August 11, 2014 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Job-Customizable Online Skills Assessment Tests
Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of online skills testing for pre-employment assessment and benchmarking. Eric has degrees in Psychology and Business, and a fascination with matching people with roles they’re best at, and that they enjoy.
A company built on exceptional talent from internet technology, test development, and iterative product development, eSkill leads as an independent assessment company helping HR departments with relevant and accurate job-based tests.
To learn more about Eric and eSkill, visit the company website at www.eskill.com, or contact him on Linkedin.
978-649-8010 or 866-537-5455
CEOCFO: Mr. Friedman, on your website it indicates eSkill is the next generation of skills assessment. How so?
Mr. Friedman: When we started eSkill ten years ago, we wanted to take online skills testing to a much more sophisticated level than just a laundry list of static, canned, one-size-fits-all tests. We developed software that will pick questions and build a test for your needs.
For instance, if you say this employee would need to be proficient with Microsoft Word and the English language and etiquette then we need a test to cover those things. We might even need a short version of twenty questions or a long version of forty questions. Our software can generate those tests by picking relevant questions from all of these different subject areas and giving you a job-customized test. That is the main feature that’s always separated us by a broad margin from our competitors.
Today we are also doing the most advanced Microsoft Office simulation tests that replicate Microsoft Office interface in the browser and have you perform tasks to test your skills. Many correct answers are usually possible. We are doing it using HTML 5 which does not require test-takers to download any plugins, and that is something at this point that you will not find anywhere else.
CEOCFO: What have your realized that may be unique in how you developed this approach or is it that others simply have not found the skill and technology to do so?
Mr. Friedman: Once you start developing test content, it is very hard to tear it all up down to the very question and add the kind of meta-information to it that allows it to be picked and pulled by software into a test.
Our competitors generally now have been rolled up into much larger companies; they use those products in my opinion as cash cows. They don’t seem to invest much in product technology, and a lot of customers are content with just a 40-question canned test that they can give everybody. The eSkill product is not the cheapest, but is really for more of a sophisticated user - an HR Department that wants to make sure their screening tests are job-relevant. Therefore, there is room for everyone.
CEOCFO: Using Microsoft for example, how do you provide a realistic test and put in the challenges that come up quite often in daily usage?
Mr. Friedman: We have all had difficulty using Microsoft Office! We have two kinds of MS Office questions in eSkill tests. One question type might show you the image of Microsoft Word toolbar and it might point to five different buttons--a, b, c, d, e--and it would ask which of these buttons would allow you to make the text bold. If you use Word, you should recognize the bold button and answer the question correctly.
Our simulations take it a step further…in your browser window, you will see what looks exactly like a Microsoft Word 2010 interface. There might be a task to make the text in a paragraph bold. You can highlight the text that you see and type “Control-B” to make it bold, or click on the bold button to make it bold, or go to the format menu and format the text bold.
Our simulations can track all those movements and mouse clicks and score you accurately no matter which approach you take. This will as realistically as possible test your working knowledge of an office product.
CEOCFO: Are there particular types of companies or industries that appreciate what you are able to offer?
Mr. Friedman: Our customers are spread across many industries because eSkill testing covers many common organizational job functions. eSkill testing targets mostly entry to mid-level skill or knowledge workers, so a lot of IT staff, customer service people, entry-level programmers, call-centers or retail banks and people who work with customers are the types of job functions that we test.
We have large clients such as the US State Department, Zappos, GE, and LG, and also thousands of small to mid-size businesses including precincts, schools, and churches.
CEOCFO: What is your revenue model?
Mr. Friedman: We sell mainly by subscription, where a company pays for a virtually unlimited volume of candidate testing over a one month to one-year period. It’s a flat rate so they know what they are paying. Smaller customers can buy test credits starting at 25 test credits for $800. It deducts one credit whenever a candidate takes a test. Even if a test has five subjects on it, and is the equivalent of giving five competitors’ canned tests in a row, it will only cost one credit and be a single test session with eSkill.
