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Source: (consider it) Thread: Affirmative Action, or "Positive" Discrimination
mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
mr cheesy

That's why there is this body.

It monitors performance against these guidelines - which are updated regularly to take into account the findings.

The civil service is not capable of policing itself.

Also this isn't some "unfairness", it is a property of the culture of the civil service, particularly that those who are in it are better qualified for jobs than those who aren't.

quote:
Sure there is a gap between service-wide principles and various departmental practices. And sure, some folks will pay lip service and "game the system" in what they see as their particular interests. But the principles are not secret. They are both spelled out and monitored.
I don't think this is a problem with the principles and I don't think it is about gaming the system. From what I can see, the system is thoroughly broken, riven with discriminatory practices which means that it is highly likely to recruit crappy candidates who happen to tick boxes in interviews.

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mr cheesy
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And, to be fair, it is also a general property of British recruitment practices - which very often are weighted tick-boxes, very often value interview traits which are unrelated to the necessary job skills and very often have hidden forms of bias.

[ 22. August 2017, 12:57: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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Marvin the Martian

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
OK but some businesses don't need "the best" they just need someone who is capable of doing the job.

That's not the point. The point is that all the applicants get the chance to prove themselves to be the best person for the job.

It's a contest, with the job as the prize. Randomly selecting a winner without allowing them to show their worth is no better than the Olympics randomly choosing a sprinter to receive the gold medal without allowing them to actually race for it.

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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Yeah, but not the best people need jobs as well. Sometimes the jobs market is described as if a job is something only the very best and brightest should have or get.

[ 22. August 2017, 13:56: Message edited by: Karl: Liberal Backslider ]

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Marvin the Martian

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quote:
Originally posted by Karl: Liberal Backslider:
Yeah, but not the best people need jobs as well.

Then they should focus on going for jobs at a level where they are the best applicants, and/or training themselves up to the point where they are amongst the best.

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
quote:
Originally posted by Karl: Liberal Backslider:
Yeah, but not the best people need jobs as well.

Then they should focus on going for jobs at a level where they are the best applicants, and/or training themselves up to the point where they are amongst the best.
Easier said. There are always people at the bottom of any list. You can only be "amongst the best" if there are other people worse than you are.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
That's not the point. The point is that all the applicants get the chance to prove themselves to be the best person for the job.

Well it clear is a point. I'm not sure that the competitive nature of the free market in applicants for jobs is necessarily a good thing. And clearly a lot of employers don't either - given that they don't advertise positions and interview people based on speculative applications.

quote:
It's a contest, with the job as the prize. Randomly selecting a winner without allowing them to show their worth is no better than the Olympics randomly choosing a sprinter to receive the gold medal without allowing them to actually race for it.
I think it is a lot better than simply sifting through applicants and binning them based on spelling mistakes or other pointless criteria. Maybe that's just me.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:

The civil service is not capable of policing itself.

You know this how? In any case, see here.

Particularly this

quote:
The Commission is independent of Government and the Civil Service


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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
You know this how? In any case, see here.

Particularly this

quote:
The Commission is independent of Government and the Civil Service

OK, it's a government appointed quango not civil service.

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mr cheesy
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Also, y'know, they don't directly get involved in recruitment of civil service staff unless they're

quote:
external recruitment competitions at Senior Civil Service pay band 2 (Directors), pay band 3 (Director General) and Permanent Secretary levels. An external competition is one that is advertised outside the Civil Service and candidates who are not existing civil servants may apply.

Commissioners also chair internal competitions at SCS pay band 3 and Permanent Secretary level under the terms of the Senior Appointment Protocol, agreed with the Head of the Civil Service. An internal competition is one advertised across the Civil Service, but which is not open to applicants who are not existing civil servants.

That's a small part of the whole civil service.

Of the rest of the staff, they have an observer brief based on information collected by departments and from that they concluded that:

quote:
In 2016-17, 10 organisations (representing 3% of total recruitment) were assessed as “green” and 38 organisations (representing 14% of total recruitment) were assessed as “amber-green”. However, 19 organisations (representing 58% of total recruitment) were assessed as “amber-red” and 8 organisations (representing 25% of total recruitment) were assessed as “red”. The Commission is concerned at the high proportion of recruitment being done in high-risk Departments and will follow up on these results with those Departments.
It's an ombudsman with no teeth reporting that the self-collected data from government departments indicates recruitment practices are shite even to their own standards.

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Barnabas62
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Check this out.

And also this.

It's got a long history, pre-dating the quango concept.

