Using Machine Learning to Translate Applicant Work History Into Predictors of Performance and Turnover

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79 Scopus citations


Work history information reflected in resumes and job application forms is commonly used to screen job applicants; however, there is little consensus as to how to systematically translate information about one's work-related past into predictors of future work outcomes. In this article, we apply machine learning techniques to job application form data (including previous job descriptions and stated reasons for changing jobs) to develop interpretable measures of work experience relevance, tenure history, and history of involuntary turnover, history of avoiding bad jobs, and history of approaching better jobs. We empirically examine our model on a longitudinal sample of 16,071 applicants for public school teaching positions, and predict subsequent work outcomes including student evaluations, expert observations of performance, value-added to student test scores, voluntary turnover, and involuntary turnover. We found that work experience relevance and a history of approaching better jobs were linked to positive work outcomes, whereas a history of avoiding bad jobs was associated with negative outcomes. We also quantify the extent to which our model can improve the quality of selection process above the conventional methods of assessing work history, while lowering the risk of adverse impact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
StatePublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Psychological Association.


  • Data mining
  • Occupational analysis
  • Selection

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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