Tuesday 5 October 2004

Half of a quarter full of an eighth empty

The psychology of charlatans
The false psychology that informs interviewers in interviews has unfortunately misrepresented interviewees, if not done them an unfair disservice bearing on the result of probably not getting recruited.
Two such questions in interviews belie that fact that the intention never really gets the intended answer or the interviewee gets wrong-footed on a subjective assessment that has no objective bearing on suitability for the job.
a) What do you see yourself doing in five years time?
b) Is the glass half-full or half empty
Five Years Time
In answering one has been a victim of the crass unprofessionalism and subjectivity that accompanies giving the right answer to this question.
One would suppose this question seeks to appreciate career goals within the company with adequate training, promotion, prospects and advancements. Probably in five years time you would have attained the post of your interviewer and your interviewer should have moved higher in the organisation.
Unfortunately, the person who asks the question does not at first consider the relative basis of having advanced five years within the company before considering the new recruitment, so laying out a plan could in effect create the impression that the interviewee is out to unseat the interviewer.
It could also flag the fact that the company has bad career development policies and the mentoring factors in the company are very poor.
At which point the interviewee could already be judged as ambitious, over-rated and unsuitable for the team, no fault of the interviewee, rather a sitting failure of Human Resource processes within the company.
Having put this question to my colleagues, one suggestion was to reply by asking if there was the scope for the advancement that would allow you to have career prospects, developments and promotions and how this was managed in the company.
On ascertaining if the company does have its employee’s interests and developments at heart, you can then frame your answer within that context. You have in effect debunked the psychology and infused a sense of objectivity into a rather unpalatable situation.
It however, does not take away from the fact that the question is unnecessary and it does turn the focus on what the company is prepared to do for career progression and how it can accommodate the well-intentioned aspirations of the new entrant.
A glass of half truths
What is really missing from this question is the context. Why at any time would a glass be half-full or half-empty? One would paint a number of scenarios to debunk the false psychology of optimism and pessimism that this question is purported to reveal in an individual.
Any glass on a table
If you approached a table which had a glass of some liquid content in it observable before you touch the glass but without you knowing who put it there.
If you were a cleaner you would probably take the glass away and pour the contents down the drain, if you were anyone else, it would not matter what was in it, curiosity however, might make you take a whiff to find out if it is alcoholic or some other concoction.
That the glass if half-full or half-empty would be of no significance.
If you knew who placed the glass on the table and you were at a party, you would probably pick up the drink and take it to the owner of drink, who would have the view of emptying the glass rather than filling it.
So the optimistic import of this would be that to enjoy a drink you have to empty the glass and then fill it again to empty the contents by drinking and ingestion.
A glass of wine or some alcoholic beverage
In the setting of a bar, you will be served with a filled glass of beer or lager which you would systematically empty by drinking in a social setting.
Once you have drunk a bit, the glass of half-full, I am not aware of people filling their glasses whilst it still contains beer except in a case where the beer is being served from a bottle. The intent would be to empty the glass and obtain a new glass of beer at the bar.
In the case of wine, the glass is full for white wine and champagne and half filled for red wine, during the course of drinking the glasses can be refilled to their appropriate levels.
For a glass to be refilled the observer who would be one of the party or a sommelier would notice that the glass is half-empty as the impetus to refill, because if the glass is half-full, there would be no case for refilling.
Context of glass and contents
It appears that this issue is taken completely out of context if not represented in the continuum of why a glass is full and why a glass is empty.
The reason for filling a glass is to empty it by drinking and as you empty the glass it gets half-empty as would be the case of the person drinking and the glass becomes half-full when it is being filled either as a service or by the drinker or observer.
To capture a moment in time and without the characteristics and events surrounding the moment delivers a wrong interpretation of the event.
It goes without saying that a glass becomes half-empty from the pleasure of drinking and it becomes half-full in order to experience or continue the experience of the pleasure of drinking.
Whilst we would all want our glasses full before we start drinking, the reasons a glass would be left half-full or half-empty would revolve around the person having had enough to drink, the person not enjoying the drink or some other circumstance that has allowed the person to abandon the drink.
A glass half-full or half-empty without a person to manage its contents is useless.
Hence, there is no psychological value in asking a person to answer this question and no psychologist worth his salt would use this question as a basis for judging character.
In fact, the simple think is we should stop pretending to be good judges of people's character at an interview with such silly questions.
The real purpose of the interview is to ascertain qualification, suitability, flexibility and ability to contribute to the team in which they would be working; we should stick to those things and avoid veering off to areas where we are no experts or proficient enough to assess character with trick questions.

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