Are you ready for algorithms that judge your character?

Filling in the gaps by researching a candidate’s online records

Who isn’t concerned about the continued erosion of personal privacy in our “Brave, New (digital) World?” Even if you take all possible precautions–short of hanging out on the ‘Dark Internet’ (not a good idea), public and private institutions know more about you than you can imagine.

Is this always a bad thing? Surprisingly, new Internet algorithms designed to evaluate personal character for credit and other kinds of screening may be more fair and accurate than traditional methods.

Determining the credit risk of young people with no financial history

For example, how can lending companies fairly evaluate the credit worthiness of recent graduates who have never had a mortgage or car payments? Companies like Upstart, and ZestFinance are now filling in the gaps by researching a candidate’s SAT scores, quality of university attended, major, and grade-point averages. Validated data show that these variables correlate with the importance people place on their academic obligations and, hence, help predict their credit worthiness. Of course, there’s a clear difference between one’s willingness and ability to meet responsibilities, something that will require more sophisticated measures.

Zest differentiates between those who have had temporary bad luck, e.g., a one-time medical expense, and those who have a history of dodging and weaving obligations. Traditional tracking systems don’t.

Another critical ‘signal’ of credit worthiness is whether a young person has a history of dropping prepaid phone numbers. Because it’s so easy to track people via cell number, those who change them frequently often want to be invisible to family, friends and creditors.

'On my summer vacation I wrote a computer algorithm. I sold it, for thirty million dollars, to a social networking website.'

‘On my summer vacation I wrote a computer algorithm. I sold it, for thirty million dollars, to a social networking website.’

Better than traditional evaluation criteria for hiring and firing?

Selection criteria in many areas of life are still largely based on face-to-face subjective first impressions. A large body of research confirms that managers hire those most like themselves, often with disappointing outcomes. Fortunately, more objective predictors of candidates’ likely job performance are beginning to emerge–with more focus on interpersonal skills via Emotional Intelligence and similar assessments

Job performance metrics aren’t new. Digitization, however, is giving employers more comprehensive, objective system for evaluating performance. Workday, for example, incorporates 45 employee performance measures in its HR software–predicting things like the likelihood an employee will quit with strategies for retaining valuable employees who may be thinking of bailing.

It’s a win-win when employers fully disclose how performance tracking metrics that define successful job performance. Sales staff, for example, need to understand the critical importance of tenacity (first defined in Martin Seligman’s classic 1991 book “Learned Optimism”). –If employees find it difficult to adopt traits that determine success, they have greater incentive to move on to work that is a better fit for their talents.

Next, I’ll discuss how computer-based metrics and apps like Gigwalk are shaping the future of finding employment and strategizing career success.

More objective decisions within a wide range of domains

So far, I described how digital character assessments are shaping the future of credit screening and employee evaluations. Related metric-based apps are also creating new ways for employers to hire employees, for job seekers to gain employment, and for all of us to strategize long-term career success.

Databased character judgments promise fairer, more objective decisions within a wide range of domains, including things like predicting criminal behavior. For example, judges have fleeting minutes to decide whether someone is a risk to society. Initial research shows that data-driven analysis is 30% better at predicting crime than judges.

Gigwalk, the job hunting/hiring app, is one of many seeking to dominate the market

Gigwalk (AAPL) is a highly successful smartphone-based app that has connected almost 6,000 companies, including Microsoft, BMW and eBay, to over 4 million temp jobs in the past 5 years. Active in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., pay averages $12 to $15 per hour with compensation made via PayPal. This service has been exclusively iPhone-based, but is now available on the Google android platform.

Employers use Gigwalk to track their part time employees’ productivity with GPS. Over time, Gigwalk creates a profile for each worker that determines the frequency and level of future assignments. Which raises the question–Is this information adequately protected? If not, it’s easy to imagine a future in which a person’s work performance metrics will be as easy to access as their credit rating. Gigwalk performance ratings comprise an extensive dossier of information, including things like reliability and degree of complexity mastered.

Regardless of privacy, the consensus among tech futurists is that most work will eventually be project-based, with full time work becoming the exception. They claim this will bring advantages, e.g., a greater potential for creativity, the satisfaction of discovering new abilities, and (ideally) more recreational time. This can’t happen, however, without a radical shift in culture and policy. Specifically, the federal government would have to legislate a guaranteed minimum income. Otherwise, shrinking demand for products/housing/services would devastate our economy. The same dynamic would apply to all Developed World economies.

Who will become the amazon of employment services?

Posting and finding work online is as old as Craigslist, introduced in the 1990s. But services like Gigwalk, and similar smartphone-based services are much more sophisticated, allowing folks to post jobs any time of the day, track their employees’ locations, evaluate them and make payments by phone or over the web.

TaskRabbit, also launched five years ago, helps individuals reach out online to contractors, aka “taskers,” for short-term gigs in their most popular categories–handyman, house cleaning, moving, and personal assistants. After you submit a job description, TaskRabbit provides you information on three contractors with their corresponding individual hourly rates and experience. You then communicate with your chosen tasker using the company’s messaging platform. Similar services like HandyBook and Thumbtack specialize in connecting people with professional services centered around the home. Thumbtack, for example, is available in all 50 states with 63,000 businesses using its platform. There are many similar “verticals” now specializing in other areas of work.

The market for these services is growing so rapidly that a dominant player like Amazon may never emerge.

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