In the February 28, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, the talent (a nurse) would rather walk dogs than work for kibbles and bits.

talent foodQuestion

There’s no skills shortage, no matter what anybody says. If there’s a shortage why am I working as a waitress making more than I could nursing, which I’m certified in? I have a college degree, because I was told it was necessary in today’s market to compete. One interview after another is a waste of time. HR tells me I “look good” and to expect a call. And the permanent and contract offers I’ve gotten — I could walk dogs and make more. There’s so much talent that hospitals just wait for somebody who will work for peanuts. And they are rude. Does anybody want to hire an experienced RN for a living wage?

Nick’s Reply

Two reports from the Pew Charitable Trusts issued late last year tell us a lot about the problems you’re describing — but you’re not going to like what they say:

Imperfect candidates need not apply

A lot of healthcare facilities need experienced RNs (registered nurses) and require degrees. But they don’t want to pay for your degree and experience. I suggest you send a few quotes from Pew to your legislators.

“Hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies and doctor’s offices, like a lot of employers across the country, have a specific resume in mind. Employers often want new hires to have experience in a specialty such as operating room nursing.”

They’re looking for perfect candidates. (See The Training Gap: How employers lose their competitive edge.) The problem is clear: Employers don’t want to invest in training, on-the-job experience and development, or in a learning curve. They want someone who’s been doing the exact job for three years already. The question is, why would someone like that change jobs just to get the exact same job?

Where are competitive wages?

Pew offers a suggestion that healthcare administrators should be spanked for pretending not to understand:

“A long-term solution for the nursing workforce also would have to resolve critical pay issues, including whether Medicare and Medicaid fee schedules support competitive wages, and figure out how to make sure nurses don’t get burned out and quit.”

Pew also addresses another common problem:.

“Employers also have a retention problem. Being a nurse is demanding, and new nurses, like new teachers, are particularly likely to leave their jobs: About 20 percent of new nurses quit within a year, according to a 2014 study.”

Duhhh… Do you think it has something to do with the fact that you can make more money waiting tables at a good restaurant? (For tips about negotiating a job offer upwards if you manage to get an offer at all, see Negotiate Even The Worst Job Offers: Say Yes, IF.)

Meatball management

This is not a problem just in healthcare. The Pew reports cover all kinds of jobs, and reveal that employers across industries are eyeing talent they want but refuse to pay for it.

“To [the head of Minnesota’s Labor Market Information Office] … the focus on work experience suggested that employers were being too picky. They wanted to hire someone who could be fully productive on day one. But at the same time they weren’t willing or able to pay enough to attract that perfect candidate.”

There’s that problem again: Cheapskate employers.

An accounting manager told me last week that his company — whose business and profits are “growing like gangbusters” — has a customer support staff of seven. “We really need 15 just to support the customers we already have,” he complained. “But it’s impossible to find qualified people.” I asked what the job pays. “$7.50 an hour,” he answered. “Our turnover is over 20%. It’s terrible.”

No kidding.

Pew suggests businesses’ eyes are bigger than their budgets. But it seems the real problem is a kind of cognitive deficit in the ranks of management.

“It’s worth noting that employers can’t always diagnose their own problems. Only 22 percent of employers surveyed by Utah’s Department of Workforce Services last year named low wages as a hiring problem, but 68 percent of those employers were offering below average wages.”

Someone is thinking steak, while budgeting for meatballs.

“We want college degrees we don’t need!”

Then there’s the claim employers make that today’s workforce just isn’t well-educated. Or, is it possible that employers want more education than jobs require?

Pew hits the nail on the head again:

“The overwhelming majority of open production jobs across south central Minnesota don’t require a college degree, in fact. Nor do almost two-thirds of openings statewide.”

Yet employers ask for a degree — just because they can. It used to be a nurse needed only a certification to get a job in a hospital. It seems now hospitals want education they don’t need — but aren’t willing to pay for.

Reports Pew:

“In New York, for instance, there are more licensed RNs in the state than there are jobs for them. So employers are raising the bar, saying, ‘Hey, if I can get a [nurse with a] bachelor’s degree, why not?’ said Jean Moore, director of the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University of Albany.”

WANTED: Top Talent Cheap!

So there you have it. The Pew Charitable Trusts suggest employers are the problem, not nurses, or anyone else. While more training and education can certainly be beneficial to anyone who wants to excel in their line of work, it seems employers think training, education, and talent shouldn’t cost much to hire.

I wish I could give you an answer to your problem. And I wish the Pew reports covered the other elephant in the room — recruiting tools used by employers that make it easier to reject good applicants than to hire them. For more about that, see Employment In America: WTF is going on?

Meanwhile, what are we going to do about cheap employers?

Is there a talent shortage, or a shortage of good pay for good workers? Are modern, automated recruiting systems the solution, or do they just make it easier for employers to reject imperfect job applicants who won’t work for peanuts?

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  1. Circa 2010, when I was an out-of-work Warehouse Manager with 35+ years experience, I noticed that the laundry list of job requirements kept edging upwards while the pay remained the same, which was considerably below was I was making when our company was bought out and I was bumped out.

    I came to call this the two-steps-up-three-steps-down phenomenon. The expectations for a simple warehouse manager reached C-level while the pay scale dropped to lead person, barely a supervisor. My 85K salary was mostly in the 35K range, sometimes 45-50K. As the years went by, the professional magazines I subscribed to indicated in their salary surveys that you do indeed get what you pay for. Adjusted for everything (my estimates of 5% yearly), my experience level (talent) and responsibility level are spot-on @ 120K.

    Just two weeks from retirement, I don’t have time to lament never re-entering the work force at my previous level (I became just a guy working in a warehouse instead of the guy running it), but at least if I get bored with retirement I won’t be bored enough to work for less than my “talent”.

    And, of course, everyone seems to be ignoring the studies that show that paying CEO’s far less than bazillions of dollars a year increases a company’s stock value considerably.

    And thanks for bringing up the Pew group, my favorite source of reliable information.

    • A funny thing happened when automated recruiting and hiring was invented, and when jobs and people turned into database records and key words. Employers stopped thinking about talent, skills, abilities, acumen and work ethic. They started thinking about key words. Key words were easy! Key words made it possible to ask for the longest, bestest, thoroughest (and stupidest) shopping list of what you wished for but didn’t really want or need — because it was there for the asking! So ask!

      And the job boards and applicant tracking systems companies encouraged employers to ASK FOR THE WORLD! IT’S IN HERE! WE HAVE THE PERFECT CANDIDATE FOR YOU!

      Just keep looking. And keep paying. We love it.

      Today there’s a “talent shortage” because employers can’t find that purple squirrel that meets 50 key criteria. So they keep looking.

      Because the squirrel is in there.

      • Nick, I think this automation stupidity is a symptom of the main problem here – more money in junk profits and C-level salaries, and less to getting the job done efficiently. Good hiring takes time and people – both hiring managers and HR. Overload the managers, fire half of HR to boost profits, and of course they revert to keywords and resume reapers. And of course lots of candidates get treated like dirt.
        And the decision makers are mostly protected from the impact of their policies.
        When AT&T split up the second time the leaving package was so good that 1/3 of my center left at once. (Including me.) Chaos afterwards as they had to fill EE jobs with chemists, but the bottom line looked better for the Lucent IPO. Oh they were smart – they didn’t give a package to super top performers. Who left within 3 months anyhow.

        • Scott: If we’re talking about the same AT&T downsizing (when Lucent was spun off, even before they had a name for it), AT&T HR hired me to coach group of managers, to help them find jobs on the outside. Who were they? The Career Development Team in HR that had hired the big outplacement firms to process everyone else! Over a period of weeks I watched — from ground zero — some of the most productive employees take off with their packages. In one case, a woman submitted her papers for the severance, and they said, oh, we didn’t mean you. You should stay. She had been responsible for a tax credits program (long story) that generated millions for AT&T at virtually no cost. She left anyway and with her son quickly started a biz to help other big companies tap into the same tax credits. No one in the company knew her process — and she was gone. Again and again I watched some of the best skeedaddle. The more mediocre managers waited til the end, and many were able to stay. Big win for AT&T.

          • That’s the one. I don’t know from the AT&T side, but from the Lucent side no one at AT&T cared what happened to the spun off company. My entire management chain left all at once. People at my next company laughed at AT&T paying top people to leave them – and then did the same thing a few years later. I’m not complaining – that nest egg invested over the next 20 years let me retire in comfort.

      • Even the most basic job with minimal criteria is “impossible” to fill. Take a look at this nonsense, They’ve been advertising this “job” for over a year now (they changed the posting date but notice the comments at the bottom dated last January). The first time it appeared on StinkedIn it garnered 102 applicants, myself included. The only thing it got me was their marketing clown snooping on my profile. Maybe you can reach out to them and ask them what’s their game? I’m guessing it just looks cool to be advertising jobs like this one, so what if nobody ever gets hired, who’s gonna notice…

        • @SIGHMASTER: “StinkedIn”…ROTFL!!! I quickly gave up on that networking site back in 2012.

          • StinkedIn, I like that! I also call it LunkedOut ;-)

        • That looks like about 3 people’s jobs to me: graphic designer, copywriter, website manager. Maybe 4: brand manager. Fine for a single person to wear all these hats in a very small business, but not realistic for a large organization.

        • Interesting. I just posted a comment on that job. It’s awaiting moderation. Let’s see if we get a response.

          Readers on Ask The Headhunter are having a field day with this job posting, which some have applied to. One says it got 102 applicants when it first appeared on LinkedIn, and that it’s been advertised for over a year. Another suggests it includes the kitchen sink and actually describes at least 3 if not 4 different jobs: graphic designer, copywriter, website manager, brand manager.

          Care to comment?

          • Thank you. Here’s the StinkedIn posting which shows the 102 applicants at the bottom (unfortunately, with their lateset dumb redesign the # of days posted part is now gone, but I still have it in my “job applications” section if they try to argue the date).

      • Nick,

        If demand for perfection (more and more keywords/criteria) is sufficient to create the actual worker out of thin air, I am going to use that same technology to create the perfect woman.

        Now that I think of it, these high school kids in the 1980s tried it and succeeded.

        Oh wait, that was a movie, AKA fictional– d’oh!

        • @Carl: Makes you wonder. What would an employer do with its fantasy “perfect candidate?”

      • And yet… ANYBODY who points this out this “Bi-lingual brain surgeons for $10 an hour” (to quote J.T. O’Donnell), or the ATS keyword issue as both Prof. Peter Cappelli and Evil HR Lady’s Suzanne Lucas have, or many of multiple other filters that result in NOBODY being considered is a trouble-maker to be ostracized. Indeed, I, as one of those people who speaks out, have openly been told “Nice job search you have there… be a shame if something happened to it because of your being ‘uppity’.”

        • @David: You UPPITY guy. If HR talked to candidates more and surfed the web less, they could actually find good hires.

        • @David Hunt: when I pointed out the insanity of REQUIRING a master’s degree, a minimum of 5-8 years professional experience, 95 specs for a job (really 10 jobs combined into one) that is part time and pays $7.00 per hour w/o benefits in one of my LI group discussions, my comments removed by the moderator because they were deemed offensive to employers–this in a group discussion bemoaning “worthless colleges, worthless majors, stupid kids who don’t graduate with the kind of experience and skills employers want”. How dare I question the fact that too many employers are not doing any kind of OTJT any longer? How dare I suggest that colleges don’t train people to step in and do the job perfectly without any training or mentoring from day one? Those are the 800 pound gorillas in the room, the emperor’s new clothes.

        • Many of these RPOs use what is called a relay server (e.g., JobDiva: ) which are resume harvesters that download job candidates resumes (profiles) from Dice, Monster, and CareerBuilder and provide these profiles to these RPOs call center employees along with the ability to send out mass email via a web tool so JobDiva can then strip out the X-Originating-IP to hide the origin of the email. Here are so-called “recruiters” singing JobDiva’s praise.

    • “And of course, everyone seems to be ignoring the studies that show that paying CEO’s far less than bazillions of dollars a year increases a company’s stock value considerably.” Great point, Citizen X. I’ve often wondered why CEO’s warrant such scandalous salaries. What exactly do they do to warrant such high salaries?

  2. >> I asked what the job pays. “$7.50 an hour,” he answered.

