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When the Hiring Boss Is an Algorithm

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the doesn't-care-why-manhole-covers-are-round dept.

Businesses 245

Hugh Pickens writes "Joseph Walker writes at the WSJ that although personality tests have a long history in hiring, sophisticated software has now made it possible to evaluate more candidates, amass more data and peer more deeply into applicants' personal lives and interests. This allows employers to predict specific outcomes, such as whether a prospective hire will quit too soon, file disability claims, or steal. For example after a half-year trial that cut attrition by a fifth, Xerox now leaves all hiring for its 48,700 call-center jobs to software. Xerox used to pay lots of attention to applicants who had done the job before. Then, an algorithm told the company that experience doesn't matter. It determined what does matter in a good call-center worker — one who won't quit before the company recoups its $5,000 investment in training. By putting applicants through a battery of tests and then tracking their job performance, Evolv has developed a model for the ideal call-center worker (PDF). The data recommend a person who lives near the job, has reliable transportation and uses one or more social networks, but not more than four. He or she tends not to be overly inquisitive or empathetic, but is creative. 'Some of the assumptions we had weren't valid,' says Connie Harvey, Xerox's chief operating officer of commercial services. However, data-based hiring can expose companies to legal risk. Practices that even unintentionally filter out older or minority applicants can be illegal under federal equal opportunity laws. If a hiring practice is challenged in court as discriminatory, a company must show the criteria it is using are proven to predict success in the job."

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245 comments

Reason is simple: U.S. Workers are stupid (-1, Flamebait)

PieDode (2736165) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411615)

There's a growing trend of hiring intelligent Japanese, Chinese and Indian workers at a fraction of cost to U.S. ones. When all workers are equally stupid - and U.S. having problems getting knowledgeable kids out of college*, well, you're shit out of luck and need to go overseas.

* The U.S. ranks 23rd among developed nations in the percentage of students with undergraduate degrees in science or engineering who are employed in related fields, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported last year. The report analyzed employment trends for people age 25 to 34.

Re:Reason is simple: U.S. Workers are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411659)

japanese workers cost a fraction of what US workers are paid?...

Re:Reason is simple: U.S. Workers are stupid (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412097)

japanese workers cost a fraction of what US workers are paid?...

probably not.

but they'll work 2x.

Re:Reason is simple: U.S. Workers are stupid (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412719)

I've heard my share of stories of Japanese workers not doing much the first many hours, then cramming at the end only because it's taboo to leave before your superior, so long hours with not much more accomplished.

Not sure how true, but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I can't see Japanese not getting burnt out if they actually worked 2x as much.

Re:Reason is simple: U.S. Workers are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411673)

apparently they are smart enough to know call center jobs suck ass

Re:Reason is simple: U.S. Workers are stupid (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411771)

"The U.S. ranks 23rd among developed nations in the percentage of students with undergraduate degrees in science or engineering who are employed in related fields."

That couldn't possibly be due to years of massive overproduction of American STEM graduates, now could it.

Re:Reason is simple: U.S. Workers are stupid (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412307)

That couldn't possibly be due to years of massive overproduction of American STEM graduates, now could it.

Of course not, there's a slashdot article every semester about how we need more people in STEM degrees, especially women.

Especially hot women.

Especially hot women with a fetish for nerdy men, and possibly a tendency for bisexuality.

Re:Reason is simple: U.S. Workers are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411847)

this is about call center workers, dingus. they don't need to be intellectual powerhouses, just docile button-pushers.

Re:Reason is simple: U.S. Workers are stupid (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411853)

Are you a bot or are you simply stupid?

Re:Reason is simple: U.S. Workers are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412583)

Maybe a simply stupid bot....

Japan doesn't have cheap labor (5, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412069)

There's a growing trend of hiring intelligent Japanese, Chinese and Indian workers at a fraction of cost to U.S. ones

You think labor rates are cheap in Japan? GDP per-capita in Japan is about 4X that of China and about 10X that of India. Japan has plenty of talent but it isn't particularly cheap or abundant talent. Japan, like the US, relies heavily on automation. Labor intensive industries left Japan years ago just like they did in the US.

The U.S. ranks 23rd among developed nations in the percentage of students with undergraduate degrees in science or engineering who are employed in related fields

Now figure out what that means. It's not at all clear what significance is in having a lower percentage of engineers at a portion of the population. The US is also the third largest country in terms of population so even if they produce a lower percentage of engineers than some other countries they still will produce larger absolute numbers than most of them. You seem to be implying that graduating a lower percentage of engineers/scientists will result in negative consequences. While that might be true you have to back it up with more than just vague implications.

Re:Japan doesn't have cheap labor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412425)

> The US is also the third largest country in terms of population so even if they produce a lower percentage of engineers than some other countries they still will produce larger absolute numbers than most of them.

Now figure out what that means. It's not at all clear what significance is in having a higher absolute number of engineers.

Re:Reason is simple: U.S. Workers are stupid (4, Interesting)

MrSenile (759314) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412109)

Funny how our education ranking has dropped considerably once the 'No Child Left Behind' bill went into service.

