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Source: (consider it) Thread: Affirmative Action, or "Positive" Discrimination
Golden Key
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I was acquainted with a woman who had a hobby of applying for jobs she wasn't really qualified for, just for fun. She was good at getting interviews, and very good at being interviewed. She'd often go through a few levels of that, before a mutual decision that she might not be a match.
[Smile]

People BS their way through interviews all the time. And people who are honest may be perceived as not interviewing well. Often, interviewers and employers are waiting to hear/read the right magic words, whether or not that has anything to do with the job. And they want someone who seems like part of their "tribe". (Nod to Richard Nelson Bolles.)

It's not as simple as who's qualified. Or, perhaps, a lot of other qualifications are considered that aren't in the official job description.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
By what process do HR/management know that the 100 applicants meet the person spec and 400 don't? Are they just saying "it's obvious" after reading the CVs? What makes it so "obvious" that no more detailed assessment is necessary.

Most British job person specifications distinguish between essential and desirable attributes that the employer is looking for in candidates.

The essential characteristics are usually those which can be assessed relatively objectively from the paper application. The level of qualifications and the numbers of years of experience.

The desirable characteristics are those, including soft skills, which are not considered to be essential for the job but would be nice to have and which are usually attempted to be assessed by the interviewer.

Very often these days the employer will state on the person spec how the characteristics are going to be assessed, ie via the application form, at interview or via test etc.

Most of the essential characteristics used to sort and sift candidates before interview are those which are fairly objectively assessed via the form. Does the candidate have the minimum amount of education stated in the job spec - yes or no? Does the candidate have the minimum amount of experience stated in the job spec - yes or no?

Of course there are some characteristics which might be applicable to a job which are going to be basically impossible to tell from a form - such as teamworking abilities, communication skills etc. A candidate is unlikely to say on a form that they lack these things if they're stated in the job spec as being essential, but if there is any reason for thinking that they're lacking (commonly grammatical errors or spelling mistakes), then the application forms are sifted out.

So then you have a bunch of applications from candidates who have the minimum qualifications and skills needed to do the job.

Then, in the normal way, the employer will have to rank those candidates who have met the minimum standard on paper to determine who to interview.

quote:
That sounds like a gut feel process to me. A non-scoring process is still a process.
If it is mostly a gut feel then the process isn't working properly. What it should be is a fairly objective sift of who of the applicants could do the job measured against the essential characteristics - which in turn ought to be things that are easily measured against what is written on the application form.

It ought to be the case that the same group of candidates are determined to meet the essential requirements if different people are doing the sifting.

Of course it doesn't always work like that - partly when people describe things as essential that are impossible to assess without meeting the candidate or when the candidate lies about their qualifications.

But in the normal way, jobs which have hundreds of applicants for each vacancy are not going to be sifted based on gut feeling.

quote:
You can certainly argue in favour of gut-feeling your way through applications, but I don't see why that should be superior to some kind of scoring system.
But I'm not talking about gut feeling, I don't understand what you're not getting about this.

1000 people apply to be a shelf-stacker at Tescos. One of the essential characteristics is that they have to have a clean appearance, have to be able to stand up for long periods, have to be relatively fit and have to have a certain level of education.

So in the first sift you might be looking at their qualifications, their recent job experience, the kinds of jobs they'd been doing etc.

OK there is something less than entirely objective about determining whether someone is fit, but there might be some indication if they've said that they enjoy playing sport or regularly go to the gym. You might sift out someone who is fit but didn't mention this on the form - but then if it is an essential attribute needed for the job then it isn't your problem if candidates didn't address them.

Even basic jobs like this around here have many hundreds of applicants. Tesco can't interview 100s, so there has to be some way to get them down to manageable levels.

Isn't it obvious that the first step is to remove those candidates from the pool who don't meet the minimums needed for the job?

Then you have a smaller pool of candidates who appear to meet the minimum needed for the job and you need to decide who it is that you are going to interview.

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arse

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Golden Key:
I was acquainted with a woman who had a hobby of applying for jobs she wasn't really qualified for, just for fun. She was good at getting interviews, and very good at being interviewed. She'd often go through a few levels of that, before a mutual decision that she might not be a match.
[Smile]

This is a whole other problem caused by the pressure to recruit someone even if they don't meet the minimum standards needed to do the job.

How often this happens is clearly related to geography and the local job market - but an employer who employs people below the minimum stated in the job advert and spec is going to run into problems. Either the spec is wrong (and the job can be competently done by someone who lacks the stated minimum skills and qualifications) or the recruitment drive has failed and an incompetent person has been recruited.

quote:
People BS their way through interviews all the time. And people who are honest may be perceived as not interviewing well. Often, interviewers and employers are waiting to hear/read the right magic words, whether or not that has anything to do with the job. And they want someone who seems like part of their "tribe". (Nod to Richard Nelson Bolles.)

It's not as simple as who's qualified. Or, perhaps, a lot of other qualifications are considered that aren't in the official job description.

Well yes, this is an other problem. One can hit all the right notes in an application in order to get an interview and then blag through an interview to get a job.

