Chinese outsourcer seeks U.S. workers with IQ of 125 and up

Bleum Inc. sets IQ threshold at 140 for its hires in China, however

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For its own employees, Eliassen uses what it calls an EQ test, which measures how an employee may operate in a stressful environment, as well as their sense of social responsibility to the team, said Finocchario. The EQ test "provides a measuring stick on how someone will adjust," he said.

Rongley believes that higher-IQ IT workers are more productive. "The point is not that they are typing faster, but they are finding a faster solution to the technical problem," said Rongley.

Moreover, unlike many of the larger IT offshore development companies, Bleum is focused on long-term engagements with its clients, not on one-time projects. Over time, it hopes to hire 100 to 500 U.S. workers to help support North American customers.

China's technology labor force is largely young; the massive government ramp-up in science and engineering education is a recent development, and the labor force doesn't yet have a broad pool of people with deep experience in technical disciplines. By seeking high-IQ employees, "we're compensating for the experience gap," said Rongley.

He also said said that the number of students seeking computer science degrees, which has dipped in the U.S., is on the rise in China.

"China has a much larger talent pool than India does, and it has much less demand for that talent," said Rongley, who added that the number of new computer science graduates each year is about 300,000.

India dominates the offshore outsourcing industry, helped by the fact that it has a large English-speaking population. The largest Indian IT vendors have in excess of 100,000 employees.

The impact of China's larger talent pool may be evident in an international coding contest conducted annually by TopCoder Inc., a Glastonbury, Conn.-based software development service.

Last year, about 4,200 people took part in this coding competition, which includes events such as algorithm-writing contests. Of the 70 finalists, 20 were from China, 10 from Russia and two from the U.S. The top winner was Chinese. The contest is sponsored in part by the National Security Agency.

Bleum has a policy of requiring its employees to speak English, and many of its hires have already been through English-language programs widely taught in the schools. The company uses a system of levels for marking capability with English, with the highest level reserved for those who achieve accent neutralization, said Rongley.

"In China, for a long time now, anyone from eighth grade and above is being taught English," said Rongley. However, what those students don't have is an opportunity to practice, he noted, adding, "We create the environment for them to practice all the time."

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at  @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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