How Artificial Intelligence Reduces Hiring Mistakes

In Part One of this article series, I discussed the basics of using Artificial intelligence and the power of computers to solve hiring problems. Artificial intelligence (AI) programs are special types of computer programs that mimic the function of the human brain. AI excels at finding hidden patterns among different pieces of information. Here is one application where AI was put into practice. One of my clients is in the business of providing medical technician services to companies, communities, hospitals, etc. They approached me a while ago to see if it was possible to solve some HR problems. But first some background. A medical technician (a.k.a. “paramedic”) is an exceptionally critical role. Med-techs are often first on the scene of an emergency and their decisions can mean life or death for a patient. Oftentimes, they will be dispatched to an illiterate crime-ridden section of the city (where they fear for their personal safety) then in the next hour to an exclusive neighborhood (where they must enter through the “servants” door). At other times, they may travel from a traffic accident where an entire family might have perished to a suburban home where a new child is being born. They work long hours, may not get bathroom or meal breaks, and are not paid very well for the responsibility they share. Med-techs do their work because they love the job. Med-techs also tend to turnover rapidly, are frequently late or absent from work, have interpersonal problems, and encounter difficulty reading road maps, to name a few difficulties. Could you imagine the value of a program that would predict some of these behaviors before hiring? That was the objective of our project. The Difference Between “Can Do” and “Will Do” Job performance is a combination of a person’s ability and their willingness to use that ability. An “underachiever” is someone who has the “ability” (“can do”) but not the motivation (“will do”). Perhaps some of you know this type of person? On the other hand, there are people who have great motivation, but little ability. I knew a salesman who was all “fire and lightning,” but refused to learn any technical “details” about his product. All that fire and lightning fizzled without direction. Know anyone like that? This part of our project involved discovering “will-do” factors that might predict success. We actually had fifteen different performance areas to look at, but we can make our point using these five examples:

  1. Read and use maps effectively
  2. Accurately complete forms, paperwork, and documentation in a timely manner
  3. Deal effectively with difficult patients, doctors, and others
  4. Always be on time
  5. Miss work rarely

Our challenge was to see if there were any hidden med-tech attitudes, interests and motivation (AIMs) patterns that could be linked to these areas. Measuring AIMs The first step in any scientific hiring approach is to use the right tool. In this case, we knew that job fit and job attitude were critical. Once you know a person has the ability (i.e., “can do”), research also shows that a person’s job fit and job attitude (i.e., “will do”) can make a 200% difference in job performance. So, we used a test we developed that measured six job-fit factors and three job-attitude factors. These factors were handpicked from established research that linked certain personality factors with job performance. The raw scores measured each of the following ten areas:

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  1. Problem Solving (PS). This factor provides information about a person’s attitude toward solving complicated problems. People with high scores tend to prefer jobs that require a mental challenge and enjoy using their minds to solve complex problems.
  2. Idea Generation/Innovation (IG). Not everyone likes jobs that require freethinking and creativity. Some people just want to produce a steady stream of traditional work. On the other hand, some organizations expect their people to continually generate new and better ways of producing work.
  3. Rule Following (RF). There are many jobs that require methodical administration and follow through to see that tasks are accomplished on time and on schedule. The traditional middle-management position requires maintenance and oversight of systems.
  4. Inflexibility (IN). Some jobs are steady while others change from day to day. People who thrive on fast pace and change enjoy jobs that challenge them to keep pace, while people who prefer stability would burn out with the pressure.
  5. Self Centeredness (SC). Being self-centered can be very damaging for both the organization and co-worker relationships. Self-centered people spend much of their time thinking about themselves and the impact of decisions on them personally instead of worrying about out producing and out-smarting the competition.
  6. Teamwork (TW). Teamwork has been linked to success in many organizations; however, managers are often surprised to find that some people prefer to work by themselves. People who enjoy working in teams are naturally more productive and satisfied when working closely with other people.
  7. Expressiveness (EX). There are many jobs that require outgoing personalities, such as selling, management, public relations, or jobs that require positive public contact. People who score high on expressiveness label themselves as outgoing and having many social contacts.
  8. Impulsiveness (IM). Jobs that require fast decisions and quick actions require people who enjoy that type of environment. Too much impulsiveness, however, can lead to the “ready, fire, aim” syndrome.
  9. Perfectionism (PE). A small amount of perfectionism goes a long way. But people with high perfection scores may never be satisfied enough with the final product, causing unnecessary delays and reductions in output.
  10. Attitude Toward Work (AW). For some people, the office is a battleground between “good” and “evil.” These people are either unable or unwilling to pull together for the common good or focus on the primary importance of the customer.

After we collected test results from 85 current Med-Techs, we compared their scores with job ratings from their managers. When the analysis was finished, we had the following results (“Low” values are not shown as blanks).

Pattern Accuracy –> 67% 72% 80% 80% 78%
Skill Read and use maps effectively Accurately complete forms, paperwork and documentation in a timely manner Deal effectively with difficult patients, doctors, and others Always be on time Miss work rarely
Problem Solving High ? ? High High
Idea Generation; ? Mod ? ? Mod
Administration High Mod ? Mod High
Resistance to Change Mod ? ? ? High
Team Work ? ? High ? ?
Expressiveness ? Mod High Mod ?
Impulsiveness ? Mod Mod ? ?
Perfectionism ? ? ? Mod Mod
Attitude Toward Work High Mod ? Mod ?
Self-Centeredness ? ? ? Mod ?

Our AI program found certain attitude, interest and motivation (AIM) patterns that applied to 67% to 80% of the current med-techs. We also saw that AIM factors tended to combine and recombine depending on the task. Problem Solving, for example, was a strong predictor of three areas, but not two. This means that simply “eyeballing” test factors to make a performance prediction would be essentially worthless. Using AI to examine and understand intricacies of the hiring process has a clear and obvious application that can translate into big dollar savings in turnover, service, and training.