Facial Coding: What Is It and How Can It Help You Hire?

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Last year Hire-Intelligence released a study on video interviewing which suggested a hiring manager could predict a job candidate’s future work performance by viewing that candidate’s behavior and appearance through a video interview.  Similarly sports franchises such as the Milwaukee Bucks have turned to the science of facial coding to help them draft better prospects for their team.

Facial coding is the concept that humans reveal their emotions through facial expressions.  No surprise there.  I think most of us already understand how to detect emotions by looking at an individual’s face.  We can, for instance, readily tell the difference between a sad person and a happy person, a calm person and an angry person.  However facial coding experts can see concealed or even fleeting emotions through what they call “microexpressions” that portray what an individual is really feeling despite their attempt to conceal their emotions.

Facial coding expert Dan Hill, who the Bucks now employ to help make their team better, originally used his facial coding skills in the marketing arena to evaluate the potential success of ad campaigns within focus groups.  After accurately analyzing the underlying facial expression of athletes and their corresponding successes or failures using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), Hill took his skills to the sports world.  Evaluating athletes for their physical ability is easy but as the Assistant GM for the Bucks points out, “the difficult piece of the puzzle is the psychological side of it, and not only psychological, character and personality issues, but also team chemistry issues.”

Hill believes that facial expressions betray our true emotions and can predict our decisions and actions.  He uses FACS to identify the following emotions in players’ faces: happiness, surprise, contempt, disgust, sadness, anger and fear.  His abilities were used during the 2014 NBA draft to determine which player from the talented field the Bucks should use their number two pick to select.  The Buck’s eventual selection, Jabari Parker, is now a rookie of the year candidate for 2015.  Hill was even invited to the NFL’s 2011 scouting combine to evaluate top prospects and uncover their “emotional DNA”.

According to Hill, coaches are overwhelmed with so much player data that they over think the situation which leads to indecision.  He believes facial coding will make decision making easier.

Though facial coding has not yet been seriously applied to the corporate hiring process one can see how the implementation might improve selection especially for executive hiring when more time, care and discipline are applied.  Combined with an instrument such as video interviewing that facilitates the means to evaluate candidates earlier in the process, facial coding and physiognomy could become valuable weapons in the war against bad hires.

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