The Many Forms of the Dickhead Test.

I make no secret of the fact that I have a low tolerance for places of work where I feel under-appreciated. I remember being told that my clockwork like routine of finding a new job at roughly the same time every year would hurt me in the long run as how could employers trust me to stick around for any appreciable length of time? I can tell you now that that’s simply not the case and I can say that every new job that I got an interview for I eventually landed without a hint of them mentioning my apparent employer disloyalty. Interestingly for my latest job my resume didn’t really enter into it and I was introduced to the idea of the “Dickhead Test” method of recruitment.

We’re all familiar with the old adage of its not what you know, it’s who you know. As it turns out this old saying is incredibly accurate as only 20% of jobs are filled through the traditional process of someone sending in a resume, having an interview and then starting to work at said place. This means a whopping 80% of jobs are filled based on recommendations from friends, colleagues and other informal associations. For someone like me who’s gotten every job of his but one through the formal market (the first exception being my current job) I always wondered how this process would go down and strangely enough it’s not that unfamiliar.

Instead of the usual routine of sending you resume off into an unknown abyss of someone’s email inbox you’re instead invited out simply for a coffee and a chat. This initial interview is called the dickhead test and is done just to gauge what kind of person you actually are. Make no mistake, this is the time to put your foot in the door, however instead of getting blasted with questions directly related to the job you’ll likely end up talking shop for an hour or so before it concludes. You see someone who is vastly under-qualified for a position will not do particularly great in this informal situation as they’ll lack the particular skills that would require them to have the casual banter around those particular topics. It’s a pretty effective way to weed out paper cert and brain dump candidates without having to dive deeply into a mess of technical questions that they can simply prep for.

I hadn’t really drawn the parallels between that and the formal process until I read this question over on StackExchange. The question asks why they need to bother with a resume in this day and age where a lot of their accomplishments are available for everyone to see on the Internet. The top answer nails it, saying that the resume should serve as a kind of distilled version of all your accomplishments packaged in such a way that anyone could get a good feel for you with minimal time invested. Indeed the resume is just another form of the dickhead test from the informal market, something that hints towards your capability without bludgeoning your potential employer to death with it. Once you’re past those initial barriers then those kinds of things will help elevate you above other candidates so it’s not like they’re completely useless to the formal recruitment process.

For me I believe services like that are more helpful for discovery of potential candidates from within your professional circle. I can’t tell you how many calls I received from potential recruiters who’s only tenuous link to me was through my profile on LinkedIn. In that regard then these services function as a dickhead test that you don’t have to actively participate in. Whilst I myself haven’t landed any jobs on the basis of such services (although you could argue that the LifeHacker gig kinda was since they asked for my LinkedIn profile) I do know of others who have been approached informally via such services.

I guess the idea I’m describing isn’t too different from the traditional one of “getting your foot in the door” however I feel my nomenclature is far more appropriate for what the process actually entails. Most of the time your long list of potential skills is only part of the equation and the rest is based around general things like your critical thinking abilities, how you integrate with the team and your ability to show up on time when needed (why that last one is so rare still baffles me). Understanding the mechanics of these various forms of the dickhead test will hopefully enable you to be far more effective in finding better employment as I know it’s certainly helped me over the past 8 years.

2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Glad you enjoyed it 😀 I didn’t really think about things in this way until I had one of those moments reading that question on StackExchange and then it all sort of fell into place. Also felt good to give a little insight into how things work on the informal market as I seriously had NFI until a couple years back.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.