But that's a bit of a fundamental problem with all systems of recruitment based on a paper application followed by a short meeting. It favours those who are able to do well at paper applications and interviews rather than those who can actually do the job (which might not be the same thing).

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arse

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Barnabas62
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I think some good points have been made in favour of using minimum competence as a standard to be used by an employer. From their point of view, good enough is good enough for many jobs.

What is still sticking in my gut, though, is fairness to candidates. Feedback which says, actually you were good enough but you didn't win the raffle, next time you might be luckier, means there is nothing you can do to improve your prospects. Doesn't that provoke the response, "you never really looked"?

mousethief, a noncompetitive detailed interview assessment is easier to game because the assessors (including a motivated manager) have less to go on. It's more a confirmation that the initial sift was right about competence. And auditors of the process have less to audit, other than the confirmation was reasonable.

In competitive interview/assessments in the UK, the panel normally mark individually before any discussion. I've been in one as an independent manager, with a manager from the recruitment area and an HR chairman. The HR chairman and I both gave an A to a candidate, the area manager gave him an E. For another candidate, the HR chairman and I gave him a D, the area manager an A.

That information would have been available for an audit.

Whatever you want to make it that situation, which was resolved well after a long discussion over the sharp differences, it's an illustration of how possible bias both for and against candidates may be detected in an audit.

None of this proves that competitive interviews are necessary, of course, but that wasn't my point.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

What is still sticking in my gut, though, is fairness to candidates. Feedback which says, actually you were good enough but you didn't win the raffle, next time you might be luckier, means there is nothing you can do to improve your prospects. Doesn't that provoke the response, "you never really looked"?

If you ask for feedback and you were in the final few who were interviewed, the chances are that you were all considered to be able to do the job.

So 9/10 times the answer will be that someone else was considered to be slightly better.

In the Amazon example if you don't even get an interview, I don't see how you could possibly know whether you were even in contention as a person capable of doing the job.

I suppose if you were already working there, had a microscopic knowledge of the job and the skills needed and could word your application in such a way as to 100% guarantee that you met the spec, then I guess you'd know you were capable and hadn't been interviewed.

But then if you worked for Amazon, wouldn't you already know that this was how they sift candidates?

quote:
mousethief, a noncompetitive detailed interview assessment is easier to game because the assessors (including a motivated manager) have less to go on. It's more a confirmation that the initial sift was right about competence. And auditors of the process have less to audit, other than the confirmation was reasonable.
I understand that Amazon interviews for engineers comprise of 7 or 8 interviews and tests. The idea that they're somehow not rigorous isn't backed up by the available evidence.

quote:
In competitive interview/assessments in the UK, the panel normally mark individually before any discussion. I've been in one as an independent manager, with a manager from the recruitment area and an HR chairman. The HR chairman and I both gave an A to a candidate, the area manager gave him an E. For another candidate, the HR chairman and I gave him a D, the area manager an A.

That information would have been available for an audit.

Whatever you want to make it that situation, which was resolved well after a long discussion over the sharp differences, it's an illustration of how possible bias both for and against candidates may be detected in an audit.

None of this proves that competitive interviews are necessary, of course, but that wasn't my point.

I don't really see what you are going on about here. Let's say that Amazon truly randomly chooses candidates to interview from the available pool of qualified applicants.

The job of the interviewers is to weigh their competence. In their minds they might say to themselves all kinds of things about what is needed in a person to do that job beyond what is stated in the spec.

They then assess the candidates against those expectations and decide whether they're competent or not.

There is no difference in the rigour. The difference is in how they're deciding how to get people to interview. That's it.

At the end of this process they can still have an auditable trail of paper including the application form and the interviewer notes showing why they thought that this candidate would be competent.

The only thing they don't have is some made-up metric about why this candidate is better than all the rest of the candidates.

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arse

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mr cheesy
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Actually this is another good point: if I'm the team at Amazon recruiting in this way, I'm not going to take kindly to a candidate who tells me that the recruitment wasn't fair.

If you are that good a fit for Amazon, maybe you should have known how they do recruitment.

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arse

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

What is still sticking in my gut, though, is fairness to candidates. Feedback which says, actually you were good enough but you didn't win the raffle, next time you might be luckier, means there is nothing you can do to improve your prospects. Doesn't that provoke the response, "you never really looked"?

If you ask for feedback and you were in the final few who were interviewed, the chances are that you were all considered to be able to do the job.

So 9/10 times the answer will be that someone else was considered to be slightly better.

In the Amazon example if you don't even get an interview, I don't see how you could possibly know whether you were even in contention as a person capable of doing the job.

You can ask, did I make the sift or not? Whether you are an internal or external candidate. I don't know whether it's Amazon's policy to reveal such information. I can't see any reason why asking that question should upset anyone.

quote:

At the end of this process (the single interview assessment) they can still have an auditable trail of paper including the application form and the interviewer notes showing why they thought that this candidate would be competent.

The only thing they don't have is some made-up metric about why this candidate is better than all the rest of the candidates.

The metric isn't made-up by the assessors, it's a pre-established marking standard, and one interviewers were trained in using. Whether any form of competitive interview marking should be regarded as valid or not is a separate issue.

