Setting the (Newspaper of) Record Straight

Glen Ridge resident Brooke Allen, who happens to be spending the summer in London, made the New York Times twice this past week. Last Sunday, the paper wrote a story about him in the Job Market section. Yesterday, they published his letter to the editor, which takes issue with the story.

This winter, Allen took an unusual approach to hiring a new computer programmer for his firm, Maple Securities, a Canadian securities firm with an office in Jersey City. When 300 people answered his ad in the Times, he wound up winnowing the field down through a process that had similarities to the TV show “The Apprentice.”
The Times wrote:

Sixteen people competed fiercely on national television for a chance to become Donald Trump’s apprentice. After all, even the losers received national television exposure, and the winner was rewarded with a job paying $250,000 a year.
Less clear is why 27 unemployed people would spend nearly a month competing for a $40,000-a-year entry-level job as a junior programmer in the Jersey City offices of Maple Securities U.S.A.

The article went on to quote experts as characterizing “extended job tryouts” — of the type Allen ran — “as bordering on exploitive.”
As it happens, the Barista (before she was the Barista) had first-hand experience with Brooke Allen’s experiment, having been hired by him to document the entire process on videotape. From our viewpoint, having been in the room with the job candidates for three weeks, the process was anything but exploitive. For one thing, they all learned a new computer language as part of the deal. Far more important, they were taught critical skills about networking and helping acquaintances during a job search. If anything, most were incredibly grateful that any employer had responded to them at all. Many had sent resumes out for weeks, or months, without getting a single reply or job interview.
There’s no way to make this long story short, but when we wrote about this in our personal weblog, we referred to Allen not as a Trump imitator, but as the anti-Trump.

In the end, when the class had finished, 12 people had stayed for the whole thing. Brooke brought each of them in for an interview, one by one. But instead of asking them which of their peers they’d fire — as Trump does — he asked which of their peers they’d hire. One name came up in every interview. And that was the person Brooke decided to hire.

One of the candidates, an artist named Deanna Choice, who had recently moved to New York from Ohio and was having a bumpy start, was so moved by the process that she realized that she had no interest in being a computer programmer after all. Instead she threw herself into her art full force. But like many others in the group, she had already formed strong bonds with the others. So she continued to visit the class — even after she’d withdrawn officially as a job applicant. Just last week, we received an e-mail from her. She lost her father in June, but she also reported that she has a show at Lincoln Center coming up in the fall.

I look forward to seeing you again and thanks again for your support and I surely thank Brooke for bringing us all together…

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