Enforcing everyone passes education at the detriment of our more intelligent children does us no good.

Re:Reason is simple: U.S. Workers are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412393)

We need someone to talk to, and someone to sweep the floors.

Re:Reason is simple: U.S. Workers are stupid (2, Interesting)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412259)

The U.S. ranks 23rd among developed nations in the percentage of students with undergraduate degrees in science or engineering who are employed in related fields

Gee, do you suppose that's somehow related to lost Science and Engineering jobs due to offshoring in the past decade?

Re:Reason is simple: U.S. Workers are stupid (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412391)

What lost Science and Engineering jobs? or were you trying to infer call center jobs were in fact science and engineering positions?

Ideal call-centre employee? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411669)

Low self esteem? Ideal employee.

Re:Ideal call-centre employee? (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411769)

The ideal corporate employee puts themselves last.

They want robots they can put in carbonite at night and not pay.

Re:Ideal call-centre employee? (2, Funny)

NevarMore (248971) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411819)

They want robots they can put in carbonite at night and not pay.

That wouldn't be efficient at all, the hibernation sickness would have them wiped out for the first half of the shift at least!

Re:Ideal call-centre employee? (2)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412129)

It depends on the job.
For cases of trying to prevent theft people who are working as a Call-Center employee people who have High-Self esteem (AKA Diva's) Will often feel that they are too good for this work, and feel justified of stealing stuff as compensation for the extra pay that they are not getting because they are so great.

That explains a lot (5, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411701)

tends not to be overly inquisitive or empathetic

Well, if the bean counters consider the lack of those qualities to be what makes for a good callcenter worker then it's no wonder that the quality of support has gone down as fast as it has. Six or seven years ago when I called into support there was about a 50% chance of reaching someone who was smart and could solve my problem without relying on a script (which never solve my problem because if it can be found in available documentation I've already tried it before calling support), today there's maybe a 5% change if that.

Re:That explains a lot (2)

PieDode (2736165) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411737)

It's your own fault for living in the U.S. Move to Europe (or anywhere else) and you get local support in your own language. It's one of the perks European countries have because we all have our own languages.

Re:That explains a lot (0)

cornjones (33009) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411789)

maybe mainland you do but in the UK, that isn't the case... I would say that a quarter of the help desks for national UK companies are based in the UK (completely anecdotally)

Re:That explains a lot (3, Funny)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411861)

You don't have your own language, which is why the other folks were getting more local support.

Nothing as bad as the USA though; at one point I asked nicely to be transfered to someone who spoke English when on the phone with Dell Server Support and the agent screamed at me that he was in Georgia(the state) and raised there. I would have rather been talking to an Indian.

Re:That explains a lot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411937)

In Spain you usually get some guy in south-america. So it really only applies to countries with a language with no speakers in developing countries.

Re:That explains a lot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412113)

See?

We told you not to be an imperialistic powerhouse!
You should trust our past imperial experiences
Aigned, the italians.

Re:That explains a lot (5, Insightful)

rsxaeon (2506670) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412205)

There is no such thing as asking nicely to speak to someone who speaks English when the person you are speaking to does speak English. Regardless of how well you feel they speak it, this is always rude.

Re:That explains a lot (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412317)

I could not understand him at all, what else could I do? I coud not follow his instructions and I could not be sure he understood what I was saying as his responses may as well have been clicks and whistles for all the good they did me.
  I politely asked to speak to someone who spoke English more clearly.

I tried to be as nice as I could. I am not sure why a company would hire someone with such an accent as a phone agent. It would be like hiring a welshman.

Re:That explains a lot (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411907)

Ok, so that means you can talk to the call center drones in your own language. It still doesn't mean that they are able, or even willing to solve your problem. Their performance goal is the same as in call centers elsewhere: get you off the phone as quickly as possible, so that they can "serve" the most customers in the least time.

Re:That explains a lot (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412227)

During the imperialism period, England and Spain, Were the big players pushing English and Spanish across the world. The French had a chance but sold it during the Napoleonic wars. Germany got into the imperialism way too late, the other countries (didn't expand that much) well we got some traction with Portuguese in Brazil. But for the most part English and Spanish dominated the rest of the world, for European languages.

Re:That explains a lot (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411817)

All of the intelligent empathetic ones quit because they're tired of the bullshit. If you prioritize actually helping the customers, you don't spend enough time trying to upsell them with useless extra features. Apparently customer service doesn't mean solving the customer's problem, it means extorting more money them.

Re:That explains a lot (2)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412049)

You understand exactly. We'd like to hire you for our call centre and we pay the highest industry rate of $3.43/hr. When can you start?

Re:That explains a lot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412701)

we pay the highest industry rate of $3.43/hr

let me guess, everybody else pays just $3.42/hr

Re:That explains a lot (2)

SQLGuru (980662) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411871)

If the script works 70% of the time, then they just need someone who is able to follow the script without straying. These people are the L1 techs that man the phone. At some point the script says "escalate to L2". You pay L2 more because they are the ones that are inquisitive and will dig into a problem a little more. Your best bet is to not use the phone but to use online chat instead.......you bypass any accent issues and you can get your case past the script faster.