My response to mousethief was about relative gaming and what information might be available to auditors. Not about the relative merits of the two different systems. If there is more evidence, there is more to audit, therefore it is harder to game. The question of whether the evidence is relevant is related to the usefulness of the process, not its auditability.

[In the marking system we were using, a D was a minimum competence pass, an E meant "not at any price". The final individual marking was a composite, based on separate assessments for knowledge, skills and experience. The separate marks were also recorded. Everything, including a record of discussions, went into the report by the chair. The concept of minimum competence was indeed part of the system, just not the only factor considered]

So far as gaming the Amazon-type systems are concerned, I should think the jury is still out. It's relatively new compared with more traditional competitive approaches. Experience teaches me that if would be patrons have both motive and opportunity, they will find a way, regardless of system. Secret motives encourage people to make use of whatever opportunities are available. That's a truth wider than the pros and cons of appointment systems.

By the way, I'm not sure that competence is really binary. People use phrases such as "barely competent, questionable competence". Every appointment takes a risk over competence, no matter how it is assessed or tested in advance of appointment. Going for a more meritorious candidate may reduce the risk of a poor appointment. Of course, time will tell and a lot does depend on the nature of the job.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
The metric isn't made-up by the assessors, it's a pre-established marking standard, and one interviewers were trained in using. Whether any form of competitive interview marking should be regarded as valid or not is a separate issue.


Well that's where we differ. If the idea is to rank candidates to decide which 5 to interview, then in my opinion that's a subjective and made-up standard - which may be wildly beyond the minimum needed to do the job. If one changes the variables slightly, different people would be called for interview.

Competence is a different standard. You are or you aren't competent.

"The best candidate" is a subjective decision based on weighted box-ticking.

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arse

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:

Competence is a different standard. You are or you aren't competent.

My point was that you don't really know that for sure at appointment stage. Lots of jobs include probationary periods which give managers the opportunity to find out in practice whether the initial assessment of competence was justified.

Given that appointment and training processes are quite expensive for organisations, it's not wrong to try and find means of reducing the risk. The Amazon process does that one way in advance, by more detailed testing of one candidate; the traditional competitive process does it another way in advance, by looking at relative merit among the competent.

But I'm sure it doesn't stop there for Amazon or anyone else. The failure rate afterwards is not a bad indicator of which type of process is more effective.

I don't think any system is infallible in assessing competence in advance. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
My point was that you don't really know that for sure at appointment stage. Lots of jobs include probationary periods which give managers the opportunity to find out in practice whether the initial assessment of competence was justified.

True, but also IMO irrelevant.

If you are trying to look for the best possible candidate, you need to score each candidate so that you can decide between them. So you're forced to decide fairly arbitrarily to weigh one thing that one candidate has more highly than the thing that another candidate has.

If you are attempting to test competence, then you only have to assess whether the candidate is good against the standard of the job, not whether they're the best against all the other candidates.

Both system can fail to properly assess for the needs of the job - I thought that was a given. Interviews rarely simulate true working conditions.

But the point I'm making is that a scoring system is significantly about distinguishing between candidates, whereas a competence system - without needing to compare candidates with other candidates - is solely about whether they can effectively do the job. Therefore the latter system has an advantage in that it is directly considering the candidate against the needs of the job not against the complicated metrics devised to compare them to some other candidate.

quote:
Given that appointment and training processes are quite expensive for organisations, it's not wrong to try and find means of reducing the risk. The Amazon process does that one way in advance, by more detailed testing of one candidate; the traditional competitive process does it another way in advance, by looking at relative merit among the competent.

But I'm sure it doesn't stop there for Amazon or anyone else. The failure rate afterwards is not a bad indicator of which type of process is more effective.

I don't think any system is infallible in assessing competence in advance. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

No I didn't say it was infallible, but I suspect that Amazon finds it saves a lot of time and still generates employees that are at least as good as finding them the other way.

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arse

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Barnabas62
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You suspect? Let's leave it at that. I appreciate you have grounds for your suspicion. Neither of us can know for sure, without more evidence.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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mr cheesy
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FWIW, I read that the turnover of staff is extremely high at Amazon - largely it seems due to the intense pressure and peer assessment.

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arse

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
You suspect? Let's leave it at that. I appreciate you have grounds for your suspicion. Neither of us can know for sure, without more evidence.

Actually, I'd say that given their relative success it's down to the naysayers to prove why their hiring policy doesn't work.
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Barnabas62
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Does high turnover confirm successful recruitment methods? I would have thought rather the reverse. Staff voting with their feet is normally a sign of disillusionment. Particularly when they've all been confirmed as competent, that suggests something is up.

Unless you believe in Darwinian management, of course. Let the fit survive. There's plenty more out there to fill the gaps left by those who don't survive.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
I think some good points have been made in favour of using minimum competence as a standard to be used by an employer. From their point of view, good enough is good enough for many jobs.

What is still sticking in my gut, though, is fairness to candidates. Feedback which says, actually you were good enough but you didn't win the raffle, next time you might be luckier, means there is nothing you can do to improve your prospects. Doesn't that provoke the response, "you never really looked"?

