If you are in a position of interviewing a job applicant, you are by virtue of that role inferring that you believe you are justified in knowing the answer to any questions you decide to ask, relevant or not.
Recently during a twitter chat related to hiring practices I responded to another participant because I felt an interview question s/he admitted to asking applicants was irrelevant.
In the process of defending the interview question and rationale for asking it, that person proceeded to reinforce an arrogant/entitled/presumptuous attitude that I originally pointed out as being problematic with that inquiry. In this case, the question was: “when did you graduate?” In the same tweet that question was framed as “I want to know how far you’ve come.”
At that point in the twitter chat, there was an age-related connotation within the subject matter being debated. Therefore, my reaction to this was to tell the other poster that (IMO) the question was “kinda rude” and “irrelevant.”
The next tweet from that person included “if you are 50 and still entry level and been doing it 30 years that’s an issue.” I responded with “sounds judgmental; maybe that’s the work they enjoy; not everyone aspires up the ladder; there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Another reply from me “think age is irrelevant in that context and presumptuous basis to judge career progression.” The other person tweeted “I don’t judge them on their age; it’s just for me, in certain careers to learn more about their progression”
That was later followed by “it creates a dialog and avenue to ask other questions” And, “it creates a timeline so I have ability to ask more probing questions.”
My observation about that person’s attempt to justify the original question was aimed at pointing out a huge opportunity to leave out that ever so subtle factor of CONTEXT! While I was merely commenting on posted tweets, in between and following the above exchange, the other person claimed that “I wasn’t listening” or “I was making incorrect assumptions.” I guess, I was supposed to just get on board with the brilliance of asking that as an initial interview question?
Apparently, that person is not familiar with the concept that online chats tend to prompt debate, discussion and even disagreement. That’s what’s sometimes referred to as thought diversity. It doesn’t mean there needs to be a right or wrong point of view. Most certainly, there is no need to react negatively when someone expresses a difference of opinion or challenges ideas being shared.
I found it especially ironic to be accused of making incorrect assumptions by a person that admittedly takes it upon her/himself to assess others based on when they graduated. Then from that starting point, they proceed to quantify how far applicants have come in their careers...?
Again, thinking of diversity, I happen to know plenty of people that have been highly successful professionally without graduating from anything. Likewise, at every company I’ve worked, I noticed many people that remained in mutually satisfactory employment relationships with or without obvious linear career progression. Of course, I couldn’t help wondering what other unrelated and superficial criteria a person like that would include while evaluating applicants.
Overall, I found it amusing (actually disturbing) that someone would take the stand that such a framework was an appropriate conversation starter to generate a timeline or means to probe further into an applicant’s career progression. Really? Nothing less intrusive comes to mind to accomplish the same thing?
Now, I’m not trying to imply there is never any legitimate reason to understand more about an applicant’s education and experience history. I’m just not convinced that questioning when someone graduated pertains to conducting an exploratory conversation in relation to an available opening.
It seems to me that a skilled interviewer should be capable of eliciting accurate data without resorting to questionable questions.