The insider's edge on job search & hiring™

Monthly archive for June 2008

Those pesky women in the coal mine

Women just keep causing trouble. You can’t figure them out, no matter how much you try. They just wanna have fun. They want a degree. They want a good job. They want respect. They want to earn as much as men. They want kids. They want to break the glass ceiling. They want corporate life to not suck. They want power. They want mentoring. They want time for their families. They want men who make a lot of money so they can hang loose. They want to go back to good jobs after having kids. They want equal treatment. They can’t stand stupid men. They can’t stand stupid women. They cause a lotta trouble. Jiminy, you can’t live with ’em and you can’t… make sense of the corporate world when you realize women are the canaries in the corporate coal mine, and we’re all being gassed

Every couple of years somebody (usually a woman) does a study that shows women are leaving the corporate world for some reason. Duh.

Computerworld recently reported on the Athena Factor, a Harvard study about women at work. Even better, after readers chimed in, Computerworld editor Don Tennant laid into Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s study in an article titled, The Bigger Question. (Kudos, Don.) And, jumpin’ Jehosophat, I was taken back to the same topic — different studies, different names, same women — that I covered in Are Maverick Women to Blame? a few years ago.

Gratuitous Harvard studies with gratuitous conclusions offered by gratuitous Female Spokespersons For The Fair Sex are about as useful as Crap Written by Men to Justify Corporate Crap. Gimme a break.

What’s the most fun stuff in Tennant’s article and in Maverick Women Fire Back? The comments from women writing in: the canaries in the coal mine. Except these canaries flew the coop.

The salary dog

James Maguire at Datamation (the oldest IT publication this side of a PDP-11 manual) pointed me to and asked what I think of this new web site that gathers and reports salary information in the information technology industry. His article is a fun read: IT Salaries: Glassdoor Reveals Tech Pay Figures.

This web site — funded by Benchmark Capital and run by guys from places like Expedia who oughta know better — collects tech-industry salary information from anyone who submits it. Maguire didn’t tell me this, but I heard a rumor that every morning a dog appears at with a note in its mouth, and is promptly fed, stroked, and sent back out to fetch more data…

Come on, guys. This is ridiculous. But I’ll bite. Having information about who’s earning what at which companies could be useful, as long as you don’t let it effectively cap your own worth. Of course, needs to make it over one big hurdle: Is the salary information it publishes legit?

Maguire asks this one question every which way, and my hat is off to the guy for keeping a straight face. And here’s a sample of the answers he got:

“We’ve got a bunch of technical and procedural mechanisms to vet the data.” When pressed, one of the founders demurs, “We’re not really talking about the specifics that we’re using.” (Cough-cough.)

Even Ambrose Bierce, owner of a recipe once more closely guarded than the formula for Coca Cola, revealed more than that, in Oil of Dog.

Let’s continue: Read more

You’ll pay to quit this job

Sometimes I think I’ve heard it all, but this employer puts a new spin on respecting the job candidate

This week’s Ask The Headhunter Newsletter generated a lot of sharp comments via e-mail, as well as many requests that I post it on the blog. I’m glad to oblige. (The newsletter is free, but it’s not archived online, so only subscribers receive it.)

A reader’s story:

I’ve applied for a job in the $80K-$90K range. I’ve learned that the company in question had high turnover in the past few years because they took advantage of their employees. Now, they claim to have changed. But, in a phone interview, I was told the job required a 50-70 hour work week, plus on-call duties for some weekends. I’m scheduled for a 3.5-hour interview, and I just received the e-mail below from the recruiter. This is the first time I have ever heard of something like this, and I have to say makes me feel uneasy.

“I wanted to give you a heads-up on something, should you receive a job offer from XYZ company. I know that you have not received an offer YET, but I do like to let all of my XYZ candidates know about this during their interviewing process.

“XYZ company has all of their new employees sign an agreement to stay for at least 18 months. This is because of the importance of their projects and contracts and because of the investment from their part with new employees and training and so on. They have everyone sign an agreement to stay for at least 18 months. If you do decide to leave before then, you are required to pay a small percentage of the fee that they paid to the recruiter for your hiring. The percentage lessens each month and the longer that you stay with them, the less you have to pay if you decide to leave. Unfortunately, this is becoming more common among employers.

“However, our recruiting firm has our own guarantee and we will cover you up to two months (60 days). Therefore, if you happen to decide to leave before your 60 days is up, then you are not required to pay anything. Does that make sense? The HR manager will discuss all of these details IF they decide to extend an offer to you. This is usually not a problem for my candidates, as most people will not accept an offer if they do not plan on staying for at least 18 months, and you still have that 60 day period that my firm covers.”

Have you ever heard of such a requirement before accepting a job offer? This does not sound very good to me.

Read more

Does someone have to wipe your hiney?

There’s dirty work, dirty code (ask any good programmer), dirty logic, dirty clothing (urgh, you smell — no job offer!), but perhaps the most pervasive dirty is dirty talk and dirty language. Healthy words exhibiting bad behavior. Foul usage. Incorrect grammar. Poor spelling. Wrong pronouns when nouns just wanna be right.

It all makes you look stupid, inept, less than stellar (who wants to hire anyone less than stellar?), mediocre, on the fat part of the curve where imbeciles, lousy writers, and sloppy speakers dominate the business world.

And Lordy help you if your boss blunders through the English language like your superior.

The worst is the manager who swears, “It’s the quality of your ideas that counts, not the way you say it!” And maybe the worst manager is the principal at my kids’ school who told me, “We don’t bother with spelling here. Nobody can spell. That’s what the world has spell checkers for.”

