Archive for August, 2010

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My latest article is now up on my website, discussing workable memory techniques.

Click here for the main article index to read the earlier articles, discussing technology for self-improvement, study and learning.

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Ridiculous job adverts

I’ve said that the job application process is frequently reduced to a box-ticking exercise by employment agencies and HR personnel, who are disinclined or perhaps even unable to work out what a candidate with a nonconventional education or job history may bring to the table.

Scanning through job advertisements from time to time occasionally makes me wonder what planet some of these people are from.

Here’s a good example, from a science and technology magazine. The facility wanted a chemistry graduate to work in what ostensibly was a data clerk role, entering chemical research data onto a database. Why a chemistry graduate? Anyone who could type, use Microsoft Access and had the use of a good chemistry dictionary could have filled the position. Since they were only offering about £15K for the role, then really that’s the calibre of applicant they actually deserved. If I had worked hard for a chemistry degree, then why should I have accepted a job paying a fraction of the salary I could command as a secretary? There was no mention in the advert of long-term prospects or advancement.

Another advert that had me nearly spitting my tea was for a junior clerical position in a Far Eastern bank. The package they were offering was about what you might expect for such a role, but the qualification requirements stated that applicants must have 8 GCSEs all at grades A*-C (it could even have been 10), which must all have been taken in one sitting. Firstly, if the person has alternative qualifications and/or skills, then it seems rather bureaucratic to insist on a certain number of GCSE passes. Secondly, why all in one sitting? If an applicant had met their requisite number of exam passes, then what does it matter whether they took them in one sitting, or one at a time?

Around the same time, I saw an advert where the company specified they wanted a school leaver with shorthand and fluent Spanish. Well, all right, a person straight out of school might have been brought up in a bilingual household, but otherwise, surely the highest level of language skill that any typical school leaver might have would be a GCSE or A level, which I doubt the company had in mind. Shorthand is rarely taught anywhere these days but in secretarial college, and if the person had attended secretarial college for sufficient time to build up any appreciable shorthand skill and speed, then s/he hardly counts as a school leaver anymore! Methinks this company were fishing for a bilingual secretary, but didn’t want to have to pay anything but school leavers’ wages.

I went to a couple of agencies, and they kept asking me whether I had ever used any kind of “document management system”. This was a mystery to me, until I went to one company and saw they were using a software add-on where files and folders were managed and ID’ed through Microsoft Outlook. After a five minute introduction, I’d grasped exactly how it worked. Yet I could easily have been turned down for job after job simply for not having seen this type of easy-peasy software app before.

Probably the company that really took the biscuit were a firm of lawyers in South London who were always advertising for secretarial staff. Now, either this company had a serious staff retention problem, or else they had been unable to fill the position because of an over-narrow personnel specification. After running weeks of advertisements in the newspapers and free magazines, this firm took to advertising for staff on the London Underground! That cannot have come cheap. At the bottom of each advertisement was the legend: “Applicants without legal experience need not apply”. Unless a person has a specific reason for wishing to work locally, then probably the majority of potentially qualified applicants living in that area would have preferred to make the 15-20 minute Tube journey to the City, where salaries for such positions can be double. Perhaps if this firm had cast their net a little wider, possibly considering applicants with a banking or some other corporate background, they might have found the ideal candidate to train up for the role and in the long term saved themselves a whole load of expense.

I worked for a company once who kept on losing their reception staff. The Partner in charge of personnel insisted on filling the role with juniors straight out of school, or foreign girls looking to get their first job in the UK. His rationale was clearly that he didn’t want to have to pay very much, but this was proving to be a penny wise but pound foolish strategy: once these girls had gotten perhaps six months’ experience under their belt, they would move on to other, higher-paid jobs. It was costing money and time having to keep going through the recruitment process again and again, and it meant that more experienced staff were constantly having to waste time off their own jobs training up yet another newbie. I suggested that a possible solution to the problem was to look to the opposite end of the age spectrum, perhaps take on a person in their fifties who had been made redundant, didn’t think that they would get another job at their age, wouldn’t be looking for a fortune or to burn a streak in their career, and would be quite happy to sit there answering the phone until retirement age. But of course I wasn’t a member of the “professional” staff, so who was I to originate a solution?

Most people are aware of “estate agent speak” – you know, where the advert for the house says, “Needs some attention” (translation: it’s practically derelict). Job adverts can be interpreted in the same way.

