The perils of subjectivity

Fewer than 24 hours were needed to turn last Tuesday’s warm atmosphere into an acrimonious political row of an intensity seldom seen in Parliament. It was as if the two major parties were bent on exorcising the consensual mood of the presidential election. The spat was triggered by the government’s decision to include interviews in the public sector recruitment process. PASOK slammed the measure as a way of making sure the posts go to the conservatives’ «own boys.» True, the interview process enables one to judge a candidate’s personality, knowledge, and skills. It is no coincidence that all the big companies around the world use the method in their selection process. On the other hand, conducting interviews leaves assessment open to subjective criteria. That would be all to the good if it included actual guarantees that subjectivity does not take us back to the realm of jobs being handed out as political favors. Regrettably, in Greece there can be no such guarantees yet. High unemployment and job insecurity have intensified social pressure for jobs in the state sector. It’s the sort of pressure that the so-called «Peponis law» was meant to thwart. The great advantage of that law, named after former minister Anastasis Peponis, (such as the national examinations for university entry) is its waterproof objectivity that makes the system impenetrable to outside tampering. Such strenuous objectivity, however, falls short of ensuring genuine meritocracy. In fact, it rewards those who can tailor themselves to conventional standards but fails to value their different qualities. Job interviews, in theory, respond to this need. But in practice, they will only cause a crack in the wall of objectivity which will soon – and under burgeoning voter pressure – open the gates to swarms of political appointments.

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