Losing out on a job opportunity because someone else looked better in an interview or had a more detailed resume can be pretty frustrating, but what if employers could actually determine who would be better at a skill-based job before actually hiring someone?

A new study published in Science Advances describes how brain scanning technology could actually be applied to test the skills of any number of people to determine who is more reliable, turning the guesswork of hiring someone into a numbers-driven judgement.

As Wall Street Journal reports, the researchers involved in the study tasked dozens of surgeons and surgeon trainees with completing a skill-based exercise that is commonly used in certification. As the participants performed the test, which involves cutting precise patterns, the researchers monitored their brains using probes in a cap worn on their heads.

As the volunteers were doing their thing, an algorithm analyzed and interpreted their brain activity and made a judgement based on how skilled it thought the individual was. Remarkably, the brain data proved to be incredibly reliable in gauging the skill of the individual, and the study claims that the system was actually better at determining the skill level of the participant than the results of the cutting exercise itself.

The brain scanning system identified activity in areas of the motor cortex, which is the area of the brain responsible for coordination, and the scan data clearly showed that the more skilled surgeons had more brain activity in those important areas.

The researchers are quick to note that the system is still in an experimental phase and it wouldn’t be appropriate to place much weight on its findings just yet, but the time when we lean on machines to determine who is better at a given task may not be far off. The researchers suggest that similar systems could eventually be used in the hiring of skill-based jobs like airline pilots and doctors.

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