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When the Hiring Boss Is an Algorithm 245

Posted by Soulskill
from the doesn't-care-why-manhole-covers-are-round dept.
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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When the Hiring Boss Is an Algorithm

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  • by afidel (530433) on Friday September 21, 2012 @11:42AM (#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.

    • by PieDode (2736165)
      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.
      • 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.
      • 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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

      • by Russ1642 (1087959)
        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?
      • by Terrasque (796014)

        Ding ding ding, we have a winner!

        I got fired, not for having the shortest average call time on the center, not for being one of the best problem solvers, not for helping out the lvl 3 tech support folks (that was more or less not allowed to talk on phone, only solve cases sent from lvl 2 in the ticket system), but... For, as technical support, not selling enough new junk to customers having problems with the junk they already had gotten from us.

        When being pushed on it, I answered the annoying pusher that I

    • by SQLGuru (980662)

      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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 in

      • by berashith (222128)

        I did a call center job once. ONCE.

        The time limit per call requirement was teh most frustrating, yet the most fun aspect of the job. The best effort to reduce your call times was to ask them to reboot and then call back with the ticket number if the problem continued. Since the problem was not related to rebooting, it came back, and they called back, only to find that the notes in the ticket didnt really help the next tech, but the call time was met!

        This was frustrating when the idea of first call resolutio

  • The irony here is Xerox using this to "copy" their ideal brainless worker to pair asses to seats. Well played, Xerox, well played.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2012 @11:44AM (#41411743)

    http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm

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

  • Tell me about it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2012 @11:45AM (#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.

    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Friday September 21, 2012 @11:51AM (#41411835) Homepage Journal

      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 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jittles (1613415) on Friday September 21, 2012 @12:02PM (#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.

        • May I suggest you contact your state congresscritters, and take the matter up with them?
          • by Stiletto (12066)

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

            • Re:Tell me about it (Score:4, Informative)

              by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Friday September 21, 2012 @01:03PM (#41412729) Homepage Journal

              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.

        • 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.

  • For either their research or products? Kind of obvious how their "software hiring" is working then.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      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.

  • Not an algorithm... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2012 @11:51AM (#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

    • It's guaranteed to probably get closer to the answer you want in the opinion of some optimization hacker. It does that nebulous thing, which may or may not help, every time.

      If you're not happy with that way of looking at algorithms, then I bet you don't think simulated annealing, soundex, minimax, whatever-Google-search-engine-does, or a host of other classical partial-solutions are algorithms either. Now that I think of it, that's all the "fun stuff," though I realize we're all into different things. I

    • by edcheevy (1160545)
      Touche, you got us (I work at Evolv). But our heuristic is accurate enough for us to guarantee our results. Is a "guaranteed heuristic" semantically possible? :)
  • 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?

    • by Kjella (173770)

      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

  • by istartedi (132515) on Friday September 21, 2012 @11:55AM (#41411927) Journal

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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,

    • 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.

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

  • Hiring Algorithms (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kumanopuusan (698669) <goughnourc@NoSpAm.gmail.com> on Friday September 21, 2012 @12:12PM (#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?

    • ...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.

    • I'd never heard of that "problem." Interesting read, though. Thanks for the link.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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

  • 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 p
    • ... 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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday September 21, 2012 @12:49PM (#41412547) Journal

      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).

      • Mitt Romney is not so self made, you have your facts wrong. His father was a CEO of a car company then Governor of Michigan and not a migrant farmer. Rich politically connected parents go a LONG LONG way to helping somebody with some talent go really far. Won't go into ethics because they have no place in business; everything is fair game as long as you are not caught.

  • 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.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday September 21, 2012 @12:50PM (#41412571) Homepage

    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.

  • by clovis (4684) * on Friday September 21, 2012 @12:57PM (#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.

    • by Herkum01 (592704)

      But reading the article, I don't really see anything that the says that the tracked performance of hires. What I saw was that they tracked costs of employing new hires. Basically, how often they showed up for work, whether they filed for disability or took extra time off.

      They met accounting metrics, like reducing costs for employing that person, but that does not mean that they did well at meeting customer expectations.

  • I work at Evolv (Score:5, Informative)

    by edcheevy (1160545) on Friday September 21, 2012 @01:03PM (#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

    • Your post wreaks of someone who truly thinks that this is the best way to hire somebody. When in reality the entirety of the process is from top to bottom a sham.

