Advice for Employers and Recruiters

When and how to use online assessments with Caitlin MacGregor of Plum.io and host Steven Rothberg, College Recruiter’s Founder and Chief Visionary Officer

Shelby Konkel AvatarShelby Konkel
September 13, 2022


Welcome back to another episode of the High Volume Hiring Podcast, the podcast that features news tips, case studies, and interviews with the world’s leading experts about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to high-volume hiring. In this week’s episode, host Steven Rothberg, Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of College Recruiter interviews Caitlin MacGregor, the Co-Founder, and CEO of Plum. Caitlin MacGregor joins this episode of High Volume Hiring to talk about assessments.

HIGH VOLUME HIRING PODCAST

Caitlin shares some of the differences between old school assessments and modern assessments that use science to accurately predict the productivity of a candidate. While some of the old-school assessments like Myers-Briggs and DISC may be fun to use, they’re not supported by the scientific community and as such aren’t working to serve candidates. Plum, one of the few assessments designed for the post-pandemic world, is actively working to disrupt this space.

Caitlin discusses the push for employers to hire candidates based on their soft skills. She claims that hard skills cannot accurately predict if a candidate will be the best match for a position or a company. Hard skills don’t offer any insight into a candidate’s abilities, skills, or productivity levels. If employers want a better gauge of a candidate’s future performance, they must look at some of the innate skills the job seeker has.

Online assessments

Organizations, including those hiring at scale, are finding that scientific assessments are broadening candidate pools. Some of the results found from using these assessments include increased diversity, higher retention rates, and lower hiring costs.

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TRANSCRIPT

Speaker 1 (00:13):

Welcome to the high volume hiring podcast. I’m Steven Rothberg, the founder of college recruiter job search site at college recruiter. We believe that every student and recent grad deserves a great career. This podcast features news tips, case studies and interviews with the world’s leading experts about the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to high volume. Hiring. Thanks for joining us. Today’s guest is Caitlin McGregor, the co-founder and chief executive officer of plum Caly. Welcome to the show.

Speaker 2 (00:45):

Thank you so much for having me

Speaker 1 (00:47):

Great to be with you. Again, we first met as part of the career crossroads talent solutions community, or CXR TSC for those who can’t get enough. Acronyms, tell me, before we kind of get into the meat of the discussion today, why did you wanna become one of the company leaders who are part of that new group?

Speaker 2 (01:09):

I think that there’s this real shift in this post pandemic world where we’ve seen this power balance shift where I think employers really unfortunately treated employees a lot like a transaction, you know, here’s a paycheck and in exchange, you’re gonna come in nine to five. You know, people were seen not as humans, but as cogs in the machine. And you know, if you don’t like your paycheck or you don’t like the nine to five, then go somewhere else. And it, it was just like I said, very transactional. And I think that through C it forced every single business leader to realize they weren’t gonna get any work done unless they really supported the humans through the, the global pandemic that had never happened. No, nobody knew how to handle it. And so we, everything came to a screeching halt and the human side really led the day to day interactions.

And unless we supported people, we weren’t gonna have any business outcomes. And so this power shift changed where all of a sudden people started being treated like human beings. And then as the pandemic kind of went on, all of a sudden people realized that there were these possibilities where they had more power than before, and they could could ask to be continually treated as, as humans. And so now we’re really in this place where there’s an opportunity more than ever to redefine what this new relationship between employers and employees and candidates look like. There’s an opportunity to, you know, look at everything we do from the perspective of how do we support and understand the humans behind the work and redefine this partnership where we row together to accomplish a better business outcome. And there’s a lot of companies that are, you know, at the forefront of redefining this relationship and there’s vendors that wanna be part of redefining this new future. And I think there’s an opportunity with this career crossroads to bring together like-minded vendors and like-minded employers to, you know, create a better future. That really benefits all of us. And, and that’s what really appealed to me. And, you know, they don’t have a set mandate exactly in terms of what are we collectively going to do together, but that this was my personal reason for joining, because I think there’s an opportunity to do more together than indivi, individually trying to reinvent the wheel.

