To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I'm seeing posts elsewhere about racial preferences, affirmative action, Prop 209, and so forth. A lot of arguments turn on qualifications, as in, the relative importance of hiring the best-qualified person for the job if it means compromising on diversity quotas, or the question of whether two people of equal qualifications have equal chances if they are of different races. Here is an article about an experiment done by University of Chicago and MIT, in which resumes with black-sounding names got far fewer calls for job interviews than the identical resumes with traditionally white names. That is telling.

But speaking as a person who has conducted many job interviews, and dealt with the people we've hired, I'd say that no two people have identical qualifications, and that paper qualifications don't mean that much. Given that you want a person with at least a B.S. in science and "some" lab experience, you don't necessarily end up hiring the person with the highest degree or the most experience. You hire the person who looks you in the eye and convinces you that she can get the job done.

I remember my job interview for the job I have now. My prospective boss was going on about how they wanted someone from outside the company, with technical skills they didn't have in-house, who had a fresh perspective, blah blah, and I thought, I can't sit here like a bump on a log. So when he paused for breath, I asked, "Are you looking for better productivity, or better customer service, or adherence to the methods, or documentation to show adherence to the methods?" "Yes, yes, yes, and yes," he said, smiling and sitting back, and I thought, "I've got the job." And indeed I did. This had nothing to do with my qualifications on paper, which actually didn't match what they had in their newspaper ad.

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