Machines can gauge your work potential

Bloomberg NewsOctober 20, 2013 

— They can drive cars, win “Jeopardy!” and find your soon-to-be favorite song.

Machines are now also learning to decipher the most human qualities about you – and help businesses predict your potential to be their next star employee.

A handful of technology companies from Knack.it to Evolv are developing video games and online questionnaires that measure a job applicant’s personality attributes. Based on patterns of how a company’s best performers responded in these assessments, the software estimates a candidate’s suitability to be everything from a warehouse worker to an investment bank analyst.

Welcome to hiring in the age of big data, an ambition marrying automation with analysis.

The advent of the Internet has been both a gift and a curse to recruiters, who now can access a greater pool of candidates yet also get inundated with too many applications.

There have been no tools to sort through that deluge quickly, cheaply and accurately in an economy that has seen almost five years of above-7 percent unemployment.

“You have this enormous pool of people that’s being missed because of the way the entire industry goes after the same kinds of people, asking, did you go to Stanford, did you work at this company?” said Erik Juhl, head of talent at Vungle, a San Francisco-based video advertising startup, and formerly a recruiter at Google and LinkedIn. “You miss what you’re looking for, which is, what is this person going to bring to the table?”

To aid that search, Juhl this month will begin using an online video game designed to track, record and analyze every millisecond of its players’ behavior. Developed by Knack in Palo Alto, Calif., Wasabi Waiter places job-seekers in the shoes of a sushi server who must identify the mood of his cartoon customers and bring them the dish labeled with the matching emotion.

Home to a more widely-used human resources machine is Evolv, which specializes at evaluating candidates for hourly positions at companies including Xerox and Harte-Hanks. The San Francisco-based company administers an online questionnaire to applicants on behalf of its clients. A computer model translates those results into a traffic light for hiring managers so they can decide whom to interview: green for high potential, yellow for medium potential and red for risky.

New York-based ConnectCubed has also developed software to determine the personality and cognitive abilities of job applicants that, at its largest clients, is tailored for that specific company. ConnectCubed has existing workers at those businesses complete its video games and questionnaires so the behavioral profiles of the star employees serve as a benchmark for whom managers should hire in the future.

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