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Recruitment technology

The Redundant Resume: Big Data, Personality and the Workforce

Clare Hopping

According to a recent study, as reported by Forbes, attitude and soft skills are no longer the stuff of HR dreams and recruiter jargon – they’re the key to hiring and keeping new employees.

While companies could once only rely on technical skills and CV buzzwords to bring in new staff, skills listed on the CV have now taken a back seat to other, more abstract qualities.

In today’s workforce, new hires are most often found through employee referrals as well as through online and in-person networking. This is due in large part to a renewed focus on personality and the appropriate “fit” with a particular corporate environment.

According to Mark Murphy, author of Hiring for Attitude and the abovementioned study, 89% of unsuccessful new hires failed because of their attitude. Workplace compatibility is the new buzzword for hiring processes nationwide and employers are using a number of methods to ensure that the hiring process pays off.

It’s not What You Did, but What You Said

Once considered to be a superstition of recruiters and job placement agencies, most HR professionals would now agree that a CV is only as illustrative as its buzzwords. The difference comes down to data: big companies now use algorithms, programmed to find language patterns and predict personality, to assess large pools of CVs.

This personality prediction is then compared to company culture, with incompatible CVs screened out quickly and efficiently.

Google was one of the first big companies to use this method and phase out manual processing entirely, a decision that many say contributed to its 2013 ranking as the third most valuable firm in the world, according to ERE. In digitising the search for personality traits, companies seem to have found a foolproof method for predicting employee fit and longevity.

Much to the consternation of recruiters everywhere, the market never stops adapting to HR standards. In recent years, blogs and jobseeker forums have dedicated more and more time and energy to teaching potential employees how to “beat the machines”, according to Time.

With the application process boiled down to a formula, it makes sense that employees would soon seek to understand and overcome the automation as a barrier to entry. This in turn would lead to less “genuine” applications and more stylised vocabulary and CVs – something to consider when productivity relies on a true “fit.”

All Fun and Games?

In line with the rise of the so-called “app culture,” gaming has found its place in the recruitment process. In Silicon Valley especially, companies are using games to monitor and predict the personality traits of prospective employees by evaluating the decisions they make in game settings.

Startups like ConnectCubed have become crucial to the HR processes of many companies, as their games and exercises are designed to determine various skills and traits in employees and provide data and feedback to management.

While this makes the hiring process more efficient, the gaming system presents the same problem that the instant gratification of app culture does: trying to fit a personality into a preemptive programme doesn’t always work. Employees, unable to adapt or learn from these scenarios, are instead reduced to a score.

Quartz reports how media consultant Manoush Zomorodi points out, “…most of us will never understand the statistical models that these approaches are based on. That’s scary enough. But we also could start making decisions solely predicated on how these companies and their games define ‘success’…even for our kids.”

Big Data

So is the problem big data? It seems to be the term du jour for corporate innovation – analyse a business based on risk and numerical values and adapt it accordingly. Xerox, for example, uses a complex algorithm to manage the recruitment of 30,000 employees annually, according to the Financial Times.

Big data, pulled from processes like language algorithms or gaming, allows companies to run large-scale predictive models for every step of their hiring and operational processes. This can yield incredible benefits for the modern workforce.

Amongst other discoveries, through big data, Xerox found that prior work experience had little to no bearing on job performance. For professionals returning to the workforce after the recession, this is highly encouraging and has helped draw attention to CVs that would otherwise have been ignored.

While this approach may not be fair for those whose CVs didn’t “read” to the liking of the algorithm, it does de-emphasise the importance of technical skills relative to personality for the modern corporation.

The race to make hiring more efficient and to integrate technology into the workplace is accelerating at breakneck speed. Digitising HR and bringing tech into the conversation can provide any number of advantages, with the one limitation being a potentially impersonal recruitment process.

However, by combining LaunchPad Recruits’ video interviewing software with big data techniques, companies can both “meet” potential employees and evaluate their answers based on data-led markers, leading to efficient and successful hiring.

Clare Hopping

Clare Hopping has been involved in the recruitment of both full-time employees and freelance staff for ten years. She specialises in recruiting staff via social media and digital platforms.