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Man vs. Machine: The Jeopardy Hiring Metaphor

As I write this blog, I’m two-thirds through watching “Jeopardy!’s” IBM Challenge, a three-night battle between storied past champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, and $7-billion IBM supercomputer Watson.

And for the first two nights, technology has trumped – make that trounced – the human touch. Fifteen years after chess champ Gary Kasparov short-circuited Deep Blue, the machines are staging a grudge match that has shades of “The Terminator.”

Watson, which you’ve probably seen in recent IBM commercial spots if you haven’t tuned into the venerable nightly quiz show, brained its competitors with a combination of speed and consistency. It buzzes in first and is always right…almost. The machine has shown some interesting hiccups, choosing strange dollar amounts for Daily Doubles and getting foiled in Final Jeopardy. If you’re familiar with the show, these are the times when the most strategy is needed.

My point? The IBM Challenge made me think about hourly hiring. Visualize “Jeopardy!” champs Ken and Brad with name tags, uniforms and a pile of applications. They can’t match technology for efficiency, cost-effectiveness or objective assessments. But they can provide that crucial gut check once their talent management system has crunched the applicant data and displayed the results.

What is truly effective hourly hiring? A combination highly predictive automated processes paired with checkpoints of human intuition.

Now just be sure to answer in the form of a question.

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Mike Ward is the managing editor for Snagajob. When he's not writing and editing content to support America's hourly workers and employers, he reviews movies, roots for losing sports teams and hangs out with his family and friends in the River City.

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