[This week’s Question is from a hiring manager who also asked for tips about how to adjust job interviews to increase the chances of making hires. We’ll cover that part of his Q next week.]

Question

The current employment climate seems to be the new normal. At my company it’s just very difficult to get new hires. There’s a lot of speculation about why the labor market is so broken, but no one has really identified the reason. Do you have any ideas?

Nick’s Reply

labor marketThere’s certainly controversy about why so many jobs are unfilled. These are my opinions.

Workers don’t need the money?

I don’t buy the argument that the temporary extension and expansion of unemployment benefits caused the problem. In other words, people are not riding so high on such benefits that they don’t want, or need, to work. We’d have to assume that those workers are idiots who ignore their long-term financial health to groove on short-term income. Recent reports seem to confirm that benefits didn’t create the labor shortage. USA Today reports that “people understand there’s no future in unemployment benefits.”

Are workers afraid of getting sick?

I do think fears of COVID infection make many people think twice about returning to the job market. [REDACTED and edited. Please see NOTE TO ALL at end of this column and before the Comments section.] But I don’t think this explains employers’ inability to fill jobs. All we need do is read the comments on many of the columns on this website. Many readers complain about how they’re treated during the recruiting process — so they are indeed “in the market” and looking for new jobs, whether they’re working now or not.

Jobs don’t pay fairly?

In a huge number of jobs, I also think low wages have had an effect on hiring and retention. The arguments against higher minimum wages have been laughable. In Who really needs a $15 minimum wage I expressed the opinion that “If your business can’t afford to pay a minimum $15 an hour wage, your business cannot afford to exist.” More important, employers large and small that have raised pay meaningfully seem to have improved their ability to hire and retain workers. (It’s easy to find examples online, so I’m not going to enumerate them here.) I think healthy businesses will realize they must plow more of their profits back into the economy via higher pay. This is also known as “sharing the wealth.” It’s a capitalist idea. But this won’t solve the larger hiring problem, either.

Or, is the employment system broken?

The problem of filling jobs today is, I think, so clear and simple that it’s going right over the heads of economists, legislators, employers, HR experts and job seekers alike. It’s a fundamental, structural problem we discuss on Ask The Headhunter all the time. America’s employment system itself is broken.

The problem is online job boards, automated recruiting, and indirect, reductionist interviewing and candidate assessment methods. They don’t work well at all, and they never did.

The labor market’s Humpty Dumpty problem

This wasn’t so evident when the workforce was mostly employed. The failures of applicant tracking systems (ATSes) and overly automated HR operations were easy to cover up in times of high employment. COVID put an end to that.

Suddenly, staggering numbers of jobs were vacated at all levels of employment. Now that we’re returning to some semblance of normal, the dirty little secret about our employment system is out. The trivial HR technology that employers have long relied on — databases and keyword matching — has been unable to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Employers have not been able to reassemble their shattered workforces.

The workers are out there. But their expectations and requirements have changed. They want higher pay, safe working conditions, and better treatment. The keyword-matching technology can’t handle that.

It’s the technology

It’s a job seeker’s market. Pay is up. Infection risk is down. So, where is the talent employers need to hire? I think it’s lost in data dumpsters that continue to isolate hiring managers from the workers they need. Employers can’t hire the right talent because employers lack the talent to recruit and assess the talent they need to hire.

The labor force has always known LinkedIn, Indeed, ZipRecruiter and their ilk never worked for them. If these matching services worked, job seekers wouldn’t howl about having to apply to 500 jobs to get one interview, which turns out to be for the wrong job!

LinkedIn would have employers continue to believe that “the right candidates are in there” — among its “700+ million members” — if HR will just pay to search the database. Indeed lets employers dive through its dumpster of “over 200 million resumes.” The ATS vendors sell “one stop shopping” where an HR department can search all the job boards simultaneously!

With staggering numbers of jobs to be filled, employers are wading through bigger and bigger data dumps of keyword matches. But workers are done with that employment system. I think they’re looking for more thoughtful, accurate, personalized efforts to recruit them. Job seekers have always responded best to personal referrals through people they trust.

Disrespect for labor broke the job market

How difficult is it for employers, hiring managers, recruiters and HR to understand that more is not better? Filtering the entire population of the United States twice over, every time you need to fill a job, is a fool’s errand, no matter how good your database tools are.

