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Recruiters for MSN or Data Miners?

Is Kenexa recruiting for Microsoft or just mining for data?

I had a chilling experience the other day. A man from Kenexa called me, ostensibly to recruit me for a job in New York as a Search Marketing Analyst for Microsoft's new MSN search engine.

The first time he called he said he was looking for someone to do work for Fortune 400 clients. I told him I was really busy and that I usually deal with smaller clients. He didn't think that would be a problem ? he was very insistent to talk to me. I suggested I'd call him back, so we left it up in the air and for a few weeks I forgot about him.

Then he called me a second time, telling me I was supposed to call him and set up an interview. He practically begged me to do a 45-minute phone interview to see if I was right for the "job." He e-mailed me and sent me a very generic job description that was more like a newspaper ad than anything else.

Well, hey, something smelled fishy about the whole thing, but if it was for real how could I turn down a chance to get some high-paying work from Microsoft, so I agreed to the interview and we set a date.

The phone interview was unlike any job interview I have ever had while working for Fortune 400 companies in the past.

The man never mentioned my resume, never asked about my work experience or salary requirements, had absolutely no interest in me as an individual or asked any of the usual questions a company asks when trying to size up a potential employee.

Instead he was interested in my clients, their budgets, my current involvement in search word optimization, how much time I spend on each client and was very interested in only the most negative experiences with clients, asking me to name them more than once (which I refused to do). This went on for about half an hour, with him finally asking me "Can you give me some of the specifics of an optimal life-cycle and what happens in that life cycle?" Almost like he didn't know.

I answered that with "I can't give you specifics without looking at my data."

Then came the kicker ?

"Do you have your data with you?" he asked, grinding his teeth in desperation.

"On the first phone interview?" I thought, blushing madly.

Man, this guy really wants everything doesn't he? He wants to know nothing about my qualifications for this "job" but he sure doesn't mind asking me everything about my clients, my strategies and pretty much how a small, successful web design and online advertising and marketing company like Valor Cross Media keeps its clients and now he wants to see my data?

Hell that's like asking for sex after a bad meal at Denny's on a first date.

So I said "No."

Well, you can actually hear the groan of defeat from this guy. He obviously wasn't trying to hire me, he was data mining pure and simple.

I recently did a search to see if Microsoft is actually hiring for MSN (careers at MSN)in New York and though there are a few ad-marketing positions open in the Big Apple, most are 3,000 miles away in Washington State.

Who is Kenexa anyway?

If you go to the Kenexa website and wade through all the double speak they use to describe their company and what it does for employers and business, a rather sinister picture emerges about a company that not only helps recruit employees but has developed software to screen all candidates by profiling their behavior, as well as other factors.

"Kenexa Selector® behavioral profiling tool combines personality, experience, situational judgment problem-solving assessments for hourly, sales and management positions ? (it) relies on a broad range of proven performance-predicting questions designed ? to reveal candidate personality traits, biographical history and problem-solving ability ? one click provides immediate results."


That is from their website and is just one of the many "tools" they have created to turn applicants from human beings into a series of measurements to increase performance from Kenexa recruited employees.

They also have a recruiting program called Kenexa Recruiter® which Wachovia Corporation has decided to use as a recruiting tool. Wachovia loved the software so much they decided to install it internally ? "behind the firewall" as Wachovia's Brian Drake, VP of Recruiting Practice Technology put it.

Hey, maybe it works, but shouldn't we all be afraid of any technology that reduces people to a series of bits and bytes?

The Kenexa web site has a big fat quote that says "If you can't measure it, it doesn't exist." That may be true when it comes to measuring distances and size, but how do you measure the intangibles a productive employee brings to a job? Hiring someone is always going to be a crap-shoot, whether you think you can use the psychological approach or Kenexa's high-tech software to weed out undesirable candidates. Even Bill Gates, in a quote from Fortune Magazine in 1996, agrees that without his best people there would be no Microsoft. "Take our 20 best people away, and I will tell you that Microsoft would become an unimportant company."

So Kenexa is wrong about that. But watch out, they are after your information and even if the interview was somehow legitimate who's to say they wouldn't use anything you say for their own purposes.

There was a moment at the end of the interview after I refused to give up my data when Kenexa's interviewer said, "I don't think I'm getting the answers I'm looking for." Though Bill Gates himself feels the human factor is the most important part of any company, the Kenexa recruiter (or whatever he was) showed no interest in me as a person. Everything about the interview revolved around my clients and my strategies and was as cold and impersonal as if I was one of the programs I was being recruited to work on.

Could the interview by Kenexa be nothing more than the company testing a new piece of software? It's hard to tell, but it is pretty obvious that to test any software of this type, you need human subjects. What could be better than picking the brains of an independent freelancer to find out the "human factor" under the guise of a job interview? Except it isn't fair, it's underhanded and should be illegal. For a giant Human Resources company to use the experiences of a small company to fine-tune its software without compensation or foreknowledge is an outrage. If it really was a job interview and is the wave of the future watch out when Kenexa contacts you ? it's really Big Brother cashing in.

--- copyright 2005 Galina Arlov

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Galina Arlov is a E-Business Professional with 15+years work experience working for Fortune 400 companies like Disney, Priceline, ABC and more. She is a founder and owner of Valor Cross Media a Creative Web Site Design Services company located on Upper East Side in New York City Where Substance Supports Style.

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