What they gained from a test

Subject: What they gained from a test
From: John Gear <catalyst -at- PACIFIER -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 9 May 1995 11:32:00 PDT

someone wrote:
>I took a writing test once as a candidate... (snip)

>Aside from the insulting description, how does writing for a stone age group
>(not the Russians, but the fictitious group in the assignment) compare at
>all to writing programming instructions for process control equipment that
>will be run by scientists or highly-trained and educated technicians?

>I blew the job, on purpose, with this writing test. I find culturally
>denigrating comments (see other thread of the day on sexual harassment) to
>be extremely offensive.

>I guess I don't know what they gained from this test!

I would guess that they effectively screened out someone who would not have
been happy working with them (you), a worthwhile goal.

Remember that, in most circumstances, hiring is not about finding the best
candidate, it's about figuring out how to eliminate a bunch of folks (most
of whom could do the job being offered) quickly so that one or two can get
to work. This is especially true in technical writing.

In most situations a person is *defined* as (quote) the best candidate for
the position (unquote) after they have an offer (post-decision
justification). Most managers find candidate selection and interviewing
stressful and ulcerating. Very few have training or developed skills in
personnel selection and almost all dislike rejecting people (especially when
they identify with the candidates).

So if they can get you to eliminate yourself from the pool with a test then
they've gained something.

(*NOT* a slam on you--I think that, given your feelings and the information
you had, you did the right thing. But don't forget that it was the test
that helped give you that information. Information is *exchanged* through
testing, not just collected. "By their tests ye shall know them" is
probably pretty accurate. Lots of companies have interchangeable, smiling,
smooth interviewers who can make manufacturing nerve gas seem like the
epitome of humanitarianism--but tests say a lot about what they think your
task is and what you need to fit into their system.)

John Gear (catalyst -at- pacifier -dot- com)

"It is impossible to dissociate language from science or science from
language.... To call forth a concept, a word is needed; to portray a
phenomena [sic], a concept is needed. All three mirror one and the same
reality." -- Lavoisier

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