“I am not a number! I am a free man!” cried Patrick McGoohan in cult 1960s TV programme The Prisoner.
The technocracy that rules so much of modern life would likely disagree. Whether we like it or not, our lives are defined by numbers. Everyone who uses digital technology leaves a trail of data from which analysts can build a frighteningly accurate portrayal of their behaviours, their personality and even their most sensitive secrets.
The recent furore over Cambridge Analytica has highlighted just how much we can learn from people based solely on their social media ramblings. Alongside personal information such as age, gender, location, employment and education (which is usually freely disclosed), advances in artificial intelligence (AI) means we can now predict things such as political opinions, sexuality, intelligence and personality types.
(Who knew, for example, that intelligent people tend to like thunderstorms and curly fries?)
Of course, people have been using psychology to predict personalities and behaviour for years, but what’s so revolutionary – some might say disturbing – about AI is that it can draw an incredibly accurate and detailed picture of a person simply from their online data trail.
Traditional recruiters might scoff at the idea of employing software to find the best candidates. After all, there’s more to a candidate than just their list of skills and experience. Finding the right hire – both in terms of ability and cultural fit – is an art as much as a science, and even the cleverest software can’t compete with an intuitive human HR practitioner, right?
Wrong. It’s long been known that humans are often terrible at predicting people’s performance. In the 1950s the Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahnemann studied officer selection in the Israeli army, and found that a simple mathematical formula was a far better indication of performance than human intuition.
Today, we have infinitely more data which, when married to powerful analytics software, enables us to make even better decisions on whom to hire. Smart recruiters are using these new capabilities to reverse engineer the perfect candidate. They take their best, most productive employees, and comb through their work, communications, performance reviews and a range of other data sources to identify the predictors of great performance. They then build an algorithmic model and apply it to each candidate; in so doing, they can unearth talent in the unlikeliest of places.
Of course, there will always be a need for person-to-person interviews, but the example above gives a taste of how it will soon transform the hiring process in every industry. These technologies bring a host of other benefits, too, including recruitment chat bots that can give instant answers to candidates applying for a role, software that helps to remove the unconscious bias from interview decision-making, and even AI applications that can understand workers’ motivations.
This last point is especially important given the current skills crisis that makes companies desperate to hang onto talented employees. Having a deep understanding of what each worker wants from their job besides remuneration – for example, greater responsibility, career development, flexible working or any other motivation – is key to retaining the best employees.
Like it or not we as people and the world we live in is increasingly defined by numbers. Only by identifying the correct metrics, understanding how to crunch the numbers and understanding how to interpret the results will recruiters and HR professionals be able to deliver the best results for clients and the companies they serve.
Conspicuous are Dynamics 365 recruitment experts. If you are looking at new opportunities or looking for advice on the market, please do get in touch.