Monday, September 28, 2009

Today's Observation in Labor Economics

From a poster at SDA;

"the MAJOR workplace flaw I encountered in my ENTIRE working life was the reprehensible practice of demanding years and years of experience. jeezuz murphy, I even remember an interview in the late 80s. they wanted 3 yrs experience on the IBM AS 400. which had only been around for 3 years. in other words, to get that particular yob I had to be in an organization that, wait for it, picked up the 400 the moment it became available.

whut utter insanity. how in blazes does *anyone* get a god$%#m job anywhere in the face of this absurdity?

I have pondered this more than any single work related question. an unsolvable catch-22. I guess my handicap was I didn't get picked to clean the blackboards in grade 2 so that I could get picked to collect the assignments in grade 3 so that I could get picked to hand them out in grade 4 so that I could get picked in grade 8 to help the school photographer and on and on and on.

its like the kids in developing countries that desperately need to get into the 'right' primary school in order to line up their post sec. education and get that career path started. otherwise a failure in life by the age of 5."

You see, I like to think that I am not this cold hearted, evil, indifferent guy whose ass has been pampered by his rich parents who thusly scoffs at the plebs and the serfs for not trying hard enough as he has a full ride to Yale and a job guaranteed for him by Uncle Bernie Madoff. That I have seen enough corporate nepotism and BS to know that for the most part, you can advocate capitalism, but that pure, unfettered capitalism will still have its drawbacks, namely connected cronies and spoiled brat daddy's children will get the good jobs while those more deserving won't, and as a result, society will suffer as the entire corporate sector is a mere fraction of its potential efficiency. Ergo why, despite being a capitalist, I rail against the ineptitude and corruption of corporate America.

Regardless, the "how can I get the job when nobody will give me the experience" paradox is just more empirical proof of how the upper echelons of corporate America are reserved for the elites and connected of this nation.

Additionally, my personal favorite (when I was foolish enough to try to apply to Fortune 500 corporations) was when they required "X years experience working for a Fortune 50 corporation."

Oh no, they wouldn't accept 20 years experience working at a solid, small time manufacturer.

Oh no, you won't worth the paper you were printed on if you were so foolish to accept employment at a small time start up or a well established local firm.

No, you *MUST* have had 5+ years experience working for Corning or Dow or whatever other East Coast crony outfit your daddy lined a job up for you for.

In the end, and hopefully this is some consolence to you, these corporate entities will hire such inept and incompetent people that inevitably they will be ran into the ground. That is of course unless they are bailed out by the taxpayer like;

Goldman Sachs
Merrill Lynch
Morgan Stanley
Bear Sterns

Well, never mind. I guess the larger point is that you must realize the "Fortune 500" are really more private clubs than any real entity interested in hiring the best talent. So if you treat them like taxpayer subsidized country clubs, at least it makes a little more sense and you're not foolish enough to actually try to apply to those corporations.


Anonymous said...

I love watching twenty-somethings btich & moan about finding a job right away. It just proves that corporate America is right about filtering out college graduates who know only what they were told in class.

My best employees were hired either through friends of mine, or were filtered through a face-to-face interview process.

Marty Andrade said...

(I know the Captain hates sports, but I think he'll excuse me for this)

In baseball, it used to be considered a sound strategy to spend lots of money on "experienced" veterans. Old school managers were always skeptical of young players.

Of course, it turns out young, inexperienced players had the same value to winning as the older veterans. Sometimes more. More importantly, the young guns were cheap.

I see the same revolution happening in business eventually. Bob Macdonald (google him) was ceo of LifeUSA and made the decision not to hire "experienced" resumes; instead he hired people with "something to prove"

The rest is history, MacDonald is worth more money than all the readers of this blog combined (and that's not meant as an insult).

When you hire an experienced fancy pants resume guy, what are you getting? An expert brown-noser, politics player, CYA master? Someone who never takes chances, never makes big mistakes but is basically milquetoast when it comes to the business world.