Re:That explains a lot (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411963)

The problem is, everyone starts as a L1 drone. They don't hire L2 techs based on their personality tests, they promote them from L1, and don't even hire the others.

Re:That explains a lot (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412543)

While I will agree that chat CAN be better, it often is not. This is due to a couple of factors:

1) Often a call center chat agent will have several chats in progress and sometimes they aren't typing in the correct window an try to solve a problem you don't have
2) They still ask you again for the information you already gave them. Example:

Agent: Hello and thank you for contacting support. I am being John and I will be assisting you with your issue today? What is seeming to be the problem? Me: Well, I already typed that in, but here it is again: My cable modem model #xxxxx, serial #yyyyy has all the correct lights. However I have no network connectivity out. I have powered it off and on, and I have connected my computer directly to it and it still does not give me an IP address. I have inserted a dumb hub and used Wire Shark to watch the ethernet frames and I can see zzzz. I need to know if this is an account issue or a hardware issue with the modem.
Agent: Can you power off the modem and power it back on?
Me: I've done that; you can see it above.
Agent: Oh, I see. Can you please connect your computer directly to the cable modem?
Me: (drops the chat in frustration)

Re:That explains a lot (2)

vux984 (928602) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412819)

Meh, that's -nothing-

I bought a new 4port Dlink DIR-835 router the other day, and it doesn't have link lights for the 4 lan ports. Its got a power led, and an 'internet' led. Overall, I'm happy with the router, but I think network gear should have link lights. I find them indispensible for troubleshooting and determining which connections are active.

So I contacted support, and wrote:

Description Of Issue: There are no link lights for the LAN ethernet connections. What idiot thought that was a good idea? Please forward this as feedback to product development.

Now I fully admit I could have phrased it better; but really I just hoped my comment would add to some aggregate of customer feedback that customers want link led's on network gear.

And I didn't want to put time in to write a lengthy and thoughtful request as I had a feeling it was just going to get deleted at their end anyway since it wasn't actually a request for support.

The reply I got back... well like I said, I really didn't expect anything; maybe at most a "thank you for contacting Dlink"... but here's the copy paste:

Based on the description in the email it seems there are no link lights on the DIR-835. We would advise you to try changing the Ethernet cable, also try connecting the switch to different power socket. In case of still issue persists, it would be best if you speak with a live technician to resolve the issue. If they approve the product for RMA...

-facepalm-

Re:That explains a lot (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412273)

My girlfriend works in the QA group for a bank's call center - that message about "this call may be monitored or recorded for quality purposes..." when you call in? Yeah, that's her group doing the monitoring and/or recording. Call center workers are often judged by numbers of calls handled per hour - if you get really tied up in the emotional distress of a caller ("overly empathetic"), your metric plummets. If you get overly interested in a particularly troublesome issue a customer is having ("overly inquisitive"), your metric plummets.

Call center workers are, ideally, a slightly less-automated knowledge base: you call, "here's my problem, or here's one of the 50 predetermined things I need to do," they are supposed to help you efficiently and move on to the next caller. If they hit a problem that is not covered by their scripts, they are *supposed* to escalate you to second or third-level support, where you will be put in touch with someone more knowledgeable and with a much higher level of expertise.

As far as average / apparent quality, I believe it's gone down for two (related) reasons:
1) The self-service options for many functions are "good enough" on company websites and mobile apps that you can often find the stuff you need by yourself without having to call.
2) When you DO need to call, it's often for REAL weird shit - "When I flip the light switch on the wall, my laptop's screen (not docked, not plugged in to anything in the room) turns off." But you still need to get through the first-level "can I get the last 4 of your SSN and your home phone to confirm who you are," calls first.

Bear in mind that as a Slashdot-posting presumed STEM-type, you're far more comfortable with online self-service tools than the bulk of the population. There's still quite a few people calling into these call centers with NO clue what a browser is, much less an SSL connection. And those people DO need to be serviced as well, and that's why the call center is staffed the way it is.

As far as the knowledge levels of the phone drones, it's a matter of expertise & time value to the company. If you're an engineer, would you want to field every call from a customer for the product you work on? Even the really bonehead ones whose solution is, "flip the power switch," or "plug the fucking thing in"? The point of first line call center drones is to filter out the make-work from the actual problems. This allows the engineers and other knowledgeable people to not be bothered with a bunch of trivial stuff, and the low-paid drones in the call center can spend their far-less-costly-to-the-company time filtering out the trivial issues and routing only the ACTUAL problems to the people who are experts.

Re:That explains a lot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412319)

Were you paying attention? It's not "bean counters" who are making decisions about the qualities that workers should have. The ENTIRE POINT of the article is that the company discovered that people aren't very good at making those determinations, so they're data mining to find them out.

Your post makes a great populist appeal, though. Invoking the "good old days," deriding those doggone "bean counters." You could have a career dreaming up right-wing propaganda about their 1950s fantasy world, when everything was so much better than it is now.

