly 1,000 employees over the next 12 months in various positions throughout the greater Milwaukee area. It will maintain its current name and keep its staff but serve as an affiliate division of The Reserves Network.

Skilled professions are a growing part of the recruitment business. Last year, Manpower Inc. announced it would acquire Comsys IT Partners Inc., a Houston based group that specializes in professional services like IT, financial work and engineering.

“Job Hunting Today..”


After I graduated from college in 2009, I returned home in hopes of finding a job quickly.

I attended school in Indiana, and the financial collapse of 2008 greatly impacted the region.

When I retuned home, I thought that I would get a job quickly. I was wrong.

It took an exhaustive 12-month job search to land a job. However, I learned several valuable lessons that improved my chances in getting a job.

In fact, the most unconventional advice helped me the most in landing my ideal job.

The first step in your job search should be to assess your career goals and narrow your focus.

If you are interested in investment banking, you should focus specifically on getting a job in investment banking. If you want to attend law school in the future, you might want to look for a job as legal assistant.

If you are unsure about your future, you should consider volunteering.

This advice may seem counterintuitive for jobseekers during a recession, but it will yield better results.

During a recession, employers hire only the most enthusiastic and capable applicants.

By focusing on one goal, your enthusiasm will separate you from other jobseekers.

The next step in your job search is to avoid the internet job applications.

Instead, you should research and hire a staffing firm.

At one point in my job search, I submitted approximately 10 online applications per week.

I never received a single interview request.

Within six weeks of hiring a staffing firm, I had three interviews and a job offer.

Companies often have candidates scheduled for interviews by the time the positions are posted on the internet.

Staffing firms have relationships with department managers, so they often know of a job opening before it is made public.

Even with the help of a staffing firm, you will need to treat networking as a lifestyle.

Through networking opportunities, I was able to get a part-time job that exposed me to my desired career path.

When networking, do not ask for a job. The goal of networking is to create a good impression on people in order build a list of business contacts for the future.

Start small when networking. Reach out to people such as friends of your family.

From these people, you should expand your network to new contacts.

When reaching out to people, you should send a polite email that explicitly states your intentions.

The key to networking is making a good impression. You should dress for the meeting as if it were a job interview.

During the meeting, act gracious and show enthusiasm.

You should ask questions about the person’s career journey as well as ones that show knowledge of the industry.

Also, use the meeting as an opportunity to gain more business contacts.

After the meeting, send a brief thank you note.

If you stall when networking, you can use resources such as LinkedIn and professional associations.

Additionally, you should not limit networking to business meetings.

You should take advantage of any possible networking opportunities such as alumni association events.

Another option is take a class with an adjunct professor whose full-time job is in your desired industry.

The class will give you insight into the industry as well as a valuable reference with knowledge of your abilities.

Kyle O’Donnell is an intern at the Daily Local News.