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17 March 2011

Good communication skills still suck

The excellent blog "Good communication skills" sucks pointed me to an ongoing debate on Debatewise about whether "companies should provide alternative interview methods," or alternatives to the job interview for the selection process. The points for the affirmative and negative logged so far are as follows:

All the Yes points

1. Doesn't always suit the job.
2. Can't get a realistic impression of a person in such a short space of time.
3. Unsuitable for employable people with Asperger's Syndrome and similar conditions.
4. Relies too heavily on vacancy details.

All the No points

1. Would create confusion.
2. Misses the point of an interview.
3. A significant number of studies reveal that the first impression is in fact the last impression

Now if I ran the world I'd abolish job interviews entirely. The question here is a little narrower; whether there should be an alternate screening method offered. I see job interviews as the second line of defense of Fortress Employment against the General Public. The first line of defense is of course 'networking,' which I define as the practice of working with rather than against the fact that who you know is more important than what you know. The object of the networking game is to make friends with people who have the authority to hire (or to cut purchase orders if your game is sales rather than job hunting), or at least to become of friend-of-a-friend of such key decision-makers. Another goal of networking is to get unpublished information about where openings are. The fact that most information of this type is unpublished in the first place is itself proof that the criteria of employers are largely other-than-meritocratic. The need to be socially connected to the employer itself in order even to find one's way to the applicant pool demonstrates that employers want to hire people they know; basically nepotism. Whether a vacancy is announced publicly or not, there will almost always be an interview at some point. This puts on display your personality characteristics, social style, race, sex, approximate age, and I suppose the firmness (or dryness?) of your handshake. The idea behind networking, which is to say keeping vacancies out of the want ads, seems to be "hire the people you know." The idea behind interviews, with the implied personality screening and social screening, is "hire the people you like."

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