Job Market Euphoria: Companies Are Now Hiring "Sight Unseen"

The euphoria-induced tactic of just buying any stock sight unseen over the last decade has now been adopted by hiring managers nationwide. A recent Wall Street Journal article points out that many employers looking to hire people are doing just that – without ever meeting the prospective candidate in person.

In what has become the tightest job market since 1969, employers have reached the point of hiring some candidates as quickly as after just one phone interview, worried someone else may snatch the job prospect. While the practice was once the most common for seasonal hiring, it is now reportedly spreading to roles like engineers and IT professionals.

The Journal highlights several examples of this practice occurring nationwide. Take 22-year-old Jamari Powell, who was hired by Macy’s for $12.25 an hour after just a 25 minute interview and was contacted back just 12 hours after submitting his online application.

Macy’s reportedly fills more than 33% of its in-store jobs within just 48 hours and is in the process of looking to expand its phone interview hiring process, according to a spokeswoman from the company. They call it "a fast and easy hiring process”.

In another example, Ashley Jurak, a 19-year-old student at Baylor University offered to drive in for a personal interview to her local Bath and Body Works, but the company told her not to worry about it because she had clinched the job over the phone. Upon arriving for her first day of work, the manager there told her that she "looked just like her picture".

Ashley Jurak/WSJ

Another example is Tamia Howze, a 21-year-old hospitality and tourism major, who got a job at a catering company after just one phone interview that lasted 30 minutes. The pay for the job was $13 an hour plus tips. She told the Journal: “I was kind of shocked. I’m like, you know, should I be worried that I got hired?”

Even entry level positions at companies like Boeing are being filled after just phone interviews. Technical positions and other tough to fill engineering roles are filled with candidates sight unseen, according to a former Boeing recruiter.

A spokeswoman for Boeing said: “With almost 1 million applicants a year, we strive to create a contemporary candidate experience that uses the most current practices in candidate assessment.”

An elementary English language teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Jodi Dean, was hired after one phone interview with the school principal. She was less surprised, stating that she had maintained plenty of relationships over the phone working with people that she had never met in her life. This hire came as the state of Oklahoma faces a widespread teacher shortage. A district spokeswoman called this type of hiring "thinking outside the box".

Jodi Dean/WSJ

This unprecedented hiring spree comes at a time when the Labor Department has reported about 1 million more job openings than unemployed Americans. The unemployment rate right now is at a 49 year low of 3.7%, with Goldman warning that the US labor market is now beyond full employment.

CVS Health is also working on piloting a program where new hires don’t actually meet with a human being until the day they start their jobs. Rather, they are hired based on the results of a "virtual job tryout".

Malik Bruce, who sought a job with in-flight caterer Gate Gourmet, said that his phone interview wasn’t even with a human being. Rather, he recorded answers to questions from an automated system that asked him to describe himself along with his future plans.

Malik Bruce/WSJ

He said: "I was confused. You can’t have a conversation with a robot."

Upon being invited for an in person interview, he found out that he had actually already landed the job. At that point, he said, "we all kind of looked around at each other, like, I thought this was an interview."

Meanwhile, "academic" sources are backing up the idea of avoiding in-person interviews. After all, anything that supports the notion that employment should be the only gauge of how an economy is running needs to be protected. 

And that's exactly what Peter Cappelli, a management professor at Wharton did: "Most companies are so bad at interviewing, and the interviews are so full of bias, that it’s not crazy to just ignore them altogether," he said.

Ironically, it is economists like Cappelli who at the same time are confused why the productivity of the US economy has hit rock bottom.

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