There’s always been an element of randomness to finding a job. Maybe you saw an ad in the paper, or knew someone who knew someone, or sent a lucky email. It could be that you ended up in a career you never would have anticipated, or like one-third of college-educated workers, a field you didn’t major in. Serendipity isn’t always a bad thing; how often do we really know what we want?
Hans Haringa had no idea what he wanted until Knack -- a Silicon Valley start-up -- told him. The Atlantic Monthly relates how, by analyzing two decades’ worth of data, Knack was able to show the Royal Dutch Shell executive what traits he had been unconsciously looking for in new hires: social intelligence, conscientiousness, and a tendency to let the mind wander (and thus stay open to possibilities), for example. Now, Haringa can “avoid wasting time” on the 80% of applicants who don’t fit that profile. Conversely, 100% of applicants now know what traits to list on their résumé -- and if they didn’t, Knack could probably tell them.
So much for serendipity. These days, employers are leveraging data in their quests to find the perfect candidate. Employees are also turning to data in their quests to appear perfect. The result is something like the SAT test we all took in high school: a measure, not of intelligence, but of the ability to afford a prep course.