What does fairness to candidates mean, beyond your compliance with whatever anti-discrimination laws apply in your jurisdiction. No-one has any right to a job, but only a right not to be discriminated against. If I, as an employer, decide to call for interview only 10% of candidates, and those are chosen entirely at random, what complaint can a candidate have?

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Not every Anglican in Sydney is Sydney Anglican

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Unless you believe in Darwinian management, of course. Let the fit survive. There's plenty more out there to fill the gaps left by those who don't survive.

I believe there is a certain amount of this in some of the groups in Amazon, this is certainly one view:

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html

Though of course as in most exposes there's an element of bias here. Some of it has been confirmed to me anecdotally by people I know who work there, though it seems to be less true for others. Certainly they are very metrics driven internally, and they've grown at a point where IT itself is adopting quasi assembly-line style methods of production.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
You suspect? Let's leave it at that. I appreciate you have grounds for your suspicion. Neither of us can know for sure, without more evidence.

Actually, I'd say that given their relative success it's down to the naysayers to prove why their hiring policy doesn't work.
If a company has a policy of hiring the best and seems to be successful, one cannot know if the success is because they did hire the best or because anyone competent will do.

Job specifications are written to hire someone who can do the job. If hiring a person who meets that specification can lead the company/agency to ruin or mediocrity, then the specs are at fault.
I understand the hesitancy to accept this. Most people wish to feel their jobs are important and their attaining them was on outstanding merit, not mere competence.
Back on page 2 I gave examples of jobs that are normally thought better done by better people. No one has stepped forward to discuss them.
Most jobs are not in isolation, they do not carry the weight of the world, nor are they designed to be independent. They are parts of a system. Most are important in some way, but many are not integrated into the structural support of the agency or business. Even those which are structural do not operate independently. So "best" in this context is not relevant, even were it possible to actually ascertain.
Most businesses and agencies are not designed from the ground up by geniuses of massive experience. They evolve over time into what works. What works, not what works best. For most, there is no way of knowing what is best, even if one could attempt it.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
If a company has a policy of hiring the best and seems to be successful, one cannot know if the success is because they did hire the best or because anyone competent will do.

But as we have already been discussing for the last page or so - their strategy is explicitly based on the idea that in most cases they won't be hiring the 'absolute best' for the job.
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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
If a company has a policy of hiring the best and seems to be successful, one cannot know if the success is because they did hire the best or because anyone competent will do.

But as we have already been discussing for the last page or so - their strategy is explicitly based on the idea that in most cases they won't be hiring the 'absolute best' for the job.
And my point for much of the entire thread is that absolute best isn't even relevant.
The myth of "best" is a key factor in preventing equal opportunities.

[ 25. August 2017, 15:48: Message edited by: lilBuddha ]

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Martin60
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Affirmative Action or "Positive" Discrimination are sticking plasters compared with the major surgery of tax funded compensatory education and apprenticeships in highest quality social house building and furnishing skills.

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Love wins

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Unless you believe in Darwinian management, of course. Let the fit survive. There's plenty more out there to fill the gaps left by those who don't survive.

I believe there is a certain amount of this in some of the groups in Amazon, this is certainly one view:

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html

Though of course as in most exposes there's an element of bias here. Some of it has been confirmed to me anecdotally by people I know who work there, though it seems to be less true for others. Certainly they are very metrics driven internally, and they've grown at a point where IT itself is adopting quasi assembly-line style methods of production.

Interesting and disturbing link, chris. Yes, that's almost a textbook illustration of Darwinian management. This quote was pretty telling.

quote:
But in its offices, Amazon uses a self-reinforcing set of management, data and psychological tools to spur its tens of thousands of white-collar employees to do more and more. “The company is running a continual performance improvement algorithm on its staff,” said Amy Michaels, a former Kindle marketer.
Also in the context of the recent pages in this thread, did you note this in the link?

quote:
The process begins when Amazon’s legions of recruiters identify thousands of job prospects each year, who face extra screening by “bar raisers,” star employees and part-time interviewers charged with ensuring that only the best are hired.
Only the best are hired? The best? That's not a hiring standard based purely on competency.

[ 25. August 2017, 17:22: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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mr cheesy
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OK, look I said I knew nothing about the specifics of Amazon's recruitment, I was mostly talking about the idea of selecting people at random to interview based on competence vs ranking candidates to hire the "best".

I suspect the truth is that there are multiple teams inside Amazon which do it differently. But I don't know. I'm in no sense defending Amazon.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
My point for much of the entire thread is that absolute best isn't even relevant.
The myth of "best" is a key factor in preventing equal opportunities.

I wasn't contending that the 'absolute best was relevant'. I wasn't even arguing for the concept of the 'best'. Furthermore:

"If a company has a policy of hiring the best and seems to be successful,"

I wasn't even contending that Amazon were hiring the 'best' (in fact the random element would specifically rule this out except accidentally - see Marvin's posts up thread).