    I make more than that at Wal-Mart. Not kidding. Almost double, in fact.

    My programming career is probably at an end, with my last contract position running out at the end of December, being over 50 and my skills eroding (I’m a former Windows developer with no intention of learning mobile and little interest in picking up the newer web stuff). And good riddance. I was getting sick of all the stuff you talk about, Nick – impossible requirements in job requisitions, companies underpaying employees, a so-called “talent shortage” that enables employers to bring in gobs of H1B’s when there are plenty of out-of-work programmers around (example of the latter – my last contract was with a health insurer that had literally 1/3 of its large IT department from a certain Asian country, even though we were right up the block from the large university in town that spit out new computer grads every year). I’ve been sick of the software world for years, so I’m taking advantage of this transition to get into something else. Right now it’s Wal-Mart as an interim step, then we’ll see from there.

    • @Jim,

      If I could turn into Tinkerbell for a moment & tap you on the head to provide you with the latest “hot” skillz, you’d still be unemployed. Consider the following employers for a moment:

      For Upserve, simply read the Diversity section of the job opening. For DraftKings, take a look the photos of their happy employees.

      For extra credit, go over to Twitter & have a look at postings like this one:

      The photos are what’s important. Note that Diversity & hiring falls off a cliff around 40 years old.

      If you’re over 50 & have the skillz, these companies won’t give you a second look.

      We can easily find other examples.

      [ This is slightly off-topic, but I’m going to leave it here. I’m sure that there are other engineers over 50 who are seeing the same thing. ]

      • Yep, no surprise to me at all. I didn’t have to hit the links. The last 6 months I was at my last contract, I did a lot of surfing (hey, it was all support with a small amount of maintenance at the end) and hit plenty of sites talking about the plight of the over-40 and especially over-50 programmer. I figured I’d get to the point of being relatively unemployable as a programmer (not completely, but becoming increasingly difficult). I lost interest in programming years ago, it’s just that only recently have my finances gotten to the point where I can afford to give up the healthy salary and change careers. I’ve got my career change planned, finishing another degree this year to help support my efforts and I already know how I’m going to break into the industry. Unless my old consulting firm or another recruiter comes up with a programming position soon, I’ll just take a tech support job for the next year until I can get out of IT altogether. And I won’t miss it.

      • Here’s one more,

        They advertised for a designer a few months back that actually said they’re looking for a “digital native.” Yep, they came right out and said they want a millennial. Don’t know why they felt the need to go that far when the pics on their website already convey that message just fine.

        • Somehow, I think replying with, “I’ve been using technology and coding longer than ‘digital natives’ have been alive” would be lost on them.

    • “I was getting sick of all the stuff you talk about, Nick – impossible requirements in job requisitions, companies underpaying employees, a so-called “talent shortage” that enables employers to bring in gobs of H1B’s when there are plenty of out-of-work programmers around (example of the latter – my last contract was with a health insurer that had literally 1/3 of its large IT department from a certain Asian country, even though we were right up the block from the large university in town that spit out new computer grads every year).”

      I’d argue that this is one of the main reasons why Trump won the election. He did better than the average Republican in the rust belt – people are told that we’ve recovered from the great recession and what not, but much of that “recovery” is on the coasts and very limited. Labor participation is at it’s lowest levels in the last 40-50 years and wages are stagnating, yet we’re told the the economy is great, there is a talent shortage so we need to bring in more immigrants (oh, and if you disagree with that you’re a racist)!

      • @Dave: I think the labor statistics are fudged anyway. I know for a fact that they don’t account for those who have given up looking for work. They also don’t account for those who are underemployed.

        • Kurt, the statistics that the TV news reports do not, but the Dept. of Labor puts out a lot more than that, and if you read in-depth coverage in a paper like the Times you’ll see all that data.

      • @Dave: for Wall Street, the investor class, big finance, etc., the recession is over. For the average worker, not so much, unless you’re able to work for $7 per hour somewhere. That won’t pay the rent and your other bills.

        The economy is great–if you’re investing in the stock market. But I do agree with you re the labor participation rate–I read that it is hovering in the 62% range–so if the economists factored that into their stats, I bet unemployment would be much higher.

      • “…my last contract was with a health insurer that had literally 1/3 of its large IT department from a certain Asian country, even though we were right up the block from the large university in town that spit out new computer grads every year).

        Dave, did you work for Horizon BCBSNJ in Newark because that was VERY true there, not only in IT but in project management–and that was a few years ago. The universities were NJIT and Rutgers! I thought they were out of their minds because communications with the H1-Bs and the green carded expats was almost comic, and not in a good way.

    • NOTE TO U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR: I found the talent! Jim’s right here! Do you see him? No, huh? BLS and JOLTS don’t track programmers who work at Walmart? Huh. It’s a big problem. It’s destroying our economy. Can’t wait for corporate tax breaks that employers can pass on to their stockholders so those stockholders earn so much… hey… that’s it! Jim: Buy some stock! Increased profits and dividends will replace your lost programmer’s salary!

      Unless the C-level execs use the profits to raise their salaries and boost their stock awards. Then you’re in trouble, Jim. But it’ll be more trouble for tech companies that you’ve lost interest in working for. Then the stockholders get hit.

      Sheesh, this is complicated. Who knew the economy was so complicated????

    • And what an utter waste of ability and knowledge.

    • Not just programming but also marketing and communications. My area is healthcare and health tech, and when I look at a company looking for a marketer and it’s all 30-40 somethings, I take a pass. All they want is digital even when their market is B2B or B2B2C, or a 50+ consumer market…and all social and digital are tools in the media chest. Oh yes, and you better have three graphics programs and marketing analytics like Marketo under your belt as well as being a writer (which I am). Strategy, brand/brand message. and planning, on which all of this hinges, is usually not that important–they think they have it covered or it comes out of the digital ether.

      Same deal in biz development and sales.Then they wonder why they fail.

      Pretty soon it’ll be done by robots, and they will wonder what happened to business.

  3. Thanks for linking to the Pew data, very interesting.

    One thing I have to add is that there is a notion that if someone hires a person that is a bit green, that they will leave once they are sufficiently trained and the company is starting to see the full ROI of the training/hire. But, there are simple ways around that – such as giving fair raises and bonuses based on time at company – but no one wants to address the elephant in the room. It just speaks to the larger overall problem – sometimes the only way to get that decent raise or promotion is to find another job. A few years ago, I knew of several pharmacists that got jobs and were eligible for a large bonus once they were there 2 years or something so that they had an incentive to stay on for at least 2-3 years in order to see every penny of it.

    The other thing I have a beef with is that people complain that the educational system is pumping out grads that aren’t trained exactly how employers want them. I’m a second generation computer programmer, so my parents and I have compared notes. Universities are there to teach you the basics and attempt to expose students to a wide variety of topics in order to make them well rounded. If we changed the system to hyper focus on certain topics, we’d get people who may not be as adaptable which isn’t good either.

    • None of the computer languages or operating systems I learned in college were useful 45 years later when I retired – but all the computer science theory was, and it let me learn new things and keep up.
      We never had problem hiring people from colleges, since we understood that they’d have to be trained on how the real world worked and had no problem doing it ourselves. The corporate education department went away, of course. And we had better retention than we deserved given the company being cheap with raises.

    • “…there is a notion that if someone hires a person that is a bit green, that they will leave once they are sufficiently trained…” But there is no guarantee that people will not leave and most employers wouldn’t guarantee your job for a specific period of time either.

      I interviewed for a position last year and had the wind knocked out of my sails, so to speak, when during a followup interview, I was told point blank that the hiring person thought I was over qualified. Upon further questioning, he stated that his fear was I would leave after they invested time and effort in training me. Well, that could happen no matter what. Life happens and there is no guarantee about what tomorrow will bring. Truth be told, I think I didn’t get the job because another candidate was willing to work for less money. I don’t feel that I was asking for an extraordinary amount based on what I felt I brought to the table.

      • There’s a quote I’ve seen that I like:

        Manager: What if we train someone and they leave?

        CXO (with perspective): What we don’t train them and they don’t?

        • @David Hunt: Your quote reminds me of the old bumper sticker “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”.

          It really is the lack of perspective and of being penny-wise and pound-foolish–they don’t want to train because it is expensive (and then they’ll leave), but if they don’t train, think about how badly untrained employees can screw up and how much those mistakes can cost a company. I wonder how many managers and CEOs factor that into their bottom lines?

      • There is another way to spin the training retention angle. If an employer is honestly worried about someone leaving after being trained then the option of an employment contract should be on the table. My guess is that the chances of that actually working are slim. Most states are “at will” employment and companies don’t want to give that up.

        • @Rich: I love your turnabout is fair play approach. Put it in writing.

    • and the tools used by a developing Corporation can blow past what a university focuses on, so that for universities that take that approach are graduating students familiar with legacy stuff, not leading edge.
      To good programmers, programming is programming. You can change the tool/language and they shift accordingly. Fast. And yes, I’ve seen exceptions, engineers who cling to their religious favorite, their comfort zones. but most of the good engineers I worked with..just adjust and keep on trucking
      Yet hiring managers seem to think when a spanking new coding language takes hold they have team of drooling robots & they think they need to throw them under the bus and go get themselves shiny new engineers with 5 years experience in a 2 year old language

    • “….People complain that the educational system is pumping out grads that aren’t trained exactly how employers want them……universities are there to teach you the basics and attempt to expose students to a wide variety of topics in order to make them well rounded. If we changed the system to hyper focus on certain topics, we’d get people who may not be as adaptable which isn’t good either.”

      Cheers….this has long been my pet peeve with employer complaints about “stupid grads” who can’t step into a job and do it perfectly on the first day without any training. At one time, employers understood this–having a college degree, in most cases, didn’t guarantee that you could do step right into a job–it meant that you could stick something out, that you could learn, that you had basic communication, reading, math, and problem solving skills. As for the specifics of the job, employers used to understand that they were supposed to train you in those. You were an investment, and they didn’t expect you to be profitable to their shareholders the instant your butt hit the chair.

      I think some of the reason for this is that people with more experience were willing to take entry-level jobs because it was better than being unemployed. The other reason is those d@mned ATSes and the keyword game. Employers have stopped thinking when it comes to hiring and training, and too many expect new employees to function like the new part they bought at Home Depot. There’s no common sense–what reasonable manager expects a new hire to be able to do a new job perfectly without any training? It doesn’t make sense.

  4. I believe Peter Cappelli pointed out – and I’m paraphrasing – that the modern hiring practice consists of finding someone who can already do the job, has done it before for a number of years, has the additional skills to do other things unrelated to the job (but for which help is needed and for which additional staff cannot be hired due to budget concerns), knows not only the current software but also the programs the organization is thinking about adding – and who would be willing to do it all for less than the prior employee was being paid. When you can’t find that purple squirrel, you complain about how difficult it is to find the right people in today’s job market…

    • “We want someone who did the exact same job for the exact same salary. Others need not apply.”

    • Peter Cappelli also pointed out that corporate accounting systems have no way of tracking the cost of leaving jobs vacant. Those vacancies are treated as profit. So it’s easy to explain what we see: not hiring people is profitable.

    • Great comment, John.

  5. This is just part of a larger problem where companies only see a dollar spent as, well, a dollar spent. They don’t see it as an investment, and they certainly don’t see the $1.10 (or $1.20 or whatever) that resulted from spending that dollar.

    I work in capital equipment, and we see this behavior from purchasing agents and people trying to buy stuff on the cheap. Purchasing managers are rewarded on how little they spend…..not on the return of that spending. Thus, despite an engineer’s or ops manager’s best effort to buy equipment that will give the biggest return, the cheapest solution is selected.

    And I’ve seen people try to buy used equipment to get things as cheaply as possible. I warn people that if they’d buy new instead of used, they’d have custom designed equipment in 6 months. Instead, some of them go hunting for used equipment that is 50% the cost of new. Of course, they spend 9 months trying locate and upgrade said equipment and often end up spending more than the cost of new stuff……and this jury-rigged stuff has no guarantee or warranty.

    Trying to hire on the cheap for employees is just more of the same. $100k/yr for a professional? Too much! Yeah, sure, that person saved you $150k/yr in perpetuity with just one new idea and increased sales 30% to make you even more profitable, but look at that $100k!!