Speaker 1 (03:37):

Yeah. That’s, that’s awesome. I, I couldn’t agree with you more and just to put it another way, I think very consistent with what you said to me, it, it was an opportunity to help leave this world a little bit of a better place that, that, you know, we, we run, we run these organizations, we’re serving our, our customers and whether they’re on the candidate side, whether they’re on our employer side day in, day out, and this was an opportunity to help move the entire industry in, in a bit of a better direction be more, be more candidate focused. And, and like you said, sort of humanize. So so plum, I think shorthand, and I know you might cringe a little bit when I say this, but I think a lot of people will consider it to be an assessment company. And I had some conversations down in Scottsdale when, where paradox hosted our first meeting and that, that you were a part of, you’ve got a bit of a better way of describing what, what plum does. So for the listeners who aren’t yet familiar with with plum, and maybe can tell them what, what you do.

Speaker 2 (04:45):

Thank you. I, I completely appreciate, you know, the only thing with phrasing it as an assessment company is that when we look at the history of assessments, there’s some really big problems with that space. You know, a lot of the assessments that people are familiar with, like disk were invented in world war II. And if we think about things that have been really popularized like Myers, Briggs, you know, as much as fun they can be as an individual or maybe a team, you know, they’re actually illegal to use in the selection process and they’ve never been supported by the scientific community. And so, you know, there’s a lot of legacy assessment companies that have done a lot of damage in terms of they’re just not serving the candidate and they’re not serving the purpose of removing bias because they’re, they’re not based on credible science anymore.

And so, you know, it’s, it’s tough to be grouped with them, but at the same time, you know, this is the space that we are disrupting and we are finally bringing it into 2022. We feel like we’re one of the very few assessments that were designed for this post pandemic world, where it’s about, how do we understand what makes somebody exceptional? You know, there’s been lots of talk about the future of work and that hard skills are becoming less and less valuable at predicting if somebody can do a job because a lot of the jobs are changing every six months. A lot of the things that people, you know, end up needing to be proficient on, they’re actually learning on the job and that’s where you’re getting the best value. So it’s really about, you know, when we look at somebody, how do we, you know, fast forward six months and say, if we upskilled them and reskilled them, and if we gave them an on the job experience and I lined up a hundred or a thousand people who out of these people, once they’ve been given that time to, to learn on the job components, who’s going to outperform, who’s going to be the ones that produce the highest quality of work and all of the science from industrial organizational psychology, which is an entire field, an entire science around how to actually quantify and predict that future performance, that consensus is that those hard skills, they can’t predict future performance.

They’re not transferable enough to tell you out of a hundred or a thousand people who are going to be your best performers. Instead, you need to look at innate talents like somebody’s ability to innovate or communicate or work well with teams or persuade or execute. And it’s about understanding which of those talents are needed for success. And it’s the alignment between somebody’s natural talents and the alignment of the behaviors that are needed for a job. When the closer you get in the alignment of somebody’s natural talents and the talents needed in a job, the better you can predict quality of hire. And so with plum, you know, it’s really those hiring managers that are able to give feedback to say, you know, did those people perform? Would they hire them again? And when we survey hiring managers, 93% of hiring managers would rehire their plum recommended candidates again. And it’s because we can measure those innate talents and align them to the behavioral needs of a job.

Speaker 1 (07:59):

And I bet without a good assessment, that’s probably closer to 50 50,

Speaker 2 (08:05):

Yeah. Or, or less. And it comes down to, you know, there’s so many great companies that are talking about, well, we really want to humanize the process. We really wanna be talent centric as an organization. We wanna be human centric. And, and those that is where we should be going as an industry. But at the end of the day, the data that most companies have on their people are taken from an eight and a half by 11 version of someone they’re scraped keywords from a resume. And those keyword are embedded with systemic barriers and biases that dictate access to education, internships, even how fast somebody progresses in their career. And so right now, the data we have about people is really this rear view mirror judgment on where they’ve come from, but we need to have, have this forward facing understanding of somebody’s potential. And what could they do if just given the opportunity and that’s data that is missing in companies, and the only way you can accurately get it is to assess it.

