Merit Based Hiring

Merit Based Hiring
March 20, 2024 Rob Artigo
In Podcasts

Diversity, equity, and inclusion has supplanted merit as an important decision tool in hiring for many companies, but has it helped or hurt businesses and employees? In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores fundamental truths about fairness, that DEI has set aside.


Rob Artigo: Well, because of all this talk about DEI, that’s the diversity, equity and inclusion stuff that’s been out there, some feel like merit-based hiring is unfair. And you’ve written recently about this, so I wanted to talk to you about it. So let’s see, you wrote that in life, almost everything we do is merit-based. Tell us more about that, and we’ll get started with that part of this topic.

Ray Zinn: Well, what’s interesting is I recently heard that some states are considering doing away with the law exam or the bar exam for lawyers, just to make it easier for certain people to be able to practice before the court. And so again, this DEI thing is getting totally out of hand. We’re almost not going to measure anything anymore. It’s kind of a sad commentary on our society that in order for us to standardize everything so that it doesn’t become difficult for anyone that we lose that ability to differentiate. Even the SAT tests are coming back, they’re bringing back the SAT tests, but they’re making it so it’s easier for certain people to pass them. So, this whole thing of making sure that there is total fairness makes it unfair, as you would. And going to my musing that I wrote, everything is based on fairness. I mean, on merit.

Rob Artigo: Yeah.

Ray Zinn: Merit, on merit-based, whether it be looking for a spouse, whether it be the food you eat, whether it be where you live, whether the job you have, you’re looking for something that matches your desire.

I’m not a real fan of liver. I can’t stand liver, so if people say, “Well, but in order to be fair, you have to eat liver.” That’s going to gag me, and I’m not going to enjoy that experience at all, and so, not enjoying life is a tragedy. And so, making everybody the same, we all wear the same clothes, we all marry … we don’t have a choice of our spouse, we don’t have a choice of the schools we go to, we don’t have a choice of where we work or we live, that doesn’t sound like a very fun kind of society. So, I think that not recognizing or understanding how our ability to differentiate, to be able to measure what we want and discriminate as you would, is going to cause a problem.

Discrimination has its positive attributes and it has its negative attributes. On the negative side, of course, we know what discrimination does. It’s a bias that we have to understand. Whether it be a racial, sexual, whether it be religious or political, we have to understand where we’re discriminating. And so, we really have to vote our thinking, vote how we feel … or measure how we feel or vote, same thing. And so it has to go to what we like and what we expect. That’s how society works together. It’s not a matter of whether we agree or not, it’s whether we’re agreeable, so having a disagreement is not the problem. It’s being disagreeable. That’s the problem.

So, what we want to make sure is that while we don’t necessarily have to agree on everything, we want to be agreeable, meaning we want to be amenable to hear other people’s views and feelings and respect those, because there are a lot of people that like liver. I mean, my dad loved liver. And so if I said, “Well, because I don’t like liver, we’re not going to ever have any more liver,” that’s not being fair. So, we have to understand that not everyone is going to have the same set of attributes or views that we have. It’s a matter of fairness as you would to allow other people to have their views, even though they don’t agree or they’re not in line with your views.

Rob Artigo: One of the sticking points with DEI is the idea of equity rather than equality. What we have is a concept of fairness, whereas, and you mentioned the SAT, in other aspects of DEI where they bring in elements of inequality and unfairness in the name of fairness and equity. So, it gets confusing and it’s also problematic, because it creates more problems than it fixes. Am I right?

Ray Zinn: Sure. Let’s take an example of education. We know that Harvard or Stanford, Yale, some of the well-known schools, charge a whole lot more for their education. In other words, their entry costs, their tuition, and maybe even just the living expenses are higher than they are at some of the state schools, like San Jose State or West Virginia or whatever, or Colorado State or Utah State. The state schools are a lot less expensive, and junior colleges are even less expensive. And so, is that fair for those bigger schools, like Stanford or Yale, Harvard, is it fair for them to charge more money? And the answer is, that depends upon how you view fairness. If they have to pay their professors more money than they do at the junior colleges, that raises their costs for that education.

