[Random Scribbles are my occasional posts of half-formed thoughts, half-baked ideas, and off-the-cuff observations.]
A recent article in The Atlantic caught my eye, about the use of personal data to assess job candidates or promote workers. I don’t want to appear to be beating a dead horse, but I want to highlight some of the article’s points because they reinforce some of the things I’ve said previously. Specifically, the piece rounds out the discussion by analyzing one of the more inscrutable areas of employment: the hiring process.
First, it points to the same Gallup research that I’ve mentioned that finds a low level of job engagement, using it as evidence of poor hiring practices and “the abysmal status quo.”
Second, it provides evidence for what many have found to be true, that hiring is based on “clubby, insular thinking” that “involves a level of dysfunction that should be inconceivable in an economy as sophisticated as ours.” It’s the world not of equal opportunity and being whatever you desire, but rather the one of secret handshakes and knowing the right people.
Finally, this little gem: “According to a national survey by the Employment Law Alliance a few years ago, most American workers don’t believe attractive people in their firms are hired or promoted more frequently than unattractive people, but the evidence shows that they are, overwhelmingly so.” [emphasis added]
I’m not too hip on the idea of data crunchers using my personal information to determine my future. But the prevailing situation has not served me well, nor many of my peers. Since college, I’ve thought that hiring should be based on merit, not on whether you are good-looking, appear to be confident, or share leisure interests with your boss. So maybe a more objective approach using “big data” will rectify some of the hiring mistakes made in recent memory.
As a final note, the article mentions efforts at Microsoft to reduce employee attrition. Once the vulnerable workers are identified, Microsoft takes a number of steps, including…wait for it…the assignment of mentors.