Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Sunday, January 17, 2016

"Five ways to tell if a job prospect is lying"/ "Social skills may be ultimate job security"

Nov. 11, 2015 "Five ways to tell if a job prospect is lying": I cut out this article by Ben Hutt in the Globe and Mail on Sept. 18, 2015:

It is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to hire employees who are capable of performing their specified job requirements. When we asked Canadian employers how satisfied they were with their staff, we found that 58 per cent of newly hired employees fail to meet their original job specifications. This is a huge issue since the cost of hiring a new employee is 30-50 per cent of their annual salary for entry level roles, and as high as 400 per cent for senior level jobs.

Part of the reason that people get hired even though they don’t have the right skills to do the job is that candidates tend to exaggerate or lie on their resumes. In a survey of hiring managers, “58 per cent said they had spotted exaggerations or outright fabrications on resumes, and one in three (33 per cent) said the problem has grown worse since the recession.” Given this staggering statistic, any dishonestly is crucial to identify right from the start. The issue may be more prevalent in Canada; an internal case study from The Search Party recently found Canadian employees actually lied more than those in Britain and the United States.

An interview is one of the best ways to find out whether a candidate’s resume matches up against what they are saying. If you get this wrong, you often see warning signs within a short time of the candidate taking the role. It can manifest itself in many ways: not being able to use a skill they said they have, inability to meet client or internal deadlines, and a change in behaviour compared to how they presented themselves during the interview.

Luckily, there are five steps an interviewer can take to remedy this and ensure a candidate is given several opportunities to tell the truth.

Create a welcoming environment

Building the optimum environment for a candidate interview is crucial. There still seems to be an “understanding” that putting a candidate under unnecessary pressure is the right way to conduct an interview. However, this is counterproductive to getting the candidate to open up and feel comfortable telling the whole truth. I often start an interview by saying, “I want to keep this very relaxed and informal to get a good gage of your personality and fit.” You will see the candidate instantly relax, and give a sigh of relief. This doesn’t mean that you can’t turn up the pressure if needed, but it completely re-frames the interview.

Watch for “We”

There are a couple of linguistic clues that you can pick up on to see if the candidate is telling the truth. The classic is “We vs. I.” When you ask them to talk about a specific achievement or scenario in their career, listen for the first-person singular tense. If they say “we did this” and “what we did next,” I often ask them to tell me exactly what they did in the example, not what the team or company did. I would typically say, “I noticed you are saying ‘we’ a lot, what exactly did you do in this process?” If they are unable to speak confidently about their responsibilities, they probably aren’t true.

The nose knows

Body language needs to be congruent with all of the other behaviour in the interview. There is no known way of telling conclusively if someone is lying, full stop. However, we can look at body language as another piece of evidence. An example of this is something called the “Pinocchio effect.” When we lie, we tend to put ourselves under a lot of temporary stress and pressure and this causes the blood vessels in the nose to expand making the nose itchy. Nose touching has been a sign of lying amongst body language experts for some time. Bill Clinton famously touched his nose 24 times during the Monica Lewinsky testimony. I often find that negative and closed body language during an innocuous question is a sure sign of discomfort. Some examples are crossing of the arms, lack of eye contact and even shaking the head when they answer the question with a “yes” (this genuinely does happen).

Ask open-ended questions

Although this is now considered to be an obvious process, people conducting interviews still get questioning wrong. Keep your questions open in order to get the candidate to give up as much information as possible. Make sure you are asking for examples and test those examples. “You mentioned that you increased revenue year over year by 15 per cent, walk me through the process you went through to do this.” These types of questions will give you an understanding of how the candidate thinks and acts as well as their true involvement in an achievement.

Be sure to clarify inconsistencies

As soon as I spot an inconsistency from the candidate, I ask deeper questions to find out the truth. This can be uncomfortable so it also gives you a gauge to how the candidate can work under pressure. Probing questions like “Go into more detail for me on that answer; explain that in more detail, I didn’t quite understand; what do you mean by that?” will help you get more information out of the candidate when you aren’t satisfied with the answer.

If you have created the right setting and opportunity for a candidate to tell the truth, yet you continue to spot tell-tale signs that they may be untrustworthy, and the information doesn’t match up, then go with your gut. Particularly if you have given them a platform to explain themselves. Gut feeling is always interesting as it is often based on experience, so it shouldn’t be discounted as evidence. The trick is to make sure you have investigated it. By using the tips above you will put yourself in a strong position during the interview process to test and trial a candidate’s integrity. If you feel that a candidate is still hiding something or not being honest, walk away.

