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Getting a job in 2011 America - fun times! *sarcasm*
October 25, 2011 8:05 AM   Subscribe


 
It's the money?
posted by demiurge at 8:16 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wait. So his thesis is that, rather than a shortage of skilled workers, what we actually have is employers unwilling to pay market-clearing wages —

— and his solution is shifting the financial burden of on-the-job training to the employee and longer probationary periods with lower pay?
posted by Nomyte at 8:18 AM on October 25, 2011 [59 favorites]


I'm reminded of a meeting our community college had with local business leaders about what they wanted graduates to know coming out of their degree programs. Every request was posted onto the wall with a little sign. By the end, the entire wall was covered.

"Congratulations. This is an 8 year degree at minimum. Now, how can it be done in two?"

It was determined most of it could be taught on-the-job if basic problem solving skills were taught. I wonder how that's going?
posted by charred husk at 8:19 AM on October 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


An amazingly right-on article from the WSJ...Up until the author put the cost of training on the backs of the unemployed.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:20 AM on October 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Nomyte: "and his solution is shifting the financial burden of on-the-job training to the employee and longer probationary periods with lower pay?"

It's the WSJ, did you expect anything other than shifting the burden from capital to labor?
posted by notsnot at 8:22 AM on October 25, 2011 [50 favorites]


— and his solution is shifting the financial burden of on-the-job training to the employee and longer probationary periods with lower pay?

It's the WSJ. The answer is never that a business might benefit in the long term from spending money; the answer is always find a way to maximize profits by spending less.
posted by ndfine at 8:22 AM on October 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Pish posh, everybody knows businesses aren't hiring because their taxes and regulations are just too onerous.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:22 AM on October 25, 2011 [19 favorites]


We aren't going to get European-style apprenticeships in the U.S. They require too much cooperation among employers and bigger investments in infrastructure than any government entity is willing to provide.

This is utter bullshit. I'm no management expert, but the issue isn't that a "government entity" isn't willing to provide training programs. The issue is that the government (and the WSJ editorial page, for that matter) is captive to a bunch of frothing ideologues who think that government should not be involved in anything, let alone retraining unemployed hippies.
posted by blucevalo at 8:23 AM on October 25, 2011 [20 favorites]


I call bullshit on the notion that secretarial and administrative jobs are among the top ten hardest to fill.

Because that's all I've been applying for for a solid year and they fill them up right fast.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:23 AM on October 25, 2011 [28 favorites]


Well, I'll tell ya what...if this 'on the job training' starts right after high school, and it costs me less than a 4 year degree, and the end result of x years of apprenticeship is an industry recognized achievement that allows me to move up or over to another company, that's something I might be willing to accept. Apprenticeship. But the logistics and cultural change required for something like that is never gonna happen. So, fuck you, guy - you want good employees...train them.
posted by spicynuts at 8:24 AM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I was nodding right along till he got to the part that it's the employee's fault -- crafty, WSJ writer, oh so very crafty of you.
posted by cavalier at 8:24 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Employers here at home rightly point to a significant constraint that they face in training workers: They train them and make the investment, but then someone else offers them more money and hires them away.

You know what fixes this? Good pay and benefits, with a health dose of loyalty to your employees.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:24 AM on October 25, 2011 [111 favorites]



I call bullshit on the notion that secretarial and administrative jobs are among the top ten hardest to fill.


What they mean is that those jobs are hardest to fill with WHITE PEOPLE or acceptable minorities.
posted by spicynuts at 8:25 AM on October 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: I'm sure they're just hard to fill with 200wpm typists who have four arms to file things simultaneously and have 30 years experience while still looking adorable and pleasant and who can handle 8 phone calls at once.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:26 AM on October 25, 2011 [20 favorites]


We do have an apprenticeship system, it's called unpaid interns.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:26 AM on October 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


There are no statistics of any sort to substantiate what assertions are being made.The piece is guesswork, a gut jump at an answer.
posted by Postroad at 8:27 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apprentices generally received food and lodging. Unpaid internship is sheer exploitation.
posted by griphus at 8:27 AM on October 25, 2011 [19 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "I call bullshit on the notion that secretarial and administrative jobs are among the top ten hardest to fill.

Because that's all I've been applying for for a solid year and they fill them up right fast.
"

Companies don't normally have much in the way of clerical workers these days. My company has ~170 employees and only two part-time receptionists (one for each site) and one admin for the CEO.
posted by octothorpe at 8:28 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Right...here's the dilemma for hiring and admin asst/secretary:

HR Person : ooh, they have the skills AND they have a college degree

Hiring Manager: yeah but that means they are going to want advancement. I want a secretary, not someone who is going to want to be something in a year. Plus, they have a college degree - they'll never work for the peanuts we are offering without being miserable.

HR: ok, what about this person...they have admin experience but only went to community college for an associates degree

Hiring Manager: that's code for black, right?
posted by spicynuts at 8:28 AM on October 25, 2011 [39 favorites]


My employer is pretty large: 20k+ employees locally, so we have a lot of job openings at any given time and I look through them every once in a while. I'm often struck by the very specific requirements in job openings: "5 years experience doing this exact thing, masters degree strongly preferred, starting salary $35k..." If we have 10 people doing [exact thing] that means there probably aren't more than 20 people doing it in the whole region, so the job opening just sits unfilled for a while, but surely someone who did something similar could be trained to do it pretty easily.

My theory is that recruiters are just completely overwhelmed by applications, thousands per position. Even if a large chunk of those applicants could definitely do the job with a little training it would just take too many resources to weed them out from the legitimately bad candidates, so they narrow the specs and throw out most of what they get.
posted by ghharr at 8:29 AM on October 25, 2011 [18 favorites]


You know what fixes this? Good pay and benefits, with a health dose of loyalty to your employees.

The tone-deafness of some employers(big and small) with regard to loyalty is shocking. Right now I'm working for a guy who has me (inappropriately) classified as an independent contractor, who pays me an hourly rate that's less than 20% of what he bills my time at to client, but you know what, he's going to be livid whenever I leave, because I'm not showing "loyalty."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:29 AM on October 25, 2011 [45 favorites]


Apprentices generally received food and lodging. Unpaid internship is sheer exploitation.

They also usually mean a long term relationship between employee and employer, something Wall Street doesn't seem interested in.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:30 AM on October 25, 2011


Yeah, I haven't seen any difficulty in hiring secretaries. They seem to just pull them off the street. As long as they know how to misspell an email (and write it in, no kidding, PowerPoint), you're hired!
posted by DU at 8:30 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know what fixes this? Good pay and benefits, with a health dose of loyalty to your employees.

And surprisingly, "good pay" is not nearly so exorbitant as management-side people think. Creating situations in which loyalty can flourish _on both sides_ is really the key, once people have their basic material needs + a little luxury money on the side taken care of.
posted by gauche at 8:32 AM on October 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


look at the data. the "skills gap" is up there with "austerity capitalism" on the list of things invented by the right to further their ideological agenda. Krugman has written A LOT about the topic.
posted by JPD at 8:33 AM on October 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


I'm often struck by the very specific requirements in job openings: "5 years experience doing this exact thing, masters degree strongly preferred, starting salary $35k..."

This. And if someone's been doing that exact same thing for the past 5 years, they're going to seek out a hell of a lot more than $35k.
posted by Anima Mundi at 8:35 AM on October 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


I'm often struck by the very specific requirements in job openings: "5 years experience doing this exact thing, masters degree strongly preferred, starting salary $35k..."

Usually these postings are code for "we've already selected someone for this job, but company policy dictates that we must post the position publicly for X days before hiring the person we want." It's an HR work-around; they know no one would be qualify or take the low salary.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:37 AM on October 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


Also, I was offered a number of jobs while I was looking for entry-level work. I was 25, employed for three years (switching jobs) and just graduated with a Bachelor's in English. It seemed that a lot of companies aren't actually trying. Here is how three of them played out:

Fancy insurance company on Wall Street. Posh offices, nice people. Full-time job with pretty decent (a little low for NYC) pay. Health insurance? Benefits cap out at $3000/year.

(In)famous NYC-based law firm that advertises on subway/TV. Full-time job with decent pay. Benefits? Had to show up to their remote office to get the paperwork (they couldn't fax or email it.) No explanation, they just handed me a good 40+ pages of third-generation photocopies. Of course, they left out the important ones. I called, they gave me a number. Person told me they'd send it. Never did.

Clothing wholesaler. Interview went well, called for second interview with upper management. I show up, no one told management that I was scheduled for an interview. They didn't know when I could come back and told me to call the other offices to reschedule. If I hadn't had a job offer, I would've. Seriously, though?

