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Death by HR: Affirmative Action and Hiring

Death by HR

Death by HR

Affirmative Action and Hiring

We reviewed Affirmative Action (AA) in the US and elsewhere and its negative effects, both on those who were intended to benefit from it and on the organizations that have implemented it. As time has passed, the original AA programs — meant to give a temporary boost to the prospects of black people damaged by slavery and a century of Jim Crow and racial discrimination — have broadened to include other protected classes like Latinos and women, and narrowed to exclude most Asians and other minorities that have succeeded without assistance despite past discrimination. AA programs in college admissions have been legally attacked and reformed in some places, but AA continues to influence hiring in many workplaces, especially in those subject to intensive government regulation like banks, schools, and hospitals. By continuing to put diversity goals above competence and efficiency, organizations have damaged their effectiveness and decreased accountability — protected classes are less likely to be disciplined or fired, and as a result every employee senses that merit is less important and the best are rewarded less while the worst performers are retained and promoted if required to meet diversity goals.

As a result, the least-efficient sectors of the economy are either government-funded or regulated. But corporations have copied the Civil Service-style job categories and hiring mechanisms, especially those larger corporations which have adopted the Federal government’s General Schedule (GS)-style level system specifying job responsibilities and pay levels. Workers below top management are hired under the organization’s general contract provisions as written in both labor law and specific policies documented in company handbooks, while higher executives may have specially-tailored contracts with provisions like golden parachutes (contract-cancellation bonuses), noncompete agreements, and custom deferred-compensation and stock option plans. We won’t look at executive hiring, which is rarely influenced by HR screening and qualifications.

Until recently, private employers were relatively safe in choosing objective criteria for judging job applicants so long as no protected class members were being discriminated against — judged improperly based on skin color, national origin, sex, religion, or other irrelevant factors. That changed in the government sector when courts began to outlaw examinations and other requirements that they said had a disparate impact on protected classes — in other words, if the supposedly objective criteria did not pass the same percentage of protected classes as other applicants, it was deemed improper even if evidence pointed to its validity as a measure of future job performance. Most private industries ignored this and continued to hire on a combination of merit and personal recommendations, knowing that evaluations of job candidates from previous managers and industry contacts were likely to be more trustworthy and end up adding value to the company. Lawsuits made giving a negative recommendation hazardous, though, so many companies changed their policy to prohibit managers and HR from giving out any opinion on performance records of past employees — which led to today’s kabuki dance where a troublesome employee is either damned with faint praise or blackballed in informal tone of voice phone calls, but never in writing.

As companies have grown and HR departments gained influence over hiring processes, most companies have tried to find ways to screen outside candidates that reduced the time-consuming and distracting work of resume evaluation and interviewing by hiring managers and team members. Recessions and slowing growth made hiring less frequent and many hiring staff and outside recruiters were eliminated as cost-saving measures. Personal recruiting was replaced by Internet sites and recruiting boiler rooms where low-paid recruiters cold-called prospects to almost accidentally match them with openings. That was a waste of everyone’s time, so now companies are trying out services that purport to automate resume screening and interviewing, presenting hiring managers with supposedly qualified candidates and prepackaged video interviews for quick evaluation.

But any centralized scheme for pre-screening new hires is subject to political influence — HR can bias the screening to boost AA candidates and blackball competent candidates of undesired classes, like whites, Asians, and older people. When a non-technical 30-year-old female HR screener sees a resume from a 58-year-old white male engineer, she can dismiss it based on her bias against a man she would probably have trouble controlling — and this bias in hiring is every bit as bad for the organization as a previous era’s bias against competent women and homosexuals. And no one is keeping statistics which might demonstrate how she is preventing some highly-competent candidates from being reviewed by the hiring manager and team.

There are several negative consequences. First, hiring managers may be unhappy with all of the candidates presented, unaware that some likely good fits were never allowed into the process. As a result, positions may stay open for long periods and much time is wasted rejecting inappropriate candidates who pass AA and HR screenings but can’t convince the team they’d be right for the role. Another negative is a tendency to stick with internal candidates, who are known quantities from internal word-of-mouth and detailed records available to the hiring manager. But fewer outside hires means less new and diverse process knowledge being added to the company, and the Silicon Valley-style cross-fertilization of innovation between companies in a hot new field can’t happen.

