An HR Algorithm to Evaluate Job Candidates–With or Without a Resume

by   |   January 28, 2013 6:41 pm   |   0 Comments

The HR evaluation test developed by includes questions like the one above, where candidates are asked to identify the missing shape. For the answer to this question, see below.

The HR evaluation test developed by includes questions like the one above, where candidates are asked to identify the missing shape. For the answer to this question, see below.

Neil MacGregor of

Neil MacGregor of

Human resources departments are being flooded with resumes, making it more difficult than ever for companies to find the best job candidates. In fact, the average employer receives 144 resumes per job opening, according to market research firm Aberdeen Group.

“Today’s job market is a world of people throwing applications into the bin which is problematic from an employer’s perspective,” says Neil MacGregor, co-founder of, a Toronto-based provider of employment assessment software.

Companies have long relied on assessment tools to select the best resumes, choose candidates to interview and match personality types to job positions. And while many companies are turning to software tools that quickly identify the best candidates, the evaluation process has challenges in both the sequence of actions by HR and the quality of execution for each step.

“The question is whether they sourced the right candidates, looked for the right things while interviewing candidates, and looked for the right things during the second round of interviews,” MacGregor says, adding that each of those decision-making processes leaves room for error.

Many of today’s tools are designed to measure a candidate’s moral code, career ambitions, work history and education rather than their cognitive abilities, work ethic and problem-solving skills. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, for example, assesses an individual’s psychological type. Hiring tool ClearFit, on the other hand, measures how motivated candidates are.

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Read more» hopes to address what its founders see as a gap in existing tools with software that screens candidates earlier than ever—before an HR manager even reads over a resume. The Toronto-based startup has created an online survey that asks candidates to answer a series of questions in order to apply for a position. For example, to test IQ, the survey asks applicants to determine the missing piece from a particular geometric shape. Winning personality traits, on the other hand, are identified by requesting that candidates rank a set of priorities or workplace scenarios in order of personal importance.

To date, about 10,000 people have taken the assessment and nearly 1,000 candidates complete the test’s 81 questions each month. Each individual is assigned six scores based on personality, cognitive ability and workplace performance, resulting in more than 80,000 individual scores or unique data points.

Using a proprietary algorithm, then crunches these data points to determine which applicants are the best fit for a particular job based on a powerful combination of management skills, work ethic, IQ, and personality traits such as conscientiousness and agreeableness. The test is based on research conducted by University of Toronto professor of psychology and co-founder Dr. Jordan Peterson, whose work explores the correlation between certain personality traits and job success.

“We are assessing candidates for the greatest predictors of success based on what the evidence has shown,” says MacGregor. “What’s getting assessed is not an individual’s background knowledge or history or what they’re capable of memorizing in school. What we’re looking for is a quick correlation between success and a candidate’s predicted performance.”

For example, MacGregor says, “Individuals who have both high levels of problem-solving ability and a strong work ethic perform 19 percent better than average workers in low-skill jobs. But as jobs get more complicated, that figure jumps up to 48 percent more effective than the average. The reason for that is that these jobs start to get so much more complicated that the average person can’t keep up.”

Traits to Fit the Job

If you’re the manager of a fast-food chain looking to hire a burger flipper, MacGregor says identifying individuals with the perfect combination of skills can make a difference in terms of productivity. But for companies eager to fill managerial or C-level positions, that 48 percent spike in effectiveness can have a huge impact on productivity, sales and job satisfaction.

By identifying candidates with just the right mix of smarts and determination, believes it can help companies find the right candidates before the real weeding process even begins. But there is a downside to presenting a job seeker with an 81-question exam straight out of the start gate. For one, MacGregor says about 10 to 15 percent of potential job applicants bail on the survey before even getting started.

And no amount of psychometrics can compensate for hiring a candidate that’s a poor cultural or personality fit for a company. “Whomever you decide to hire, you’re going to be working with them probably more than you see your spouse and children so it’s really important that you like them,” warns MacGregor. But for a quick crunch of all the HR data pouring into companies today, MacGregor says can create “a shortlist of great people that a company should meet with.”

Those people might include those who correctly answered the question in the illustration above with number 7.

Cindy Waxer, a contributing editor who covers workforce analytics and other topics for Data Informed, is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and a contributor to publications including The Economist and MIT Technology Review. She can be reached at or via Twitter @Cwaxer.

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