Speech Finds the Right Job

In a world of automated voices and digital call centers, a company called Urgent Career has delved into what speech technology can really do.

Using linguistic analysis, Urgent Career this week unveiled a technology that matches professionals with positions at sales businesses.

"I’ve started about a half dozen companies and the constraining factor was always that you can’t get enough good sales people," says CEO Jeffrey Stewart. "For the last decade I’ve been obsessed with figuring out, how do you get the best sales people?"

Urgent Career points to a study in the Harvard Business Review that says 55 percent of sales people are poorly matched.

Stewart may have solved the problem. Here’s how it works: Urgent Career gets a call from a potential employee searching for a job in sales. The person is connected to a career matchmaker, who asks a series of questions about interests, aspirations, goals and past behavior.

Urgent Career transcribes what the person says, and the transcription is digitally deconstructed using algorithms, which use machine learning, pattern recognition, and statistical analysis to look at 32 dimensions of sales compatibility in three main areas: core sales skills, environment-specific aptitudes, and sales-process-specific skills and aptitudes. The company has relationships with sales companies looking for employees, then uses the information gathered through the linguistic analysis to find sales professionals who will best fit those jobs.

"We are doing a statistical and rule-based analysis of the text," Stewart says. "We’re basically looking for patterns."

While there are currently systems that analyze things such as handwriting, Stewart says he believes his company is the first to apply linguistic technology to career matchmaking. Urgent Career has patents pending on the technology.

Several major companies are already using Urgent Career. "We have satisfied customers, and so far we feel like we are succeeding," Stewart says.

Currently, Urgent Career has designed the system so that it hosts the process and presents potential candidates to companies. The application is not yet commercially available for companies to plug into their own human resources applications.

"Long term, this will just be how everybody, including large corporations, will screen sales professionals," Stewart says.

The company is still in beta and is not yet ready to start licensing the product. "It’s very much a work in progress," Stewart says. "It’s really about the data sets and making the system more intelligent as the data goes through it."

Work in progress or not, companies that have used the technology like what they’ve seen so far. "Urgent Career has a really fresh approach to a critical business problem," says Dan Hoffman, president and CEO of M5 Networks, an outsourced IP phone system provider. "Urgent delivered a higher quality of screened candidates almost immediately. As we reacted, they have been able to refine their search criteria further, and we are seeing the benefits of their structured process."

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