Maybe this is just petty bitching, and I know how lucky I am to have a job with benefits right now at all. But still. For as much ass-busting as job applicants do, there seems to be a definite lack of effort on behalf of the employers to get good candidates.
posted by griphus at 8:38 AM on October 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


ManpowerGroup, for instance, reports that 52% of U.S. employers surveyed say they have difficulty filling positions because of talent shortages.

Strangely. this problem never seems to apply to management....
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:39 AM on October 25, 2011 [18 favorites]


Bill Frezza was on NPR recently, and I think his point is much more cogent than anything in the linked article.
Frezza's point is that new hires are expensive, and take away from the bottom line. Looked at from that viewpoint, I don't think the companies are really trying that hard to hire.
In my opinion, it's a pretty shitty and short sighted stance, but when there is high unemployment and record profits, it seems to fit the facts.
posted by el riesgo sempre vive at 8:39 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Henry Ford had difficulty finding the employees he needed. After he doubled the wages of his workers, he didn't have that problem any more.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:40 AM on October 25, 2011 [20 favorites]


In some San Diego industries, hiring is strong

Blair said a major problem with the job market is that most new openings either require highly skilled, well-educated workers for salaries of $100 or more an hour, or are in the low-skilled retail and hospitality sectors that often pay $10 or less an hour.

“We’re not seeing the jobs of $25 or $35 an hour that we used to think of as feeding into the middle class,” Blair said.

posted by KokuRyu at 8:42 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just got(literally just got the e-mail) an offer for a new job, with an actual salary and benefits, so I guess I get to see how angry my boss I mentioned up thread is going to be.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:43 AM on October 25, 2011 [103 favorites]


I just got(literally just got the e-mail) an offer for a new job, with an actual salary and benefits, so I guess I get to see how angry my boss I mentioned up thread is going to be.

Congratulations!

Let us know if there are fireworks.
posted by gauche at 8:45 AM on October 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


You have no clue about supply and demand if you can identify the employees you want, but you also refuse to negotiate with them as to their salary. If you "need" to pay your, say, a qualified administrative assistant $20K, then you either need a less-qualified AA, or you need to pay them more. If you can't afford to pay a qualified AA what they will work for, then you either need to train a less-qualified AA, or you need to rearrange your budget so that you can actually hire an acceptable AA.

If your HR department truly cannot find for you an acceptable AA person at a reasonable salary, then either your HR department is hopelessly incompetent or you yourself are somehow making their jobs impossible.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:48 AM on October 25, 2011 [33 favorites]


I guess I get to see how angry my boss I mentioned up thread is going to be.

In quitting, I suggest you use that old nugget of wisdom from the 1970s: "Take this job and go fuck yourself."
posted by griphus at 8:50 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


In quitting, I suggest you use that old nugget of wisdom from Demolition Man: "Chief, take this job and shovel it."
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:51 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


For as much ass-busting as job applicants do, there seems to be a definite lack of effort on behalf of the employers to get good candidates.

I think that's what they mean when they say "secretarial and administrative jobs are among the top ten hardest to fill." They're not hard to fill, plenty of candidates, but good luck finding somebody who doesn't reveal themself to be a ding-dong after enough time passes that you feel bad about firing them. It's those ding-dongs who are in charge of hiring. It's amazing anybody gets hired at all.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:52 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


~I'm often struck by the very specific requirements in job openings: "5 years experience doing this exact thing, masters degree strongly preferred, starting salary $35k..."

~Usually these postings are code for "we've already selected someone for this job, but company policy dictates that we must post the position publicly


I dunno. I see job postings with stupidly-specific requirements linger on the boards for months. In my area, the worst ones are in skilled trades and factories, where they want a candidate with 5 years experience on a specific machine, running this specific version of control software turning-out this specific type of product. It's such a specific set of requirements to where I have to think that the ONLY person in the area that meets the requirements is probably the guy who just left/died/was fired. It's as if training simply doesn't occur to these people.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:53 AM on October 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


griphus: "For as much ass-busting as job applicants do, there seems to be a definite lack of effort on behalf of the employers to get good candidates."

I sympathize, honestly, but right now, labor in the USA is a buyer's market. If you're an employer and you see the country has 9.x% unemployment, you might be thinking "Why should I exert myself in the slightest? Those proles will put up with whatever I offer and be grateful for it."
posted by adamrice at 8:55 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hint: We used to have personnel, now we have human resources. Personnel are like farmland, they need to be tended. Human resources are like mineral resources -- and what do you do with mineral resources?

You exploit them, of course.
posted by eriko at 8:55 AM on October 25, 2011 [42 favorites]


Tech companies, listen up. If you wanna fill your open reqs, here's what you need to do.

1. Start by being reasonable in the interview room.
1a. The whole confrontational style of interviewing needs to go. I can't tell you how many interviews I walked into where the interviewer seemed hostile to me from the get-go. For example, at one startup here in the city (which will remain unnamed), I was put into a room with the two principal engineers and had them rapid-fire hit me with really difficult questions, one after another, and when I'd get something wrong, they'd keep hammering away at it instead of moving on to something else. I called it the Firing Line. I guess the idea behind this kind of interview is to "make them sweat and see how they react". Well, all I can say is that I would never want to work at a place like that. I mean, if it's a really stressful workplace where people are constantly being put to the test, then yes, maybe something like this is a good way to weed people out. But for an average dev job? Wholly inappropriate.
1b. Stop asking people about shit they haven't done since college. You know what I'm talking about. Hoare's algorithm for deadlock avoidance? How often do most developers use this? I'm not trying to discount the importance of a general knowledge of computer science, but questions like these really only help two groups of people : recent grads and people who've been doing a lot of interviewing recently. Everyone else gets penalized.
1c. As an add-on to 1b, how about asking candidates questions that are relevant to their experience and to the job? Like, if the job is a back-end web development position, and the applicant is a back-end web developer, WHY NOT ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT BACK-END WEB DEVELOPMENT?!
1d. Hold back on the language-specific or implementation-specific questions unless you REALLY care about minimizing ramp-up time. A candidate may not have had experience with some class or framework, but these are the sorts of things you can learn in like 10 minutes with google and Stack Overflow. Really, you shouldn't care too much about this sort of thing. What matters is their mind and their resourcefulness.
1e. Oh yeah, and minimize whiteboard coding. That shit sucks. It is so completely unlike the actual act of coding, and so easy to make a mistake. I really have no idea what programmer muscle this is supposed to flex. In the course of your job, whiteboard coding is something you never have to do. Instead, it's better to have candidates write pseudo code or draw diagrams.
1f. And in general, quit focusing so much on specific skills and tools used. This shit is not important because any decent developer can learn it in like a few hours. 3rd-party recruiters I've found are most guilty of this. They'll look for buzzwords, and that's it. If you don't have the buzzword on your resume, you get screened out. What a ridiculous way to do hiring. I actually took the approach of putting NO buzzwords on my resume, instead just listing WHAT I ACTUALLY DID at all my jobs. You know what? I got on-site interviews from nearly every employer who did their own recruiting. And the 3rd-party recruiters brought me in, too, although they complained about it.

2. Quit expecting people to sell you their soul. I did a recent round of interviewing, and ultimately I had to make a No Startups rule. Why? Because startups often want you to work 50-60 hours a week, and A LOT OF US ACTUALLY HAVE LIVES TO LIVE. I don't think I've ever read a study that states that working people to the bone actually makes them more effective. Actually, I think all research points to the contrary. I will never understand why employers want to abuse their employees like this. Workers who have a life outside of work tend to be more creative problem-solvers and more bearable people in general. What I really don't get is that a lot of these companies actually have a lot of money to throw around. FUCKING HIRE MORE PEOPLE ALREADY and stop trying to squeeze blood from a rock.

Okay okay, so enough negativity. What do employers do right?

1. Programming tests are good.
1a. Take-home tests are great! However, don't design a test that takes more than 4-6 hours. Otherwise, you're asking a lot of someone who doesn't work for you yet.
1c. On-site programming tests are great! Give 'em a laptop with an IDE and a web browser and let them go do town!
1b. Over-the-phone remote desktop tests are less great, but still okay.
2. Ask questions that are relevant to their experience! (already covered this)
3. Ask in-depth, super-detailed questions about their previous jobs. This will help you sniff out the real hackers from the bullshitters. Did they actually do X or were they just on the team that did X? This is where you find that out.
4. In general, try to hire well-rounded people. People should have interests outside of work. Culture fit is important. Remember, these are the people you'll be working with.

