The Cost Of Elevating Your Career.

elevatedWorking in a company with less than 10 employees has its perks. For one thing, there’s a lot less politics.

I mean – the rumors can only spread so far amongst people usually confined to their home offices.

We work as a holacracy – and it actually works – allowing every member of our team to drive campaigns and concepts while we pursue our dreams, not just corporate to do’s.

We have our bad days, but most of the days aren’t so bad. Plus with no corporate headquarters, I feel justified to spend most of my days working in sweatpants.

Each of us is very different and if you tried to personality test your way into pulling this team together, we’d have a very different team dynamic and likely,  different faces altogether. In the last two years I’ve spent with the company – our dynamic has changed, too. People have come and gone, our focus has evolved and with those inevitably shifting dynamics, our culture has changed too.

I’ve seen this shift in every startup I’ve worked at – 4 in total now. As we’ve added new people, the original definition of our culture naturally shifted and evolved. It became a word with multiple definitions – some representative of the company as a whole while others represented teams and microcosms that are inevitably created when you very suddenly don’t know the name of every person who works for your dot com any more.

teamwork funnyAs someone who has witnessed these inevitable and highly unpredictable shifts, it has been this first-person data collection that primarily justifies my fundamental issue with using compatibility or personality tests to match people with companies.

No matter how hard your hiring team tries to define culture, it’s not in their purview. Trying to define it inherently ignores all the custom elements that happen to create it. Rather, culture is truly defined by teams, by partnerships, by location of your branch, etc because they’re the ones that have to survive within the constraints.


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There are a million variables and each push the culture to evolution. That’s why culture, while falling in a very broad set of buzzwords, is a valued commodity. If there were actual tests that could prove fit, more than a handful of companies would be trying it. But we know the unpredictability of people and culture is a consequence of people, not corporate predictors and analysis.

Those natural fluxes and waves are good. When people start talking about “homogenous” cultures – ones that they believe can, in fact, be defined for a period of time longer than a week or so –I get a little nervous. Even in the largest corporations I’ve worked at, culture has constantly evolved whether that be by mass layoffs or business initiatives and controlling it with predictive testing that “weeds out” people with differing ideas sounds more like a scary anti-diversity case study that will happen if Donald Trump gets elected instead of a true technological advancement.

Testing For Talent

elevated careersThe latest predictive algorithm for culture in HR technology has not come in the standard package – all about personality fit in a world of cultural ambiguity – but rather in the application before the actual application, or job matching as the creator eHarmony describes it. Initially, it sounds a little like a communist theory but what do I know without signing up and checking it out for myself?

So I did, inspired by the tweets I caught during the #ECBELaunch this week,  saying things like “Imagine a world where everybody was 100% happy w/their marriage and their jobs!” @eHarmony founder/CEO Dr. Neil Clark Warren.” I may have laughed a little too hard at the fallacy of this magical, happy world.

This isn’t Disney World, Warren. It’s the World of Work – and it’s a lot more fucked up than any test can predict. Now, at the mention of Dr. Warren, I have to say – I’m not going into this without my own bias. As part of the LGBT community, I have my hesitations about eHarmony – the parent company of Elevated Careers – as they’ve historically taken an anti- approach toward allowing gay people into their dating community. It took litigation in 2010 before they finally conceded to allowing gay people on their site. I think of, and mention, that fact every time I talk about eHarmony because I acknowledge that as one voice in a sea of voices, all I can do is inform and educate people on discriminatory policies. But that is neither here nor there. Their Elevated Careers site says nothing about being gay or straight, so really – it doesn’t matter. It’s just a fact that I know impacts my initial perception and something, as a writer, I feel the need to be honest about.

I Tried: A Marketer’s Review of Elevated Careers’ Candidate Experience

All right, so let’s dive in on the candidate experience, since the topic itself is all the rage these days to those of you playing buzzword bingo. Please note, I am only testing from the candidate perspective. I have not seen the employer product and I’m going to put that in italics again at the bottom for anyone who feels threatened by honesty.