Irony (2)

MaltoMario (1005995) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411707)

The irony here is Xerox using this to "copy" their ideal brainless worker to pair asses to seats. Well played, Xerox, well played.

One step closer to Manna I read about here (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411743)

http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm

One massive computer controlled database that marks you hireable or not hireable.

Tell me about it (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411745)

I had a hell of a time landing a federal position in the department that I had been working for years as a contractor because the automated system at OPM kept kicking my resume out of the candidate pool. If you fail to get past that, then local hiring managers aren't even aware you have applied, and have no recourse. A co-worker finally gave me pointers on "faking out" the word filters, and I went from "unqualified" to "highly qualified" overnight.

Re:Tell me about it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411833)

Dear Infidel, Care to share your successes? Jihad be with you!

Re:Tell me about it (4, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411835)

Yeah. This basically acclerates the process that's already started with H.R. drones. Getting hired is already about who can game the process the best and H.R. bozos try to use a strict set of rules to put people into boxes instead using simple human judgement. This just codifies it even further.

Re:Tell me about it (5, Interesting)

jittles (1613415) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412015)

I actually just recently applied for a part time state position teaching computer science to high school students online. The requirement was that you have a BS in CS and have a teaching credential. I was automatically rejected immediately, for not having a temporary credential. The requirement for a temporary credential? Having been offered a teaching position inside of the state. So, a req that has been open for almost a year remains unfilled because they can't hire someone with a computer science degree who doesn't have a teaching credential already. How many people are there that have a CS degree that want to teach high school? Probably not many. I thought it would be a great way to give back to the community (the pay is terrible), but I guess not. I can't even get past the computer, unless I lie about having a temporary credential. If I lie about having a temporary credential, then the law says that (upon discovering the lie), the state is barred from hiring me. What a messed up and useless system. They will probably never fill that position.

It's too bad, too. I was willing to give up 5-10 hours a week to help out kids who want to learn. Anyone who is already teaching probably doens't want to spend that extra time with kids.

Re:Tell me about it (1)

metallurge (693631) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412223)

May I suggest you contact your state congresscritters, and take the matter up with them?

Re:Tell me about it (1)

Stiletto (12066) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412299)

LOL I'm sure they'd get right on it!

Re:Tell me about it (3, Informative)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412729)

LOL I'm sure they'd get right on it!

State legislators, particularly Representatives, tend to be a whole lot more responsive to their constituents than do their counterparts at the national level, for the simple reason that they represent a lot fewer people. For example, in Colorado, we have about 5.1 million people and our House of Representatives is 65 people, which means each Rep has about 78,000 constituents, of whom about a third are actual voters (going from turnout figures in recent elections). Those are numbers small enough to get some real attention when a constituent has a problem, and I know several people who have done just that.

Re:Tell me about it (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412337)

That's why being connected means so much more than being qualified. If you know someone on the inside, they can side step that requirement for you and get it fixed.

Re:Tell me about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412519)

I can't even get past the computer, unless I lie about having a temporary credential. If I lie about having a temporary credential, then the law says that (upon discovering the lie), the state is barred from hiring me.

Then again, you can always apply to the CEO position at Yahoo! or something.

Re:Tell me about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411881)

Well? Post us some pointers!

Re:Tell me about it (1)

Vicarius (1093097) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411889)

Would you mind sharing what keywords make the system discard your resume?

Re:Tell me about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412711)

I'm not aware of anything that triggers an automatic disqualification. The gist of the "fakery" though, is to ensure that every single word in the "required skills" section of the job offering appears somewhere in your resume. It doesn't matter where; you can even add lines indicating that those are skill you're interested in acquiring. Every word must appear somewhere, or the word filter rejects it automatically.

After that, it gets reviewed by a human at the OPM, so a simple cut/paste job is likely to raise an eyebrow. If you can get the application through the OPM gauntlet, though, you're done with the hard part. Everything else is handled by local hiring managers.

Not enough qualified applicants (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411975)

And I guaranty you that they hiring managers are complaining how they can't get enough qualified workers.

Like I'll keep saying - if you can't get enough qualified workers, there's something dysfunctional about your hiring process.

when was last time Xerox was respected company? (1)

peter303 (12292) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411823)

For either their research or products? Kind of obvious how their "software hiring" is working then.

Re: when was last time Xerox was respected company (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411965)

You think call center employees have anything to do with that stuff?

It is a job of reading a script and following flow chart. That is it. That is why it pays so little.

It's happened (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411825)

The data recommend a person who lives near the job, has reliable transportation and uses one or more social networks, ....

It's finally happened: one must have an online social network profile.

Re:It's happened (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412019)

There's money to be made in having "sane, competent" FaceBook profiles automaticly generated for people. If I need to have a FB profile to land a $100k/yr job, I'll gladly pay $10/mo so I don't actually have to log in and waste my time there. I'd rather waste my time on Slashdot.