You can’t passively get it from somebody’s LinkedIn profile or their Facebook or Twitter. And so you need to actively assess it. And so at the end of the day, yes, we are an assessment company because we are accurately assessing what makes somebody exceptional. What makes them jump outta bed in the morning, excited about the work they’re gonna do? What makes them feel fulfilled at the end of the week and saying, this was just absolutely the best job that I performed and did all these incredible things. You know, we can measure that and we can on the flip side measure, you know, what drains people, and if you constantly are asking them to do something that’s draining, we’ll eventually lead to burnout and, and turnover. And so you can’t get this data without assessing it. And that’s what we do best. And we create a positive experience for the candidates, so that, and the employees. So they’re benefiting from this data just as much as the employer.

Speaker 1 (10:01):

That’s awesome. I, I remember there was probably six, seven years ago. There was one of the recruiting leaders at Ernst and young, the big accounting and consulting company. I think they were in the UK and they said something to the effect of that. We can teach a candidate how to read a balance sheet, but we cannot teach them how to think critically. So they shifted their entire recruitment model away from mandating. That that bit, you have to be a finance major and accounting major and economics major. And they started to actually favor liberal arts majors people from second and third to your schools, rather than the big brand names, because they found that, that the candidates that they were then starting to hire the critical thinkers were more productive.

Speaker 2 (10:44):

That’s exactly the, the right mentality to recognize that this pattern matching, you know, that we can only hire finance and business backgrounds into banking jobs. For example, you know, that that’s a really outdated way that of thinking, and it’s not supported by the evidence. And so we, our clients Scotia bank they went on a journey with all of their entry level campus recruitment type of roles. And they decided to take an incredibly bold step and they hundred percent eliminated resumes as part of the requirement to apply for a job at Scotia bank. And instead in order to apply, you have to complete your plum profile, which is this our 20 to 25 minute untimed single assessment that understands the human agnostic of the job. And so what happens is the student, this recent graduate, they complete their plum profile. They immediately get their own results so they can see what makes them exceptional.

They’ll post on LinkedIn by the hour, thanking Scotia bank for the opportunity to learn more about themselves and promote themselves regardless if they get the job. And when they apply, you know, they may originally think, well, I’m gonna apply to be a financial analyst role, but it’ll actually plum will match them to 60 different jobs at Scotia bank. And it may surface that they’re actually a better match for commercial banking. And most recent graduates don’t think, oh, I’m gonna be great at commercial banking. A lot of the times they don’t know the different job op opportunities. And so they’ll be reached out to say, Hey, I know you applied for this, but actually based on your ability to execute and communicate and innovate, which are all key behaviors needed for commercial banking, we think that you’d be an incredible fit and they can have that conversation and convince that candidate why they would be a strong fit and surface opportunities that both the candidate and the employer would never have known.

And the result of this is that before Scotia bank was only hiring from six, roughly six different universities and only finance and business backgrounds. So very similar to Ernst and young, you know, in terms of that traditional background. And so what would happen is they’d be competing with all their competitors for this exact same small pool of candidates. And, and so instead when they eliminated resumes, they’re now screening from 33 different colleges and universities. And as a result, they’re hiring 40% of people with science and arts backgrounds. So stem and arts backgrounds. And as a result, they’ve increased their hiring of underrepresented minorities to 60%. And then guess what, with all of this increased diversity, they doubled retention

Speaker 1 (13:35):

For the listeners who aren’t familiar with Scotia bank. I, I grew up in Canada’s Caitlin. I think you, you might remember from one of our conversations and they’re one of the biggest banks in Canada. It’d be kind of the equivalent of like a us bank or Wells Fargo in, in the us. So it is, it is not an insignificant, like little regional or community bank. This is one of the biggest banks in Canada. And for those who don’t have a handle on sort of what that equivalent would be, if they’re, if they’re going from six to 33 colleges and universities, Canada’s got roughly 10% of the population in the us. So that’s the equivalent of going from say 60 to 330 schools. That’s a massive increase in the diverse background of candidates. If you recruit the same candidates from the same schools, year after year after year, you are just going to end up with the same kinds of people.

