Automated systems determine who qualifies for employment

Automated systems such as the personality test developed by Massachusetts-based workforce management company Kronos are increasingly used by large companies to screen job applicants. To avoid falling foul of regulations prohibiting discrimination against those with mental illness, often the questions are phrased in intricate ways that are harder to game - but also harder to answer without self-incrimination. It's estimated that as many as 72% of CVs are never seen by human eyes; instead, they are pre-assessed by a computer that scores them for matches against the skills and experience the employer is looking for. Human resources departments set the threshold, and review only the top matches. As a result, increasing numbers of people are shut out from employment without knowing why, and the practice spreading to other areas, such as housing and education, where scoring systems are used to rate teachers and fire the ones with the lowest scores. However, there is little scientific basis for or scrutiny of the algorithms behind these automated systems, and they are generally poor at predicting on-the-job performance. Lacking a feedback loop, these systems have no way to assess or improve the results. Because staff churn is an important cost for employers, many hiring models now attempt to calculate the likelihood that a new hire will stay. The San Francisco-based startup Gild takes this further, seeking to find future stars.

Writer: Cathy O'Neil
Publication: Guardian