MHTA Rolls Out New Skills-Focused Job Board

The site is meant to better connect applicants whose interests and skills match a job—and help remove implicit bias in hiring.

There are thousands of job boards in the United States—some big, some small, some focused on niche industries, while others span them all. So it’s normally not news when a new one pops up.
But with a worker shortage of perhaps 200,000 people looming in Minnesota’s future, employers are keener than ever to connect quickly with talent available. With that in mind, the Minnesota High Tech Association and its partners at Real Time Talent rolled out the Talent Exchange last week. It’s a job board that promises to help fill empty science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) openings by connecting employers to applicants with a focus on skills and interests rather than just a resume.
“The No. 1 challenge that employers tell us about is that they have issues around both finding the right talent and doing it in a timely fashion,” said Margaret Anderson Kelliher, president and CEO of MHTA.
The Talent Exchange attempts to lessen the time an employer needs to find a qualified pool of applicants. While it has the normal functionality of job board where interested applicants can apply, the real difference is in its matching tools. Applicants on the Talent Exchange fill out a skills and interests quiz tailored to their preferred industry and roles. The questions are drawn from the federal O*NET database, which contains the description of every job type in the country.
Based on the results of the quiz, employers and applicants are able to see a one- to five-star rating on how well the job might fit the applicant. (One star is a 65 to 70 percent match. Five stars is a near-perfect match). It also provides the employer with seven of the best-matched profiles on the site that haven’t applied for the job so they can reach out to them. It’s not until both parties think it’s a fit that employers are able to review the applicant’s resume.
Not only does the tool help provide a qualified pool of applicants more quickly, but it also can give employers insights into how they do outreach for their jobs, said Dave Kornecki, a program manager for WorkFountain, which provides the open source software on which the Talent Exchange is based.
He cited a case study in Michigan—the open-source software off which the Talent Exchange is based was first rolled out there—where a company was paying a large sum of money to find applicants through a University of Michigan alumni network. But after using the software, they realized more of their qualified applicants were coming from one of Michigan’s state universities that had a similar, but more technically focused, program and were able to focus resources there.
Another component that MHTA and Real Time Talent tout is one critical for Minnesota: The software can help remove implicit bias in hiring by putting a focus on the skills and characteristics of the job seeker before the employer can see any information about their name, gender, race or other factors are visible. That’s particularly important in a state with some of the widest racial disparities in education and income in the country.
Human resource employees have a very limited time to look through sometimes hundreds of applicants for a single job posting, which sometimes means factors unrelated to one’s actual ability to do the job affect their chances, Kornecki said. “One [factor] was your name – if HR can’t pronounce your name, you’re knocked off.”
While the MHTA isn’t the first in the state to implement this system, it’s one of only a handful. But Kornecki said the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is going to roll out a similar platform to MHTA’s with potentially 40 of its affiliates pointing job post links to there.
The Talent Exchange is open to all employers in the state. Job postings cost $39 for 30 days (it also submits the posting to thousands of other job boards for free), though the organization is currently offering a longer posting period for free through April 15.