Imagine a world where you are nothing but a number, a score. The amount of money and the jobs you get are all determined by the score you’ve built throughout your time in school and other jobs. Some people start off with a higher score than others, based on their parent’s scores. Some are given fewer opportunities to increase their score and so end up with lower scores. Technically anyone can earn a high score, but realistically it’s those that start off with a higher number and have more opportunities to increase that number who end up “winning”.
As grim and unfair as this sounds, it’s not far off from reality. From a young age, the importance of good numbers is instilled in us. Good grades and good standardized test scores lead to a college with a good ranking, which then leads to a high-paying job. Each opportunity you get is based on the number before, and when you enter the workforce your report card is replaced by your resume. In this system it is easy to forget that you’re a person, not a number, and that your number may not be the best predictor of success at any given company. Companies need great talent to succeed. There are numerous research studies, and plain old common sense, that indicate a company’s talent is a key part to their success, yet when it comes to hiring they rely on the easy numbers (SATs, GPAs, etc) to predict “talent,” despite all the evidence that they aren’t great predictors and are often skewed. The SAT for example, “consistently underpredicts how women and non-whites will perform in college,” as Laszlo Bock, Google’s SVP of people ops points out in his book “Work Rules.” Google analytics have concluded that a candidate’s “academic performance doesn’t predict job performance beyond the first two or three years after college.” Companies know that the best students don’t always make the best hires, but they don’t have a better proxy.
So what is the best proxy? At Scouted we’re modernizing the entry-level recruitment process by holistically evaluating what each candidate is like. Taking into consideration their “soft-skills” along with their GPA and school helps us better determine if they’re the right hire. We are uncovering the “drivers” behind a person’s score. What score did that person start off with and how did they work with the opportunities they had? What are the candidate’s values and abilities? How does that fit into company culture and the demands of their role? Not taking these factors into account when recruiting and hiring young talent hurts not only the company, who’s missing out on potentially strong candidates, but the candidate as well, who is more likely to quit their job within the first year because it wasn’t the right fit. This cycle wastes everyone’s time and money.
One quality that our founders have consistently seen in their best hires is grit. Angela Duckworth, the University of Pennsylvania psychologist who coined the term, defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” Grit goes beyond talent and self-control, it is unswerving dedication to achieve something no matter the obstacles. Duckworth argues that it is the grittiest kids, not the most intelligent, who are the most successful in school and life. Jeffrey Selingo’s argument reiterates that the most important skills needed to succeed in life (EQ, grit, communication etc.) aren’t the ones being taught and graded in schools. David Levin, the co-founder ofKIPP charter schools also saw the importance of strong character in his underprivileged NYC students, “the students who persisted in college were not necessarily the ones who had excelled academically at KIPP; they were the ones with exceptional character strengths, like optimism and persistence and social intelligence.”
This observation is consistent with what one of our founders, Robin Levine, has found in her fifteen years in the hiring world, first at Bridgewater Associates, one of the largest hedge funds and then at her own company, Scouted. Levine talks about how time and time again she sees underprivileged, high achieving students struggle in college:
“We would see kids from programs that focus on helping underprivileged students get into these elite colleges after being “rockstars” in high school. These students were special and had enough grit to find themselves in these highly competitive programs. But once they got to college, a majority of the time their grades systematically skew lower.”
She was frustrated by the thought that these students who had made it into elite colleges against all odds still floundered. And even if they did make it to graduation, their grades would work against them when applying for jobs they were otherwise perfectly qualified for.
“The top level indicators don’t show what’s going on in that underprivileged student’s life. If you keep using a bias screen you’re gonna keep getting a biased outcome. The same thing is true though if you don’t get a diverse input, you won’t get a diverse output.”
The question then becomes how can the underprivileged students’, and anyone’s, strengths and abilities be reflected in their “score”? Is there a way to quantify or “grade” students on the soft skills they excel in? Thejury is still out on that one, mainly because there’s no way to standardize the assessment of these traits. Meanwhile bigger colleges and companies such as Google are starting to see the value in assessing a candidate holistically and taking their scores with a grain of salt. Most college applications include multiple essay portions where applicants can tell their story and potentially give context to their scores. Google moved away from hiring the graduates from the best colleges with the best grades and the most prestigious jobs, instead they worked to find the brightest people who would fit in well with Google’s culture, they assess their “Googliness.” This approach has proven to produce better results, allowing for more diversity and higher retention.
However, contextualizing each and every applicant can be a strain on resources, which is why hiring managers need to rely on a superficial score. Scouted was created to help recent graduates with this issue. Their lack of experience means the only credibility they have is their score, and when that doesn’t show their values and abilities, their job options can be severely limited. Our founder’s years of experience and unique approach gives them credibility in the eyes of companies, allowing them to vouch for candidates and help them stand out as more than a number.
Levine explains Scouted’s philosophy, “Fundamentally, we care about who you are and what you’re like, and I don’t think resumes tell that well. I don’t think any one indicator tells that well. What I really want to get at is the underlying drivers, those attributes that make up a person. Once you’re getting at that you are getting at the context of a person; what opportunities they were exposed to, how they handled them and what they did to overcome hardships in their life. This all gives you a better picture of their story and how they think. These tools are going to get at who they are, not what their background has allowed them to achieve, whatever that background is.”
Learn more about Scouted on our website: scouted.io
To read the full interview with Scouted’s founders click here.