Friday, May 22, 2009

A Criticism of Employers in America - Part 2

Continued from Part 1


What in particular is beyond reason about the way by which American employers tend to choose and hire prospective employers is that during these unprecedented economic times, everyone has been forced to change the way they conduct business as usual, EXCEPT in regards to hiring practices. Many departments of the various levels of government around the nation as well as many private-sector employers have gone to (and continue) a 4-day work week in order to save on operating expenses and to help their own employees cope with exceedingly high cost of gasoline and the prohibitive cost of commuting to and from work. Transportation (of products) has become more expensive. Consumers have had to become innovative in their household-related cost-cutting measures in order to survive the rising cost of products and services in these lean economic times. Banks have cut back on credit and tightened their loan standards. But for some inane reason, the human resource departments of employers seem to think that they alone are exempt from the need to change in order to adapt to the shifting economic realities. They still use the model of hiring the best interviewer rather than the most intelligent, most experienced, most outside-the-box thinker (In 95% of cases, the ability to “interview” is a “skill” separate from the individual requirements of most job opportunities; one has nothing to do with the other, but most employers fail to notice this). The problem is lies with the competence of the choosing mechanism that employers use.
I can recall some time ago applying for a position as a delivery driver for one of the major soft drink giants. I knew that the local bottling company for this company only hired through an online resume system, a system administered by an outside company not affiliated with the soft drink giant, but contracted by the soft drink company in order to find “compatible” prospective employers. I obtained the fax number for the company’s local bottling office and faxed in my resume along with a brief cover letter, hoping that this would give me an edge on any competitors for one of several positions. Given the area I was living in, I was certain that my college degree, honors distinctions, spotless driving record/CDL, well-honed resume, and my lack of substance abuse or a criminal record—all I noted in my cover letter—would make me a shoe in for the company. Sure enough, the manager of the local office suggested that I go immediately to their online resume system and apply. I was contacted by the same manager, who was at a loss as to why my resume had not showed up on their radar as it were. What happened was that I was found “not to have been compatible” as a prospective employee based on my answers to the resume system’s question and answer section. You know the types of pointless questions that are intended to divine who you "really" are: Do you love your mother? Do you believe that most people are dishonest at some point time in their lives? And so on.
Such questions would not have revealed that I had every intention to show up early and work late at every opportunity in order to rise through the ranks of the company and acquire a semblance of job security (the company has boasted that they have never had any mass lay-off at any point in their entire history). Such tools do not reveal individual ambition, do not reveal the personal motivations that a prospective employee would have for working hard (such as having to feed and provide for a family) and securing something of a secure financial future. It didn’t matter that I had no criminal history, had never even touched alcohol or taken in any type of foreign substance, that I was motivated (in part) to have a steady income so that I could pay down my student loans, that I was looking to rise through a company’s ranks and become a reliable employee, or that I had a history of volunteering hundreds of hours for social and poltical causes…all that mattered was my ability to answer questions correctly.
Such tools and their obvious and inherent weaknesses are directly in-line with human resource personnel who work on behalf of their employers to find decent and successful employees. But the problem with their lofty goal is not in trying to achieve the goal itself; the problem is the criteria they use select employees. As you may have guessed, I myself have been told once or twice that I “didn’t interview well,” despite my ability to articulate myself, my intelligence, and my various related experiences (to which again, I ask, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China insofar as the particular positions?). What I take issue with are those individuals, who’s backgrounds and/or education are in human resources, that tend to over analyze a prospective employee to the point where every fidget or untimely clearing of the throat becomes symbolic of some presumed negative attribute that may interfere with their ability to carry out job duties. In the worse instances, individuals are judged to not "fit" into a particular employer's company simply by virtue of harsh and unfair judgements of their apparent personalities. And this particular assessment would probably have merit if interviewers, as employees themselves, would recognize the fact that their personalities are not representative of every employees' personality; just because a candidate did not personably appeal to a single interviewer does not mean that that the job candidate would not in fact be loved by someone else within the same company. Putting too much faith on their training and their “abilities,” these individuals forget that they are not psychologists, psychoanalysts, or even in most cases trained observers of human behavior…they are people like you and I…people who bring their personal and cultural biases to the office. They are individuals, many with “professional” flaws themselves, not oracles or seers! And employers (as well as the individuals themselves) need to remember that.

To Be Concluded...

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