The workers employers need to hire don’t live in a database of 700 million. They circulate in relatively narrow, well-defined professional communities. They hang out with people who do the work they do, and the work they want to do. They’re not keywords. And they don’t live in databases. They respond best to employers and recruiters who respect them enough to find them where they actually live.

Some employers have figured it out. The reductionist recruiting tools they depended on for decades don’t really work — especially not in a job seekers’ market. These employers have learned to go where the right workers hang out, and to show they recruit intelligently and selectively — not stupidly and indiscriminately.

I don’t know whether my opinions and arguments ring true with you. I think much of the labor force is done with the ridiculous HR technology that has failed them for decades. It’s not that they don’t want to work or are not available to work in a safe, respectful environment at a fair price. I think they’re signaling that they’re not going to waste their time relying on a broken-down employment system that abuses them.

What’s your take on all the vacant jobs? Who broke the labor market? Where are all the workers?


NOTE TO ALL: Comments relating to vaccination controversies and political agendas have been and will be redacted or removed. I have even redacted the part of my own column that seems to have triggered such comments. My mistake. (If I have redacted a comment you have posted that you would prefer I delete entirely because you feel the redaction has changed your meaning, please let me know and I will delete it if you wish.) In over 25 years of running Ask The Headhunter, I’ve not had to delete more than a handful of inappropriate readers’ comments. It pains me to delete so many on this discussion. If you want to advocate political agendas of any kind, including about vaccinations and abortion, take it somewhere else. You’re welcome here only if you stay on topic.

This forum is about job search, recruiting, hiring and success at work and in life. Thanks to all who have stayed on topic. Apologies to anyone whose non-infringing comments may have gotten deleted because they were part of a deleted thread; please re-post if you like. Participants in the Ask The Headhunter forum have demonstrated the highest standard of conduct since its inception. I brag about that. I intend to maintain the standard even if I have to redact my own writing. Spirited, respectful discussion and debate is welcome while it’s on topic. Newcomers are welcome to participate! I will not tolerate political preaching, ranting, trolling, rudeness or personal attacks.

-Nick


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140 Comments
  1. The problem is much more than undervaluing the labour it’s also overvaluing credentials in place of experience. Has an example I’m working part time right now for a large corporation that rents cars. Their minimum requirement to become a customer service agent is a bachelors degree from the University for a job which they pay approximately $16 an hour. Now minimum wage in my part of the country pays $15 an hour. The resort town where they want some of their employees to work a living wage in that town needs to be at least minimum $20-$25 an hour to be able to afford to live in this resort town. And our HR department wonders why they can’t get qualified candidates. Or that why middle-management trainees do not want to relocate to these locations to run their businesses for them. In addition, the same large company Tries to talk staff into these positions or fill them positions with occasional part-time workers so that they don’t have to pay for full-time worker benefits. Interestingly enough the local McDonald’s hamburgers franchise offers wages of $20-$25 an hour plus accommodation in this resort town.

    • Yeah… I was somewhat flabbergasted when a representative from a local office of a national car rental chain told that a bachelor’s degree was required to work there. I wanted to (but held back) asking whether that was also true of the folks that were washing and gassing up the returned cars.

      • I once read an interesting take on the college degree reuirement for jobs that clearly do not require the degree. I think it was James Taranto when he ran WSJ “Best of the Web Today”. I hope I’m not mis-attributing.

        His take was the businesses used to use various aptitude tests in-house. Various court opinions found them racist or discrimatory against various minorities, and business stopped using them.

        They use the college degree as a proxy for the aptitude tests they used to do themselves. How good of a proxy nowadays is another matter. Many colleges provide more of an indoctrination than an education.

  2. This has become a wakeup call for many, many companies. Here is one of my experiences and this stands in for a lot of companies expecting bargain basement salaries and lack of seeing the market now.
    About 10% or less of my year end work is putting myself through the employment trashing system to get a better look at the lineup I might or might not contact to pitch ideas as a contractor.
    November 2020 I applied for a senior role reporting to Senior manager, other senior managers and their VP. I went through all of the follow up until the last Zoom meeting. At the final meeting,the lineup was my immediate report to, other dotted line report to and VP. So yes you are at work but can you stay for 5 minutes during our meeting? If we were in a boardroom would everyone leave except HR?It was almost 2 hours of my life I won’t get back and I didn’t speak with everyone.I did the appropriate noises of thank you to everyone and got on with my life.My take they were holding outfor the unicorn because people will return to the old employment model and they were in control so no effort was needed to impress me.
    Nearly 1 year later after advertising the position 5X it remains unfilled and yes the job description hasn’t changed but it’s become a junior clerical position with the expected junior compensation $$.So return to a 9-5 office hours no flextime and who haven’t you talked to about this position? Wow. Just wow.