      Do you know why that is? Because the reality of the world is that employment and work is a cutthroat business. Do the executives take these same "personality tests" to tell them that they're "best suited" for a call center position over being a marketing executive? Of course not. It's two entirely different hiring conditions applied based on whethe
      • by edcheevy (1160545)

        You're absolutely correct, I do think this is the best currently available method for hiring hourly workers. The assessment itself is just one component. For instance, call center applicants also do a mini voice audition (clarity, tone, etc), take a typing test, and complete a behavioral descriptive interview. There's always a human element in the process, we're just trying to make sure the interviewers are asking consistent, job-relevant questions.

        I completely agree that people can learn to be good at t

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        No shit, he works for the company. And while you're spouting the standard crap about how codified tests can't possibly detect how awesome you are as an individual, his company has statistics that prove their system works, continually feed them back into their system to improve it, and are confident enough to have made it their core business model. Are you going to put your money where your mouth is, or just keep denying that humans as a group are fairly predictable?

        In all fairness, algorithmic hiring will w

      • Re:I work at Evolv (Score:5, Interesting)

        by quietwalker (969769) <pdughi@gmail.com> on Friday September 21, 2012 @02:46PM (#41413923)

        I can't claim to be an industrial psychologist, but I have worked with them and written much of the software that does some of the predictive analysis that was mentioned. I can claim to have a lot of experience with how these tests work.

        I have to disagree with you right off the bat here: Employment screening tests are not a sham, and there are many good things about them.

        - Has value, but primarily to the employer

        Some of the predictive factors that show immediate value are used to best utilize an employee: whether they prefer working solo or in a group, whether money or recognition motivates them, if they are highly detail oriented, or whether or not they'll rock the boat (which could be a good thing! - like suggesting a more efficient process to replace an old, tried, and true one). This helps a manager provide a working environment that best allows an individual to excel, or to position people in groups so any perceived faults are covered with an overlap.

        What also ends up being really important in these tests - to employers at least - is whether or not these people tend to lie, steal, or cheat, to abuse drugs or alchol, or may simply be reliable or not. Yes, if you crunch the numbers, you can take a good guess and produce a weighted prediction about this just from a personality profile.

        When you're hiring for Walmart or Home Depot or some other vast chain with a large population of unskilled workers, weeding out the likely-to-be-bad ones shows a real financial impact, tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year, statistically proven. Though the damages may not reach into the millions, smaller business owners are even more impacted by this.

        - Must be applied properly

        Some businesses, like Keller Williams Reality, do not apply their personality profiling properly. They use a Jungian based personality matrix - simplified slightly - to pigeonhole an applicant. If you do not fit the hole specified for the job, you don't get the job. They even make a big deal about how everyone applying for every position is required to do this, even if it's the next CEO (which was probably a lie, but c'mon, these folks are salepeople at heart). However, they decide in advance which single personality a given job requires, and if you don't match it exactly, you're out. So if you apply for a programmer position, and you're an extrovert, you won't get the job. If you're creative - you don't get the job. You have to correspond to THEIR sterotype.

        Obviously this is wrong.

        As the parent poster can probably tell you, the proper way to do it is to have your current employees take a test, sort by role, and attempt to find people who are close to the personality traits that your star individuals have in common. You'll also have to update this over time as market or work environments change.

        This works because we're producing sample data, isolating trends, and using it to predict success based on commonalities. It's simple statistics. This is how we can 'catch' drug abusers and thieves before the fact: using the personality profiling tests data from criminals, we can find people who match their common traits. It may sound harsh, but the false positive outliers are exactly that - outliers. The vast majority is predictable to a reasonable degree.

        Application of this information is a standard practice in risk analysis. If you're hiring for a casino dealer, and your applicant shows up as being 80-90 out of 100 match with career criminals, maybe consider a bit more carefully or do a full background check, or maybe just don't hire them - find a less risky applicant.

        - Can be gamed

        Most of these tests are straightforward. There's rarely any tricks or clever 'gotchas'. This isn't like a police interrogation where they're trying to trap you. They're personality profiles, and they don't have 'correct answers'.

