I’ve been closely involved with the hiring process in the office recently. Our department needs a Business Development Officer to initiate and negotiate partnerships with telecommunications companies worldwide. It goes without saying that excellent oral and written English is a must for an applicant to be hired! And though we prefer graduates from the top universities, we also look at other qualifications and relevant work experience, so graduates from other schools would have a fair chance as long as they communicate very well.

I’ve been put in charge of evaluating their essay and business letter writing exam before turning them over to my boss for the final interview.  It has been one interesting, frustrating, and hilarious task. Interesting because I always like to read other people’s writings; frustrating because of the difficulty in finding well-written pieces; hilarious because of the occasional out-of-this world grammar and style. I want to be kind, but sometimes I can’t help my reactions. The HR Officer already knows that if I wince or giggle more often than I nod, then it’s time to send the applicant home. There are times when applicants wouldn’t even make it to the exam stage, bungling the initial interview with the HR Officer with their incoherent English or terrible pronunciation and accent.  And a lot of them have degrees in Communication!  We’ve been looking for a month already and it’s been proving difficult to find the perfect blend of qualifications, character and acceptable salary requirement.

It is not a deliberate discrimination, but the applicants who pass the exam are always the ones from the top universities and colleges. And sometimes, there is also a problem with the way other applicants think and answer in the essay and the interviews.  They find it difficult to string together thoughts into complete sentences even in basic English.  I really do not want to generalize, but from what I see, only a handful of non-top university graduates make it through stringent English communication skills screening.

Have the English standards in most schools fallen so low?  I’ve observed that the college graduates of the generation before us spoke good enough English, even if not really perfect.  A lot of them did not necessarily go to the top schools, but their basic English communication skills are nothing to be frowned upon.  This is something that really needs to be addressed.  We keep on harping about how better we are at English than other Asians, but I think what it really means is that we’re better at UNDERSTANDING and not necessarily WRITING AND SPEAKING the language.  There’s also the laziness factor and the “pwede na yan” attitude.  A lot of people no longer make the effort of polishing their English.

Sometimes, in my frustrating and naughtier moments, I feel like photocopying the exams and taping the interviews then sending them to the English departments of the schools to let them see the kind of Communication Arts graduates they’re churning out.  Bad, but sometimes the frustration just gets to me.

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