If it works for love, why not work?

But job site matching managers, jobseekers questioned by experts
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 02/11/2013

Online dating site eHarmony may be best known for helping people find their perfect mate but, by the end of this year, it also intends to help employers find the perfect employee. eHarmony is launching an online job-matching site that will match supervisors with jobseekers.

“It’s going to be about trying to find out the culture and the personalities of the people in the job situation plus the personality of the person who’s the applicant and match them together the same way we do for marriage,” said Neil Clark Warren, founder and CEO of eHarmony, based in Santa Monica, Calif.

The site will be launching first in the United States and will expand into other countries, including Canada, said Warren. While details around pricing have yet to be worked out, there would be a charge for both jobseekers and employers, he said.

Employers that join the service would first fill out a questionnaire about the company culture.

“Ultimately, we want to be able to do a really careful check on the culture of the company… we will try to gain a full understanding of the culture,” said Warren.

Then, the employer would identify the open positions it has and the manager for each position would be required to fill out a lengthy survey about herself — roughly 250 questions — outlining what she is seeking and what she has to offer, said Warren.

“The kinds of questions we will ask will be very personal questions about the kind of qualities they think they themselves have: Are they good to their employees? Do they help their employees seek their maximum effort? Do they reinforce their employees? Are they good at goal-setting? Do they have the ability to inspire employees?” he said.

Jobseekers would also be required to fill out a lengthy survey.

For its dating site, eHarmony has come up with 29 dimensions for making matches and it uses an algorithm to match romantic partners. The job-matching site will follow a similar format and eHarmony is currently in the process of identifying the appropriate dimensions, said Warren.

“We will be looking at who are the great managers of employees and who are the people who have trouble with employees and what are the differences in personalities and what do some bring out in their employees and what do some find problematic — that will be our approach.”

eHarmony will send matches to both managers and jobseekers that best fit what each party is looking for. At this point, the communication between a manager and jobseeker would likely follow the same “guided communication” process currently used on the dating site, said Warren. This ranges from sending multiple-choice questions, identifying “must haves” and “can’t stands,” and sending open-ended questions.

By the time the two parties reach the stage of exchanging names and phone numbers, they will already know a lot about each other, he said.

“We will encourage them to say the things they need to say about themselves and ask the questions they need to ask, knowing that if they don’t think they will be right for the job, now is the time to say so,” said Warren.

Limiting diversity?

But if eHarmony matches people who are similar to each other, it may lead to a lack of diversity in the workplace, and it also has the potential to limit leadership growth, said Pauline Perreault, chief engagement officer of Jump Outta Bed Workplace Strategies in Edmonton.

“Part of the growth for anyone in leadership is having folks learn how to adjust their styles, to better communicate, better manage and better lead the folks they’re working with,” she said. “(It’s about) learning ‘How do I best adapt my style so I’m able to get a better connection and be more approachable with my team?’”

eHarmony also needs to be careful it is matching managers and jobseekers more professionally than personally, said Lori Dermer, principal of Dermer Consulting, a recruitment firm in Montreal.

“If you’re someone who’s into sailing and eHarmony is going to match you up with a manager who sails, quite frankly it’s almost dangerous, in my opinion. Because if things get masked behind the spirit of ‘I really like them; they’re not doing a great job but I like them when we sail,’ then forget about it. We’re here to do a job,” she said.

But this practice is quite common in the hiring process, according to a recent study from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. Hiring managers often value their personal feelings of comfort, validation and excitement about a candidate over identifying candidates with superior cognitive or technical skills, found the study, which was based on 120 interviews with employers at banking, professional services and management consulting firms.

“In many respects, (employers) hired in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners than how sociologists typically portray employers selecting new workers,” said Lauren Rivera, author of “Hiring as Cultural Matching,” published in the December 2012 issue of the American Sociological Review.

Choosing applicants based on personal comfort and similarities can cause an employer to overlook qualified candidates, said Perreault.

“What are we really saying by wanting you to like soccer? Is it the fact we are a team atmosphere here and we do like our employees to socialize and we really are building a family environment here? So how do we go about attracting that versus having our focus on a couple of extracurricular activities?” she said.

More than one-half of hiring managers in the Northwestern study ranked cultural fit as the most important criterion in the job interview level.

To properly hire for fit, an organization first needs to define its culture, said Perreault. Then it needs to build that into the recruitment process — such as using particular wording in job postings to attract the types of employees it wants.

During the interview process, the questions asked should determine if the candidate would be a good fit with the company culture, said Dermer.

“Ask the candidate, ‘What type of environment do you think is best suited to your personality? Are you comfortable in a very quiet environment, a loud environment?’” she said. “We need to understand who the person is and we need to be able to set them up for success.”

The eHarmony questionnaire for managers will also ask specific questions about the culture that a particular manager creates within his team.

“How do you feel about the job hours that a person keeps — about how specific they are in keeping their hours? I want to know what a person feels about individuals taking time during the day for personal matters. What about dentist appointments and things like that?” said Warren.

If HR does not take hiring for culture into consideration, it can lead to a wide variety of problems, including reduced morale and productivity, and increased turnover, said Perreault.

“If someone doesn’t believe work is the place you should be having your fun, immediately there’s a big clash if (the manager is) spending time thinking about pranks, renting a cotton candy machine and having fun with the staff,” she said.

“We’re going to see that employee isn’t going to be a long-term fit — he or she is going to self-select out or there’s going to be some performance management issues.”

Check qualifications first

Hiring for culture fit needs to come after it has been determined the candidate can do the job and has the right qualifications, said Perreault.

While matching for culture is its main focus, eHarmony is “very interested” in making sure jobseekers also possess the appropriate qualifications for the job to make sure it creates the right match, said Warren.

“Our ultimate goal is for both sides to say, ‘This is a perfect match for me.’”

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