Humans vs. Algorithms for Hiring

Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball pits the collective old-time wisdom of baseball players, managers, coaches, scouts, and front offices against rigorous statistical analysis in determining which players to recruit. Analysis wins, changing the game forever. Could the same be true for recruiting top talent?

When the National Bureau of Economic Research looked into this, it pitted humans against computers for more than 300,000 hires in high-turnover jobs at 15 companies. Human experience, instinct, and judgment were soundly defeated: people picked by computers stayed far longer and performed just as well or better. This wasn’t the only such finding. University of Minnesota professors analyzed 17 studies and found that hiring algorithms outperform humans by at least 25 percent. “The effect holds in any situation with a large number of candidates, regardless of whether the job is on the front line, in middle management, or (yes) in the C-suite.”

Many leaders find this hard to stomach, but some companies are abandoning old ideas. The waste company Richfield Management, for example, uses an algorithm to screen applicants for character traits suggesting a tendency to abuse workers’ compensation. Claims have since dropped by 68 percent. After Xerox replaced its recruitment-screening process with an online test from Evolve, attrition declined by 20 percent.

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