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Firms Using Game-Like Simulations To Cull Job Applicants

Firms from Target to Starbucks are using interactive simulations of workplace tasks to help weed out duds from mountains of recession-fueled job applications.
Firms from Target to Starbucks are using interactive simulations of workplace tasks to help weed out duds from mountains of recession-fueled job applications. The simulations used by these companies are the creation of the Shaker Consulting Group, which Bloomberg reports has grown from a 15-person startup in 2002 to a $5 million-a-year business today. Shaker interviews sales managers and agents at its client companies to figure out the specific skills that a prospective employee needs to show. A simulation for an insurance sales associate position, for instance, might test the applicant's ability to type while dealing with difficult customers over the phone. Shaker's simulations then rate applicants on those skills on a scale of 1 to 10. Applicants with low scores are immediately eliminated from the pool, while those with high scores are called in for a formal interview. "It doesn't tell us who to hire. It tells us who not to hire," said Answer Financial senior VP Peter Foley, who uses a system developed by Shaker to filter applicants. Shaker's customized simulations, which can cost up to $100,000 before five-figure annual maintenance fees, are significantly more expensive than generic testing software from other companies, but more accurate results can result in less turnover and more productive employees. Industry researchers at Bersin & Associates estimate the total market for all "pre-employment testing solutions" at between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.

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