    • @Marilyn: Yes, Wow. Makes you wonder why the entire HR organization hasn’t been fired. So, who is accountable for $$ and time wasted advertising 5X and interviewing candidates for a job?

      You mentioned the board room. I think this is on the board of directors for failure to look into HR failure to manage human resources — and $$.

  3. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers and clients. If your customers are happy, their sustained / increased business will lead to a longer life for your company. If you can stay successfully in business, you will have happier stockholders. We have minimized or forgotten the employee component over the last few decades. People are no longer just satisfied to have a job working as many hours as demanded. Employees want interesting work and a career path.

    • @Jim: Amen to that! “People are our most important asset!” is an HR marketing lie in too many companies.

  4. When I go for an interview, I traditionally bring an 9×12 zip-lock bag with a few resumes just in case. Now I have my vax card slipped in it. Unless the interviewer is visually impaired, my status is obvious. That time wasting issue is immediately off the table.

  5. I agree with your assessment, but I disagree with your weighting. I think the fact that companies try to pay less ( in salary, benefits and hours) counts more than databases. And I believe that because the employers are too cheap that searching through a database is sufficient for them because they do not value the workers.

    • Maybe the databases are giving companies the false impression that there are tons of applicants for every position. They are fooled into thinking that the perfect and also perfectly cheap applicant it there.

      And they wait forever for that “data” to arrive.

      They are not looking for people, they are looking for unicorns.

      And they think if they get millions of horses in their database they are sure to find a unicorn.

      • As the old joke punch line goes “There must be a pony in here somewhere!”

    • Yes, I believe compensation is still the sticking point, even after all these years. Employers are sloooow learners, offering compensation that hasn’t kept pace with inflation…and that’s even more relevant under current conditions with the cost of food, fuel, natural gas – just about everything we mere mortals need to sustain life – skyrocketing, no doubt due to the ineptitude of the idiots in charge in DC.

      Pay people what they are worth to your company, instead of expecting them to be grateful for the few rancid sops you throw their way.

      • Another factor that makes the job market dysfunctional is business consolidation and monopsony/oligopsony (single buyer or too few buyers.) When a few employers dominate the labor market, it’s literally impossible to ‘go work for a better employer.’ E.g., private security guards.

        When there’s just a few businesses in a market, they don’t compete on price OR features-they just look around at what the others are offering and offer the same, at the same price. This is true of products and employment. It’s a function of business regulation and taxation, and it’s prominent in the US today.

        And as the comments leading off this blog illustrate, the US in the middle of political/social upheaval. Many if not most people are preoccupied with this upheaval and unable to change or see past it, though businesses still sell goods and services, and people still work.

        It’s hard to see through the chaos, and the monopolist/monopsonist companies have a market advantage even when they work against the interests of their employees and customers. For example, US ‘Health Insurance’ is terrible for employers, patients, family docs and mental health providers, but great for the ins cos, hospitals and other specialties. They have market dominance and work hard to protect it. In most places, it appears to be the only game in town.

        Bucking that dominance is risky and lonely. An insurance company in Seattle killed Qliance, because they were breaking the insurance co business model. (Google HealthRosetta and direct primary care for more.)

  6. It is definitely the automation of the HR departments. In retail and restaurant chains, you can no longer apply in person to the manager at your corner store. You must apply online, into the mega-system and hope that eventually, the local manager is pinged. Meanwhile, even when the local manager has met you, seen your resume (offline, via personal connection) and says that you ‘should have no problem’ getting a job with them, the system has decided that you don’t qualify or there is one missing word in your resume that didn’t spit you out the other end, etc. — These are entry level retail jobs! There isn’t much on a resume that can tell the employer that you are personable, can make eye contact and be friendly and have it together enough to learn how to run their cash register. — Here is a recent experience that my 21 year old daughter had at one nationally-known fast food place: (She has foodservice experience) The application was via Indeed. They TEXTED her an interview offer for a 6pm zoom interview – never told her the name of who would interview her. When she agreed, they texted her the zoom link (not via email…) and then nobody from the company showed up to the zoom meeting! She was stood up! Meanwhile, the local location has had a help wanted sign up in the window for over a month and the people currently working there are harried. — Back in the day – not THAT long ago – I got my first retail job by walking into the store and speaking with the manager, who hired me on the spot.