Who wants that?

Find someone willing to take chances, has something to prove, and has potential. Someone who wants to work hard because he's one of those young capitalists who wants to make money by making money, not but building nice sounding resume titles.

Could the young guy be any worse than hiring The Nice Suit Guy?

Anonymous said...

I've seen this sort of thing before in technical fields where people are required to have absurd amounts of experience. Mostly, I figured that this is inept HR departments trying to get the best of any particular field, not realizing exactly what the job entails.

The sad thing about the corporate nepotism is that it introduces politics into what would normally (and should be) a politics-free work environment. True capitalism would be a meritocracy where companies would always select the best candidate for a position regardless.

geoih said...

Save us from the ignorance of 'human resources departments'!

One more example of why only the political elite would sincerely use the term "too big to fail".

If a firm is failing, then that is evidence it is too big, and should fail.

Anonymous said...

hah. Yeah, I remeber that sort of crap well.

"Wanted. Engineering/Science Phd with 10 years experience in advanced X, also "certified" experience in Y, Z and Q."

I remeber that advert: I did the math. Start college at 18, Ugrad in 4 years, MSc. + Phd I'd guessing 5 years, minimum probably 6.

That means your're 28 when you graduate. 10 years experience, 38yo

And by the way the specific experience they were asking for was non-trivial and not exactly related to the usual run of skills a Research Phd in sciences might randomly pick up on the way. So in that 10 years of experience you expect to spend 2-4 years actually studying FT/PT to know that stuff.

Oh yes and the salary was "meh" - not enough to support a family comfortably in any most metro areas.

I posted that ad in the graduate office area where I was studying, finished my MScE, never went on to a Phd and left the field. I know I wasn't the only one.

But "we a have shortage of qualified scientists and engineers"

No shit? Really?

We have a vast surplus of underqualified politicians and nasty lawyers.

You get what you pay for.

EarlW said...

It's more a symptom of the large inefficient corporation. They miss out on the people who don't fit their specific requirements. Those people find smaller, more flexible companies to work for, giving the large corporation some competition.

I look at job criteria as a kind of discrimination. If you are looking for a cook, and advertise for skills which are too specific, you will miss candidates who may be better (but don't meet the requirements).

I saw this often in the past. Many companies demanded a degree, something I never achieved. I may have been more capable, but I didn't bother to apply.

S. Harvey said...

Want to know how to get experience when you don't have any?

Swallow your pride and start at the bottom.

Sure you may have the smarts and education to do the job you want, you can't blame the company for not wanting to take a big risk on an unproven individual.

I know it may be crazy, but think of your education as a prerequisite, its mandatory but isn't a reflection of your ability to do the next course (job).

The world isn't fair. I know it sucks, but thats the way it is.

Anonymous said...

Overly stringent job requirements could be a sign of something else - the company already knows who it wants for the job but is forced to go through "the process" anyway.

The Canadian Public Service is famous for this. If you are up for a promotion, your department is forced to run a job competition. It's usually restricted to governement employees but not always. Sometimes if someone "better" is found the competition is canceled, the requirements are re-written and a new competition is scheduled. That's why many of the job competitions will typically list at least one requirement that only the pre-selected candidate posseses.

Bill Gilles said...

I have experienced this from both sides - as an applicant perfectly qualified for a job that required 5 more years experience than I had been out of college - and as the corporate shill (only a Fortune 1000 company :-) helping the HR person put together a job description.

The HR guy is playing god - creating the perfect, best fit, most productive employee possible... on paper.

As an applicant I learned the power of discounting. When the job description says 2 years experience - they mean zero. 5 years really means 2, 10 years is actually 3-5, and 20 years is more like 10.

Anonymous said...

At a time when it was mandated that a hiring manager had to offer the job to the "first qualified candidate to apply" it became common to inflate the stated requirements. Since none of the applicants met the stated requirements, the manager was free to pick the one he felt was most qualified. So an effort to preclude racial or other bias produced (surprise!) an unexpected side effect. Good old law of unintended consequences.