[x-post]

[ 22. August 2017, 15:26: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:


It's got a long history, pre-dating the quango concept.

I'm not sure why this is relevant. It has a brief to watch on recruitment practices across the civil service, can only do that with information collected by the government departments themselves and even then suggests that the departments frequently violate their own expected norms and practices.

If you wanted an example of good recruitment practices, it is hard to find a worse example than the British civil service.

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Barnabas62
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I did know the additional information you provided BTW. It's a matter of public record. As are its criticisms.

Audit processes always involve examination of data others provide. The recent reports are disturbing about departures from the recruitment principles.

But I don't see how that makes those principles wrong in themselves. Shouldn't recruitment be governed by merit, fairness and open competition? And if not, what principles would you put in their place?

I note in particular that you have doubts about competitive processes. What would you replace them with?

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mr cheesy
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Oh it doesn't make the principles wrong. But they are wrong - and the civil service can't even meet their own crappy standards most of the time (something like 83%+ of all the staff work in departments that are said to be "amber-red" or "red").

There isn't a whole lot of point in discussing what to replace it with when the clear facts are that recruitment in the civil service is shockingly shite.

Personally I can't see that things would be any worse with Amazon-style recruitment practices, and may actually be a whole lot better.

[ 22. August 2017, 15:44: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Oh it doesn't make the principles wrong. But they are wrong

How are they wrong? If you feel you know how they are wrong, that's surely the first step on the road to replacing them with something better.

quote:
Personally I can't see that things would be any worse with Amazon-style recruitment practices, and may actually be a whole lot better.
The Amazon process seems competitive to me, with some randomness thrown in. But I thought you had doubts about competitive processes? So how could its more widespread introduction be better?

And given the OP, it hardly seems a process of Affirmative Action or Positive Discrimination either.

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Marvin the Martian

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quote:
Originally posted by Karl: Liberal Backslider:
There are always people at the bottom of any list.

If that has to be the case, then I think it's better for them to be there on merit than because of random chance.

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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The problem with "merit" is that merit isn't assessed in a vacuum. We have seen in Canada that criteria may be systematically biased against particular groups without necessarily there being intent. The issue is ensuring that merit is in fact (a) job essential, (b) discriminatory against some groups of people, (c) not something which can be obtained by a job applicant in short order once hired and thus shouldn't be grounds for selection.

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Marvin the Martian

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I'm not sure that the competitive nature of the free market in applicants for jobs is necessarily a good thing.

Why not? And what do you think would be better - a system whereby we are all just randomly assigned jobs perhaps?

quote:
And clearly a lot of employers don't either - given that they don't advertise positions and interview people based on speculative applications.
That's just filtering for a different set of talents and traits. The sort of determination, optimism, confidence and legwork that it takes to keep firing off speculative applications are exactly the sort of characteristics that would be highly valued in a number of jobs.

quote:
quote:
It's a contest, with the job as the prize. Randomly selecting a winner without allowing them to show their worth is no better than the Olympics randomly choosing a sprinter to receive the gold medal without allowing them to actually race for it.
I think it is a lot better than simply sifting through applicants and binning them based on spelling mistakes or other pointless criteria. Maybe that's just me.
Spelling mistakes on a job application show a worrying lack of attention to detail, especially in an age of automatic spell checkers and online dictionaries. If someone can't be bothered to make sure they spell their own application correctly then why should I believe they'd be bothered about doing any work I gave them properly and accurately?

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
The Amazon process seems competitive to me, with some randomness thrown in. But I thought you had doubts about competitive processes? So how could its more widespread introduction be better?

Well it isn't as competitive as waiting until you've got 500+ applicants, sifting so you get rid of 450 and then sifting again to get 5 to interview.

It is true that in the Amazon model they don't necessarily get "the best" candidates.

quote:
And given the OP, it hardly seems a process of Affirmative Action or Positive Discrimination either.
No, I don't think it is really - however one can say that the thing may well work in favour of those who ordinarily don't get through the most competitive recruitment drives - because they just have to apply at the right time. If they're competent, they get the job and it doesn't matter if someone else - who maybe didn't apply at that moment - is better on paper.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
Why not? And what do you think would be better - a system whereby we are all just randomly assigned jobs perhaps?

There is quite a difference between "randomly assigning jobs", employing someone who is competent and waiting to tick-box the "best" candidates to take forward to interview.

