Degrees and what I've missed

Subject: Degrees and what I've missed
From: "Doug, Data Librarian at Ext 4225" <engstromdd -at- PHIBRED -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 14 Jun 1994 14:30:37 -0500

A earlier exchange with Marilynne:

Doug says. "I suspect that this is where much of the hiring advantage of a
college degree comes in. You can check it by looking at the resume . . .
and rapidly shrink the pile. Yes, you'll overlook some bright and talented
people, but this process is about numbers, odds and being able to defend
your decision later, not individual merit. Cold, but I think true."

...Doug, you'll never know what you missed. And you may have missed the
opportunity to brag about your decision instead of defending it. <grin>

I'm always surprised when I post a purely descriptive message explaining
why I think something happens, and I get a bunch of replies berating me for
advocating obnoxious organizational behavior. (Minor point: I haven't
been a manager since leaving the Air Force in 1988; I've just had observer
status on lots of job hunts and interviews, from both sides of the desk.)

Ideally, we would all be treated as individuals each and every time we
dealt with any organization, especially in important areas such as hiring.
Unfortunately, that isn't going to happen in this lifetime, so we're left
trying to deal with the world as it is. Understanding the causes of
organizational behavior can help us navigate the existing system and find
places where we can be rewarded and treated as individuals.

A reality of the existing system is "pile sorting." Decision makers have
to use a quick and often somewhat arbitrary method to cut the vast array of
possibilities down to a number they can think about seriously. The
situations Barb and Bonnie described (high pressure to hire someone in a
short period of time, and a flood of resumes) are not aberrations; that's
the way most hiring gets done most of the time, at least at the working
level. (I like to think it's different when companies hire CFO's and
General Counsel's and such, but maybe not.) The goal is not ferret out a
single diamond lurking in the rough, but rather to distill a group of
choices with high enough average quality that investing further effort will
pay off.

In the hiring situation, we aren't talking about individual merit, we're
talking about odds. What our beleagured manager needs from her pile of
3,000 resumes is the 20 or so that a will yield an acceptable candidate
after careful reading of the enclosed materials, interviews, and a
reference check. If she ignores a DaVinci or an Edison because he doesn't
have a degree, so what? She's not getting paid to find a DaVinci or an
Edison; she's getting paid to find somebody who can do an acceptable job
delivering documentation, preferably starting last week. Not the way things
should be, just the way things are.

We like to think that we each make a critical and unique contribution to
our companies. While it is true that our contribution is unique, a major
reason for a corporate organization is to keep it from being critical. Our
organizations really can survive without us. And when you think about it,
you wouldn't want it any other way. Would you really want to see your
whole livelihood, as well as the businesses of your customers and
suppliers, come unraveled because the Marketing VP suddenly decided to
retire or change jobs or spend more time golfing?

ENGSTROMDD -at- phibred -dot- com

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