Thursday, July 2, 2020

Past the Post

One of the weird things about the United States (although I suppose that it may be true for other countries, as well) is an apparent tendency for people to view competitive situations as if they were being judged against static benchmarks, rather than how other people perform.

This often comes up when talking about job hunting. Or hiring, for that matter. There is an impression that for people who can pass a given benchmark for competence, demand for their services is effectively unlimited, and therefore, not being chosen is an indicator of lack of competence. But this isn't the way the hiring process works, especially now, when it's an employer's market. An employer may list a certain set of requirements in order to be considered, but I've never come across an employer that has committed to hiring everyone who meets the bar. There is almost always a set number of openings to be filled, and once the interviewing is done, people are ranked until the open roles is met. In an employee's market, it's possible that employers lower the requirements, or take the top person(s) interviewed, but then again, the stated requirements for the role are somewhat secondary.

This isn't a new phenomenon, or one limited to employment. For all sorts of areas in which a certain level of exclusivity is desirable, but the appearance of élitism is not, there is a tendency to act as those entrance relies on attaining a simple benchmark, rather than being the first to obtain a scarce open spot. I suspect that it has something to do with the somewhat common idea that "average" or "commonplace" should be considered a synonym for "hopelessly mediocre." But in the end, it's likely just another manifestation of a desire to see the world as just. If success is available to unlimited numbers of people, so long as they can reach some or another benchmark, then people can congratulate themselves on their success, and convince themselves that anyone else can do it.

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