I've never said the former and I think the latter often fails because people who look good on paper get through initial sifting but may not actually be competent.

quote:
quote:
And clearly a lot of employers don't either - given that they don't advertise positions and interview people based on speculative applications.
That's just filtering for a different set of talents and traits. The sort of determination, optimism, confidence and legwork that it takes to keep firing off speculative applications are exactly the sort of characteristics that would be highly valued in a number of jobs.
You see one thing, I see another. I see employers who don't have time to sift hundreds of applicants and just want someone who is actually capable of doing the job as soon as possible.

quote:
Spelling mistakes on a job application show a worrying lack of attention to detail, especially in an age of automatic spell checkers and online dictionaries. If someone can't be bothered to make sure they spell their own application correctly then why should I believe they'd be bothered about doing any work I gave them properly and accurately?
People make mistakes. Fact of life.

To me this just shows the problem: boxes are ticked and entirely competent people are rejected in favour of finding the mythical "perfect" candidate who too often turns out to be entirely incompetent.

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mr cheesy
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I'd also say that people who succeed in interviews often like to pretend that they're entirely competent at their jobs because they like the feeling of having been chosen on merit.

That's no measure of whether the whole expensive recruitment process is the right one.

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Barnabas62
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I don't see any principled alternative to open competition in those posts.

As is well known, the real alternative is uncontrolled appointment by those with the power to appoint i.e. patronage. I'll take you back to my earlier link about the history of the Civil Service Commission.

quote:
1854. Northcote-Trevelyan Report

The Report on the organisation of the permanent Civil Service identified patronage as one of the main reasons for endemic inefficiency and public disrepute. It recommended open competitive examination to test merit.

I think some form of patronage is the only real alternative to appointment on merit, assessed fairly, after allowing open competition. And patronage is worse.

Indeed, your posts tell me that you don't believe in patronage either, you see it as a threat to any half-decent system. On that at least, we should be able to agree.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
I think some form of patronage is the only real alternative to appointment on merit, assessed fairly, after allowing open competition. And patronage is worse.

Nope. The Amazon system clearly isn't patronage.

quote:
Indeed, your posts tell me that you don't believe in patronage either, you see it as a threat to any half-decent system. On that at least, we should be able to agree.
I'm not sure why you brought it up. I can't see that I've advocated anything even vaguely like patronage.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
I think some form of patronage is the only real alternative to appointment on merit, assessed fairly, after allowing open competition. And patronage is worse.

Nope. The Amazon system clearly isn't patronage.

How do you know that? Where is the audit of the Amazon procedures? Seems to me that it could very easily be influenced by patronage.

I brought up the issue of patronage because processes of open competition, a process about which you have reservations, were introduced in the 19th Century as an antidote to patronage, which was bringing the service into disrepute.

But I'll go along with a third option. Limited competition with randomness factors thrown in. Is there any evidence that it would produce better outcomes then the present imperfect open competition systems? Or is your opinion based your belief that nothing could be worse than open competition, as presently practised?

I assert that patronage is the worst system; also that it is still pervasive. It is possible for those who wish to exert patronage to game any system, of course.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
How do you know that? Where is the audit of the Amazon procedures? Seems to me that it could very easily be influenced by patronage.

I brought up the issue of patronage because processes of open competition, a process about which you have reservations, were introduced in the 19th Century as an antidote to patronage, which was bringing the service into disrepute.

I haven't audited Amazon procedures. It could be a system of patronage, but I doubt it.

On the other hand, if we're talking about patronage then I think that applies far more to Civil Service jobs where applicants to technical roles are appointed due to experience working in that agency or department and nothing to do with their actual competence. But YMMV.

quote:
But I'll go along with a third option. Limited competition with randomness factors thrown in. Is there any evidence that it would produce better outcomes then the present imperfect open competition systems? Or is your opinion based your belief that nothing could be worse than open competition, as presently practised?
I think open competition is based on a lie, a perception of fairness which is underlaid by the worst kind of bias.

The fact is that 30, 40, 50 years ago people who turned out to be entirely competent were appointed to Civil Service jobs with little competition. Competition hasn't replaced them with competent people, it has just succeeded in generation large amounts of paper to prove that the proper boxes have been ticked.

quote:
I assert that patronage is the worst system; also that it is still pervasive. It is possible for those who wish to exert patronage to game any system, of course.
I dunno, is it really the worst? A black solicitor employs a youngster from a family he knows. He doesn't consider other candidates, he has more-or-less created the role for the candidate. Is that really so terrible?

If the youngster has almost zero hope of getting into law any other way, hasn't his connections with the black lawyer bucked the trend?