Sorry for the rant. Did a bunch of interviewing recently. Actually wound up finding a really great job, so way to go me! :) But believe me you, I had to go though a lot of shit....
posted by Afroblanco at 8:58 AM on October 25, 2011 [53 favorites]


The complaint isn't about the dearth of skilled workers. There's millions of skilled workers.

What employers do is gamble. They gamble using low, low wages and shitty, shitty benefits that in the flood of a thousand applicants there will be one who is qualified, capable and eager who somehow magically appeared out of nowhere healthy, employable and willing to take shit for pay because they're absolutely desperate.

The complaint, therefore, is about the dearth of Magical Dream Hires who will do their job, their slacker co-worker's job, their boss's job and do it all for the a genial smile and a paternal pat on the back, genuinely thankful to be in The Man's benevolent presence.

Clearly the solution is more layoffs to create more desperate workers! Boy, it's sure a good thing that all these people who can't find a job are still buying lots and lots of goods and services! I bet when their credit cards are maxed out and their houses are foreclosed upon that they'll be even MORE desperate for work! HAW HDAW HAWHAHAWWAWWW [swills brandy, taps cigar into assistant's hand].
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:59 AM on October 25, 2011 [39 favorites]


Congrats on the job offer, bulgarkotonus
posted by Forktine at 8:59 AM on October 25, 2011


I think this is partly a problem of increasing specialization. It only makes sense for employees to absorb the cost of their own training if the skills they learn are transferable. Highly specialized skills are less likely to be transferable, so it doesn't make sense for employees to accept lower wages / long probationary periods / etc. while learning because they'd just be setting themselves up to be taken advantage of. At the same time, highly specialized skills are probably harder (more time consuming) to teach, so the risk involved for the employer is that much greater, effectively making training that much more expensive.
posted by jon1270 at 8:59 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


My favorite is when they mash two completely unrelated jobs together. I had one listing keep coming up that was a combination web developer and office manager. You had to have experience in both and, yes, when they said office manager, they meant you had to have 3 years of experience running a moderately busy office AND you had to have 3 years of pretty hardcore web developer experience. Also you had to be willing to do both jobs for 25k in a job market where that wouldn't even pay your rent.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:02 AM on October 25, 2011 [14 favorites]


From the article: "And there's one on-the-job education strategy that doesn't cost companies a dime: Organize work so that employees are given projects that help them learn new skills."

I have a great deal of sympathy for this guy's arguments, but if he things that giving work to people who don't already know how to do that work has zero cost, he's high.
posted by mhoye at 9:02 AM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am directly dealing with companies who want very, very specific experience. Unrealistic experience expectations and an unrealistic time frame for filling a posted position. Then, after interviewing somebody I've sent along, they want to delay a decision to see who else is in the market.

Me: Well, you've already applied X, Y and Z as a necessity for this position in a small market, so that cuts out all but .01% of the available candidates, but you want to see what else is out there?
Company: Yeah. You know, we want to make sure this is a fit. But we really like him / her. But we want to see who else is out there. But we like him / her!
Me: But you're going to lose Candidate A. He / She has 5 other offers and you've been delaying an answer for two weeks.
Company: Meh.

...Days later.

Me: I'm sorry, but Candidate A is no longer available. I can still help you with your search.
Company: WHAT? We want to make him / her an offer! See if he / she is still interested in hearing from us.
Me: (Head pounding on desk)

I totally agree with the author's paradox related to the unemployment figures. Companies think that because the market is shitty they can 'get a deal' on a candidate with super qualifications - that's not the case. Anyone who is worthwhile has been picked up and secured for the long haul.

On the other side, I see so many people who spend years and years and years working full-time and going through school at the same time just to get the 'perfect' job. The burden of companies' expectations that employees prepare themselves for work has already been costing people too much money. Usually, it's poor people who need to go into serious debt to pay for that schooling without the safety net of a family or family connections.

It's heartbreaking. And frustrating that Dr. Capelli doesn't even try to offer another solution.
posted by glaucon at 9:04 AM on October 25, 2011 [9 favorites]



I got let go from AT&T after nearly 30 years in the Telecom industry. I might have known a couple of things, but finding a new job in telecom was impossible. Besides, time to expand my wings. First foray out, got a job making 1/3 the money I used to make, with a bunch of people I'll charitably call idiots. Lasted a couple of years. Long years. But got good skills on a new piece of software.

Now have a job with another fortune 500 company, using the software skills I learned at my other job. Making a bit more money, not much, but hey, I have great benefits, and it's a congenial environment.

At this point in my life, I don't want the high stress, high dollar job anyway.

It's more fun to participate in Metafilter.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:05 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I haven't seen any difficulty in hiring secretaries. They seem to just pull them off the street.

Hiring people who are bad at things has always been easy. Secretaries and office managers are the worst for this sort of thing, because it's basically impossible to pay a fantastic office manager what they're actually worth.
posted by mhoye at 9:05 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some things I've learned in my 30 post-college years:

-Corporations, for the most part, don't care about the "loyalty thing". We are all replaceable cogs, especially in a down economy. They shouldn't think this way, but they do. My experience is that they think this way because management has become a legion of report-readers; they learn to read all the reports by looking at all the "bottom lines" - all the "details" are someone else's problem. ( And what doesn't show up on reports, anyway? The actual costs in time, energy, money,lost productivity, and effects on customers of training new people.)

-They have weathered the downturn by whip-cracking and demanding more-with-less. This has worked exceedingly well, for a lot of reasons. It is not endlessly sustainable, though. They are just doubling-down on this philosophy by demanding insane requirements for shitty pay.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:05 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


but if he things that giving work to people who don't already know how to do that work has zero cost, he's high.

The standard rule of thumb I've always heard for college teaching is that what you can do in fifteen minutes, your students can do in an hour. I would imagine something similar applies to the Real World as well.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:06 AM on October 25, 2011


...he's going to be livid whenever I leave, because I'm not showing "loyalty."

If I could find a way to make money from the people who believe loyalty is owed, but not earned, I'd solve the unemployment problem by hiring everyone.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:06 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


On-the-job training is so important.

When I think about the jobs that I've liked and been successful at, they are all jobs in which there was some amount of on-the-job training, even if it was as simple as shadowing somebody experienced for a couple of days.

The one employer (my best job ever) was up-front about the costs of training and explained that they didn't really recoup the costs of training somebody until late in their first year, so they asked for a verbal commitment to work for them for at least a year after the training. They also provided an in-kind verbal commitment that they would help us to find ways to succeed, because it was in their interests once they'd made the investment of training us.

Working for that employer was the closest I've ever come to really believing in capitalism, and the only time I'd ever seen self-interest pursued in a benevolent way.
posted by gauche at 9:07 AM on October 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


My favorite is when they mash two completely unrelated jobs together.

It's a running joke in the community manager field that employers always want someone with 5+ years of in-depth community management, social media, and often marketing experience (these things are related but NOT THE SAME) and ALSO 5+ years in hardcore web development, so that one hire can build their web site, design and execute their marketing campaign, and manage their community (and run their CS, half the time) for about 2/3 of what they pay their most junior programmer.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:08 AM on October 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


5+ years of in-depth community management, social media, and often marketing experience

also, was there really such a thing as "social media" as we know it today five years ago?
posted by madcaptenor at 9:10 AM on October 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


It only makes sense for employees to absorb the cost of their own training if the skills they learn are transferable.

I disagree with this. It makes sense for employees to absorb the cost of their own training when it gives both the employee and the employer the best deal to do so. If the employer wants to hire someone, and they find that person, and that person is either already trained, or willing to work for less in exchange for getting trained, then it makes sense. If the employer can't find someone who fits all the criteria, then of course the arrangement doesn't make any sense, and either the employer will have to change their criteria or accept a subpar candidate.

If I could find a way to make money from the people who believe loyalty is owed, but not earned, I'd solve the unemployment problem by hiring everyone.

Market a self-help book to self-interested middle management morons, with a picture of yourself smirking on the cover. Give it a Reagan-era title like "The Way Things Work In The REAL World" or "WHINERS Don't Get Ahead, YOU Do!"

Or you could be like "Chainsaw Al" Dunlop. Get a reputation for firing supposed dead weight, but actually be a career fraudster.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:11 AM on October 25, 2011


spicynuts FTW
posted by whimsicalnymph at 9:11 AM on October 25, 2011


Raise your hand if you're staying in this thread for the fireworks.

(Note, I always prefer to leave bridges improved and full of flowers, but there are the occasional cases where try as you might you just have to let Employer X know that you are leaving and they are why you are leaving. )
posted by cavalier at 9:14 AM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, I'll tell ya what...if this 'on the job training' starts right after high school, and it costs me less than a 4 year degree, and the end result of x years of apprenticeship is an industry recognized achievement that allows me to move up or over to another company, that's something I might be willing to accept. Apprenticeship. But the logistics and cultural change required for something like that is never gonna happen. So, fuck you, guy - you want good employees...train them.