I started with a simple search on the homepage – Director of Marketing in 37122 – and was pushed to a registration page telling me to get my compatibility report. As a marketer, I would have allowed the job seeker to get at least one more page deep before forcing a login, but it’s their product – not mine. I’ll sign up with my e-mail, I don’t need anyone accessing my social media profiles and contacts like another big bad wolf has.

Easy enough, I’m in. After a series of standard e-mail validation steps, I’m asked to upload a photo. As a job seeker, I think I was just trying to get my compatibility report. Why do you need my photo? I know it’s standard to have a picture on a CV in other countries but not here in the US – which I’m assuming the customer would have to be based on your standard 5 character zip code/keyword only search.

kibblesI uploaded a completely random photo – an ode to my Levy nickname, Kibbles – and without any validation or verification, I’m told it looks great. Warning to the site creators – you’ll want to hand review photos if you’re going to take them. Trust me on this before it becomes a job board for those prostitutes that have cards on the Vegas Strip. Been there, screwed that up.

Next, I’m asked to provide my resume. Fair enough. I click “Upload a resume.”

Time check: I’ve been working for approximately 2 minutes now. Yes – I have set a timer. Science. 

On the other hand – my marketing brain turns on, wondering about the abandon rate at each step. In my experience, and every recruiters – every click along the job hunt drives up the departure rate as much as 80%. Three clicks and three minutes in, odds are I’m gone but for science, here I am.

nobody has time for thatAfter two 504 gateway errors, (in plain English, that means their servers aren’t sending data fast enough so even the internet was like “oh fuck it, I can’t”) waiting to upload my resume, I say screw it, click cancel and skip to the questionnaire. Nobody’s got time for that. I will note, there’s also a place where I can skip to job matches. Wait, how? They didn’t get any information about me yet? If this isn’t a job board – how are you making matches without using your algorithm? Regardless, twenty-four “perfect jobs” are waiting for me.

Ok back to the questionnaire. First, they want to get some of my current job information and demographics. Fair enough. I will commend them that any of the information I provided earlier is pre-populated into the fields to streamline the experience and they’re only asking one question per page, stripping out the potential of overwhelming someone with one page that has 100 questions on it. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t upload my resume so none of my current work experience is pre-populated.

relationship statusA few questions later about my current company and then… my relationship status? Sneaky, big corporate entity. Why don’t you just slap an eHarmony banner ad on the page and call it a day? While optional, I don’t get why they’re asking and I swear if my work e-mail starts getting clogged with potential love matches…

Time check: 14 minutes. Honestly, I’m also writing notes and taking screen shots as I go so let’s generously call it 7 minutes.

Next up is the values profiles to identify what I think is most important in the workplace. I have all of the questions listed in my notes but for your sanity’s sake, I’ll give you an overview. I was told to rank how important different ideas were to me on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 being most important. Here’s a brief overview of the first 8 questions I was asked, to which I answered a solid 6 for each one:

  1. Recognizing employee contributions
  2. Not requiring employees to perform tasks outside the job
  3. A brand that’s winning in the marketplace
  4. Maintaining morale
  5. Strong culture of self-management
  6. Takes care of the customer
  7. Free snacks (is this really a value?)
  8. Job stability
  9. Leadership that listens
  10. Cross department collaboration

After 10 questions where I’ve taken the time to type out the actual question in my word document, while also answering 6 for every question which is how every job seeker will, too, because, let’s face it, they just want to be agreeable and get a job, I’m told to “slow down, speedy!” Uhhh, I couldn’t go slower unless I paced my house pondering between each one but ok.

Slowly but surely, I make my way through fifty-two questions. Yes, you read that right – 52, fifty-two, cincuenta y dos. These questions started becoming pretty repetitive and clearly focused on perks, testing leadership and customer-orientation.  In the process of those 52 questions, I was told to slow down four times. By the second “slow down,” I was just plain bored.  I know I’m not your average job seeker but I know I have a longer attention span than one. But for science, I kept clicking 6 and telling myself it would be over soon.

By the third “slow down,” I couldn’t help but think I was taking WAY more time to answer these questions than any job seeker ever would. By the fourth, the frustration started to set in and I started saying “seriously??” out loud to no one. I mean, we all know no job seeker is going to write a thesis in-between answering these repetitive questions. This is also when I started trying to expand my browser the widest it could go for some sense of hope in the form of a completion bar. No such luck. Back to it.

