Paul Campos at LGM bemoans people who, despite having Google at their fingertips, are seemingly unable to use that tool. This reminds me of something that happened at work a while back.
We tried to hire paralegals using skills testing. We plopped applicants down in front of a computer and gave them a skills test — 1) paste a paragraph of text e-mail from an attorney into a complaint while preserving the formatting; 2) rename a .pdf file from something like “fax01193933.pdf” to something like “letter from Smith to Jones.pdf”; and 3) find a piece of information, such as the straight-line distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
Out of about twenty people who all claimed to have superior computer skills, only one was able to see that the e-mail was written in a different font than the complaint. This one also knew how to rename a file, but did not know how to do it in the way that any one had thought. None even bothered to open up a web browser to even search for the requested information.
The other lawyers and I sat around, flabbergasted at so many apparently qualified people unable to complete what seemed to the rest of us to be such simple tasks. When I complained to The Wife about this, she suggested that maybe the reason no one bothered to look up the information on the internet was that it might have felt like “cheating.” A good thought, but I don’t think that was what was going on, and Prof. Campos’ experience dovetails into my cynicism.
Here’s my question to you Readers: We plopped our applicants down in front of computers and tasked them with this instruction: “Find the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco.” No one, including people with college degrees, was able to accomplish this task. Now had our instruction on the skills test been “Use the internet to find the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco,” would we have got any better results than we did?