CEOCFO: Do many people take advantage of your tool for configuring their own tests, or do you find that people want you to do it for them?
Mr. Friedman: The vast majority of our clients customize their own tests rather than use only our standard test designs.
We do not usually get involved creating tests; the interface is designed to help you through the process easily. An increasing number of clients upload their own questions and tests that they have been giving for a long time on paper, or upload tests from their legacy in-house systems to the eSkill platform. There, they can manage those tests online and even mix their questions with ours if they want.
Finally, what we are really getting into now is integrating eSkill testing into companies’ enterprise software systems or applicant tracking systems such as Oracle Taleo.
CEOCFO: Was that something people asked for or something you thought just made sense?
Mr. Friedman: When customers started asking us if we could integrate their stand-alone eSkill service into other services, they had we started doing it for them. We then realized it was something that - after you do it once or twice - it could be done much more quickly the next few times you do it. It then became our Enterprise level service.
CEOCFO: Your website indicated that perhaps this should not just be an HR issue but skills assessment should be throughout the entire firm. Would you tell us about that concept?
Mr. Friedman: There is a butterfly effect where if someone is poor at their job, makes errors, or treats customers badly it can ripple throughout the whole company. It can bring the whole company down in perception, sales or quality. HR is often tasked with making sure that with every hire the company does is the best possible hire they can do with their budget. HR is the most important function a company can have. Even a hired CEO of a company is theoretically the product of HR’s decision making.
CEOCFO: How do you reach potential customers?
Mr. Friedman: Our customers come mostly through having an online presence, publishing quality educational content from our thought leaders, and distribution through partners.
CEOCFO: What surprised you as eSkill has developed as a company?
Mr. Friedman: What surprised me is that HR product buyers are not usually quick adopters. It does not matter what kind of a product you have, but your ability to reach the right people with a pain-solving message, and being at the right place at the right time when they make a purchasing or switching decision is more important for a company’s sales success than the quality of their product. I had to learn the hard way about competing with much larger companies that did not have as powerful a product, but had more marketing reach.
CEOCFO: What else have you learned from your startup ventures?
Mr. Friedman: Whatever opinions you may have, you have to balance your instinct on what to do with a degree of market research. I have learned in trying to be a better employer to take your work seriously but not yourself. By taking ego out of work decisions or interpersonal relationships, I think you can help make decisions with a clearer mind and much less stress.
CEOCFO: What is next for eSkill?
Mr. Friedman: What’s next is continuing to have more reach, more word-of-mouth and to sell more internationally than we do now as well a form more partnerships. We have been a standalone company for a long time and we are probably the most substantial independent skills-testing company in the marketplace, and that suits us well. We partner with companies that do not want to partner with a competitor’s offering. At some point, we will have to add additional services related to skills testing. We will push the envelope for more and more sophisticated online tests.
CEOCFO: Is testing used as much internationally as in the US?
Mr. Friedman: I do not have the answer to that. Employment testing culture and access to computers vary by region. It has not always been culturally acceptable to test candidates’ skills. In the nineties, employers were afraid to test programmers because they were afraid people would abandon the application and go somewhere else when there was a labor shortage. We are still learning how that fits internationally. We have been selling clients globally for years but not in the volumes I think we can. We will learn more as we work with different resellers in different countries.
CEOCFO: How is business?
Mr. Friedman: Business grows steadily every year, but I would like to see it grow faster. Some unrealized growth opportunities include international expansion, increased partnerships, and more sophisticated implementations at large organizations.
CEOCFO: Why is eSkill a noteworthy company?
If you use relevant tests that you can show were tailored for a job, it can
both increase hiring accuracy and lower your liability. With quality
performance data, your hiring and promotion decisions are much more
defensible than without data. eSkill’s tests have never been legally
challenged in the over ten years since our launch, so the legal risk some
fear in using quality tests is negligible compared to the benefits.
We would love
to help our readers out and do a no-obligation consultation to how you what
we can do for you.
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