Hiring managers are aware of this, and the smart ones do their own search and bring in new people by effectively bypassing HR. The larger and more bureaucratized companies make this more difficult, which tends to slowly degrade their competitiveness; think of a regulated utility’s staff versus a growing software company’s. An older company in a regulated business will always be less dynamic, but can do well staffing an internal center for process and technology innovation by giving its manager complete staffing freedom and ignoring the usual rules.

In the reverse situation, many an innovative, fast-growing company has been gutted after an acquiring company begins to impose its own HR and personnel policies. Not only do innovators sense a loss of freedom to act without a committee’s permission to get things done, but the new hires vetted by the acquirer’s HR department are more likely to be clock-watching rule-followers who don’t want to be responsible for success or failure of their teams. Gradual decline ensues, and after the frustrated innovators leave, the slow-to-catch-on will dutifully work at their jobs until the parent company gives up, then move on to the next slot.

HR can resist this tendency, but only with leadership from the top — both CEO and a carefully-chosen head of HR can choose and groom HR staff to avoid this mistake.

Thought leaders in today’s HR specialize in jargon and “aspirational” BS — they want HR heads to be seen as visionaries leading their companies to a Nirvana of fulfilled, productive, and most of all diverse staff. Plenty of lip service is paid to productivity and beating the competition with quality and service, but the focus is more often on community feeling and fulfilling interpersonal relationships. That there might be some value in interpersonal conflict and disagreement over technological and market development doesn’t enter their discussions.

But as we will see later, surveys show the most productive and best teams are those whose members feel they have been able to demonstrate their talents. A team that is always harmonious may not last long if their products are the result of groupthink unchallenged by the idiosyncratic few — it’s hard to be happy when your company is losing its market share and your team is laid off. Diversity of opinion and good management judgement are key to being right and besting your competitors, who may have been forced to spend too much time watching diversity training videos and became cynically detached.

Here are some HR thought leaders, excerpted from the book The Rise of HR: Wisdom From 73 Thought Leaders,[1] published by the HR Certification Institute and obviously meant to be a sales tool for their services:

…We have always provided employees with talent development opportunities in compliance with affirmation action and equal employment opportunities. However, a clear and unabashed focus on diversity and inclusion to advance organizational excellence and success may be unfamiliar to some. HR must help instill a new mindset—one that goes beyond merely complying with non-exclusionary laws, but truly commits to core values and believes that, with guidance, every employee has the capacity to perform at high levels.[2]

This is “No Child Left Behind” view of staffing. Leaving behind the old view where the best candidate should be hired or promoted regardless of race or class, in favor of the social work view of HR: that candidates can be chosen for inclusion and groomed, trained, and managed to be great performers regardless of native talent and background. Businesses that can afford to view staffing as a kind of social uplift effort are few—mostly government agencies where there’s guaranteed funding and no competition is allowed.

Anyone who wants to see the trends in HR should skim this book. It’s full of uplifting visions and short on accounting and business nuts and bolts. Those visions are lovely aspirations — but demonstrate how easy it is to make pretty speeches or TED Talks disregarding the realities of human nature and competition in teams.

Not everyone is an airhead, however. China Gorman writes:

The best way to protect your culture’s integrity is to be meticulous in only hiring people who fit within it. Yes, it will be tempting to hire people who have amazing skills but may not fit your culture. Don’t do it. Don’t even think about it! Just as one bad apple can spoil the bunch, so can one bad hire throw a wrench in all the hard work you and your company have invested in creating a unique and wonderful culture. Always remember that skills can be taught, but culture fit is like style—people either have it or they don’t. Great culture is about never settling. It’s about doing the right thing, even when it’s hard. So wait for the right person. You’ll be glad you did, and so will everyone in your great workplace culture.[3]

This is true. If your workplace culture is focused on winning and growing in a free market, hiring those whose values are centered on whining about grievances and collecting rent on the value of the work of others through political power is going to poison your workplace culture and reduce morale. Now when HR managers in Silicon Valley talk culture fit, this is code for under 30, no family responsibilities, can work over 60 hours a week, and will put up with the preferred sports, progressive causes, and after-hours socializing of the other low-level staff. And not-so-subtle discrimination against even the most productive who don’t fit this mold is common in startup culture. But a culture which encourages employees to have rich family and personal lives away from the workplace doesn’t have to be less competitive — just smarter. Your best workers don’t work the longest or stay at the office until 10 PM; they’re experienced and knowledgeable enough to get their work done in less time, and your company won’t sink when your junior employees grow up enough to realize they’ve been cheated out of a life and leave for more sustainable workplaces.