Re:It's happened (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412117)

"Mr. AC? Yes, we need to raise your Facebook account service to $100 a month. What's that? Do what to myself? Not sure that's anatomically possible, Mr. AC. C'mon now. It's a nice Facebook account... be a shame of something happened to it. What? Threat? Just expressing an opinion on how unfortunate it would be if your account were suddenly inundated with salacious photos, unsavory rants, satirical cartoons of Mohammed, anti-government manifestos and rule 34 ponies."

Re:It's happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412341)

and rule 34 ponies

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

But seriously, there were some good ones at the Otakon art show this year.

Not an algorithm... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411837)

Since it doesn't guarantee success, it's a heuristic...and I wouldn't trust anybody trying to sell me one, who doesn't know the difference

presence on social networks as a predictor (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411903)

I was "downsized" from my previous job in April, and have been searching since then for a new one.

In at least one case, I was told that I would not be brought in for an interview because I did not have "a presence on Facebook". This was considered a bad sign to them, a risk they didn't have to take, so they'd prefer to bring in candidates where they could evaluate their social media profiles.

I've only seen that in one place I tried (out of 15-ish) but I guess it'll be getting more and more common as lack of a Facebook profile falls into the realm of deviancy.

Re:presence on social networks as a predictor (3, Interesting)

TheSpoom (715771) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411971)

Meh. I consider it a heuristic that I use to filter out the employer if they require read access to my Facebook. My Facebook is locked the fuck down; they'd find my name but not much more. If that's a problem, well, I have recruiters emailing me every day, so good luck with your search.

Re:presence on social networks as a predictor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412445)

I don't have a Facebook account. Is that acceptable, or will they think I'm antisocial?

Re:presence on social networks as a predictor (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412567)

They'll assume you're lying and trying to hide something. Sad, but true.

No thanks. (1)

game kid (805301) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411915)

The data recommend a person who lives near the job, has reliable transportation and uses one or more social networks, but not more than four.

Remind me never to seek a Xerox job then. Who's gonna force the companies to add the legal equivalent of "or willingness to whore self out to Facebook or Twitter" to their equal-opportunity-employer pledges?

Re:No thanks. (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412275)

The data recommend a person who lives near the job, has reliable transportation and uses one or more social networks, but not more than four.

Remind me never to seek a Xerox job then. Who's gonna force the companies to add the legal equivalent of "or willingness to whore self out to Facebook or Twitter" to their equal-opportunity-employer pledges?

Equal opportunity doesn't mean you have to ignore every character trait you find in a person. If you're all over the place jumping on every new social fad maybe you're the restless type who'll jump on the first job opportunity that looks better. If you're not on any social network maybe statistically you're not a very social person who likes talking or otherwise communicating with customers all day but only need the paycheck. I would say it's more discriminating against those who choose to live outside the city or in the suburbs or who don't happen to go to work the way the selector wants them to.

Submit a word cloud as your resume (2)

istartedi (132515) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411927)

It'd be pretty funny when the live HR person pulls up your resume and sees that it's just a word cloud... or scary when you get hired, have been sitting in the cube for a week, and get called into the office over it.

Re:Submit a word cloud as your resume (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412363)

The real trick is to make that "solid black line" dividing each section of your resume actually be a long, long string of buzzwords at font size 1, in an awkwardly blocky font, separated by punctuations so the printed form looks just like a solid black line.

Re:Submit a word cloud as your resume (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412515)

But if you somehow happened to get a job as an SEO analyst that way, it may actually be grounds for promotion.

I don't see anything new in their approach (1)

stoev (103408) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411929)

They selected some hypothetical factors and run factor analysis or something related. Some factors came on the top. And now they publish a report...
WOW!

Play the Game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41411935)

Or rather, another system to game, not that I would want to win that game (the "prize" is call centre work ick)

o.o (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about a year and a half ago | (#41411947)

Jebus wept, I hope I can hang on to the job I have and retire as early as possible. Between this shit and other Grand Unified Theories Of Hiring and ageism and other bullshit (companies refused to even consider anyone currently unemployed, even for a short time), my skills and experience would be completely irrelevant if I needed to get a new job at my age and in my field.

Equal Opportunity Laws (1)

swan5566 (1771176) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412013)

I'm interested to see what will happen if a case involving this goes to the Supreme Court. The lawyers could conceivably argue, "Our minority employment % doesn't fit the current laws. However, we nonetheless didn't actually discriminate, and WE CAN PROVE IT. Please toss the law."

Re:Equal Opportunity Laws (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412153)

You are aware that there is no minority hiring percentage or quota requirement set by any US federal law, at least as applies to private employers? (I suspect state laws also have no such requirement, and nor does normal government hiring - but I don't know those for sure.)

Those laws basically amount to "skin color et al cannot be a factor in your decisiong making process" -- no less and no more.

Re:Equal Opportunity Laws (1)

swan5566 (1771176) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412383)

I guess I was referring to an individual or activist group that takes the minority employee % of a company or organization, and uses that as ammunition against them in court. You're probably right though - it's probably not a law, maybe just a court ruling or precedent or something.

