Big Data and Hiring

BigDataBad hires can cost companies a lot of money. To avoid such a mistake some company’s already use personality assessment and logic tests as part of the interview process to determine a candidate’s suitability for a roles. There are pros and cons for using these methods as part of the selection process but nevertheless are ones that companies feel is necessary for hiring the right people.

Taking things one step further some companies are using ‘Big Data’ as part of their hiring process. Big data is exactly that, vast amounts of data that is collected and analysed using sophisticated software. Much similar to personality assessments candidates are asked a series of questions which is fed through software which analyses their answers concluding if the person is potential employee material, this person then makes it through to the next phase of the hiring process.

Many large companies such as Xerox have used this method which in their opinion has been successful to the point ‘Xerox now leaves all hiring for its 48,700 call-center jobs to software that asks applicants to choose between statements like: “I ask more questions than most people do” and “People tend to trust what I say.”

This method may have worked for Xerox in hiring a group of people for a particular department but what about a more technical role, would this method have a similar success rate?

This process is similar to a dating site that matches you up with potential suitors based on your answers to a series of questions. Even then that method is not fool proof! Who’s to say that a person who likes fish but you don’t, would not be the right person for you? Slight over exaggeration with the like/dislike of fish but the point is that just because a person is different does not always mean they would not be compatible. The same could be applied to this alternative hiring method.

To decide if a person is worth being interviewed for a position based on an initial set of questions is ambiguous and not necessarily a clear representation of an individual. What a person may lack in skill they make up in personality and with some training would be a vital asset to the company. Companies do need to reduce the cost of a bad hire by hiring the right person in the first place however the human side of hiring is being reduced by a faceless, non-human medium. Just because a person is not the cookie cutter fit for your company does not necessarily mean they will not bring skills and traits that would improve the business. Companies are risking alienating a potential pool of people because they did not answer the questions asked the way the employer would have done. How can a business be expected to grow with everyone being the same?


Companies may benefit from pooling vast amounts of data and analyses but this could leave them open to accusations of discrimination. Depending on the country, there are certain questions that are not allowed to be asked but there is nothing stopping a question being tactfully worded and the software then coming to its own conclusions.

Advocators of this hiring method could argue that based on the questions asked the risk of discrimination is reduced as the questions are to determine if the person can do the job required and be an asset without physically seeing the candidate.

Whichever side of the fence you are sitting on when it comes to this hiring method one thing that can be agreed upon is that technology is playing a much bigger role in the day to day running of businesses. As much as I agree with the use of technology making things easier I do also think that technology is enabling us to become lazy and delegate tasks that we should be doing. In this case letting software decide if a person is right for your department instead of improving your interview techniques and trusting your own judgement.


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