Do Firefox and Chrome users make better workers? A new study will make you think about how computing stereotypes affect how you recruit job candidates and who you hire.
Could a web browser help you hire the ideal job candidate? It may sound like an urban legend, but there’s some truth in the suggestion.
Recruiting software company Cornerstone OnDemand compiled data on about 50,000 people who used its software to take a hiring test and were placed in a sales or customer service position at one of Cornerstone’s clients.
Candidates who took their test on a non-default browser — something like Firefox or Chrome — stayed at their new placements longer than people who used a standard browser like Safari or Internet Explorer (RIP). Those candidates also performed better on the job.
It almost seems like a joke, to report on findings as simple as browser choice. Shouldn’t skills play into how we recruit job candidates? Is the resume going the way of Internet Explorer?
What we can learn from browser choice
Not so fast. Cornerstone insists that browser choice is simply an indication of candidate performance — a hint, not a promise.
When Cornerstone chief analytics officer at Michael Houseman appeared on the Freakonomics Radio podcast, he said, “I think that the fact that you took the time to install Firefox on your computer shows us something about you. It shows that you’re someone who is an informed consumer.” In other words, the choice candidates were comfortable enough on their computers and online that they went the extra step to improve their experience.
The Atlantic explained one valuable application of this new data: call centers have a terrible employee turnover rate, and hiring and training multiple rounds of new employees each year can be very expensive. If you could pull all of the most computer-savvy candidates out of your application pile, wouldn’t you jump at the chance?
Browser stereotypes aren’t new
You might already be judging employees and candidates. Think again about Internet Explorer, which has finally been put out of its misery after pioneering web browsing, then left to play quietly in the corner while competitors pulled ahead.
You’ve probably ragged on coworkers who have reflexively opened Internet Explorer, sensing no issue. Meanwhile, the cool kids have been using smarter, faster browsers — and those tech-savvy people are likely to advance more quickly.
In 2011, a hoax even fooled people into thinking Internet Explorer users had lower IQs. Internet hoaxes come in varying flavors and authenticities, but you know why people clicked on this one: they assumed it was true.
Compare this little browser war to the Mac versus PC battle featured in Apple commercials in the late 2000s. John Hodgman was a bumbling, middle-aged office drone to represent the PC, compared to Justin Long’s hip, young, media-loving Mac. With 66 versions, that commercial campaign forced it into our assumptions: there’s only one way to get a faster, cooler computer.
The stereotypes have been here for years. This is just the first time we have legitimate potential to look at how browser choice might relate to a job candidate’s computer savvy.
Should you focus on browser choice?
Houseman offers additional indicators of candidate potential, rather than a simple choice of browser. More important: how confident candidates are in the skills they profess, and how honest those claims are.
“We ask them up front, early in the assessment, how are your computer skills? What’s your typing speed? Do you feel comfortable with a mouse, toggling between screens, and so on and so forth?” Houseman explained on Freakonomics Radio.
A few screens later, candidates were tested on those computer skills they just assessed. They were asked word-processing shortcuts and given a typing speed and accuracy test.
“When we compared their self assessed responses to their actual technical proficiency … one group was relatively honest, they were what they said they were in terms of their technical skills, and the other group, we will call ‘a little bit creative,’” Houseman said. “They claimed to be exceptional but couldn’t type more than 10 words a minute.”
Sure, browser choice might be one indicator of computer savvy. But more important, if you’re reviewing resumes, is verifying the skills an applicant claims to have.
What do you think about browser stereotypes? Do you find yourself making these assumptions?
Lisa Rowan is a writer, shop owner, and podcaster living in Washington, D.C.