After Hours

Don't Stereotype When It Comes To Hiring


I was waiting in the airport the other day for my flight to arrive when a CIO from another organization noticed my ID and struck up a conversation with me. I had not met him before but he seemed like an affable person, so we began to converse. I’m not sure how we got on the subject, but we began talking about the hiring of technical support staff. The conversation was pretty ordinary until he made the statement, “I don’t hire gamers.” In fact, he asked whether a person gamed on a console or PC as a standard interview question.

I was flabbergasted, (I’ll tell you why in a minute) and after a moment asked him why he would do such a thing. His reply was that his experience with gamers was that they had short attention spans, needed immediate and constant feedback, had poor people skills, and gave up too easily when confronted with difficult problems. Fortunately, for the both of us, our plane arrived and we boarded.

I say fortunately because, frankly, I had been shocked and angered at his statement for two reasons. The first is very personal. I was and forever will be a gamer. PC gaming is what got me interested in IT in the first place, and it was my main reason for honing my skills in DOS back when it took a major miracle to get your game to operate properly. Tweaking batch files, sys files, and other parameters in order to get your game to run properly was standard fare. So it wasn’t long before I became proficient at the OS. Soon after that came my familiarity with hardware, as I learned to upgrade hardware so my machine stayed current enough to play the latest game. I owe a great deal to gaming in regards to my search for IT knowledge. Even today, I stay current with the nitty gritty details of XP and motherboards, video cards, etc., because I want my games to run as beautifully as possible and as smooth as butter.

But according to this guy, I wasn’t worth hiring because I gamed! Grrrrr. The second reason I was flabbergasted was the plain fact that the person was stereotyping. Whether it is race, sex, religion, or some other criteria, no one, I repeat, no one likes being stereotyped. And if you happen to be doing it based on race, sex or religion—it’s against the law!

More importantly though, is the fundamental concept that stereotyping hurts you as the interviewer/potential employer in that you are ruling out potentially good candidates based on a personal bias. What a poor way to judge job potential!

In the example above, I could have easily countered with my opinion that gamers have the ability to sit in front of a screen for long periods of time, have curiosity, actually are adept at problem solving, and tend to have more empathy for a user having technical problems because they have experienced the same problems for themselves. In either case (his or mine), those are ridiculous things on which to base your hiring decision.
When hiring, you should be striving to ask questions to get at the core of whether the person you are interviewing is capable of performing the essential duties of the position. How the answers to these questions are presented, as well as the completeness of the answers, should be playing a key role in evaluating the interviewee. Combine this with their education, experience, and references, and you have a start at choosing the right employee.

I say a start, because choosing the right person for the job is a difficult process. It is not a matter of whether or not the person has the right skills, but also how she will fit into the work environment of your organization. That’s why many organizations use batteries of psychological tests in order to identify the ideal candidate. And while I won’t dispute that they have some usefulness, hiring a good employee is still more of an art than a science. People obviously (hopefully) are putting their best face forward when being interviewed and trying their best to sell themselves. And try as we might to get the best person through a thorough and fair interview process—sometimes we fail. But the ability to deal with that failure is built into our organizations in the form of probationary periods.

So have no fear when practicing the art of hiring, because in most cases you do have a parachute. But at the same time, do not shoot yourself in the foot by stereotyping individuals and making decisions based on those biases. Not only are you missing out on potentially excellent employees, you will eventually get yourself into trouble.

27 comments
Bob Gately
Bob Gately

Let's not be too hard on hiring managers who use ineffective screening techniques. Too many hiring managers don't know or were never trained how to identify future successful employees so they are left on their own to figure out who will be successful if hired. All hiring managers can know but few ever ask how to know.

wrlang
wrlang

Wow. An HR person that doesn't know all hiring is done exclusively by stereotypes? True gamers spend every possibly moment gaming. Weekend gamers don't qualify as gamers any more than armchair quarterbacks qualify to play on the field. The CIOs bias against gamers is no different than the biased psychological tests and 'art' of placement? Being a gamer is the CIOs test. Think about the purpose and bias of a psych test and the 'art' of finding the right person for a job. Most psych tests are delivered verbally. A deaf mute person would need a written test, or not be hired because they can't even take the test. A person that doesn't have a full grasp of concepts delivered in the language would be excluded because they can't answer the psych test properly. Psych tests are just scientifically enhanced methods of stereotyping. Many people pass the psych test and the 'art' of placement and they are so wrong for the job it is embarrassing. The candidate fools the test and the 'artist'. Nothing in the placement industry ensures good placements and the industry always excludes good placements that are never realized. That's the wonderful thing about placement, if you don't hire them, there's no proof of whether or not they can do the job. You're just assuming they wouldn't work out. Hmmm. Assuming someone won't work out based on a test. The truth is that placement is all about stereotyping whether it be justified by psych tests or justified by the experience of the 'artist'. HR people paint portraits for the art of placement and the CIO paints stick figures for the art of placement. The results are the same.

