Unnatural Selection

A few words from HR

First, I’d like to thank All 36 of you for being here this morning. Looking out on your earnest and hopeful faces, I am reminded that more than 1,300 people expressed interest in this single open position. Of that group, easily 250 were qualified on a purely experiential basis. Of that group, though, a great many were not earnest and hopeful; rather, they were glum and cautious, or even sullen and desperate. As a seasoned Human Resources professional, I can sense these emotional states in even the most dignified resumé or the most artfully wordsmithed cover letter. You can all be proud to have passed my initial attitudinal “sniff test.”

Yes, absolutely—give yourselves a hand. Bravo.

Like any other skilled HR practitioner, however, I acknowledge and embrace my inherent humanity. In other words, I can make the occasional mistake. That’s why we employ extensive psychological testing and multiple urine screens, along with DNA analysis and body-cavity searches when prudent. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What I mean to say at this stage of the process is that if you have managed to smuggle a poor attitude past my sensory apparatus, well, bully for you and off you go. You won’t stand a chance with the negativity-sniffing dogs.

These dogs are not figurative.

Good. Congratulations to our 33 job candidates.

A brief aside: If you were troubled by my use of wordsmith as a verb a moment ago, or if you even noticed it, I would counsel you to bow out. Graceful English usage is a grand thing, I suppose, but it clearly has no place in a dynamic business environment. If you cannot say “phased heuristic strategy” with a straight face, you’re not a good fit for this company. As a matter of fact, if you can’t say it with a pure heart and a placid soul and an evangelical throb in your larynx, we’d best part ways right now.

Okay! Kudos to all 26 of you. Oops—all 25.

Let’s begin by reviewing the position for which you’ve applied. The job title has changed slightly since we posted the opening. Originally it was Senior Multi-Platform Content Manager. It has now been finalized as Web Transcriptionist, but that’s more of a semantical rethink than a major change in duties or focus.

What’s that? Oh, thank you for bringing that up. Yes, the salary has changed. It would in fact be most accurate to say that this is no longer a salaried position, but rather an hourly contractual “gig,” as the hip young freelancers like to say. The successful candidate will be “gigging” from his or her home, so you will have all the wonderful comfort and flexibility of that particular work arrangement. Once the tech-support team has installed our Proprietary Proactive Productivity Package on your home computer—just so we can tell when you’re Facebooking and when you’re actually keystroking on our behalf—you’ll be up and running and contributing to the company’s success.

Goodness, it sounds as if all 17 of you were speaking at once. Yes—yes—all right, let me clarify. We are talking about an hourly job, in your home, using your computer. No, I’m afraid I can’t state the hourly rate at this time, as it will depend upon and be commensurate with the qualifications of the candidate who is ultimately hired. That much should be obvious. Now, about the benefits. I was getting to that; there’s no need to shout. I do realize that the posting mentioned a “competitive benefits package.” Again, that was when it was envisioned as a salaried position. Things change in business, and Human Resources must and does roll with those changes. The successful candidate will receive business cards, and I am working really, really hard to get you the employee discount. Certain exemptions do apply, but it is quite a nice perk, I feel. It would be unprecedented for an hourly employee to receive that perk. You’re welcome.

Sir? Sir? Yes, I hear you. Do I realize that some people need health insurance coverage? Well, that’s an interesting way of framing the issue, and we could discuss it all day, I’m sure. We could discuss whether a business should bankrupt itself for humanitarian purposes. We could discuss the sorts of lifestyle choices that lead to chronic conditions that are expensive to treat. We could discuss the proper way to conduct oneself in a job-interview scenario. Unfortunately, our time is limited.

Well, now we’ve heard some salty language, and I’m sure we’re all terribly shocked. I’m sure we’ve never heard anything like that before! I’ll let the 12 of you in on a little secret: We in Human Resources have quite literally heard it all. Still, I’d like to apologize on behalf of the company for that gentleman’s outburst. Now, if I could just go over today’s testing and work-product simulation exercises—You know, it’s funny. I keep thinking we’ve gotten rid of all the bad apples, and then another one exposes its dark and spongy flesh. Could you, ma’am, stop muttering and restate your question so we can all hear?

Ah, a multipartite query. I’ll summarize: How can I, as a Human Resources professional, sleep at night? How did I get to be so smug? Don’t I realize how demeaning it is to be psychologically profiled and put through endless interviews and compelled to demonstrate competency for a job that, let’s face it, a reasonably bright chimpanzee could be trained to do? If Albert Einstein walked in the door, would I force him to take a math quiz before considering him for a job as a Statistical Analyst? Do I somehow imagine in my bizarrely corporatized brain that a Web Transcriptionist might have to land a plane in the Hudson, and therefore said Web Transcriptionist’s bodily fluids and tissues must be certified as pristine, free of any taint from a controlled substance? Am I aware of the obscenity otherwise known as our CEO’s paycheck?

Candidates…oh, candidates. Permit me a sigh. I was so hoping today would be a better day than yesterday. But we soldier on. We soldier on. We find ourselves, as a corporation, with an embarrassment of riches these days when it comes to job applicants. And we find ourselves, as Human Resources professionals, with more challenges than ever. Given this state of affairs, would you have us relax our standards? Should we just play eeny-meeny-miney-moe with the resumés and knock off early? Or should we redouble our efforts to find the very best candidates for every opening—the most talented, the most positive, the most willing to be team players? Should we not use every tool at our disposal in order to do so? Isn’t that what made corporate America what it is today? And by the way, do you think I haven’t undergone the same rigorous selection process we propose to put you through? Do you think the hand of Corporate hasn’t frisked my very soul? I still pee in a cup every six months, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to do so.

Now then. The seven of you who remain—who have the good sense to be earnest and the audacity to be hopeful—please follow me. It’s time for what some of our more waggish Human Resources staffers like to call the Swimsuit Competition. That is a figurative expression. Well, sort of.

Contributing editor Jeff Johnson wishes they still called it Personnel.