Seconded. This basically sounds like vo-tec. I knew a kid who worked his way through vo-tec. He graduated from high school with an $80K/y job as a titanium welder. There's a lesson here.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:15 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite is when they mash two completely unrelated jobs together.
Try five or six.
I once applied for a position at a regional eye clinic. They needed a graphic designer (they had an in-house marketing dept.) After jumping though a lame "test your Photoshop skills" hoop, they informed me that the position wasn't just for a graphic designer. The "ideal candidate" (I so loathe that term) would also have the following experience:

• Web design
• Web development
• Web master
• Flash
• Audio recording and editing
• Copywriting and editing
• Video recording and editing
• Marketing plan development
• Office management

All for the princely sum of $15/hour.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:15 AM on October 25, 2011 [31 favorites]


highly specialized skills are probably harder (more time consuming) to teach, so the risk involved for the employer is that much greater, effectively making training that much more expensive.

At least in the tech sector, this is an enormous problem. It takes an absurdly long time for a new employee to produce net value -- often two years or more. Turnover is insanely high, so you can pretty much assume a new employee won't be around long enough to do very much useful work. So companies try to hire experienced people who can get off the ground quickly, creating a salary war for those folks and leaving new college grads unemployed. Of course that means there will be fewer and fewer of those seasoned employees in the future.

Apprenticeships are one solution, and "golden handcuffs" provisions to reduce turnover are another. Both are very costly and require HR departments to fundamentally rethink the way they do business.
posted by miyabo at 9:18 AM on October 25, 2011


My theory is that recruiters are just completely overwhelmed by applications, thousands per position

There is a lot of money in HR and I don't really feel bad that some of them might have to work hard for it. This is a trade that increasingly trolls Facebook for gotchas and sets up more and more arbitrary and novel hurdles for potential employees and increasingly bizarre "right answers" and "code words" you're supposed to use in interviews. My last job had a 2 3-hour interviews for a low-ranking assistant position where essentially I did nothing but filing, data entry, and answering phones and earned significantly less than $40,000. Maybe companies ned to consider trimming the fat in HR first because that's a ridiculous waste of resources for a low-skill position.
posted by Hoopo at 9:19 AM on October 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm applying for jobs at the moment, specifically in the office administrator/assistant side of things. I know that employee specifications are often stupid, even for such relatively basic jobs. My response is not to read them, but just send in my CV/application and let it rest. I've demonstrated that I have the skills and experience to do such jobs, so if they want to fart about finding somebody with an exact number of years or perfect qualifications, I'll let them worry about it. The situation in England isn't as bad as in the US, but you can see the same trends emerging regarding "experience", which is a code for "somebody else has trained you".
posted by Jehan at 9:21 AM on October 25, 2011


It's from last year, but this report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce is an interesting look at the relationship between the needs of the labor market and what higher ed is producing: Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements through 2018.

posted by aka burlap at 9:21 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been interviewing lately (just accepted a good offer on Friday) and I can also provide valuable anecdata that many employers 'just don't get it' right now.

While I've experienced a number of the frustrations voiced in this thread, the most frustrating aspect for me is when I provide my salary requirements up front (which I don't like to do) and then go through the interview process. They come at me with "We really love you and think you would be awesome here, will you accept $30k less than what you're making now?" And then I say "No." They then explain that that is what their budget is and they can't go beyond it and were hoping that I was desperate. I've seriously had that happen with 3 different companies in the past 2 months.
posted by Jacob G at 9:21 AM on October 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


Employers here at home rightly point to a significant constraint that they face in training workers: They train them and make the investment, but then someone else offers them more money and hires them away.

You know what fixes this? Good pay and benefits, with a health dose of loyalty to your employees.


Or, Mister Fabulous, tying training to a vestment contract.

"We pay for your training & certification; if you leave us voluntarily before DD/MM/YYYY you must pay us back a prorated portion of the training costs of $XXXX."

Fair, reasonable, and done in some industries.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:22 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hoopo, I haven't been out jobhunting in a few years and yet, I do recall that some of my very worst--and low paid--jobs had the worst "gotcha" interviews.

I usually got them anyway because they were places with crazy turnover, because they were horrible. The management there clearly thought the problem was bad employee screening, instead of unbearable working conditions.

One place I had to leave by sliding my resignation under the boss' door after everyone had left; I was literally too scared to talk to them face to face, because they seemed so unstable and potentially violent. And the pay was shit too.
posted by emjaybee at 9:25 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


emjaybee, someone said once that managers are either Shit Fans or Shit Umbrellas - they either shield you from the shit they're dealing with or throw it all over you.

It sounds like you had the former.
posted by glaucon at 9:28 AM on October 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


My favorite is when they mash two completely unrelated jobs together.
Try five or six.


I think these positions happen because needs arise within a company, and John or Jane Employee steps up to fill those needs. Then when J. Employee leaves, suddenly the company is looking to hire one person to do everything J. Employee was doing, and oh yeah, for a few dollars an hour less since they are new. Ideally, these companies should be hiring more than one person to replace the one who left, or at very least, having other employees absorb a few of the extra responsibilities so they can hire one person to do the main job J. Employee was doing.
posted by fings at 9:29 AM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've been tempted to reapply for my current job with my existing employer just to make a point, because new developer hires in the company I work for routinely get substantially higher starting salaries than I get (and I've been here almost 10 years now). Sadly, I low-balled myself so much when I first took the job that the HR person at the time actually did a visible double-take and ultimately offered me more than I'd requested--I guess out of some residuum of human decency. I got promoted from project administrator to lead business process analyst just within my first year, which early on, kind of put me on a management track. But then there was an emergency need on one project (and I had already started to feel a little like the emperor with no clothes on being an IT analyst with no real technical chops) and that trial-by-fire put me on the developer track I've been on ever since.

More recently, things haven't been nearly as good for me, in terms of meaningful advancement opportunities, even though I've trained and retrained myself many times (for example, when I taught myself to develop in WPF on-the-fly as lead developer for a successful two-month rapid-prototyping effort for one of the big private sector clients we finally started pursuing, IMO, many years too late).

And my reward when things picked up for voluntarily foregoing any salary increase for a few years when the local state government services market took a drastic turn south? When I finally did request one, my manager came back with about a 2% increase--not even enough to make up for one year's increased health plan contribution, nor break even with cost of living. Not to be overly bitter about it, but at this point, I've got to find a way into a new work situation soon just because, otherwise (with a second child on the way, our house now officially underwater, and quite a few unexpected emergency expenses on our books), my family's not going to stay afloat much longer. I'm already having trouble at month's end with basic expenses like gas (have to use credit this month). Needless to say, that's a pretty damn demoralizing situation for a guy quickly going into middle age.

tl;dr: Loyalty often seems to be a one-way street these days, where it's found at all. Also, even additional training won't necessarily make you more valuable to employers. Self-marketing skills and rain-making powers seem to have as much to do with success in my little corner of the economy as anything.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:34 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or, Mister Fabulous, tying training to a vestment contract.

What's that? A solution that works for both parties? Surely, sir, you jest!

PS: Totally agree with you, and it's a shame more places don't consider things like that.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:36 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


At least in the tech sector, this is an enormous problem. It takes an absurdly long time for a new employee to produce net value -- often two years or more. Turnover is insanely high, so you can pretty much assume a new employee won't be around long enough to do very much useful work.

Well, creating a company with low turnover is also possible. I've worked at (tech and non-tech) companies with both (not just ones that require you to repay training costs), and companies that are flexible with reasonable benefits and compensation -- not best in the industry, just in the middle of the pack -- tend to keep employees because honestly, I'd give up some money for a pleasant 40+ hour work week, and I'm not unique.

A friend worked at an engineering firm which was known to have the lowest base pay, but the best overtime pay. Excellent! Sure, there was lots of travel, but then you charge your flights and your 100 hour weeks while you're away and you make up another 50%-100% of your salary. And then they decided to get rid of overtime pay *without changing base pay*. So this company, which had employees who stayed for years and years, suddenly is finding that all their techy people are leaving for other companies, because extra long work hours, no flexibility AND low pay are somehow not appealing to employees who have other options.
posted by jeather at 9:38 AM on October 25, 2011


"We pay for your training & certification; if you leave us voluntarily before DD/MM/YYYY you must pay us back a prorated portion of the training costs of $XXXX."

Fair, reasonable, and done in some industries.


