Statistics cannot be trusted

I kind of feel guilt that I am blogging instead of preparing for tomorrow. What is on tomorrow you ask? Do you still remember that I had my first job interview ever on the 16th of February? I received a call last Wednesday that they want me to come back for another full day assessment. In German it is called “Probearbeitstag” – which translates into “Trail working day” and it is set for tomorrow.

I wonder how a trial working day would look like. I am applying for the position of IT Project Manager. Would they want me to execute a case study on project management? They are aware that I have no knowledge of their ERP system, which is not Oracle. So they cannot expect me to work on their system. Then I was reminded of a point they mentioned during the interview. Given the small size of the company, some controlling tasks would also fall under the role of the Project Manager as well.

I remembered the numerous reports and statistics I have gone through in my career life so far. I hated being presented with a number or value, which I had to explain. How do I know where the 1 Million Euro difference comes from? Before I could explain a difference, I had to first verify how the numbers were calculated. (I know it is a repetition of tasks but it is also a matter of doing my job well.) I tried to find out what formed the basis of calculations or which exchange rate was taken to convert the currencies. Even rounding differences could add up to a substantial amount when there are thousands of transactions. These points usually helped in clarifying a part of the difference and I knew what I was supposed to clarify.

I am registered as unemployed since we returned from our RTW trip last April. Between August and December, I attended courses to get certified as a Project Manager. But I was officially not part of the unemployed statistics during this period, although I was still looking for a job. Therefore when it was reported in the news that the unemployment rate has gone down in the last quarter of 2011, I wondered how much was attributed to job seekers attending training courses.

See what I mean? Why it is not good to trust any statistics? Especially those you did not create yourself. There are so many possibilities to manipulate data and the way they are presented. Therefore keep that in mind the next time you get worked up because of some numbers you have read in the newspapers.

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