Fortunately, hiring managers aren’t stupid, and (except in highly-regulated industries) they have resisted the HR pressure to hire too much diversity deadwood. And companies are still free to discriminate against people whose culture won’t be helpful — which is why management needs to be careful not to hire those gender and ethnic studies graduates who seem to want to be social justice activists on someone else’s dime.

[1] The Rise of HR: Wisdom From 73 Thought Leaders, edited by Dave Ulrich, William A. Schiemann, GPHR and Libby Sartain, SPHR, published by the HR Certification Institute, 2015.
[2] “HR as Organizational Leader and Champion of Diversity and Inclusion,” by Andy Brantley, from The Rise of HR, p. 217-225
[3] “CEOs Want Better Performance. Great Culture Can Make It Happen,” by China Gorman of Great Place to Work, from The Rise of HR, p. 179-188

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


More Reading:

Death by HR: Biased HR Degree Programs Create Biased HR Bureaucracies
Death by HR: Pink Collar Ghettos, Publishing and HR
Death by HR: Who Staffs HR Departments? Mostly Women…
Death by HR: The Great Enrichment to the Great Slackening
Death by HR: Good-Enough Cogs vs Best Employees
Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming Idiocracy
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

HireVue app -- Google Play

“Death by HR” – HireVue, Video Interviews, and AI Job Searches

We’ve seen how HR is already mismanaging hiring by using primitive automation tools for screening, and how future progressive regulations may make the situation even worse. Meanwhile, social media and online profiles are providing more honest data on candidates than ever before, but HR is warning hiring managers not to look at it.

The good news may be that AI in smarter screening programs may be able to use online searches and carefully-designed online questionnaires to do a much better job of identifying possible great hires and screening out the deadwood. Meanwhile, leading-edge employers like Google have discovered overly-specific degree and experience qualifications can actually screen out some of the most productive people in the applicant pool. If any company can apply data analytics and AI to hiring and performance management, it would be Google. How did Google do when they tried? The New York Times interviewed senior VP of people operations (Google’s name for HR, apparently) Laszlo Bock in 2013:

Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring. We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess, except for one guy who was highly predictive because he only interviewed people for a very specialized area, where he happened to be the world’s leading expert….

On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.

Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.

Behavioral interviewing also works—where you’re not giving someone a hypothetical, but you’re starting with a question like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable “meta” information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.[1]

Google used to be known for hiring only people under 30, using those brainteasers to identify top programming talent and relying on academic qualifications, favoring degrees from prestigious universities. That’s no longer true:

One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless—no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation. Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.

What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college…. academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are sort of finely trained, they’re conditioned to succeed in that environment. One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer. You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer. You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.

So how are they applying their famous data analytics to hiring for Google? Very methodically, as you would expect. According to an Atlantic story:

In the summer of 2006, Todd Carlisle, a Google analyst with a doctorate in organizational psychology, designed a 300-question survey for every Google employee to fill out… Some questions were straightforward: Have you ever set a world record? Other queries had employees plot themselves on a spectrum: Please indicate your working style preference on a scale of 1 (work alone) to 5 (work in a team). Other questions were frivolous: What kind of pets do you own?

Carlisle crunched the data and compared it to measures of employee performance. He was looking for patterns to understand what attributes made a good Google worker. This was strongly related to another question that interested his boss, Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of People Operations: What attributes could predict the perfect Google hire?

