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Q&A: Wonderlic President & CEO Charlie Wonderlic On Evaluating Talent

Wonderlic CEO Charlie Wonderlic talks about how the company has evolved to meet its clients’ needs over the years, the importance of gauging soft skills and what he looks for in leaders.
Wonderlic president & CEO Charlie Wonderlic.

Football fanatics know the name Wonderlic because NFL teams use the company’s tests to gauge the aptitude of potential prospects, but the business world knows that Wonderlic has been providing a variety of personnel tests for different industries for decades.

Wonderlic president and CEO Charlie Wonderlic recently spoke with Chief Executive about the company’s new Wonscore test platform, a simple solution which assesses candidates in three areas proven to predict job performance: cognitive ability, motivation and personality. Employers are then able to make decisions from a single score that quickly identifies those candidates most likely to succeed in a specific position.

Wonderlic also talked about how the company has evolved to meet its clients’ needs over the years, the importance of gauging soft skills and what he looks for in leaders. Here’s what he had to say.

Q: How is Wonderlic evolving to meet the needs of your clients?

A: Wonderlic was started in 1937 and started with a paper test. Basically, they would hand this piece of paper to a job candidate and then score it with an answer key. The goal was to take very difficult psychometric concepts and make it really easy for businesspeople to benefit from, which prior to that really wasn’t the case. It was that you had to be a very sophisticated, large company in order to use these types of things. And over time and obviously with the Internet, it became much easier to provide a much more comprehensive evaluation of a person and take away all of the manual work of administering, scoring and interpreting the test results.

So the evolution really has gone toward what kind of tools can be used to help an employer hire better, to where today. The internet has made it so that an employer can basically implement a system like this in a matter of hours and not weeks and benefit from it very quickly with very limited time and expense.

“ we evaluate the candidate, and then we are evaluating the candidate relative to those skills that are important on the job..”

It’s really simplified. So to show you what it used to be like, it’s used to be a typical client would work with a consultant, a trainer, someone in software to make sure that their solution was plugged in and properly administered, whereas now someone can go to our website, sign up, pick the job that they’re hiring for, and the software does everything for them without speaking with anybody.

It reduces the cost obviously substantially. So what we’re finding is that it’s now much more accessible to smaller companies. Many of our companies are really small—they might be under 10 employees. They never really could’ve afforded to even understand how to use this technology before, and now it’s super simple. The same is true for larger companies. It’s the same technology with a significantly easier implementation time frame.

Q: How can employers and CEOs best gauge a prospect’s soft skills?

A: When it comes to the softer things, the area that we really concentrate on are those things that the science believes is predictive of job success, and most of that falls into areas that are commonly referred to as personality. So that said, culture fit is also important, or potentially soft skills, but when it comes to hiring, you really want to try to use things where there’s scientific support for what you’re doing, not only to make sure you’re doing something that’s going to work, but also so that you could defend that practice.

A tremendous amount of research in support for the use of personality assessments in hiring, in one of the three areas that Wonscore evaluates, is a person’s personality traits. And it uses a well-known model that’s commonly referred to as the Big Five, which covers things like assertiveness and conscientiousness and certain traits that there’s consensus as predictive of job performance.

And so what we do is look again in the same way at the candidate, we evaluate the candidate, and then we are evaluating the candidate relative to those skills that are important on the job.

Q: What do you think we’ll be talking about in terms of hiring, within the next five years?

A: I think it’s that the efficiency component is there, and this is a really huge step in terms of the quality. But it’s only the beginning. There are so many things that we can begin to do to even paint a more complete picture of a person for a job, and that’s really going to be super important. In the future, employers may never meet new hires in person or may not meet them before they make a hiring decision. There’s tons of virtual jobs, and the accuracy of that prediction, if it’s high enough, can really benefit both employers and employees in a much more virtual work setting.

Q:  What are some common traits that the most successful leaders on your team share?

A: What I’m finding right now is that the competitive landscape is changing so quickly in technology that, not only does a solid leadership team have to have a good view towards the future and what’s happen and be super planful in terms of executing on things quickly, but also doing it in a way that really is well-aligned with lean principles and agile. I can imagine that the time frames for our investments and initiatives is becoming shorter and shorter, and the investments are growing much larger, so for me what I see is this complete change of leaders being visionary and really good people leaders, too. That’s the minimum basic ingredient, but you’ve got to understand how to run businesses in just an amazingly competitive technological environment, both quickly, planfully, and using lead methodology. So that’s what I’m finding right now, and it’s amazing for us. It’s very different than it was.


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