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Garasu
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From a local government perspective I'd have to say that I see little evidence that supposedly 'evidence based' recruitment and selection results in either good or fair hiring in practice...

Frankly, given compliance with the essential requirements (not including rubbish like 'a team player but capable of independent work', which is really just code for 'a good egg'), I suspect random selection would be an improvement...

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
I assert that patronage is the worst system; also that it is still pervasive. It is possible for those who wish to exert patronage to game any system, of course.
I dunno, is it really the worst? A black solicitor employs a youngster from a family he knows. He doesn't consider other candidates, he has more-or-less created the role for the candidate. Is that really so terrible?

If the youngster has almost zero hope of getting into law any other way, hasn't his connections with the black lawyer bucked the trend?

That's more nepotism than patronage, like a prominent politician giving important government posts to his daughter and son-in-law, if we also stipulate that there's no way anyone would appoint them to high political positions under any other circumstance.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
That's more nepotism than patronage, like a prominent politician giving important government posts to his daughter and son-in-law, if we also stipulate that there's no way anyone would appoint them to high political positions under any other circumstance.

I'm not sure the example I gave is nepotism as I think that's associated with positions of power. I think there is some distance between the deplorable nepotism you describe above and patronage that I described before.

[ 22. August 2017, 19:45: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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Barnabas62
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Patronage includes nepotism.

Some forms of patronage are worse than others. In the context of making appointments or awarding contracts, all are a means of giving preference for reasons other than testing merit.

Rubbishing merit based systems seems to me more about methodology than principle.

[ 22. August 2017, 20:27: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Patronage includes nepotism.

Well I think it is similar but subtly different, and is usually used when politicians are giving friends or relations jobs based on family ties rather than ability.

I don't think a family friend who gives a job to a nephew - where the job is not something to do with power and/or a public service paid for by taxpayers - is nepotism.

I've consulted several different dictionaries and they don't seem to agree on this point - several seem to use the word to only refer to corruption in power (as I have) others seem to see it as basically the same as patronage.

quote:
Some forms of patronage are worse than others. All are a means of giving preference rather than testing merit.

Rubbishing merit based systems seems to me more about methodology than principle.

Well for me it is both methodology and principle. I don't really see that better workers are found by suggesting that one is looking for "the best" candidate. And the best evidence for this is the large number of businesses who recruit without having a competitive field of applications called by advert, IMO.

[ 22. August 2017, 20:28: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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Barnabas62
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If there were proven objective method for testing merit, would you not prefer that as a means of selection. If not, why not?

I am happy to concede that there are presently no perfect methods for assessing merit.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
If there were proven objective method for testing merit, would you not prefer that as a means of selection. If not, why not?

Merit is fairly easy to assess in a small number of roles, almost impossible in a large number of roles. So I don't really believe that there could ever be an objective measure.

But that's not really the most important point: the system in place in the UK is very often weighted box ticking. If one changes the weighting, different candidates are selected and different candidates are interviewed.

Too often the weighting has no relationship with the needs of the job, and in reality a large number of jobs have too many applicants and so a percentage of applicants are not considered "fairly" anyway.

quote:
I am happy to concede that there are presently no perfect methods for assessing merit.
I am puzzled how there could ever be a perfect system for assessing merit based on a written application form and a short interview. Unless one is interviewing for an interviewer, this is highly unlikely to show representative skills needed for the job.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
That's more nepotism than patronage, like a prominent politician giving important government posts to his daughter and son-in-law, if we also stipulate that there's no way anyone would appoint them to high political positions under any other circumstance.

I'm not sure the example I gave is nepotism as I think that's associated with positions of power. I think there is some distance between the deplorable nepotism you describe above and patronage that I described before.
How so? Your argument is that it's okay to provide favoritism based on personal connections, so what's the difference between getting someone a political appointment no one else would consider them qualified for and a wealthy family bribing a prestigeous university to admit their unqualified son (to pick another totally unrelated example)? How much unearned favoritism is too much unearned favoritism?

quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Well I think it is similar but subtly different, and is usually used when politicians are giving friends or relations jobs based on family ties rather than ability.

The distinction is that nepotism is typically about rewarding personal connections, whereas patronage (in typical usage) usually refers to rewarding political connections. They're similar, though.

quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I don't think a family friend who gives a job to a nephew - where the job is not something to do with power and/or a public service paid for by taxpayers - is nepotism.

I've consulted several different dictionaries
. . .