    • @Chris,

      As one manager once told me: “All that matters is price.”

      • @Bob: That’s why marketing managers are now in charge of quality.

    • Exactly right. At my prior employer, we automated most of the US vendor invoices. Elimination of errors (down to 2% from 20%) saved $1 million each and every year. What was the reward for this? A pink slip. They just didn’t see the value.

  6. I’m starting to see “Dog Food” rates trickle into Nick’s world:

    I had one opportunity placed in front of me yesterday, for a job in Boston. The hiring manager was in the Carolinas, so the salary (or hourly rate) was based on what the manager was paying in the Carolinas. For this opening, anyone who understood the job would know they’d need a senior employee in a short amount of time, yet they were trying to hire a junior person.

    Recently, I had a regional manager of a headhunting firm tell me that companies had an expectation that they didn’t have to pay his firm on a successful placement.

    • @Bob: It started trickling into the headhunting world quite some time ago. When actually searching for a really good job candidate devolved into searching for keywords in a database, recruiting became really, really easy and attracted recruiters who could type really fast. That brought recruiting fees down from 25%-30% of the new hire’s salary to 15% and 10% and then to a flat fee to fill 10 jobs. HR loved it. Why pay $20,000 to fill an $80,000 job and get just 3 candidates when HR could pay $100 and GET 2,000 RESUMES???

      Automation=cost savings.

      • I saw a comment on another website saying that the time of automated HR is coming and those useless HR twats will find themselves in the same sinking boat soon. I know it’s mean of me to say this, but I really wish that would start happening…

    • @Bob: A Carolinas salary for the Boston area? What is the hiring manager smoking? With the cost of housing and living in the Boston, he won’t be able to get anyone to work in Boston at Carolinas wages . This is insanity!

    • Had an interview over a year ago for a position, closer to Boston (I’m in NH), than my last job, and for a position that was VERY arguably higher in terms of responsibility and scope. The maximum salary they were willing to offer was over $20K less than I’d been making before.

      Oddly enough, over a year later, the position was still open (I haven’t looked lately). I wonder why that could be…

      • David, I am seeing a lot of this. Same job posted and reposted sometimes for more than a year. I have noticed that they don’t know what they are looking for and/or think that they can hold out for some ideal candidate that doesn’t exist and/or are hoping to find someone who they don’t have to pay as much as others.

        Many of these same companies are also hoping that you will work as a contractor. They post a full time job that you apply to and then reach out to see if you are interested in a different job with a similar level of difficulty but in a contract position. Moderna in Cambridge is a great example. The contract role are filled, the permanent role stays posted forever.

        The thing with contracting is that ideally one should only do it if there is some real benefit. For instance the role exposes you to a new area you are interested in but less qualified for AND the company is reputable enough to stand out on a resume. There also has to be an expectation that the role will go perm or the project is long term. I don’t like being used like a charge card….easy on, easy off.

      • @David Hunt: Yeah, and even if you’re within commuting distance, there’s still wear and tear on your car, parking expenses, etc. Not surprised the position is still open…people won’t apply if they can’t afford to live there or can’t afford the commute.

        But maybe they’ll bring in someone on an H1B visa, pay him half the salary you require, then spit him out when he burns out.

    • The Boston job market *stinks*. Last May I met a nurse who was about to graduate with a master’s in nursing. We were making small talk and the topic of jobs came up, she said that not one of her classmates had been able to line up a job for after graduation, the bewilderment among them was so high that one made it the topic of their thesis. I asked her what ages her classmates are, she said mostly 30s. So, is 30 now “too old” for nursing???

      • @Sighmaster: the daughter of an acquaintance had gone back to school for her 2nd Bach. in Nursing. She got her degree, passed her licensure exams, and took a job at a big hospital in Boston. She was there less than 6 months when I learned that this hospital let a lot of nurses go, then re-hired them on a per-diem basis–so even crazier schedules, only called her in when they needed her, and if things changed, then they’d send her home, and now, no guarantee of full time hours and zero benefits.

        Nurses are highly skilled professionals–so why treat them like this? Yes, they’re expensive, but patients’ health and lives are at risk.

        The thing is, kids are getting pushed into STEM, and there’s no guarantee that there will be good STEM jobs when they get out. Will employers be looking to bring in cheap nurses from abroad as well? At what point do the profits made for the shareholders become enough? Or will it never be enough until we’re all slaves?

        • And we continue to be bombarded by “advice” from everywhere that nursing is THE field to enter because of such huge demand. I don’t get it.

          Your last paragraph reminds me of the conversation between a poor man and a rich man, the poor man says to the rich man something like, “I have something you’ll never have: enough.”

  7. Some of us in our division were laid off due to restructuring, at least that is what we were they told. But, they posted all the jobs at a lower level so they could pay less for the same amount of work. So, those new hires will take at least a year to get up to speed and if those new hires leave in a couple of years, the cycle will begin again. They are not saving that much money because I know the previous salary levels for all the jobs and the salary at which they are now, not to mention the costs of training. I don’t care how experienced someone is, new hires need time to learn how things are done.

    • A dear friend of mine put a name on that over 20 years ago: Junk Profitability.

  8. While I am not an out of work programmer, I see my years of experience becoming less and less valued. I work near Seattle, so there aren’t a lack of jobs around here, but the problem is that if I want to get back in the hot new stuff (which changes every year btw). I would have to take a significant pay cut (almost 50%) but that puts me in competition with H1B visa programmers that are more than willing to take a $65k job and live 6 in an 1 bedroom apartment because it’s so much better than where they came from. Now I’m not one to complain about immigrants, my great grand parents came here and worked very hard and live at poverty wages to get us where we are now, but telling me there is a “labor shortage” of programmers in the USA is just B.S. There are plenty of programmers that would love these jobs but employers are too lazy to hire and train people that don’t EXACTLY match their hiring requirements. Gone are the days when employers would hire for the person and not to tick off jobs skills. I’ve changed jobs 3 times in 4 years and they have all been lateral moves. Meanwhile, great jobs at supposedly great companies go unfilled for months or years because they are looking for a purple unicorn and then complain because there is a labor shortage… I can’t wait to retire!

  9. I finally retired from banking (Credit and Sales) after about 50 years in the mix. As employers began accidentally or actually letting HR cast wide nets for people (another issue) and warehouse the resumes, i saw that the job i did was being discounted even at my competitors so a lateral move was even tough to keep the salary up. It paid to stay where i was , but not wanted to be at, rather than start again. Also as jobs and banks are consolidating with sometimes a relocation, i find my credit job is still being moved even on regional and community basis to the back office and when advantageous (that nasty $7.50 hourly wage again) to remote areas of the country where there is more unemployed people willing to work for dog food. Management feels no need to know or have people in the local marketplace to deal with competition and risk issues of the geography.

  10. This is spot on! We hear so much about how workers should not only go to universities, but major in STEM. I did that, and even went to grad school. We are talking original, scientific, peer-reviewed, published research, 500 and 600 level classes in chemistry and physics, 2 yr calculus sequence with differential equations, and advanced statistics, among other challenging classes. The salaries companies offered were 1/3-1/2 of what my spouse makes in a construction union, and he barely graduated 8th grade. Despite excellent performance reviews, I eventually gave up, and went to work in a casino, making more than I did for a huge, global, multi-billion $ per year chemical company, in a demanding job that required being on call 24/7, OT, and lots of travel. Meanwhile there is supposedly this HUGE talent shortage in the physical sciences that demands that we bring in boatloads of foreigners with H1-B visas, most with less education and experience than I have. How about paying fairly? I agree that widespread and justifiable anger about this impossible situation is the reason that Trump was elected, though I do NOT think he will do anything positive for working people, quite the opposite. People are tired of being told that they are racists because they don’t support bringing in more foreign workers, while domestic workers suffer with high unemployment rates and low, stagnant wages. Anyway, I have always lived very frugally, and made great investment decisions starting in my early 20s. They snowballed and now at 45, I no longer have to work. Thank God! The hiring system is broken, and wages offered to STEM-educated, university graduates are laughable. And God forbid one take a break from employment, even voluntarily for family reasons or to travel internationally. Employers distrust even small resume gaps, and take it as a sign that no one wanted that employee, when in fact, the employee didn’t want THEM. Wake up!

    • You used a magic word – union. If there is enough of a local shortage in your specialty, you’ll do okay – Silicon Valley salaries are pretty good. If not, it is just you against the boss, and as we’ve seen they are fine with unfilled jobs or turnover. A union shutting the place down gets a bit more attention. It is a shame that the very people mad about slow wage growth and all the problems discussed here have been brainwashed into thinking that unions are universally evil.

      • “It is a shame that the very people mad about slow wage growth and all the problems discussed here have been brainwashed into thinking that unions are universally evil.”

        Yet when we witness openly hostile unskilled workers demanding $15 to flip burgers I just gotta bust out in hysterical laughter.

        My first pay-stub job was McDonalds – $3.15/hr (late 80s). My path to earning more was doing good work, earning a reference and moving on to a better job – no protesting required. And that was before the #1, #2, etc. order-by-picture system. Oh, guess what? I didn’t demand others change for me, I improved myself. You know, that lost old art of accountability.

        Much later, as a Captain at a regional airline, the only reason I put up with union dues was for so called “career insurance.” Only a few gullible pilots believed the union’s “job security” line of bull.

        Note: “career insurance” and “job security” are opposite sides of the coin.

      • If an employer is fine with an unfilled job, then the question begs do they really need the position in the first place?

        • @Kurt: Oh, I’m bellylaffing over what you just said. The answer is, probably NO. But they’re gonna fill it anyway because they have an open “requisition.” The result will be less budget available to afford who they really need for a job that really needs filling.

        • NO they don’t. As Nick said it’s all about reqs. They aren’t finding their purple squirrel, but they hold on to that req with a death grip. They can do this because C-Levels don’t hold anyone accountable for their hiring.
          I had a rule of thumb..when the length of your search exceeds the time to hire someone who can ramp up, you obviously don’t need the resource.
          I had the great experience of working in an organization that was growing like a rocket, and whose executives tracked hiring, and held their Directors feet to the fire. You’d fill your reqs or they’d kill them, and give them to someone who could fill them.
          And their track record affected their bonuses.
          I guarantee we moved our ass and didn’t fixate on purple squirrels. You took the risk on spotting unproven talent and got good at doing it. Use it or lose it

    • “More STEM for girls!”

      • Since you mentioned it… Trump has signed the INSPIRE act, to bring more women into STEM.

    • Sad story, but great that things eventually worked out for you. “Employers distrust even small resume gaps…” Perhaps that’s my issue. Thing is, why not at least call such job seekers in and at least inquire about the gap. I usually don’t even get a response.

      • Many years ago I opined in my old blog that EVERY manager needs to get fired one, and struggle with unemployment, in order to have a life-lesson on what it’s like to be on the outside and looking in. Written sarcastically, it was nonetheless an accurate portrayal of reality.

        • Amen David Hunt! Being unemployed might make those managers humble, and maybe give them some insight into just how hard it is when there are such arbitrary and capricious requirements, such as no gaps in employment (this despite coming off the worst depression since the 1930’s) and that today people don’t have one employer or even one career through their working life.

        • Spot on. When I interviewed for my current position, I addressed the gap head on: I was laid off because the company went bankrupt. The hiring manager completely understood. He’d be in the same position and understood it was a function of the business and decisions made by higher-ups; it had nothing to do with my talent or what I could bring to the table.

      • Gaps and what I call ‘tap dancing’–putting together consulting, volunteering and contracting–for periods of time, is common with those of us who are in the latter part of our career and also those who went through 9/11 and the 2008-9 recession. It results in a not quite linear resume, despite my best efforts in writing it. Had an interview Friday with a ‘chief administrative officer’ who was in HR for 19 years and boy, she got flummoxed, and I had to do a walk-through. To put it plainly, not only do companies want to pay dog food, but you better have a resume with single jobs, in succession, and no discernable gaps.

        • @Dee: Or, God forbid, you took time off to raise your children, care for elderly, sick parents/in-laws, or were the “trailing” wife (you followed your husband, so his career is linear, but yours isn’t), or maybe you are a career changer.

          The person who was in HR for 19 years–was she living under a rock when the economy crashed in 2008? Did she never watch the news or read a newspaper? I read that in late 2008, the economy was shedding approximately 800,000 jobs PER MONTH. Businesses that had been around forever folded. The government bailed out the auto industry. She had no reason to be flummoxed.