Time check: 27 minutes. Let’s call it 18, adjusting for writing time.

52 questions and 5 “too fast, speedy” prompts later, it’s over.

But, as a candidate, there’s bad news. The completion bar is updated and…  I’m only 50% done. In my notes, you can see that I wrote in all caps: FIFTY PERCENT?!? 52 QUESTIONS GETS ME 50%???? I’m starting to wonder if this is punishment and what I did that was so bad in the first place.

If it is, I know I’ll never do it again. That’s for sure.

Now, I’m supposed to take a personality test. I really hope this goes faster… they’re asking about words that describe me. Again, I’ll be answering six to each one. Three questions in, I’m told I’m going too fast. Nine more questions later, I’ve already seen 2 repeat questions and it’s apparent that I know myself too well because, yes, I’ve been told to slow down again. Another nine questions down, another too fast prompt. I think you get the idea now about how this repetitive and seemingly endless experience sucks.

After twenty-four personality questions I stop to wonder how much work a company has to put in to even get a match. If you can get a recruiter who’s trying to fill ten or more roles today to fill one of these survey’s out – you have more marketing capacity than I.

Ok, enough distraction. Onward!

The next series of personality questions – 25 – 35 were mostly repeats, asking about my general tolerance for other people’s beliefs and goal-setting. But I survived. I’ve landed on the… wait a minute.

fmlFML. Now I’m only 75% of the way done and they want me to tell them about the culture I work in now. At this point, I’m actually a little angry about how much work it has taken.

Time check: Timer just hit 40 minutes. FORTY. Again, we can narrow it down but with the prompts that I was going too fast, I’d say we’re looking at about 25 minutes.

Question four of the “about your company” made me laugh. It asked if “workdays are enjoyable” and I thought – believe me, no job seeker who loves their job made it this far. My sarcasm and pace are yet again underappreciated by the system because, apparently I’m answering too fast, again. This makes me stop to ponder why straight people would put up with a comparable test to find their soul mate. I guess the same tolerance for pain is a compatibility factor.

Seven questions and one annoying prompt later, I want to throw my laptop.

Sixteen questions later, I quit. I honestly couldn’t take any more of the repeat questions and vague descriptions. It’s awful. My threshold for digital disasters is high, but not that high.

Time check: 48 minutes. Subtract for writing and we’re looking at +/- 35 minutes.

Here’s the reason I’m publishing this article and not just putting my notes aside for when someone asks me for commentary.

After answering 139 questions, I was still given the same 24 jobs I saw before every starting this process that were all scraped from SimplyHired.com and are only a match because I entered “director of marketing” as my job title.

This test had me thoroughly annoyed and I bet any job seeker would be, too. In press releases and quotes, I read that their VP of Matching Steve Carter “believes companies should have, and are more successful when they have, a fairly homogeneous, consistent culture profile.”

Well, if you can boil out someone’s actual values by asking them multi-phrased questions about the same 5 concepts on a scale while they’re trying to impress you – not be honest with you – you’re beyond lucky. You’ve turned water into wine and gone pure Touched By An Angel on their ass. I mean, let’s think about it this way. If a friend asked what you do in your free time, would you have a different answer than if your employer asked you the same question?

Precisely.

And if all of your technology is based on an algorithm and years of dating and compatibility matching, does that mean I’m technically not represented since LGBT people weren’t allowed to use your dating algorithm until the last 5 years?

So, in short, my review is – this is painful and I would recommend job seekers avoid this bar-setting bad candidate experience… which means you probably don’t want anything to do with it as a recruiter or HR department either.

Author’s Note: Let’s go over a few things:

  1. I was invited, but did not attend, the “glitterati” meeting of HR and recruiting influencers to launch this brand. I chose not to attend because I am, honestly, too overwhelmed currently with my day-to-day work to lose a few days for an analyst meeting.
  2. I have not seen the employer product and this review is restricted exclusively to Elevated Careers by eharmony’s candidate capabilities.

Katrina Kibben


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