    • @GC: If I were your daughter, I’d show up at the local retail store, dressed appropriately for work, ask to meet the manager, ask about the sign in the window, explain that the company blew off your Zoom interview, and make the manager a job offer: “I’m ready to start today if you can clear it with your home office.”

      If the manager can’t take action, on the way out the door I’d slap a sticker under the help-wanted sign that says, “BUT NOT REALLY!”

      This is an excellent example of how front line retail workers are hurt by the very employers that claim they can’t find workers. Thanks for sharing it!

      • better yet I thought you were going to say, I’m (name), reporting in, per my zoom meeting. what do you want me to do 1st?
        likely answer. say what? no one informed me. then go digging around in their HR system, maybe even calling a human. come back, when was the interview? meeting? last night. Looks like they hired me on the spot because no one dropped in from the company. So I assume silence means assent. Do we do badges here? And what shift am I on? and Kudos to HR, I’ve never had an interview that moved that fast.

      • It seems to me with all of this “Technology” that was supposed to make hiring easier, we’re using it to put up more road blocks and the process gets drawn out.

        I’ve contended that at some point, someone who is more junior than you’d like is better than having an empty chair.

        • At a company where my wife worked, they had a policy that the length of time a position was open was used as a metric of the manager’s performance. The longer it stayed open, the more strain it put on the rest of the manager’s team. At some point other team members might leave due to the extra workload, stress, etc. It behooved manager’s to work harder at filling open roles so as to avoid creating even more openings on their teams.

          My employer, on the other hand, apparently thought open positions were desirable; we had several openings that went unfilled for extended periods of time. “The candidate you interviewed was too expensive | missing a qualification (something that would have easily been resolved with some training) | too experienced/overqualified | …” You name it. HR once actually rejected an “overqualified” candidate who would have provided my manager with someone who could have been my backup, a position he’d been trying to get approved by them for several years. But, of course, the company saved some money.

    • This is happening in every retail chain right now. And the business goes out the door.

      For instance, went to a Sunday car show with maybe 200 cars and hundreds of spectators visiting throughout the day.The car club works with a local Panera through the year on things like ‘cars and coffee’. Of course the Panera was mobbed during the show. They didn’t have enough people to take orders (even with the help of tablet ordering) and especially to fill the orders as they came in. In other words, they gridlocked and lost business as those waiting for their orders advised new customers to beat it if they didn’t want to wait an hour.

  7. 1) Companies that figure out how to recruit and hire well will come out the winners in the mass change in the job market.

    2) Nick covered the company side of things but there is a mass change in demographics going on. There was a mass retirement of boomers who had planned to work 5-10 mores years. Numbers are pointing to 2-3 million or more have left the job market permanently. How many others left so they could better care for family, children or other reasons? 2-3 million more? This demographic change to a younger work force carries completely different expectations of what work should be.

    3) Companies have unrealistic standards. I can’t tell you the number of interviews I have had over the years where the job requires senior level skills and connections but offer entry level pay. I have started flat telling recruiters that I know the people they are looking for and they make 10X what they are offering.

    • @Todd: It’s taking employers a long time to catch up to reality. As you note, the ones that get it are the winners. Then we’ll have a lot of crying about companies going out of business because they couldn’t hire the necessary staff and management. Go figure.

    • I know at my employer (community college), there were enrollment concerns before the pandemic hit.

      A voluntary reduction was offered to one of the unions, they were able to get a years salary and be eligible for unemployment benefits. Many of the boomers who were close to retirement age or over it jumped at that deal.