…Google was essentially trying to Google the human-resources process: It wanted a search algorithm that could sift through tens of thousands of people—Google’s acceptance rate is about 0.2 percent, or 1/25th that of Harvard University—and return a list of the top candidates. But after a great deal of question-asking and number-crunching, it turned out that the best performance predictor wasn’t grade-point average, or type of pets, or an answer to the question, “How many times a day does a clock’s hands overlap?” The single best predictor was: absolutely nothing.[2]

Much research shows referrals to be the most reliable source of better hires, so Google’s early emphasis on ties to computer science professors to recruit the best students for their early programming teams was a good if limited strategy. Referrals are more likely to be “good fits” because the skills needed for good teamwork are more likely to get someone referred:

The study found that referrals produce “substantially higher profits per worker” who are “less likely to quit,” “more innovative,” and “have fewer accidents”—all this, even after controlling for factors like college, SAT scores, and IQ. Team-based companies require openness, compatibility, and a willingness to cooperate. Referral programs work because great employees pass along workers who similarly match the company culture.

Although they account for only six percent of total applications, referrals now result in more than a quarter of all hires at large companies, according to a recent paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and MIT….

Google, which depends on referrals, once administered up to 25 interviews for each job candidate. Todd Carlisle, the organizational psychology doctorate who administered the company’s surveys in 2006, thought this might be overkill. He tested exactly how many interviews were necessary to be confident about a new hire. The right number of interviews per candidate, he discovered, was four. This new policy, which Google calls the Rule of Four, “shaved median time to hire to 47 days, compared to 90 to 180 days,” Laszlo Bock wrote in his book Work Rules.

But Carlisle’s research revealed something deeper about the hiring process, which has resonance for every industry: No one manager at Google was very good, alone, at predicting who would make a good worker.

Four meticulously orchestrated Google interviews could identify successful hires with 86 percent confidence, and nobody at the company—no matter how long they had been at the company or how many candidates they had interviewed—could do any better than the aggregated wisdom of four interviewers.

It turns out that a single Google hiring manager, at least, is often not that good at judging candidates — but when four of their judgments are combined, the result is as good as it’s going to get. This convinced the company to drop their over-interviewing policies, which took much candidate and staff time and delayed hiring by months.

So what are the prospects for automating hiring? Aptitude test scores have considerable predictive value in many cognitive jobs, but could one automate the emotional intelligence and teamwork skills testing needed to find good team workers? Google has tried and (at least as far as they’ve disclosed their practices) failed to find anything better than referrals and face-to-face interviews.

But software companies keep trying to improve ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) functions to do a better job:

Companies such as Facebook, GE, IBM, Hilton Worldwide, SAP and many others have been slowly adding data analytics into their recruitment practices. A few years ago, it was unheard of to scan candidate resumes for data, but now it’s commonplace. Machine intelligence is being used to scan through other aspects of candidate information, such as their social media content, their facial expressions, even their work samples to identify top candidates – and weed out the undesirables.

“Such practices raise questions about accuracy and privacy, but proponents argue that harnessing AI for hiring could lead to more diverse, empathetic, and dynamic workplaces,” says Sean Captain, a journalist with Fast Company.

…“corporate recruiting is broken” as a system. It’s filled with inaccuracies and black holes where candidates disappear…. “85% of job applicants never hear back after submitting an application.” This indicates that some recruiters are still not able to stay on top of recruitment processes, and the candidate experience has a long way to go towards being a positive one.

Perhaps there is room for more automation and AI in recruitment if it can restore better recruitment practices from the human side of things. Kibben mentions that AI will improve the candidate experience and is a winning proposition for recruiters who will be able to strategically partner with hiring managers instead of simply filling job requests.[3]

Lots of buzzwords and promises, few real advances. One semi-useful tool now becoming popular is the automated interview system — imagine an online interviewing system where the applicant answers preset questions in front of their PC, laptop, or phone camera, with the video uploaded for later replay by HR staff and hiring managers. This certainly cuts down the overhead of doing interviews — no more paying to fly candidates out and take them to dinner, just video dating-style files to pick up those subtle clues about the candidate normally gleaned from a face-to-face interview.

