Chinese Exams and Modern Recruitment

24th July 2013

We came across an interesting article from the BBC recently, which looked at the development of modern recruitment and how it stems from Ancient China. Below, we have summarised accordingly.

Getting a job can be reliant on a complicated combination of factors ranging from being headhunted or applying directly, attending multiple stage interviews and tests, and supplying references. And even standard interview questions are no longer en vogue.

Companies like Goldman Sachs have even been known to mix things up a little by asking some bizarre questions including – “If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put into a blender, how would you get out?” Despite the unusual processes employed by some, it is universally agreed that to hire on merit is most important, though that wasn’t always the case.

Historically, appointments were made primarily on who you were and who you were related to. Author Anthony Trollope found himself an employee of the Post Office in 1834 after completely failing a test, whilst Dickens’ Titus Barnacle from Little Dorrit only hired his family.

However, things changed slowly as the world became more connected and the Brits got the idea of examinations as a way to judge candidates. Taken from the Chinese entrance exam which last for an entire day, consisting of memorising 400,000 characters of text and writing an “eight-legged essay” – exams began to become the norm for recruitment.

Charles Trevelyan wrote a report in 1853 which ushered in the age of meritocracy and ended the age of nepotism. Whilst there was initial outrage that anybody could be “advising on secret treaties” because they were good at maths, negotiations eventually ironed out the creases. Now we are as close as we ever have been to giving jobs to those with the abilities to perform them. specialise in low-cost recruitment throughout the United Kingdom.