Aiming to give a little substance to the contemporary issues surrounding recruitment is GapJumpers, a new project from Niko Herzeg and Kedar Iyer. With the sole purpose of identifying the best talent based on specific tasks that one might find in a business, it is designed to match potential employees to potential employers in as targeted a way as possible, rather than less accurate, more traditional approaches. As Iyer says,
"One of the biggest problems in the world, aside from the more obvious ones, is unemployment. What the World Bank terms as 'skilled job mismatch' is an interesting issue. One out of four people who are unemployed suffer from this. Basically, the skills which are required by companies are not present in young graduates."
The way in which GapJumpers works is through businesses offering tasks, with potential employees demonstrating the ways in which those tasks could be completed. The tasks - "challenges" - could be theoretical or practical. In a way, it's a supercharged version of the traditional aptitude test, but done earlier. Aptitude tests during interview processes tend to be after the initial selection round has taken place. With GapJumpers, the test is the selection round – or, at least, a major part of it.
Although the site is open in terms of client types, it is clear from both Iyer and Herzeg that marketing and communications businesses are their focus.
"Given that our focus is marketing, we would like it that a year from now, adland is more colourful", says Herzeg. "Right now, it's one of the hardest industries to get in to. The people that get into it have a certain profile - be it ethnically, socially, educationally. It has never always been the case that the kid with the highest grade equates to the best fit. A year from now, if companies start hiring more diverse employees and interns, then we've done some good.
"We want to level the playing field. However, we're not saying that anyone can go for a job at Wieden. We're just saying that, right now, Wieden - or any other agency - has a chance to open themselves up. We aim to level the playing field in terms of access from students to companies, and for companies to open up their pool in what they consider to be interesting and relevant talent."
This talent also means opening up the pool of universities and institutions that agencies work with. This seems like a massive undertaking for GapJumpers, given the strong relationships that already exist. How long this will take is unclear, but it won't be overnight.
The Chile effect
GapJumpers is not based in one of the more well-known "hub" cities like London, Berlin, or New York. The business is based in Santiago, Chile. Herzeg explains why.
"One of our close advisers said that there was an incubator set up by the Chilean government. When we looked at what what they offered and compared it to London, Berlin, New York and San Francisco, it was Chile that came out top in a practical comparison. Our problem is wider than just making a product and going out and selling it. We have to go out and talk to Government, to universities, companies, and setting up in a city where the government backs you, opens up a lot of doors... and the Chilean government has opened up a lot of doors for us... doors that normally are closed.
"The programme [Start-up Chile] suited our problem way more than those elsewhere. The other incubators strike me as being much more capitalistic; here, things are much more entrepreneurial. 'You can have 6 months to get funding; and just go and figure it out'. If you want to change your product, your company.. .that's no issue. Go out and create something. All the Government asks is to be able to go out and speak to young minds about entrepreneurship, because that's what they want to do. They want to create a culture of entrepreneurship in Chile, and the simplest way to start in their view is to bring people in to show it's done."
One of the professors that the GapJumpers team is working with, has given a clear example of the problem which the team is trying to solve. A Finance student may achieve top grades, but instead of wanting to work in a bank, wants to work in marketing. At recruitment time, they are passed over for marketing positions as their grades imply a finance-led career. While the potential to publish their marketing talent is limited, they are unlikely to develop the career that they may desire. And, of course, those from other backgrounds – mature students, non-graduates – may suffer from similar issues.
In exposing talent and opening up the recruitment process, GapJumpers appears to be offering opportunity both ways: for jobseekers to have a greater chance of getting a great job, and for HR departments to have a wider view of available talent, seen through a specific proof point as to their ability to carry out creative tasks. The proof of the team's work will be in the new blood that agencies will need in coming years.