raises $1.75M for job skill testing

Faith Merino · June 5, 2012 · Short URL:

The site administers some 500 tests to rank job applicants' skill level, a site devoted to administering tests and rating the skills of job-seekers, announced Tuesday that it has raised $1.75 million in a Series A round led by True Ventures, with help from Google Ventures and a dozen angel investors.  The round brings the company’s total raised to $3 million.

Founded in 2010, the Boston-based startup boasted in a blog post Tuesday morning that 10 million Smarterer test questions have been answered to date, with one million of those referring just to Microsoft Excel alone.  The Excel test has been taken 42,000 times and users have collectively spent 5.7 months answering questions about Excel, which sounds… tedious…

The company provides a unique service to businesses large and small by administering tests in everything from the aforementioned Microsoft Excel (ugh…), PowerPoint, Facebook, Twitter, Photoshop, corporate finance, basic math, financial accounting, and more.  The site has built over 500 tests that job-seekers can take to prove they have the skills necessary for a specific job.

“Our new Skillsets platform allows hiring managers to stack rank candidates by their actual skills, and enables professionals to position themselves for employment based on what they really know. It’s truly a win-win for everyone involved in the job search,” wrote CEO Jennifer Fremont-Smith in a blog post.

The timing for both the startup and the funding round are interesting.  As we muddle our way through the fourth year of a recession that seems to be easing at times, many have been asking why businesses aren’t hiring right now.  There is no one clear answer to that question, but Peter Cappelli, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, contends in his new book Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs that one reason is that there are just too many qualified candidates to choose from, and businesses are looking for the perfect candidate who already knows the ropes so they don’t have to waste time and resources doing on-the-job training for a newbie.

Smarterer takes the guesswork out of hiring a new employee who may need to bone up on her Excel skills—but I can’t help but wonder if it really just provides businesses with a more convenient way to avoid on-the-job training.  The site doesn’t appear to offer any tests on critical thinking skills or interpersonal skills.  (I know, fluff skills.  That’s the humanities major in me coming out.  Sorry if I sound defensive.)

The company does present a scenario in its blog post that might challenge my assumption:

“Back in high school, a guidance counselor assured Smarterer engineer Dave Sturgis that because he wasn’t good at math, he’d never be able to complete a Computer Science degree in college. Dave wouldn’t accept that and taught himself what he needed to know, evolving into a truly amazing developer; he’s now playing a vital role in building Smarterer.”

Touché, Smarterer.  Unless the company to which he was applying decided to judge his potential as an employee based on his math skills. 

But whatever my own opinion is, Smarterer is seeing a pretty positive response from customers.  The startup reported back in January that it grew 1250% in just one week.


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