The New York Times:
Brittni Daron jumped through a lot of hoops before she landed her job as a solution consultant at Oracle. At the tech giant, as at other firms in Silicon Valley to which she applied, she endured weeks — and occasionally months — of phone interviews, in-person interviews, mock presentations, personality tests and technical tests for both the skills she claimed to have and those she didn’t. This might sound a little ridiculous, but it’s not unusual. I’ve met lots of job seekers in the last few years who underwent a similar form of H.R. torture — spelling quizzes, math exams and oddball brainteasers (“If you were a pizza-delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?”) — only to walk out of the interview room wondering what they’d really just been tested for. “Basically, I could never figure out what they got out of it that qualified or disqualified me for the job,” Daron told me.
The very act of quantifying certain characteristics may also give a false sense of precision that leads to overweighting the things quantified. “You are what you measure,” warned Dan Ariely, an economist at Duke. Ariely thinks the hiring process should become more data-driven, but acknowledges that applying sabermetrics, or the sort of empiricism that helped turn Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s into a winner, to the recruiting process can still create distortions. Online dating sites, for instance, often overemphasize measurable and sortable attributes (like height and income) at the expense of other ineffable ones that might be more useful or relevant. “If I want to hire people for my basketball team, it’s easy to tell who’s seven feet tall and who can shoot the ball really well,” explained Alvin Roth, a Stanford economist who shared a Nobel Prize for his work on market design and recently joined Knack’s board. “The hard thing is figuring out when they’re on the court, how will the rest of the team do?”
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