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

Martin Burns martin at easyweb.co.uk
Wed Sep 4 09:03:00 CDT 2002

On Wed, 4 Sep 2002, 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?
> But why is this data of any use? This job involves operating a till and
> serving customers. Why is anything written on a form of any use to a
> potential employer?

Think about the questions - "Do you understand the job the same way we
"Can you show you're up to it?"

I'm *still* waiting for a better solution. In the absence of which, then
the current system (which gives us employees who perform OK) will stay.

> I could submit a form on your behalf, and inform you
> after the fact.

With my signature, right? And are you going to turn to to the interview
instead of me? And do the job instead of me?

Fake it and you'll be found out. It's not perfect, but it's good enough.

> You could get an interview on the strength of this, and
> yet the company would still know absolutely nothing about your
> suitability for the post.

Until the interview. At which point, a lot of the wasters will be screened
out and we can spend the time probing everyone whose form suggested they
know their stuff.

That's all it is - a first pass.

> This is why I wondered if there was some
> psychology behind questions like this. If not, they seem to be a waste
> of time for all involved.

No, only for the applicant. Although if it gets you nearer to getting the
job, how is that a waste of time?

> Yes, but both myself and my girlfriend are fundamentally honest people.
> When she asks me for advice, my initial comment is not "lie". She is a
> hard and competant worker, and should not need to lie. Perhaps I am
> merely being a little naïve...

Not for any employer worth working for. If you're in a job which (say)
requires you to be a hard worker who takes initiative, then if you're not
that kind of person, you're going to hate working there.

> > 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 more).
> She has absolutely excellent references. This is why these questions
> annoy me so much. Can she do the job? Call her referees. She can?
> Excellent, give her an interview.

The form is a stage before this. Do I want to spend time calling referees
of people who are clearly not up to the job? Of course not. If I can get
HR to limit my calls to 'possibles' then I'm happy.

The other thing is to provide an audit trail that the recruitment process
has been objective and fair. It makes it harder for me to recruit someone
unsuitable cos they're my mate. Or rule someone out because they're a
member of a minority. Objective criteria help all this.

> > 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"
> Better than what? Anyone could have filled the form out. Receiving a
> completed form from an applicant doesn't even prove that they can write,
> at this stage. A better way is to ascertain where they claim to have
> worked before, and verify it. Check their references and give them an
> interview.

And that's already part of the process. All you're suggesting is dropping
out a bit which saves the recruiting manager time and makes it less likely
that you're interviewing the right people.

The more complex the job (and the more the recruiting manager's time costs
compared to the HR staff), the more important this is.


"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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