How does that work out in practice? A company called HireVue claims to analyze video interviews using AI tools:

The deep dive into a candidate’s mind isn’t a new idea, says Mark Newman, founder and CEO of HireVue. Founded in 2004, it was one of the pioneers in using AI for hiring. Its specialty is analyzing video interviews for personal attributes including engagement, motivation, and empathy. (Although it also uses written evaluations.) The company analyzes data such as word choice, rate of speech, and even microexpressions (fleeting facial expressions).[4]

But most users of their systems are just looking for a cost-effective substitute for face-to-face interviews, with only a few using “AI” to evaluate the candidate videos. HireVue is increasingly important:

HireVue Inc., which provides video interviewing software for Goldman Sachs and 600 other firms, said it hosted nearly three million video interviews last year, up from 13,000 five years ago….

Most video-interviewing programs require applicants to click a link or install an app. Interviews begin with a prompt such as “Tell us about a time you had to deal with a conflict” that stays on-screen for about 30 seconds. Then, the camera turns on and the candidate has anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes to respond before the next question pops up.

Human-resources staff then review the videos and pass along promising applicants to managers for consideration. Applicants who make the cut are typically invited to a one-on-one interview. That doesn’t always mean it will be in-person, though. Varsha Paidi, a software engineer hired by IBM last year, had subsequent online interviews and eventually received her job offer via text message.

Speeding up the hiring process allows recruiters to look at more applicants than before, giving companies wider reach, said Obed Louissaint, the human-resources lead for IBM’s Watson division.

Applicants, however, say that computer-guided interviews take some getting used to. Amy Hall was never the type to get nervous during job interviews, but when the 29-year-old had to complete a video interview last year for an internal job switch at Cigna-Healthspring, she recalled feeling apprehensive and camera-shy. She waited until after work hours and used a computer in the IT department. With the door closed, she clicked a link to Cigna’s video-interviewing site….

Companies say they seek similar traits in video interviews as they do in traditional interviews. Recruiters at IBM and Cigna said they evaluate candidates based on how well the person communicates his/her thought process, whether the person answers all parts of the question—and whether he/she makes eye contact…

Video interviews might also present some problems because managers cannot ask follow-up questions or engage candidates further on a point, said Carol Miaskoff, assistant legal counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In letters to vendors, Ms. Miaskoff has suggested that companies assign more than one person to review individual videos to ensure hiring decisions aren’t made hastily.

Taking robo-recruiting one step further, some HireVue customers have an algorithm review the video interviews for them. Using data about the skills and attributes companies are seeking for a given role, a program called HireVue Insights scans videos for verbal and facial cues that match those skills then ranks the top 100 applicants.[5]

Given that in-person interviews by staff tend to wander and often turn into staff evaluations of whether the candidate will be enjoyable company or not, a fixed format with questions set in advance does actually promise to reduce the element of good-old-boyism. Everyone has experienced the job interview that turns quickly to discussion of sports or hobbies in common — the interviewer pays less attention to skills and attitudes than shared cultural enthusiasms, tending to favor cultural clones of themselves whose company they will enjoy. But notice that most companies still rely on human HR staff judgement to screen the resulting videos, which saves time for hiring managers but still introduces an element of HR prejudice. If your HR staff are primarily left-leaning New England-educated feminists, a white male candidate with a Southern accent and stereotypically male mannerisms will likely be screened out. For once the EEOC advice is reasonable — this type of screening will be more effective if more than one person reviews each video, making it more difficult for prejudice to prevail.

Giving HR staff veto power over candidates seems unwise. Practical considerations require obviously unqualified candidates to be weeded out early when a position attracts large numbers of applicants, but hiring managers and team members should invest the relatively minor time it takes to review these types of video responses themselves, as they are likely to be the best judges of culture fit and attitudes revealed by video.

Applicants encounter HireVue and similar video interviewing systems frequently now, and not everyone is happy—they find the idea insulting and intrusive. One question at Ask the Headhunter:

[The questioner’s wife] landed two job interviews with hiring managers within three weeks. Suddenly, a personnel jockey injected himself into the ongoing discussions with the hiring manager. The recruiter insisted that my wife submit herself to a one-way, online digital video taping, answer a series of pre-selected “screening questions,” and upload it to who knows where for “further review and screening” by who knows whom.

