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Topic Summary

Posted by dhilipkumar
 - Dec 31, 2008, 03:53 PM
MUMBAI: With growth heading southward and clouds of uncertainty hanging over companies, hiring the right talent is crucial. Bangalore-based start-up eLitmus, which has employability tests for freshers, offers interesting insights into the hiring scenario.

In an interview with ET correspondent, co-founders Sandeep Sehgal and Aseem Marwaha -- both ex-Infosys -- talk about the challenges in the recruitment space. Excerpts:

We hear of several employability tests. What exactly do they look at?

Any job, right from manufacturing to software, involves problem solving. The skills required include out-of-box thinking, logic, perseverance and relational thinking. These are often referred to as cognitive skills. Over and above this, domain skills and subject skills are a must. For one, a pilot needs to understand navigation systems apart from possessing cognitive skills. Employability tests, using a combination of the two skills, are a great help to entry-level recruitment.

How does your product win employability?

We have evolved an employability test -- called the pH test or hiring potential test -- to a level where there is a 97% correlation between pH scores and on-the-job performance. We mainly cater to the infrastructure and IT industries. Our idea is to grade the entire engineering talent on an uniform scale so that multiple companies can hire through a single test. But the interpretation of the test is unique to each company, based on the job content. We have been able to isolate seven skills similar to those mentioned earlier. Different weights are assigned to each depending on the job requirements.

A test is therefore suitable for a wide range of jobs. You can take a part of the score and say this is the score-list a services company should look at or another score-list that a product company should follow.

How does an uniform pH scale help firms?

Imagine having seven different CATs for the seven IIMs! Something similar is happening in fresher recruitment today. Consider the top five volume recruiters -- TCS, Infosys, Accenture, Wipro and Cognizant. Each of them goes to colleges and tests the same talent pool individually, while looking for similar skills. A common test will save over 70% of the cost and effort.

Haven't Nasscom and other companies also launched similar products?

Yes, they have. But we were the early movers. The key differentiator is that over the past three years, we have worked extensively on researching the product and improvising it. We receive on-the-job performance feedback from our partner companies and use this to analyse the candidate's test responses. There is a difference in the type of questions solved by the high performers and average ones. We have one of the most researched employability tests and significant home-grown intellectual property (IP). The employability tests used by most companies do not have a feedback loop and no effort is made to correlate the high test scores with actual performance, and use this information to improve the tests further, like we do.

Moreover, we have hired some of the best talent from the software and infrastructure industry to help in improving the test. While most companies are struggling to validate their tests across similar companies and some are just concentrating on the logistics of conducting the tests, we have been able to satisfy a disparate set of companies.

Have you noticed any interesting trend while evaluating candidates in the past three years?

The quality of talent is deteriorating even within the same college. In a survey across 17 colleges, based on normalised pH scores, we found that while the top 2-3% is improving year-on-year, the ability of the next 25% has actually gone down. And the primary reason for this decline is the easy job availability and the warped objectives of our education system, which places more emphasis on marks than learning.
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