The Lost Letters of Charles Darwin: Evolution and Web-Assisted Recruiting

AP Newswire: Historian’s searching through dusty trunks in an English row house in downtown London recently found a packet of notes carefully sealed in a mysterious glassine box. Closer investigation revealed that Mr. Charles Darwin, father of evolution, authored the papers while the HMS Beagle was moored in the Galapagos Islands. The age of the documents has been verified as about 150 years old, but scientists are still pondering the mystery of their content. Could it be that Darwin encountered some kind of mysterious time warp long unknown to scientists? You be the judge. Here is a transcript of the original text: “I have been so immersed in studying the flora and fauna of this small island for the last few weeks that it took Mr. Bynoe, our ship’s surgeon, to draw my attention to a totally unique phenomenon. I’ll never fathom how he managed to connect the ship’s navigational computer to the Internet, but miracle of miracles, Mr. Bynoe opened my eyes to an evolutionary trend happening right before our very eyes. Normally this phenomenon would take place over the course of hundreds of generations, but here we could see evolution happening as we watched! “Our subject began as a simple species – a single-celled life form of the phylum ‘recruitus fastus.’ In its primitive matrix, we observed this simple creature automating file cabinets, integrating the Rolodex and generating follow-up letters to applicants. There must have been a ready opportunity for this species to move paperwork into electronic form where it could be quickly harvested and digested. This primeval form seemed to be focused on keeping track of people and looking for more efficient ways to push paper. “Then the unexpected happened! Our simple species suddenly encountered a new energy source – the Internet! We watched as the organism spontaneously divided into two specialized variants we named ‘bigger’ and ‘wider.’ The offspring specializing in ‘bigger’ proliferated into something my shipmates quickly nicknamed ‘job boards’. This evolutionary variant seemed to allow more people – both applicants and recruiters – to share more data. Those generations specializing in ‘wider’ seemed to develop searching strategies using specialized engines intended to find passive applicants. Remarkable! When able to feed on new energy, the species stopped evolving and reacted by growing in size – not efficiency. “The next evolutionary phase showed only a slight environmental modification. As the two life forms matured, they added better applicant management tools by passing data from one life form to another, automating their biological messages and collecting information from application-forms. Not much change in this stage, as innovation truly seemed to plateau. It was noteworthy to observe the emergence of many clones.” The Imminent Death of a Species? “I am rushing to compete these notes, as Captain Fitz Roy informed us we must weigh anchor and depart for our next destination before the seasonal tides change. I am sorely vexed because I will not be able to witness the final outcome of what seems to be the next stage of this species’ evolution. The life forms have recently been experiencing a significant amount of chaos in their environment. Everywhere we look there are databases, paperwork automation, and search engines – but the organisms are still competing for limited sustenance. I believe we are on the verge of an evolutionary stress point where these highly stressed organisms will either evolve to the next level of complexity or go extinct. “Thank goodness for stout wooden ships, railroads, wheeled carriages, and buggy whips. They serve a basic transportation need that will surely never be satisfied. However, I ponder the question of whether the species we are observing will be as successful at survival as our modern conveniences. It seems the life forms we have been studying have automated everything that is “automatable.” We see ultimate levels of correspondence and databases, but will the species be able to evolve to where it can solve the basic question of which candidate actually has the better skills? “Truly, a significant paradigm shift is in the wind. This species was good at becoming a larger entity, but that was due to an abundant food supply and prolific horizontal growth. However, I’m sure my colleagues will share my concern about whether this species will ever be able to recognize their past growth was the product of an abundant food supply and favorable environment. Their future will surely require more than massed databases, correspondence and self-reported application forms. “It remains to be seen which branch of the species will be the first to recognize their vulnerability and begin to accurately measure the four distinct skill domains. For readers unfamiliar with these classifications I list them as follows:

  1. Mental ability: i.e., learning, problem solving, analyzing, technical knowledge, etc.
  2. Organizational ability: i.e., time management, project planning, attention to details, etc.
  3. Interpersonal skills: i.e., persuasion, team orientation, communication, coaching ability, etc.
  4. All the attitudes, interests and motivations associated with using the first three.

“Pity, this is so simple, yet so complex for some. Individual species do not have to believe the classification theory to use it. They can prove it to themselves by investigating what effect the absence of any one of the four domains will have on performance. But of course, the same could be said for the fish. It would be difficult for a flounder to realize the presence of water because it is such an inseparable part of its environment. “Will the species recognize that interview questions have been, are now, and will always be highly inaccurate? It takes but a minute of reflection to realize the weakness of interviewer skills and the ability of the applicant to respond. The species need only observe whether personal responses to interview questions are a true measure of their own skills. “Mr. Bynoe kindly reviewed my notes last evening and asked why, if interview data were such weak predictors, would not the same standards apply to application forms and resumes? Truly, I was hard pressed to respond quickly, and after considerable weighing of the evidence, was forced to concede that so-called “job profiles” built on resume and application form data would be, indeed, exceedingly primitive and inaccurate. Not unlike using a yardstick to measure the distance we have traveled on our voyage – false assumptions based on inaccurate measures. Job profiles of any sort that are built on weak data truly represent a short-sighted measurement strategy that will eventually be discovered and discarded by the major hosts supporting the species. As I explained to Mr. Bynoe, you can fool some of the hosts all of the time and all of the hosts some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the hosts all of the time. Given time and maturity, any clear-sighted host will see the flaws inherent in weak hiring tools.” A Final Note “As I leave these islands, I have made some notes integrating the laws and forces of natural selection that will, indeed decide who evolves and who perishes among this species. I may have the opportunity to test my theories upon my next visit to these islands, or if I am unable to continue my investigation, I pray they may further guide the work of my able successor.”

