Why We Created EmployBlue

TL;DR: We created EmployBlue because we’d personally had difficulty hiring highly skilled employees in the past. We wanted to test candidates on their skills early in the hiring process, but our needs were so specific that we couldn’t use the premade tests out on the market. Instead, we built a way to efficiently test candidates on the skills that mattered to us and now we’re extending our product to you.

For our first blog post, we thought we’d start off by telling you why we started EmployBlue. To set some context, let’s start with an example.

Have you ever found yourself working with or managing someone who, on paper was a perfect fit, but in practice lacked the necessary tools to function well in their job role? Unfortunately, we have. And, by pointing this out, we don’t mean any animosity towards this hypothetical person. Rather, in these situations, we feel sympathy for that person, because we fundamentally believe no one comes to work wanting to do a bad job. We’re sure it’s incredibly stressful to be placed into a situation where you aren’t set up for success, but expected to perform. And we know the recruiters, hiring managers and company more broadly don’t want this situation. So, if no one wants this, what exactly is to blame? If we were to look at the root of the problem, the hiring process which selected this individual didn’t properly evaluate if the candidate was a solid match for the role.

Have you ever found yourself working with or managing someone who, on paper was a perfect fit, but in practice lacked the necessary tools to function well in their job role? Unfortunately, we have.

As someone who spent years in hiring manager roles, I can anecdotally confirm this. I started my career in industrial operations and then moved on to advise engineering teams on how to build software for operations environments. In both of these situations, I needed to hire employees with very specific skill sets, but I found the hiring processes to be universally time consuming, ineffective and broken. When I was given a resume, seeing a candidate’s work history was nice, but I had to take their list of accomplishments at face value. In reality all this sheet of paper could explicitly confirm for me was if the candidate was or was not good at writing and formatting resumes. When I interviewed a candidate, I’d like to think I could perfectly evaluate their skills based on my own observations and carefully crafted questions. But, in reality, the short time spent in this unnatural setting never gave a candidate the opportunity to show off the depth of their skills and intellectual ability. Even more concerning is the fact that many of the most brilliant professionals I’d worked with in my career had atypical backgrounds, weren’t skilled at resume writing and were awkward interviewees. To solve for all of this, ideally, I’d want to observe a candidate complete a sample of work which was close to the type of work they’d be doing in their role, but logistically this was infeasible – I didn’t have the time to observe every candidate. And even if I wanted to do this, I’d first need to do an excellent job of paring down the list of candidates to the few worthy of spending this limited time onsite.

I needed to hire employees with very specific skill sets, but I found the hiring processes to be universally time consuming, ineffective and broken.

So what could be done? I needed to test candidates on very specific skills prior to interviewing them. After one particularly frustrating and fruitless months-long search for a candidate to fill a Product Specialist position, I decided to spend some time crafting an extensive test. I sent this test out to every candidate as long as their work history wasn’t a complete mismatch and reviewed their results prior to phone screening and interviewing them. The difference was enormous. Within a week I’d been able to whittle down the large list of candidates to two and we hired a candidate a week later; let’s call her Sarah. Now, Sarah had an unusual work history (she’d spent her career in law and we worked on software), she didn’t have the nicest of all of the resumes and she wasn’t the most charismatic of all of the interviewees. But she was exceedingly effective on the job and the test had predicted this. So much so, that after a year and a half, we promoted her and she graduated from my team to become one of my peers. “I need a Sarah on my team” became a commonplace saying within my organization. I later used this hire-by-testing method to quickly hire two Prototyping Engineers whose work was was so outstanding that our software engineering teams migrated their work into our official codebase – a practice unheard of within our organization.

So, why didn’t I use one of the many pre-employment tests available for purchase? The vast majority of these tests evaluate personality, general intelligence or basic skills – like the ability to use spreadsheets. That’s all well and good, but for each role I needed to fill, I needed very specific role-related-knowledge. None of the readily available tests were even close to my requirements. And I’ll admit that all of the above is a very nice story, but just a story – where’s the hard evidence? Following this experience, I spent time reviewing research papers on the topic of hiring. Every single one confirmed the personal experience I’d had; that resumes and interviews alone are a terrible indicator of long term job success. And many suggested testing as a solution. In fact, researchers had found that sometimes resumes biased companies to identify candidates who had embellished their accomplishments and interviews biased companies to identify candidates who are charismatic and charming. Candidates like this may simultaneously lack the skills required, but also be suave and crafty enough to gain promotions through non-merit-based, political means. (If you’d like to read some of these studies, we’ve linked a few summaries on our product page).

I spent time reviewing research papers on the topic of hiring. Every single one confirmed the personal experience I’d had; that resumes and interviews alone are a terrible indicator of long term job success.

This leads us back to the original question – why did we create EmployBlue? We loved the idea of custom, skills-based pre-employment testing, but it needed to be automated and paired with the right features so that we weren’t spending our time grading tests by hand, organizing results and tracking candidates. When we looked for a product to fit these needs, we couldn’t find one. So we built it. And you may ask “you’re tech people, why build this for blue collar industries?” Having started my career in industrial operations, I’m passionate about the people in blue collar industries and the wide range of roles requiring very specific skills gives us a good opportunity to make an impact (also blue collar industries are often the last ones to get cool new software – a problem I felt acutely in the beginning of my career). Lastly, we know that testing isn’t the single solution to hiring, so we’re planning to add other neat features in the future to help everyone find the best candidates – stay tuned.

Thanks for taking the time to read our story and if you’re interested in trying our product, please let us know an email where we can contact you (there’s an email submission on the bottom of our product page) – we look forward to working with you soon.

Zackariah Gauntt, Co-Founder of EmployBlue

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