The Knack for Working
Ignoring the Kelly Girl typing tests I took during my pre-career, I was only subjected to one test during my “real”, post B-school career. At this one company, I was required to prove that I could a) problem solve, b) write coherently. If I remember correctly, the task was to describe a tooth brush without using the words “tooth” or “brush.”
I found the test insulting and obnoxious, but I presumably passed because I made it over this preliminary hurdle.
As it turned out, after I had wended my way up the interview ladder to meet with the CEO, we decided to part company without them making me an offer and my turning it down.
The deciding factor for me was the insulting and obnoxious CEO who quizzed me about how to test for elasticity of demand, after first challenging me on whether I’d ever heard of elasticity, and whether I knew what it was. (I can only guess he had just glanced at my resume and saw the “marketing” and not that my business school concentration had been applied marketing and economics.)
Anyway, after meeting with this guy, I told the hiring manager I didn’t think I would be a good fit for their organization.
It wasn’t just the writing sample, or the attempted elasticity smack-down. The place was just plain too weird for my taste. And I got the impression that they weren’t all that enamored of the idea of having a strong woman in a relatively senior position. (I just checked: the executive team and board are all male, and the quiz-meister CEO, founder and visionary, is still at the helm.)
I did recommend that they interview a former colleague who I thought would be a better fit. He was hired and did end up lasting there a few years.
But I ended up knowing a lot of folks who worked for this company at one point or another – in the Boston tech community, there are only two degrees of separation from any company with more than 5 employees that lasts more than a year – and for pretty much all of them, the experience at Company X, sooner or later, turned into a generally miserable one.
My one regret about not working there was that it would have been possible to walk to work. Sigh!
Anyway, even as someone who made several completely disastrous hiring mistakes - which would perhaps have been averted by having a psychologist by my side, thumbing through the DSM and whispering in my ear, during the hiring process – I don’t really like the idea of having to undergo a test before getting hired. (And I don’t know why this is, given that I’m a pretty good test-taker.)
But I also understand that organizations want to make sure that they’re hiring someone who’s a good fit for them.
Of course, the tests are now going well beyond the elasticity of a toothbrush challenge I encountered a couple of decades back. The process has been gamified.
One company doing the gamifying is Knack, which was supposed to reveal all on May 28th, only to realize that it was a holiday in the US. (Could it be that their marketing people didn’t have the knack for determining that a holiday does not make for a particularly good release date?) They had made good by May 29th in the a.m., but I really didn’t try to check them out until this past weekend.
So far, the pay off is a bit limited.
All that’s there is a cutesy, Fisher-Price-esque UI, and a couple of buttons to push.
Tell Me Now leads to the insight that I may be Super Curious, People Person, Empathetic.
Press I Already Know, and it looks like I’m Self Confident, Optimist, No Nonsense.
And did I need to select Don’t Press This to see that I could be a Rule Breaker, Ultra-Creative, Natural Leader?
About all you get out of the site at this point is an invitation to surrender your e-mail address, which, as a Super Curious, Self Confident, Ultra-Creative, I quite naturally did.
Which didn’t yield the instant gratification I was looking for, which was the keys to the kingdom that would let me get in and sample the goodies. All I got was an acknowledgement of my request, and a suggested that while I await further instructions, I might want to FB, tweet, Pinterest, or Tumblr and have my friends tell me what my knack is. (And provide free publicity for Knack which, of course, is exactly what I’m doing.)
Since I can’t get into the site quite yet – if ever – I’ll have to rely on The Economist to tell me what I need to know about Knack.
Happy Hour, which will be unveiled to the public on May 28th, is one of several video games developed by Knack, a start-up founded by Guy Halfteck an Israeli entrepreneur. The games include a version of Happy Hour in which sushi replaces booze, Words of Wisdom (a word game) and Balloon Brigade (which involves putting out fires with balloons and water). They are designed to test cognitive skills that employers might want, drawing on some of the latest scientific research. These range from pattern recognition to emotional intelligence, risk appetite and adaptability to changing situations…
A pilot now under way with students at Yale combines the results of games with academic grades. As little as ten minutes of play can yield enough data to predict performance, says Mr Halfteck.
Among those jumping in are Bain, which is piloting Knack.
…it will start by getting current staff to play the games, to see which skills make for a successful consultant.
(Do you think they’ll ask Mitt to take the test?)
Okay, it’s not exactly the Milgram Experiment. (Zap!)
Still, I can’t but help but have a few concerns, no doubt boosted by my general annoyance with any web site that doesn’t tell me anything about a company and what it does. I know, I know, this is the wave of the future, but while we’re in transition to that future, I wish at least that organizations would set up parallel web sites for us boring old fogeys who actually would rather read about something that look at Cute Overload-ish icons. I really do worry about a world in which only the elites will learn to read and write, and everyone else will just run on pictograms, txt, and videos.
The process just seems to pigeon-hole-y to me.
If you get the job because you’re Reliable or Team Player, does this mean that you’ll be doomed to doing the scut work while Self Confident and Risk Taker get to grab all the glory?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for Myers-Briggs (INTJ), the enneagram (Thinker? Skeptic?), and any other personality tests which help you understand yourself and those around you. Even though – supposedly unlike the Knack tests – these can all be gamed by someone who’d rather be seen as a peppy ESFP than an oddball INTJ.
But how is it that you can’t outsmart a Knack game, too? (I must be enneagram Skeptic…)
I have to confess, my natural inclination to dislike getting Knack-ered is most likely an outcome of my preference for paper and pencil, rather than icon and click. In the new world of work, this likely makes me Employable.
Happy Birthday to my sister Trish (the erstwhile huggable potto), who came home from the hospital on the day I flew up from Brownie to Girl Scout. Talk about excitement overload!