She found the request creepy, impersonal, presumptuous, Orwellian, exploitative, voyeuristic, unprofessional, and perhaps even unethical. She declined, instantly prompting an automated “Do Not Reply” rejection e-mail. She was not worthy because she wouldn’t subject herself to a dehumanizing “HireVue Digital Video Interview.”

This new wrinkle in HR practices seems like the most unsettling and counterproductive yet. It not only removes access to the hiring manager, but also live, human interaction. It sounds like “HR pornography,” where perverted personnel jockeys huddle around a monitor to gawk at videos of “virtual job candidates,” picking apart perceived blunders while they screen you out.[6]

The Headhunter, Nick Corcodillos, suggested the candidate respond in this situation by expressing a willingness to do a Skype interview with the hiring manager, cheaper (no payment to HireVue) and more personal. He suggests HR has an agenda in using such impersonal services: “What they mean is, we don’t want you to see the personalities of our personnel jockeys because, face it, they’re a bunch of data diddlers that we don’t want talking to anyone.” I’d say that is correct. In this case the applicant already spoke to the hiring manager, but HR is trying to force use of its process using HireVue for bureaucratic control reasons. If it should come to an EEOC complaint, having anyone escape their uniform process would be seen as evidence of favoritism having disparate impact on minorities.

There’s nothing wrong with these video interviewing services — ideally they substitute for expensive and time-consuming travel to meet with HR staff and hiring managers. But in practice, some companies now use them along with ATS screening techniques to completely depersonalize all but the last stages of hiring — the candidate does a lot of work, but no one at the company spends any time on their application at all until pre-screened and pre-interviewed. Meanwhile, candidates who contact hiring managers directly or run into them at professional functions or through work at companies in the same industry get the further advantage of being personally known in advance.

It does cost a lot to hire through HR — the arms race of HR automation leads to candidates using automation to contact far more potential employers, leading to avalanches of applications, leading to more ineffective automation. Hopeful noises about AI assisting are so far just that. In principle, AI could do a good job of analyzing resumes and interview videos and deliver the best candidates to hiring managers. In practice, no one is delivering anything more than hype.

Typical of the hype: HiringSolved, a startup promising Siri-like hiring assistance:

HiringSolved will soon unveil what it considers “Siri for recruiting,” an artificial intelligence assistant for recruiters. His name will be RAI, pronounced like the name Ray, and standing for “Recruiting Artificial Intelligence.”

The company has been working on it for five years, and is still perfecting it. The gist of it is you’d ask recruiting questions to a Chatbot-like system. So, instead of checking off a bunch of boxes, you’d type something like, “I need to find 10 female developers with experience using WordPress, within 10 miles of Milwaukee.” Or, perhaps, “What was the most common previous title of a systems engineer at Raytheon?”

Perhaps later, like with Siri, you’d use voice, not typed, commands.

HiringSolved’s RAI tool could also ask you follow-up questions, not unlike a conversation between a recruiter and a manager. If you, say, want a mechanical engineer, it might ask you to narrow your searches. Nuclear? Petroleum? Aerospace?

The idea is that the artificial intelligence will make you a better recruiter/sourcer, guiding you through questions that very experienced sourcers ask themselves in order to chop through a database and hone in on who they want.[7]

Chatbots and Siri, soon to save the day! Smart employers will pay the price to hire good, connected recruiters who have personal contacts in the industry. AI may one day allow applicants to prove themselves worthy without human intervention, but that day is a long way off.

[1] “In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such a Big Deal,” by Adam Bryant, New York Times, June 19, 2013.
[2] “The Science of Smart Hiring,” by Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, April 10, 2016:
[3] “How AI and recruiters will work together in the near future,” by Tess Taylor, HRDive, September 15, 2016.
[4] “Can Using Artificial Intelligence Make Hiring Less Biased?” by Sean Captain, Fast Company, May 18, 2016.
[5] “Video Job Interviews: Hiring for the Selfie Age,” by Dahlia Bazzaz, Wall Street Journal, August 16,2016.
[6] “HR Pornography: Interview videos,” by Nick Corcodillos, Ask the Headhunter®, October 14, 2014.
[7] “A Cousin Of Siri Is Coming To The Recruiting Field,” by Todd Raphael, ERE Recruiting Intelligence, September 8, 2016.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits… HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