kovachevg
kovachevg

The CIO who does not hire gamers obviously is not familiar with the productivity factor. Some people are more priductive than others in order of magnitude. Maybe it is because they like to play computer games in their "free" time. I quoted the word "free" because it can have various interpretations. Let's assume for a second that you are a very productive employee and you always hit your targets ahead of time. Don't you deserve a break? You bet you do. Whether it's being a gamer, betting on race horses, or researching topics in your area of expertise, fun can bring the best in an emplyee: facilitate proper recreation and thus increase his motivation to get back to work; create the idea that your job is woth the effort, and that reward is equitable - maybe you don't like your job but you are good at it; foster collaborative environment - a CIO could can create a strong team and a healthy competition among his subordinates by involving them in a game competition, etc. Strong teams have a lot to share, and most of like to play games. How to use this fact to increase productivity is a challenge for CIOs and managers who are looking for behavioral means to achieve that goal. Games, just like any other tool can be used creatively. Instead of imposing stringent company rules, let your employees play business games. Then they will put in extra hours more than willingly and will contribute in ways you never thought possible. I will end my quote with a rhetorical question: whiich would you prefer - playing a (business) game, or working? See my point?

dmrjones
dmrjones

I was passed up for a job (I'm a software tester) because I don't game in my spare time. Oh, and probably because I'm a woman (the interviewer said to me - I swear! - "There are no women on my team - what makes you think you could survive here?". (So work is now a matter of survival?) My response "Being the only female in the middle of 5 brothers enables me to hold my own, thank you very much". Where does the CIO work? I want to make sure I never work there...BTW, my husband is a gamer, which is also what got him interested in computers.

Spinner of Websites
Spinner of Websites

I can't tell you how many times I've heard this remark when the hiring team (all male) thought that I couldn't hear them. How sexist! I was glad I heard this, as I sure didn't want to work for them in that environment. And me, a .NET Developer with 10 years experience in the field programming and web development! Their loss and my gain.

kelly
kelly

I was an IT Support Manager a few years back, with a team of 9 Help Desk and Desktop Support Engineers. We talked mostly business, but an occasional mention of recently released movies, the latest technology, and our video game achievements and preferences made a great diversion. We didn't all play the same games, but at least we recognized each other's current side-lines and could 'talk the talk' when we got a break over the box of donuts. This made for a much more relaxed and upbeat environment, and we had something more in common than our mutual customers. I hired based on technology AND customer service experience - mentioning that my staff needs to know what they're doing, but also must be able to get customers to trust them. And OCCASIONALLY my staff could do this by talking to their customers about their mutual gaming experiences. ;D

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Sexist environments are a real bear on both ends. What's really irritating is that it is usually only one person that causes ALL the problems.

Observant
Observant

Allow me to offer a more non-biased point of view. Please understand that I am not attempting to defending or refuting either side of this debate, just offering some fodder. First of all, you stated that the CIO exclaimed ?From his experience...? He/she did to become a CIO by being stupid (although some do appear to do stupid things). There is the chance that his/her experience as a CIO has indeed been what they described. You may say that ?Well, they must work in a very small organization...? or something similar. We do not know their circumstance and to cast judgment without this information is also a method of stereotyping. Two, their version of a gamer and yours may be two different things. To one, a gamer is one who plays games (which translates into a lot of the CIO?s observations). This type of individual has the perchance to be just what is described as well as being non-productive and has the potential to place the company at risk from such things as non-company related surfing. Three, and please understand, I?m not trying to offend anybody here, but based on some of the posts, the CIO does have some legitimate concerns in other areas. I see a lot of ?I?, ?My?, and ?My? type of references. This says ?Not a team player.? ... And I?m not talking about the latest version of Doom here. A hiring manager wants to know what you can do for the company (and its bottom line) versus how adept you are at beefing up your machine. This can also relate to people skills. If your best friend is a 750BG, 15k RPM, SATA hard drive (or if YOU are your best friend) and you talk that way, there is a good chance that the typical customer won?t follow you on a customer support line. I personally know several very adept people but they have the people skills of a wood rasp. They are also inarticulate and have very poor writing skills (beyond a lot of Abbreviations). If I need a coder that I can lock away in some dark room with an endless supply of Starbucks and Krispy Kremes, these are the ones to hire. On the other hand, if I?m looking for someone to interface with customers, clients, et-al, someone speaking DOS, Linux, XP, Binary, Klingon, or even R2D2 probably would be a bad choice. (OK, have I made the point that effective communications goes beyond swearing at a monitor?) OK, now on to the CIO. You are correct in that they are generalizing a great deal. It sounds like there are a lot of highly technical individuals posting here which is a good thing. The CIO cut the conversation short by their comment which prevented them from hearing about all the good qualities a gamer can bring to the table. Their perception of a gamer may be tainted by true past experiences or just a lack of understanding of the current technological environment. The responsibility to rectify either rests on the shoulders of the CIO. Finally, regarding stereotypes. The person doing so should recognize and refrain from it. However, the one being stereotyped should also do an image check. For example, a long time ago, Michael Jackson complained that he could never visit EPCOT center in Florida because too many people knew him. Well, scrape off the makeup, wash and comb the hair and nobody would know. He chose to look that way. So too, we technogeeks should learn to speak corporate-eze sometimes as opposed to asking the CIOs to learn batch and sys files. So you see, there are enough misconceptions to go around. The CIO should give you a chance to expand his/her understanding of gaming but you should give them a chance to explain their roll which is aligning technology with the overall company strategy for success (and the word ?me? isn?t a part of it).

