How are these stupid pre-employment surveys not discriminatory?

So, with my courseload this semester and applying to grad school soon, I need a part-time job with a flexible schedule. I stopped by CVS today and saw that they’re hiring a part-time photo lab tech. Well, guess who’s got previous photo lab experience and wants a part-time job?

They don’t do paper applications anymore, so instead of wasting my time in the store, I did it online. I don’t know how many of you have applied for a retail or customer service type position in the past 5 years, but a lot of places have added these surveys after they get your education and experience.

They give you a statement and you choose from 1) Strongly disagree, 2) Disagree 3) Agree, and 4) Strongly agree. They ask a lot of questions that make sense, for customer service related positions. Like “I couldn’t deal with dificult people all day” or “I don’t try too hard at work because it doesn’t really matter anyway.” OK, checking out your work ethic and ability to deal with people, makes sense.

But then they have statements that, if I answered truthfully, would make me look like an anti-social nutcase (well, I am one, but not at work). Like “Meeting new people makes me nervous,” “I dislike small talk,” or “My moods change from happy to sad for no reason,” or “I am often cheerful.” Ok, yeah, I suffer from depression, and a bit of social anxiety. I don’t feel cheerful a lot, and I hate meeting new people. But I discovered some years ago that I’m really good in a retail environment.

I smile, greet everyone cheerully, make small talk, and really enjoy being a cashier. I mean, I hate asshole customers, but if everyone’s polite and friendly, we’re good. Whatever frustrations I have in the back of my mind leave, and I’m focused on ringing up the customers and giving them a pleasant shopping experience. Usually, after a day of fake smiling and polite small talk, I’m in a much better mood. Even if I’m in a shitty mood because of a string of nasty customers and other stress unrelated to work, I still fake happy and polite very convincingly. Hell, I’ve got 25 years experience faking happy just to get through life somewhat normally.

But these surveys annoy me. So what if I’m miserable or nervous meeting new people, if I really thought I couldn’t hack it as a cashier I’d get some equally menial job filing paperwork all by my lonesome in some office. I’ve got years of retail experience that should speak for itself.

I dunno. What do you think? Don’t questions like that seem to discriminate against people with depression and social anxiety? I just think that people whose depression or social anxiety was bad enough that they couldn’t handle dealing with the public wouldn’t be applying for a lot of retail jobs. They’re kind of pointless anyway, anyone with half a brain knows how to answer the questions to look like a model employee, even if they’re always late and hate doing anything other than the bare minimum to get by.

I suspect the astute HR managers out there use it to winnow out the very stupid (no, I wouldn’t report an employee for stealing, why?) and the desperate (yes, I will fellate a customer if you say so) from the pool of applicants. Beyond that, it probably does get a great deal of abuse from managers who are looking for any reason to discard an application.

Most of the school districts where I live require applicants to take a survey posted by a third party company. It’s supposed to measure how authoritarian a teacher is in their classroom. I took it and complained the entire time, because most of the scenarios given had no context whatsoever, so any of the answers were conceivably applicable. I tend to interpret them in a more pessimistic context, so my answers were often fairly authoritarian. Later, I read a newspaper article that stated one of the school districts used the survey to provide an arbitrary cut-off point. Anyone who scored more than 20% authoritarian was dropped from the candidate pool. They did this because for something like 500 positions, they had more than 8000 applicants, and they simply couldn’t look at every application.

So, now I understand why I never got a call from them. sigh

It’s the way of the world, grasshopper. If the survey is that stupid, you’re best off working for someone else. Me, I got a position teaching full time at a private school that doesn’t pull stupid shit like that. Everyone won.

My favorite survey was 79 questions that were all a variant on three basic statements, same format as yours:

  1. I enjoy doing drugs.
  2. I enjoy stealing from my employer.
  3. I am a sociopath.

Seriously. Almost eighty questions, none varied more than a smidge from those three statements. Once in a while they’d throw you a curveball like:

  1. I enjoy stealing from my employer in order to purchase drugs which I will then sell to the rest of my co-workers, on company time.

I do have to wonder how often they get people who answer “why, yes, as a matter of fact, I do strongly agree that using the company computer to surf porn sites on work time isn’t the same as stealing!” I don’t know if they’re discriminatory or not, but I do think they’re awfully asinine and thank whatever diety you might believe in that I no longer have to be employed at the sort of places that start with the assumption that anyone they hire has an IQ <70, kleptomaniac tendancies, and a ragin’ meth monkey on their back.

