Tech & Work

eHarmony enters the HR recruiting space. Should we be concerned?

eHarmony has helped many singles find their way to marital bliss, but can that same algorithm be applied to help people stay engaged at work?

eHarmony Enters the HR Recruiting Space—Should We Be Concerned?

Earlier this year, the dating site, eHarmony, announced it will update its algorithm to be used by employers when hiring. Sure, the company has helped many singles find their way to marital bliss, but can that same algorithm be applied to help people stay engaged at work?

eHarmony certainly seems to think so. In an email interview, Grant Langston, the company's VP of Customer Service, qualified eHarmony's move, saying, "Knowing the positive impact that eHarmony has had helping more than 565,000 people find the right person for them, we thought this was the right direction for eHarmony."

But is this the right direction for the recruiting field? Some have argued that personality testing is a dangerous hiring shortcut, while others have contested its legality. And then there are those that think this is one of the greatest developments to hit the recruiting world since LinkedIn. To understand both sides of the argument, I contacted HR industry consultants and CEOs of companies specializing in career personality assessments to see what they have to say on the matter.

The result: while it's apparent that the experts disagree on the effectiveness of personality assessments in the professional space, they do all agree on one thing—the age of algorithms is changing the way companies hire.

Let's start on a positive note. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Samar Birwadker, the CEO of Good.co—a company that helps job seekers discover employers that fit their personality type—is unflaggingly for personality assessments in the hiring process, saying it could "create better environments for all employees." As Birwadker argues, millennials—a generation that places great importance on cultural fit and workplace happiness—are entering the workforce in droves. With that in mind, using personality as a factor when hiring will become "a useful tool for building more productive, happy teams, and it's going to be especially important to attracting and retaining these younger candidates."

True, cultural fit is a key factor for many new workers, but what about business objectives? Employees aren't hired to be an employer's friend. They're hired to do a job, produce results—a fact that Greta Roberts, CEO of Talent Analytics Corp, argues eHarmony's implied focus on "happy workers" ignores to the detriment of employees and employers. As she says, "In a well run business, people are placed in roles where they perform well, and as a side effect are also happy. Having happy workers, who may or may not perform well, should be a deep concern."

Meanwhile, Dr. Janice Presser, CEO of The Gabriel Institute, expresses yet another possible stumbling block—the difficulty of creating teams. As she says, "eHarmony's personality test has had success in matching one person with a significant other, but matching teams, or entire cultures, is an entirely different matter." Personality testing, or at least the one-to-one matching of individuals facilitated by eHarmony's algorithm, will have to undergo quite a bit of change if it's to be effective at identifying traits in job seekers that map to effective collaborative teamwork and an internal drive to make meaningful contributions to an organization.

So what does eHarmony have to say about all this? Langston argues that the company's entrance into the recruiting world will benefit employees and, employers saying "We believe that with great information from a candidate and great information from a company, better, more compatible employment opportunities can be realized."

In fact, the company is so confident of its updated algorithm's ability to improve lives—personally and professionally—that Langston hints it may continue to expand even beyond the recruiting space, stating eHarmony "will be announcing several new verticals that address compatibility and will help people live better, more satisfied, content lives."

Erin Osterhaus is the Managing Editor for Software Advice, an online resource forHR software buyers. She focuses on the human resources market, offering advice to industry professionals on the best recruiting, talent management and leadership techniques. Her work has been featured on TLNT, Entrepreneur.com, and Yahoo's Small Business Advisor blog, among others. Erin can be reached at erin@softwareadvice.com, or follow her blog, The New Talent Times.

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