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Can an app warn you before you hire a bosshole?

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Can an app warn you before you hire a bosshole?

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Last week I looked at the role narcissism plays in leadership, and whilst research suggests that a little narcissism is required to be a good leader, there are undoubtedly many instances where people take their ego a bit too far.  Indeed, such is the prevalence of this in the workplace that Stanford professor Bob Sutton coined the term Bosshole to describe such an individual.

What is equally undeniable is the rise of computer algorithms designed to help recruiters make better hiring decisions.  Can a computer help to prevent you from hiring a bosshole?

Researchers from Binghamton University sought to find out.  They have developed a content analysis tool that they believe reliably measures narcissistic and psychopathic traits in leaders.  The tool contains a collection of words, phrases and rules that they believe help it to predict such negative personality traits.

These typically consist of words or phrases that focus on the self, although also contains words related to other personality traits.

“For example, one form of narcissism, called confident of grandiose narcissism depends on extraversion, so the program looks for words indicating exaggeration, confidence, enthusiasm, and energy,” the researchers said. “Another statistical program combines the self-focus words with the extraversion words to produce a measure of extraverted or grandiose narcissism.”

The program will also hunt for words related to neuroticism, which combined with the self-focused words creates a narcissism score for each individual.

To create their score, the researchers analysed around 1,800 publicly available transcripts of television interviews and conference calls with analysts, together with print interviews with over 150 CEOs of large companies.  So they’ve done their best to obtain authentic text rather than anything crafted by a PR team.  The hope is that boards can use such a tool to predict when a potential recruit may be a bosshole and stay well clear.

“Perhaps the ultimate use of this research may be to encourage boards of directors making hiring decisions, particularly CEOs, to look closely at candidates’ personality characteristics, including traits of psychopathy, grandiose narcissism and covert or defensive narcissism, as well as other information, such as track records,” they said. “This study found there is a reliable and valid way to measure these personality tendencies.”

I suppose of greater interest is whether, with the vast amount of social data available online, similar analysis can be done against potential recruits throughout the organisation.  Given the type of things many people post on Facebook et al, such an application might quickly find itself burnt out through overuse.

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