Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Potential employers looking you right in the FACEbook

Be careful what you say on Facebook; the world is watching. And so is Austen Mance.

Austen has launched a tech startup called Enlistics. It’s a tech company that describes itself as "a comprehensive hiring system for the trucking industry." Enlistics uses data to analyze driver candidates and recommend who a carrier should hire and who they should not.

How does Enlistics gather data?

According to an Enlistics press release, the company "automatically scrapes applicants' social media posts for phrases known to predict future success or failure."

Social media in this case means Facebook, Austen explained. If your profile is public, Enlistics looks for words and phrases that might indicate your prevailing attitudes. For instance, Austen’s release says, “one such ‘bad’ phrase known to correlate with employee turnover is ‘I’m so drunk …’”

Austen was attending the University of Chicago when a friend was fired from a sales job at a car dealership after two months. The friend told Austen dealership sales turnover was about 60 percent. Mance saw an opportunity. He developed the Facebook scraping system that won the 2014 University of Chicago Venture Challenge competition. Austen claims Facebook scraping significantly improved employee retention at a number of car dealerships.

Austen said interesting statistics had emerged from earlier research. For example, Austen told a Chicago publication in 2014, intelligent, aggressive people likely to succeed at car sales tend to like curly fries.

It didn't take long for Austen to discover trucking has a turnover problem too. So he is now working with carriers to develop the data for driver candidate selection. He will use Facebook data here as well.

"Ninety percent of truck drivers are on Facebook," Mance said.

Besides posts about being drunk, Austen looks for phrases that include words like “I’m sick of...” or “I’m tired of …” One or two instances of a phrase like that won't really hurt you much, he explained. But if they pop up often, you might get flagged.

Austen says he looks for positive phrases too, something about a favorite sports team win maybe. Here his research led to an interesting observation.

“People who root for local teams are rated positively,” he said. “People who root for out-of-town teams are not.”

Enlistics promises that only its computer algorithms see the Facebook data, not the carriers, not even Enlistics people. The algorithm, it says, excludes whatever might indicate religion or politics.

For now, at least, Enlistics is a pilot program looking for carriers to help out with data collection. “We need example driver applications flowing through our system before we can make predictions,” the Enlistics website says.

Who is Enlistics working with?

A few carriers who would rather their names not be mentioned, Austen said – except for one. “Pitt Ohio,” he said.

Pitt-Ohio is an LTL, I pointed out. Is he working with any truckload carriers?

“Not yet,” Austen said.

Enlistics has yet to venture where the real turnover is.

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