Time IS of the Essence, Apparently

The Wall Street Journal had two headlines this week that both referred to time, in particular, very short amounts of it.

One story had the headline, Some Elite Colleges Review an Application in 8 Minutes (or Less)”. The headline is somewhat deceptive, since the story notes that many colleges split up the task of reviewing a student’s application, so a college might have two to three people reviewing different parts of a student’s application, all at the same time. Each person may spend 10 minutes, and so yes, technically the complete file is reviewed in 10 minutes. However, in terms of manpower, if two people split up that work, that’s 20 minutes of total time spent reviewing the application.

One of the major downsides to such a divide and conquer strategy is that it does not offer a holistic review of an application; nobody is looking at an entire student application to try and get an overall perception of the student. Instead, each reviewer makes his or her judgement based on just reviewing his or her part of the application.

As one student lamented, “I put in four years of super hard work. To know that it’s all over in 10 minutes is just mind-blowing.

Committee-based evaluation, which involves a committee of two people, is the admission industry’s answer to ballooning application volume. Schools also say they are making the shift in part to stem staff turnover, as many now quit at the end of the reading season. “It’s a more humane way of reviewing applications,” noted one college admissions officer.

At Bucknell, which gets more than 10,000 applications,admission personnel used to take 12 to 15 minutes to review each application. Now a team of two is done in six to eight minutes. The folks at Bucknell do note that it is still up to 16 “person minutes.” per application.

I don’t see this changing much, in fact I am sure colleges will try and reduce the time that admissions people curently spend on reviewing applications. I also don’t see too much of a problem; it seems like a more efficient way to handle the process. Whether or not it is effective is a much more difficult question to answer.

The other story in the WSJ had the headline, “The Mistakes You Make in a Meeting’s First Milliseconds.”

That sort of headline makes 10 minutes seem like an eternity.

As reporter Sue Shellenbarger notes:

A growing body of research shows the snap judgments people make about others’ trustworthiness are wrong more often than most people think. These first impressions are formed in milliseconds, based on instinctive responses in the brain’s emotion-processing center, the amygdala.

Shellenbarger than goes on to note that “There are ways to head off other people’s shaky snap judgments, by being mindful of how they might see you.”

The article then goes on to share some practical tips on how to maximize that first impression that people are forming of you in milliseconds.

My favorite tip dealt with one of the most basic behaviors that take place when meeting new people, the handshake.

Rather than extending your arm stiffly to shake hands at a distance, relax your arm and lower your elbow to your side, drawing the other person closer to you. This shows you’ve made a subconscious decision to trust the person, without having spoken a word.

I think I’ve always done it the first way, extending my arm stiffly to shake hands at a distance. Next time I meet someone I hope to try out the new hand-shaking approach of keeping my elbow to my side. I am sure it will feel awkward the first few times, but after that hopefully just becomes natural.

And I’ll have so many people trusting me, and they won’t know why. Perhaps I can slip them my business card with my blog address on it and recommend that they subscribe to my blog.

If I do the handshake correctly, getting new subscribers should be easy, since I appear so trustworthy.

In addition to thse two articles, I’ve read that an employer spends only about six seconds reviewing an applicant’s resume.

That sounds kind of harsh, but that’s reality that we need to adapt to, with a smiling face, good posture, and a resume or college essay that really stands out from the crowd.

So that’s enough reading for now, it’s time to move on.

After all, time is os the essence.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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