More reading on other topics:

More Reading:

The Justice is Too Damn High! – Gawker, the High Cost of Litigation, and the Weapon Shops of Isher
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions

“Death by HR” – Reactions

The first few days after publication inspired a few postings on well-known sites. Dr. Helen Smith read the copy I sent her husband, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, and had these observations:

Kinnison says that if the culture of your business “…is founded on creating excellent products or services that will win in the marketplace, hiring people who have other goals — righting past wrongs, molding fellow employees’ thought processes to conform to their own, shielding everyone from harsh realities to make them (temporarily) feel good and important — will dilute your company’s culture, and networks of employees who support each other’s willingness to call in outside legal or political forces to win internal battles will form.”

The book is excellent and gives good advice on how to help your tech company avoid SJWs whose focus is on activism, rather than on getting the best employees who can grow your company.

One commenter (“screamingmimi”) added:

I work for a tech company where just this is starting to happen – it’s the old SJW toe in the door, dontcha know. Recently, a couple of ‘women of color’ have taken it upon themselves to reprimand our management on how lacking in women and other ethnicities our company is. Nevermind that we already pride ourselves on hiring THE BEST PEOPLE FOR THE JOB, regardless of race, creed, color, etc. Of course that’s never enough. So because of that, what’s happened?

Well, we now have mandatory ‘diversity courses’ and a ‘diversity team’ because we simply weren’t diverse enough, and of course, we have to kowtow to everyone’s feelings. And as ever, being ‘diverse’ once again trumps (and kills) skill, knowledge, and experience. Sure, we’ll have a diverse employee group, but this will undoubtedly lead to us losing current clients, and not gaining new ones because we’re hiring based on diversity, and not on capability (and top skillsets — something we require — are already extremely hard to come by in our particular technology field).

I thought our company was different. I thought our company was better than that. I thought our company was above all this petty SJW crap. I was wrong. And it’s made me look at our company — and its management — in a whole new (and quickly dimming) light. While it hasn’t affected our bottom line (yet?), if it starts to accelerate, it could spell trouble for our currently great company. Sad.

An increasingly common story, I’m afraid. Management goes along until it is too late. This is one of the reasons I wrote the book — to give people the historical background to understand why seemingly well-meaning activists can ultimately wreck your enterprise. Resisting them is not racist or misogynist, it’s pro-excellence.

Turning to the Ace of Spades Sunday Morning Bookthread:

Jeb Kinnison, moron author of the “Substrate Wars” series (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3) has written a new book, not a novel, but one that is probably pretty scary. The book is Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations and Jeb tells me, “The book’s thesis is that labor regulations (notably affirmative action, but also all the rest of it) has hurt effectiveness at many workplaces, especially those in government or heavily regulated organizations (education, hospitals, banks…) The Eurodisease is coming here, and the HR departments of large companies are the commissars of the regulators, extending political directives into the workplace and losing sight of the goal of excellence and profitable products. Technology is just the latest pressure point.”

Can anything be done to fight the fungal rot of progressivism in a corporate setting? Kinnison says yes:

“If you’re a manager at a tech company, we’ll suggest some ways to protect your people from HR and its emphasis on credentials and affirmative action (AA) over the best fit for a position. Corporate leaders need to be sure their HR departments are managed to prevent infiltration by staff more interested in correct politics than winning products. And we’ll show why appeasement of diversity activists is a dangerous strategy that may make your organization a target for further extortionate demands.”

Maybe we should send a bunch of copies of this book to the NFL front office.

Vox Day picked up on Dr. Helen’s post and added:

Of course, no one who has read SJWs Always Lie will be even remotely surprised by any of this. The good news is that all of this corporate convergence is creating a whole range of new opportunities as the converged corporations begin to pursue social justice objectives rather than serving their customers. It’s not a question of whether SJWs can ruin a company they converge.

Once they’ve entered, it’s only a question of when.