Re:Equal Opportunity Laws (2)

queazocotal (915608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412261)

Indirect discrimination is discrimination too.
If your algorithm does discriminate against a group because you are discriminating against things common to that group, you may still have a problem.

Re:Equal Opportunity Laws (1)

swan5566 (1771176) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412353)

But this is my point: the Supreme Court could rule that indirect discrimination goes against the intent of the law (disallowing hiring based on the employer's prejudice.), and thus would not be considered discrimination anymore.

Re:Equal Opportunity Laws (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412631)

So then I should hypothetically speaking, hire people unqualified for the position anyway, where they will cost me more to fix their mistakes, because their race is under represented due to their own subcultures societal pressures? that is stupid.

This could get interesting (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412403)

Actually, it's the software development company who should be scared. These algorithms are proprietary, and a good purchaser will require - in writing - that the software comply with all hiring laws and likely include an indemnification clause for the business before their legal department will cut the software company a check. It's a get out of court free card for the business. If the software makes all the decisions, and the software complies with the law, and the software company indemnifies the business, then the business has a pretty firm ground.

Now, for the software company, this becomes a huge liability. Not just in the actual indemnification - and, trust me, no firm larger than 1000 people would ever buy software like this without such a clause. If they have to defend their software in court, they will have to release the parameters and decisions - their proprietary data. If much of that leaks, it becomes a field day for Resume Optimization Services. Imagine if Google had to publish their ranking algorithm. I foresee a serious resume arms race.

In favor of algorithms (2, Informative)

cvnautilus (1793340) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412135)

I know there is a general backlash to the increasing use of algorithms in determining major decisions such as hiring. However, from a quantitative standpoint interviews have been shown to be extremely inaccurate as a judge of future job performance. There are simply far too many opportunities for bias on the interviewers part and so they tend to be neither reliable nor valid. Irrelevant characteristics such as appearance end up having far too much weight due to the halo effect. If you want the best result, depending on faulty human judgement is often the wrong choice.

For example, the Apgar score [wikipedia.org] for judging the stability of newborn babies was designed to combat biases on the part of delivery room doctors. Prior to the use of this score, doctors rated how healthy newborns were based on a wide-range of criteria, and each doctor did it differently. When the Apgar score was introduced, it standardized the process by rating newborns on five categories: skin complexion, pulse rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and breathing. The result was that the error introduced by human bias was reduced and countless babies have been saved by quick intervention.

Re:In favor of algorithms (2)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412329)

I know there is a general backlash to the increasing use of algorithms in determining major decisions such as hiring. However, from a quantitative standpoint interviews have been shown to be extremely inaccurate as a judge of future job performance. There are simply far too many opportunities for bias on the interviewers part and so they tend to be neither reliable nor valid. Irrelevant characteristics such as appearance end up having far too much weight due to the halo effect. If you want the best result, depending on faulty human judgement is often the wrong choice.

For example, the Apgar score [wikipedia.org] for judging the stability of newborn babies was designed to combat biases on the part of delivery room doctors. Prior to the use of this score, doctors rated how healthy newborns were based on a wide-range of criteria, and each doctor did it differently. When the Apgar score was introduced, it standardized the process by rating newborns on five categories: skin complexion, pulse rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and breathing. The result was that the error introduced by human bias was reduced and countless babies have been saved by quick intervention.

Conversely, the problem with "bean counting" is that things that aren't defined as "beans" don't count. See generic testing inherently flawed [slashdot.org] , below.

Are you kidding me? (1)

jbrandv (96371) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412147)

I've called Xerox support. It's not working! Clueless management must be their hallmark.

Hiring Algorithms (3, Interesting)

kumanopuusan (698669) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412157)

No article on hiring algorithms is complete without mentioning the secretary problem [wikipedia.org] .
In brief, how do you decide that you've interviewed enough people and select a candidate, even though that means ignoring anyone you have yet to interview?

Re:Hiring Algorithms (2)

kumanopuusan (698669) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412193)

...and then it turns out that I completely mis-remembered the problem. It's still neat, but my description of it above is totally worthless.

generic testing inherently flawed (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412179)

All generic tests for employment, whether marked by hand or by computer, are based on statistical likelihood of success based on past performance indicators. They therefore reduce the range of abilities of workers and guarantee stagnation.

In essence, saying "this appeared to work in the past therefore it's ideal in the future" is the antithesis of progress. And you can't monitor the usefulness of different characteristics because you've already rejected all the employees who don't conform to your ideal.

Big business in the West today is all about low risk mediocrity, i.e. just enough "cost cutting" and profit to maintain a few years of healthy executive bonus. Our performance shows it. The bright, naturally, remain in academia or ensure they have a sufficiently good reputation that they bypass all these stupid tests when entering the commercial world.

Some of the better tech firms understand this: MS abandoned most of its silly puzzles and Google had progressively reduced "college quiz" style interviewing (not quite there yet, though!). When IBM was king, it applied the most costly but effective way of selecting employees: huge probationary periods. Not sure what it does now. I wonder when the average company will catch up and learn?

