Big data is being used in hiring to leverage trends and expose false preconceptions. So much so that Xerox now does its call centre hiring – and we’re talking about nearly 50 000 jobs – to a computer program and a set of personality tests. Why personality tests? It turns out that personality is the best indicator of who will stick with the job longer.

Before the advent of big data, a claim like that would sound pretty anecdotal, and it would be unlikely that a company would let it dictate hiring policy. But now that we can crunch the numbers and quantify these correlations, the results of things like personality tests can be seen to yield much harder data.

The catch? Well, you have to make sure that your hiring software is discriminating but not discriminatory. Not only is it a real possibility that the questions on a test might get answered differently by, say, older people versus younger people, but, because you’re using algorithms and not intuition, it would be pretty easy to prove even if you didn’t intend it. All the numbers are right there.

Also, I never know how to answer those things.

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