  8. I’ve been job hunting discreetly while currently being employed. I can only speak for the area I live at. While employers seem more desperate, it’s still the same feces, different day.
    Here’s some things I’ve noticed-
    .I’ve been seeing more younger people who’ve dropped out of the workforce and are living with their parents/parent. This appears more common with young men especially.
    .Im seeing help wanted signs all over in industrial parks, and lobbies with pens and applications set out, for manufacturing and warehouse jobs. Many offer competitive wages for my area and sign on bonuses + competitive benefits and production bonuses. But oddly enough, I call on many of these companies in my current job, and they complain they’re getting few if any applicants.
    .Many of these jobs work 50-60 (oftentimes more like 60) hour work weeks. OT is where you make your $ bank in the trades and blue collar hourly jobs.
    .I’ve been looking for more industrial sales related jobs. I’m still encountering overly picky employers looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, doing bait-and switch tactics, ghosting, looking to hire the young Turk, job requires living out of a suitcase, lower salaries or commission only, indentured servitude mentality, withdrawing job offers at the last minute, and on and on.
    Case in point, I did multiple interviews for a position earlier in the summer, and they hired another candidate. Right out of the clear blue, I was recontacted last week by the same employer wanting to interview me again. Cautiously optimistic, I started going through the multiple interview process. Not only was I unimpressed with the crew at their local facility, I discovered in the interview that I was sloppy seconds. The kid they hired in lieu of me originally had up and suddenly quit. I withdrew my name from consideration. The Sales Manager called me several times asking me to reconsider, but I ignored him (take the hint).
    .I’m seeing and hearing of more candidates who once they’re in the jobs, end up going south, roll over, hide out, and demand all sorts of concessions from the employers.
    Here’s my analysis based on experience and observation-
    1.There’s ample jobs, some good, some not so good, but there’s plenty of people who just flat out don’t want to work. We really have an epidemic of lazy dolts. I see it everyday out there.
    2.Most workers want a life (including me) so they don’t want to work long hours, even if they make bank with the OT, or travel and live out of a suitcase.
    3.Workers, both young and old, are suspicious of, and jaded by, the many-many unscrupulous, greedy, and downright low-shelf employers out there today.
    4.Employers are still so delusional, and can’t seem to grasp the whole labor shortage dilemma.
    Add to this stagnant wages, no merit raises or incentives, and low wages from the get go.
    5.Workers (younger workers especially) shy away from in demand decent paying trades jobs and gold collar jobs.
    Go figure.

    • @Antonio – I often wonder why there are not more apprenticeships out there. One of the reasons the younger crowd is shying away is because they have no guidance at all once they get into a role. The pandemic also threw everyone off their game. We are all human. The pandemic brought to light just who is pulling this cart and who is only pretending.

      • @GG-apprenticeships (excluding some of the building trades) have nearly disappeared. Vocational training on the HS level, and school to work programs, are equally rare. Young people are dissuaded by counselors, and even parents, to avoid the trades. Look at Germany with their phenomenal apprenticeship programs and tell me that can’t work here. A machinist is looked upon with some semblance of respect in Germany too, but here he/she is looked upon as a knuckle walker.
        Employers bemoan a skills shortage, but they do nothing to do OJT ( the best training), or support the trade schools.

        • Yeah, this is the biggest problem with the labor market and it’s been going on for a long time.

          Companies for awhile got lucky with “just in time” hiring and cut back on training and HR related budgets leading to “faux profitability.” In other words, the bottom line looks better because they aren’t investing in employees. But, at some point, this comes home to roost.

      • “the younger crowd is shying away is because they have no guidance at all once they get into a role”

        It’s the same for the more experienced folks, too. The new person on the job is frequently left to flounder because there’s no training nor is there any documentation in place for the new hire to train themselves. I spent around a decade managing contracted projects in academia and cannot imagine what a mess we would have had if we hadn’t provided training to the students (undergrads all the way to doctoral candidates) we had working on those projects. We didn’t expect them to hit the ground running like companies do today; we knew our environment would require some ramp-up time. Even someone with 100% of the qualifications for the job, navigating the corporate environment requires at least something in the way of orientation, etc.. Frequently, one just hears “It’s on the wiki” or “It’s on the file share” (Really? Which one?) and leave the hapless new hire to try and find what they need. I still hear about new hires that don’t even have a desk allocated to them on day one. That’s not how you show new employees how valued they are to the company.

    • Antonio, I’ve done OK a couple of times being a 2nd choice. I’d not turn down an interview for that reason. It’s exactly the scenario why I advise
      applicants to follow up in about 3 months as 1st choices don’t always work out.

      • Works for you, but I don’t do the “sloppy seconds”. Employer hires a kid “cheap”, then come back to the grayhead when it doesn’t pan out. Bad hiring practices.

      • I was the runner-up for a role at a national laboratory. Their first pick left after only ten calendar days. But they had a policy of not making offers to candidates who’d been passed over. I would have taken that job in a heartbeat. I found out a few years later from a consultant working at a new employer that she’d been one of the people I’d interviewed with (I knew she looked familiar and she even remembered my answers to the questions she’d asked that impressed her) and that most of the people on the interview team liked me for the role but had been overruled by the department manager. There aren’t many places I’d accept a “sloppy seconds” offer from but that was one.