  11. AMEN, Scott! Unions are exactly what this country needs more of, and people opposed are brainwashed by oligarchs who simply want more money for themselves. These oligarchs make specious claims that they can not afford to pay more, whilst they amass literally billions of $. Then they get the useful idiots who are running scared to take up for them. My spouse is very good at what he does, though he wasn’t much of a student. Interestingly, there are white collar refuges in his construction trade. Many people with MS degrees in demanding fields find that they can make more doing blue collar union work. Their job changes make many scratch their heads, but are actually economically sound decisions. This is a sign that these professional jobs need pay increases to retain trained and educated workers.

    • I was not kidding about the accountant whose company can’t find enough customer support workers. $7.50/hr. Gee.

    • I respectfully disagree about your assertion that we need unions in this country. Unions aren’t the solution. My father was a union guy and although he was an advocate, he told me many times about how unions protected unproductive workers. There are also many stories that can be told about how unions dictate what workers can and can’t do in their job. No thanks, unions aren’t for me nor are they the answer to our current predicament. Just my opinion…

      • I’ve seen plenty of unproductive workers at non-union shops also. Getting rid of someone is hard work, and why should an overstressed manager care unless the person does something blatant.
        I’m not saying unions are perfect, but we need a balance against management who underpay by pitting workers against each other – or getting rid of the well paid for the underpaid.

      • @Kurt: Every management structure has the potential – and likelihood – of becoming corrupt and self-serving. It’s why unions are dying and why CEOs earn hundreds of millions.

      • @Kurt: union membership is at an all-time low–I read recently that as little as 7% of today’s workforce belongs to a union. Right now it is skewed so far in favor of CEOs and shareholders that I think we need unions. You’re right that unions can be corrupt, that they can protect unproductive workers. However, they also serve as a check and balance to CEOs running roughshod over employees.

        I’ve worked in the private sector (non-union) and seen many a manager be protected because he’s someone’s son or nephew after he screwed up and lost millions of dollars in profits for the company. I’ve seen incompetent managers protected while they go through employees like toilet paper. I’ve seen an unethical CEO run the company into the ground, he gets his billions with his platinum parachute, and the employees got no warning, no assistance, nothing.

        Unions don’t have a monopoly on corruption. Unions have done a lot of good, which many people have forgotten. A few years ago there was a PBS program about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911: The employees wanted to unionize, while management/owners resisted. Employees wanted better hours, better wages, workplace safety, etc.

        If you work a 40 hour week, thank a union. If you get paid vacation, paid holidays, paid sick time, health insurance for yourself and your family, thank a union. If your workplace follows safety regulations (see the PBS program cited above for what kind of a disaster can happen when you don’t have some regulations in place), thank a union.

        • Same thanks go if you are reading this on a weekend. In our area, the building trades supply well-trained workers. To get into the electrical union, you do a full panel interview, with a suit and tie. Most of the applicants have at least 2 years of college. There is a 5-year apprentice program with night school twice a week. They want to make sure that you will show up for work every day, ready to work.

        • It is union propaganda that we have unions to thank for the 8 hour day / 40 hour week etc.

          The reality is that in 1914 Henry Ford doubled his employees’ wages to $5 a day and cut their workday to eight hours. All without a union. It wasn’t until 30 years later that the UAW appeared and unionized the workers.

  12. Reminds me of this “The Emperor’s New Clothes” (Danish: Kejserens nye Klæder) is a short tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don’t see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent”. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” The tale has been translated into over 100 languages.[1]

  13. “HR tells me…”
    That was your first clue a bunch of BS and hot air was on about to spew forth.

    “I have a college degree, because I was told it was necessary in today’s market to compete.”
    A long term self-employed friend once stated that many “degrees” are pure “toilet paper.” Although I tend to agree in many cases I must admit I have a square off the old tissue roll myself.

    “…retention problem…”
    Go figure. Loyalty is earned and many of us have not seen anything resembling such for several decades. Hence, it is wise to have an exit plan in mind your very first day on the job so as to not be surprised by the next Q4 (yep, just in time for the holidays) “restructuring” around the corner.

    “Someone is thinking steak, while budgeting for meatballs.” Yep, “…cognitive deficit in the ranks of management” appears to be here to stay.

    “Who took my cheese” is never heard from rainmakers, go-getters and entrepreneurs. Congrats to that tax credit process employee who went off and started her own gig.

    What was it that Bill Gates said? Paraphrasing: ‘Find a way to make someone need you.’ To difficult? Well, good luck to ya.

    • I haven’t heard companies even expect loyalty for over 20 years now. I think they got tired of employees laughing at them.
      I agree about preparing for your next job. The time to do the networking Nick talks about is while you are employed. It has the advantage of not leading to a request for a job or a lead. Then when you do get kicked out, you can move faster.
      Lot of fields have professional associations which are begging for volunteers. It can be a lot of extra work on off hours, but it pays off.

      • Sorry to respond to myself, but I just thought of this. My old company didn’t encourage outside activities (I ignored this) and it bit them when the “experts” in an area weren’t aware of a big problem other companies were seeing. The other companies talked about this in conferences, but since our guys never went to any, they were unaware until it bit them – and very expensively. But people are too busy to learn, and you can’t see the benefits in the bottom line without some thinking.

        • @Scott: Glad you added that. Many companies don’t permit employees to go to conferences and professional events for fear they’ll be poached. These are the same companies that don’t attend conferences and professional events to recruit good people from their competitors. And when the managers of those companies finally get fired, they “don’t know anyone to network with.”

  14. What do you think it will take to make employers wake up? I wonder how long this nonsense can last before it collapses on itself.

    • That’s a great question, Marie. Thing is, if you need a job, what choice do you have? The bills don’t stop.

    • Why should employers wake up? In today’s environment, screw up a company and leave with tens of millions of dollars. Why bother to fill the jobs. The people left will just work harder to keep their jobs with no overtime, and who cares if the quality suffers – until the airbags start exploding, that is.

      • Scott:

        I suspect you will not only enjoy, but find yourself agreeing with, this essay.

        The more I read, e.g., this essay, a column by Liz Ryan about equity firm buyouts, etc., the more I am coming to the conclusion that today’s executives are a gypsy class, almost akin to viruses, in that they come into a thriving ecosystem, drain the resources to create bonuses and high salaries for themselves, and then bail to the next host before the current one collapses.

        Or am I being overly cynical?

        • No, you’re not. Thanks for the link. I think it describes the mentality, philosophy, and attitude of far too managers/CEOs towards those who ensure that they get their millions too well. They don’t notice you because you’re so far beneath them until the profits cease pouring in. I think we need a revolution.

        • David, excellent article in American Thinker. Because I am the daughter of a man who started a manufacturing business (and a mother who ran it after he died), I have been a marketer who has always been interested in understanding the mechanics of how an operational company works and how they affect the customer. In other words, when I was in advertising, how the ads get put together and placed. When I had a food client, how they made the food. When I worked in car rental– how the cars are cleaned, maintained, planned, purchased and financed; how customers deal in the process of renting a car. In the airline business, how the airplanes are flown, maintained, lines of flight planned, airline economics, customer service etc. I learned something about software and can actually write a product requirement specification. I don’t have an MBA, but am always curious, as I am now about healthcare tech.

          I don’t see that in today’s marketers. They don’t care about customers, only about being in cool media. And in companies, that drive is not expected or respected anymore. It’s tragic.

    • @Marie: Good question. I know frustrated job seekers who work hard to find a job will want to smack me upside the head… but a cold, hard look tells me that it’s best for those employers not to wake up.

      As long as they remain in nodded-off state, they’re not competing with everyone else. Ditto job seekers. (Don’t smack me.) Job seekers who figure out how to step outside the system and how to approach employers one-on-one to (as Bill Gates put it, according to a comment above) “show someone why they need you,” will be able to find work in reasonable time. They will make money because all their “competition” is herded in the employment-system corral and out of the way.

      I know, I know — it’s not easy. Not at all. But the herding system does not work. We know it. Yet smart people succumb again and again. A guy I met recently got suckered by a “recruiter” who charged him $2,500 for an interview with a private equity firm. He knew better, but paid it, because “it seemed like a reasonable risk.” He lost his money, slapped himself, realized it was a total scam. Today he sent me a note about a firm that charges $20/month to put him in an exclusive database that headhunters use to find candidates for their clients. What do I think, he asked. Just a week after we discussed how paying for questionable “services” is not smart. He’s doing it again. Is he dumb? Not at all. He’s frustrated, desperate, and more willing to risk his money than to invest his time.

      I get frustrated.

  15. In a nutshell, the problem is that through perfect fit requirements employers have redefined hiring as poaching. Since that doesn’t grow the pool of qualified applicants employer frustration is guaranteed.

    There is also a cost of life issue. The cost of everything in the US seems to be spiraling out of control, so it is no surprise employers struggle to keep up. The $65K that Steve sneers at, for instance, would be very good in Western Europe: the going rate for software development positions in Germany is $50K tops; you need very special skills or a money-is-no-object employer (i.e., an overfunded startup) to make significantly more.

  16. Great blog post, Nick. Yes, the health field isn’t the only field that wants someone with 3 or more years of experience. Accounting is another field and they aren’t interested in hearing that you could learn to use an automated accounting system, a skill I lack, but am 100% positive that I could easily pickup.

    Again, the accounting field is another field where I’ve seen the requirement for a degree that doesn’t really make sense. You don’t need a bachelor’s degree in accounting to be able to do accounts payable or accounts receivable. The idiocy in today’s job market is unbelievable.

    • Forgot to mention that I DO have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, but that hasn’t swayed any potential employers to whom I’ve submitted a resume.

    • @Kurt: A good friend of mine was a finance director and accountant for 20 years. Pedigreed. Smart. He interviewed in an industry different from the last one he was in. They told him he’s from the wrong industry.


      Then there’s the programmer with a Computer Science degree who knows all about computer languages. He programs in X language. Employer turns him down because they use Y language. As CS grad, he can learn virtually any programming language. But he has not used Y yet. So he’s worthless to them.

      It’s assumed that workers are pegs with just one shape. Employers are so moronic that they lost the art of management. A computer breaks, get a new one. Don’t learn to fix anything. Don’t learn anything. There’s a new book out, about “Stretching.” It’s about how to make do with what you’ve got.

      What a concept. I feel better.

  17. “We want college degrees we don’t need!” “We do things differently” “We aren’t looking for the same kind of person that would be attracted to Pfizer” “We are unique & entrepreneurial”.

    Every company is desperately trying to differentiate themselves while at the same time requiring applicants look exactly the SAME on paper. It’s comical, it is tells me exactly what I need to know in terms of how prepared they are to disrupt the market and lead.

    In many cases, the degree one paid a fortune for buys an advantage for 10 years. Beyond this, the game is for an individual to learn as fast as the world is changing. The talent gap isn’t that there aren’t many excellent people available that can learn anything & transfer skills, it is that many degrees are not value based and providing graduates with skills at the level of specificity the employers want. So they whine……and keep reposting the same role on and off for a year but refuse to entertain options that add value in ways that they weren’t creative enough to imagine…. due largely in part to their own implicit biases and self limitation.

