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Make sure that perky, agreeable personality shines through online

Submitted by on Wednesday, 14 January 2009 One Comment

Note to self: Do a 180 on entire parenting philosophy or the guys will never be fired at Finish Line. Or Best Buy, Circuit City or Blockbuster.

I’m too set in my curmudgeonly ways, so it’s too late for me. I’ll still have a shot at Whole Foods, which quit using a personality test for job applicants when it found out the exam screened for happy-go-lucky folks who couldn’t do the job.

It’s called Unicru and, according to an article last week in the Wall Street Journal, learning to game the system those retailers and many others use is a hot trend in this economy.

Not that it’s hard to figure out. It took me all of two minutes on google to find what might or might not be a Unicru answer key. Officials at Kronos say it’s not, but at the same time they pressure Web sites to remove the key because it’s copyrighted material. Seems a little inconsistent, doesn’t it.

Even if it’s not the key, it gives you enough insight into the test to figure out how you’re supposed to answer.

Disclaimer about Kronos: My nightmares about this company’s jacked-up timekeeping system might never end. Even if the program worked, it would be nonsensical.

First off, the company Web site touts its ability to “apply complex time and attendance pay policies with the utmost accuracy,” yet the version I used was inaccurate from the start due to rounding that often would trigger overtime pay for minutes worked only in Kronos’ imagination.

Second, I had to clean my monitor after I read that Kronos frees managers “to focus on higher value strategic activities.” Funny, but I recall bashing my head against brick walls for up to an hour on payroll day. I grant them strategic, though. If I gave myself a concussion, someone else would have to fix the mess.

The problem with Kronos is the system expects perfect behavior from all humans and machines involved: No one ever forgets to punch the electronic time card, and the system ever goes down.

No surprise, that’s the same problem with Unicru: It’s designed to find perfect little Stepford employees who might not work out so well in real-world conditions.

The tests asks candidates to read 130 statements and click whether they agree, strongly agree, disagree or strongly disagree. Don’t think too much about  it, or you’ll goof youself up.

Statement: “You have to give up on some things that you start.”

Suggested response from the cheat sheet: “Strongly disagree.”

I do not see how anyone older than 3 could disagree with that. Big Guy’s already learned it at 5, if for no other reason that he has to give up Guitar Hero at bedtime whether he’s completed the song or not.

Yes,  sometimes we do have to give up on things we start. Maybe the idea was ill-conceived to begin with or maybe the resources aren’t there to carry on at the moment. Whatever the reason, not everything reaches fruition. Sometimes it shouldn’t.

Statement: “Any trouble you have is your own fault.”

Suggested response: “Strongly agree.”

Whoever wrote that question must moonlight at the Centers for Disease Control, where “there’s no such thing as an accident” is the new mantra.

Statement: “When under pressure, you think about all that can go wrong.”

Suggested response: “Strongly disagree.”

This is my favorite, as well as the one that lands me in trouble most often. I’m by nature a troubleshooter. Throw out a plan and I’ll throw back a dozen “what ifs” within five minutes.  Inevitably, someone will view that as trying to make trouble.

I see it as good tactics. Often, I ask co-workers, “what am I missing?” or “where am I wrong?” It’s far too easy to fall so deeply in love with your own thought process that your starry eyes don’t see the flaws. It comes in handy to have someone else do that for you.

Statement: “You try to make everything you do perfect.”

Suggested response: “Strongly agree.”

Ay, but “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” And is it a realistic business practice to try to make everything perfect?

It’s another shining example of companies setting ridiculous standards for workers because they know they can in this economy. The tragedy is in the innovation lost when assimilation becomes the most prized asset.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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