They say: “Must be able to work under pressure.” Translated into real English: We’re understaffed; expect to be overworked.

They say: “Flexible attitude.” Translation: We will probably expect you to stay late at the drop of a hat on a regular basis.

They say: “State your salary expectations.” Translation: We don’t have a clue what package to offer, but will employ the lowest bidder.

They say: “Apply in own handwriting.” Translation: We have a resident graphologist, pendulum dowser and Mystic Meg to help us choose our applicants, because we are useless at utilising more down-to-earth methods of assessing suitability.

They say: “Applicants must have a minimum of five years’ relevant experience.” Translation: Anyone younger than a certain age won’t have that number of years’ experience. It’s an indirect way of implementing an ageist policy.

They say: “Chatty, bubbly people-person”. Translation: We care more about gossip, banter and our social lives here than getting on with any actual work.

They say: “…anticipating the needs of our CEO and his ever-changing priorities…” Translation: Professional psychic, who knows what’s supposed to be going on and hold the helm, because the guy at the top is clearly too disorganised to stay on top of projects.

They only advertise the position in The Guardian. Translation: Applicants must reflect our own political viewpoints.

Please feel free to comment and provide more!

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One often hears opinions such as: Why don’t the super-smart come up with some real solutions, find a cure for cancer or solve the energy crisis?

Well, this is the thing. Just about anything you can name that needs to be fixed, will have been addressed and solved by at least one bright spark somewhere.

The problem is not in being able to come up with solutions to the difficulties faced by the human race, but in getting them implemented.

The notion that a high IQ person is well-placed to originate solutions to these type of issues is predicated on the assumption that the powers-that-be on this planet WANT solutions and would be receptive to implementing them – whether these solutions come from a high IQ individual or anyone for that matter.

What is needed to solve these things is not brainpower, for a handful of unethical people of average intellect in a position of great power can always create more problems than a thousand high IQ’ers can ever solve. And of course there will always be far greater numbers of average to just-above-average people, either in power or supporting those who are in power, than there are people of truly extraordinary cognitive potential, because that’s the nature of the statistical bell-curve.

What is really needed is a radical shift in the level of ethics and responsibility of every member of the human race.

The persons who run the planet behind closed doors may present a veneer of respectability, but their souls are dark and their purposes are evil. Their political and financial power is such that it enables them to control every government, business activity and media outlet of the world. Even academia (or perhaps especially academia) is not free: it is impossible to get grant funding for anything really radical, and students regularly parrot the party line while thinking they are speaking out against the status quo. It suits the purposes of the global elite to keep the majority of the world’s population under the thumb of economic duress, inadequate healthcare, poor education, energy crises and other travails, because populations are easier to control when their daily lives are wrapped up in such challenges.

The underlying reason mankind exists in a situation where a few hundred individuals control 90% of the world’s wealth and the vast majority live in varying degrees of servitude and poverty is due to deep aberrations within the human psyche which must be fully confronted and overcome. Planet Earth will continue this way until mankind can be pushed to higher states of being where the compulsions to control others and commit misdeeds eventually evaporate. Naturally, the global elite will do anything to prevent anyone from actually doing any free thinking or promoting any really effective solutions.

To put it bluntly: before we can solve the problems of mankind, first we must solve mankind.

And yes, a method has even been developed for doing that. The reason you don’t know about it is because its effectiveness and even its very existence has been denied. It has been denigrated as “unworkable”, and warned against in the strongest terms as “dangerous”, once public interest could no longer be sufficiently curbed. Authorities had, and have, too many vested interests to suddenly accept something that actually works. The only remaining work-around to this problem is for a grassroots movement by the public using such techniques on their own and bypassing the “experts”, until so many members of the population have been straightened out, that eventually a watershed point is reached.

In the meantime, the gifted remain frustrated that no matter how ingenious their ideas and solutions may be, they are cognizant of the fact that the chances of seeing the same enthusiastically implemented for the benefit of the human race are slim to none. Little wonder, then, that many console themselves by joining high IQ societies and pitting their wits against a more innocuous set of problems: puzzles and academic debates.

So, next time you feel the urge to say something like, “Well, if Marilyn/Chris/whoever were REALLY smart, then he/she/they would have solved all the world’s problems and things would be wonderful”, then just step back and take a look at the circumstances under which they were supposed to do it.

History shows that one man already tried that, two thousand years ago.

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