I came across a couple of interesting articles by Megan McArdle of The Atlantic where she talks about a new trend of employers using FICO (credit) scores to weed out job candidates.
This situation immediately reminded me of Gearscore, and the way the WoW PuG community often uses Gearscore to determine who gets into raids.
(For those who don't know, Gearscore is a mod which examines a character's gear and gives a single value score that represents the quality of the gear. The higher ilevel, the higher your Gearscore.
FICO is a credit score that represents your credit-worthiness. It's the main score used in the United State. It is generally used when people are deciding if they should lend you money. Low scores generally mean that you have trouble paying back loans, or have declared bankruptcy, and are likely to be a bigger risk for a loan.)
In the articles, employers are using these credit scores as a general proxy for your overall trustworthiness, just like raid leaders use Gearscore as a general proxy for your skill as a raider.
In both situations, the measurement is a weak proxy for what the evaluators really want. It's easy to imagine that someone with a poor credit score might still be a good employee, or someone with a lower Gearscore might still know how to play.
But there are reasons that these scores are used. It's too easy to say that using Gearscore or FICO score is wrong, and so raid leaders or employers should be forbidden from using it.
First, it's fast and obvious. A FICO score of 300 is worse than one of 800. GS 4k is worse than GS 5k.
Second, the best method to determine competence is unfeasible. The best method is by giving the potential employee or raider a trial. But this is just not possible due to logistical constraints. Even the second or third-best methods are not viable. For raiding, high end raid guilds often require proof in the form of logs, or will ask the candidate questions in an interview process. You just don't have time to do this when making a PuG.
Third, you cannot trust the potential employee or raider. People lie on their resumes all the time, and due to litigation concerns, most previous employers won't do much more than confirm employment dates. Similarly, all raiders say they know the fights and will do top DPS.
Finally, it is better to be wrong in one direction than to be wrong in the other. For example, when picking up a PuG raider, there are two different ways a raid leader can be wrong. He can turn down a good player, or he can pick up a bad players. The consequences for picking up a bad raider are much higher, and so the raider leader will pick a method that minimizes the chances of that outcome, even if it increases the chances of the other wrong outcome.
The same thing happens with employment. It is generally considered better to turn down a good employee than hire a poor one.
I find the two parallel situations to be very intriguing. It's always interesting when a real world issue comes up independently in a controlled game world.
Note that I don't actually use Gearscore. It's a chatty mod, and I dislike taking a chance of being disconnected in raids. But I still understand why people do use Gearscore.
If I had to make a Gearscore-like mod, what I would actually do is evaluate gems/enchants against spec. The more optimal your gems/enchants for your spec, the higher your score. In my experience, people who care enough to keep their gear in good condition, regardless of the underlying ilevel, are more likely to be successful raiders.