That is indeed fair and reasonable. I could totally get behind that.

But there are two big problems.

1) The training cost doesn't reflect the opportunity cost (or, it's hard to get it to properly reflect that). You spent money to train them, but you also spent time doing it, time that could've been spent doing something else (like, taking a longer time finding someone already trained). There is the classic line, "You can't re-possess an education like you re-possess a car."

2) This is a contract, and contracts need to be enforced, and there's risks and costs associated with enforcement. Imagine you're the company that does this, and you just saw someone walk away. What's your next step? A sternly worded letter? What if they don't pay? Now you need a lawyer. Let's say you win. Now you need to actually get your money. What if they can't pay? Now you need payment terms. What if they don't follow the terms? Now you need another lawyer. What if they declare bankruptcy? Now you're fucked.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:44 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is also why there are military contracts, enforceable by jail. "Sure, we'll spend millions training you to be a fighter pilot or a helicopter technician. But you owe us X years, and if you don't hold up your end of the bargain, you'll spend time in the joint."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:47 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


A simpler way to achieve the same goal is just to offer an X% lower salary, and give that amount as a bonus after Y years.
posted by miyabo at 9:47 AM on October 25, 2011


A simpler way to achieve the same goal is just to offer an X% lower salary, and give that amount as a bonus after Y years.

Unless it is in the contract, the bonus doesn't count, and even if it is in the contract, I can imagine a lot of firing happening after Y years minus one day.
posted by jeather at 9:50 AM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't know what the fuss is all about since nobody is actually hiring anyone. I have been unemployed for almost a year and though I have had several promising interviews 90% of the job listings I see are contract positions. Some as short as 1 month!. (Tech support)

The worse offense is the total lack of plain old common sense. The company which laid me off from a full-time position of 8+ years, was forced to fill it after client complaints of lack of support. They filled it with a string of contractors, paying them about 2/3 of my salary, and I'm sure the remainder, if not more, going to the agency. Penny wise and pound foolish. They are essentially paying the same, but get a far inferior product.
posted by Gungho at 9:53 AM on October 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


I am directly dealing with companies who want very, very specific experience. Unrealistic experience expectations and an unrealistic time frame for filling a posted position.

This times a thousand. I recently got a job offer for $6k more/year with no benefits on contract. I'd really like benefits but whatever, I don't have benefits now. But they demanded I quit my job on two days' notice. After telling them "no" they came back three weeks later and asked again, this time saying I'd have to do it on 4 days notice.

The HR person didn't understand 1) Why I'm pissed off that they are demanding short notice to quit my current job or 2) Why I'm pissed that they demanded such short notice, but were able to come back three weeks later and try to hire me again.

They also tipped their hand that I was their #1 candidate and the only one currently employed. Fuckers.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:06 AM on October 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


They also tipped their hand that I was their #1 candidate and the only one currently employed. Fuckers.

Which brings us to another issue with employment in the US.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:08 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


What a conflicting article. Read it yesterday and had mixed reactions. It is the WSJ, thus it is the unequivocal voice of capital. Yet, there are great points about the apprenticeship programmes in Europe.

Overall, there is the obvious point that high unemployment rates serve capital, in a strict supply-demand process. If there is low unemployment, labour has the advantage, whereas if there is high unemployment, the advantage goes to capital.

That does not, however, get to the heart of the issue, which is that companies are misguided by a strict focus on financial returns -- indeed, the United States are large has become completely blinded to the concept of anything outside financial return.

Organisations now hold more cash on their balance sheets than perhaps any other time previously, yet they decline to invest in anything except sure-fire revenue generation. They are not taking risks; not making moves to bring disruptive innovations to market, rather focusing on incremental innovations.

Disruptive innovations require out of the box thinking. New concepts and ways of doing things. Lateral thinking. Liberal arts degrees. Incremental innovations require slight adjustments to current thinking and hence rely on the same type of people that the company already employs.

With record-high unemployment rates, companies can extract more work from the same -- or less -- employees based on the fact there are no alternatives. Thus, the result is a stagnant system that really does need new workers. Hell, it doesn't even want them.

And the focus on financial return is at the base of the problem. If the focus is -- as it was after World War II -- on job creation, those companies would best reduce their cash holdings in favour of expansion.

However, here is where we become lost at the moment. If a company undertakes any risky strategy (ie. innovation), they will be murdered by analysts and have to face shareholders. Since the market has no confidence in growth and cannot see which direction is up, they are basically holding the entire economy hostage.

On a tangental point, if normal business was able to show value and return from capital investment, that would make the banks look even worse than they do already. God forbid that companies generate actual return from providing... value... and show the financial system for what it has become -- a parasitic infection on the economy.

But to return, that's not going to happen. Because there is a crisis in confidence. But it's not a real crisis in confidence. The crisis in confidence is that capital quite enjoys the largess of the system it's created... yet that system doesn't serve anyone outside of that system. However, by lumping the problems of capital in with the problems of labour, the assertion is made that everyone is at risk. When actually, most non-financial companies are doing just fine... and indeed could do much better if they weren't strangle-held by the problems of financial companies.

Thus, the problem of unemployment. Nobody wants to hire because they have to protect their financial numbers. If indeed there is a finite amount of capital, the net result of this is that in order for capital to maintain it's huge percentage of net worth and overall national wealth, the unemployed can't have any of it. Indeed, the reason for high unemployment is that to make those people economically active requires paying them. That money has to come from somewhere, and it has to come right out of the either personal or corporate balance sheets of those that already have it.

That is why companies cannot find employees. Because they don't want them. Rupert may blow a good ring of smoke in the air and talk about missing apprenticeships and all the rest, however the problem with that argument is that basically, none of the problems or solutions verge outside a fundamental concept -- capital transferring wealth to labour.

Perhaps the better title for the article would be "Why Companies Can't Find the Employees They Need and Maintain Their Own Largess.

That is like saying the reason I cannot find a wife is because there are not enough eligible women -- when the reality is that I cannot find a wife because I am a promiscuous dog. I expect the situation to accommodate my needs with accommodating the needs of the situation.

You cannot address fundamental problems if you are not willing to deal with the actual problem. And the actual problem of companies finding the right employees has little to do with a lack of qualified people and all to do with the fact those people require a salary, when it's nearly free to work your current people dogshit into the ground.
posted by nickrussell at 10:18 AM on October 25, 2011 [37 favorites]


Which brings us to another issue with employment in the US.

Holding unemployment as a sign the person is unemployable is one of the reasons I despise HR. My cousin-in-law, who makes what must be 6 figures in HR, was unemployed for the better part of a year. She took home more on employment insurance than I did on a working salary, and of course in conversation now that she's employed again she has told me that she still feels unemployment is a "red flag" to potential employers. I honestly don't understand how some of these people sleep at night.
posted by Hoopo at 10:19 AM on October 25, 2011 [19 favorites]


They train them and make the investment, but then someone else offers them more money and hires them away.

Employers would also have to forecast what skills they will need and start training years in advance - what if things change, or their forecast is wrong? They don't want that. Instead, 18 year-old kids right out of high school get to predict what skills employers are likely to need 4 years from when they enroll in college, and when they get it wrong, they end up with high levels of student debt that they can't pay off. This is about making employees take on more risk so companies can be more profitable.
posted by AlsoMike at 10:22 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I honestly don't understand how some of these people sleep at night.

Sleeping pills paid for by the company's prescription drug plan.
posted by Talez at 10:29 AM on October 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Overall, there is the obvious point that high unemployment rates serve capital, in a strict supply-demand process. ... That is why companies cannot find employees. Because they don't want them.

Yeah, except high unemployment rates mean your customers can't buy your shit. Henry Ford figured this out decades ago.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:31 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I honestly don't understand how some of these people sleep at night.

They are lulled to sleep by the lullaby of umpteen b-school studies reinforcing their short-sighted views.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:32 AM on October 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


For as much ass-busting as job applicants do, there seems to be a definite lack of effort on behalf of the employers to get good candidates.

That's a good point, and as an applicant and hiring manager, I've seen both sides of it frequently.

The thing I've realized is that as an applicant, your total focus (or at least your paid-employment focus) is on getting a job. As a hiring manager, your focus on finding a good candidate is like 10% of your job or whatever.

Believe me, cut hiring managers all the slack they need. That's how you get hired. ;)

Well, I'll tell ya what...if this 'on the job training' starts right after high school, and it costs me less than a 4 year degree, and the end result of x years of apprenticeship is an industry recognized achievement that allows me to move up or over to another company, that's something I might be willing to accept. Apprenticeship. But the logistics and cultural change required for something like that is never gonna happen.