alma.sandoval
alma.sandoval

Given this audience I think I should have said incite instead of insight. Personally, I am not a gamer, but I do work with several. The gamers that I know are very dedicated to their jobs. Gaming is their passion. It is something that they do with their kids and a fun way for them to spend time with their friends. But work is work. Even after long hours of working issues, they have still make theirselves available to push and test changes at 10PM. As a Data Center Project Manager it is MY job to interface the "techies" with the business. It is my job to translate the requirements into technical lingo and visa versa. I value and appreciate the individuals that I have on my team, most of which are gamers. But just between us... I would much rather live life than watch it!! I would much rather snowboard, climb a mountian or just go for a walk, than handle a joy stick. The ultimate outcome to any hiring situtation is to hire the right person for the right position. So, does it really matter what an individual's interests are as long as they are dedicated to doing a good job?

francisco.vidal
francisco.vidal

People usually get to stereotype other people just by their hobbies or by what they like or do on their free time, however, I have also to recognize that some people cross the line and make the hobby their lives. Because of this people is why some are stereotyped, why? because they tend to be notorious. You usually look what is strange to others and not what the person really is. For example, if you walk on the street and on the next corner you see two guys waiting for the red light to cross the street, one looks like a successfully person, dress in suit with a leather suitcase, all clean up; the next guy looks like a grown teenager that came up from the Goonies movie, never leave his room because he's too busy trying to gain experience by killing goblins and trolls so his Sorcerer can gain more level. You can clearly see that one is a geek gamer and that the second one could be a successfully Lawyer, as most people do, they give a look to the geek guy but never to the business one, why? because the geek guy is more notorious. Maybe if the person stops to talk with the business guy they will now that he also loves video games and on his free time he plays the latest version of Marvel Games trying to kick Dr. Doom out of his reign. The difference between them is like Observant mentioned before on his/her comment. I think that on this case you have much reason to be upset as the CIO has to say that he wont hire a gamer. The CIO might be talking by experience, if not he wouldn't have a bad concept of a Gamer, maybe if you had the time to talk with him and discuss the subject more, taking it calmed as you did, after a long good conversation you both have shared business cards and say good by, and just when he's going to turn around to go on his way you could have said "don't know if you noticed but, I'm a gamer to", I'm sure that, after the long conversation the CIO will be stunned and, if smart, will learn to not stereotype a person just by look or what they like to do on the free time, and also you will feel good because you proved him that a gamer is much more that meets the eye. Believe me when I said I understand your feeling. I'm a comic book fan and also I watch anime a lot, my father sometimes laugh at me saying that he can't believe that even as my age (28) I'm still watching cartoons on a language that I don't even speak or understand and going to the bookstore just to by the latest number of X-Men. Well, that doesn't stopped me to get my first job before ending university, to travel other country's to support other offices on Infrastructure rolls out, or to get my latest job in a different country and continuously receiving emails and phone calls from my previews co-workers asking me for help and advice. Many people also laughs about comic book fans and when I say that I collect comic books the are amazed and cant believe it, I usually ask why they find so hard to believe that I collect comic books, and people usually answers because I don't look like a geek. Even if its not directly against me I'm stereotyped and so many other people out there but we cant do much about this since the people that usually look that doesn't belong to some place are usually the most notorious in a group, and all the rest of the people that shares same interest but does not looks like them are stereotyped and dragged along with them. Thinking on a basic level you are in some way stereotyping the CIO thinking that hes stereotyping someone just because a comment and not knowing all the facts. Don't know, but what I do now is that both arguments can be found acceptable and, by bad luck from people like us, people will stereotype people just by look or interest, and instead of arguing about it we should demonstrate that they are wrong by showing what we can do in all the chances that we have.