If a hiring practice is challenged in court as di (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412207)

" If a hiring practice is challenged in court as discriminatory, a company must show the criteria it is using are proven to predict success in the job."

Isn't the burden of proof supposed to be on the person making the challenge?

Re: If a hiring practice is challenged in court as (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412279)

In a civil case, there is no burden of proof either way; the case is decided based on which side has a "preponderance of evidence" supporting their position.

(I am not a lawyer, nor do I anal).

Player Piano (1)

paleo2002 (1079697) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412247)

My younger brother has been looking for work for nearly 5 years. These "personality tests" and automated application systems are incredibly frustrating. Business managers won't talk to you, they just send you to their the web site to apply for a posted job. After half an hour of vague, logically inconsistent questions you've "applied" for the job. Nobody calls, nobody emails, and if you follow-up with the store they just shrug. And that's if you're lucky enough to be allowed to apply. Some web sites pre-screen you based on a few questions and actually prevent you from applying for the job at all.

Its frustrating for my brother and frustrating to watch. He's caught in the no experience/no job feedback loop and now its being run by machines. Does it really cost a business $5000 in losses for a supervisor to spend a day showing a new hire how to work a register, push a broom, and sign in and out for the day?

Re:Player Piano (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412351)

... Does it really cost a business $5000 in losses for a supervisor to spend a day showing a new hire how to work a register, push a broom, and sign in and out for the day?

No, that's the average of what it costs Xerox to train a call center employee on its printer/copiers and normal problems.

Business managers won't talk to you

There's the problem. Less than 2% of jobs are found by posting resumes to job boards. It's probably the same for posting to company websites. He has to get to know people who make the hiring decisions. Try smaller companies, figure out what their problems are, and how to solve them. He needs to approach hiring managers as a solution, not a job seeker. (just another problem)

Re:Player Piano (4, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412547)

That $5k is an average number for call center training. For professional positions, it's between 1 and 1.5x annual salary.

Sadly, your brother needs to adopt better parents, because that's how you get jobs. Do you think Mitt Romney, son of a Mexican immigrant who was a migrant farmer and never made more than a subsistence wage and never interacted outside of the migrant community would have had job offers in big firms or ready-made partnerships with well-connected businessmen? Of course not. Take your brother, add in a network of hundreds of friends and colleagues in various fields, have someone prominent in the community and in business vouch personally for his abilities, and I can almost guarantee him a job in under a month, and a 6 figure job in under 5 years - far less if it turns out your brother is both personable and responsible. Add in some ability (numbers, management skills, sales ability) - it doesn't even need to be technical in any way, and he'll be on his way to a very comfortable lifestyle.

Can you claw your way up from the bottom? Yes, but you have to be exceptionally lucky in finding a job with growth and a manager who sees ability and is not threatened by it. Or you have to just be downright good and start your own enterprise from the ground up. The latter generally requires the moral flexibility to spend a lot of time in the gray area of the law (skirt regulation as much as you can) and personal relationships (be a ruthless backstabbing sonofabitch).

Be careful what you ask for...you might get it (1)

TheWoozle (984500) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412523)

So, they're selecting for the best liars? The problem with any measurement of human beings is that they will absolutely try to game the system. Unless a company can keep the hiring criteria secret, they'll never actually get what they're looking for.

You get what you select for (2)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412571)

I see a bunch of problems, including a few that'll leave the company circling the drain down the road. But one obvious one is that the whole thing depends heavily on what you're selecting for. I know my experience on the hiring side is that HR tends to filter out the best-qualified candidates and leave the ones that aren't qualified. That doesn't bode well for their ability to decide what constitutes a successful employee. It may work OK for tier-1 call-center support, but what happens when eg. you decide you want software developers who fix the most bugs the quickest and deliver the most new features the fastest? You end up with developers who write buggy code that can't be maintained or enhanced. You can't fix a lot of bugs quickly unless the code's got a lot of bugs in it, after all, so the criteria would filter out the developers who avoid creating bugs that'd need fixing. And thinking about what the system will need to do 2, 3 or 4 years down the road and coming up with ways of doing things now that'll accommodate those future needs takes more time than duct-taping together something that just about works right now, so you end up selecting for developers who'll hamstring your ability to enhance your system in the future.

In college math we called it the local-optimization problem: you get so caught up in finding the best way to find the maximum/minimum of a function that you end up missing the maximum/minimum.

Slashdot-Heal-Thyself (2)

Press2ToContinue (2424598) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412579)

Maybe Slashdot needs an algorithm to allow people to post. Perhaps it should go something like this... - do they stay on-topic? - do they understand the concept? - do they contribute useful information? Never mind, that algorithm would never fly here....

It's okay so long as it works? (1)

wonder (218298) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412587)

If a hiring practice is challenged in court as discriminatory, a company must show the criteria it is using are proven to predict success in the job.

Wait a second, and what? Since when is a valid defense against a discrimination complaint "yeah, we descriminate, but it's okay because it actually provides results."

