Is Hiring Prejudice Racism? Or Common Sense?

Will Offensicht, Scragged, December 9, 2009

The New York Times is wringing its hands about the disproportionate effect of the Obama Recession on blacks. Their teaser for “In Job Hunt, College Degree Can’t Close Racial Gap” said:

There is ample evidence that race remains a significant obstacle for African-Americans in the job market, even those with degrees from respected colleges. [emphasis added]

How stupid does the Times think businesses are? Every private business wants to get the most possible work out of every employee and put the least amount of pay and benefits back in. Thus, when a manager interviews a candidate whom he thinks will either give less or cost more relative to other potential hires, he tends to move on to the next applicant. This is particularly true in times of economic distress when there are lots of candidates for every job.

Government Lies About Racial Group Skills

Why is the Times surprised that the recession would be harder on black people? Hasn’t the Times heard of “race norming?”

Back in the 1980’s, the US Department of Labor started promoting the use of its General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB) to state employment services. When a state agency is trying to get unemployed people back to work, it’s helpful to have a way to rate their skills and qualifications.

The GATB was developed in 1947 and was refined over the years to the point that it could usefully rate people for 12,000 different skill categories. Developing the test was a lot of work, but administering it doesn’t cost very much. State agencies started administering the GATB and sending the results to interviews along with the candidates.

Unfortunately, there was a fly in the ointment–blacks scored significantly below whites on the GATB and Hispanics scored someplace in between. Hiring based on raw test scores would have been inconsistent with the government’s affirmative action goals. Accordingly, some bureaucrat conceived the idea of adjusting scores according to an applicant’s race. If a black person took the test, his score would be compared only with the scores of other blacks who took the test. Thus, if a black person received a score of 90%, which was supposed to mean that he was in the top 10% of candidates who took the test, it really meant he was in the top 10% of black candidates, not that he was in the top 10% of the overall candidate pool. An employment web site puts it another way:

As an example, three candidates take the test–one white, one black and one Hispanic. All three applicants achieve identical scores of 300 on the GATB. On the referral sent to prospective employers, however, the three candidates’ scores will appear quite different. The black test-taker will be listed as scoring 83, meaning he or she is in the 83rd percentile of all black applicants. The Hispanic will receive a score of 67 and the white a 45. Or, in other words, to be in the 50th percentile, the score for a black, Hispanic and white applicant, respectively, will be 276, 295 and 308.

In other words, after spending large sums of taxpayer dollars developing a test that can accurately measure as many as 12,000 different job skills, the government fudges test scores reported to employers to make minority candidates seem better qualified than they actually are.

The web site quoted above says that methods of faking scores are “widely described in the literature on testing.” They have to be, of course. Computers weren’t as available back when data faking was introduced so scores had to be tweaked manually. People who graded the tests had to be told how to “adjust” the scores.

How long did it take for businesses to find out what was going on? Even if the methods of lying systematically to employers weren’t published, business folk talk to each other.

A Bum Hire Costs a Bunch

People in government generally have no clue how much it costs a business to make a bad hiring decision.

Employees cost money, time, benefits, and grief. The only reason ever to hire anyone at all is that the value of that person’s work to you is more than what the person costs. Whenever a business hires anyone, they expect that person to add net value to the firm. In other words, every employee must be worth more than what he or she costs.

Suppose you’re looking for a delivery truck driver. You interview applicants, you look at their scores, you call former employers, and you hire someone. That person doesn’t work out. You’ve lost your earlier pool of applicants; the best of the ones you didn’t hire will have found work so you start over. You’ve lost whatever the bum cost you, and you lost the value he was supposed to add, not to mention irritating customers because of late deliveries. A bad hire is very expensive for any business.

Governments don’t care because people have to deal with them and they can always raise taxes to pay for employees who don’t do much work. That being the case, employment agencies don’t appreciate how much businesses resent being lied to about the qualifications of the candidates the government sends them. Businesses have figured out how to un-fudge the data, however, so they contain their resentment. Over time, they figure out how much the government inflates the score of a black driver or a Hispanic roofer. They receive the fudged government scores, make the necessary mental adjustment in the negative to get a truthful picture of the candidate, hire accordingly and get on with life.

There’s a lot more risk when you’re hiring at the top of the food chain. Suppose you’re filling a slot that needs someone from a “respected college” as the Times put it. That person’s salary will be greater and training costs can be immense. One of our friends went to work for a bank just out of college. He spent the first two years in full-time training, on full salary, before he was able to do a lick of work for them. This is not unusual with high-end hiring.

Colleges Lie About Racial Group Degrees

The difficulty is that the “respected colleges” lie about the degrees they award. Every college that gets federal money in any form, including loans to their students, has to toe the government’s line and admit minorities on an “affirmative action” basis. How long did it take for employers to realize that “respected colleges” offered two types of degrees, one for blacks and one for everyone else? Depending on the way they fudge applicant’s scores during the admission process, some colleges award three or four kinds of degree depending on how finely they slice the applicant pool.

Suppose you’re hiring and your group is eligible for a major bonus if you make your numbers. If this new hire doesn’t work out, your bonus will be reduced because your group won’t perform as well, so you hire carefully.

The candidate’s Yale or Princeton degree looks OK, all the profs give him rave reviews, but he’s black. You know you’re being lied to because Harvard and Princeton always lie about black graduates. It’s your money on the line, if this guy blows it, you’ll miss your bonus. What do you do?

You do exactly what the white students and professors did at Princeton while Michelle Obama was there. She described it eloquently:

“My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my ‘blackness’ than ever before,” the future Mrs. Obama wrote in her thesis introduction. “I have found that at Princeton, no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my white professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don’t belong. Regardless of the circumstances under which I interact with whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be black first and a student second.” [emphasis added]

White Princetonians knew that the Princeton administration systematically lies about black students’ qualifications. Michelle wasn’t really a student, she was a “quota queen.” Her colleagues knew it and they let her know they knew it; those selfsame colleagues are now running major corporations and making high-level hiring decisions today, and what they learned in college hasn’t been forgotten.

Remember the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz? His head was full of straw, he didn’t have a brain. The Wizard took care of that–by awarding him a diploma! Unfortunately, a diploma does not a brain make, and all employers know it, even if the government hasn’t yet caught on.

The Times said, “even those with degrees from respected colleges.” What they don’t realize is that people who hire candidates from “respected colleges” are hiring at a higher level where they have a lot more to lose from an employee who isn’t as qualified as he seems. By now, everybody at that level knows that “respected colleges” lie about minority graduates; a Yale minority degree is actually worth, well, about what a normal community college degree might be.

What the Times should have said was, “especially those with degrees from respected colleges.” Nowadays, an affirmative-action diploma is proof of nothing. Minorities who truly are the equal of anyone else and honestly did all the work to rightfully deserve a top-grade degree–and no one can deny the existence of black people like Thomas Sowell, Condoleeza Rice, and Colin Powell who fully deserve their membership in America’s intellectual elite–are being cheated by the university’s awarding that same degree to the less-qualified and diluting its value.

What are employers to do when they’re lied to? Pass by on the other side. When in doubt, it’s safest not to hire the minority person because you know you’re being lied to. That’s another way affirmative action holds blacks down.

[Editor’s Note: “In Job Hunt, College Degree Can’t Close Racial Gap” can be read here.]

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