April 17, 2005

How to Ease the College Admissions Arms Race:

From my new VDARE.com column:

So, why do employers care about which college applicants attended? Mostly because it’s evidence of an applicant’s SAT score—along with high school grades—which in turn is correlated with his IQ. What college you go to permanently signifies your position in the IQ strata.

This is why high school students and their parents are so frenzied over college admissions: it really does go on your Permanent Record...

Obviously, this is a screwy, Rube Goldberg way for companies to evaluate job prospects. The consequent lousy hiring decisions cost all Americans in lower overall prosperity.

When a 28-year old, for instance, applies for a job, why should a company care so much about how he did on an IQ-type SAT test a decade before?

Why not just give him a new test—perhaps one fine-tuned to the needs of the job?

The reason: the Supreme Court's 1971 Griggs v. Duke Power decision made it risky for employers to give written tests to applicants.

If the test has a "disparate impact" on blacks, or other legally protected groups, the employer must demonstrate that the need for the test rises to the stringent level of a "business necessity."

So, because African-Americans average lower scores on every predictively valid IQ-style test ever devised, all written tests are guilty—unless proven innocent by a battery of high-priced consultants.

Many companies still do use written tests—because they are so useful. Consumer packaged goods giant Procter & Gamble, long famous for the quality of its employees, paid a large amount of money to have their 65-minute problem solving test validated. The NFL encourages all college football players hoping to be drafted to take the 12-minute Wonderlic IQ test. (For average IQs by position, click here.)

Other firms insist that their managers conduct personal interviews that are IQ tests in disguise.

Fear of discrimination lawsuits is why Microsoft famously uses IQ-type questions in interviews—such as "Estimate how many gas stations there are in the US"—instead of using written tests, even though Bill Gates is obsessive about IQ.

This is no secret. Rich Karlgaard, former editor of Forbes ASAP, reminisced in the Wall Street Journal about a journey he took with Gates in 1993:

"During that trip, I must have heard Mr. Gates mention ‘IQ’ a hundred times. The obsession with smarts is embedded deep in Mr. Gates's thinking and long ago was institutionalized at Microsoft. Apply for a job and you’ll face an oral grilling that probes for IQ. It is oral and informal because of Griggs v. Duke Power, the 1971 Supreme Court ruling that banished written IQ tests and ‘tests of an abstract nature’ from job applications. But Microsoft knows what it wants. It wants IQ. And Microsoft always has been savvy at getting what it wants."

(Whenever I mention how much Gates values high IQ employees, somebody objects that Microsoft’s software is lousy so his workers must not be very smart. But that assumes that Gates wanted his Microserfs to deliver good software. I suspect that, instead, he just wanted them to make him the richest man in the world. If they had to foist buggy software on the public to do it, well, that was a price Bill was willing to pay.)

Griggs leads to some bizarre corporate customs worthy of Dilbert cartoons. [More]

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

No comments: