If you happened to have walked past Red Square on Tuesday morning, you would have noticed the line of students stretching from White-Gravenor patio to the amphitheater attached to the Intercultural Center. This group of students, stretched out 200 feet in the frigid cold, was waiting in hopes of being hired by Georgetown Blue & Gray Tour Guide Society.
Blue & Gray tour guides show prospective students the ins and outs of Georgetown’s campus, but the organization itself has room to learn how to more fairly structure an application process.
The current system requires applications to be submitted in person early in the morning on a weekday. The first 100 applicants are automatically given interviews. Because of the high interest and limited selection, students often line up as early as an hour and a half before the deadline. Blue & Gray promises to read every application, but only a select few are granted an interview in addition to the first 100. However, there is a peculiar catch: Applicants waiting in line are permitted to hand in up to three applications in addition to their own.
The tour group justifies this policy by pointing to early morning classes or jobs that prevent some students from delivering their applications personally. And while it is considerate of Blue & Gray to take such conflicts into account, the application process then becomes dependent on an honor system. For every applicant with an 8 a.m. class, there could be someone who just decided to sleep in and have a friend turn in his application, and the student waiting in line for 45 minutes loses out on his interview spot. If the point of the first-come, first-served system is to reward applicants for being committed enough to wake up early and wait in line, then allowing applicants to turn in up to three other applications negates this goal. The selection system may as well be random.
An effective solution would be to put the deadline at a time when students are less likely to have obligations, like a weekend morning, and limit the number of additional applications that can be turned in to one. By this measure, only the truly committed who can muster the motivation to get up early on a weekend morning will be rewarded.
Blue & Gray is a popular employer, and it is understandable that the group must strategize to accommodate its large quantity of applicants. But with this high interest comes a high standard for fairness. When too many of the motivated lose out to the manipulative, the process cries out for reconsideration.