Evolutionary Phase Species Response Evolutionary Solution Leads to Extinction? (Yes/No)
Primitive-Single function Applicant management tools? Keep track of applicants
Primitive-Multiple function Applicant correspondence tools? Correspond with applicants
Sourcing tools? Find passive candidates
E-Cruiter correspondence tools? Correspond among recruiters
Evolved-Survival function Realistic job previews(content validated) Early applicant screen out
Weighted application forms ?competency and bio-data based (content or criterion validated) Streamline application process
Behavioral or situational questions Broad, but shallow measure of skills
Technical tests (criterion validated) Narrow, but deep measure of technical skills
Problem solving tests (criterion validated) Narrow, but deep measure of analytical and learning ability
Planning tests (criterion validated) Narrow, but deep measure of organizational ability
Persuasion simulations(content or criterion validated) Narrow, but deep measure of selling skills
Coaching simulations (content or criterion validated) Narrow, but deep measure of management coaching skills
Teamwork simulations(content or criterion validated) Narrow, but deep measure of teamwork skills
Customer service Simulations(content or criterion validated) Narrow, but deep measure of customer service skills
Test of Attitudes, Interests and Motivations(criterion validated) Broad measure of attitudes, interests and motivations associated with high job performance
Integrated system that brings together all data in one concise package? Make the best hiring decision


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In His Majesty’s Service

Charles Darwin, Oct 20, 1832


1 Comment on “The Lost Letters of Charles Darwin: Evolution and Web-Assisted Recruiting

  1. A real “Thought Provoking” article from Dr. Williams. So the personal questions you might want to ask yourself, are how intense is the pressure to change, and how fast do I need to change?

    (I don’t think it’s even an issue about is he “right”, at least in the staffing industry.)

    As a consultant to the industry, as the Doctor is, we have clients with significant business improvements over last year. (Most with double digit growth over a year ago.) Others are hurting badly.

    I’d say it is clearly operating NOW.

    So, the ability to withstand the change is based on your ability to make *effective* changes in your business, and how fast you can adapt, based on how long you can afford to live in *your* situation.

    (Most of the reductions are in specific areas of the staffing industry market, overall the industry continues to grow.)

    So, if you are in a good financial position, and already adapt well enough to feel only a little discomfort now, you can be part of the “old” passive response style company.

    Since I’m a technology adopter and developer, I’d rather focus on what tech changes can be made to happen, and where we might be going.

    First, not everyone has a top notch ATS, and of those who do, often it’s not been set up to utilize the features available. That would be the number one change on my list, along with appropriate training.

    The reason this is so critical, is that you will not be able to measure and evaluate in any sensible manner. You won’t be able to clean your database, evaluate it’s quality and value, or even use it effectively to exchange knowlege between personnel.

    (If you don’t have a tracking system, GET one. GoldMine, Act, and Outlook are not ATS’s but can be pressed into service if you are a one, two, or three person person shop and would rather avoid the service provider route. If you are much bigger, start with the ERE review, and begin the RFP / RFQ process.)

    Second, get some measurements in place. If you are going to adapt, you need the results before and after the changes. You need to know if the change made VALUE financially and strategically.

    Third, network with others. ERE is a great place to start, post when something strikes your fancy. You need a sense of how other folks are improving their operations. The result of off the board conversations and peer relationships will help you synergize your business practices.

    OK, I promised a quick look in the crystal ball — a guess about what’s coming.

    Automated staffing companies are going to use a combined approach to maximize effectiveness. High Tech / High Touch.

    Near term — this year and next.


    ATS’s with small functional integration with web based forms, surveys, newsletters. Further integration to use existing search engines combined with internal databases. Transparent internal searching and external searching still elusive for most every package.

    Better “other” data capture and management features, some measurement / profiling capabilities of applicants and clients, similar to the ad agencies tracking of viewers, although lack of ready-to-use functionality continues.

    Web based training for some systems will be marketed to improve the ATS or measurement products’ effectiveness. Overall neglect of training needs as a success factor and on-going process within both the software and staffing company. (No change)

    Capitalizing on search engines “find similar”, tools to make locating additional candidates a one click operation, where the current resume is accessable from the search engine. Also one-click Name / Address / Phone searches based on existing candidate or client prospect information.


    Using modular software to “Integrate” additional personal information and responses to interactive questions. While conversing, tools and suggestions for interaction will be presented based on currently entered data. Early adopters will be high end ATS users with heavy customization. Limited functionality for everyone else, dependent on ATS or Contact Management software. Islands of tools partially integrated for the rest of us.

    Possible examples might be the results of selection tests, survey information, jobs viewed on your site, displayable in one-click from applicant’s e-mail display.

    Also prospect / client financial information, payment history, profitability, in addition to the usual contact histories.

    Systems will begin assisting the user in indicating value of clients, candidate referrals, and other basic data.

    Prompting for needed and value enhancing information will begin to make an appearance, based on sound business logic.

    Some of this will be more effective than the promised “Candidate / Customer Relationship Management” solutions, but will need integration into the business workflow. Companies that have done workflow planning will be prepared for this step. Others will need some effort applied.

    Unfortunately, this usually requires very complex display of data for the most part, and utilization will be low without proper design and training. I expect no substantial changes in the quality of human and software interaction.


    Newer versions of products, incorporating the beginning elements of assisted interaction will make selection and evaluation processes easier and more effective professionally, by capturing the expertise of the best personnel in the field.

    Still, the vision will always be way ahead of availability, and implementation always hits the limits of real situations.

    Evolution is the correct word and concept here. The changes occuring are large when viewed over two to five years, but incrementally, the result of continual small changes, is adaption and efficiency within the environment.

    Onoreno (Nore) DiNardo Jr.
    Infrastructure Support Services, Inc.
    – “Tools for the Staffing Industry”

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