Did any of those dictionaries mention that etymologically "nepotism" derives from the Latin nepos, meaning "nephew"? Because it seems like giving preferential treatment to nephews is literally the definition of nepotism.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
How so? Your argument is that it's okay to provide favoritism based on personal connections, so what's the difference between getting someone a political appointment no one else would consider them qualified for and a wealthy family bribing a prestigeous university to admit their unqualified son (to pick another totally unrelated example)? How much unearned favoritism is too much unearned favoritism?

I don't think either of those two examples are similar to mine. It's not just about degree, it is also about corruption in public life being of a different order to patronism in private business affairs. Nobody is saying that I can't employ my own nephew, but there are clear reasons and rules about misuse of public funds to benefit my own family if I'm an elected official.

quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
The distinction is that nepotism is typically about rewarding personal connections, whereas patronage (in typical usage) usually refers to rewarding political connections. They're similar, though.

I'd be interested to hear a more extended explanation of this difference.

quote:
Did any of those dictionaries mention that etymologically "nepotism" derives from the Latin nepos, meaning "nephew"? Because it seems like giving preferential treatment to nephews is literally the definition of nepotism.
It was about popes giving jobs to their nephews. Not about the general idea of giving a job to a nephew, which has happened in many places and many roles since the year dot.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
If there were proven objective method for testing merit, would you not prefer that as a means of selection. If not, why not?

Merit is fairly easy to assess in a small number of roles, almost impossible in a large number of roles. So I don't really believe that there could ever be an objective measure.

But that's not really the most important point: the system in place in the UK is very often weighted box ticking. If one changes the weighting, different candidates are selected and different candidates are interviewed.

Too often the weighting has no relationship with the needs of the job, and in reality a large number of jobs have too many applicants and so a percentage of applicants are not considered "fairly" anyway.

I appreciate your disbelief in any objective measurement. I'm inclined to agree that the best systems are always likely to be approximate; not least because of the huge variations in job descriptions.

But your second and third paras are surely about imperfect or simplistic methodology. All methodologies are capable of improvement in response to justified criticisms.

I suppose the difference between us is that I think Northcote-Trevelyan were right to prefer a merit-based approach to the prior excesses of patronage. These were notorious in 19c UK.

Much of what you and others have said in criticism of current ostensibly merit-based systems is justified, and certainly supported by the limited recent evidence of the Civil Service Commissioners' reports on performance. I also accept that the CS Commission is limited in what it can achieve by monitoring. The Civil Service is a much more politicised organisation these days, so vested interests can have powerful effects on processes intended to be fair. Improvements are required.

But all that being said, I remain convinced that attempts to produce merit-based systems have produced beneficial changes compared with the 19th Century patronage system. Those benefits have been more limited than I would like; patronage is hard to eradicate. But I still believe that merit-based approaches are better. They hold out the promise of a fairer future.

On the narrower point of the meaning of nepotism, I think Croesos is right to point to family connections in the etymology. In my mind that is what makes nepotism a subset of patronage, since a position of patronage enables one to practise nepotism as well as other e.g. political forms of preference.

Not all patrons are dishonest, of course. But they have the freedom to be so, unless there are some controls in place.

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Marvin the Martian

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
Why not? And what do you think would be better - a system whereby we are all just randomly assigned jobs perhaps?

There is quite a difference between "randomly assigning jobs", employing someone who is competent and waiting to tick-box the "best" candidates to take forward to interview.

I've never said the former and I think the latter often fails because people who look good on paper get through initial sifting but may not actually be competent.

If people who look good on paper may not actually be competent then how exactly are you supposed to decide which of them to hire without a merit-based selection process?


quote:
You see one thing, I see another.
Clearly.

quote:
quote:
Spelling mistakes on a job application show a worrying lack of attention to detail, especially in an age of automatic spell checkers and online dictionaries. If someone can't be bothered to make sure they spell their own application correctly then why should I believe they'd be bothered about doing any work I gave them properly and accurately?
People make mistakes. Fact of life.
Making mistakes is one thing. Not going back over your work to find and correct them before submitting it is something else entirely.

quote:
To me this just shows the problem: boxes are ticked and entirely competent people are rejected in favour of finding the mythical "perfect" candidate who too often turns out to be entirely incompetent.
It's not about finding the "perfect" candidate, it's about determining which of the candidates who have actually applied is the best. If I have two candidates who are equally competent, but one has a perfectly spelled CV and the other doesn't then that will put the former above the latter. It is evidence that they have a better attention to detail, which is important in my line of work.

