The name, ‘unicru’
has likely become familiar to those who have recently been applying for retail jobs.
Many of the largest stores in America now use the services of the same company on their online application. This online application is a mindgame designed to eat up time and test the patience of the applicant. The signature mark of unicru is their personality test. Scores on this test decide who can be hired regardless of qualifications. The decisions of the unicru software transcend those of hiring managers. Employees must first pass the test/application before they can even be considered for employment.
Naturally, ‘unicru’ has become an infamous and hated word amongst retail job applicants. Most have realized that there is a ‘right’ answer to every part of the unicru application. The goal is for each unicru client to ‘clone’ its ‘best, most reliable people.’ This means that there is a theoretical perfect employee template by which all prospective employees are evaluated. Naturally, many applicants find such a process to be dehumanizing, degrading, and humiliating. Anger and a sentiments concerning unfairness and profiling are understandable. While preoccupied with their misfortune and frustration, however, they miss the point. The bottom line of industry is not fairness or justice but profit.
Unfortunately, for applicants, unicru has proven to be profitable. More firms are signing up for this hiring software because it’s working. Clients are reporting 10%-30% decreases in worker turnover since signing up for unicru. For large businesses employing many thousands of people, these gains easily make up for the steep software customization costs and yearly fees. Such is the magnitude of this improvement, that soon more companies will need the screening software in order to compete.
Most people dismiss this system based on its probing and arbitrary questions. They fail to realize that there must be reasons that this system has been so widely adopted.
Efficient or not, arbitrary or not, unicru is a means of quickly thinning the field of applicants. When hundreds of people are applying for each position in a depressed economy, someone(or something) has to eliminate people. Hiring managers could spend hours throwing piles of nearly identical applications randomly into the shredder before an amount that can be humanly dealt with remains…. or …. you can have a computer program do it automatically.
This function alone, regardless of how unjust it may be probably makes an electronic screening system worth the trouble. It hardly even matters whether or not the screening system makes any sense so long as it narrows down the stack of paper to a manageable level and reduces the number of hiring personnel hours required to do the job.
The unicru personality test is often criticized for asking rather asinine questions. Who in their right mind is going answer ‘agree’ to “I’ve caused my share of trouble?”
The whole point is that only someone dumb or someone who can’t read or write English would fall for this. These people are cut out of the process without any human involvement necessary. Huge amounts of time and money saved.
A lot of people on the web seem to think they are clever by lying on the personality test and creating answer
keys that will get people jobs.
I have a hard time believing, however, that people who make their living developing hiring software are naive. Things get designed a certain way for a reason.
I would suppose that they are trying to weed out people who would actually tell the truth on that test. I’m guessing that they reason: someone who can’t swallow their pride and change themselves on a multiple choice test can’t do it reliably on the sales floor.
I’ve repeatedly seen internet critics of unicru on the web boast about how they insist on telling the truth on the test and won’t sink to the level of selling themselves out. The more of these responses I read, the more I realize why the job application includes a personality test that forces people to compromise themselves. It’s a preliminary means of testing where people set their boundaries and whether they will be willing to change themselves in order to conform to customer expectations.
The use of some kind of regular standard, even a relatively arbitrary one results in a mass of data. Most of unicru’s clients at present are massive firms that hire more than enough people to create statistically significant samples. All they have to do is decide who their best employees are and find what they have in common in the available data. They don’t even need to understand why they get these results. All they need do is use it to create a standard template based on the data and apply it. Critics who point out that plenty of unpleasant or incompetent people make it through this new screening process miss the point. Large retailers have discovered that the unicru software reduces the probability of non-profitable employees and increases the probability of maximally profitable hires.
It is perhaps at this point a crude tool, but it still proves more efficient than the traditional alternatives.
If I were to pretend I was a large corporation, I could see another obvious use for unicru. People are not allowed to profile or discriminate against applicants. So why not have a computer do it? If a program is sorting people into stacks, who/what on earth do angry individuals sue? It’s already difficult enough to hold file sharers legally responsible for media piracy. How about trying to sue a software company backed by the big names in corporate America?
I can’t imagine it would be any easier to force the big names to stop using their favorite employment software. After all, I’m sure unicru must have developed its application with a keen eye for legal details. They are in a business where one mistep could lead to huge lawsuits for them or their clients.
In short, a computerized, non-human screener serves as a useful proxy for activities humans would have difficulty getting away with. You don’t like it? Talk to the screen.
I’ll continue to pretend I’m in charge of a corporation: I’m a decent person, but to stay in business I have to make the most profit. All my hiring managers across my corporate empire are… well…people. They have annoying ideas such as justice and fairness. They might possibly allow sympathy to influence their decisions. They are of course more loyal to friends and family than they are to my company. They are not immune to incentives.
Why would I rely on these people when any more than I have to when I have a computer program that reliably acts in my best interests?
The final reason I will list here goes back to the beginning problem. There are way too many applicants to handle efficiently. Unicru applications get hostile reactions for a reason. They are meant to be frustrating and to test one’s patience. Not long ago, all one had to do for most retailers was fill out quick one page application. Now the process is much longer. The and time and trouble required to complete this process is intended to reduce the number of people who apply in the first place. Add in the unpleasantness of repeatedly answering repeatedly rephrased annoying personal questions, the knowledge that a single wrong answer could disqualify, the uncertainty as to whether anyone will ever see the application…
Certainly this must reduce the number of applicants.
There are of course many, many people who will be undeterred by the mindgames, but no matter how determined you are, longer application processes inevitably reduce the number of jobs people can apply for. If all the retailers agree to have longer applications, they all win by forming a collective defense against people applying everywhere.
On a personal level
I find this new system to be abhorrent.
Nevertheless, it seems to be the logical response of corporations to legislation that prevents them from asking other employers detailed questions about applicants’ backgrounds.
I have to assume that the current trend will only get bigger so long as it proves profitable. Unicru is already developing hiring packages for other industries and plans that are affordable for smaller companies.
The present hiring program invites contempt from critics but it has the potential to grow far more sophisticated.
The truly scary thing is that this employment science is still in its infancy. In the near future, could certain personality profiles find themselves unemployable?
If lots of companies use the same hiring software, could they assemble a profile on someone based on multiple applications they’ve submitted?
Thus maybe someone could be disqualified based on inconsistencies in how they answer the personality test?
This brings up final questions. If a history of inconsistencies or unprofitable traits emerged on someone’s profile, could they end up essentially blacklisted through the entire system?
Since there would be no formal blacklist and no one actually blacklisting what could be done about it?
It seems to me that the eventual logical result could be a new industry of software fronts that allow employers to access illegal background information with impunity and discriminate at will.