It’s often said that landing a job is more about being good at interviews than any necessary aptitude for the role. Since mis-hiring in the U.S. intelligence community is perceived as an above-average liability, the government is researching the possibility of a sensor-driven ‘permanent interview’, wherein an individual would need to submit to unrestricted physical and social monitoring in order to provide ‘ground truth’ for claims made at interview time.

The project is entitled Multimodal Objective Sensing to Assess Individuals with Context (MOSAIC), and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is soliciting contributions for a 42-month series of trials beginning in May of 2017.

IARPA contends that traditional tools used, such as cognitive assessments, interviews and questionnaires only provide a time and context-specific snapshot of an individual’s capabilities and potential, and that the conditions in which they take place are artificial and atypical. ‘As such,’ the paper contends ‘they may not capture more dynamic or context-dependent aspects of an individual. Traditional tools may suffer other limitations, such as lengthy administration times or susceptibility to measurement artifacts (e.g., practice effects, impression management, test anxiety).’

The aim of the MOSAIC project is to fund and develop ‘unobtrusive, passive and persistent’ sensor-derived methodologies to monitor an individual’s stability and physiological responses, as well as their cognitive functioning. Despite the paper’s expressed concern that any technology used be discreet, the scope of the monitoring, as envisioned by the project’s initial statement of intent, is unlimited:

‘Performers will employ a variety of sensors (mobile, worn, and carried sensors, social media applications, etc.) to measure individuals and the environment around them (e.g., time, light, temperature, sound, interpersonal interactions) to develop personalized and contextualized assessments of an individual over time.’

The scope of the sensors is described as ‘anything that can collect data from a consenting study participant throughout that participant’s daily life, to include time at work and outside of work’, and would involve monitoring of social networks, time of day, ambient temperatures and other conditions, sound…and ‘personal interactions’.

The core aspects of job performance that MOSAIC is seeking to parametrise are task performance, ‘organisational citizenship behaviors’ and ‘counterproductive work-behaviors’.

The frequency of administration for the scheme is part of what will be determined over the next three years, though the government would make an initial decision on that before the trial phases begin. Traits under review for monitored subjects would include levels of anxiety, fitness, sleep, burnout and personality ‘factors and facets’.

IARPA states its commitment to the project by discouraging the usual round of Fed-researchers who are accustomed to low-bidding, asserting that this project is not part of the government’s usual drive to replace expensive methodologies with cheaper ones.

40% of U.S. workers in general are currently subjected to random or scheduled drug and/or alcohol tests, and in 2007 it was revealed that 84% of employers required pre-employment drug tests. However the use of social media to assess potential employees’ suitability fell radically between 2008-2013, while the use of social networks to advertise jobs or solicit candidates rose.