A message from the creators

So we are up and running and the early signs from our growing user base are very positive. The service is reliable, user friendly and most importantly offers an accurate testing service for the users. To understand the service it is important to understand the thought and drivers behind the creation of Examagram.

Having had a number of years recruiting outside the UK in Africa and Asia between us, there was a continual requirement that was consistent when recruiting within the developing economies and this was the need to speak English. Soft skills, people skills and the ability to communicate was essential to every role. In many cases, it is an overriding factor in the decision making process.

Quite often it is the interview stage which determines a candidate’s ability to communicate. This is nearly always determined in the first five minutes or in most cases the first one minute of the interview. Assuming the communication skills are sufficient the next 25 to 45 minutes of the interview are used to determine suitability of role on a technical or experience basis. However, if the communication skills are insufficient and it is determined that the candidate is not suitable for the role in the early stages of the interview then the remaining time in the interview can start to have negative effects.

When looking at the effects anyone who has ever recruited will empathize with the frustrations of having to continue with an interview when they already know they have not got the right person and so often this is concluded based on communication skills. Although, it is difficult to quantify the wasted interview time in working hours, this is a direct avoidable cost to the business. The other waste on a recruiting manager’s time is the time spent assessing the candidates CV’s during the shortlisting process along with the indirect cost of not interviewing a candidate with excellent communication skills (which simply cannot be assessed by viewing a CV). How much more effective would interviews be if the language/communication skills had been pre-screened before the interview? Would a line manager decide to interview a candidate knowing that they had poor communication skills?

We should also factor in the perspective candidates experience (which may well have been unpleasant), who in turn will tell friends, family and associates of their experience, ultimately have a negative impact on the external image of the business within the recruitment market and on other potential employees. Every candidate goes to an interview with an expectation of having a chance of getting the job but the reality is with some that the chances are very unlikely as the communication skills are not to the desired standard. Why would anyone want to find this out at the interview stage?

Lastly, when considering the negative effects of unproductive interviews, we should factor in the processing time and the drain on internal HR departments. Again the man hours spent organizing the interview, greeting the candidates, printing/sending CV’s and completing the relevant checks and forms. All of this effort is wasted following a 5 minutes judgment on a candidate’s communication in the opening minutes of an interview. All of the wastage can be avoided by an online test that allows the candidate to prove a level communication competence prior to the interview.

Of course, all of the above is written on the assumption that the hiring managers and HR departments have the skills and competence required to even test a perspective employees communication skills. However, in many cases communication skills are completely unqualified by a business and consequently lowering the expectation of communications skills throughout a business.  It would be interesting to know how many MD’s or CEO’s of businesses genuinely believe that all of their managers are competent enough to be able to judge and assess communication skills. Similarly, how many HR Directors or managers would trust their internal recruitment teams to judge the communication or English skills of a candidate at all levels

So why don’t all recruiters use online tests? All too often as recruiters, we at Examagram had experience of clients asking us for an online English test to pre-screen candidates. For external recruiters and internal recruiters this is a difficult situation due to the costs associated with online testing. It is impractical to test every candidate due to the costs. Recruiters are all too often faced with the challenge of having to pre-screen the English competence of each candidate over the phone or meeting the candidate face to face, prior to a line manager review. This is in line with industry standard and will remain to be an effective way of doing so on the assumption that the person qualifying the skills are competent and they have time to do so. However, even using this method the results are very difficult to quantify or qualify. One person’s assessment of “great English skills” may be similar to another person’s assessment of “excellent English skills” and may be comparable with another assessment of “average English skills”. It is important to emphasize that the early users of Examagram have placed varying levels of importance on the usage of the online tests and its results. Businesses and departments that are engaging in high volume recruitment have started to use it as the sole pre-screening tool prior to the phone or face to face users when judging their English skills. Others have used it as a support service that is added to candidates profile alongside their CV, application forms and other forms of testing. Due to the use and because it is free the relevance of the results in regards to the role within the business can be ever changing. The one certainty is that having a quantifiable, consistent English test that is tied to a European framework that assesses English competence will always be more informative to a subjective assessment from many different people who may or may not be qualified to make this assessment.

Looking at the needs of businesses to be able to test English skills and the needs of internal departments and external recruitment companies to become more efficient, we tasked ourselves with the objective to create an accurate online English testing service that recruiters can use. It was important that the test was credible, user friendly for both the examiner and the person being tested as well as the results being quantifiable and informative. We also wanted it to be free! Due to the lack of revenue, the system has been developed on a shoe-string budget, we would really like you to use the service and also recommend our service. This will give allow us to achieve the objective of creating a universally accepted free online English testing service.

To ensure the test was credible we worked with a qualified English Language Teaching professional, who having worked as both a teacher and a writer of English language learning and testing materials has taught students from all age groups and a wide range of nationalities, both in the UK and overseas. We felt she was well qualified to be able to design the test, which was important.

The test is written correlation with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is set of guideline used to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages across Europe (and other parts of the world). Other online tests that people pay for such as Bulats, International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Cambridge Assessment. The test is quantifiable in the sense that each tests gives an Examagram score of 0-1000 and this relates back to the CEFR framework so we are able to give a description of the level each user has achieved. We felt that this scoring system and assessment was credible and consistent with other forms of online testing. The early signs from our user base is that it is very informative and offers the right level of information.

We asked the test designer to gear the questions towards business or corporate language, with the view that the users be from the business world. The upper ends of the test, bring in elements of informal English language that that native English speakers would use on a day to day basis. The early stages of the test relies more heavily on images to test English competence. It is important to understand that Examagram and indeed the CEFR framework is not about checking who has the best spelling or grammar but is really designed to test the communication skills of perspective employees on everyday language use. The best spellers are not always the best communicators.

A key characteristics of the test is that it is designed to test each candidate to their maximum capability as it becomes harder throughout the duration. However, the test also self-adjusts to the candidate’s English capability. This ensures the user experience is positive and the candidate at the lower end of the English competency scale do not spend the whole tests getting questions wrong. We felt this was important for user experience. It also allows the opportunity to retest a level (this will happen automatically within the test) to remove the possibility of chance throughout the test and ensuring greater accuracy. This is not always the case in some online testing. In the future we will be looking to add different tests to the site, these would include other language tests such as Mandarin or Spanish tests, numeracy tests and even personality testing.

It is important to understand that Examagram is not just a test site but a test management site that allows you to compare results to the rest of the world, other people you have tested and other people tested within that particular country. Other functions include being able to send the results of each candidate to other contacts. This is aimed at busy recruiters, internal and external being able to provide a value add service to clients and colleagues. At the moment, the management aspect to the site is quite basic but allows you to quickly and efficiently manage your tests. In the future we will look to add to these functions, so any input into what services you would like to see in the future would be much appreciated.

To assist with the testing process, Examagram will automatically send e-mails to you, the candidate and the any one you send results to. Again, we wanted to be able to offer a time saving service that is informative but does not add any administrative tasks to your day. The e-mails are clear, concise and fully automated. In the future we will look to allow you the chance to customize the e-mails sent.

We have also built in some help boxes and a help function to assist you with the use of the site, in time we will produce online videos to enhance the use of the service.

In conclusion, the early indication is that Examagram does achieve what we set out to achieve. The user numbers increases day by day and now we would like your help in ensuring that everyone who could benefit from the service is aware of the service. We have tried to make it easy for user to recommend Examagram on social media like face book, linked in, google plus and Twitter. We are very interested in your thoughts and feelings on the site and your experiences when using it. You are an important part of the development of the site so feedback is important to us. We will aim to give regular updates on our services and we look forward to providing you with a quality service in the future.