In the wake of 911, a debate is raging about the government’s right to store our phone messages and emails indefinitely. At the same time, there’s a deafening silence about similar intrusions from the private sector. Everyone knows that “cookies” follow us when we shop the internet, but two writers, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Christopher Steinmetz, have uncovered the lengths to which employers go to learn about job applicants. (“The Perfect Hire,” by Tomas Chamorrow-Premuzic and Christopher Steinmetz, Scientific American Mind, July/Aug. 2013, pg. 43) These probes extend far beyond looking into our the social networks and once uncovered, the information is often turned over to psychologists who work up a profile.
A 2010 study at the University of Colorado at Boulder, for example, analyzed 695 blogs against the personality test given to their creators. From the study they concluded that “neurotic bloggers commonly used words such as ‘afraid’ and ‘lazy’.” Agreeable writers used words like “wonderful” and “completed.” (Ibid pg. 45)
Analysis is so much a part of the hiring process that software packages have been developed to assist in the work. TweetPsych and YouAreWhatYouLike are two, free, online sites that purport to catch most human traits, from negativity to whether a person is calm and well organized. (Ibid. pg. 45) Some of this software even claims to capture IQ. Watching The Colbert Report, for example, is an upward indicator.
People who play games on the internet are also exploited. The theory behind this kind of analysis is called “gamification.” According to Charmorro-Premuzic and Steinmetz, by “applying behavioral theories to a player’s actions during the game, the software can generate a complex personality profile for the user.” (Ibid, pg. 47)
Software like Klout and Topsy are other analysis tools. They web crawl searching for comments made by an applicant’s peers. The information is then used to assess leadership skills and affability.
Of course, the job seeker isn’t defenseless. Software follows the money. That’s how Wasabi Waiter came into being. It’s a game offered by Knack in Palo Alto, California that teaches a person how to enhance his or her profile to match required work skills.
Let’s face it, whether the government spies on us for its war on terror or the local supermarket does it to sell watermelons, in this brave new world, we are not alone.
(Courtesy of www.prwatch.org)