Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities

Anyone who's ever done any measurable amount job hunting, particularly for any kind of government position, has faced a serious dilemma in the filling out the application. I'm not talking about the length of the application (which is in itself baffling), but rather the tediousness of the questions. One set of questions in particular that I've come across several times has caused me to wonder who wrote the application in the first place.

The said question begins something like this: "Describe all knowledge you have which will assist you with the position." So, in paragraph form I of course wrote out a detailed explanation of Jim's knowledge. Given that he doesn't have a doctorate or anything, most of his knowledge has come from experience and the school of hard knocks - the 'live and learn' kind of knowledge.

Feeling pretty successful in thoroughly describing all the knowledge he'd acquired over the years, I then went on to read the next question. "Describe any skills you have which will assist you in this position." I actually had to read the question several times thinking it was some kind of typo or something. And then I found the one. single. changed. word. Skills. Emmmmmm. I think I just pretty much answered that question. See above paragraph. Obviously though, that would not be the thing to put on a job application, so I commenced writing my next paragraph explaining Jim's skills. Pretty much it was the 'knowledge' paragraph repeated and reworded.

Again, feeling like I'd conquered the application, I moved on to the next question. "Describe any abilities you have which will assist you in this position." At this point, I'm not joking in stating that I seriously considered just turning the computer off on the spot - application incomplete and all. They had repeated the SAME question three different times in three different ways. Based on principle alone, I wasn't about to repeat the same paragraph again in a mildly different form, so I think I put down something to the effect of "I work hard, learn quick, and I like people." Ok, maybe it wasn't quite that simple, but I really felt like they were messing with me - OVER THE INTERNET. I can see someone thoughtlessly concocting this type of questioning at a live interview, but OVER THE INTERNET? REALLY?

The next day, still bothered by my first encounter with the knowledge/skills/abilities questionnaire, I stumbled across it again for another government job (this time though, I knew what was coming when the *knowledge* question came up. . .) That was it - the straw that broke the camel's back. I was forced me to look up the difference online. As it turns out, a LOT of people have looked up this very same question. Now to me this indicates that it's a stupid series of questions to begin with and someone should rephrase the questions. But there's also the aspect that someone in the psychology department probably decided this question would offer the employer insight into whether or not the potential employee would bother to research the question - and whether or not they really wanted the job.

I'm not expecting the creators of these applications to be moved by my critiquing to rework their applications, so instead, I'll just explain it to you. Knowledge: Emm. Well, I guess this is what you know or have learned. . . (OK, I really didn't look this one up; it was more the skills and abilities one that totally flabbergasted me). Skills: Stuff you've learned through practice that you didn't start out with (now doesn't that make more sense?). Abilities: Things (for lack of a better word as I'd hate to interchangeably use the word *skills* here) you're innately good at - from the beginning without any training or knowledge (this could be something like people skills/things).

In the process of deeply pondering these words, I was reminded of the movie Napoleon Dynamite wherein *skills* was quite the hot topic.
Pedro: Do you think people will vote for me?
Napoleon Dynamite: Heck yes! I'd vote for you.
Pedro: Like what are my skills?
Napoleon Dynamite: Well, you have a sweet bike. And you're really good at hooking up with chicks. Plus you're like the only guy at school who has a mustache.

So of course, all this talk of skills has caused me to ponder what skills I have to offer. For one, I'm really good at the Eager Beaver Adventure Park game on my son's Webkinz site. In fact, I'm so good at it that I've actually BEATEN the game. Who beats the game, I ask you??? WHO? Me. Yes, I'm a word making fool. I'm also really good at performing Houdini-esque stunts in order to appease my children. My mother was both dumbfounded and horrified when she rode with me a couple days ago and observed that I was able to, while still focusing on the road and driving cautiously, reach my arm nearly 360 degrees around backwards while searching through the diaper bag for a peace pipe that I was hoping to extend to Kyla who was screaming in the background. And speaking of searching through the diaper bag, that's another skill I've got: being able to identify objects solely with my hands. Remember the party game where you're blindfolded and the host brings out a basket full of random items that you have to identify with your hands and then remember? Well, that's my game (not so much the remembering part though). In short, I feel like if I'm ever blind, in a lot of ways I could do alright.

While I've got a lot of great skills, I don't necessarily know that any of these would be the clincher for an employer looking to hire. Still, maybe there's a special job out there where people are looking for just these skills. Should you come across a job that I could shine in, let me know; I'd be happy to put my skills, abilities, and knowledge to good use in exchange for a paycheck.


Anonymous said...

Very clever!!! I know the perfect job for you -- and it has benefits too!!! You get an expense account, a car and lots of decision making!!! It has one draw back -- it's 24/7?? It's "MOM"!!!

Anonymous said...

I have dealt with city and county government for a few years now and the repetitiveness of the application questions does not surprise me in the least. No psychology went into it at all, more like stupidity. The person who wrote that is probably someone with a less-than-mediocre-at-best education who is at this moment picking food out of their teeth with their too long acrylic nails while googling the meaning of HR, their job title, and not answering their phone as it rings incessantly all day. Trust me, the limited knowledge of a lot of these government office workers is sub par at best. Jim should feel confident that he is certainly vastly more intelligent than the person that will be interviewing him. That's just my take on it....

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