  18. Not all business models within the immigration/contingent market are created equally and over time models change (new ones emerge, some not benign), so sometimes it is wise to disarticulate supply chains a little more critically so as to truly understand their nature and socio-economic impacts. An important economic work that shows exactly how to do this is Nobel Prize-winning economists George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shiller’s Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception (Princeton University Press, 2015). After applying reverse engineering and reverse deception techniques as well as real-time web communication technologies like SignalR I was able to digitally document active Identity Deception being used extensively throughout online employment platforms (think LinkedIn, job boards, mass email and cold calling), including armies of overseas call centers manned by Indians (and other sources) calling up American workers about employment and actively engaging in manipulation and deception on both a personal and technological level (think CAN-SPAM). I stumbled upon this entire predatory middle tier industry built upon manipulation, deception, and economic exploitation that is ongoing and largely ignored or unseen. At any point in time I can immediately catch an army of Indians calling up Americans as “third party agents” of major staffing companies that serve as vendors and/or are called “preferred partners” by Microsoft that provide highly educated technology workers as “contingent” staff for internal and external Microsoft projects. (You can listen yourself here:

  19. These contingent workers are a mix of US and H-1B visa workers (in various stages of naturalization). Some Microsoft groups are comprised of 50% contingent workers farmed out to Microsoft by Indian companies like HCL operating in the US and running their “staffing” services. The script used by this army of call center jockeys is virtually identical. Almost all of them use technology to hide their origin of communication by spoofing the initial contact email’s X-Originating-IP by using a “relay server” in the US that provides this service along with web tools for the call center employees to use. Add a misleading email façade claiming they are from some company located in Bellevue say (and they are told to lie when asked where they are calling from) and only 1 in 100 will even bother to verify the origin of the communication is actually legitimate and not engaging in manipulation and deception. Imagine: hundreds of call centers in India with thousands of call center employees largely unaware of what they are being trained to do calling up Americans to lie to them and run a script that is meant to convince the family wage earner to become a W-2 employee of a “body shop” that will withhold the direct bill rate the “staffing” company is actually getting paid (information asymmetry) by say Microsoft (we saw both sides of the equation from our career position) and then make a handsome profit farming them out to Microsoft or Boeing, etc., often even violating state employment laws and such. And remember, if you are some unlucky H-1B that actually ends up with a really predatory “staffing” company, like the Chinese one witnessed by a MSFT friend, that actually didn’t even pay one poor gal which amounts to slave labor on US soil. No official reporting goes on; seldom are these cases investigated. They may well be isolated but just because the most severe cases are rare or isolated doesn’t mean abuse is not going on at different levels for both H-1B holders and US citizens caught in this contingent body-shopping industry.

  20. This industry started decades ago with outsourcing manufacturing and has now moved into the stage where what was done to blue collar workers is now being done to entire groups of white collar workers (and I have the data and academic papers to back this claim up). These pipelines of what are called in the academic literature “body shops” often act as no more than a payroll processor and offer little or no benefits (we have personal evidence of this in more than one case). This “business process outsourcing” (BPO) and “recruiting process outsourcing” (RPO) industry is a 462 billion dollar industry which is still growing. When some company brings in US workers Indian replacements and asks them to train them in their own IT jobs so they can be outsources to India (it’s actually happened) we are seeing classical neoliberal capitalism (theory and practice) at its bald face fundamental anti-social predatory nature. Profits over people, families, and communities.

  21. Nobody is looking at this. Nobody is asking, How extensive is this practice (it is “standard industry practice” as noted by one of Microsoft’s “preferred vendors”) and is it good for society?

  22. Disney is an example of IT employees suffering the humiliation of training their foreign replacements in exchange for severance package:

    This is a related comment:
    “I have a very good friend who worked twenty years at Bell Telephone on the east coast who was replaced this way. He moved to HP and it happened again. Then he moved to Siemens, same thing. The last 20 years of his life has been a rollercoaster form hell. About three years ago he just gave up and went on SS. For years he was making a nice six figure income, now he lives on about $12K a year in a rented mobile home. “

    • Thank you. But it is even worse when you examine the extent at which corporations like Microsoft are outsourcing functions they no longer deem their core competency and then using so-called preferred vendors who then wage scalp US workers. Many of these so-called “staffing” companies are owned by Indians and they are the companies that acquire the majority of H-1B visas. They seek to exploit not only H-1Bs but US citizens (nurses, engineers, software engineers, translators, PMs, etc.) who are forced into the “contingent” market because layoffs, age discrimination, etc. We have watched our family friends go from one day having a decent paying job with benefits and healthcare, able to afford to put their children through college, and the next forced into the “contingent” marketed and employed by one of these predatory middle-tier “staffing” companies that exploit them (wage scalping 50% or more of their actual market value with little or no benefits)for profit. And it is all legal and has nothing to do with H-1Bs or illegal immigrants. It is purely a predatory business model evolved by US corporations (some knowingly and some unwittingly as a by-product of legitimate business needs), some of these corporations merely shell companies setup by Indians who perfected their trade as “business process outsourcers” (BPOs) during the first phase of “globalization” and outsourcing pioneered by US corporations. The second phase is the creation of a multitude of so-called “staffing” companies created by predatory US and Indian business men and women that targets US workers with technological smoke screens and scripts plied by an army of call centers in India working for US “staffing” companies that are little more than body-shops.

    • The responsibility for this sad affair rests with US corporations and their predatory quest for every greater profits over people.

    • It begs the question… when the jobs have been offshored or automated or H1-B’ed, and the middle class has been razed into non-existence, will it TRULY take these execs being dragged bodily from their oak-paneled offices?

      Interestingly, there was a New Yorker article about Silicon Valley execs going “prepper” – buying spaces in luxury shelter, buying guns, purchasing remote hideaway locations including overseas, and one of the reasons cited was the threat of a mass uprising at the coming jobpocalypse from AI/automation.

      • David Hunt, revolutions (the French and Russian) have started with less. Bring out the tumbrils and the pitchforks!

  23. This is really an eye-opening video (Fake Job Ads defraud Americans) regarding what is actually going on:

    • I have evidence of identity deception being used by Indian outbound call center employees on LinkedIn (now owned by Microsoft) working for Indian call centers branding themselves as “recruiting process outsourcing” services and hired by Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, etc. to call up Americans and lie to them. They are told to lie by their Indian call center managers and owners and when US corporations like Microsoft, Facebook, etc., hire these companies or in any other manner don’t bother to make sure their “supply chains” and “preferred vendors” who supply them with contingent workers are behaving in an ethical manner they too are just as responsible as the clothing business that doesn’t bother to assure its overseas or onshore manufactures are not treating their employees unethically, such as we well know now sweatshops have been found to do.

      • Culture comes from the top. A company that encourages its employees, or its vendors, to lie is led by a liar.

      • One other thing: I’d like to cite the Second Rule of Sewage, from my essay:


        The Second Rule of Sewage is the Non-Compartmentalized Rule of Sewage. You cannot pour a cup of sewage into a container of water, and have it only remain in the place you poured it. Bad character leaks into other elements of character. E.g., a person who cheats on their spouse – thus breaking a sacred oath – cannot be counted on to keep an oath in any other part of their life.

        End quote

        A corporate leader, shown to be a liar on one thing, must be assumed to be a liar on all things.

        • LOVE your site

        • Excellent points David. LinkedIn is collaborating and providing a technology platform for this Identity Deception to be perpetrated on a massive scale. I am preparing as we post a document of digital evidence showing a case study of how Identity Deception is perpetrated on LinkedIn by US “staffing” companies that hire “recruiting process outsourcing” services (aka outbound call centers) in India and then delegate lying to these RPOs.

  24. Perhaps this is the modern version of the famous quote of Martin Niemöller:
    “First they outsourced the manufacturing jobs, and I did not speak out—
    ?Because I was not a blue collar worker.
    Then they outsourced/insourced (H1B Visa) the IT jobs, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not an IT worker.
    Then they came to take the Accounting jobs, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not an Accountant.
    Then they came for my job—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

  25. None of this is shocking re the nursing field. At my previous job, the nursing folks (faculty) were pushing students to get advanced degrees, first trying to sell them on the “necessity” of an MSN degree, then, several years later, the DNP became the hot new degree. The reason: employers wanted and demanded it, and supposedly nursing students who had only a BSN wouldn’t be able to find jobs. It seemed silly to me because a nursing degree, particularly for those who aren’t licensed yet, won’t pay off until the graduate gets a job, gets on-the-job-training, and some experience under her belt.

    But it isn’t just nursing (or other public health and health care jobs)–it seems that most employers are not only unwilling to train anyone, but they want someone who has done the exact same job and happy to do it for less money, no benefits, and no opportunity for advancement. If they’d think “would I want to take a job like that”, maybe they’d realized just how screwed up their hiring philosophies and policies are.

    They want highly educated, highly skilled, highly experienced professionals for $7 per hour, and when they can’t get them, then there must be a talent shortage and skills gap. But if they’d get off the computer, kill their ATSes, and talk to people, they’d find no such thing.

    It is easier to blame colleges and universities for not doing the job training for them, it is easier to blame the job hunters for majoring in “worthless” subjects, it is easier to bring in Indians on H1B visas than it is to look at their own hiring practices and to admit that the reason they can’t find anyone is because they have unreasonable expectations (purple squirrel) and are being cheap.

  26. This (WANTED: Top talent to work for dog food – about nursing) is depressing – it applies to contingent college teaching, as well. I can get a job with the State of Colorado – for which I don’t need the terminal degree I have – and earn a living wage plus paid sick days and leave, medical and dental benefits, insurance, retirement, reliable hours, job security…and while the work is bureaucratic and not very exciting, I’m trading my creative, challenging, potentially life-changing teaching work for what I call “a real job” – with the benefits I’ve listed. And I wish I had done so years ago. Oh – and the state job pays for the lights and heat and keeps the premises clean on my behalf, provides the tech I need and someone to maintain it – unlike my other part-time job that augments teaching and which is based at home without any compensation for lights, heat, equipment, or equipment maintenance.
    I’ll be a bureaucrat and have gratitude that the state still provides people with REAL jobs, not “fake jobs”
    Linda Brady

    • @Linda: There have been a lot of articles about the challenges of being adjunct faculty (they qualify for §8 housing, food stamps, etc.), and more and more institutions are shifting to contingent faculty. They’re highly educated, they’re cheap, they’re temporary.

      You were fortunate you could move into administration–I’ve known faculty who taught at 3 colleges and still couldn’t make ends meet. It benefits the bottom line (the university’s), but I don’t think it helps students or the university in the long run.

    • begin quote

      Statement of the Problem

      The emergence of knowledge-based economies (KBEs) in developing countries has the potential to leapfrog these economies to compete in the globalized services sector (Rooney et al., 2003). While reducing labor costs is a main reason for outsourcing, it is not the only driver: other determinants include the need to improve quality of service and providing new services for customers (Kaplan, 2002). The rise of the KBEs also illustrates that the distinction between white collar and blue collar workers is an archaic concept because both categories are subjected to the same conditionalities of business cost reduction and profit maximization. The advance of technological developments increased their commonalities, which made white collar service employment just as vulnerable as blue collar work. The convergence of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector has fueled economic growth but has increased the displacement of service jobs from developed to developing economies (Rooney et al., 2003). The rise of the global IT industry and the outsourcing of various services to lower-cost developing countries are performed through the spatially unbundling of tasks and relocating them to the most productive locations (Wilson, 1998).

      ? Faizal bin Yahya. India and Its Maturing BPO [RPO] IT Sector. Journal of Asian and African Studies. 2011; 47(6):620-633. Emphasis added.

      end quote

      Today what can be said about the Indian BPO sector can now be said about the Indian “recruiting process outsourcing” (RPO) sector except with a few insidious twists: first, they are using both outbound Indian call centers traditionally used in the BPO industry along with US based “staffing” companies – in some cases own by Indians – that function as body-shops which are the major acquirers of both overseas H-1Bs as well as W2 employees (US citizens and Green Card holders) forced into the “contingent” market by layoffs; second, when companies only hire “contingent” workers through these so-called “third party vendors” with little or no oversight or quality control this creates a space for unscrupulous actors to take predatory advantage these contingent workers as this creates a quasi-monopoly on access to an employment market. It gives these predatory staffing companies far too much power with far too little oversight.

      Almost every major and minor US corporation today that requires highly-skilled/highly-educated workers utilizes to one degree or another this vast and largely unseen predatory middle-tier of staffing companies who in turn hire outbound call centers in India (or Pakistan, or Philippians, etc.) branded as RPOs to carry out their recruiting function. These RPOs and the global supply chains and corporations acting as “staffing” companies that use them have a history of adverse economic impact upon the family wage earner that is almost invisible to the average worker and the majority of Americans. You can get a feel for the scope of industries targeted by these RPOs here ( ).

      What IMS People markets as a “success story” is really part of a global supply chain that is an economic nightmare for those highly-educated/highly-skilled family wage earners that happen to be forced into this “contingent” market for one reason or another (see here: ). Keep in mind those 6000+ recruitments only represents one such RPO/staffing company nexus and IMS simultaneously provides these services for multiple “staffing” companies that are little more than body-shops feeding contingent workers to the corporations that engage in so-called “preferred vendor” relationships thereby empowering these staffing companies great power over the contingent employment market.

