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No One Ever Really Fits a Job Description, So Let Applicants Write Their Own

As anyone who has been on the job market knows, reading the flat, convoluted prose of corporate job listings can be an intimidating and demoralizing experience. Postings often don’t describe an organization’s actual needs, but rather a generically perfect candidate—one that companies don’t actually expect to find.

That’s why some companies, including the rapidly growing e-commerce retailer Everlane, are trying variations on a “Name Your Job” posting, where applicants are encouraged to write their job description and title for themselves:

“There are a lot of people interested in Everlane—we get about 250 to 300 applications a week,” CEO Michael Preysman tells Quartz. “We realized that at any given point we had only 10 or so job postings. If there are good people that love the brand, we want to find a job that fits them. If we don’t have one, why not let them come up with one?”

The posting has lead to a several hires at Everlane, including a head of recruiting who made a good case that the company needed one, and a head of social storytelling with a nonprofit background who helps the company highlight its focus on transparency.

Everlane ...

The Attention Machine

Human attention isn’t stable, ever, and it costs us: lives lost when drivers space out, billions of dollars wasted on inefficient work, and mental disorders that hijack focus. Much of the time, people don’t realize they’ve stopped paying attention until it’s too late. This “flight of the mind,” as Virginia Woolf called it, is often beyond conscious control.

So researchers at Princeton set out to build a tool that could show people what their brains are doing in real time, and signal the moments when their minds begin to wander. And they've largely succeeded, a paper published today in the journal Nature Neuroscience reports. The scientists who invented this attention machine, led by professor Nick Turk-Browne, are calling it a “mind booster.” It could, they say, change the way we think about paying attention—and even introduce new ways of treating illnesses like depression.

Here’s how the brain decoder works: You lie down in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI)—similar to the MRI machines used to diagnose diseases—which lets scientists track brain activity. Once you're in the scanner, you watch a series of pictures and press a button when you ...

Degrees Don’t Matter Anymore, Skills Do

If I were to make a nomination for the most destructive belief in our culture, it would be the belief that some people are born smart and others are born dumb. This belief is not only badly off target as a shorthand description of reality, it is the source of many social pathologies and lost opportunities. For example:

People misunderstand the past and imagine a dystopian future, not realizing that each generation is smarter than the last.

Too much of our educational system, both at the K-12 level and in higher education, is built around the idea that some students are smart and others are dumb. One shining exception are the “Knowledge is Power Program” or KIPP schools. In my blog ...

Computers Aren’t Making Us Better Workers Like They Used To

The last decade’s IT-driven productivity gains have largely fallen off, according to a new paper that the San Francisco Fed put up Monday (Feb. 9).

Researchers John Fernald and Bing Wang focused on industries that intensively used or created information technology, and they found that the great digital revolution of the late 1990s’ and early 2000s’ “New Economy” era dissipated in the years just before the recession:

The contribution of IT producers was inordinately high in the late 1990s, accounting for over half of overall TFP [total factor productivity] growth in this period—even though they account for only 5% of the economy. Much of that surge reflected gains in hardware production, in part because competition within the semiconductor industry led to the faster introduction of new chips. In the 2000s, the pace of TFP gains in IT production eased. Hence, the direct contribution of IT-producing industries fell.

The note echoes many of the themes from a previous paper Fernald wrote in 2014, which pointed out that by 2013 US productivity growth had returned to the rate it had seen in the couple decades before 1995.

The paper doesn’t discount the idea that yesterday’s (or even today ...

The Hidden Cost of a Flexible Job

It's freezing and snowy. It's a million degrees and humid. Your kids are sick. The repairman is coming. You have a doctor's appointment.

Whatever the reason, many workers are lucky enough to be able to take advantage of workplaces that offer a bit of flexibility as to when and where they work.

But such affordances come with strings attached: Employees with this perk often wind up working extra hours at nights or on weekends. Why? Not to make up for lost productivity (studies show that workers are just as diligent if not more so when working from home) but in an effort to demonstrate their commitment to and passion for their jobs.

Researchers call the phenomenon "the flexibility stigma."

"In high-level, professional jobs, [the stigma] stems from what one sociologist called 'the norm of work devotion,' where you have to prove yourself worthy of your job by making it the central focus of your life—the uncontested central focus of your life," says Joan C. Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. For employees who occasionally would like to work from home, that means working ever ...