jr.switlik
jr.switlik

If you remember DOS(like I too) you would be a dead rat anyway and he would not have a talk with anyway but when he is lonly and waiting for a plane. Send a dumy CV and give your real experence and REAL age . WAIT,pray and cry. Best Regards from Europe

ggoodman
ggoodman

It sounds very much as if this guy didn't have much (or any) direct experience with gamers, and was parroting something he'd heard from somebody else. (Adopting opinions is so much easier than formulating them.) Actually, that's not necessarily a bad thing; nobody has time to learn everything they need to know by starting from scratch. The trick is to choose your info sources wisely, and not to accept inputs uncritically, regardless of the source. The other issue is that you have to filter on something. No hiring manager has time to review carefully every resume in front of him/her. Weeding out resumes is step 1. And 2 and 3, for a lot of IT jobs. Defining the cutoff criteria for the weeding-out process is part of how you shape the character of your staff (whether you realize it or not, and whether the character you actually promote is the character you intend to promote). In any case, you're right. He's likely to miss a few good candidates by refusing to consider gamers. But he may be saving himself from the significant task of learning how to properly manage gamers to get the results he wants. It's a tradeoff, and he may not be making a bad choice for himself or his company.

IT-Slave
IT-Slave

I could give a speech to 5000 people and would come away with 5000 perceptions on what kind of person I am. Sounds like Mr. Hiring Manager here needs to get off his butt and design good filtration questions. Also my perception of the hiring manager is that he's probably a sheep following the heard. He's heard something or experienced (that's all together different) something negative about gamers. I personally don't like to work for such short sighted individuals. I find Gamers (Which I am one as well) tend to think outside of the box. I think most of us as gamers like to tweak things to pull more out of a machine. That's a good trait to have. I learned a lot about programming from modifying games. Personally, I'd rather hire a creative person with an ability to be cautious.

dirtylaundry
dirtylaundry

now this poses a question: how many IT people on his staff are NOT gamers - and how many caught a whiff of prejudice in the very question itself and lied. He admitted to asking the question *do you game on a pc or console* so he obviously has a hand in the interviewing process for his company. I would wager the percentage of IT people that do NOT game is small and will shrink even more in a decade.

lluthien
lluthien

The filtering part is right. If you don't want to hire gamers, your call. I think it would be to much to say it is offensive though. Personally i think it is not much different from saying: i only hire suits. In both situations you miss out on some chances, but that's what filtering does. If i were in this position, i'd smile and walk out on the interview, cause this obviously isn't the place for me. That goes for the suit and the game thing.

gsquared
gsquared

He must be hiring from a very limited pool of people. I know only one IT person who doesn't play any computer games at all. (Probably a coincidence, but that person is significantly less competent than he needs to be.) My sample set is very limited, of course, but I do have trouble seeing how he can eliminate all people who play computer games and still have enough of a pool left over to get a decent team.

ferrox
ferrox

Have you noticed just how useless an IT person is, male or female, poor or rich, educated or not, if they have NO imagination?!? Now imagine a life, anywhere, where games do NOT speak of a fertile, active mind. Give me the gamer, I will add discipline, and we will get the job done!

JamesRL
JamesRL

It takes all kinds, and diversity in an organization can be an asset. I too am a gamer, have been since DOS games and CGA. (M1 Tank Platoon on 5 1/4 inche floppies!). I was into computers before gaming, but gaming helped keep my interest alive. Today I still tweak my setup to make my games run faster. I've hired people to discover later that like me they were gamers. James

Bork Blatt
Bork Blatt

I agree with your comments. Picking arbitrary criteria to hire staff on is stupid. Why he's doing it this way is another question. I suspect it's because he doesn't know how to hire staff and what to look for, so to arrive at an answer he has jumbled together some shotgun requirements that will narrow down the field, and at least produce a result. Perhaps "must like Frank Sinatra" is on his list.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

I've got a good friend who has a horrible stuttering problem. He's been locked out of jobs because people thought he was stupid. The problem is that he is quite intellegent and quick capable, just unable to talk without stuttering. It's amazing how fast a hiring manager will lop him off the list even though his technical skills and code portfolio are miles ahead of the other canidates.