And it's important to remember that entirely competent people are going to be rejected by every single hiring mechanism that exists. There is, after all, only one position to fill. The question is about which is the fairest way to reject them. I would say that patronage and nepotism are the least fair, and merit-based systems the most fair.

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Soror Magna
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Merit is a multi-dimensional quality, so saying "we hire based on merit" is still pretty meaningless. Does merit mean technical skills? Interpersonal skills? Connections and experience in the industry? Personal hygiene? All of the above?

I'm sure I'm not the only person to have had the experience of having to choose between two candidates of comparable merit with varying levels of expertise in the many skills and qualities needed for the job. At that point, "merit" becomes a decision about how the different attributes are weighted.

And that is of course, the point when one can look around the workplace and consider the benefits of diversity when making hiring decisions. It certainly does not mean never hiring a white male - after all, that could be just what the team is lacking. There just aren't a lot of companies that don't already have plenty of e.g. white, male directors, executives, scientists, engineers, managers, whatever.

I would advise gentlemen concerned about reverse discrimination to consider going into nursing. The profession is universal, portable, always in demand, and can be very lucrative. You get to work with your hands and also with your brain and soul. It's an opportunity to make other people's lives better. It can be physically demanding, sometimes even dangerous. There's teamwork and camaraderie. There's no life like it.

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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quote:
Originally posted by Soror Magna:
Merit is a multi-dimensional quality, so saying "we hire based on merit" is still pretty meaningless. Does merit mean technical skills? Interpersonal skills? Connections and experience in the industry? Personal hygiene? All of the above?

I'm sure I'm not the only person to have had the experience of having to choose between two candidates of comparable merit with varying levels of expertise in the many skills and qualities needed for the job. At that point, "merit" becomes a decision about how the different attributes are weighted.

Well done. I was thinking of a response and your's captures it. I may add that unconscious bias also enters. We hired recently someone who used their middle name, and once hired, requested we use her first name. Why? She reported being screened out of positions when using her first, ethnic name. (We didn't have the chance to know if we'd have responded in a biased manner, I like to think not.)
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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by Soror Magna:
Merit is a multi-dimensional quality, so saying "we hire based on merit" is still pretty meaningless. Does merit mean technical skills? Interpersonal skills? Connections and experience in the industry? Personal hygiene? All of the above?

Depends on the job. Any decent job description will highlight particular knowledge, skills and experience and which factors are likely to be more important than others. Sure, there is likely to be a balance to be struck, but in practice it is not that difficult to see which factors should be given more weight than others for any specific appointment.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Depends on the job.

Not sure it does, really. If you are using tick-boxes then they are going to be weighted in order to find the best candidate.

quote:
Any decent job description will highlight particular knowledge, skills and experience and which factors are likely to be more important than others. Sure, there is likely to be a balance to be struck, but in practice it is not that difficult to see which factors should be given more weight than others for any specific appointment.
Yes, but the problem with a competitive system is that reasons have to be found to split up the candidates - so when there are two candidates who are equal in most other respects, then the minor/stupid characteristics might become very important.

And this also doesn't change the fact that very many jobs - particularly in the British civil service that you previously wanted to use as an example of good practice - have candidates which do well at interview but are not well suited to the job. Because if you have boxes to tick then you are going to get candidates who do well according to the boxed criteria, which might be quite different to the needs of the job.

Also I want to bring in another factor: qualification inflation. If you have a highly competitive application-interview system, then you are almost always going to be taking the highest qualified even when the job plainly doesn't need someone with those qualifications.

In some technical fields it clearly is absolutely necessary to have someone with a high level qualification. But in many other jobs it is nothing to do with the needs of the job and everything to do with trying to sift out too many applicants.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Then that's fine. If Amazon shortlist to the one they determine is the best available candidate, they are using the process to shortlist to one and check them out in depth.

They don't shortlist to one. Did you read what I wrote? They short list to a short list then interview them in random order.

quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
Amazon filter applicants by whether they meet the essential criteria, then by random chance. This means that it doesn't matter if you're the best candidate or if you just scraped past the minimum criteria, you have an equal chance of getting the job.

You miss the point. Amazon has decided the concept of "THE best candidate for the job" is meaningless or not helpful. It's a myth, a fantasy that the ranking you speak of really produces a "best" candidate. Change the parameters even slightly and a different person becomes the "best" candidate. Better to not even try to find this chimera, and rather find a person who is an excellent fit and will do the job well. Because that's what matters, not finding some mythical "best candidate."

quote:
The point is that all the applicants get the chance to prove themselves to be the best person for the job.
Is it? The point to the COMPANY is to find someone who can do the job well and fit in with his or her colleagues well. Not to stroke the egos of the applicants.

quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Where is the audit of the Amazon procedures? Seems to me that it could very easily be influenced by patronage.