Even if the skin color’s different, the gender’s different, whatever they have, the same professors, they have the same textbooks, they’ve got the same curriculum, and you’re not gonna get at a minimum that diversity of thought. But by, by really opening your doors to candidates from a lot of different backgrounds, you greatly increase your applicant pool and, and make it feasible to better recruit at scale. And at the same time diversify your workforce. It’s, it’s, it’s fantastic. So speaking of, of the scale, one of the things that I, I love about your LinkedIn profile is that you talk a little bit about the journey of you as, as one of the founders and sort of where plum started and where it is today. It looked like when you started your primary clients, the employers that were using plum were small and that that’s evolved over time, and now they’re mostly enterprise level. What, what do you see as some of the differences when you’re, when, if it’s a 50 person company versus a, you know, 5,000 person company for 50,000 person company, when they’re, when they’re hiring, what what’s some, what are some of the key differences that you see?

Speaker 2 (15:52):

Yeah. So just to kind of anchor on the enterprise side, you know, in the us, we work with enterprise companies such as Bloomberg and Citibank and Whirlpool. So, you know, we have a, a lot of experience in terms of seeing what, what they’re doing and, and how they’re approaching everything from campus group into all levels of hiring you know, there’s, there’s really with our clients. They’re, they’re not just doing that those early entry positions they’re using this across all levels. And a lot of the customers like cele are actually using it on the talent management side of things with their employees and internal mobility and employee development. And so some of the, the things that we see with smaller companies is that they can be more innovative, faster. So the bold step that Scotia bank took to eliminate resumes, you know, that was a massive undertaking versus a small company can make that decision and try it out for six months, see how it goes, decide to iterate on that.

And so they’re able to be more innovative, faster. The other thing that we see is that we’re seeing the smaller companies take advantage of once you have this data on a candidate, they can immediately go into using that data to onboard that candidate, to get the best out of them. They can use that data to improve the manager in terms of how they’re going to best support that new candidate. You know, if they’re very good with execution, they don’t need to waste their time micromanaging that person, but maybe that person struggles with teamwork. So that’s maybe how they’re gonna help with their coaching. And their first 90 days is how to integrate them into the rest of the team and how to, you know, make sure they’ve got enough opportunities because they’re naturally not gonna seek them out to build relationships with those other team members.

So really helping with that first 90 day onboarding and then the ongoing one-on-one conversations. And, you know, as those employees go move, how do you look at internal people for new hires, for if that’s internal mobility or, or, you know, pipelining for succession planning. So we’re just seeing that the use cases across the entire life cycle, smaller companies can kind of get to using that full breadth of the data across the life cycle immediately. Whereas in enterprise companies, those are completely, you know, talent, acquisition and talent management may be very siloed. And so it’s hard, even though it’s the same data set and it’s very easy within the platform. It just may be harder to get all the stakeholders around the table. So I think that they can leverage it. But one of the areas that I, I love the most is one of our smaller clients in the us.

in full disclosure, they were a cannabis, they are a cannabis company and they posted though for a data analyst role. And so we have banks that need analyst roles. We have, you know, insurance companies, we have you know, media companies, data analysts are needed by everybody, but this cannabis company also needed a data analyst and they had two open roles for the data analyst role. And they posted the job. And within less than two weeks, they had 3,302 people apply for the job. . So here’s the thing. Plum shows them, which ones are the strongest match based on their potential. So, you know, do they need somebody that, you know, is gonna great, you know, with conflict resolution or with persuasion or with execution, or, you know, what is it that’s gonna be needed? So based on their criteria for success within those 3,300, two people only two got hired.