Anonymous said...

"S. Harvey said...
Want to know how to get experience when you don't have any?

Swallow your pride and start at the bottom. "

True enough, but we were talking about getting those bottom jobs and trying to move up.

Aside from which have you ever as an over qualified candidate tried to get a bottom rank job because you are desperate. they won;lt hire you for that either, unless you pretend to be less qualfied.

Robert of Ottawa said...

Yes, I have been painfully aware of the "no experience thus no job" dilemna. Also, I understand the impossible request to have four years experience in an arena that has only been around for three years. I have formulated two points:

1) An impossible job posting will be filled by a friend/relative of the poster.

2) Lie.

Dr. Bob said...

I've been in the computer/IT business for 30 years. This overstated job requirements crap is common for jobs at every level of the business.

I love the ones that want 5 years experience working with a technology that has only been around for 2 or 3 years. It's just crazy.

What they are looking for is an ideal someone they don't have to train at all and come in a solve all their problems. This person doesn't exist, never has and never will. Damn fools, they are if they don't realize this. They also don't seem to understand that if they actually find someone with that skill and experience, that person will be extremely expensive.

All you can do with that game is apply for it anyway, stress related experience in that technology or similar technologies and emphasize that you're able to quickly and independently self-learn what you need to know.

And experience in a large company is also highly overrated. In a large company, you will most likely specialize in a particular skill, but you usually won't grow a wide variety of skills. In a small company, you learn to be a generalist e.g. you might do the roles of programmer, system administrator and network administrator.

By the way, I was an operating systems programmer/engineer for the AS/400 and its predecessor products. Some of my code is still in use in the current IBM i product.

Milton Hayek said...

I see this as a sign of complacency, and hence a sign of either prosperity ("we can afford to be extremely, irrationally picky in our hiring") or a sign of too little competition in the market. If the latter, I suspect government involvement (regulations, subsidies, licensing, SOMETHING) making the industry less competitive.

In short, I don't see it as a sign of a too-free market. If competitors, who hire sensibly, aren't popping up to smoke these boobs, something is wrong and it ain't the free market.

Anonymous said...

I think you made your own point at the end of the article. The older big companies want brown nosers that will tow the company line. These type of companies do not last very long, without a government bailout.Check out John Delorean`s book, On A Clear Day You Can See General Motors, for an example of a rotting company. The smaller companies attract people that are young, innovative, and hungry. That is what a small company requires to grow larger and increase profits.
In summary, a large stagnant company wants to hire bureaucrats and cronies. A growing company wants to hire thinkers and innovators. You would not have lasted very long in the culture of a Fortune 500 company.

Ian said...

There's one of these running locally right now, looking for a pump mechanic for a supplier of pumps to public utility waste water plants.

Kicker is 'Waste water I or II' certs preferred.

Interestingly enough, you can only get this cert AS a Public Utility employee. Guess how often Public employee children get part time jobs in plants just long enough to get certs.

RSP said...

I often share your basic outlook, Captain. But for God's sake, get one of those cute girls on the margin to edit your copy. Alternatively, attach a buzzer to your keyboard that sounds whenever a sentence exceeds 100 words. And do play along with the farce known as "standard punctuation".

Incidentally, I realize that a blogger must be under a lot of pressure to get something, anything, out every day. I don't think I could do it. In fact, I know I couldn't do it. Those who do it well, like Mark Stein, probably have a full-time staff to help them. So I think I appreciate the difficulty of the task you've set for yourself. Still, on a slow day when no charts have led to a penetrating insight, I'd resist depending too much on spontaneity. It's a much overrated virtue, particularly in writing.

Mambo Bananapatch said...

RSP, it's "Steyn". For God's sake don't make mistakes when you're chastising somebody for their mistakes. Nice spontaneity though.

RSP said...

I think my criticism of the Captain remains valid, as does your criticism of me. Do you agree?