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May 05, 2008 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2008-05-05

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Monday, May 5, 2008 '-m 5
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com :. <

A personality that won't work in retail

Rejection hurts, even when
it comes at the hands of
major retail store. A few
months ago,
Borders seemed
like the perfect
solution to my
unemployment
woes. The chain
had opened a
new location just
two miles from HARUN
my home, and a BULJINA
quick phone call
revealed it was
still hiring. As a history major and
part-time music nerd, a semester
surrounded by non-fiction books
and CDs seemed like a great way to
earn some cash. But, alas, my aspir-
ing career as a minion in corporate
America came to a close before it
even began; the first and last step in
the interview process took place on
the Internet, courtesy of a company
called Unicru.
Whether or not you recognize
the name, Unicru should be familiar

to anyone who has applied to retail
giants like Best Buy, Blockbuster,
and Circuit City. The Oregon-based
software company is responsible for
the personality tests that these and
many other big-name corporations
tack onto their online applications.
The tests, sprawling over 20 pages
and taking more than a half hour to
complete, ask potential employees
to respond to statements like, "It
is maddening when the court lets
guilty criminals go free." Based on
how strongly the candidates agree
or disagree, Unicru computes how
capable they are of stocking shelves
and manning cash registers.
If you think this sounds absurd,
you're not alone. Attempting to
get through Borders's test began
to seem futile to me after about
the 12th page. Every new ambigu-
ously worded statement appeared
to reference another one from a
few pages back, quickly making
the quiz cruelly redundant. What's
worse, many of the issues raised by
the test were entirely circumstan-

tial. Admittedly, if you're not sure yet, Unicru assumes that it not only
what kind of response the company accurately describes an applicant's
is looking for to the line "you don't personality, but that one of its sim-
work too hard because it doesn't plistic personality types neatly cor-
pay off anyway," you probably have responds to a particular job as well.
bigger issues than just finding a The whole idea of a correct
part-time job. But what does it mat- answer on a personality test is
ter whether I'm "not afraid to tell problematic to begin with. Unicru
someone off" or not? Depending on claims that its tests are designed
the circumstances,_to boost employee
answering posi- retention rates.
tively could make A quick glance at
me either a model How I learned its exam, though,
employee or an T wasn'tft o makes it clear that
inconsiderate jerk. I fit br the test does far
For such a wide- more than that.
ly used technique, menial labor The Unicru ques-
personality tests tionnaire focuses
have a questionable not just on honesty
reputation. For years, psychologists and discipline; its statements touch
have debated the idea that human upon everything from an appli-
individuality can be reduced to sev- cant's outgoingness to his or her
eral clearly defined variables. The relationship with friends. Taking
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, for this into account, the test screens
example, has become an immensely potential delinquents and trouble-
popular hiring tool among Fortune makers, but also any person who
100 companies, even though it's doesn't live up to the company's
been criticized for decades. And ideal of a cheerful, trustworthy and

submissive pawn. Tellingly, I don't
know a single person who's passed
it without blatantly lying.
The Unicru exam is particularly
frustrating because the retail jobs it
qualifies applicants for are far from
rocket science. Talking to custom-
ers at Circuit City is a simple task
that any semi-social person should
be able to carry out successfully.
And yet, armed with this new tech-
nique, companies now demand that
potential workers exhibit idealized
personality traits for even the sim-
plest of tasks.
John Scarborough - who proba-
bly enjoys a comfortable and finan-
cially secure lifestyle in his position
as Unicru's chief scientist - claims,
"When you steer someone away
fromajobtheywouldn'tlike,you've
done them a favor." Now looking
for alternate ways to pay for rent
and tuition, I beg to differ.
Harun Buljina is the summer
associate editorial page editor. He can
be reached at buljinah@umich.edu

Bridging the graduation gap

ast weekend, graduation
weekend, was the weekend of
mylibera-
tion - or at least
it was supposed
to be. As I sat a
few months ago
mapping out my
summer, I was
psyched. Never
again would I
have to juggle a KATE
full course load, TRUESDELL
deal with sched-
uling classes
around other responsibilities or buy
hundreds of dollars worth of expen-
sive books. True, I had one more
class to take the spring term to fin-
ish up my degree requirements, but
that hardly seemed like a burden in
the grand scheme of things. Men-
tally, I was done. The future was
bright. The summer was full of pos-
sibilities. And then I got the news.
I'm hardly a fan of my health
insurance - our relationship has
been tumultuous, full of frustration
and miscommunication. But when
I found out I'd be losing it once I
was no longer a full-time student,
I realized just how much I needed
it. Apparently taking three cred-
its technically meant I would only
be attending school part time. And
apparently that demotion meant my
insurance company didn't deem me

a person worthy of being physically
and mentally healthy anymore.
Before this discovery, at the back
of my mind I knew that with the
freedomofgraduatingcame certain
burdens. And sure, I had received
e-TrueBlue e-mails from the Uni-
versity Alumni Association with

are faced with a post-commence-
ment pre-employment gap. Strict
policies like mine leave students
leaving university with little wiggle
room. So what's agrad to do?
There are a few less-than-ideal
options. A student can choose to
forgo health coverage, take extra

time student and eligible to remain
on my old policy. After weighing the
costs of monthly payments against
doctors' fees and prescription co-
pays, this option ended up being
cheaper than temporary insurance
for much better coverage.
The fact that this was my best
option is ridiculous. Graduating
college students should not have to
choose between no care, sub-par
care or wasting money and time on

pointless classes just to receive ade-
quate health benefits.
But hey, maybe I'm being too
harsh - it's not like I'm not getting
anything out of the bargain I've
struck. While I don't need the cred-
its, I'm sure I'll enjoy my courses in
yoga and guitar.
Kate Truesdell is the summer
editorial page editor. She can be
reached at ketrue@umich.edu

offers of economi- care crossing the
cal health cover- street and hope for
age, but I always the best. Or they
figured that that Health can choose tempo-
was for people who rary plans. Short-
weren't covered by care nisses term policies,
their parents' poli- which usually last
cies - which didn't recent grads only a few months,
apply to me - or are popular for stu-
for those who were dents anticipating
still job hunting employment in the
come September. near future who don't want to sign a
Perhaps I was naive, but I never long-term contract. The University
imagined that college graduates Alumni Association offers one such
get the boot so soon after moving a plan through a program called
the tassel. Every othet year I was in GradMed. But these plans, which
school, I was always still covered in cost a pretty penny, are tough to
between the spring and fall semes- afford for students still unemployed
ters. I knew that ifI didn't have a job and leave a lot to be desired when it
by autumn I'd have to work some- comes to benefits - GradMed, for
thing out, but I figured I had at least example, will cover some expenses
three months to make a plan. related to illness or injury, but fail-
While policies vary, I'm con- ures to cover mental health, vision,
vinced from talking to my friends dental or even routine care.
that my experience is a common In the end, I created my own solu-
one. Faced with a job market that tion. Next week I begin as a student
is sagging, finding employment at Washtenaw Community College.
straight out right out of school can For around $200 I can take four
be tough, which means many grads credits, enough to make me a full

ELAINE MORTON
E-MAIL MORTON AT EMORTON@UMICH.EDU
HtI1 cp
AIs C

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