Oh come, this is Republican logic. "We don't know it's not patronage, so it could be patronage, so it's bad." Either prove it's patronage or have the grace to drop it.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
You miss the point. Amazon has decided the concept of "THE best candidate for the job" is meaningless or not helpful. It's a myth, a fantasy that the ranking you speak of really produces a "best" candidate. Change the parameters even slightly and a different person becomes the "best" candidate. Better to not even try to find this chimera, and rather find a person who is an excellent fit and will do the job well. Because that's what matters, not finding some mythical "best candidate."

I can see that those wedded to a highly competitive model see this as unfair - and that candidates who didn't get the job might feel that they would have got it if they'd been interviewed first.

But I'm not sure it is that unfair really. If there are two similar candidates and one is chosen because he went to university A whereas the other is rejected because he went to university B - then that's fairly random too. At least candidates know with this system that if they've met the minimum requirements and get an interview, they just have to show that they're competent, not necessarily the best.

But then I'm not sure this says much about affirmative action - unless somehow Amazon is saying that disabled/minority/etc people who apply are guaranteed an interview if they meet the minimum requirements. Maybe they are.

quote:
Is it? The point to the COMPANY is to find someone who can do the job well and fit in with his or her colleagues well. Not to stroke the egos of the applicants.
Yes, this. Finding the "best" takes a lot of effort and paperwork. Interviewing qualified candidates at random until one is found who can do the job seems like quite a major saving of time and money.

[ 23. August 2017, 21:12: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
But then I'm not sure this says much about affirmative action - unless somehow Amazon is saying that disabled/minority/etc people who apply are guaranteed an interview if they meet the minimum requirements. Maybe they are.

About this aspect, I do not know. Big tech firms in the US (and Amazon is a tech firm more than it is a retail firm) tend to do pretty well at affirmative action, at least at the lower-to-middle levels. But on this I have no data.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I can see that those wedded to a highly competitive model see this as unfair - and that candidates who didn't get the job might feel that they would have got it if they'd been interviewed first.

And they may well could have. And their name is in the system now and applying for another similar job in a different division will be simple, as everything has already checked out, and they just need to be thrown in the hopper for that position's interview slots.

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Barnabas62
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mousethief

You misunderstand on shortlisting. Shortlisting processes may identify only one candidate. I've seen that happen. I've also seen them identify no suitable candidate. They don't just do relative ranking, they can also include a quality cutoff point.

If they identify more than one suitable candidate, it may save the Company time and effort to check out candidates in detail sequentially and pick the first who passes the detail check. That's fine for the Company but not for the other candidates. That's not about ego stroking. If you need a job and pass the shortlist bar, but don't get further consideration for reasons other than relative merit, I don't think that's fair.

On gaming the system for patronage reasons, it's easy to do if the manager makes the 'random draw' from a list of shortlisted names, or influences the relative length of the short list. Which is why I asked about audits of the process. Advance preferment for a particular candidate can also include helping them over the CV.

All that is avoided if the shortlisting and random draw are carried out independently by HR. That independence can be audited.

[ 24. August 2017, 04:54: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
mousethief

You misunderstand on shortlisting. Shortlisting processes may identify only one candidate. I've seen that happen.

So where's the problem? From your POV that's the "best" candidate. From Amazon's POV they run them through the interview process and either that person is hired, or they go back to trying to find more candidates.

quote:
I've also seen them identify no suitable candidate. They don't just do relative ranking, they can also include a quality cutoff point.
Not at all sure what conclusion you want me to draw from this.

quote:
If they identify more than one suitable candidate, it saves the Company time and effort to check out only one in detail. That's fine for the Company but not for the other candidates. That's not about ego stroking. If you need a job and pass the shortlist bar, but don't get further consideration for reasons other than relative merit, I don't think that's fair.
Perhaps. But I think the way in which it isn't fair isn't really relevant. If you were being passed over for some reason that isn't your fault, or for some reason that favored a candidate who was unqualified over you, or even less qualified over you, for some nefarious reason -- that is an understandable charge of unfairness. But because you were slated to be interview #3 and they hired #2? So what?

quote:
On gaming the system for patronage reasons, it's easy to do if the manager makes the 'random draw' from a list of shortlisted names, or influences the relative length of the short list. Which is why I asked about audits of the process.
Like I said, I don't have inside information on that. The system is no more and no less subject to such cheating than your system. So what does it matter?

quote:
All that is avoided if the shortlisting and random draw are carried out independent by HR. That independence can be audited.
Sure.

