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

Chris Marsh chris at webbtech.co.uk
Wed Sep 4 09:56:01 CDT 2002


> > > 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 do?" "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.

The only way to *know* if an employee performs well is to employ them
and find out. The step before this is to see if they have performed well
in the past (references). The step before this is to talk to them face
to face and question them about their suitability for the job
(interview). The step before this is ascertain that they wish to work
for you. The latter stage is the application form stage. The lack of
importance of this stage is illustrated by the fact that the more
complex the role, the less likelihood there is of being obliged to even
fill out an application form. A CV gives the employer all the
information they need to make a decision on whether of not an interview
is merited. Does the applicant wish to work here? The chances are high,
as they have submitted a CV. Is the applicant suitable for the post?
Yes/no depending on experience listed on the CV. What information does
essay-type questions on an application form give you that a drier
listing of experience doesn't; given the fact that the specified
position is as a sales assistant/cashier?

> > 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?

Ah, here you miss my point (or I mis-make the point). This stage is
merely to get to an interview. The person in question is eminently
suitable for the role, has experience, has fantastic references and
enjoys hard work. She *doesn't* have any anecdotes that fit the rigid
questions in the application form. You are saying (I believe) that the
application form is useful to an employer because it allows them to
narrow the list of applicants for interview, as a company will not
typically have the resources to interview every applicant for a
position. All I was saying was that I see application forms (as an
alternative to a conventional CV) as having no integrity whatsoever in
delivering an accurate profile of the applicant. It is easy for you to
gain an interview on the strength of my application form. How you
proceed from there is down to you, but there is no way for the employer
to tell that the person that is in the interview is the one that filled
out the application form. I *can* see that issuing application forms
that are effectively a CV template are useful, as collating the data on
various applicants will be made easier.

> 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.

So how does asking this kind of question as opposed to requiring a list
of experience (CV) decrease the number of wasters at interview?

> That's all it is - a first pass.


> > 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?

I can turn left instead of right out of my office door. Eventually I
will get to an alternative tube station to the one I usually use. That
walk gets me nearer to home, and yet to me it is still a waste of time.
I am being slightly facetious, but just because person (a) requires
person (b) to fulfill an inane task in order for person (b) to gain a
reward, doesn't mean that the inane task isn't 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.

*shrug* There need to be no lies regarding the applicant's suitability
or experience. The only lies that seem to need to be told are regarding
specific situations that never occurred.


> > 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?

As opposed to wading through applications forms that may or may or not
contain genuine information? If you want to ask an essay type question,
surely something like "describe why you consider yourself suitable for
the role" would give the HR person more clue.


> 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.

Good point.

> > > 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.

I'm not suggeting that every person that applies for every job should be
interviewed. I am objecting to the asking of pointless questions that
illustrate very little as to the suitability of the candidate.

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

Aha! Yes! And a sales assistant/cashier is hardly a compex job.


Chris Marsh

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