"Social skills may be ultimate job security": I cut out this article by Victoria Stilwell in the Edmonton Journal on Oct. 31, 2015:

Dennis Mortensen, the founder of a technology startup, had a simple request for Amy Ingram: set up a meeting with a journalist.

Within minutes, Amy sent an e-mail with a preferred date and time and two alternatives. She reached out again in the middle of the night about nine hours later after getting no response: “I wanted to follow up with you about this meeting with Dennis.” Four hours after that, she fired off another e-mail: “I haven’t heard back from you yet about this meeting. Is this time convenient?”

Some would call Amy persistent, others might say she’s overly aggressive or even annoying. What can’t be argued is that she got the job done. A meeting was scheduled less than 24 hours after the initial request.

Amy Ingram is a virtual personal assistant created by New York-based Mortensen and his team at Her initials are also those of artificial intelligence, and her last name refers to a model used in helping machines understand human speech.

Her single-mindedness is an example of the need to imbue such programs with social skills, so Amy remains a work in progress, Mortensen said in the interview arranged by her.

Job Polarization

Efforts to make agents of artificial intelligence more sentient threaten to erode one of the biggest competitive advantages humans have over robots: the ability to summon social skills, including reading a person’s feelings, managing emotions, working in teams and communicating effectively, to complete a task. Machines’ capacity to do routine jobs that don’t require a personal touch -- think assembly-line workers, bank tellers or grocery store checkout clerks -- has been behind the so-called labor-market polarization that has contributed to the hollowing out of middle-class professions.

David Deming, an associate professor of education and economics at Harvard University, has found that jobs requiring social interaction are growing relative to work that doesn’t, and such skills may offer some protection from robotic takeover. Certain high-level professions that demand technical expertise and low-skill work that can be done by a greater share of the population often have in common a need for language, creativity, flexibility and physical dexterity, all things humans currently can do better than machines.

Almost all job growth since 1980 has been in work that is social-skill intensive, according to research from Deming published in August. Occupations that require high levels of analytical and mathematical reasoning but little social interface -- for example statistical clerks and machinists -- have “fared especially poorly,” he wrote. Meanwhile real wage growth has been strongest in jobs that require workers to have both math and social skills, such as registered nurses, designers and financial managers.

‘Unconscious Process’

Social interaction is “an unconscious process” for people, Deming said in an interview. “It’s really hard to write a program that does that as well.”

While true for now, it’s only a matter of time before robots catch up to humans in this area too, argues Pedro Domingos at the University of Washington in Seattle. He says machines are already making impressive headway on at least mimicking social skills. One day that computer on the other end of the customer service line will be so good you won’t need to keep pressing zero to reach a human operator.

In Domingos’s labor market of the future, having a person do something a robot can do for less -- tend bar, wait tables -- will be a luxury. Jobs like that “will remain, but they’re going to be comparatively very highly paid jobs and there are going to be fewer,” he said. Even technical workers such as computer scientists will be out of work eventually, as machines become more nimble at understanding natural language, said Domingos, who is the author of "The Master Algorithm," a book on machine learning published last month.

Brighter Future

For David Autor, an economics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge who is considered a leading expert in the field of job polarization, the future is brighter, although there is likely to be some hardship in the form of lost jobs along the way. Automation has put people out of some type of work -- agriculture, manufacturing, dishwashing -- for the past 200 years, and mankind always bounces back, he said.

“People tend to underestimate that, as we mechanize one set of things, we think of all kinds of new things to do,” Autor said in an interview. The way we respond “is through our creativity and also through educating ourselves. We continue to make ourselves relevant.”

In the meantime, women may have the upper hand. Jobs that require social skills have become more female-dominated, and women consistently score higher on tests of emotional intelligence, according to Anita Williams Woolley, an associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business in Pittsburgh.

That may help explain why labor force participation for men in their prime working years is hovering at an unprecedented low near 88 percent, she said.

“To some degree, you should see women start to have an advantage,” Woolley said.

Mortensen agrees, though his invention may soon put some out of work. In 2014, about 94 percent of secretaries and administrative assistants were women, according to Labor Department data.

Asked how he feels about Amy being a potential job-killer, Mortensen was quick to say that few people are lucky enough to have an assistant -- he’s just trying to democratize the job.

The hope is that humans will no longer have to spend time on “e-mail ping-pong,” Mortensen said. “I still think there’s room for us, and at the next level. That’s just the optimist in me.”

My opinion: Well at least this robot job article is a bit more optimistic.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home