      Note the “45000+ cleansed and revised database of names.” IMS People and all the other RPOs in India use what is called a relay server such as JobDiva which is itself a resume harvester that downloads job candidates resumes (profiles) from Dice, Monster, and CareerBuilder along with providing these overseas call center employees the ability to send out mass email via a web tool so JobDiva can then strip out the X-Originating-IP to hide the origin of the email.

      These same overseas call center employees working for these RPOs create so-called “recruiter” profiles on LinkedIn when hired by some US “staffing” company (body-shop) that misrepresent their actual employer, their actual location, and even their actual education. These profiles when viewed over time change – shape-shift – depending on the US body-shop they are working for and the role they assume. And misleading and false information is used in their LinkedIn profiles despite clear professional guidelines and user agreements on LinkedIn that is unacceptable. The reality is it seems these are LinkedIn’s paying customers and therefore LinkedIn has no intention of doing anything about this massive Identity Deception perpetrated against family wage earners unfortunate enough to end up in this perverse market. I know because I reported it and LinkedIn did nothing.

      • OK, so what can be done about this? Regulations? Legislation?

        This affects marketing, PMPs, product managers, etc.

  27. The search for the perfect candidate is oh so old, around before I was a recruiter. This perceived need is a composite of organizational sloth, short-sightedness and risk aversion. The short sightedness Nick noted. Why would anyone want to change jobs to take another doing EXACTLY the same thing they are already doing. If unemployed you’d like do so for a paycheck, but you’d know going in you’d be stepping back into a rut & would seek to grow. Why as an employer would you want to bring someone aboard who has no desire or ability to grow value in themselves and their organization?

    Recruiting like this wastes time and money and if one assumes the employer really does want this person, a perpetual search is perpetually unproductive..wasting everyone’s time with the search…and loss of productivity per the lack of the help while you’re on this fantasy hunt..or burning others out to cover the need.

    It doesn’t take much time in a management role to learn that finding a perfect fit is rare, on the dumb luck side. You learn to manage risk and focus on spotting potential. Smarts & enthusiasm cover a lot on need…way faster than theory permits. Potential to do the work, and grow themselves and the team.

    Irony is always present…that being the description of the job…that drives this perfect profile, is often BS, or quickly obsolete and the only way an outsider including HR can know this is if they know the manager writes these fairy tales.

    Degrees are the bigger irony. When I started in IT, Computer Sciences degrees were non existent…hence the Software profession & related industry was created by people who obviously did not have such a degree, and many many of these were people with no degrees at all. Back when a manager was forced to focus on answering the key question…can the person do the job..This all is forgotten and the process evolves to where the blinders go on and a degree becomes a MUST in a profession virtually developed with major contributions of the non-degree.

    There’s a lot of good in obtaining a degree…and what it signifies, but not to the point where degree-ness automatically = intelligence & ability. and hence lack of one means non ability. A premise the Academia “industry” has promoted and industry,students have mindlessly bought in to.

    A good example of how this works, is the MBA mills. If you seek one for personal satisfaction. Go for it. But I’ve run into so many people spending time & Money seeking MBAs from endless universities..just on the basis they believe it will make them more valuable and employable..I worked over 40 years in hi tech as a manager, and 10 as a recruiter…I don’t recall ANY requests to find an MBA.

    • You are very right, Don.

      I am a second generation programmer. My parents were in college when the school go their first computers for student use. Usually, the first programming courses where offered in the math, science or engineering departments, and many of the first programmers hired by corporations came from these backgrounds. I know many of the applications that they and their contemporaries wrote were still in use up until relatively recently. The corporations didn’t go under because so-so in the programming didn’t have the “right” qualifications.

    • @Don Harkness: You make many excellent points here. I’m sure that there were plenty of nutty hiring practices during the pre-computer/ATS era, but now the “system” means you can hide behind your computer screen and let your ATS do the hiring for you. No thinking is required. And if you plug in 500 million specs for a job that only pays $7.00 per hour and don’t get any hits, then you howl indignantly about the “talent shortage” and the “skills gap”, and if you’re a big enough company, you have your lobbyists push your Congressmen and Senators to increase the number of H1B visas or take advantage of the tax break you get for off-shoring all those jobs. It is an insane world.

      Re your comment about managers taking the time to spot, hire, and develop raw talent, I agree with you! Unfortunately, it seems there are not very many managers who try to do what Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, does. Tom Brady was the 199th draft pick in 2000. He posted this recently: I found my combine shirt from 17 years ago and it got me thinking. This is what they said about me then….. Poor build, Skinny, Lacks great physical stature and strength, Lacks mobility and ability to avoid the rush, Lacks a really strong arm, Can’t drive the ball downfield, Does not throw a really tight spiral, System-type player who can get exposed if forced to ad lib, Gets knocked down easily. As @edelman11 always reminds me … “You can prove em right or you can prove em wrong!” Good luck to all of you this weekend!!

      Belichick saw the raw talent, took a chance, invested in his young then-back up quarterback, willing to train him. He doesn’t go for the top picks, for the Heisman Trophy winners. Two years ago Malcolm Butler made that fantastic play at the end of the Super Bowl, intercepting the ball. He went to community college in Mississippi and Belichick saw potential in him too. That’s a skill itself–the ability to see people’s potential and what they might become if given the right coaching (aka training) and a chance. Belichick doesn’t expect new players to come to the team and be able to perform and play perfectly. And maybe that’s his genius–common sense–but smart all the same. Look for untapped potential and talent. Bring them on board, train them, give them a chance. Cut those who don’t want to work, who are prima donnas. Invest in them….and look at the results.

      I think many a business could use Belichick’s philosophy to help their own companies succeed. But if they keep hiding behind computer screens and let ATSes do the hiring, then I wonder how much more successful they could have been had they hired the person who had 70% of what they wanted, invested in him, gave him opportunities for growth and advancement.

  28. As a consultant with 30 years in the IT business, I have an inside track on the brokenness that has created this mess. Furthermore, I’ve seen the problem from multiple prospectives. I could write a book about each aspect of this multi-prong cluster. I think most people would be shocked to learn that much of this chaos is by design and not the result of ignorance. Of course some of it is and I can talk about that as well but on another day. Here’s the simple play:

    1. The economy stopped growing. And while this caused many to go out of business, it was an opportunity to dramatically change things. The sociopaths in management and ownership decided to fire everyone making $100K ~ $180K. Not surprisingly most of these people were 40+. This saves the business between $200k ~ $300K per employee. Aggregate enough people and you can reduce the bottom line from $1 million to about $5 million depending on the size of the company. In terms of value creation those salaries represent a split of 10/90. In English, every dollar paid to the employee saves the company $10 or makes them $10.

    2. Use the “savings” to boost the bottom line and increase executive compensation. (The eggheads seem confused about the causes of income inequality.) The professional middle class was virtually hollowed out. Look at the IRS data. Lots of people are making less money. Experience education or certifications don’t matter.

    3. The smart sociopaths will also fire all of the witnesses and trouble makers. These are people who know that the restructuring, downsizing, or belt tightening was a load of crap.

    4. Rig the hiring system to weed out the competent, the experienced, and the expensive. HR is a central actor in this role. Read Cynthia Shapiro – Corporate Confidential for important clues.

    5. Structure the work so that whole departments of competent and effective people are replaced with no nothings and fools. Typically young and ambitious people that the company can churn and burn. “We want hungry people.” Salaries top out at $65K. Now your making $0.06 for every $10 of value you create. You’ll start at a lot less.

    6. Use marketing propaganda to promote two ideas: (1) Undermined competence, wisdom and experience as overrated. (2) Promote youth, inexperience, and enthusiasm as a virtue.

    Once you understand and accept this is the basic model that has been implemented and copied by many companies, you’ll see that the employment system is perfectly pathological.

    • Often those over 40 who were tossed onto the pavement find it very challenging to find new jobs because most companies want to hire those who are young and cheap.

    • If there was a “share” button for this I’d be using it to share this on all my social media accounts. #5 particularly resonates with me. The way I’ve been treated by these clueless inept rude twats who’ve been put in charge of everything these past few years is nothing short of disgusting (here was one that still makes my blood pressure spike when I remember it, Mark Zuckerberg’s “young people are just smarter” comment set the new standard for hiring and I see no correction to that nonsense coming any time soon. Even our local TV news station fired its veteran weathermen because they were deemed “too old” (the PR announcement said they retired, but I know someone on the inside who says everyone over 39 was axed).

      • @SighMaster: “If there was a “share” button for this I’d be using it to share this on all my social media accounts.”

        Sheesh! Thanks for pointing that out! When I migrated the site to this new layout, I failed to update the share buttons! Take a look now and share away — they’re at top and bottom of each post, and more than just FB! Let me know how you like it — and please offer suggestions it it could be better!

        • Well actually I meant share morpheus’s comment :)
          (still don’t like the threaded comments, as now there’s over 150 it’s tough to find the latest ones…)

          • @SighMaster: Gotcha. 150 comments is unusual. Though I wouldn’t mind if it became the problem I had to solve :-). I’ll look into threading controls. I used to be a fan of unthreaded comments, and The Motley Fool, where my discussion forum used to reside, gave the option to thread or unthread the view. I don’t think there’s a way to share a comment other than to copy/paste it. Sorry!

            • I think I previously shared my observation that “the job market sucks” topics like this one often get >100 comments, while the more optimistic ones geared for those whose lives aren’t so bleak get only a dozen or so, like the last one about quitting a job before having another one lined up (couldn’t relate to that as that’s another luxury I’ll never know in this life). Maybe this is a more accurate way to gauge the economy / job market, the day you post another topic like this and it only gets a dozen comments is when we’ll know the recession of ’08 is finally over (according to morpheus we’ve got six more years to go, *sigh*)…btw, did you get a response from Tocci re: that one-year-old design job ad?

      • It’s good that Zuckerberg made the comment because he, his SV cohort and the globalist elite no longer care about concealing their motives and methods when it comes to ordinary people. He’s a megalomaniac snot who I hope gets into big trouble in his Hawaiian hideaway with the kama’aina he’s evicting.

    • Morpheus: U are so accurate – this is not hyperbole – I too have over 30 yrs experience in biz sector and draw same conclusions – ugggh!

    • @Morpheus: Your points (1) and (2) remind me of a term a friend of mine uses – I’ve mentioned here before. That’s how companies create “junk profitability.” They “save” their way to bigger profits. Trouble is, you can’t do this for long in a competitive market.

    • Let me add some more. Then, when they don’t get enough hires, due to their own system, they claim they need H1Bs. Also, they, either due to their own system or flat out corruption (or both), they also write for Amnesty for illegals, even in jobs that aren’t the ones typically thought of that of as having lots of illegals. Then the colleges call for Amnesty, Dream Act, DACA, etc and H1Bs too. Also, since the government was subsidizing loans, more were getting loans than normally would be able to afford it, thus more were going to college, hence, via the law of supply and demand, tuition was going up (and yes, I believe that the big administrative salaries, etc, are part of the problem too). Meanwhile, the businesses, to hide their treachery, were pushing that terrible Common Core, knowing it was bad, so that they could get rich on data mining, etc, kids. Then, when people got spooked on Common Core, they repackaged it as “Career Technical Education”, “College and Career Ready”, etc, and plan to push everyone toward STEM and to get more degrees.

      Meanwhile, due to the recession, which was actually created by the federal government forcing banks to loan out to people that couldn’t pay it back (Why would a greedy bank loan to those they KNEW couldn’t pay it back? Where’s the profit in that?) based on racial quotas. Then the housing crash happened, and it started the Great Recession. Then they bailed out the businesses and blamed the businesses for it all and passed stuff like McCain-Feingold to grow their own power. (The government has played similar tricks with healthcare, breaking stuff, then blaming insurance companies, etc for the mess. Not that insurance companies are guiltless, they certainly are not.)

      So, with the recession, the labor supply went way up, hence wages, bennies went down due to law of supply and demand. This was made worse by the inflow of H1Bs and illegals.

      In short, I believe that the companies want a dependent worker class that’s getting 3rd world wages and that the government wants people with all of these government help (Food Stamps,etc) so that they can get perpetual voters.

