University placements are a milestone in a student’s life. However every university has different grading standards and cultures, making it highly impractical for a firm’s hiring team to evaluate a student’s academic performance with just the basic information. For such organizations, this presents a challenge when trying to select the right graduates. Given the scale of student migration as young minds look to explore the world of education beyond geographical borders, there are some aspects that increase the chances of their application to be accepted, and similarly some aspects that reduce the chances.
Being a bridge between students and organizations, Germany-based startup Candidate Select GmbH (CASE) works towards gathering and standardizing data on grade distributions and the competitiveness of university programmes, revealing the standing of applicants among their subject-specific peers as well as with all graduates nationwide, and thereby helping employers to tactfully recruit graduates basis long-term performance indicators over basic grades and university reputation.
In conversation with People Matters, Jan Bergerhoff, Managing Director at CASE, talks about insights from research on the Indian recruitment market, the Big-5 personality model, accelerated digital adoption for hiring graduates, and shares advice for leaders and students as they reset for the new world of work.
Here are excerpts of the interview
How are you coping with the current circumstances? What have been the biggest changes for you amid the ongoing crisis?
As we are a research-based firm I think the current circumstances haven't impacted us as much as it has many others. So long as research can continue, we are fortunately able to cope pretty well. Although developing new business has become more challenging, as companies have ceased recruiting for the time-being.
You recently did an extensive research on the Indian recruitment market. Can you highlight some of the key findings with respect to behaviour and opportunities for the younger workforce?
The Indian Labor market is one of the world's most competitive. With 600 million Indians under the age of 25, the Indian workforce is rapidly increasing every year. 40 million Indians attend some form of university education at the moment and many highly skilled graduates find it attractive to apply abroad.
The problem, however, is that it is almost impossible for recruiters to select Indian applicants properly.
For example, Germany has about 480 universities and polytechnical schools. India has more than 10,000. Recruiters in many cases have no chance to know whether an applicant meets the required qualifications.
The research throws light on the correlation between emotional stability, extraversion, openness, intelligence, and job performance. Can you elaborate on that? What characteristics in your observation impact job performance the most?
In the academic literature the most evidence exists for a strong link between intelligence and job-performance. However, if you think about it there are also some preferences or personality traits that can make a human being more or less productive. Psychologists discuss this in terms of the Big-5 Personality model. Out of its five domains, "Openness to Experience", "Extraversion", "Conscientiousness", "Agreeableness" and "Emotional Stability", "Conscientiousness" has been found to strongly predict job-performance.
Now it is possible to test intelligence in an application setting, but with personality this is very difficult, because candidates will behave to comply with expectations.
This is where higher education shines because its results are not only related to intelligence, but also to personality in a way that is not easily gamed. You need to motivate yourself and conduct yourself productively almost every day for a long time to obtain a degree.
It is thus not surprising that we see strong correlations with Conscientiousness and some of the other Big 5 traits. Knowing that these correlations exist it is not surprising that the higher education degree is a good predictor of job-performance.
How much of a challenge is digital adoption going to be in the hiring process for college students?
For graduate recruiting it really depends on the attitudes in companies regarding grades. There are a lot of differing views: some look at them, some just look at the university (usually going by reputation or previous experience with other graduates from there), some look at both, and others at neither.
The challenges will be different for each group, as those who value raw grades or university reputation will need to think about academic performance fundamentally differently when using data analytics, while those who completely disregard that information will now be missing a crucial piece of the puzzle for candidate evaluation.
Converting grades into a predictive scoring using context information can be done by using a small addon to almost any Applicant Tracking System. Afterwards, the Score will be added automatically and will be available at the point of application entry without personalized data being exchanged.
With the involvement of tech in hiring bound to increase with remote working, how can organizations capitalize on the current situation to shape the future of hiring?
While companies have either slowed or completely stopped recruiting for certain roles, the shift we’re seeing towards digital platforms for recruitment means businesses have to rethink how they approach candidate assessment.
Where it may not be so practical at the moment to get in front of applicants, this does bring into focus the advantages of tech, not just as a temporary stand-in for these practices but also as a permanent solution to make hiring decisions more data-driven.
For instance, assessment centres are often used when looking for the right people they’re also biased towards one-shot problem-solving which doesn’t measure long-term performance, and can be gamed by candidates who think strategically and likely have previous experiences with the exercises, and so they can give answers they know the recruiter wants to hear or see. What cannot be gamed, however, is their performance at university, and once it’s put into context you have a reliable indicator for long-term performance, something you wouldn’t otherwise have. This is an example of how tech can be used not just as a stand-in, but as a way of making hiring decisions more objective and transparent.
What would your advice be for leaders and students as they reset for the new normal?
For leaders, my key advice is to set goals that are related to quality of hire for your HR department. This is most likely a two-step process because it begins with measuring the quality of hire. To do this try to define some measures that apply to all hires like Feedback results, promotions, retention, self-reported employee happiness and if possible, some specific ones relevant for the role. Attach monetary values to these goals. For retention for example this can easily be done. Then, evaluate HR on costs and these goals.
For students I would recommend that they shall just continue to enjoy studying and work hard to make the most of the university experience. Our scoring does not change that it just makes the assessment of it more accurate and fair.