Isn't that what a large majority of programmers in the 1990s did? It seems like there will be analogues. Also, plumbing, carpentry, roofing, landscaping, construction ... lots of jobs still work on an apprenticeship-style system.

He graduated from high school with an $80K/y job as a titanium welder. There's a lesson here.

Exactly.

omeone said once that managers are either Shit Fans or Shit Umbrellas

I think of myself more of a Shit Slinger. I take all the shit from above, but my reports do all the shit below.

That is why companies cannot find employees. Because they don't want them.

That's really the truth. Companies are just sitting on huge piles of cash right now.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:32 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


They don't sleep at night, it's all dusk-to-dawn coke-fuelled parties with wall-to-wall bookies and whores.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:33 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have met a number of people who are unemployed and tell me that they got laid off and then their companies turned to the govt and said they needed more green cards for foreign workers because American workers had not the skills. What they wanted of course was cheaper labor.
posted by Postroad at 10:38 AM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's a ton of wishful thinking in job listings. It's usually the flip side of more broadly dysfunctional staffing culture that ends up with tons of incompetent or ill-suited people getting hired. You can see the same thing comparing grossly unrealistic personal ads with the people the advertisers actually have a history of dating.

Still, training is a dilemma.

First, there is no effective way to recapture training costs for those whom you train and then leave for greener pastures, and in many (if not most cases), there's nothing you can do to stop that move -- people move for culture, boss-report friction, perceived (often inaccurately) promotion time tables, commuting convenience, etc., far more often than they move for money.

Second, someone without experience in the required role is going to be crap-shoot in terms of performance. Some people can be trained, some people can't. Some people who are trainable can't adopt to the rhythm, or emotional and interpersonal requirements or stresses of a position, especially the typical way that managers like to manage their reports. There is no way to predict up front who can successfully train and then successfully perform a new role.
posted by MattD at 10:39 AM on October 25, 2011


I'm often struck by the very specific requirements in job openings

I used to know someone who was a high-level HR person with Netflix, worked directly with hiring managers to fill relatively high-level positions.

She said the hiring mangers drove her and her HR colleagues crazy because they'd assemble a massive list of requirements for each position, dismiss contentions that they would be lucky to find someone who could do half the requirements, fart around after interviews to a point that people they decided to try to hire had often found work elsewhere, etc.
posted by ambient2 at 10:44 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think these positions happen because needs arise within a company, and John or Jane Employee steps up to fill those needs. Then when J. Employee leaves, suddenly the company is looking to hire one person to do everything J. Employee was doing, and oh yeah, for a few dollars an hour less since they are new. Ideally, these companies should be hiring more than one person to replace the one who left, or at very least, having other employees absorb a few of the extra responsibilities so they can hire one person to do the main job J. Employee was doing.

The job I just left was a funky combination of reporting, database administration and audit/quality analysis. I left it because it was that or have a stroke. The person they hired to replace me quit in two weeks. They're now looking to have three people do the job I did. But the whole time I was there I was treated like trash. One of them called me to fish for if I'd come back, and was unhappy to discover that my requirements for returning was to be paid at the market rate and not have the same boss as before, and an understanding that I wasn't working 80 hour weeks while everyone else left at three every day, the three things that made it a stroke waiting to happen.

I'm not getting any traction from the market, but for the past two months I haven't curled up in a ball every day and sobbed hopelessly for hours, so there's something to be said for that.
posted by winna at 10:49 AM on October 25, 2011 [23 favorites]


Sorry for the rant. Did a bunch of interviewing recently.

As someone who's occasionally on the hiring side of the table, thank you for it. It's good to hear sometimes. (Not least of all because we're closer to the good points than the bad points.)
posted by inigo2 at 10:56 AM on October 25, 2011


1a. The whole confrontational style of interviewing needs to go. I can't tell you how many interviews I walked into where the interviewer seemed hostile to me from the get-go.

I remember this one time when I was successfully interviewed by a bunch of good, likable guys, people I'd really like to work with.

Later on I discovered that I'd been hired into an org that was staffed and managed by neurotic wolverines, and that the interviewers were carefully selected for their salesmanship.

So nowadays I appreciate when an interview reflects the style and spirit of a company.
posted by Sauce Trough at 11:01 AM on October 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's interesting to hear that this is affecting other industries — I'd assumed that it was mostly because journalism's in the shitter that I see all these ads for people with ten years management experience for $14 dollars an hour. But what happens is that then employers get resumes like mine, where I use my creative writing skills to make sure that I match the qualifications that they have, no matter how abstractly.

But it's that or apply for the jobs where they think that a solid ten years writing and editing is worth $8 an hour for some marginal social media site, and I think "Honestly, I make more canvassing."
posted by klangklangston at 11:15 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]



So nowadays I appreciate when an interview reflects the style and spirit of a company.


I had an experience with this recently when I had an interrogation session a panel interview. After it was over, I was glad that I didn't get the job, and would've turned it down even if they offered one. Of course it didn't help that I had already accepted another position while they faffed around making their decision on candidates....
posted by Anima Mundi at 11:20 AM on October 25, 2011


You guys are lucky you haven't had to apply for retail jobs lately. Besides having the absolute worst internet interface ever, after a Harbor Freight application, they have a test that takes 10-30 minutes and seems determined to figure out if you smoke pot and would turn in any employees that smoke pot. At least Home Depot and the grocery store seem more concerned with theft than whether you'd turn someone in for drug use.
posted by drezdn at 11:26 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


So nowadays I appreciate when an interview reflects the style and spirit of a company.

I was involved in the interview process at my last job, when we were looking for a new webmaster. He would be attached to our very small team, so we wanted someone who would fit-in with our particular sense of humor. Once we got our candidates whittled down to a couple of possibilities, we had them in for the final interview. We through them the big question which we knew would assure us the person we wanted...

"How are you with TPS reports?"

The guy who got the job responded that he always made sure he attached the new cover sheet. Yeah...we were a fun little bunch.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:32 AM on October 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hi. CERTIFIED HR pro here...

Companies suck ass at hiring. They have no idea what to do and usually hire people who interview/present well...rather than people who would be a good fit for the position.

One of the major problems is that the employer will put up a shitty general ad on wherever with a "other related duties". The employer hopes that ey will hire someone awesome...and thy will change what they do on the job based on how management decides to change their job duties.

This is horrible. It never works, but its a current business trend...and most people who end up making hiring decisions follow that trend becausee everyone else is doing it.

So yeah...people suck at hiring. You really do need to know how to:

1. Get what your company needs and not aim for more.
2. Treat employees with respect as skilled workers rather than serfs who will do whatever you say because thjob description contains the phrase "various duties".

In fact, if you see a job description with that...just know that whoever wrote this is part of the process involved in hiring you...and part of the team that will be managing you. And they suck at being clear, concise and finding what they need.

Do you really want to work there?
posted by hal_c_on at 11:33 AM on October 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


In fact, if you see a job description with that...just know that whoever wrote this is part of the process involved in hiring you...and part of the team that will be managing you. And they suck at being clear, concise and finding what they need.

I'll add that in with the phrase "fast-paced environment." Fast-paced environment typically means "we are rather disorganized and constantly have our collective heads up our collective asses. Our lack of being prepared will necessitate an emergency on your part."
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:36 AM on October 25, 2011 [21 favorites]


What is especially ridiculous is that employers can require a college degree for just about any job and chances are good they can get someone with the credential who checks their other boxes at least nominally. This is fine when the degree comes with a particular focus and skillet, but just asking for your admin assistant to have one is ridiculous.

If I had a kid I would only send them to college if they showed a particular love and aptitude for school. Otherwise I would pay for the AA or technical certificate of their choice. I am an academic and I believe in the intangible value of a GOOD college education, but I hate to see that watered down and debased and employers are the main culprits, and I refuse to perpetuate the lie told to high schoolers that college equals opportunity and job security and the only way of making a real life for yourself. College is turning into nothing more than extended grooming and socialization for kids who are too immature to handle major responsibility. At $20K plus a year, there has to be a cheaper way that asks kids to participate in rather than being dragged and marched through their introduction to adult life.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:39 AM on October 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


The perfect employee: works for peanuts, does long hours without asking for a raise for a years, is afraid of losing his/her job, is well red and possibily college educated, is willing to go an extra mile for the company, already trained and is willing to pay additional training with _his/her_ cash, thinks you are a leader and likes you, wouldn't mind doing a quickie with you and wouldn't tell anybody, would disappear from earth if you asked nicely, would relocate to Antartica and see that as an opportunity, speaks two languages + motherlanguage, introduces you to his/her friends (similar employable people) hates the guts of unions and maybe votes republican, if the company fails it's the market (not your incompetence), would vote for you if you were to run for mayor, invites you every now and then for dinner/beer and pays the bill.

