[thechat] Application Forms (Was: predictive indexing - is it evil ?)

Martin Burns martin at easyweb.co.uk
Wed Sep 4 05:19:00 CDT 2002

On Tue, 3 Sep 2002, Madhu Menon wrote:

> At 10:14 PM 03-09-02, Chris Marsh wrote:
> >What is the company getting at with a question like this? This is not a
> >mere rant, if anyone can help me out a little here I would appreciate
> >it. Is this just a dumb set of questions, or is there a hidden
> >psychological test beneath it?
> Short answer: dumb set of questions. Some HR monkey has to do filtering,
> and they think that asking questions like these gets them useful data.

So what would be a *better* way of getting useful data?

> Remember that HR's job is to filter people out, not filter people in. :(

Well yes and no - their job is to manage the process/admin of matching the
number of people working for the organisation with the number of people
*needed* to work for the organisation.

When you have more people applying than jobs, then yes, this involved
filtering people to the best fit to the job requirements. Their job is also
to reduce the risk associated with employing a new person (which is pretty
high, even with supermarket checkout assistants).

> >2) Describe a situation involving each of these skills. In each
> >description tell us what happened, what YOU did, and how the situation
> >ended.
> This is so trivial to fake.

I agree, with simple (not the same as easy btw) jobs, the exercise of
finding meaningful ways of finding the best fit person is hard. Remember
also that the CV/form stage is not to get you the *job* but to get you the
*interview* - it's a massive sink of time to interview every applicant. So
the form identifies those who *might* meet the criteria and are worth the
time to interview.

> I can make up an entirely fictitious account of
> an unsatisfied customer, and how I resolved his problem. Who's to say it
> didn't happen?

Well if I were interviewing you on the basis of the form, I would
absolutely probe behind any and all claims you made. I think it's very,
very hard to spot a really dedicated, skillful liar, and this would be
true of any methodology you care to name.

Also, I don't know about India, but we have a little system called
'references'. Believe that I *will* call your former boss - for simple
jobs, there's usually 2 references required, and for complex ones 3 (or

I'm still waiting for anyone to suggest a better way than "Show you
understand what this job's about, and give evidence  you can do it"

> I'll let you in on an open secret. You're asked these questions usually by
> clueless HR monkeys who like to think they're experts at judging people.

Really, Madhu - I thought you'd know better than stereotyping an entire
profession, particularly without understanding it.

> The HR minion usually knows very little about the specific function you're
> interviewing for,

If you mean "has very little experience of the function" then true. But
part of any half-way sensible recruitment process is getting a spec of the
job, and a spec of the characteristics of people likely to be able to do
the job. That *should* contain experience, knowledge and behaviours.

Once they have that, it's a matching job, and in an interview situation,
to help the recruiting manager (who put the spec together)
a) Probe beneath the claims on the form/CV
b) Not do anything stupid like ask the applicant if they're married and
whether they're planning to take time off to have kids any time soon.


"Names, once they are in common use, quickly
 become mere sounds, their etymology being
 buried, like so many of the earth's marvels,
 beneath the dust of habit." - Salman Rushdie

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