That means that 3,300 people that applied to be a data analyst are saw dust. They they’re not needed by that company, but, you know, so we just see this huge opportunity for smaller companies sometimes to screen in incredible talent and realize that, well, what about those other 3,300 people, were there other roles in that company that they could apply to? Do they wanna, you know, pass them to other friends that are in the industry? Like there’s just so much opportunity to repurpose that talent. And, and our system will say like, if they have other jobs, it’ll say, Hey, this person that was a 30 match for this data analyst role is actually a 90 batch for another role that you’re applying to, you know, small companies have small budgets to attract talent and being able to repurpose that, you know, those people that don’t get hired into other roles to be able to make sure you’re getting the most value out of them.

It’s just sometimes incredible to see the type of people that are brought in by these smaller companies. And, and the, the opportunity to start careers for people that they’ve never have imagined. I I’m really proud of at plum. You know, we have over 50% of the women at our com over 50% of our employees are women. And the vast majority of those women were never in a tech job. We’re, we’re a software as a service tech company. And a lot of the women that applied didn’t have experience in tech previously. And so we’re now when they are on LinkedIn, they get head hunted all the time because they have a successful career now in a tech company, but we were the first company to look beyond, oh, well, they haven’t been in tech before. They haven’t worked at a startup before. Therefore we’re not gonna take a bet on them.

Instead we saw, Hey, this person’s in the top 3% of the entire workforce for how well they would match the behavioral needs of the job. We should interview them. And we should see. And when we talk to them, we saw all the transferable skills and gave them that opportunity to start a new career. And I love how small businesses can take more of those bets. Whereas sometimes the enterprise companies, because they’ve gotta check different boxes and, and, you know, it takes longer to get that buy in and change management. There’s an opportunity, I think, for small businesses to go after untapped talent pools faster.

Speaker 1 (21:38):

Yeah. It is a competitive advantage that I think a lot of small business people don’t fully appreciate is, is how dynamic we can be and how we are, are not as risk averse. I’ve worked in some pretty big organizations and hiring the lowest risk candidate is pretty high on the priority list for a lot of them. And you know, it’s, it’s almost like, you know, app plum and the clients that you have college recruiter, we believe the same thing. We’re hiring people to do the work that we’re gonna be having to do for us, not the work that they may have done one or two or three employers ago. And, and especially when you’re dealing with people earlier in their careers, what, what, what you did at 19 is so different than at 21 or 21 to 25. And but I, I, I love, I, I, I just, I love the entire concept of a scientifically based assessment, because it really helps employers figure out who’s going to do the work best for, in their environment rather than what they may have graduated with or work that they did a year ago or five years ago, or, or whatever.

That’s like looking in the rear view mirror.

Speaker 2 (22:55):

And I think that more than ever, this is important because, you know, with inflation, if you are constantly going after the same talent that 10 other competitors are going after, then you are going to have to keep paying more and more and more and more in order to get that same talent that everybody else is competing with. But if you are able to take somebody with transferable skills, and you’re the only one that sees them for their potential and sees the opportunity, you’re not having to compete with 10 other people for those that salary position. So you can come in and, and pay what is going to be a good opportunity for that person and going to be good for your company as you’re, you’re trying to adjust for inflation. And then the other thing is, is that what we see time in again, I mean, when Scotia bank doubled their retention, what’s happening is that when you see somebody, you really see them and you understand them and you support them and you create a work environment where they love what they do, they’re going to stay.

And so what happens is their loyalty. When you see somebody and you don’t just go for the safe bet, they are loyal to you because they know that you took a risk on them when other people wouldn’t, and they’re not just gonna leave six months later for the highest paycheck. And so I think that we have to be, especially small businesses have to be smart about playing to their advantage in this market. And there are so many people that are reentering the workforce. We’re seeing with women. A lot of them took a step into the home to support kids that were doing remote learning that were, you know, constantly being sent home from daycare, because they were sick all the time. And couldn’t be in daycare because of all the COVID rules, you know, or they had to take care of, you know, immune compromised, elderly people in their families. Like so many people had to take a step back these last two years, and they’re looking to reenter the workforce. And a lot of them want to go to a career opportunity that really sets them up for success. And so there’s just so much untapped talent right now, and it really is an opportunity, but you’re not gonna find that talent if we’re relying on just the traditional resume, because you’re only gonna keep finding people that meet the pattern. You’re not gonna find those people with potential, unless you start bringing in a new data source.