Those surveys test only two things, that you can read, and that you aren’t overcome with nausea while parroting the company line right back to them. To consider any of the questions from a reasoned philosophical perspective simply wastes your time.

I never did get the purpose of those surveys. Do they really expect people to be honest?

A few years ago the company I worked for decided to adopt one of these surveys to screen employment candidates. Management tested the survey on a few people already working at the company (including me), and a surprising number of us failed (including me). That’s when they decided to throw out the survey, since those of us who failed were all considered good employees.

I was honest though, since I knew my job was not at stake. I’ve taken a few of these surveys when applying to other companies, and I make sure to give them the answers I think they want to hear, because yes, I do get a little nervous meeting new people, no, I don’t think it affects my job performance, and no, I don’t think it’s any of the company’s business.

I took one of those a couple weeks ago. Complete waste of my time. I also kept expecting to be asked about a tortoise.

Do the questions discriminate? Looks to me they do. Do they unlawfully discriminate as it applies to equal opportunity and protected classes, as defined by law? Doesn’t look like it.

I’ve been looking into getting a part-time job at Borders, and they only accept online applications that include one of these. I’ve filled out two of them so far, and am probably going to be filling out another one soon.

Border’s has an interesting way of hiring people. The stores always have a sign in the window that says “Now Hiring” and if you ask about applying they hand you a card with the website address. What they do after you complete the application is keep it on file for three months, and if they ever actually have an opening the manager goes through them and gets in touch with anyone who looks like a good prospect and asks if they’re still interested. I understand that Border’s is a good place to work (and Og knows I could use the employee discount to feed my habit) but that is the most screwed-up system I’ve ever heard of.

My sis is a long time employee of CVS, and never had to take one of those surveys to get or keep her job. She’s let me in on the process they use on those dumb surveys.

In the past 6 months or so, I have applied to every local opening at CVS, which means that I have had to fill out the app and take the stupid survey about 9 times. I don’t know why they don’t hold onto your application and pass it around in the company, since it’s exactly the same for each job you apply for. Anyway, once the apps are completed and forwarded to the managers of the store you’re applying to, they’re rated with what I assume to be a traffic light system. Green means give them an interview, yellow means too risky, and red means not no but hell no. I think there’s also a system where you get rated on different aspects of the job, like dependability and customer service skills.

What frustrates the crap out of me is that I have gotten green lights, mainly, but once when applying for a new position in the same store I’d already gotten a green in, I got a yellow in because of that dumb survey, and couldn’t be hired. No matter the fact that an application from less than a month prior cleared me to be interviewed for almost any hourly position there.

It’s ridiculous. The funny thing is that even every single hiring manager pretty much knows that anyone who passes those tests has learned to lie, telling them what they want to hear. Of course I am grumpy sometimes. Of course there are days I just don’t feel like dealing with customers. Of course I haven’t always been a perfect student, and been late to work a couple of times, and yer damn right I like to drink occasionally. It’s all stupid. Hmph. (Sez I who is still unemployed.)

Why wouldn’t you want a company to discriminate against such people?
Next you’ll be saying why discriminate against people who rant, or smell funny.
Discrimination is good. What’s bad is pre-judging individuals by their group.

As someone who works in the field of Vocational Rehabilitation, I will say that, yes, it is commonly thought that these are discriminatory against people with a range of disabilities. Some ask questions like, “I had nearly perfect attendance in high school.” Well, if you had a round of chemo you probably didn’t. They’re also not norm-referenced for people with learning disabilities.

Yeah, these tests suck, IMO.

Overall an interesting question. Any kind of pre-employment testing is under a lot of legal scrutiny. But it probably has been scrutinized more for race and gender bias than for disability bias. It seems like a good topic for disability advocates to focus on.

The ADA protects people with disabilities that limit them to a certain level of severity in the activities of daily living. Some cases of depression and social anxiety may be that severe, but not most. And if the depression or anxiety is so severe it’s limiting those activities, the person probably isn’t in any shape to work retail. Here is an article about the main case that establishes precedent on how severe a disability needs to be to be covered under the ADA, Toyota v. Williams

I think the perfect attendance in HS one does seem more problematic. It seems like the prudent thing would be to drop that one, unless the software could somehow drop that score for people with disabilities without making it obvious to hiring managers that the score was dropped due to disability (for example, just reported an aggregate score for a number of “dependability” questions).