So I have no idea what the relevance of what you said has to do with what I said.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

quote:
The process begins when Amazon’s legions of recruiters identify thousands of job prospects each year, who face extra screening by “bar raisers,” star employees and part-time interviewers charged with ensuring that only the best are hired.
Only the best are hired? The best? That's not a hiring standard based purely on competency.
Nothing in that is necessarily contrary to the serial process mousethief described (and which is also what have had described to me by both friends who work at Amazon and recruiters working at and for Amazon), it's just the assumption that they can identify 'the best' earlier (which ends up being competency based). Some groups in Amazon do recruit differently depending on location and local management.
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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
My point for much of the entire thread is that absolute best isn't even relevant.
The myth of "best" is a key factor in preventing equal opportunities.

I wasn't contending that the 'absolute best was relevant'. I wasn't even arguing for the concept of the 'best'. Furthermore:

"If a company has a policy of hiring the best and seems to be successful,"

I wasn't even contending that Amazon were hiring the 'best' (in fact the random element would specifically rule this out except accidentally - see Marvin's posts up thread).

So I have no idea what the relevance of what you said has to do with what I said.

OK, I appear to have missed parts of the thread.
B62 and others have been positing the idea and I thought that was still part of the conversation.
I was not referencing Amazon.

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I know, mr cheesy. I didn't read you as an advocate for Amazon, rather a critic of the value of searching for the best when competent would do.

I may not agree with you but I respect where you are coming from.

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Barnabas62
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lilBuddha

The concept of the best employee is not a myth, since most management systems these days have performance measures (output, quality, profitability etc) to determine rewards such as bonuses or annual increases.

What is undoubtedly problematic is whether attempts to determine which candidates will turn out to be better than others are soundly based.

But if a manager has a choice between a candidate who is thought to be up to competency standards, and one who is thought to have promise to do better (in accordance with the performance measures for the job,) which one do you think the manager will want.

The best is not a myth, and managers may have good reasons for wanting the candidate who is seen to be the best available. They may end up disappointed, of course, but you can understand the motivation for looking.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

The concept of the best employee is not a myth, since most management systems these days have performance measures (output, quality, profitability etc) to determine rewards such as bonuses or annual increases.

I assume it is in phrasing, but rewards for a putative 'best employee' is not proof that the best employee exists.
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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
lilBuddha

The concept of the best employee is not a myth, since most management systems these days have performance measures (output, quality, profitability etc) to determine rewards such as bonuses or annual increases.

Yeah, I've seen several schemes. The best those do is measure how well a person who already has the job is doing. And if the specs work, that will be nearly any competent person as most jobs really don't change beyond that. Most cannot as they do not exist independently.
quote:

What is undoubtedly problematic is whether attempts to determine which candidates will turn out to be better than others are soundly based.

Understatement. Only in a very tiny organisation can this even be attempted accurately.
quote:

But if a manager has a choice between a candidate who is thought to be up to competency standards, and one who is thought to have promise to do better (in accordance with the performance measures for the job,) which one do you think the manager will want.

My point is that for most jobs it doesn't actually matter.
quote:

The best is not a myth, and managers may have good reasons for wanting the candidate who is seen to be the best available. They may end up disappointed, of course, but you can understand the motivation for looking.

Most of the reason is the illusion that it matters and that one can easily determine "best". Remember, the criterion I am using is competence. Not mediocrity, not marginal. Competent.
If you need the absolute best to fill a position, you have poorly designed the parameters of that position and likely the structure of your company/agency.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
But if a manager has a choice between a candidate who is thought to be up to competency standards, and one who is thought to have promise to do better (in accordance with the performance measures for the job,) which one do you think the manager will want.

So really why interview 5 people if you have already determined that one of them is the "best" in accordance with the performance measures for the job? Unless interviewing well is a performance measure that can add points to one candidate and not the other. But unless the job involves being interviewed, that's inane.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
quoting from the article:
quote:
But in its offices, Amazon uses a self-reinforcing set of management, data and psychological tools to spur its tens of thousands of white-collar employees to do more and more. “The company is running a continual performance improvement algorithm on its staff,” said Amy Michaels, a former Kindle marketer.

Not to plump for Amazon but surely they can't be the only company in the world to read Deming? FFS "continual improvement" has been business standard since the 70s in Japan and the 80s in the US.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
The concept of the best employee is not a myth, since most management systems these days have performance measures (output, quality, profitability etc) to determine rewards such as bonuses or annual increases.

A horrid practice which pits employees against each other, thereby disincentivizing cooperation and thereby reducing productivity and/or quality. See the recent CEO of Sears who turned the business into a competition between internal groups, and ran the business into the ground. It's still doubtful whether it can rebound, or whether it will die in the next year or so. Competition is not an unmitigated good.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
But if a manager has a choice between a candidate who is thought to be up to competency standards, and one who is thought to have promise to do better (in accordance with the performance measures for the job,) which one do you think the manager will want.