Every time I’ve had to re-write a co-worker’s report, or clean up the run-on sentences in a business proposal my boss wrote, or apologize to a client when my employee misused some pronouns (“Her and me went to the meeting last week.”), I feel like I’ve gotta wash my hands because I just wiped somebody’s hiney.

The first person who posts a sincere excuse or rationalization for poor use of language on this blog is gonna find 30 pounds worth of Webster’s Unabridged in their bed when they wake up… Read more

Getting your butt kicked?

In an effort to make recruiting and hiring more rational, objective, logical, impartial, non-discriminatory (now, there’s a word that’s been bastardized: it used to mean keen, discerning, judicious), dispassionate, and fair… companies have learned to administer tests…

What’s the deal with these profile tests some companies are using? The ones where they ask the same question several times by changing the wording around. How are they used to determine if a candidate’s profile matches? Are they just a way of weeding out candidates who answer certain questions the wrong way? As a hiring manager, the only way I know of to see if a candidate’s profile matches is to actually talk to the person. Something that HR recruiters seem to want to avoid.

These tests are merely correlational. They don’t predict anything. They are based on responses of a known population, to which a job candidate’s responses are compared. The population is broken into sub-groups, and each sub-group is defined based on its responses and other known characteristics. For example, if a candidate’s responses correlate highly with responses from base subjects who are known to be lazy, for example (I’m exaggerating here), then the candidate is assumed to be lazy. Or, the candidate’s responses might correlate with a sub-group that is defined as architects. If you respond like an architect, then you are considered to be like architects.
Is that enough to judge a candidate? Of course not. While certain correlational information can be useful, it is certainly not sufficient to make or break a hiring decision.
Like you said, you have to talk to the person. My concern is, HR weeds out candidates based on these tests before a manager ever talks to them. All in an effort to be fair, objective, and impartial — and to avoid talking to people and judging them. How many good candidates are falling through the cracks as a result? It’s scary.

Go talk to people. It still works. The competition is doing it, because the competition isn’t worried about fair, objective, or impartial. It’s thinking only about kicking your company’s butt.

This might help: Employment Tests: Get an edge.

Coveted, lucrative, and rare

The question on every job hunter’s lips is, “How do I make myself stand apart?” It’s a good question because it seems every joker and his sister apply for every job posted on the Net. The competition isn’t just stiff — it’s voluminous. How does a good worker rise above the sea of mediocrity?

You won’t like my answer, because it’s not an instant solution. It takes time to become one of the precious few who stand out.

How would you like to be known as coveted, lucrative, and rare? That’s the title of an Electronic Engineering Times article by R. Colin Johnson, and it reveals three important guideposts for how to make employers beg you to work for them.

Johnson’s article discusses analog engineering. This discipline was the core of the electronics field for decades. The circuits engineers designed prior to the 1980’s were primarily analog electronics. Think about volume controls and tubes in old FM radios; heaters in toasters; the motor driving a table saw. As digital technology exploded on the scene in the 1980’s, college engineering programs started cranking out digital engineers, and there has been a dearth of analog engineers since. The result is that good analog engineers are now almost priceless. So much for “not being cutting-edge,” eh?

Like I’ve always said, it doesn’t matter what’s hot; what matters is how hot you are. Read more

Investor’s Business Daily: Advertorial heaven

A few years ago, I wrote an edition of my newsletter that I still stand behind: Job-board Journalism: Selling out the American job hunter. The article revealed how major news outlets, like the Wall Street Journal and the cartel of newspapers that bought out CareerBuildercompromise their editorial integrity to earn big cash from job boards. Simply, these newspapers started publishing advertising in the guise of news articles to get people to use their jobs services. We know this stuff as advertorials. Its purpose is to get you to buy something — not to provide you with the balanced reporting you’d expect from a paper like the Journal.

Examples of this compromised reporting include articles about how to optimize your use of job boards (implying you should be spending more time on the publisher’s jobs pages), and “news” about how people win jobs — on the job boards. When you read this stuff, don’t be lulled into submission to an ad just because it says Wall Street Journal on it. The job boards are surrounded by articles from “experts” who are little more than carny barkers inviting you into a tent where you’ll be fleeced by a real expert.

Now, I’ve got nothing against advertising, as long as it’s clearly presented as advertising. You can plainly see that I run GoogleAds on this blog and on my web site to offset my costs. The ads are clearly identified, and although I actively block the biggest, baddest career sites, you’ll still find ads from companies I’d never endorse. Until you’re willing to pay for what I write, I’m content having that “Ads by Google” line drawn on the page between the advertising and my writing.

But, when respected news outlets prostitute their brands and pimp their news articles to make them behave like advertising in the shadow of their news banner, I get really bugged. Read more

Occam’s Razor slashes You

What’s the job hunting approach everyone can use? Start with Occam’s Razor, and you’ll find it. A reader asks: 

In all the muck and quagmire of “Internet advice” for the jobless, your bits of wisdom shine like flecks of silver. My question: How does an early middle-aged, twice-careered (both in service industry management), with a recent graduate degree in Economics best market one’s self?

Thanks for your kind words. It’s not about marketing yourself. People get brainwashed into thinking we are products — something to sell. That’s nonsense.

Jobs are not about people. Shocking, isn’t it? Well, grow up. (“Hey, it’s about The People! We count!” No, you don’t, not really. Not yet.) Jobs are about work. What’s the work? You need to figure out what work companies need done, and how you can do it. Read more