Unfortunately, that's how delusional management thinks an employee ought to be. And if you can pull up this stunt, convice the boss you are THE ONE, you either seriously need a life OR you're pulling a scam of some kind.
posted by elpapacito at 11:40 AM on October 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yeah, along with what mister said...Look for buzzwords that marketers would use to hide things.

"quick to adapt". Sounds great...but what they mean is that management will put you on a project and tell you the continued existnce of the world depends on it. Then days later they will tell you to start and finish another project that needs to be completed "yesterday".

Perhaps management should have planned better...but they consider this to be "nature of business" rather than fault with their own management.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:43 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought the article sounded pretty reasonable, as far as any WSJ article can, anyway. Until I got to this bit:
Bring back aspects of apprenticeship: In this arrangement, apprentices are paid less while they are mastering their craft—so employers aren't paying for training and a big salary at the same time. Accounting firms, law firms and professional-services firms have long operated this way, and have made lots of money off their young associates.
The author is clearly talking out of their ass here. Yes, big accounting and law firms make a mint off their associates. They also pay big bucks relative to the jobs most of their early-career peers will have. That's part of why people put up with the shit involved in having one of those jobs.

At least in the accounting world in the US, even the interns get paid more per hour than I make from some of my clients.

All that is to say that the author doesn't know his or her ass from a hole in the ground, and therefore all this talk about the article is pretty much pointless.
posted by wierdo at 11:47 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just had this conversation with my dad, who was a truck mechanic for a very large company for 30-odd years before retiring last year. The main problems were that applicants couldn't do math and they couldn't pass the drug tests. Here in Milwaukee, 30-40% of kids don't finish high school. Only 30% of 10th graders are proficient in math. [The poverty rate here is also 30%, which is no surprise.] It's not that you need to learn calculus to drive or fix a truck, but you do have to know how to problem solve, and in his experience many of the applicants couldn't even do that.
posted by desjardins at 11:51 AM on October 25, 2011


The loyalty thing has been going on a long time. Back when AT&T split up, I remember getting a company newsletter with a couple of editorials in it. One explained that nobody's job was safe and we should all have our resumes updated. The other berated the employees for not showing more loyalty to the corporation...
posted by Karmakaze at 11:54 AM on October 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


Working for that employer was the closest I've ever come to really believing in capitalism, and the only time I'd ever seen self-interest pursued in a benevolent way.

Rara avis, sadly.
posted by elpapacito at 11:57 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Back when AT&T split up, I remember getting a company newsletter with a couple of editorials in it. One explained that nobody's job was safe and we should all have our resumes updated. The other berated the employees for not showing more loyalty to the corporation...

That's sadly believable. We really live in a fucked world.
posted by glaucon at 12:05 PM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I remember my grandfather explaining that years ago there was a tax on corporate revenues over $1 million at 90%, unless that money was re-invested in the company. So they used that money on R&D, hiring, and benefits. I think that's what we really need.

but nope.
posted by hellojed at 12:14 PM on October 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


>> This is also why there are military contracts, enforceable by jail. "Sure, we'll spend millions training you to be a fighter pilot or a helicopter technician. But you owe us X years, and if you don't hold up your end of the bargain, you'll spend time in the joint."

And when the military or corporation does not hold up their end of the contract? "It's just business." No mechanism of enforcement to hold them to their obligations because the system is rigged to favor might-makes-right. You can enter a court of law to engage in a decade long war of attrition, if you choose, but ultimately you will end up ground to dust. That's America.
posted by Lon Mem at 12:22 PM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I remember going to a temp/recruiter type place a few years ago in DC and one of the questions they asked was how would I feel if part of my job were getting coffee for the management and such other tasks. I said it wouldn't bother me to do that. The interviewer stopped me right there and said that I'd made a mistake. I should say how excited i'd be to do that, instead. Then she ended the interview. Not the right material for her.

How in the hell can anyone answer a question like that with "OH MAN?!?!?!? SERIOUSLY? THE JOB LET'S YOU DO THAT?!?!?!", which is what she seemed to want.
posted by josher71 at 12:30 PM on October 25, 2011 [28 favorites]


How in the hell can anyone answer a question like that with "OH MAN?!?!?!? SERIOUSLY? THE JOB LET'S YOU DO THAT?!?!?!", which is what she seemed to want.

Maybe I'm an ass. But I've thrown that back into an interviewer's face before. Should a janitor be excited about cleaning shit? Should a computer repair tech be excited about fixing an ID10T error? Should a barista be excited because someone ordered a Caramel Latte half-caf soy milk no whip at 120 degrees?

Get the fuck out.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:37 PM on October 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


josher71, I think the perfect response would have been, "I'll even bring my own knee pad."
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:42 PM on October 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


Bring back aspects of apprenticeship: In this arrangement, apprentices are paid less while they are mastering their craft—so employers aren't paying for training and a big salary at the same time. Accounting firms, law firms and professional-services firms have long operated this way, and have made lots of money off their young associates.

Did anyone else notice that the aspects of apprenticeship he's advocating seem to benefit only one of the entities involved in the deal?
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:53 PM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Josher71 touches on something I've seen in interviews: An expectation of rabid zeal for the company and all tasks... and I've met people who seem to have that mindset.

It's like they're working for the world's greatest employer and the company makes a $5 device that turns urine into gasoline, donates 90 percent of its profit to charity.

It's hard for me to get my mind around that. Understood that there are times when one needs to play up the enthusiasm, fake it 'til you make it and all that, but there's a realm that seems to go far, far, far further.

I get that employers want enthusiastic employees who work hard (or at least employees who don't have crappy attitudes, make reasonable efforts), but friends, former colleagues and I have encountered more than a few potential employers that come across as having expectations a million miles beyond that.
posted by ambient2 at 12:56 PM on October 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


tell wall street journal what- i am so into the concept of prenticing out new cube slaves before the mast as long as we get to unionize. i would be fucking giddy if my cube-slaving self could be in a bomb ass union.
posted by beefetish at 1:30 PM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


former colleagues and I have encountered more than a few potential employers that come across as having expectations a million miles beyond that.

In my hometown I did a lot of temping and government "casual contracts" which were at most 3 months long with a possible renewal. On the 2nd renewal they would have to reclassify you as "temporary", which I think meant up to a year and you'd get some additional benefits.

When I had these jobs, I would keep looking for work since the roles I was in were by nature temporary. When an interview would come up, I wouldn't feel bad talking about it at work, because whatever, you're not committing, are you? Booking time off for one on a random morning or afternoon, I would even tell my managers so if they asked "what kind of appointment?"

I stopped doing that, because my temp coworkers and managers all thought I was nuts to be so open about looking for work while at work. We were all temps; there was no prospect of getting full time work out of these jobs. I mean, how is a manager dealing with temps going to get high and mighty about that? What bizarre sense of entitlement is it that makes you think I have to commit to you but you don't have to commit to me?
posted by Hoopo at 1:37 PM on October 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


"Sure, we'll spend millions training you to be a fighter pilot or a helicopter technician. But you owe us X years, and if you don't hold up your end of the bargain, you'll spend time in the joint."

Unless your daddy's name is George Herbert Walker Bush. There's an exemption for that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:46 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


What bizarre sense of entitlement is it that makes you think I have to commit to you but you don't have to commit to me?

That's working in America today in a nutshell, though.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:20 PM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is a better solution : End the impediments to starting small companies, like patents trolls, non-compete agreements, etc. Prosecute anti-competitive behavior. Break up oligopolies like Verizion and AT&T, Walmat and Target, etc. Provide a safety net for entrepreneurs, like maybe a basic income. And convince all the experienced competent people to quite their jobs to start their own company, competing with their previous employers or not. I.e. pro-labor spin on Galt's Gulch.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:35 PM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've done time as an HR Manager in 3 companies in the past 20 years. I've sold my soul to Corporate, played their games, walked that very fine line between acceptable hiring practices and discrimination, worked the obligatory 60-hour weeks, cooked a 6 course meal for visiting execs in the small company kitchen with 30 minutes notice, came in on weekends, stayed until 6:30pm to "show my commitment to the company", crawled under desks to fix the videocon wearing a pencil skirt and heels while the execs sat impatiently waiting for the transmission to get clear, re-sent emails to the same people over and over explaining policy x, y and z, gleefully played Bullshit Bingo, made 6 bowls of popcorn for the General Manager's weekly meeting using one microwave (with 3 minutes notice), cried at my desk 642 times, hauled out files from the offsite storage unit in a pencil skirt and heels, escorted fired employees to their car, making sure to take back the 2 boxes of client files they "mistakenly" took. I earned decent money, had good benefits and perks.