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mr cheesy
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Of course, there is the issue that if you don't get a job after an interview then the employer may have not have a whole lot to tell you about why you missed out. As long as he's not discriminated due to various factors he can't legally take into account, there are plenty of other things he can choose to make a choice. I'm sure there are a large number of candidates who query why they didn't get jobs and are told that they "it was close but you just missed out" because of some nefarious reason like "we didn't think you'd fit within our team" or "someone else was more experienced".

Which in and of themselves are not a problem, but the culture of generating paperwork to justify choosing one candidate over another post-interview can obviously hide all kinds of real reasons and discrimination.

Incidentally, of course everyone (I think!) understands that Amazon has sent out a person specification and sifted applicants to only take forward to interview those who meet them.

I'm not entirely sure why this is an issue; it's a standard two-stage process, it is just that not everyone who gets through the sift gets interviewed.

And although obviously it is possible that in the standard system only one candidate survives the sift and goes through to interview, I think in many situations this wouldn't be good enough for internal HR procedures. If you can't find enough candidates to interview, you keep advertising until you do.

[ 24. August 2017, 07:05: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

I've also seen them identify no suitable candidate. They don't just do relative ranking, they can also include a quality cutoff point.

Not at all sure what conclusion you want me to draw from this.
The Amazon system may, for any specific job, find only one candidate who passes the shortlisting suitability bar. In which case checking out one candidate further is obviously fair. Otherwise I don't think it is. I noted your other argument, but it still looks like random discrimination (at best) to me.

quote:
Barnabas62 quote:
On gaming the system for patronage reasons, it's easy to do if the manager makes the 'random draw' from a list of shortlisted names, or influences the relative length of the short list. Which is why I asked about audits of the process.

quote:
Like I said, I don't have inside information on that. The system is no more and no less subject to such cheating than your system. So what does it matter?
All things being equal, it is easier to game. The detailed process does not involve comparison between the winner and other potentially suitable candidates. Which makes that second hurdle easier for any candidate to jump, particularly with help from a patron involved in the detailed process. And if the draw can be gamed (e.g by choosing from a list of names rather than some kind of "blind draw" basis), that makes it even easier.

I wonder, for example, how often Amazon rejects the first person subject to detailed check. Given that economy of Company effort favours the Company, I would reckon they are quite reluctant to reject the first person they see.

[ 24. August 2017, 07:34: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

All things being equal, it is easier to game.

Is it?

A person working in local government is applying for a permanent job. HR policies require that an advert is drawn up, he is selected for interview alongside 4 other candidates from outside local government.

He has some attributes which may be of help to the job (he knows the system, he knows the people, he knows what is involved) but he may also have support from those doing the interview because they're his work colleagues - and who may have even effectively promised him the job.

Gaming the system is a simple task of writing the job description to favour the internal candidate and weighting the boxes so that nobody else can possibly be offered the job.

I've seen that happen on several occasions.

In the Amazon example, someone could easily be employing a friend. They could sift the applications in such a way as to get them in a position to be interviewed and then "randomly" choose them and give them a job at interview.

I've not audited Amazon, I have no idea if it is all a fake. However I have seen first hand examples where the standard system has been gamed, and I'm not really accepting that this alternative is "much easier to game". It seems to me at worst to be much the same.

But the advantage of the Amazon system is that someone gaming the system and giving jobs to unsuitable candidates is going to be fairly quickly found out as the criteria is just to employ someone competent. If they're not competent, then clearly there is something wrong with the recruitment system.

In a standard system, the investigation would be a lot more complicated - because there is a lot of paper showing that this candidate is better than all the others interviewed.

I doubt that many HR departments go back through the recruitment notes to work out why a candidate was selected and to look for evidence of gaming when a new employee is found to be incompetent.

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overheard on a Welsh bus-stop: Jesus don't care about you, he's only interested in your soul

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

I wonder, for example, how often Amazon rejects the first person subject to detailed check. Given that economy of Company effort favours the Company, I would reckon they are quite reluctant to reject the first person they see.

Anecdotally, reasonably often (and as a caveat not every group in Amazon follows the serial process), most groups are worked very hard, and most employees wouldn't want colleagues who tread water.
Posts: 3723 | From: Berkshire | Registered: May 2007  |  IP: Logged



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