Tech Insights: The Scariest Thing I Saw at the Las Vegas Conference

Nov 11, 2014

There is a lot to report from the recent HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas, and I’ll start with the category “Scariest in Show” — and the winner is Gild.

Gild Source is, on the surface, just a really good tool for finding software developers. It scours the web for information about passive candidates and presents it to recruiters in a useful way.

What makes Gild special is that it uses algorithms to assess the programmer’s expertise, the likely demand for someone with those skills, their social media footprint and their likely availability. Gild is not just finding people, or finding data about people, it is making sense of that data.

An algorithmic assessment of talent

The history of smart software is a history of overblown expectations (starting with programs like Eliza that appeared to be a thoughtful conversationalist, but was just a parlor trick). However, in Gild’s case I think the potential is under-hyped.

Gild never says this, but personally I suspect its algorithmic assessment of talent will be better than many professional recruiters. The software seeks out actual examples of a person’s code and evaluates it; it looks at factors like time in job and industry to assess how likely they are to be open to an offer; it gleans insight from the person’s activity on social media.

These are all things a good recruiter might do, but a recruiter can’t dig this deep into tens of thousands of candidates as an algorithm can. The tool is meant to empower recruiters not replace them, but I’ll bet one good IT recruiter with Gild can replace half-a-dozen mediocre ones.

The domain of developers is particularly well suited to this kind of automated assessment because it is a tightly bounded domain and because so much information is available online. But hold your breath — Gild is bringing the same approach to other professions and it will be interesting to see what their data scientists come up with.

What is interesting?

  • It’s interesting how this competitor to job boards comes “out of the blue” with a new way of finding and assessing candidates.
  • Here is a software company whose competitive edge comes not so much from the skills of its programmers as the skills of the data scientists who build the algorithms.

What is really important?

• Why is Gild really scary (but in a really good way)? Software is close to being, or maybe already is, capable of outperforming recruiters in assessing the quality of a candidate. That is scary stuff. What else will smart software be able to do?

We’re moving past the days when the cool thing about HR software was that it made administration more efficient. It’s getting smart, and we’d better get pretty smart, too.