This morning I updated my About Me section with my Smarterer Excel score. If you're not familiar, Smarterer is a Boston-based start-up that offers a variety of technical skills tests, such as Google Search, Photoshop, Foursquare, Python - you name it. The tests are multiple choice and employ an adaptive rating system; this approach allows Smarterer to assess test-takers in only a few minutes. Upon completion, test-takers can see how they compare to others in the community, and also post their Smarterer score “badges” on other sites. The product is currently in beta.
Overall, I am a fan. Smarterer is solving the asymmetrical information problem plaguing both hiring managers and job seekers. Hiring managers no longer need to guess a candidate's skill level based on a vague resume bullet point. On the flip side, candidates do not need to fear that their skills will be overshadowed by other candidates that exaggerate. In short, Smarterer provides a measuring stick that both companies and candidates benefit by using. Also, I like Smarterer’s approach. All tests are crowd-sourced which will enable the company to scale quickly and stay abreast of new technologies.
As with any beta, Smarterer tests have a few flaws. First, the crowd-sourced, multiple-author approach -- while the right approach -- results in inconsistencies between questions. For example, one question on the Excel test was so long-winded that it did not fit on the screen, so I was left scrolling up and down reading between choice A and D. Eventually, time ran out and I got the question wrong. Also, some questions do not lend themselves to multiple choice answers; for example, one question asked about cutting and pasting a cell where the row and column are locked with the “$” symbol. This is an easy question to visualize but in the multiple choice world it is basically an exercise in alphabetizing.
Smarterer's success depends on test-takers posting their scores across the digital expanse. The more ubiquitous badges become, the greater the value of the measuring stick. This is true of any standard system. An SAT score or NYC Restaurant Grade means nothing if only a handful of applicants or establishments possess them.
Typically, standards are driven by the consumer. The consumers of SAT scores are colleges, so it is no surprise that the test is administered by a non-profit consortium of colleges. The birthplace of standards, the steel industry, was also driven by the consumer: the railroad companies buying steel to lay tracks. Given this logic and assuming that the overall consumer of Smarterer scores are employers, people will not take the test and post their scores until they are required to by potential employers.
But perhaps this is an outdated, pre-social network view. All day, every day people exhibit their intelligence, wits, tastes, physical prowess and sense of humor simply because they can. Twitter, Foursquare, IntoNow, RunKeeper are just a few examples. People are naturally motivated - and increasingly getting comfortable with - outright displays of emotions, thoughts and talents.
What will motivate you to share your score? Will you only take the test and share your score in order to land your next job? Or will you share your score because you want the world to know just a little bit more about you? Please let me know your thoughts. If you don’t want to use the comments section, please email me directly.
I'm the Founder and CEO of Peak Support. This blog is my take on early-stage companies and innovation. Every so often, there may be a post about culture, networking, family -- you name it. After all, what is a blog if it isn't a tad bit unstructured.