  9. I see many issues with how the labor market is, first is supply. If we can’t get things like paint or parts how can one continue to work or employers hire if they can’t get product in or out? Second is, people have had a long break and people are realizing that it is not all about the job anymore family and people’s health are now more important than 100 hr work weeks. Third is pay, to many companies think it is normal to offer jobs with huge responsibilities like auto mechanics or manufacturing without paying for the job. Related to this is the push now for contract workers with no way to negotiate pay such as auto parts delivery.

    [REDACTED]

    The biggest issue I have seen is the unwillingness of employers to interview and LOOK at why an auto mechanic Might want to do something like firearms assembly, the skills are there, the employers are going about things in the usual manner, must score 100% on the job requirements and be willing to work all day everyday at a moments notice.

    The overlying issue now is the economic impact of what the government is trying to do. It scares the s out of people.

    Here in Texas gas is forecasted to be 3.50 per gallon of 87 octane by December.

    HR needs to wake up……but they won’t

    • “The overlying issue now is the economic impact of what the government is trying to do.”

      True. Unfortunately, the majority “voted” for this and the politicians
      are very willing to oblige with this power grab.

      “HR needs to wake up……but they won’t”

      True for many, many decades.

  10. I believe, despite a career in employee benefits administration, that a significant part of the problems companies have with hiring is that the benefits system is broken. High costs for health insurance discourage employers from offering it. Employees are loathe to leave the relative security of jobs with health coverage and will put up lower wages, mediocre work conditions, and a poor work-life balance. Paying $15/hr. or more without changing other non-wage compensation and working conditions is not the the answer. The answer will be a single payer healthcare system that provides care at lower overall cost to employers and employees along with a culture in which the true value of employees to their employers is recognized and compensated. (Family leave and disability protections also need fixing.)

    This boomer wanted to work until age 70ish but was laid off at the early 60s. The hells of job hunting for a professional as an older woman are well documented. Unemployment did not cover my bills and was time limited. The jobs I was able to snag mostly did not provide health coverage (at one point I paid $850/mo. for ACA coverage with a $2400 deductible), treated me as lesser than younger staff, and provided such a poor work-life balance that I cringe when I look back at that time. It was the only way to keep my home and maintain health coverage.

    When a job ended, just before I turned 65, I looked back at the previous years and realized that I had saved nothing for retirement during that time, had an unsatifactory quality of life, and was pouring money into a hole labelled health insurance. Rather than go back on the hamster wheel of unemployment and job hunting, I enrolled in Medicare with a supplement, filed for Social Security, and started drawing on my savings. I am so glad I am not in the workfoce any more.

    • @Connie: Thanks very much for a compelling insider’s view of the benefits end of compensation. You’re revealing that “benefits” really are a part of compensation. However, employers and their HR routinely ignore, cover up, or misdirect when a candidate asks about the specifics.

      “Our coverage is industry-standard.”

      “You’ll find our coverage is quite good.”

      “That’s all in our benefits package, which you’ll receive during your orientation.”

      Job candidates need to ask for all associated documentation when they receive a job offer, before they decide whether to accept it. That benefits package is not a throw-away component of the job offer. It can be more meaningful than the salary. And employers need to present that documentation as the interview proceeds.

      Thanks again for highlighting a hidden problem with most job offers.

      • “Job candidates need to ask for all associated documentation when they receive a job offer, before they decide whether to accept it. That benefits package is not a throw-away component of the job offer. It can be more meaningful than the salary. And employers need to present that documentation as the interview proceeds.”

        In my 25+ years of employment/looking for work, I’ve only had 2 or 3 companies provide me specifics of their benefits package up front or when asked.

        • Spot on right! Excellent point!!
          Employers get annoyed to downright triggered often when you inquire about insurance and benefits. Many appear to not know (or care) about the bare bone basics of their benefits package.
          Case in point, back towards the end of this last recession I spent a chunk of time unemployed after a downsizing from a job I really enjoyed and held down for 6 years. After an exhaustive and lengthy job search I landed on my feet at a not very good employer, but I was desperate at that stage. The young M.E. manager and I interviewed a well qualified candidate for a production welding job. The candidate had a young family and asked about benefits. The manager disqualified the guy after the interview stating “he’d be a drain on their insurance if he had to ask about it”. I left after one year.

