Fall Application Questions Explained, Part VI

Open ended questions gives us an opportunity to get a more nuanced look at how an applicant thinks.  First question intended to get applicant to think about the value of a person’s work so we don’t end up with victim-employee who mistakenly thinks pay should correlate to how much one (subjectively) “suffers.” Pay depends on amount of value one contributes to a business.  Those unable to calculate the value they produce are more likely to be bitter employees and weak negotiators.

Mary hires Peter and Paul to dig two ditches, assigning one to each. Peter finishes in one hour because he used his latest invention, the super-duper soil remover zapper. Paul, using a shovel and hard work, finishes his in 8 hours. How much should Mary pay Peter. How much to Paul? Who should she hire if she wants a third ditch?   

Nearly all chose to pay both the same, arguing they completed the same job, and how “hard” one worked is irrelevant.  Many stated their appreciation for “smart work.” One emphasized the intrinsic value of physical labor.  One paid both the same hourly wage, giving the guy who spent 8 hours eight times more pay than counterpart.  Several made this simple question much more complicated than it is, inserting their own variables such as environmental degradation that may result from using invention and Peter and Paul’s relationship with each other.  While environmental impact and personal relations are important real world, inserting these concerns into hypothetical situation may suggest that one is indecisive, is easily distracted and overwhelmed, and lacks focus when confronted with everyday real life problems.

Nearly all invited faster worker to return.  One invited the slower worker because “he probably has a hot body” (what is with women from Christian colleges?).

Next question gives applicants an opportunity to review their life decisions and to ask themselves if they’re living the life they deserve.

Person A from age 5 to 25, attends school 6 hours a day, studies 4 hours a day, spends 6 hours of leisure time learning to build and building, with like-minded friends, random things, like a tree house, a bridge, a dog walking robot. A also spends an hour per day daydreaming of building something that will improve world’s standard of living. At age 25, he graduates with a Masters degree in electrical engineering and is offered a salary of $150,000 to work as a product developer for a green tech company. He gets 3 weeks vacation, full benefits. He accepts the position and works 60-80 hours per week, and is expected to be available for phone calls and e-mails during his vacations. He pays Federal Government 30 percent of his earnings.

Person B, from age 5-25, attends school 6 hours a day, studies 1 hour a day, spends 6 hours of leisure time passively watching TV shows and films like Jersey Shore and Twilight, 3 hours a day daydreaming about being wealthy and pampered and adored by everyone. At age 25, he graduates with a degree in Socks, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. Unable to find a job in his field of study, he takes a job as a cashier at McDonald’s, making $10 per hour, 40 hours per week, or $20,000 for the year. He doesn’t have to pay taxes.

Nearly all picked Person A.  One person stated that both are underpaid.  A few stated that Person B — composite of Average American — is underpaid because they don’t think he’s making a living wage, implying that everyone, regardless of their productivity, should make a living wage (didn’t occur to them that if he doesn’t feel he makes enough to survive, he can take a second job and easily double his salary).  One felt that Person A is underpaid but may be too greedy and develop psychological problems from overwork.  Which is a bizarre assumption, as this person is simply doing what he’s always done — having fun while helping the world become a better place.

This question is important because most of our applicants have never been exposed to someone like Person A.  They have no idea what it takes for someone to become like Person A.  Nor do they know how Person A works, lives, thinks, behaves.  They’ll grow to become envious, passionless, and lazy (many already are) if they think Microsoft engineers work low-stress 40 hour a week jobs they landed only because their wealthy parents paid for their education and maids and toys and unlimited resources.  They need to realize that these people come from a wide range of backgrounds and are who and where they are now because of the amount of effort, since childhood, they put into learning and being productive.  Applicants who don’t understand this point are likely to think that securing a “good life” is about lucky charms and having wealthy parents, and not about being responsible and not wasting time pursuing  trivial pleasures.  It’s extremely difficult to motivate someone who thinks that life is fundamentally unfair, that we ultimately don’t get what we deserve.  While we don’t demand employees to become Person A, they are expected to understand the mindset, attitude, and work ethic it takes to become such a person.  We have zero tolerance for envy.

We’re not expecting to hire Person A.  After all, none of us at Alive are Person A, we’re lazy and lack grand ambition.  However, we will only work with those who can appreciate those like Person A.  We’re not superstars.  We’re not expecting superstars.  We only want to work with those who understand what superstars go through to become who they are.

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