Elan Pratzer on beta testing hiring software that will identify leadership readiness to succeed at the highest levels

The main selling point of AI-powered recruiting software is its supposed elimination of human biases like racism, a preference for one set of skills over another, perhaps even a lack of attention to it. ‘a tired HR manager reading another resume.

Critics argue that AI is only as good as the data it powers, and that AI has great potential to simply perpetuate the biases passed to it by programmers.

Elan Pratzer, founder of System-3 and veteran of the executive search industry, is keenly aware of this criticism. Through its extensive work prototyping the System-3, described as a predictive and unbiased software-as-a-service solution to identify executive leadership potential, Pratzer and his team seek to avoid bias while helping companies find a perfect (and perhaps unexpected) worthy of their upper echelons.

While System-3 is still in the beta testing phase, Pratzer believes that the high quality and quantity of data collected by its team, as well as its extensive experience in executive search, will help avoid bias. He told the Star about his approach:

You have been working in executive search since the age of 19. What convinced you that it was important to create software to help with executive search?

Through my experience in executive search as, possibly, one of the oldest in the industry at this point in my life, I have learned a lot about how the selection is made and the mistakes we make. let’s commit. I think there is something we can do to improve the success rate. And I think we can also improve the pipeline of deserving candidates from minority groups and women. I have seen what holds back minorities and what prevents women from having equal representation in management, the executive level and the board of directors.

I’ve had so many times over the past 10 years where clients really wanted to hire minorities, or they wanted to hire women. They told me specifically – and every executive searcher has had this experience – “Please find someone from a group that deserves equity, or from a group that is not properly represented, or you that we properly reflect the company in our executive suite and board levels. A lot of the clients I have worked with in my life have really wanted this in their policy and, I think, in their hearts.

What keeps them from achieving their goals, often, is that most talent selections are made on (the basis of) “have you done it before?” “Not” can you do it? At this point in our society, there are not enough talented young people and talented people from minority groups who have ‘done it before’ to meet the need that organizations have for their executive, leadership and leadership. of their board of directors. I would say we can improve the pool of people available to us if you focus more on their skills, not on whether they already have.

What skills are you interested in?

If I’m an organization, I want to see who’s ready for leadership – the special ingredient that makes them uniquely qualified to serve on the leadership, the board, or the board. A lot of people have the technical skills. Overall, you know what those tech skills are and if they are up to the challenge. What you don’t know when you look at someone who has never been at this level before is what they do when they sit in front of a board and have to respond. It’s another type of ability – what I call the leadership readiness ability.

When you tell me “what’s the secret sauce?” I’ll tell you what we did. We have spent a great deal of time and effort with a number of PhDs doing a meta-study of the most well-known and respected leadership studies conducted across the world over the past 10 years. We took it deeper into it to make sure we were comparing apples to apples and looked for KPIs (key performance indicators) – real things that we could measure success against. And we took those meta-studies and then came to what we thought were, ultimately, through a lot of deliberation, the seven key skills that we think are indicative of real success and real success. leadership. We did an academic review of the materials and spent a lot of time making sure we didn’t include any skills that had bias implications.

The second thing we did was make it predictive. Science suggests that the best way to predict behavior isn’t just through past behavior, because we’re talking about your ability to manifest those leadership skills under pressure. We basically put them in a simulation that is, in effect, two days in the life of an executive. We think we can predict whether or not you not only have these skills, but whether you will manifest them under pressure.

About this simulation – what kind of tasks are you asking people to do?

We interviewed dozens of executives at the highest levels and told them to share your toughest decisions with us, through some of the toughest things you’ve had to make. How did you make this decision? Are you comfortable with the decision you have made? I also took into account my own knowledge, having worked with senior executives all my life in interview-like situations. You collect a lot of stories; you learn a lot. These are the kinds of scenarios we use. We woven them in two days.

What is the third part of System-3? Number one is science, number two has to be predictive. Third, we are not going to be human judgment alone. We will automate the result. People, for all their good intentions, are full of all kinds of prejudices. I’m not using the word prejudice on purpose.

Systems must be imbued with human knowledge. You need to infuse him with information that is unbiased, so that he doesn’t make a biased decision, which is the big complaint about AI right now in the hiring process, that AI is only showing this. than we have done before. Well, that’s because you’re infusing them with that data and you shouldn’t be.

What we have done at System-3 is, first of all, that we have an advisory committee made up of people in leadership positions and coming from various backgrounds. We cleaned our data for biased perspectives. And we’re testing the beta of our product with some of the country’s top talent from a variety of backgrounds. As a result, the type of leadership data we have will be most unique.

I know that business schools themselves have a bias as to who tends to attend them. They tend to be whiter, more masculine. Are you trying to compensate for that in some way?

Is this statistically true? Before making this statement, is this statistically true?

I don’t have the statistics in front of me now.

I am old. When I went to law school, I can’t remember the exact number, but about 40% were women. They weren’t necessarily women of color. But just before you make that statement, I suggest you make sure it’s true.

Sorry, I’m stuck on something. The question was?

So many of the leadership skills you are looking for come as no surprise to people who attend business school and have a business background – if the place where leaders get their training is biased – how do you fix that ? How to eliminate these prejudices?

When I went to business school and law school, they taught me a lot of technical things that I needed to know. But we don’t measure these technical things. We measure leadership, skills, readiness – and it’s a different kind of thing that you learn and grow with both through your life experiences and the nature of who you are.

What we’re trying to figure out is which of these skills are you going to manifest? One skill in our assessment that we look at that is important in leadership is action orientation. Now you can be too much action oriented too. The action orientation skill, the way you manifest it under pressure, is an important skill that we measure against.

Action orientation is not something you learn in business school. It is something that you come to through your own experience and through what you have learned in your own environments.

You pointed out earlier that your advisory committee is very diverse. But System-3 and AtlaML, your software partner, seem less so. How much power does your advisory board have over the decisions you make as a business?

In System-3, what is missing in our diversity are people of color. We have people from South America, we have people of Asian descent, we have immigrants and descendants of immigrants. We have people of different faiths, but what we lack are people of color. This is why I would say that we are missing inside System-3 right now. Once we get our second round of funding, our intention would certainly be to make sure we are representative of the company. This is our goal.

So I wouldn’t say we’re not diversified. I think it’s a little unfair. A little hard. But I would say we have a loophole in that we don’t have a person of color working in our organization, and certainly we would like to. But to come back to your question – what is the advisory board …?

If there is a decision you make that is biased or needs to be corrected, do they have the power to say, “No, you should do it? “

Well, they don’t have official power. But can you imagine if they felt that way? If we failed them, our reputation would not survive. If they thought we were going down a path that was below what we promised in terms of goals, I think we would fail and they would make it clear that we failed and that would be the end of it all.

They have the ultimate power to end this experience.

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