Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Criticism of Employers in America - Part 1

A couple of year ago, during a time when I was looking for work, I applied for a position located literally on the other side of the state of Michigan—a near 4 hours and close to 300 miles from where I lived. Between my own particular experience and the position’s duties and minimum education requirements, I felt that I was a lock for the position; it was a potential fit-like-a-glove match. The person overseeing the recruitment of potential candidates for this position must have thought so too, as I received an invite for an interview only one day after e-mailing my resume and cover letter to the appropriate personnel department. But my lack of positive results from the pitiful few interviews that I had gotten up to that point, the then-prohibitive expense of traveling so far on near $4.00 a gallon gasoline at the time had gotten me to think that I simply couldn’t afford what was something of a gamble with the limited financial resources I had at the time. Armed with this reality, I called and inquired about the possibility of a telephone interview in lieu of gambling with resources I could ill-afford to lose. The response that I received was “A telephone interview isn’t practical.” Needless to say, I was kind of taken aback; record-high gasoline, a 4 hours drive, and a day off from my part-time job…all on a gamble for a position that I may or may not get? ‘Impractical’ for whom?
This particular experience into the world of job hunting, as well as actually standing back and objectively observing how American employers seek potential employees taught me that America’s employees deserve whatever harsh fates await them in these unprecedented troubled economic times. Why do I say this? Because American businesses and organizations possess a remarkable inability to adapt their hiring practices to the new (and harsh) economic realities of global competition from workers in foreign nations, most of whom possess a level of productivity and a work ethic that dwarfs what we like to think of as “unparalleled” American output. So for the blindly patriotic or unyielding among you reading this, and who cannot think past old paradigms—even at the expense of embracing the illogical and senseless—you may want to stop reading at this point. But for those of you open and wise enough to release your death grips on traditional (but meritless) practices and consider valid cynicism toward current hiring practices in America, by all means, continue to enlighten yourselves.
Jumping right in, I am astonished at the way by which America’s employers blindly perpetuate hiring practices, which make little or no sense whatsoever, without dedicating even a nanosecond of thought to questioning their validity—the most obvious being the jump-through-the-hoop performance we call the “job interview.”
To start, this particular ritual is nothing more than a personality assessment as well as a lying contest—or is a reasonable person supposed to believe that every person applying for a job is everything he/she says that they are? According to a 2005 study in the Journal of Basic and Applied Psychology, “60 percent of people had lied at least once during [a] 10-minute conversation.” What’s more, other similar research found that “extroverts tend to lie more than introverts…especially in a job interview situation.” With such being the case, it’s not surprising that a interview “offers success only slightly better than flipping a coin—52%” when it comes to their generally accepted (bus obviously mistaken) “accuracy” of finding a potentially successful employee. It speaks volumes then that, all other factors being equal, employers tend to hire the person who is the better performer rather than the one who is actually more competent.
To this effect, too much weight is given to “great answers” during a job interview, to which I find myself asking, what do ‘great answers’ have to do with the price of tea in China? Just because someone is able to spin a yarn, how does this translate into competence or potential successful employment? Call me stupid, but I simply do not see the connection. I mean, is this why so many recent immigrants from South of the Border are hired for a growing number of American jobs…because of their “perfect command” of the English language and their sophisticated interviewing skills…or is it because most know that they as a group are capable of outworking most Americans? I mean, if I were a candidate for a position as a janitor or window washer (or any other position), how does “how well” I answer pointless question assure the interviewer that I won’t sweep dirt under the carpets or leave streaks on the windows? A fact of life, especially given such precarious economic times, is that everyone lies, including our parents and best friends. Throw into the mix the immediate economic needs of job candidates and the requirement that they have to literally sing for their suppers, and you develop a clear understanding of why America is the nexus of the current worldwide economic turmoil; the “best and the brightest,” especially where Wall Street and the economic community in general are concerned, are most often chosen from among those who are able to sing their own praises the most effectively, and not necessarily the most competent, most innovative thinkers. How else can anyone explain why someone with superior academic credentials, self-confidence, and experience is turned down for an employment opportunity when compared to other candidates for a given position of lesser attributes? And with so many American employers all-too willing and/or eager to favor image over substance, some job candidates are resorting to facelifts and other forms of reconstructive surgery in order to gain favor with a prospective employer via “that extra edge.”


To Be Continued...

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