How Data Can Level the Playing Field

A century ago, instead of debating the merits of a female candidate, women were fighting for suffrage itself. President Taft opposed extending the vote to women voicing a commonly held opinion that, "On the whole, it is fair to say that the immediate enfranchisement of women will increase the proportion of the hysterical element in the electorate." Women were considered simply too emotional to vote.

It turns out the electorate's emotions can be dangerous, though not in the ways President Taft once feared. Enter Donald Trump whose rise to presumptive Republican nominee has been startling to say the least. A blustering businessman with no previous political experience and a backlog of failed business ventures, the only explanation for his popularity hinges on his ability to tap into voters' emotions. In an interview with the New York Times he explained, "if it gets a little boring, if I see people starting to sort of, maybe thinking about leaving, I can sort of tell the audience, I just say, 'We will build the wall!' and they go nuts." From immigration to Islam, from unemployment to gender parity, Trump supporters are attached not to policy or experience, but to the idea that he is real and genuine. In a Politico article one supporter explained, "it's emotion. It's a lot of emotion. It cuts across age. It cuts across parties. He's able to cut across the ideological spectrum."

Ironically, while Trump wins state after state, he continues to have a real problem attracting female voters. Recent polls show 70% of women rate him unfavorably, a historic low for a presidential candidate. It seems that men, not women, are climbing aboard the Trump rollercoaster, willfully ignoring facts in favor of those emotional appeals to "make America great again."

As a company that uses data to guide processes and decisions, it's been fascinating for Unitive to watch Trump's presidential run.

What happens when we introduce a little data into the Trump debate? We find that the unemployment rate is 5%, not the 23% or 42% he has claimed; that the United States funds 22% of NATO, not the 73% he estimated in his most recent speech; we would find the number of illegal immigrants apprehended in the US in 2015 was the lowest since 1972; and we would learn that Trump's statements earned PolitiFact's 2015 Lie of the Year award.

Although Unitive focuses on Fortune 1000 hiring practices, not political elections, many of the processes are the same. You have to evaluate candidates based on their qualifications and decide who can do the job best. We don't have to eliminate our emotions, but we do need to understand the dangers of solely relying on our gut and ground our decisions on fact. From human resources to politics, a little data can go a long way: study after study shows that data-driven, fact- not-emotion based, decisions yield the best results. We've all had a Donald Trump apply for a job. He's charming, charismatic, confident, and has great hair. But can he do the job? As a hiring expert, I've made sure that Unitive helps hiring managers focus on the competencies that matter most, valuing experience and demonstrated success over a well-formatted resume or slick new suit. Unitive also provides hiring managers with that much needed data, giving them the whole picture of a candidate, and helping them make the best, rather than the most charming, hire.