'Big Data' Predicts Who Makes The Best Workers

Evolv is leading the way in using analytics for hiring. For years, employers and governments have been collecting massive amounts of data about people, but recently they've become focused on using "big data" to make better decisions -- including about hiring. By studying trends, "employers are trying to predict specific outcomes, such as whether a prospective hire will quit too soon, file disability claims or steal," according to The Wall Street Journal.

One of the leaders in this field, Evolv Inc., or Evolv on Demand, has begun selling to employers. Here are four insights that the San Francisco-based workplace performance solutions company has gleaned, busting several myths in the process:

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1. Internet enthusiasts make better employees. In studying the actions of 30,000 employees, Evolv noticed that workers who use Internet browsers that did not automatically come installed with their computers both performed better and changed jobs less often. Why? The Economist notes that it may just be a "coincidence," but workers who download Firefox or Chrome "may be the sort who take the time to reach informed decisions."

​2. The long-term unemployed are just as capable. Discrimination against the long-term unemployed is a well-established phenomenon of the financial crisis. But the correlation between being out of work and being a good worker is nonexistent for workers out of work for 27 weeks or longer, Jim Meyerle, a co-founder of Evolv, explained to Forbes. Workers who have been out of work for more than six months, and then land a job, tend to stay on in their new jobs just as long as workers who haven't had to endure long-term unemployment.

3. A criminal background is an asset in some careers.Discrimination against job hunters with criminal records is pervasive. But data analysis shows that a criminal background has no bearing on a worker's performance or ability to stick with a job. In fact, the data show that a criminal background can be helpful; ex-convicts actually perform slightly better when it comes to customer-support call center work.

4. Honesty matters a lot more than experience. For its 48,700 call-center jobs, Xerox Corp. had long focused on job applicants' experience. But after signing up with Evolv, Xerox began hiring based on results of personality tests. After a six-month trial, Xerox was able to cut the rate of workers quitting by 20 percent. What kind of questions do the tests focus on? One major issue is honesty. The tests often ask an applicant to assess their ability to work with computers. And then the survey asks: "What does control-V do on a word-processing program?"
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