ferrox
ferrox

A long time ago, I was a basketball player/coach. The owner came to me and asked me to "build a team." The budget was modest. The school was small but academically solid-a real privilege to attend. Affirmative Action got me in the door- I HATED it and I was angry that MY country, MY "...land of the free, home of the brave..." could not get past my color without losing its moral compass and needed THAT program to see me as a viable part of society, which meant, a lot of Americans would never see me for the man I had become following the teachings of Martin Luther King. My team: Only two of us could dunk, me and the center. All my other players, EIGHT OF THEM were scrappy, hungry, too short, too slow WHITE BOYS!! One could dribble with both hands blind folded, and break ANY body's full court press. The rest, each of them, had something exceptional about them both positive and negative. My dribbler became my point guard but he could only shoot two-handed set shots. in the finals, wwe played a team of all Black boys. They were excellent in EVERY SINGLE THING except one: They would not pass the darn ball! They would not work as a team!!! I got hurt in the last quarter of this colossal struggle. I sent in my replacement after reminding him of our motto: WE LIVE AND DIE AS ONE! ....we won, by two points in the third over time. I was in a cast, that evening. The other team was on its way home. All my player thanked me for seeing more than their flaws and limitations. Everyone must learn, "WE LIVE AND DIE AS ONE."

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

You saw the other team as better because they were all Black Boys, you being Black I assume. You win and then feel the need to post such a message about it. Sorry but this is no better in my book...slightly racist in your surprise.

stress junkie
stress junkie

I completely agree with you. It is not difficult to test a person's technical skills. It is almost impossible to determine in advance how a person will perform under various situations. Will they leave work at 5 p.m. when a critical server is not working? Will they be rude to end users? These things cannot be accurately determined in advance. Hiring managers resort to all manner of criteria to attempt to do the impossible. They develop what amounts to a litany of superstitions and magic incantations that they believe have some merit in divining the innermost personality characteristics of job candidates. Unfortunately none of them is reliable or fair. I can't count the number of times that I have listened to my fellow employees complaining about work and thought how different their attitude must have been the day that they were interviewed for the job. I like to imagine them at their job interview sitting across a desk from their current manager and smiling and trying to convince the manager that they will be an eager and enthusiastic employee. How could a hiring manager see in advance that a job candidate will eventually believe that "...they are not paid enough to care about the quality of their work..." when the person being interviewed is making every effort to appear to be a nose-to-the-grindstone type of person rather than a malcontent? The hiring process is definitely limited in its ability to see into the minds of job candidates and to see into the future to know how any given person will behave after they have become comfortable in their position at work.

Eversun HR Iloilo
Eversun HR Iloilo

I have the same dilemma. I have hired IT professionals who looked good both on paper and in person, but often I was disappointed when I find them inept and unfit for the job during training.

ferrox
ferrox

Indeed: Isnt this term 'stereotyping' the sterilized, verbally truncated, talk show, politically correct word for the post yuppie generation for 'RACISM.' WE JUST CANNOT GET A GRIP CAN WE!?! It just does not mattter where you live or come from, there is always an 'ism' out there to insure that your lifelong ambition, your dreams of prosperity and fame, your joy and hope, gets bashed by somebody's concept of just what you OUGHT TO BE whne you 'get here.' Someday, there will be a judgement day, the world will end and life will be over, I just hope God is as big a shock as these 'isms' have been! I have it, I will start a new word; 'Sexistereoism' and now we have a name for the part of the human heart that hates, fears, and justifies both, without walking that mile in the other person's shoes. We just have to find a way to get a grip don't we...?!

TMalandro
TMalandro

Unfortunately stereotyping is reality. It comes in many forms. Even the ones that are against the law are hard to prove for the interviewee. If you can prove it, the real question is do you even want to bother with the narrowmindedness. I have encountered stereotyping a lot in my career as a contract consultant. Most times it get discriminated against because I am a 'cute' female. I was actually told in an interview once years ago that he didn't think I could do the job because I was too 'cute'. Needless to say I got up and walked out without any comeback. WHo wants to work for a jerk like that! Last time I checked looks had nothing to do with ability or brains. I have also gotten a lot of 'oh let me help you with that it might be too difficult for you'. Now that I am a lot older I don;t take such commentary with the patronizing tone lightly. I let them know I am quite capable of handling things and if I need any help I'll be sure and let them know.

Falconeer
Falconeer

From your ranting it's obvious you have little or no knowledge of the 'human' heart. Your idea of a grip has (on several occasions) set humanity back thousands of years. Confine yourself in your own ignorance and leave us with our 'own shoes'. BTW, complaining is not just a 'human' excursion, dogs complain, and cats and et. al. Knuf Have a happy