What is considered fair? And so, if you look at it in light of what it costs them to provide that education and the intrinsic value of that education, it’s going to be much more money than at the junior college level. And so you have to say, “Is that fair?” The answer is, “Yes, it’s fair if you do that comparison.” And so, if you had a bachelor’s degree in, say, fine arts or something from Stanford, you’re going to pay 10 times what you would pay for a fine arts degree at a state school. And so, that may sound unfair, but it’s still what it costs them to produce that education, or to provide that education.

Same thing with cars. Is it fair that a Mercedes or a BMW costs more than a less expensive car like a Kia? And yes, if it costs more to produce the Mercedes and BMW, and just the intrinsic value that you get for having that more expensive car, it’s fair. It’s not fair for Kia to charge the same amount of money that Mercedes or BMW does. And the same thing with foods. There are certain foods that you pay more money for, like a rib eye steak compared to a hamburger, because it’s the intrinsic value you get out of that rib eye versus that hamburger. Is that fair? Yes, it’s fair because it’s that intrinsic value you get from it.

Going back to education, if you feel that you need that education provided by Stanford or Yale or Harvard or whatever, MIT, if you think it’s worth it, then you’re going to pay more money. If you don’t think it’s worth it, then go to a state school. You’ll get similar education. You may not have the intrinsic value of that, quote, unquote, “Oh, I went to Stanford,” or “I went to Harvard,” or “I went to Yale.” You can’t say that. “Oh, I went to Colorado State,” or “I went to Utah State,” or “I went to Arizona State,” that doesn’t have the same ring, just like driving a car. “Oh, I drive a Mercedes” or a BMW, versus, “Oh, I drive a Kia.” I mean, it’s fair in that sense of the word, but doing this diversity, equity, and inclusion is to minimize the fairness as you would. So it’s unfair in my mind, it’s unfair to do diversity, equity, and inclusion, because you lose the intrinsic value of the differentiation, whether it be in clothing, whether it be in food, whether it be in cars, housing.

Is it fair to charge $2 million for a house in one area or part of town and $600,000 in another part of town? Yes, it’s fair, if that’s the intrinsic value that property brings. But if you put everything at $600,000, and that’s the maximum that you can pay for a house, sooner or later, that’s going to be unfair. Do you see what I’m saying? So again, I’m not trying to minimize the importance of discriminating unethically, unethical discrimination, in other words, where you’re holding somebody’s head to the fire for something that is not logical. For example, if a kindergartner was going to Stanford, they wouldn’t do well, so that’s not fair. And so, you can’t expect a kindergartner to do well at Stanford or at any higher education place. So, we have to keep it so we don’t discriminate as you would, but we differentiate. So we’re differentiating, and that’s what I like to use, the word differentiate versus discriminate. Does that make sense, Rob, about let’s differentiate, not discriminate?

Rob Artigo: Yeah. And the bottom line is that it used to be just common sense to treat people fairly and equally, and give people an equal chance and hire the best, surround yourself with the best people. And now, in a lot of workplaces, it’s just been replaced.

Well, let me wrap this up. This is a fast-growing podcast. Ray, as you know, rated one of the top in Silicon Valley. We’d like to keep that up, so listeners, please go to your podcast source, rate the podcast, make sure that we’re getting some traction, more traction out there, and share the links to the podcast as well with other people so that we can grow the audience and spread the word with Ray Zinn’s knowledge. Also, check out Ray’s … Oh, yeah, go ahead.

Ray Zinn: Remember, differentiate, don’t discriminate.

Rob Artigo: Thanks, Ray.

Ray Zinn: That’s the bottom line of this podcast.

Rob Artigo: Please also check out Ray’s books. You can differentiate between Zen of Zinn I, II, and III, then you can choose those. Also, check out Tough Things First, the book. That’s the original book that set all this in motion, and we’d love for you to read that. It’s a great series, the Zen of Zinn as well, so Zen of Zinn series, and those books are available. We look forward to the next time, Ray. Thanks.

Ray Zinn: Thanks, Rob.

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