Those resumes sitting in a stack on your desk, waiting for you to dive in and try to find your next great candidate? Go ahead and rip them up.

That's the philosophy touted by Frida Polli, co-founder and CEO of hiring startup Pymetrics. The company makes games meant to determine whether a candidate would be a good fit in a specific role at your company. Polli says that so far, the platform has been more effective at finding the right hires than traditional resumes.

 inline image

"We've known for a long time that the resume really wasn't the best thing to be using, but it was the most scalable," Polli says. A study in 1998, for example, found work experience to be one of the weakest indicators of future job performance--yet HR departments have continued to lean on the traditional resume.

Polli spent a combined decade as a cognitive neuroscientist at Harvard and MIT, where she studied the various ways to measure people's cognitive and emotional attributes. During that time, it was becoming clear to the neuroscience community that certain assessments could serve as fairly accurate measures of a person's cognitive and emotional abilities. Generally, though, those tests required a PhD to administer them and took about four hours to complete.

In 2012, Polli decided to build a scalable platform that could be applied to the hiring world. She co-founded Pymetrics, and she and her team built a suite of games that could be played in about 30 minutes. A candidate completes a dozen tasks--similar to the brain-training exercises in the popular Lumosity app--and a layer of artificial intelligence measures traits like multi-tasking, altruism, and problem-solving. Those results tell a hiring company how likely a candidate is to succeed in a particular role by comparing their results to a baseline: The metrics of the company's best employees.

The New York City-based startup already has some big corporate clients on its client roster including LinkedIn, Unilever, Accenture, and Tesla. (For his part, Elon Musk has said that degrees are overrated in hiring.) Pymetrics, which uses a software-as-a-service model, charges based on the number of applicants a company receives each year.

The results have been promising. Polli says that some companies have more than doubled the percentage of candidates they hire out of those they invite for in-person interviews. One-year retention rates have increased by between 30 and 60 percent. And companies are reporting that job performance has improved among newly hired candidates.

Polli noted that the platform also has helped companies increase their diversity. She says Pymetric's algorithms constantly test for and remove ethnic or gender biases that arise, leading to more women and minority hires. It also helps companies expand their scope beyond just those who can afford expensive college educations.

"A lot of our clients want to feel like they're tapping the broadest set of candidates out there and really finding the people that are best suited for them," she says. "They're saying, 'I want to look everywhere, and with the same power that I have to find a great candidate from Harvard or Google.' The algorithm allows for that kind of precision matching. You can really open up the top of your funnel and find that right person, wherever they are." 

Many of the company's clients roll out the software beginning with a particular department or need, like a call center or IT team. The market is already filled with assessments for particular roles, like exams that measure for sales abilities. But Polli says Pymetrics separates itself in several ways: The tests measure traits across many areas of emotional and cognitive science. The results are compared not just to a type of role, but to that role within the particular company.

"You wouldn't want Netflix recommendations based only on you being a guy who lives in New York City. You want them to be much more specifically tailored than that," Polli says. "We're taking that consumer-minded approach to recommendation engines and applying it to the enterprise."

For the candidate, that customization provides an added benefit: The results of the assessment can be matched to other positions within Pymetrics' platform, acting like a professional version of the Common Application high school students use to apply to many colleges at once.

Polli might be biased, but she thinks that switching from resumes to assessment tests will be especially important in the age of AI and automation. As more workers are displaced and forced to look for new kinds of work, a test might become a company's best hiring metric--and a candidate's best chance of landing a job.

"If you've been in a particular job for 20 years and you try using your resume as the data point to get you hired into a new role, you will probably fail," she says. "That's where trying to understand someone's potential using more of a cognitive and emotional approach becomes really critical."

Pymetrics has $17 million in funding from VC firms including Khosla Ventures and Jazz Venture Partners. The startup has about 70 employees based in New York, London and Singapore.