Checked into rehab following the inevitable nervous breakdown.

I now work for a startup located 5 miles from home in a rustic, bucolic farmhouse, wear jeans, collaborate with industry veterans and laugh at my desk. All for the bargain basement salary of $350/week (gross), with no benefits. I wouldn't trade it for anything, as my sanity is more precious to me than toting the corporate line.
posted by sundrop at 3:51 PM on October 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


I now work for a startup located 5 miles from home in a rustic, bucolic farmhouse, wear jeans, collaborate with industry veterans and laugh at my desk. All for the bargain basement salary of $350/week (gross), with no benefits. I wouldn't trade it for anything, as my sanity is more precious to me than toting the corporate line.
Awesome.
posted by nickrussell at 4:04 PM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Were the pencil skirt and heels mandatory? Because I think you'd have grounds for violating worker safety if they were. (Seriously, heels can be bad for your health.)
posted by jb at 5:24 PM on October 25, 2011


There is a better solution : End the impediments to starting small companies, like patents trolls, non-compete agreements, etc.

Here, here! I'm caught under a non-compete and am currently feeling hindered by fear of patent trolls--so sounds good to me! I've long wanted to start my own company (in part so I could try to be a better kind of boss than a few I've had in my day), but I've been feeling more like Milton than Peter for so long now, I'm not sure I've still got the piss and vinegar in me anymore (plus, baby girl coming)... Still, sounds good to me.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:49 PM on October 25, 2011


You know what fixes this? Good pay and benefits, with a health dose of loyalty to your employees.

The tone-deafness of some employers(big and small) with regard to loyalty is shocking. Right now I'm working for a guy who has me (inappropriately) classified as an independent contractor, who pays me an hourly rate that's less than 20% of what he bills my time at to client, but you know what, he's going to be livid whenever I leave, because I'm not showing "loyalty."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:29 AM on 10/25
[34 favorites −] Favorite added! [Flagged]

I too have a time in 1099-ville in my past. I was disposed of like used tissue, despite the fact my efforts resulted in $5 million in profit for him.

It would also not hurt my feelings if employers would please chill out on dress codes. Some company policies are way too nit-picky. The same people who write these things don't want to be regulated.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:49 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The worst job listing I ever saw was at a law school, teaching an ethics class to students for precisely one month. It required a bachelor's degree in philosophy. Yes, that's the most specific degree requirement I ever saw, for a MONTH'S worth of work.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:31 PM on October 25, 2011


They are lulled to sleep by the lullaby of umpteen b-school studies reinforcing their short-sighted views.

You need to read the Harvard Business Review more. As often as not it sounds like it is put out by an organization called "Occupy Ivy League".

Here's the most well know example I can think of. And in the November issue is a "wake up an smell the cat food"type article about open source hardware and product hacking.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:41 PM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd love it if anyone wrote an Occupy Business School post listing more articles like those, Kid Charlemagne.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:44 PM on October 25, 2011


I have enjoyed reading these hiring and firing stories, even the bad ones. I only have this one from the time I thought I could work in sales.

I had been working and getting trained for about three months when two directors called me to a meeting and almost straight away asked me why I thought I should be paid more than the young woman who had been training me and who was easily twice as good at the job than I was. They leaned forward in their chairs summing it up for me, "She is our star performer, so why do you think you should be paid more than her."

I should have felt ambushed at that point but I didn't, I just felt like I'd worked something out; so I gave them a bemused look and then looked up and off to my left because I was remembering something, and then looking right back at them I said, "Your star performer cries for ten minutes almost every day; just after you guys finish up and leave the office."

It was bit weird at the time to see their reaction because I was a lot younger than them. I kind of wanted them to respond in some way but they shrank and folded under my gaze. I realized right away that they didn't really want to have to see me again.

Awkward!

Hey Kid Charle you aren't wrong about Harvard. How about this from a Harvard Blog. Marx was right. http://blogs.hbr.org/haque/2011/09/was_marx_right.html

What is up with that?
posted by vicx at 12:22 AM on October 26, 2011


If folks have good hiring and firing stories that they don't mind fleshing out a bit, the MeFi Mag (check my profile for submission link) would love to have them.
posted by klangklangston at 1:00 AM on October 26, 2011


What's up with that is that a dynamic but well regulated business landscape that follows some sort of middle path between a bloated and unresponsive central planning bureaucracy and Lord of the Flies only with suits and overpriced wrist watches is probably more efficient at generating wealth than either of the extremes.

Unfortunately, business culture seems to have embraced the notion that if a little is good then more is better and that with a goal and a plan, all things can be achieved. From there it's only a few steps until you have to forgo the ability to have a nuanced view of anything, and that even acknowledging the notion of the complex and unpredictable is somehow defeatist. Pretty soon the willful confusion of style and substance is de rigeur and huge swaths of your corporation are spending their days building a big control tower and radar dish out of bamboo so that the sky spirit will bless you with cargo.

I'm not sure when it started, but you could make money off of its practitioners since the mid-eighties.

In related news, I so want one of these, only I want the text to be a little more Sisyphian in nature and the ball to be made out of a hardened tool steel.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:13 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Were the pencil skirt and heels mandatory? Because I think you'd have grounds for violating worker safety if they were. (Seriously, heels can be bad for your health.)
Nope. There's been a lot of go round on some of the legal blogs I read about heel height requirements for female attorneys, and they're always held up as legal.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:06 AM on October 26, 2011


Is the heel requirement explicit, or implicit? And if it's implicit, what if all women defied it at once?

Maybe we need some female solidarity on business clothes.
posted by jb at 10:35 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


jb, I love high heels, but I, too, am amazed at how what is essentially fetishwear is considered mandatory.

Law Firm Accused of Being ‘Mad Men’ Throwback - Requiring Heels, Then Discriminating After Injury

However, it seems that, like forcing an employee to sit at a desk for 8 hours, forcing them to wear high heels is not violating any OSHA rules or sexual discrimination law.

After a quick search, it seems like the case Harper v. Blockbuster Entertainment ruled that different dress codes for men and women were not discriminatory.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:54 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


After a quick search, it seems like the case Harper v. Blockbuster Entertainment ruled that different dress codes for men and women were not discriminatory.

I can't decide if this makes me unreasonably angry, or reasonably angry. Either way, that's a bunch of bullshit.
posted by josher71 at 11:03 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


fwiw, i know a lot of lawyers, some at huge firms, and none of them work at places where high heels are required. (most) lawyers aren't stupid.

I'm pretty sure it's mostly an implicit requirement now, i.e. there's no dress code, but if you want to make the right impression ...

I know it's just the way it is, but I always shake my head when I see a group of young business/legal professionals walking together down the street--the men in sharp, expensive suits with sensible dress shoes; the women tottering down the street in a shortish skirt and 3- or 4-inch heels. The ridiculousness of it would be laughable if I didn't empathize with those young women.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:45 PM on October 26, 2011


to correct, there certainly are dress codes at law firms, but they generally don't require high heels these days. ime.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:46 PM on October 26, 2011


My worst job search story:

I applied for a librarian position at an independent law school. They told me I had to do a personality interview with a contracting company. So okay, I was down with that.

I got the interview call. I was told that the interviewer couldn't give me any more detail about the question, but could repeat the question for me. The interview started off with your standard interview questions-- How would you describe your personality? Are you a team player, or do you prefer to work individually?-- but every now and then, they'd slip something completely irrelevant and odd in there. "Who do you admire more, your mother or your father?" Gradually the irrelevant questions became more personal, to where I would answer "I'm not comfortable answering that question," and we'd move on.

When they asked "How did your parents discipline you as a child?" I started freaking out. Then we had the following exchange:

Them: Do you have experience in sales?
Me: No. (and how is this relevant for a law librarian job anyway?)
Them: Describe your sales experience.
Me: I said I have no sales experience.
Them: Describe your sales experience.
Me: I told you, I--
Them: Describe your sales experience.
Me: This interview is over. *click*

I figured it was one of those interviews where they'd push at you until you snapped, to see where your breaking point was. But then I got a message from the school-- "What happened? They said you didn't finish the interview. What went wrong?" It didn't sound like they were trying to break me. I have no idea what that was intended to do.

I figured that if they were into making people feel that uncomfortable, even though the contracting company was doing it for them, I didn't want to work there. I wasn't that desperate.
posted by cereselle at 3:37 PM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Sounds like standard replicant test protocol, nothing unusual there.

I mean: you're not helping! Why is that, Leon?
posted by formless at 6:14 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


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