The ability to automate, dig deep, pre-sort, evaluate, chew, swallow, and spit out decisions without really understanding the implications or assumptions hard-wired in the set-up can be a rather large problem. A recent Wall Street Journal article by David Wessel about the use (overuse?) of software to screen job candidates got me to thinking about the costs of overly picky employment systems.
What’s the problem with that? So concerned with weeding out false positives, false negatives are likely going through the roof. False postives cost a firm money in lost productivity and the cost of replacing a failed hire.
I worry more about false negatives. What’s the cost of a false negative?
- The opportunity cost of not hiring someone who would have been stellar.
- Non-conformists, radical thinkers, creative types often don’t fit the jobs they excel in, but often are exactly the kind of thinking that invigorates corporate process.
- Applicants who can rapidly grow into a position are cheeper than those who are over qualified.
- Employers have created an arms race forcing applicants to worry about the SEO of their resume rather than an accurate description of their greatness. Fine, some would say that word smithing for the computer’s eye enhances a resume’s usefulness, but I’m not sure.
The use of this software is designed as a time saver for HR, which at some companies is critical. Sorting through thousands of resumes is not a practical human activity. However, a worthwhile human activity would be to sort through a random assortment of ‘almosts,’ ‘interestings,’ and ‘odds’ to see if there is a gem the company is throwing away in their rush towards efficiency.
Or maybe it is better this way. Leave the the employees who don’t quite fit in today’s job opening to become entrepreneurs or the golden hire for a small business ready to break out and grow.
Creative destruction has to come from somewhere, doesn’t it?
Automating judgment and discretion is always a slippery slope.