        • @David: I’ve never polled readers (or anyone I know) about this. What you say is pretty stunning: 25 years! Also stunning is that employers want to creep into every crevice of your experience, credentials and background while not disclosing all the terms of employment until you’re on board.

          The clearest analogy, to me, concerns salary. They want documentation about your past salary before they make an offer, but they will not provide documentation about what the job in question pays or — CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? — about what the last 3 people in the job were paid.

          Perhaps companies should have an Integrity & Consistency Officer.

    • Thanks for your reply. Surely having to provide health cover, to employees, is a disincentive for people to hire new workers. Just as having to rely on health cover, through your work, is a disincentive for people to seek new employment options or to become entrepreneurial. Breaking the nexus between health cover, and employment, allows companies to free up money to provide different incentives for hiring people.

    • @Connie-your story parallels mine, and many others. I’ll be turning 64 in 4 months. Full retirement for me is 66.5. Between poor planning, and lots of set backs, my retirement fund is paltry, and I’ll be working until I can’t, but I sure won’t be working at my current wild west show. This is why I tell the young folks I mentor to self fund their own retirement (Roth IRA or an annuity) and NEVER TRUST AN EMPLOYER FOR ANYTHING!!!!
      I know what its like to be an older man out of work and looking, but I’m certain older women out of work and looking get an extra dose of ageism.

  11. Awesome article. I couldn’t agree more about the ATS system being broken. What amazes me, is that anyone gets hired via any of the online systems.

    I have given up trying, and have begun take no my resume to companies I have researched, in person…just like a hundred years ago!

    My experience has been, three months out of work, with several times being ghosted by employers. It is very frustrating on my end, so I can only imagine how frustrated trained HR people must be feeling.

    Keep up the great articles, always learn something when I read them.

    A fan,
    Gary Chellberg

    • @Gary: Thanks! And thanks for posting. “Going personal” is the only solution that pays off reliabily.

  12. I think Antonio was right on! The problem is, in part, income. Income is horrible. Owners and managers bellyache that we don’t have the money but they really do. Look at these huge, huge, huge salaries managers and higher Executives get. Hundreds of times the average employee salary. All the time they bellyache about a $10 or $20 an hour raise to the people who actually produce money for the company.. I worked for a nonprofit headhunter/employment organization in Salt Lake City many years ago. On Monday morning our intake session had 200 to 300 people, every Monday morning. They all had been told that they were not performing well and that they were terminated because of that. So we developed a dialogue wherein I would ask the people what they achieved in their job. It turned out that everyone we were able to call Don on had contributed enormously repeat enormously to the organization. They were fired rather than pay the person a bonus. The person who was in charge of firing them was the one who got the bonus. Further, companies really don’t care about a career path for an employee. What they want is somebody who will stay in the same job for thirty years or more. If you are an employer why would you want to hire somebody that you have it promote all the time? An example is programmers. For 30 years the job you take and the salary you take is the same job aandsalary you have until you quit. Doesn’t matter how good you are. It actually doesn’t matter how bad you are. But they will not give you a raise. So you have to go somewhere else. The problem is the employers have a really crummy opinion of their employees and they aren’t about to change that until this new job. Revolution completes its course.

    • @Wes: When it was an employer’s labor market, employers learned to advertise for people who have done the exact same work for 5 years, and to offer them less pay to accept the job. It’s going to take employers quite a while to let go of that hiring “strategy.” Their entire HR operations are based on it. Yup, what goes around, comes around.

      • My company is losing tons of people because it gave no raises last year due to Covid and eliminated all bonuses for non-managers. When asked about it at our quarterly meeting, the Chief HRO laughed – not in a light-hearted way – and said that the offers people received were outrageous.

        A few weeks later we received an email telling us that next year – pay increases are back ‘in plan’ if you are performing well. Any pay adjustments will take place in April 2022 – two years since the last token increase that they low-balled us on because of Covid. No, I’m not bitter. I have received a top performance review EVERY year. In 2020 my increase was 1.5 percent. Half the norm because of unprecedented times… The entire system and executive attitudes are broken.

  13. I am a well educated boomer (MBA, Professional Engineer, CPA) who walked away from a large company position where it was difficult to complete the required work because of personnel shortages. I worked many uncompensated hours overtime trying to keep up with the flow. Inadequate training and low pay were also issues. I walked away in June 2020. Like other boomers have stated, I intended to continue working well into my 70s until the Covid-19 debacle.