So really why interview 5 people if you have already determined that one of them is the "best" in accordance with the performance measures for the job? Unless interviewing well is a performance measure that can add points to one candidate and not the other. But unless the job involves being interviewed, that's inane.
Shortlisting doesn't complete evaluation; all it is intended to do is screen out candidates for further evaluation.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
quoting from the article:
quote:
But in its offices, Amazon uses a self-reinforcing set of management, data and psychological tools to spur its tens of thousands of white-collar employees to do more and more. “The company is running a continual performance improvement algorithm on its staff,” said Amy Michaels, a former Kindle marketer.

Not to plump for Amazon but surely they can't be the only company in the world to read Deming? FFS "continual improvement" has been business standard since the 70s in Japan and the 80s in the US.
It's the use of the word 'algorithm' which gives the game away. The rest of the article gives you some insight into the pressurising nature of the algorithm. It's a while since I read Deming but from memory he understood the difference between incentivising and demotivating. High turnover gives you the clue about the aggressive nature of the algorithm.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
The concept of the best employee is not a myth, since most management systems these days have performance measures (output, quality, profitability etc) to determine rewards such as bonuses or annual increases.

A horrid practice which pits employees against each other, thereby disincentivizing cooperation and thereby reducing productivity and/or quality. See the recent CEO of Sears who turned the business into a competition between internal groups, and ran the business into the ground. It's still doubtful whether it can rebound, or whether it will die in the next year or so. Competition is not an unmitigated good.
Like you, I have reservations about individual incentives on their own. My point was that the concept of best employee is alive and well in many organisations, so it has some influence on recruitment practices. Incentives are not bad in themselves. The normal method of encouraging teamwork is to couple individual incentives with a group performance incentive. Not all organisations do this, of course.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

My point was that the concept of best employee is alive and well in many organisations, so it has some influence on recruitment practices.

While the concept might exist this doesn't necessarily mean that the reality exists.
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Barnabas62
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Fair enough, chris.

Amusingly, I was talking some of this through with my very bright 18 year old grandson, off to University in 5 weeks. He's been doing part time work in a fish and chip shop (to help him with his initial costs before loans come through) and his manager thinks the world of him. Reason; he's very good with money, very accurate over orders, and a faster collator and wrapper of orders than any of the other assistants. "The manager thinks I'm the best, and the fastest, and I am!", he tells me. He's getting the same basic pay as other assistants, but it doesn't bother him. "I've got a guaranteed holiday job to come back to, grandpa".

Oh I'm sure it's a myth in some areas of work.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
High turnover gives you the clue about the aggressive nature of the algorithm.

Only, at this point, if correlation proves causation.

quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
My point was that the concept of best employee is alive and well in many organisations, so it has some influence on recruitment practices.

That has no bearing on whether or not it's chimerical.

quote:
Incentives are not bad in themselves. The normal method of encouraging teamwork is to couple individual incentives with a group performance incentive. Not all organisations do this, of course.
Incentives and competition for bonuses and pay rises are quite different things, or are at least easily distinguishable. An zero-sum incentive, one that not everybody can achieve, is anti-cooperative.

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Barnabas62
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High turnover doesn't confirm draconian management. If there is some other evidence of draconian management, it's not unreasonable to suggest a link. If people can't stand the heat, they get out of the kitchen.

Yes, management may perpetuate a wrong recruitment method if belief in the best employee is a myth. But it's hard for me to cope with a static understanding of competence at entry against a background of continuous improvement of performance. Surely that's the reason why Amazon peer reviewers are exhorted to find the best? Competence seems to have become a variable, some mixture of what you can do now, and whether you can handle the bracing challenges to improve.

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Coming into this late, but the idea of a 'best' candidate doesn't seem to me to mesh well with the observations that most people do in fact have jobs, and that most jobs are interchangeable (in terms of skills required) with at least some other jobs.

To put it another way, the concept of 'best' candidate suggests that both jobs and employees are unique and special snowflakes* and the process of matching one to the other requires infinitesimal fine-tuning.

Alice and Bob apply for jobs as widget-processors. Ricarduscorp picks Alice, Barnabascorp picks Bob. Both companies offer similar conditions of employment. Either:

a.) There is some minuscule difference in the nature of the two companies' widget processing that means that Alice really is better than Bob from Ricarduscorp's POV, and vice versa for Bob and Barnabascorp; or:

b.) Ricarduscorp's perception that Alice is better is based on some arbitrary and irrelevant factor, e.g. Alice gelled better with the HR person at interview.

If (b) is the case, then you might as well select on the basis of a genuinely random sort, because at least then you will avoid the phenomenon of selecting for arbitrary characteristics that are actively harmful, such as picking only people who think like you. (Or who think like your HR department ...)


(* in the traditional sense, not the Daily Mail alt-right sense.)

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
Coming into this late, but the idea of a 'best' candidate doesn't seem to me to mesh well with the observations that most people do in fact have jobs, and that most jobs are interchangeable (in terms of skills required) with at least some other jobs.

My observation is that in most white collar environments a significant portion of any job can end up being fairly generic and not particularly anything to do with the ostensible specialty of the department to which someone is assigned.

Secondly, if the department requires significant domain knowledge in its specialty then the 'best' often varies depending on either the skills already in the department or - often more importantly - the work-styles of the people already in the department. Where most work is a collaboration between multiple parties, there are an infinite ways to divide work.

