Finding and promoting talented individuals – simply and digitally

Digital blind auditions Finding and promoting talented individuals – simply and digitally

Published on 28.09.2020, Esther-Mirjam de Boer

Diversity made easy: if we actually concentrate on suitability when hiring and promoting, people who don’t fit the standard pattern have better opportunities. This encourages a good corporate culture and commercial success while promoting diversity. Virtual instruments can help us make smart personnel decisions while improving the cultural mix.

It was an AI application dream: simply scan a CV and know at the touch of a button who is suited to which position. But as we now know, this dream has not come to pass. CVs are not suitable sources of information for automated suitability diagnostics in the field of recruitment. On the contrary: artificial intelligence actually reinforces inequality. It systematically gives preference to certain groups of individuals based on characteristics which say nothing about their suitability for a position such as gender, skin colour, age, origin, marital status. Similar to what we people do, only worse. Artificial intelligence reinforces human bias in that it first learns from us and then applies this knowledge to perfection.

How does digital talent recognition actually work?

The key to success is to measure those characteristics and types of behaviour that actually shed light on leadership potential, the ability to cooperate and integrity in interpersonal conduct, in-built disposition towards certain attitudes and general intelligence. These are far more reliable predictors of whether a person will truly be able to perform in a given position and within a team than a diploma and professional experience. But that’s not to say a diploma isn’t important! Staff hired to do accounting must be able to do accounting. That much is clear. The matter is nevertheless more difficult when it comes to managerial responsibility. A leadership course does not a leader make. And even those who have been at the head of a large number of employees for many years don’t necessarily do it effectively or successfully. And a charming self-promoter can rise easily through the ranks, but is that good for the company?

How do you measure suitability? And what’s more digitally?

Let’s imagine one position with a hundred applicants. In the analogue world, we have our formula for what we’re looking for and sort candidates accordingly: the good ones go through to the next stage, the bad ones are eliminated. In doing this, we can be distracted by disruptive information: is the candidate a woman with small children? No, she has other priorities. A newly married man? Yes, so he needs to bring home the bacon and will put the effort in. His wife? No, she’ll likely get pregnant soon. Milosevic? No (not with that name...). A French native speaker? Hmm, they don’t speak any Swiss German – no. And so forth. Appealing photos can be seen as a plus while lots of spelling errors are a disadvantage, even though dyslexia doesn’t say anything about intelligence or performance.

In the new world, we measure candidates using “digital blind auditions” to see whether they’re team players or not. Whether they are predisposed to be supportive and cooperative, or if they’re too egocentric and lacking in consideration. Someone being biased against different types of people is a decisive indicator of future teamwork. Prejudices restrict the potential of entire teams. We also measure the extent to which the candidate can find her way productively in a world of complex relationships, contradictions, uncertainties and dependencies. Soft factors are the new hard facts. But soft factors aren’t visible in CVs or LinkedIn profiles.

Soft factors are so crucial to hiring and promotion decisions because they’re very hard to train for compared to a foreign language, balance sheet analysis and other specialist skills.

HR consultants using psychometric instruments to measure the personality and performance motivation of candidates is nothing new. What’s new about digital blind auditions is that we can conduct them simultaneously on many more candidates and at a lower price than by calling on expensive assessment centers. What is the point of sending the final two candidates for assessment when the wrong decision has already been made and the valuable, talented individual is no longer on the shortlist? This is why we get involved in the process at an earlier stage.

Digital suitability diagnostics makes it possible to identify initial signs of personality profiles as early as the application process and to create a preliminary shortlist based on these findings. This means promising “wild cards” can be kept in the process and, by means of a digital blind audition, systematically compared with more obvious specialists with respect to their potential. This gives rise to well-informed, systematic personnel decisions that focus on suitability and exclude disruptive information.

The procedure is based on findings from behavioural research and psychology and also leads to increased diversity and team performance.

Unfortunately, Connecta cannot be held as planned. Esther-Mirjam de Boer would have been one of the 80 speakers. An alternative programme is available through Connecta TV, Doc and Talk – find out more at:

Literature references
  • “What works – gender equality by design” - Prof. Dr Iris Bohnet
  • “The talent dilution – why data, not intuition, is key to unlocking human potential” - Prof. Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
  • “Why so many incompetent men become leaders – and how to fix it” - Prof. Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
  • “An everyone culture – becoming a deliberately developmental organization” - Robert Kegan & Lisa Laskow Lahey
  • “Upgrade – building your capacity for complexity” - Richard Boston & Karen Ellis

Esther-Mirjam de Boer

Esther-Mirjam de Boer is the CEO of GetDiversity. She holds a portfolio of participations and board memberships and is active in promoting entrepreneurship among women. In her role as a columnist for the Handelszeitung business newspaper, she reflects upon politics and business in Switzerland. She also works as lecturer, speaker and moderator, highlighting diversity and leadership from a strategic perspective.

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