I have some fundamental differences with Vox Day, but on this subject he is entirely correct. One of the commenters pointed out how the system used to work to identify and train young people who already had good attitudes and aptitude:

32. Thucydides October 17, 2016 1:14 PM

I remember reading Jerry Pournell’s Chaos Manor describing how people could be hired on by companies like Boeing and be guided and trained throughout their careers, rising from the shop floor to become aeronautical engineers.

This was ended by a lawsuit back in the 70’s (going by memory here) where the company in question had an internal promotions and training policy where employees simply had to be high school grads or have a GED and pass a working knowledge test (or something like that) to be considered for promotion. A “diverse” employee who failed the test and was passed over sued, and despite the fact that the company policy was completely objective (the job knowledge was particular for that company, and many white employees also failed the test and were passed over as well), the court ruled in favour of the “diverse” employee because racism.

Since then, companies have devolved the training to the school and university system, and HR has grown explosively to deal with the mountain of paperwork demanded by various bureaucracies, and in better companies, to try and identify the wheat from the chaff (since they are no longer allowed to do so in any normal fashion). Of course, if your enemies are doing the “sorting” in the school system and the HR department, then you’re hooped (as they used to say).

This is a big problem in capital intensive industries, since it is hard to move, but IT should be effectively able to evade, a few coders working in the back of the garage have no overhead to hold them back, and a small enough group dynamic to not need much in the way of HR or Admin. Many companies are actually devolving to that point as an “unexpected” side effect of Obamacare (hire more than 50 people and you are entrapped by the bureaucracy), and we can hope that various techniques like 3D manufacturing will allow small companies to remain nimble and productive among the dinosaurs.

The 1970s did indeed end testing for cognitive skills as job screening. Courts ruled that every test that minority candidates disproportionately failed was discriminatory under the doctrine of “adverse impact.” Testing was replaced by credentials and certifications, removing career ladders for bright young people who did poorly in academic settings — most commonly, young men.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now for Kindle and in trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness and Death by HR is an important research tool…  All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

“Death by HR” – Available Now

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now for Kindle and in trade paperback.]

Two more reviews on Amazon today:

5.0 out of 5 stars
Why I Can’t Get a Job I’m Overqualified for….
By Joseph F. Collinson on October 17, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

Caveat: I received a pre-release copy for review but I have bought a kindle copy and will be getting the paperback to give to friends.

To start off, this book hacked me off. or once, someone has, through careful research and thought, and in concise easy to understand language has explained why the hell our country is falling to pieces. It should have been obvious to someone with my 35 years in the work force in a wide variety of jobs.

I’ve been fighting HR stooges for years and years. Now I know why it I can’t make much forward progress. Why it took six months to hire me as a paramedic for a major health system despite paying hundreds of thousand dollars in overtime to fill shifts that there were no warm bodies available. Why, after three attempts to fill a job I am more than qualified for, I can’t even get much more than a postcard saying “thank you, but no thanks.” Hey, I’m a paramedic, give me minimal training and toss me in, I’ll do just fine.

I now know why LinkedIn is so popular as a way to essentially bypass HR so people can make direct contact with the people who actually do the hiring and establish relationships.

So, if you have been in the workforce for years and are thinking about a new job or have been trying to find one and can’t get anywhere, this book shows you why and how.

5.0 out of 5 stars
A book that every CEO should read.
By John Carlton on October 17, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition

Death By HR is a book that every CEO should read. As should the rest of us. Anybody’s who has been looking for work, or working for an American corporation currently or in the last few years has experienced the lunacy and extreme dysfunction in just about every function related to Human Resources. Death By HR examines why the dysfunction came about and provides the start of a road map to escape the tyranny being imposed on us.

The book does not pull its punches, nor should it. Right from the introduction the book lays out the case for what has happened in all too much of American business.


On the first day of release, it reached the top of Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” list for Human Resources:

Death by HR hits #1 Hot New Releases for HR

Death by HR hits #1 Hot New Releases for HR

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat. For it is now fairly impossible for any company not to erect an HR wall as a legal requirement of business with the sole purpose of keeping government diversity compliance enforcers as well as unethical lawyers from pillaging their operating capital through baseless lawsuits… It is time to turn the tide against this madness and Death by HR is an important research tool…  to craft counter-revolutionary tactics for dealing with the HR parasites our government has empowered to destroy us. All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.