I’m not sure what norming for people with learning disabilities would entail. lorene, if you’d care to say more I’d be interested. Companies do have to accommodate ADA disabilities during the application and interview process. So if it is a question of someone reading the questions out loud to the applicant, allowing more time to complete them, or something like that, I think the company would be obligated to comply.

The validity of such tests, with people lying out the wazoo, is also open to question. Psychological tests can be designed to detect lying, but would probably have to be much longer to do so. Applicants won’t like that, and it would probably add bias against people with poor English reading skills, more legal can of worms.

IMHO, if your depression and anxiety are controlled with medication or therapy, you can answer those questions with respect to your treated state and not feel like it’s lying. If someone takes arthritis medicine for a typing test, it’s their score with the medicine that counts.

And is either in high school or just graduated.

I mean, I’m thirtysomething, so high school was fifteen years ago and more. And it seems I’ve had to answer a ridiculous number of questions about my high school attendence and grades, rather than the 8 years of more recent schooling, not all of which actually show up, because of the way that the computer is set to accept information on higher education.

But what really got me was the 15 variations on “why I left my last job” that I had to choose from for Toys R Us, none of which seemed quite right, especially when I eliminated the ones which looked to me like potential warning signs “do not hire this person”.

But mostly, they may discriminate, but probably not against any protected classes, and they seem to me to be a mostly futile attempt to sort potential employees into “worthwhile” and “waste of time”.

Son2U had ended his association with Target and was looking for something new in the vast retail wasteland that is the NW Suburbs and has had to fill out umpteen number of these idiotic things.

I really don’t think corralling carts and the local Home Depot requires fifteen different screens worth of these annoying questions. It’s CART CORRALLING. Not Middle Management!!

He finally ended up at Linen’s N Things. Cashier and sales floor and stock. They give employee discounts. Mom’s a REAL happy camper!!! :smiley:

Isn’t the real purpose of tests like these to screen out people not bright enough to give the “correct” answers regardless of the truth?

I’m not sure if you’re serious, but, no. In retail jobs some of the biggest, most expensive problems for employers are theft, absenteeism, turnover, and lack of ability to get along with people. For these jobs, “brightness” in the sense of intelligence is less of an issue. However, I will agree that some knowledge of workplace norms is helpful in knowing how to answer the question, albeit untruthfully sometimes.

The tests are (naively, I agree) designed under the assumption that people will answer truthfully. The tests may be validated under conditions where people don’t so obviously have a stake in the outcome (see **Phantom Dennis’ ** post). The tests are an attempt to find employees who will show up, not steal, stay with the job, and not piss people off. And, oh yeah, to do this in a fairly inexpensive way when dealing with a high volume of applicants in a hopefully legal manner.

It just may be the case, though, that effective screening can’t be done that cheaply. Having managers interview more people is more expensive, may not be that much more effective, and may have as many or more legal pitfalls. Reference checking can be near-useless, especially since these retail jobs do hire a lot of teens who have never worked before.

I was serious. I deal with hiring people, and find the idea that a “test” like this would help very naive.

If your employee pool consisted of 4 to 6 year olds, then I can see a test helping.

But do you deal with a million + applicants per year? While complying with all the state and federal employment laws that apply to a large employer? That’s realistically what a large employer is looking at. I’m not saying these tests are especially good, but they are almost certainly passing a cost-benefit analysis somewhere. Findng bright employees who will lie is almost certainly not the objective, although it may well be a frequent consequence. And then the employees will complain that the job requires them to act happy, and smile at customers …


Not even close.

You win. :smiley: (It just seems silly)

I dunno, sometimes people don’t give the acceptable answer. Look at that Michael Jackson interview with Martin Bashir from a few years back. All MJ had to do was sit there and feed the interviewer lines that conformed with most Americans’ belief about appropriate adult-child relationships. But no, he had to insist on national television that the best way to express loving, nonsexual intimacy is for a grown man to share his bed with an unrelated child.

So maybe the screening tests really do catch some oddballs.