      Meanwhile, thanks to government regulations, the option of breaking out of the rat race and starting your own business to compete with the crooked businessmen and offer a decent pro-American alternative is getting rarer and rarer. (Also by design.)

      To fool people about the rising cost of living and the other sources of the mess, politicians are bringing up raising the minimum wage to $15/hr, when it has been shown that the minimum wage is a nonissue and that it tends to hurt more than help when it’s arbitrarily raised like that. (And I think that’s the plan, to make less people get employed so that there are more government dependents.)

      Sadly, with global markets, even if we had serious pushback, companies could always just offshore completely and leave us in ruin like Vikings after looting a village. We’d have to strike back globally to be effective. I think that their third world market cannot afford their stuff, at least not yet, so they’re operating more there and leeching off of the first world like parasites. Now, if we got the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia to fight back, these companies would finally meet their match.

      • A lot here, but to address this one….Why would a greedy bank loan to those they KNEW couldn’t pay it back? Where’s the profit in that?)

        The profits are in originating the mortgage before it is resold in the secondary market, or commoditized. We bailed the banks out. No banking CEO or rating-company CEO did a perp walk. See Michael Lewis’ The Big Short book, or watch the film for free on Netflix and Amazon.

    • Not shocked actually. Took hours and hours of research into it, but I’ve reached the same conclusion that it’s by design. What I’m wondering now is: how exactly do they plan to keep from becoming a victim of their own foul play? That part I’m still baffled on.

      The only thing I can think of is that they’ve got Enron CEO mentality, that they care about themselves, themselves, and they and don’t care for the company itself or even the troubles their own children or grandchildren will go through because of what they’re doing.

  29. So what do we do about this?

    Nick, I agree with you that employers are the problem and that this system is broken. The Pew Articles are refreshingly on point (even if discouraging in every other way).

    There’s just too many people hurting out there who don’t know or understand how far off the tracks things have gone.

    • Can’t do anything, as long as there’s enough people out there doing just fine. To them, either we don’t exist, or it’s somehow our own fault and “could probably get a job if you really wanted to.” The parking lots at every upscale restaurant around here are packed every night, everyone’s driving a nice new car, and the demand for luxury houses isn’t slowing down. (I chuckle at anyone who mentions “revolution,” gimme a break, nobody is going to leave their house when Game of Thrones season 7 is about to come on.)

  30. I’ve seen ads from a previous employer for the same position I’d had. Their salary range is $7k-$10k less than I was earning 6 years ago! How do they expect to continue offering a superlative product and service when they pay chump change?

    • I once had an interview several years ago, where the interviewer complained that he was having trouble finding people who had more than just a cursory skill, I think he said something along the lines of “I’ve been getting too many people that have only tried X and failed and that’s all the experience they had.”

      Later on, I could tell that he was interested in my skills. When the interview was winding down, I told him that my target salary was $Y. He balked and said that was too much. I felt like telling him that maybe the reason he wasn’t finding what he was looking for was he needed to adjust his expectations.

  31. In case you’re not already depressed, this article lays out more info on the historical perspective of what’s be going on. IMO appears quite accurate.

  32. @ Marilyn – I read the article you posted and found it sobering but true. If our system had any integrity we would of told people the truth and that is the World almost ended in 2008. We propped up a totally corrupt and failed economic system and the hole that was blown in the economy will take about 15 years to recover – we are in year 9. The employment system is completely broken and corrupt. I know too many people that made six-figures salaries who’s lives went down the tubes. The sad part is that they believed in the rigged system all the way down the drain. They got the extra degrees, certification and training. They jumped through the hoops but failed to see the truth, lots of people figured out how to profit from unemployment. In 2012 Hamilton Nolan published a 40 volume series called “Hello From the Underclass: Unemployment Stories” – I read all 40 volumes. Here people chronicle their experiences with unemployment. This series could have been just as easily called no one can hear you scream. I have personally encourage people not to internalize what’s happening because it’s not their fault. The systems rigged. Here are a few nuggets about the resume black hole and recruiters. Nick talks about these things but I’m not sure he appreciates how correct he is.

    Resume Black holes and Recruiting Firms:

    1. Ignore all of the propaganda about your resume being rejected because of spelling, format or grammar errors. 80% of resumes are not seen by humans. Why? In the best cases the company is sloppy and disorganized and you would not want to work there anyway. If you are thinking to yourself some money is better than no money. Don’t worry when you show up they will insult you and not hire you.

    2. Those long online application (a) You are giving your information to data brokers who are building profiles. (b) You are submitting your personal information to criminals. (c) You are submitting your information to marketers. (d) You are submitting your information to a company that’s trying to build a big data AI software hiring system they can sell to dopes. (e) You are submitting your information to a company that is building a database to sell your information to all of the above. The bottom line is online job posting are not an accurate reflection of available jobs.

    3. Most third-party recruiting companies are not worth the time or the effort people waste with them. They are working you for your contacts. They don’t have the relationships they claim with the hiring companies and will lie like hell to score a commission. Here’s why people have such horrible experiences.

    First, most of the people employed by these agencies are not competent in the fields they are recruiting for. If you look them up, they are likely new grads or were flipping burgers at Carl’s Jr. a week before.

    Second, all talk about salary has one purpose, that is to increase the spread on what they can ask the hiring company to pay and what they plan to pay you. They make their money on the difference. Here’s how it works: They tell the candidate the job pays $25.00 per hour. They tell the company they can send over superman but it’s going to cost the company $125.00 per hour. To sweeten the deal, they tell the company look keep the guy for 3 months and if you don’t like him/her we can send someone else.

    If you are lucky, you get a job with no benefits working for people that seem hostile to you. (They think they are paying you $125.00/hr) and they don’t think you are that good. If you are lucky you finish your 3 months and make $7,000 before taxes.

    The company thinks they paid a lot of money ($35,000) and didn’t quite get what they wanted. So they bailout after three months. Usually sooner. The recruiting firm makes $28,000 and pays the recruiter $4,200 out of it. In English you do all of the work for 20% of the pay and the Sociopaths pocket 80%. A perfectly pathological business model.

    You would be much better off doing two things:

    1. Pick up the phone and call these people whom you would be interested in working for.
    2. Send a written letter explaining how you can help.

    If this seems scary or fruitless, remember you only need to win once. The other system is designed to ensure your failure.

    • Morpheus: In reference to Nolan’s series, I’ve been on my own Gilligan’s-Island-like “3-hour tour” gone awry. It’s been a long, strange ride since the 2008 financial implosion :(

  33. Kurt, different unions function differently, sometimes drastically so. In construction unions, “bad” or “unproductive” workers can expect no protection at all. There is no requirement to keep any specific worker on the payroll. Any union employer can select any union worker and any union worker can apply to any union employer. Employment is at-will. If the employer hires someone and doesn’t like them, they can fire that person and hire someone else. Btw, there are plenty of scab shops that have bad or unproductive workers. It is a FAR bigger problem at scab shops. Eventually, in union shops, these people either improve with more training, or go away. One good thing about union construction shops is that bad hires are less likely. The people there are mostly like my h, with 30 yrs of experience and expertise. They aren’t hobbyists or people doing a job to put themselves through college. Workers are required to apprentice for a number of years (3 in my h’s union) at a lower wage, one that increases yearly, while attending trade school at night to learn the craft. If they graduate trade school, they are journeymen. Even journeymen take classes to keep current, usually 4 weekends per year to keep certifications current, with occasional longer classes like OSHA 30.

    • Unions are not the solution either. They are outdated.
      We are now in the 21st century. Unions are an archiac 19th century concept.

      Derogative terms such as ‘scab’ illustrate the worst of unions, such as intimidation and violence.

      People have even lost their lives at the hands of union thugs.

      There should be a federal right to work, i.e. no compulsory union membership. Due to freedom of association requiring union membership, for a job, should be regarded as unconstitutional.

      This is an excellent video clip showing particularly why unions should not be in the public sector:

      I emigrated from a country where unions are almost redundant because legislation protected employees, such as protection from being fired without cause. Employers were only allowed to lay people off if it was economically necessary, e.g. wouldn’t be allowed to lay people off to give their jobs to foreign workers. The laid off worker(s) position(s) could not be filled by anyone else for the next year. Vacation/sick days etc. benefits much better than North America. Unions claiming that they are the reason we have an eight hour work day etc. is union propaganda.

      My father was a jouneyman and he said that they have a saying that a journeyman that needs a union is not much of a journeyman.

      • @Anne: I’ve never been employed where unions existed but I wonder, if one doesn’t pay union dues, does that mean they can’t benefit from union negotiations (i.e.: wage negotiations, etc.)? Or, do they benefit regardless?

        • This should help answer questions regarding how it actually works:

          This is really interesting, i.e.: Real World Effect of Unions:

          Another effect is on unemployment:

        • It is interesting to note the similarity between the map showing the right to work states and the results of the 2016 Election.

        • @Marilyn: it depends. If you live and work in a “right to work” state, then the answer is “yes”, you can benefit from a union without having to join or pay dues.

          @Anne: the reason you didn’t need unions in your home country is because the government passed legislation to protect workers; that is not the case here.

          I respectfully disagree with your statement that there should not be any unions in the public sector–public sector employees can face the same kinds of employment discrimination and abuses by their employer as private sector employees.

          • There is no reason why legislation can’s be implemented in North America to provide better protection for employees.

            “As FDR had foreseen, there are crucial differences between collective bargaining in the public and private sectors. Labor unions negotiating on behalf of government employees enjoy at least four potent advantages, which they long ago learned to exploit…;

            First, unlike their counterparts in the private sector, government unions are largely free from market discipline….

            A second advantage lies in the difference between public- and private-sector strikes. In business, a strike (or the threat of a strike) is an economic weapon. In the public sector, by contrast, strikes are political weapons….

            A third advantage: in public-sector collective bargaining, labor and management frequently both stand to benefit from higher wages and more munificent retirement income….

            But a fourth advantage is more significant than any of these: government labor unions can reward politicians who give them what they want and punish those who don’t. As a result, negotiations in the public sector have an inherent bias toward higher salaries, more lavish benefits, and more inflexible work rules….

            FDR was right. Collective bargaining has no place in the public sector. It inevitably leads to abuse. Favoritism, undue influence, lack of transparency, manipulation of government policy, the relentless mulcting of the taxpayer—this is the poisoned fruit of turning government agencies into union shops.”

            See the full article:

            An example of the problems of public sector unions is the teachers unions:

            Public Sector Unions video:

        • Yes, people who don’t pay their dues in Right-to-work-for-Less states still benefit from union representation, which forces unions to provide services for free, which is legally questionable, and obviously unfair to those who do pay. Anne has an ax to grind, and doesn’t understand the history of unions in the USA, as she isn’t from here.

          • It’s not about having an ax to grind.
            You are pro-union.
            I am not pro-union because I believe that they are unnecessary and outdated.

            The employment conditions, job market etc. are totally different today than they were when the first union was created.

            Unions should not be allowed to force people to join their union to have a job.

            The intimidation and violence committed by unions is a great concern for me. One day while I was driving, unions were being discussed on the radio. It was mentioned that when voting to decide whether to unionize that it was more likely that the results would be no if it was a secret ballot. This is due to intimidation tactics when it will be known who votes no.

            Curious that pro-union folks don’t seem to mind that union bosses get salaries of half a million dollars (or more). I read an article about a union boss arriving at work about noon, working for a few minutes, going to lunch, falling asleep in his chair after lunch, then going home when he woke up.

            Unions should not be allowed to make contributions to any political party or candidates. Neither should companies/corporations be allowed to contribute to political parties/candidates. Only individuals should be allowed to donate a modest amount to a political party or candidate. Here it is just over $1000 that an individual can donate to a political party/candidate.

      • Anne, we need unions more than ever to push back against the ridiculousness we hear about every week on the blog.

        You talk about “union thugs” but there is no mention of company stooges and company’s private militias who have killed far more people than any “union thug” ever has. Perhaps educate yourself about crimes like the Italian Hall Disaster in Calumet, MI. (There is a Wiki page on it.) 73 people, including 59 kids died when a company stooge concocted a false story about a fire spreading, causing a panic and then blocking the exit doors. There have been many such incidents, and also incidents like Triangle Shirtwaist Factory that were caused by greedy employers more worried about negligible, unproven possibilities of minor thefts, than about actual human lives. And no, it is not “propaganda” that unions brought us 40-hr work weeks and weekends. This is a fact that anyone marginally educated on American labor history can verify. They can also verify the fact that the American workforce was strongest post-WW2, when unionization was at an all-time high. Finally, workers had effective push-back against corporate greed.

