In the summer of 2012, the San Francisco tech start-up Gild offered a job to 26-year-old Jade Dominguez. Dominguez didn’t have a college degree — and he hadn’t even applied for a job with the company. Why did Gild make him an offer? The company harnesses big data to look for the Internet’s most qualified workers, rather than relying on resumes, outdated credentials, or a human resources department. As it turns out, big data thought Dominguez was the best man for the job.
“[Gild] scours the Internet for talent by crunching all kinds of information, publicly accessible information, and it had identified this man, Jade Dominguez, as potentially brilliant,” explains The New York Times’ Matt Richtel.
In Dominguez’s case, Gild used an algorithm to figure out the quality of his programming and his reputation — the high tech equivalent of looking at a job applicant’s references. The search found that the 26-year-old was incredibly talented, regardless of whether he had been to a prestigious college or worked at a reputable company.
So is this the end of the resume? Could these algorithms render your Ivy League diploma obsolete? Not so fast, says Richtel. Gild’s methods are impressive, but the company has a long way to go in order for its findings to be applicable in businesses around the world. For example, the data search might find a person who is brilliant at coding but is a bit of an unreliable wildcard — not a good fit for most corporate workplaces.
“This is very embryonic,” Richtel explains. “A lot of people think there’s a lot of promise to the idea that you can make a determination about someone’s talent outside these traditional [credentials] … others believe that Harvard, Stanford, working at Google are not merely important things on a resume, and they don’t merely show a certain kind of aptitude, but in fact they tell you lot about a person’s ability to work with other people.”
For now, Gild’s algorithm can only be put to work for fields like computer programming, which are easily quantified and have an extensive web trail. So you can breathe easy, PR executives and investment bankers. Your time has not yet come — but Gild hopes it will come, and soon.
“The people who work on these programs think that, eventually, they will be able to develop programs to assess talent [across] wide-ranging areas,” Richtel says. “For instance, imagine journalism. For me, that seems like the hardest thing to rank because it’s nuance, and language, and emotion. But they say that computer measurement tools [for journalism] are very far along.”
The bell, it seems, tolls for us all.