        However, if you can successfully role take, you can determine the outcome without much guile. This is hard for many people to do, grante

  • It's wretched. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thesandtiger (819476) on Friday September 21, 2012 @01:14PM (#41412859)

    I was sought out specifically by a government agency because of some research work I had done and some tools I had developed - they basically had a position that was an EXACT match for my skills, just in a broader scope.

    I had to submit my CV to their automated system and was rejected because there was a typo in one of the filter criteria for their automated screening system. Then when they fixed it and I resubmitted, because I was found unqualified previously I was booted out.

    They reset the job listing, triple checked the criteria, had me re-format my resume and submit it from a different email address just to make sure it wouldn't reject, but then when a human HR manager looked, she noted I had been rejected previously (but not why) and rejected it again.

    Bottom line, you need smart people handling your hiring, and you need to make damn sure your automated systems are helping rather than hindering getting good people in there.

    What's funny is that they wound up hiring me as a consultant (costing them at least 3x as much as hiring me on staff would cost) for the work, which worked out great for me since I was able to keep my old job and do the new work telecommuting with only the occasional trip to various sites.

  • The most profitable call center employee may not be the one that fixes the most problems. For instance, an employee that can make a customer happy without fixing a thing or can talk the customer into buying a new replacement could be more profitable for the company.

    The situation is fairly simple; what is in the customer's best interest in not necessarily in the company's best interest. The company seeks to hire those that are in it's best interest, not the customer's best interest.

  • by Gripp (1969738) on Friday September 21, 2012 @01:47PM (#41413229)
    I was once asked (on a formal test, the last hoop) in a job interview for a big box store whether I would turn my mother in if I caught her stealing.
    I was entirely unsure of what answer they were looking for. On one hand you would think they would want employees to be that dedicated to protecting their assets. But lets be real, is ruining your family worth your part time job, over a petty theft? Bitch at them and return the item to the store, yes...
    I can't imagine anyone (who is 100% sane) would. This would indicate that anyone who answers yes is either a damned liar or not mentally stable. But by saying "no" means you may be immoral (yet, honest?).... so... which was correct? I answered "no" for the sake of honesty. And did not get the job. Not sure if that is why or not, but still wonder.
    • by alexo (9335) on Friday September 21, 2012 @03:51PM (#41414651) Journal

      I was once asked (on a formal test, the last hoop) in a job interview for a big box store whether I would turn my mother in if I caught her stealing.
      I was entirely unsure of what answer they were looking for. On one hand you would think they would want employees to be that dedicated to protecting their assets. But lets be real, is ruining your family worth your part time job, over a petty theft? Bitch at them and return the item to the store, yes...
      I can't imagine anyone (who is 100% sane) would. This would indicate that anyone who answers yes is either a damned liar or not mentally stable. But by saying "no" means you may be immoral (yet, honest?).... so... which was correct? I answered "no" for the sake of honesty. And did not get the job. Not sure if that is why or not, but still wonder.

      If I found myself in a similar position, and wasn't completely desperate for that job, I would reply by saying "that's an interesting question, would you ?".
      If the interviewer says no, I would say "neither would I, as there are better ways of dealing with the situation" and elaborate if asked to do so.
      If the interviewer says yes, he would have proved himself to be a sociopath, and I wouldn't want to work there. There's a good chance that I would not be able to resist asking him whether his mother is aware of his attitude, which would blacklist me forever.
      If he declines to answer but still insists that I do, I would point out that the interview is a two-way process...

      There may be other ways of handling such a question with a live and moderately competent and intelligent interviewer, like pointing out that it is a complex situation and suggesting alternatives (e.g., "I will confront her, get the reason for her actions, return the item(s) and offer additional compensation to the rightful owner, and make sure said mother got needed help and counseling so this will not happen again"), or even claiming that such an event is totally impossible (e.g., "my mother would never steal, she would rather die of starvation, so the question makes no sense. It's like asking: would you hit a newborn if it tried to kill your children with a chainsaw? The question is completely absurd and so is any possible answer").

      However, if the expectation is that there is a "correct" Yes/No answer that you should provide, their hiring process is messed up.

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      I imagine "No! I would kill her for sullying the family honor!" would not go over well, either. Though you never know, in those kinds of interviews!
  • by gelfling (6534) on Friday September 21, 2012 @03:30PM (#41414465) Homepage Journal

    Age 25 or under with 9 years experience in a 2 year old technology willing to work for minimum wage.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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