        Further you say that your father was a journeyman who said that “Any journeyman who needed a union wasn’t much of a journeyman.” Sorry, he viewed his own skills so poorly and you do too. That sounds like a personal problem. However, has it occurred to you that maybe it isn’t the journeymen who need a union, as much as employers preferring union journeymen? After all, my husband ran a successful, lucrative company for 9 yrs before joining the union. (He was done with 80+ hr work weeks and wearing every hat. Yes, he could have hired more people, but that comes with its own problems. He did see the generous insurance and pension benefits as a pull into the union as well.) When contractors employ union journeymen, they get people who have dedicated their entire lives to their craft, not hobbyists, people between jobs, or college students working their way through school. They get people who have done multiple year apprenticeships, workers who emphasize safety, and established workers who keep their certifications updated. These certs are necessary to work on certain jobs, often with good reason, and there is a ready supply of people who have them to be found in one convenient place — the union.

        You mention that you come from a country where unions are redundant because there are many job protections. That is so very nice, but it isn’t the situation in the USA. The fact remains that workers can’t get fair wages because there is a HUGE power differential between a multi-billion dollar company and a single worker looking for a job.

        You want Right-to-Work-for-Less laws nationalized, but you don’t seem to understand that the states that have them, have lower wages, more worker’s comp accidents, more poverty, and they take federal dollars from highly unionized states like mine that are more productive.

        • It is really perplexing how you interpret the statement that my father made to mean that he viewed his own skills poorly. Very odd interpretation.

          It is clear that what he actually meant is that when a journeyman is confidant of his skills, which my father is, he doesn’t need a union to ‘protect’ him.

        • According to the Huffington Post article by Steve Lehto regarding the Italian Hall disaster, this was the cause of the deaths: “Most people rushed out the only way they knew: toward the steep staircase that led to the street. Someone tripped and fell and soon a pile of bodies blocked the stairwell.” So it is false to claim that the exit doors were deliberately blocked. Of course, whoever shouted fire is culpably negligent. His intentions were probably no worse (nor better) than the SJWs at universities who pull a fire alarm to disrupt a presentation by a conservative speaker.

          It is actually a crime to pull a fire alarm when there isn’t a fire. For example, if someone pulls a fire alarm in a school of 600 students, that perpetrator potentially faces up to 600 counts of culpable negligence.

          I’m still sure that unions will not solve the problems of the modern employment dilemma. The solution that will benefit everyone would be legislation protecting employees rights before and after hiring.

          As I mentioned before, neither unions nor companies should be allowed to donate to any political party or candidate. Only individuals, limited to about $1000 each per annum. Then we have a much better chance of getting really fair legislation instead of, for example the current H1B visa allowing foreign workers to take American jobs.

          They tell us to phone our representatives when we are in favour or opposed to a bill. However, who is the representative more likely to listen to?
          All the folks phoning in….
          OR the union or corporation that put million(s) into his pocket.
          It’s time to drain the swamp.

  34. I do agree with this article, and many of the comments made here. We cannot, however, control other people, but rather, ourselves. I am a 51 year old electrical engineer who graduated from a school that does not have a well-known name. I even took a few years off from my engineering career. I have changed jobs a few times and realized a nominal amount of success. I just acquired a new job within the past year and it is going well. Most job changes were initiated by me because I found a new job. Perhaps it is luck. At the same time, I have had a number of interviews where I would travel out of state, and then never hear back from the company again. It turned out they wouldn’t have been good to work for anyway.

    My conclusion is that WE, the people who apply to jobs, are to blame for the current state of affairs. It is because we allow potential employers to walk all over us. It is because we do not believe in ourselves. I’m no psychologist, but the term “learned helplessness” comes to mind. By the way, at my current age (51), I am planning to get a Master’s degree in engineering, because I plan to work for a long time.

    For the moment I will play devil’s advocate and report some observations, and I expect some people will be angry:
    (1) Yes, I believe age discrimination exists, but I have also observed that many older workers stop learning. For example, a friend of mine who is a 60 year old accountant still does income tax forms by paper. That said, I still keep a handwritten engineering notebook, but learning to use a computer in new ways can help you stay ahead of the curve (I am very big on simulation, for example).
    (2) Another person I know is trained as a librarian but says there are no library jobs. I keep asking, “How can you apply your skills to other kinds of work?” Google is great, but I often find I need an expert librarian to answer research questions.
    (3) If you have programming experience, you can always learn new programming skills.
    (4) Specific to electrical engineering: After my 8 year absence, I found Ohm’s Law has not been repealed, microprocessors have given way to microcontrollers in embedded applications, and digital design has given way to FPGA’s. I learned the new skills. Analog circuitry is still with us, and my current company hired me for my analog and microwave skills – it is still an analog world.
    (5) As for programming: The C programming language is alive and well – it is an old language with many variants, but even to this day, used for many things. Linux derives from Unix, and even Apple Mac computers are now Unix machines! (OK, so it’s a variant thereof.) So if my boss asked me to learn Java, PHP, or Ruby on Rails, I’m ready to go!

    I don’t deny that it’s challenging out there. If you are having a hard time finding a job, maybe you need to look at other things you can do. I did at one time apply for a grocery store position – just as something to do while I continued to search for an engineering position, but I got several offers soon thereafter. Starting a business might be viable as well.

    The whole key is to be flexible. Again, I also deplore the behavior of many employers. The “at will” clause is certainly no comfort.

    My final word: Job applicants, raise your standards!!! Don’t take bologna from a potential or even current employer. Don’t use the word “can’t”.

    • Great comments and observations. A few from me:

      “Analog circuitry is still with us, and my current company hired me for my analog and microwave skills – it is still an analog world.”

      I recall an ad in an old EE magazine that showed a big, pixellated image of a red rose. “The world is digital,” it said. On the facing page was a hi-res photo of the same rose. “Except when it’s analog,” read the caption. That’s when I started working more analog and microwave engineering positions. I realized the talent was becoming increasingly rare and valuable. It still is!

      “Job seekers encourage this bad behavior by playing a rigged game. To be fair, the job seekers reasons for doing this isn’t completely irrational. They inherently trust a rigged system.”

      While employers, recruiters and HR fund this broken system, it will change only when job seekers say NO and force the system to grind to a halt. Anyone that’s heard the ZipRecruiter radio ad knows what I’m talking about. “Hiring people is probably the WORST part of my job!” What gall. What a perversion. Hiring is the most important part of any manager’s job, but we’re taught it’s to be avoided at all costs and replaced with automated key word matching. Employers buy into this — and it’s wrong, it’s stupid, it’s destructive and I think it’s undermining our economy.

      “Employers are not social service agencies but rather cutthroat capitalist.”

      I think you’re giving employers undue credit. If they were capitalist, they’d behave more rationally. Their recruiting/hiring behavior is merely stupid and uninformed.

      “Hiring is all about discrimination.”

      That word has taken on pejorative meaning. It’s actually a good thing. When you hire properly, you discriminate between the best candidate and the others. Think about it this way, and it can help you be the stronger candidate, if you focus on what the employer really needs. (Of course, I understand how you’re using the term here.)

  35. @Kevin:

    I agree with the general premise of your comment. Especially the bits about not being able to control others and how Job seekers are at fault for the mistreatment they get. These two things go hand-in-hand but we cannot ignore the inherent power dynamic in the hiring process.

    Some employers feel, know, and act like they have all of the power. Job seekers encourage this bad behavior by playing a rigged game. To be fair, the job seekers reasons for doing this isn’t completely irrational. They inherently trust a rigged system. Employers are not social service agencies but rather cutthroat capitalist. Therefore, some times people have to meet the employers where they are. And that is, rejecting all pre-business relationship demands, on the grounds that you don’t work for these people. (I will not take an employment test, fork over any personal information, complete sample work etc. until we have had a real discussion on exactly what the opportunity is or is not). To do this effectively, you can’t be living paycheck-to-paycheck. This is because lots of employers are not looking for skills they are looking for obedience. Playing hardball with employers when they have a virtual endless amount of job seekers who will kowtow to their every demand will significantly limit your opportunities but, you will get more of what you want and less of what you don’t.

    Which brings us back to:

    1. Hiring is all about discrimination.

    2. Success or failure in a rigged system riddled with catch-22s is mostly about luck rather than merit. It is not about skills or that lack thereof it is about money.

    3. We have to be careful about promoting the idea that older people are not interested in learning. I come from a class of engineers that built and managed technology over a 30 year period. For companies that have employed people who lived through all of that change. The fundamentals are sound. The technology is mature. And people know how to do stuff. But in order to sell “new” stuff you got to get rid of all of the people who know better. Undermine them replace them with people who don’t know any better, allow them to break stuff and then sell them “solutions” to fix it or better yet create other problems for which you can sell more stuff to keep the gravy train running.

    4. When it comes to additional education you are really in a situation of cost externalization. In English, networking technology is 40 years old. I’ve worked with it as an engineer for 30 of those years in a variety of context. The most recent visible change is the consumerization of IT. There is an explosion of devices in the market place that pretty much do all of the things the old devices did but at a price point that makes it cheaper for the average Joe. And requires a lot less knowledge to implement. While I helped to build the network for which this technology depends I have to convince someone who has limited or no experience in the field that I am competent to do the work. First, they won’t believe me because the marketing propaganda has been effective in convincing them that the world didn’t exist before these new devices came on the market. Second, that only young people are smart enough to understand this stuff. Old people are slow and out of touch. In order to signal to the incompetent that I am competent, I have to take a certification at my experience to learn something that I have both theoretical and practical experience with but let’s say that I have a net knowledge gain of 20%. But the actual work doesn’t deal with any of the new knowledge, but rather, a subset of knowledge that was contained in the 80% of what I knew already. To add insult to injury. Then they say, we don’t pay that much for those skills because there’s a glut of people in the marketplace with them. This is a diminishing return. There is no economic upside to perusing additional education or training.

    If you read the Unemployment stories you will see people who tried everything suggested and still hit that wall. More credentials, more education and still no job. See Highly Educated, unemployed and Tumbling Down by Martha C. White.

  36. @Kevin,
    I agree with you, since I taught myself a lot of new stuff over 60 – and learned a lot from younger engineers I hired. But while today you can be successful if you are at the top of your game, in the old days you could make a good living even if you were average. Back then, as people mentioned, you could get training at work. Today companies are afraid they’ll lose you. (Making the work environment good enough so you don’t want to leave is for some reason not an option.) And we are all so busy that most of us don’t have time to learn new things. Even time at home that could be spent reading is now spent checking your mail.
    So I think everyone shares in the problem.

  37. @Kevin – Great comment. I agree with you. It IS tough out there. I have faced age discrimination and companies are taking millens over me by the handful. I work in marketing and I have have been thinking what my next career move should be. (Where are all the 40+ people??) I have kept up with tech -recently taking a bunch of courses during my last layoff. I can get angry..and believe me, I do – but how will that help me? Anger isn’t going to get me anywhere and will certainly not help me in my job interview. I think it is all about being creative and how you position yourself…and yes, if you can accept lower salary (if necessary). It is confusing…but I’m still hanging in there trying to figure this out like all of us. I’ll let you know when I do! :-)

    • In the past, I had applied for jobs at a local university, but then several people told me is that by the time a job ad goes up it’s too late – they have picked their person but are advertising to show that they did give people a chance to apply for the job. The job description fits the preferred candidate so well that it is very unlikely that anyone else will fit the description. On the other hand I once thought I had the inside track on a job, and the manager even encouraged me to apply – then I was eliminated in the first round interview. Then they had trouble finding someone. No, I didn’t re-apply – and now I’m glad because that job killed the last person who had it, and the person who has it now is under enormous stress. Bottom line: You probably don’t want that job anyway.

  38. …Ann, and why did Ford do that? Out of the kindness of his own heart? *laughs*. He did it to avoid unionization. There are books on the subject. You might want to read one.

  39. ““The job is not that specialized,” one manufacturer said of a position it had trouble filling. The problem was finding someone willing to live in a small town and work long hours for low pay.”