Speaker 1 (25:14):

Yeah. Couldn’t agree with you more. I, I just like right off the top of my head, thinking of several of the highest performing people in our company and they don’t do, we didn’t hire them to do at all the same work for us as what they were doing in their previous job. And if we had just been looking at their resumes, we wouldn’t have even to interview them and they’re, and they’re some of our best employees. So two part question to, to end off with where, where do you see enterprise level employers? Forget for the moment, you know, plum clients, but just across the board enterprise level companies, where do you see them placing assessments in the hiring process? And if you were running TA for one of those organizations, where would you place it?

Speaker 2 (26:00):

So all of our customers are placing it right at the very beginning of the hiring process. So, you know, Scotia, bank’s the only one that’s not collecting a resume. The other ones are, but what happens is, as soon as that resume gets uploaded into Workday or success factor, whatever system they’re using immediately, as part of that application process, they’re being invited to complete their plum profile and it’s not timed and they can come back later. And so what happens is a you’ve captured all of the person’s data. There’s no friction and worry about losing the candidate. You’ve captured that resume. So you have their contact information, but by asking them to complete it right away, we have a 91% completion rate, which is almost unheard of like, you don’t see numbers like that at all. When it looks at, at, you know, hard skills assessments or anything like that.

And the reason it’s so high is that the candidates get their own profile. They get value in return immediately. So they’re able to have better self-awareness and, and it really helps create a positive brand experience for that candidate. So we’re seeing that they’re providing it right in that initial application. And, you know, there’s very, very few instances where they’re getting maybe only 10 people applying for the role. And so in that case, maybe they’re doing a quick touch base phones, you know, reach out and then saying, Hey, we really wanna understand who you are. We also wanna be able to maybe look at you for other roles beyond just this one. You know, you are gonna get value in your own profile. Would you, would you take this? But the vast majority of them are getting, you know, over 50 people applying for a job at any time.

And if you were to go through that batch of resumes and shortlist, and then provide an interview versus let plum surface, who are the people with the greatest potential, you’re gonna end up with a different list. So the ideas we wanna provide this at the very beginning mm-hmm . So you’re screening in people you may not have given an opportunity to. And so at the top of the funnel, and we’re finding the enterprise, the advantage is, is that they can create kind of this best practice, gold standard, and then gold standard. And then everybody complies. So we are finding that, being able to get that adoption by putting it top of funnel actually goes really, really well with, with enterprise. And they, they see results of they get so many candidates they’re always worried about, are they talking to the best people? And with plum we’re giving them that actual quantifiable increased quality of hire where hiring managers are getting to see people that align with what they said were most important. And so there’s enormous buy-in and satisfaction because of where it’s used in the involvement with the hiring managers. Oh,

Speaker 1 (28:30):

That is so perfect. So Caitlin for listeners who wanna learn more about plum or get in touch with you how should they do that?

Speaker 2 (28:37):

So you can send an email to hello, plum.io. So it’s P L U m.io. So hello@plum.io. And you can also go right on our website. You can also look on LinkedIn for people that have posted their plum profiles, but you can actually complete your own profile right off of our website and see your top talents, or reach out to hello@plum.io. And we’ll send you a link and we can even unlock your professional development guide, which we call a talent guide, which we give to anybody that’s been hired or an employee where it goes over all 10 of your talents as well.

Speaker 1 (29:14):

That is awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us today on the high volume hiring podcast, a co-production of evergreen podcast and college recruiter, please subscribe for free on your favorite app. Review it. Five stars are always nice and recommend it to a couple people. You know, who wanna learn more about how best to hire dozens or even hundreds of people, a special thanks to our producer and engineer, Ian Douglas, I’m your host, Stephen Rothberg of job search site college recruiter. Each year, we help more than 7 million candidates find great new jobs. Our customers are primarily fortune 1000 companies, government agencies, and other employers who hire at scale and advertise their jobs with us. You can reach me at steven@collegerecruiter.com. Cheers.

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