Sam Redman's Musings

Random thoughts on a variety of subjects

Corporate challenge – the color blind interview

by Sam Redman

It is imperative that businesses implement innovatively designed “color blind” employee interviewing and selection practices. Many software and numerous scientific developmental companies, those which engage programmers, chemists, engineers (mechanical, chemical, electrical, design), as well as similar disciplines, have already achieved that quite well in their research and creative departments where problem solving exercises have been readily constructed allowing applicants to be fairly tested with “real example” examinations (with the anonymity of computer and other blind communications) which relate directly to future job performance, without ever having to have personal interviews until very late in the screening process, when the most desired finalists are at the point of actually being “wooed” and enticed by their potential employers.

Of course, those types of particular scientific skills are easily filtered by obvious tests of performance and knowledge because of the technical training required and the requirements to be able to produce measurable and evaluatable physical results which characterize what the jobs demand. With other positions, which don’t have such specific skill sets, it’s not so easy and the true challenge would be to create similarly effective methods which would allow applicants for those not-so-rule-bound professional categories to be also examined based on what they can do, not on appearance or voice patterns. Writing skills, reading comprehension and learning evaluations combined with problem solving capacities, all relative to each position could be the criteria for singling out the best candidates.

The real proof that this concept can work comes in the entrepreneurial realm. I have dealt with many entrepreneurs over the past 20 years of the computer communication revolution, with whom I communicated for long periods of time (some several years) without ever meeting with them or actually seeing them in person. And many times upon finally seeing them face to face I have been surprised to find that some were aging professionals, some were people who had situations such as obesity or physical impairments and some were minorities, but each was someone who had found for their various reasons they were not readily employable, because of particular inappropriate discrimination which applied to their individual situations. However, all had discovered as entrepreneurs (using modern internet and other tools) they could overcome prejudices by creating excellent products and marketing them, largely utilizing the anonymity of a web presence combined with well produced promotional materials. In their cases, the skills they had to create and make and sell proved their worth and employabilty irrespective of what the job markets dictated.

I am not suggesting that the key to overcoming job discrimination is entrepreneurialism, but instead for companies to work to eliminate the personal interview, which relies on subjective evaluations based on appearance, style and voice (which invite an interviewer’s personal prejudices to be stimulated, in spite of noble intentions), replacing it with new selection methods, which, like the entrepreneurial experience, will demonstrate the real mettle and talent, relative to those jobs, needed to fulfil what the business requires to succeed.

Once, years ago, I needed a brochure writer and I had contacted an agency which was going to send me some candidates for interviews. I told them I didn’t need to see or talk to any of them, but for them to send me over their rendition of a brochure for a particular random product which I selected from a hardware store. That method worked well and the person hired was never even seen by me for about the first six months of their employment. How does a business accomplish that same thing for other positions not quite as directly evaluatable as by submitting brochure examples? Like I said, it’s a huge challenge, but my entrepreneurial example (that’s real) has illustrated to me that race, age, appearance (and even health) can all be eliminated as considerations if you have other ways to measure potential performance.

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This entry was posted on December 1, 2009 by and tagged , , , , .