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
Coming into this late, but the idea of a 'best' candidate doesn't seem to me to mesh well with the observations that most people do in fact have jobs, and that most jobs are interchangeable (in terms of skills required) with at least some other jobs.

Everybody who has been supporting the idea that you'd rather have a "good" person than an "adequate" person has also been saying that you'd rather have an "adequate" person than a vacancy. This is not inconsistent with that.

quote:
To put it another way, the concept of 'best' candidate suggests that both jobs and employees are unique and special snowflakes* and the process of matching one to the other requires infinitesimal fine-tuning.
No, it doesn't.

Everyone agrees that there's measurement error in the interview process. If Alice and Bob are similar applicants, we agree that it doesn't matter which one Ricardus hires and which one Barnabas hires - the candidates are the same. I agree with your point 2 - selection between very similar candidates is extremely vulnerable to implicit bias on the part of the interviewers.

But your framing assumption is that Alice and Bob are identical. What if Alice is better than Bob?

In that case, both Ricardus and Barnabas will offer Alice the job. Alice will pick one of them (maybe Ricardus offers a higher wage; maybe Barnabas is more convenient for her home) and the losing employer will offer the job to Bob, his second choice.

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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Fair enough, chris.

Amusingly, I was talking some of this through with my very bright 18 year old grandson, off to University in 5 weeks. He's been doing part time work in a fish and chip shop (to help him with his initial costs before loans come through) and his manager thinks the world of him. Reason; he's very good with money, very accurate over orders, and a faster collator and wrapper of orders than any of the other assistants. "The manager thinks I'm the best, and the fastest, and I am!", he tells me. He's getting the same basic pay as other assistants, but it doesn't bother him. "I've got a guaranteed holiday job to come back to, grandpa".

Good for him. And I mean that.
However, it doesn't demonstrate anything unless you can show the chip shop is making a significant sum more during his shifts. His skill level is likely irrelevant to the actual job in any significant measure.

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No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

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People get put off chippies by long queues, which can be created by slower servers. And efficient counter service is good for the reputation of the place.

I don't know whether that's been reflected in the figures, of course.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:
quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
Coming into this late, but the idea of a 'best' candidate doesn't seem to me to mesh well with the observations that most people do in fact have jobs, and that most jobs are interchangeable (in terms of skills required) with at least some other jobs.

Everybody who has been supporting the idea that you'd rather have a "good" person than an "adequate" person has also been saying that you'd rather have an "adequate" person than a vacancy. This is not inconsistent with that.
Nobody has been supporting this idea. It has been said over and over -- perhaps you missed it -- that if your cut-off line doesn't get you a good candidate, then you need to move your cut-off line.

quote:
But your framing assumption is that Alice and Bob are identical. What if Alice is better than Bob?
This brings up so many questions.

(a) by how much?
(b) is that really determinable before an offer is made given normal vetting processes?
(c) will this benefit the "winning" manager enough to make a difference?
(d) will the "losing" manager then be better off not hiring Bob at all, but starting the search all over? After all, they want the "best" and Bob isn't it. If, on the other hand, Bob is good enough, then Bob was good enough before Alice was hired, and the ranking is irrelevant.

quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
People get put off chippies by long queues, which can be created by slower servers. And efficient counter service is good for the reputation of the place.

This kind of assumes F&C is a commodity. On the other hand if Chipmonger's has discernibly better wares than Joe's Cod, then it might be worth standing in a slower line to get the better meal. In which case the speed of the counter workers is only relevant to people with undiscerning palates.

[ 26. August 2017, 17:43: Message edited by: mousethief ]

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
People get put off chippies by long queues, which can be created by slower servers. And efficient counter service is good for the reputation of the place.

I don't know whether that's been reflected in the figures, of course.

If the other servers are creating longer lines than your grandson, they are not meeting the basic level of competence or the shop owner needs to implement a better work-flow. Or not if the level of custom hasn't changed.

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If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
It has been said over and over -- perhaps you missed it -- that if your cut-off line doesn't get you a good candidate, then you need to move your cut-off line.

I didn't miss it - I just think it's bollocks.

In my experience, it is always true that there are people that you really want to have, and people that are less good, but that you're prepared to take if there are no good people available. (And also the third category - people you wouldn't take at any price.)

It's all very well setting your cut-off line at the boundary of groups 1 and 2, but that just means you often won 't hire anyone.


quote:
This brings up so many questions.

