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In recruiting revamp, IDF turns to data science, ends ‘one-dimensional’ scoring

In bid to better place incoming troops, military to gradually do away with decades-old method of assessing them

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Young Israeli men line up as they arrive at the IDF recruitment center at Tel Hashomer on July 26, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Young Israeli men line up as they arrive at the IDF recruitment center at Tel Hashomer on July 26, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces will scrap its decades-old recruit placement system in favor of a more expansive assessment method, the military said Wednesday.

The current system used to place soldiers in different positions in the military relies on what’s known as a “Quality Group” score, better known by its Hebrew acronym Kaba, which is based on three parameters: the number of years spent in school, an intelligence test known as an “Initial Psychotechnic Ranking,” and a personal interview.

These are normally determined during on a pre-draft assessment, known in Hebrew as a Tzav Rishon.

The new model would include at least double the number of parameters, taking into account such things as resilience, skills and talents, management capabilities and the recruit’s ability to adapt. Using these additional factors, the military hopes to find better-fitting placements for soldiers in order to maximize their effectiveness and to reduce the number of troops who leave their units.

Using advanced big data algorithms, the military will establish profiles of good candidates for different units. And the new multi-dimensional score will then be judged based on the needs of those particular units. So a recruit may have a high suitability score in terms of the Armored Corps, while getting a low suitability score for the Navy, and vice versa.

The Initial Psychotechnic Ranking test will also be revised to include additional factors and — more dramatically — will be translated into a number of different languages. Until now, soldiers who did not speak Hebrew prior to enlisting in the IDF completed a non-verbal, visual version of the test.

The new test is meant to overcome cultural differences between groups in Israeli society, which have in the past been found to result in biased scores.

More parts of the Tzav Rishon would also be conducted online in order to make the process easier for those who live outside central Israel.

In a bid to be more transparent, the recruits’ scores will be made available online, according to the military.

The changes will not be implemented immediately, but will be rolled out in the coming years.

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