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Research has shown that teams made up of a diverse range of people perform better. Especially in innovation technology. After all, people from different backgrounds and views do provide creative insights. Nevertheless, in the business world in 2020 there’s still a lot left to be desired in this area, especially where cultural-ethnic diversity is concerned. In a 5 part series, Innovation Origins seeks answers to the question as to why this is a major social problem and most importantly: How do we fix it?

Although it has only been live for a few months now, the pre-selection screening platform TestGorilla is flourishing despite, or rather, thanks to Corona. Companies are queuing up for online tests that allow them to assess applicants remotely via a pre-selection process in an efficient and unbiased way. And then there is also the €1 million in seed money that the start-up recently raised. Reason for a celebration?

Wouter Durville (40), founder and CEO of TestGorilla, wanted to become an entrepreneur ever since he was young. He worked in the corporate world for a few years after his studies in order to learn the tricks of the trade. An instructive but also an enjoyable period, with all kinds of associated benefits such as plenty of travel. However, after seven years Durville decided it was time to take off his so-called ‘golden handcuffs’ and pursue his dream.

Social entrepreneurship

Durville: “I find ‘ shareholder value ‘ at large companies too restrictive. I don’t want to be dependent on subsidies. At the same time, I don’t think making money is the most important thing. Could you call me a social entrepreneur? Yes, definitely!”

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TestGorilla founders Otto Verhage (links) and Wouter Durville.

Through his online company ONEforONE, Durville sold a number of things based on the ‘one-for-one principle.’ For example, he signed a contract with OHRA (a major Dutch health insurance company), whereby you could arrange health insurance for an orphaned child in a third-world country by taking out insurance for yourself.

And lastly, Durville and his wife bring hand-woven rugs to the market through their company Sukhi, thereby creating employment for women in developing countries.

Recruiting applicants remotely

That is also how the idea for TestGorilla was conceived, Durville tells us. “We received a lot of applications for our vacancies at Sukhi. But when it came to making a good selection: Well, how do you go about that? How do you make sure that the process is not only efficient but also fair? It was really a problem that we struggled with. Especially since we were working on an international basis. How will you manage to make a comparison between all those people with such diverse backgrounds? After all, if you only rely on your own preferences, you end up with a kind of clone of yourself.”

Moreover, you also need people with very different skills for the various roles within a company, as Durville knows from his own experience. “For a financial controller, you need completely different skills than for a salesperson. By finding out about these kinds of skills at an early stage, you are left with a small group of candidates who have the best qualities.”

Equally important when hiring people is that they fit in well with your company culture in terms of their core values. “Candidates who come only for the salary are often gone in no time at all. While in practice, people who share the same core values tend to stay longer.”

Library full of tests

Although Durville had the idea for an online pre-selection screening platform like this for two years now, TestGorilla only went live last July. In the middle of the corona crisis. At a time when many companies had collapsed. However, corona actually led to higher levels of interest in this kind of online service, where candidates can be tested remotely.

Durville: “On the one hand, companies have fewer vacancies to fill. On the other, they get a lot of reactions to that one vacancy. And they have got to filter out the best candidates.”

The ‘library’ with 120 different types of tests that TestGorilla has on offer saves recruiters and HR departments from spending many hours sorting out CVs. Moreover, according to Durville, research shows that work experience often does not say that much about how you are going to perform in your next job. “It’s much more important to know what skills someone has that make them suitable for a particular job.”

TestGorilla not only offers tests that can be used to measure general things such as the cognitive skills of applicants but also tests that enable recruiters to identify entire role-specific skills. Durville: “These may include specific coding skills and mastery of programming languages, such as Python or JavaScript. But also mastery of a specific bookkeeping program, or knowledge of SEO for a marketing position. They could also be ‘soft skills’ such as the ability to cooperate, work independently and take the initiative.”

From ‘culture fit’ to ‘culture add

Last but not least, TestGorilla offers a test in which candidates are tested on how ‘culture fit‘ they are. In other words, how well they would fit within an organization’s culture. Although it must be said that the company is adapting the test in the interim and it will soon be called ‘culture add‘, Durville states.

Culture fit is an Anglo-Saxon term that is often used to denote whether someone fits in with you. You do that by asking yourself if you would go for a beer with that person whom you just met at the airport, for example. But instead of looking for a match, you should look much more closely at what that person brings with them.”

Filtering out bias

Why is this important? Durville: “We want to make our tests as objective as we possibly can. I often hear stories from recruiters who get piles of applications and who only select candidates based on their photos. If they appeal to them, they will read further, otherwise, the letter disappears into the wastebasket. This is not done intentionally at all, but it is how selection often still works in practice.”

How can you filter out this kind of bias? “By submitting candidates to a combination of tests, in which you give everyone the same chances. You give candidates a login option to participate in these tests. After the applicants have completed them, the recruiter gets a ranking of the candidates according to their scores and the most suitable candidates automatically end up at the top of the list.”

“We often hear from clients how surprised they are by the candidates who score very highly now, even though they had not initially expected that from them. But in the end, recruiters just want the best candidates without any form of discrimination. And they can now spend the time that our tests have saved them on those candidates.”

1 million in seed money

“This form of ‘remote hiring‘ has grown exponentially as a result of the coronavirus. Moreover, thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement, the time was ripe for such a product that makes selection fairer and more professional.”

He plans to further expand the range of tests, as well as various built-in features, using the more than €1 million in seed money that his start-up recently raised from investment fund CapitalT and several angel investors. “Ultimately, we want to use AI and machine learning to be able to analyze the enormous amount of data that we have collected so far. The goal is to be able to better predict which candidates are the best match for our clients.”