(a) by how much?
(b) is that really determinable before an offer is made given normal vetting processes?
(c) will this benefit the "winning" manager enough to make a difference?
(d) will the "losing" manager then be better off not hiring Bob at all, but starting the search all over? After all, they want the "best" and Bob isn't it. If, on the other hand, Bob is good enough, then Bob was good enough before Alice was hired, and the ranking is irrelevant.

a) by more than the measurement error on your interview process, otherwise it's a nonsense statement, obviously.

b)IME, yes. (One example: ~30 candidates produced a shortlist of 4, who looked similar on paper. After interview, we had one rock star, who we hired, one group 2 (who we would have hired if #1 had turned us down) and two no-hopers.)

c)Given the subsequent performance of our rock star candidate, not just yes but hell yes.

d) Alice is better than Bob. Bob is better than nobody. This is a variant of the marriage problem. You got turned down by Alice, but have Bob available. Do you marry him, or break it off and hope to meet Charlie, who is like Alice, but wants you? But there's an advantage in this problem to getting married early, rather than spending more time single. There are certainly cases where marrying Bob is the right answer.

quote:
On the other hand if Chipmonger's has discernibly better wares than Joe's Cod, then it might be worth standing in a slower line to get the better meal. In which case the speed of the counter workers is only relevant to people with undiscerning palates.
No, that's nonsense. You're only right if the customer has committed to purchase fish and chips from one of the town's chippies. That describes almost no actual humans.

Sure - if the F&C is great, and I really want F&C, and I have plenty of time, I'll get in the queue. But if I'm a bit rushed, or I'm not completely sold on fish and chips, then crappy service means I'm more likely to pick up a Chinese instead.

Posts: 4752 | From: USA | Registered: Feb 2013  |  IP: Logged
Leorning Cniht
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# 17564

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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
If the other servers are creating longer lines than your grandson, they are not meeting the basic level of competence or the shop owner needs to implement a better work-flow. Or not if the level of custom hasn't changed.

Alice can serve 30 customers in an hour. Bob can serve 15 customers in an hour. A chip shop with 25 customers arriving per hour needs to employ one Alice or two Bobs.

If the chip shop exists in a town solely populated by Bobs, then it's going to take quite a long time to find an Alice to hire.

A chip shop in a town of mixed Bobs and Alices wants to hire an Alice, and should be prepared to offer a significant wage increase in order to obtain one. But if all the town's Alices are otherwise employed, it would rather hire a couple of cheap Bobs than not hire anyone.

In this case, B62's grandson, who seems to go by the name of Alice, is working for the same price as a Bob, which is a great deal for the chip-shop owner (but offset somewhat by the fact that grandson-Alice only has patchy availability because he's going away to college.)

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
It has been said over and over -- perhaps you missed it -- that if your cut-off line doesn't get you a good candidate, then you need to move your cut-off line.

I didn't miss it - I just think it's bollocks.
It would be polite to say so rather than just ignore it.

quote:
In my experience,
Which is so universalizable that anybody who claims to have experienced different is clearly taking bollocks. Someone needs a Copernican revolution.

quote:
it is always true that there are people that you really want to have, and people that are less good, but that you're prepared to take if there are no good people available.
No, in high tech, this is not always the case.It can be terribly difficult to find someone you're prepared to take. This is why they import people from Asia rather than hiring Americans. There just aren't enough qualified people.

quote:
It's all very well setting your cut-off line at the boundary of groups 1 and 2, but that just means you often won 't hire anyone.
Yes, exactly. Better to keep looking than to hire somebody who will be a detriment to the company.

quote:
a) by more than the measurement error on your interview process, otherwise it's a nonsense statement, obviously.
Do interviews "measure"? Is there a number that is produced by the interview process?

quote:
c)Given the subsequent performance of our rock star candidate, not just yes but hell yes.
And is this often the case? There's always a rock star out there just waiting for you to hire them? This is a fantasy.

quote:
d) Alice is better than Bob. Bob is better than nobody.
Is he?

quote:
This is a variant of the marriage problem. You got turned down by Alice, but have Bob available. Do you marry him, or break it off and hope to meet Charlie, who is like Alice, but wants you? But there's an advantage in this problem to getting married early, rather than spending more time single. There are certainly cases where marrying Bob is the right answer.
I'm not sure the comparison to marriage is at all meaningful. My relationship with my spouse and my relationship with my employee are so completely different as to make such comparisons meaningless.

quote:
No, that's nonsense. You're only right if the customer has committed to purchase fish and chips from one of the town's chippies. That describes almost no actual humans.
Your data on this please? It's not nonsense just because you haven't experienced it. Maybe to you the category "meal" is a commodity. I don't care what I eat as long as it's food. There are, in fact, people who decide they want a particular kind of food before they leave the house. Or if you're at the seaside and take a hankering for fish and chips, and aren't about to go pack everything up and fire up the car and drive to Chinese. You use the word "nonsense" far too readily. Your life is not normative.

quote:
Sure - if the F&C is great, and I really want F&C, and I have plenty of time, I'll get in the queue. But if I'm a bit rushed, or I'm not completely sold on fish and chips, then crappy service means I'm more likely to pick up a Chinese instead.
Nobody said anything about crappy service. Don't change the subject. The difference was between normal speed service and extraordinary service because somebody's nephew is an overachiever. Although of course he won't be the only server, so the relative average speed of service between the two chipperies will be marginal.

[ 26. August 2017, 19:06: Message edited by: mousethief ]

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Barnabas62
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I don't think my grandson will be short of summer work, somehow. He likes doing things well, including serving fish and chips. It's in his nature and an asset.

Anyway, I only introduced him into this discussion for a bit of light relief.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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