Posts Tagged ‘Corporate Hiring’

What Machines Know: Can Algorithms Predict A Career Path?

December 2nd, 2013

Algorithms are quickly shaping and defining our world.

In a TED Talk from 2011, Kevin Slavin points out the algorithms that already affect our daily lives in “How Algorithms Shape Our World.” Most are at least partially aware of how algorithms are used in the stock market–buying and selling at an astronomically fast rate–but may not be fully aware of how heavily they are being used in our culture and day-to-day activities.

The Language of Machines

Physics and programming have begun to track how we work, move, play and shop. Machines are being taught to track our every move, discovering the best ways to sell, advertise and operate with algorithms. Cleaning bots in our house predict the most efficient ways to sweep a room, web history is tracked and searched for our interests and everything from elevators to predicted movie rental sites are being programmed to stay one step ahead of humans in our culture’s capitalist quest for ever-growing convenience, speed and efficiency.

This doesn’t stop with how we purchase–this is heading into the very heart of how we are recruited, hired and promoted. In the article “They’re Watching You at Work,” The Atlantic writer Don Peck writes:

Until quite recently, however, few people seemed to believe this data-driven approach might apply broadly to the labor market. But it now does. According to John Hausknecht, a professor at Cornell’s school of industrial and labor relations, in recent years the economy has witnessed a ‘huge surge in demand for workforce-analytics roles.

From Ivy League to Social Media Analytics

It is common for pedigree to mean something. When an Ivy League graduate with high marks and an impressive resume seeks a job, companies are recruiting left and right—a sought-after candidate for a high-level job. But what if candidates who are better suited for the job are falling through the cracks? Companies are beginning to look at algorithm programs and tests that can determine the productivity, creativity and professional promise of individuals based on everything from social media usage to how they play specifically-designed gaming apps.

Knack is a company that is doing just that. They have developed gaming apps like Wasabi Waiter that have successfully been tested to predict an accurate competency rate after just 20 minutes of play-time. The Atlantic notes:

How long you hesitate before taking every action, the sequence of actions you take, how you solve problems—all of these factors and many more are logged as you play, and then are used to analyze your creativity, your persistence, your capacity to learn quickly from mistakes, your ability to prioritize, and even your social intelligence and personality.

Reason for Concern

It’s easy to worry about the intrusion of machines in our lives, judging our potential. This concern, however, fails to consider the challenges of our current system: over and over it has been proven that with (often unknowing) bias we judge candidates and produce results rife with human error.

Gender, race, appearance and even personality are subject to our partiality and personal preference. Numerous studies show that our society is still not where we expect it to be in unbiased hiring practices. From the Atlantic:

Tall men get hired and promoted more frequently than short men, and make more money. Beautiful women get preferential treatment, too—unless their breasts are too large. According to a national survey by the Employment Law Alliance a few years ago, most American workers don’t believe attractive people in their firms are hired or promoted more frequently than unattractive people, but the evidence shows that they are, overwhelmingly so.

Hiring the Underdog

The inability of humans to remain completely objective forces us to be open to the idea of machines and their formulas to help predict the outcome of the hiring potential in candidates. Undervalued candidates will be found that are better suited for the jobs we are looking to fill. This, of course, begs the question: Will programmers and algorithm writers be able stay away from introducing bias into machine formulas? And in what ways will candidates try to beat the system?

JobLark, Joins the Flock of Employee Referral Tools

February 4th, 2013

JobLark joins the growing flock of employee referral management products that have landed in the market over the past 18 months. Very similar to Zao, Goood Job, Sticky, Select Minds (Oracle) and dozens more Joblark leverages social networks to enable referrers to discover and refer job applicants. And like Zao, Joblark also allows employers to track and reward all the people that help make successful hires, whether they work for the employer or not. Joblark (like Zao) makes money by charging a fee once a hire is made.

Headquartered in Utah, JobLark appears to have around twenty or so employees and claims to have taken 1 million dollars in funding with 9 million more committed by Apple Tree Capital. Not much else is known about the company, the management team or active customers.

The Hiring Sciences Hunch

The employee referral management space is white hot but the space is getting crowded. The editors here at Hiring Sciences agree that ERM is an interesting niche in the HR Tech landscape but the window may be closing quickly for small upstarts like JobLark. Competition from applicant tracking software vendors, many of which already offer integrated employee referral management modules, will force standalone solutions like JobLark to focus on smaller employers with smaller budgets. Also, user adoption will pose challenges for the likes of JobLark as employees are inundated with tools and a standalone ERM solution may not carry the weight of other more mission critical systems. Overall, we believe the ERM space is very interesting and solutions like JobLark are making great use of social networks but it’s still unclear if a majority of employers are ready to adopt these new standalone tools.

If you are interested in learning more about JobLark visit the site at

Recruiting Excellence: Improve Your Upfront Processes

January 17th, 2013

hiring manager tipsDo sports coaches hold the key to recruiting excellence? Not according to Dr. Wendell Williams in his latest piece at Dr. Williams dismisses this commonly accepted principle by showing that, in the world of professional sports, talent scouts do the tedious vetting and groundwork, so that only the most gifted athletes get to meet the coach. You can find the full article here.

Compare this process to that of corporate hiring, with recruiters standing in for talent scouts and line managers for the coaches. The analogy isn’t perfect, because recruiters can’t actually see candidates in action on the playing field. Instead, they rely on resumes and screening interviews. Do line managers want applicants with the best interview performance or the best skills for the job?

In 1978, the DOL published “Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures” which Dr. Williams condenses to three main principles for organizations:

  • Base standards for hiring and promotions on job requirements and business necessity.
  • Ensure that hiring tools accurately predict job performance by assessing their validity.
  • Reduce adverse impact wherever possible.

Why don’t those responsible for recruiting keep these three principles top of mind? Perhaps they lack the appropriate knowledge and HR technology, relying on cookie-cutter interview questions instead of job-specific competency assessments to hone in on a candidate. Recruiters without the right  training in job analysis and hiring tools may be able to get through a traditional interview, but rarely produce the best candidates.

In the end, it is the hiring managers who must deal with the consequences of bad hires and subsequent poor performance. True, they have their part in the selection process, but they also rely heavily on HR to narrow the field and provide qualified candidates. Once an employee is on board, managers are often left on their own to handle the difficult situation of insufficient skills and expertise, with the inevitable negative results on their team.

Clearly, the challenge for HR is to do more vetting upfront to avoid burdening line managers with bad hires. Choose the right recruiters, and equip them with the proper training and technology for recruiting excellence. Investigate job try-outs with a combination of tests, simulations and measurements, instead of traditional interviews. With improved screening reducing the number of unqualified hires, you’ll be limiting the number of poor performances with which line managers have to cope.

Recruiters, do more talent scouting, and you’ll be doing your hiring managers/coaches a big favor by sending fully-skilled candidates their way.