How far would that kind of argument get you in a Gender, Racial, or Age-based discrimination setting? If anyone said "As a cop i assume every black person is guilty of something, but hey, my arrest rate has gone way up so it's ok." that case would be DONE.

Oh no, someone is using the scientific method (4, Insightful)

clovis (4684) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412655)

As usual, most of the respondents either did not RTFA, or simply did not understand it because many of the respondents have got it exactly backwards.
Management did not just make up a set of characteristics they thought would be good (in this case hire local drone) and hire those after doing a drone-test. That's the way it had been done for the last few thousand years.

So here's what happened.
A company tests applicants for a very broad set of characteristics.
They track the performance of the hires.
They compare the success of the hires back to the characteristics found in the test.
They make a model of the successful hires and then use that model to select future hires.

Scientific model:
Construct hypotheses
Gather data
Conduct test
compare result to hypotheses
refine hypotheses

Anyone that is complaining about the algorithmic process and it's outcome has no idea how most people are typically hired.
For the most part, It still boils down to 1: being someone's buddy/relative and 2: looking like someone the HR boss would like to hang out with.
So I, for one, welcome our new algorithmic masters. ( having neither buddy nor looking like someone you would want to hang out with)

Also, this is very far from being new. I know of one upscale hotels started doing this a couple or three decades ago.
They gave all their employees a variety of tests and observed what characteristics were associated with the successful ones in the various positions.
Then, when people apply, they assign them to the position they'll be successful in. The end result is that successful floor-cleaners are happy and productive floor-cleaners, and people whose profile fits the front desk are happy and successful there. And it should be obvious that swapping those two people might create two very resentful employees. It really shows, too, if you ever stayed in a place like that how the good moods of the employees is almost Stepford-spooky.

I work at Evolv (5, Informative)

edcheevy (1160545) | about a year and a half ago | (#41412723)

I'm an industrial/organizational psychologist at Evolv. I help build assessment content and I work closely with our predictive algorithms. A few clarifications from the WSJ article & responses to /. comments:

Yes, creativity and empathy are important for some positions, even in call centers! We're not looking for hateful drones who will hang up on you when you call in. In addition to staying longer, our recommended hires perform better as well. That means increases in both customer satisfaction and efficiency (we call it "average handle time"). But it's a curvilinear relationship - somebody who is too inquisitive is going to tend to waste your valuable time (and their employer's) while trying to resolve your issue. There's a balance.

Most test vendors put a test in place and walk away. At Evolv we take all the post-hire data from our clients and continually feed it back into our algorithms. The content, scoring, and weighting adjust over time to be more predictive.

At Evolv, we don't pair obvious responses when we create questions. So no "I like to steal office supplies" vs "I always show up to work on time" questions. Coupled with the continual refresh & validation of the content, there is no "answer key" that will get you a job. One of the neat things about this approach that we've found is that people applying to entry level positions often don't know what they're good at. Either they've bounced around a few jobs or they're just out of high school. So when somebody applies to a call center job that's hiring for both customer service and sales positions, and we can recommend the position for which they're likely to be "fitter, happier, and more productive"... that's kind of cool. Their employer will make more money off a more stable employee, and the employee ends up doing something they will enjoy just a little bit more. I know some folks will see it from the Radiohead point of view, as creepy (and I respect that), but we think it's better than dumping somebody into a position they're not going to enjoy just because they had the right keywords on their resume or they BS'd their way through an interview.

Science & statistics help eliminate some crazy gut-based hiring decisions. Some hiring managers want to ask call center applicants what they'll be doing in 10 years with an expected response of "I'll be working at this call center". But let's be realistic - while some people enjoy them and thrive, call center jobs are typically not where you plan to be in 10 years. We've also found that resume experience for entry level positions is less important than basic skills and attitude. It's easy to look at that and say "duh" but you'd be surprised how many people hiring & screening for these roles want to exclude applicants who don't have prior experience. So we can cut things out of the interview and hiring process that just don't mean anything.

Evolv doesn't just do employment screening. We periodically follow up with people after they're hired. We find out what information wasn't communicated well during the hiring process, get their feedback on how their training is going, their thoughts on their supervisor, that sort of thing. We feed all of this back in to improve the process. In some cases, that means identifying the trainers whose students perform poorly when they start working. Other times it could be flagging a tenured stellar performer whose numbers are starting to dip for a new position to help reinvigorate them. We strive to improve profitability across the workforce, and do so in an employee-friendly way.

Last but not least, we're still expanding through Xerox, so if you've called their customer service and had a bad experience it must not have been one of our hires. Joking aside, agents are people too, and even our top recommendations have a bad day. We're working hard to to make it better though!

Hope that helps! Yes, there definitely are risks with employment testing, but we try to avoid them and build solutions that make everybody's life a little better.

Cheers,
Tim

Don't Interview At Companies You Don't Like (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41412759)

If you don't like that the hiring boss is an algorithm or that your employer may spring random drug tests on you or that you are required to wear orange hotpants, don't bother complaining to anyone about it if you're still going to interview there.

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