Q.I am writing with regard to a question that recently appeared in your column concerning prospective employers who ask "trick questions" about honesty, drug use, stealing and such. I thought that your response overlooked the atmosphere of intrusiveness that has invaded employment practice over the past decade.
I work in the federal sector. I am rated "outstanding" by the people who evaluate my work. However, if I were starting out as a technical school graduate, I would be embarrassed by the type of questions we now ask applicants.
It seems that the recent crackdown on drugs has created a subculture of individuals who are having a field day.
These people are eager to take the opportunity provided by the current mood of "I am more moral than thou" to get into the past behavior and misdeeds of applicants through an overly broad scope of questioning.
First of all, there is, or should be, a great distinction between "Do you (whatever)?" and "Have you ever done (whatever)?"
Furthermore, a broad range of activities may have taken place in a person's life among which the usually low-level interviewers would have a hard time distinguishing.
For instance, there is a great difference between someone who stole candy at age 13 and a thief and between someone who tried marijuana in college and a drug addict.
I regard misguided questions about integrity a bad concept. They have no place in the selection process for the workplace.
A.You make good points, but I think you overlook the complexity of the task a person faces in evaluating someone for a job.
How an applicant handles past mistakes can be a very important clue to how well he will accept responsibility for his new duties and for the problems he is bound to encounter.
In other words, the proverbial candy he stole at age 13 is unimportant; his current attitude about that incident is not.
Today's interviewer is bound by many restrictions and prohibitions. Let's not add more to these lest tomorrow's job interview be reduced to a recitation of name and social security number.
Q.Major U.S. corporations spend considerable time and money cultivating a favorable corporate image, yet when contacted as potential employers, they are almost impossible to work with.
A few years ago I was invited to interview with a consulting firm with offices replete with oriental rugs and classical music.
After my interview was postponed by them several times, I arrived at the appointed hour only to have the interviewer be 20 minutes late.
When he arrived, I got to listen to the story of how his marketing savvy had saved his company.
In 30 minutes, I was shown the door. I followed up the interview with a phone call, a letter and another phone call. None was answered or acknowledged. I found out weeks later that the position had been filled.
This kind of treatment is common. Why don't companies -- and, more particularly, personnel departments -- pay more attention to the impact they may be having on the corporate image?
A.And a lasting impact it is. To this day, I have a vivid recollection of some similar mistreatment I experienced when I graduated and was looking for a job, almost 30 years ago.
Your question is a good one. The answer probably lies with the lack of awareness recruiters have of their impact, especially on the people whom they reject, and with the tyranny of the recruiting process that turns applicants into impersonal documents.
Q. am director of a public sector agency. I am writing to find out your thoughts about dating within an organization.
Historically, public sector agencies have been unable to regulate such things. Yet, I increasingly find that dating has become more of a problem. Some of it has progressed to lengthy relationships that have ended poorly. What should be done about this issue?
QWith men and women increasingly intermixed in all kinds of capacities at the workplace, proscribing dating will become less practical. I think we have no practical choice but to accept that it will happen and prepare to deal with its consequences.
There are a few situations, however, to which a manager should pay particular attention. Dating between parties where one needs to assess the performance of the other should be avoided, either before or after the fact. In other words, if a supervisor starts to date a direct subordinate, one or the other should be reassigned.
Other than that, grin and bear it.
Andrew Grove is chief executive officer of Intel Corp. of Santa Clara. Send questions to him in care of the San Jose Mercury News, Business News Department, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, Calif. 95190.