May 16, 2016

Brands You Should Know: An Oral History of SkillCheck


The SkillCheck company arrive on the scene 25 years ago in 1991. A short while later, in 1999, SkillCheck debuted its online testing platform. It was one of the first of its kind, offering employers a way to dive deeper than candidates’ resumes allowed and get accurate pictures of how their potential hires might perform on the job.

At this point, you may be a bit confused. “SkillCheck? Didn’t the folks at Findly launch that solution in 2012?”

You’d be forgiven for thinking that, but the truth is that SkillCheck has been a major player in the assessment space for years now. Since its inception in the ’90s, it has helped thousands of employers make better hires.

In 2006, SkillCheck went underground – sort of. It never strayed from its mission of giving employers the tools they need to predict which candidates would make the best employees, but it did pass through a few name changes along the way before taking up the SkillCheck mantle again in 2014.

To clear up some of the haze surrounding SkillCheck, we called up Director of Product Management Chris Cella, who has been a critical member of SkillCheck’s team for seven years and counting. He gave us an inside look at this brand that everyone in the hiring and recruiting world should know about.

1991-2016: The Evolution of SkillCheck

When SkillCheck first came into existence in the ’90s, organizations were just starting to accept online testing as a legitimate method for identifying top talent and narrowing their talent pools to reveal the most relevant candidates. Between these early days and 2006, SkillCheck focused mainly on skills testing and knowledge-based testing, according to Cella.

“Typing tests, data entry tests, Microsoft Office simulations, accounting knowledge, medical knowledge – that sort of thing,” he explains.

In 2006, background screening company First Advantage purchased SkillCheck. One of the first decisions First Advantage made after the purchase was to retire the SkillCheck name.

“First Advantage’s idea at the time was to use their own brand as the major driver,” Cella says.

SkillCheck 1Another major development occurred in 2009, when the SkillCheck team (still operating under the First Advantage name) decided to expand its library of skills- and knowledge-based testing to include behavioral testing as well. To do this, SkillCheck brought a team of Ph.D.-level industrial and organizational (IO) psychologists on board. This team created valid, effective behavioral tests and began consulting with clients on how to make the best use of these behavioral assessments for their organizations. This development stuck, and to this day, SkillCheck provides employers with behavioral assessments, as well as IO psychologists who can help clients use those assessments to drive business outcomes.

In 2012, First Advantage split several of its business units out into the newly formed startup, Findly. At this time, SkillCheck was rebranded once again as Maize.

Findly focuses on helping employers build talent pipelines. As a result, SkillCheck’s next big move was to develop pre-selection assessments (called “credentials”) that would help employers target the right members of their talent communities during the sourcing process. That way, employers could use Findly to build massive talent pipelines without worrying that their job-specific messages would fall on unqualified ears.

“The idea is that you can put 30 million people in the talent community, and then give them the tools to self-identify their knowledge and capabilities – not in the context of selection, but in the context of targeting,” Cella explains.

When you’re operating with a large talent community, finding the right candidates with the right skills at the right time can be a huge hassle – the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. SkillCheck’s credentials, however, allow recruiters to zero in on relevant candidates with the right skills right away.

For example, members of the talent community might be invited to take a typing test. Then, when the employer needs to hire for a job that requires typing skills, it can simply filter the population according to the members’ scores on the typing assessment and only send messages about the job to those people who are likely to have the necessary typing skills.

“You should start your search with people who can type,” Cella says. “So, we provide these tools to the candidates in the Findly talent community at no charge to the client.”

It’s also important to note that these targeting assessments are an entirely separate suite of tests. When it comes time for the selection assessments, candidates take even more in-depth tests that help employers narrow their pipelines even further.

In 2014, Findly brought the SkillCheck name back after its long hibernation – which is exactly why we expected some readers to be a little bemused by our introductory paragraph.

Why You Should Know the Story of SkillCheck

LeavesIt is precisely because of SkillCheck’s long history that the platform is so valuable to employers today. SkillCheck has been through many phases, and its lengthy evolution has only allowed it to grow more effective in its mission.

1. Find the Right Tests

A lot of assessment providers trumpet their vast libraries of tests – but more often than not, most of those tests are outdated or irrelevant to a given employer’s needs. What good is a library of more than 10,000 assessments when only a few are actually useful for a customer?

While SkillCheck does have a library of more than 500 tests, the organization is not focused on numbers. What matters more to this particular platform is relevance.

“We try to make it easier to work with us by focusing on developing and maintaining products that people actually use to great effect,” Cella says.

When working with clients, SkillCheck takes an active role in helping them identify the assessments that actually matter for their targeting and selection efforts.

SkillCheck’s behavioral and cognitive assessments are similarly streamlined. Rather than investing time and money in assessing every candidate according to a wide range of possibly relevant traits, customers at SkillCheck have the ability to only focus on the traits that actually matter for their roles.

“We’ve gotten enough data over the years that we can say, for example, ‘Okay, this is the health care services profile. The goal we’re trying to accomplish is XYZ, and the traits we need to measure are A, B, and C because our research has shown that those traits actually matter to this segment,'” Cella says. “That way, we don’t have to hit you with a barrage of tools. We can show you which tools will work for you, and we can fine-tune those tools to fit your organization’s needs.”

Furthermore, SkillCheck’s biggest vertical has, historically, been staffing organizations. This has allowed the platform to develop a broad array of assessments. For employers, this means that no matter the industry or role, chances are SkillCheck has a relevant assessment available.

“[Working with staffing organizations] has provided us with the widest view you can get in terms of the types of roles you are hiring for,” Cella says. “That’s how we developed our library.”

2. Assessments for Both the Targeting Stage and the Selection Stage

SkillCheck’s position under the Findly umbrella has allowed the platform to bring a wealth of new information to its clients’ fingertips.

“If the client uses talent communities along with our assessments, we can give them a very well-constructed, step-by-step process that allows them to target and assess candidates with content that is congruent,” Cella explains.

Targeting assessments not only allow employers to fine-tune their sourcing efforts, but they also give employers valuable insights into their talent communities.

“It’s not a replacement for selection testing, but it will make sure that you get a higher percentage of quality candidates in the pipeline in the first place,” Cella says.

3. The Value of Good Technology

SkillCheck puts a lot of stock in the actual technology that powers its platform. This technology is paid close attention to and consistently invested in. The goal on SkillCheck’s end is to keep content relevant and develop new content while keeping costs down and providing more flexibility to customers. That’s no easy feat, but SkillCheck is dedicated to this mission. In fact, in an interview for our site last year, Findly CEO Richard Campione made sure to highlight the importance of using technology to improve the candidate experience.

For example, Cella says that one of SkillCheck’s major priorities is making sure that the platform is as compatible as possible across all devices, including laptops, desktops, tablets, and smartphones.

“We want to provide a consistent, high-quality experience that has high fidelity to the testing you are trying to carry out, no matter what device you or your candidates are on,” Cella says.

SkillCheck also pays close attention to the unique workflows of its clients.

“If you have a unique workflow that your organization uses – for example, you have different applicant tracking systems or certain people need to see certain reports – we want to help you maintain that workflow without soaking you in extra fees,” Cella says. “We want to be flexible, and we want to make sure our clients can afford to work with us.”

Another key component of SkillCheck’s technology is the user experience – something that many assessment providers gloss over. The general thought is that collecting data matters more than making the process easy for candidates. That kind of thinking is actually highly detrimental to employers: There’s no better way to lose candidates than to hit them with a cumbersome and unfriendly selection process.

“Findly really helped us change our focus,” Cella says. “Now, when we’re developing, we ask about the end-user and candidate experience.”

MountainsThe result is more streamlined assessments that candidates can access from any of their devices. This, Cella says, has greatly cut down on the number of problems that users have when working with the platform.

“Millions of people a year take these tests, and we’ve gotten to a point where very few people – if anyone – ever have an issue that they need to ask you about when taking the test,” Cella says. “Thanks to the new interface, we have dropped the percentage of people who call in with issues or submit cases by two-thirds.”

SkillCheck’s dedication to clients is perhaps best represented by its approach to contract management. While the platform does offer plenty of DIY options for online contract management, that doesn’t mean that just anyone can sign up. SkillCheck wants to ensure that it only takes on customers to which it can deliver true value.

“When it comes down to what kind of contract you are going to have and how you will pay for it, you can do that online,” Cella says. “But you still have to talk to us first. We don’t want just anyone with a credit card buying our stuff.”

It’s funny to hear a service provider talk like that. Profit is profit, right?

Not in SkillCheck’s eyes. For this particular platform, the name of the game is “value,” not “dollars.” The people behind this solution take great pains to make sure that everyone who uses it – from employers to candidates – can truly benefit from it. That kind of thinking is exactly what allowed SkillCheck to thrive all these years, no matter what its name was at the time. SkillCheck will always be SkillCheck.

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