    The one good thing I can say about the company I worked for was that it’s interview process was good. My resume went directly to the dept. VP from a friend, not to HR. This department also had it’s own HR person, whose office was located within the dept. The corporate HR was in a separate building. I think that helped with recruiting but not so much with retention. The working conditions were such that a good percentage of new employees didn’t stay very long.

    I am waiting to see if the ridiculous mandates and other overbearing dictates are eased before I consider working again. I would still like to work, but not sure if I can tolerate the nonsense.

    • “I worked many uncompensated hours overtime trying to keep up with the flow. Inadequate training and low pay were also issues. I walked away in June 2020. Like other boomers have stated, I intended to continue working well into my 70s until the Covid-19 debacle.”

      I think part of the shortage is linked to this. It should be obvious by now that COVID-19 hits the elderly the hardest.

      Older folks probably retired if they could.

      Also, I know of a lot of retired folks that pick up some part time hours at the local Home Depot or whatever, just to get out of the house and have a little extra spending money. They figured the exposure isn’t worth it.

  14. I know a man who worked for a corporation where he came up with an idea to make them a lot of money. In fact according to the controller and treasurer in the first year of applying this idea the company realize an additional $550 in income. I was with this individual when he was talking to the controller and treasurer of the company several years later where they revealed that figure of 550 million dollars. The man told me later that he tries always to be polite and has been waiting for an opportunity to say you’re welcome but, unfortunately, he has yet to even hear thank you from the employer’s.

  15. I dunno, seems like old times to me. The job market may have changed, but it doesn’t seem to me that employers have quite gotten the message yet. I know this is anecdotal, but I recently read a piece by someone who decided to run a test to see just how things are going RE employment. He applied to many jobs for which he considered himself a reasonable candidate, with exactly the same results you would have expected pre-plague: very few responded, there were pointless preliminary interviews, and out of scores of applications, maybe one actual interview.

    A few days ago I experienced one of those preliminary phone interviews for a gig that looked fairly interesting, and yes, once again, it was conducted by an HR droid who couldn’t manage to call me at the scheduled time, knew absolutely nothing about my field (software engineering and project leadership), and who stumbled through reading me a series of questions that I had already answered on the job application.

    My theory that belongs to me is as follows. This is how it goes. Companies can’t find people because their hiring processes are still just as dysfunctional as they ever were, and while things were bad before, now they are wondering why they can’t get people to go to the point of risking their lives to join them in their dysfunction.

    • @Rick: One thing has not changed. Going around HR, avoiding job application forms and ATSes, and taking the personal approach works best. Always has. It’s not “who you know.” It’s “who knows you.”

  16. G G. Years ago, when I was just starting College, there were tons and tons of engineering apprentice jobs. However much they may have provided insights they were low-paid, often very much low-paid. The problem remains that people are not paid what they’re worth. I have long advocated that every employee, myself included, should evaluate their Financial contributions to their employer. I used to work for a company called Flowserve in Utah, its headquarters are in Dallas Texas. They would not pay an individual bonus for anyting. And I think they got the kind of employees that they deserve. I had to quit after I made a significant, extremely significant contribution to their profit. HR was adamant they weren’t going to pay me a penny. Until every employee is capable of determining their actual worth to the employer this will continue. The employee has to be able to demonstrate their contribution and be willing to politely demand that they be paid accordingly. There also needs to be a clear career path. The HR pre-assigned salary brackets for each job all the way up to the top should be explained and should be public information to all. Until this happens there will continue to be high turnover but I hope people go start their own companies and maybe treat people the way they would like to be treated.

    • @Wes: I continue to be astonished about the failure of organizations to calculate and understand what each job and worker brings to the bottom line. I agree that it’s thus up to the worker to make a reasonable estimate of their own, given the facts available. That remains the most effective way to pitch for more pay, and the most fair and rational. I think the reason this approach by employees would create problems is that employers could not make a case against whatever the employee came up with, simply because the company has no idea what the worker is worth.

      Corporate accounting tracks “P&L” (profit and loss) at a macro level. I’ve never heard an accountant or CFO address the fact that they don’t track individual P&L. Like the job boards, which make wild marketing claims about what percentage of jobs they fill and people they put into jobs, but fail to produce any data to support this, CFOs tell shareholders how much profit the company is making, but are incapable of showing the components of the calculation.

      How much profit does each worker produce? If an employer can’t explain it to you, why would you want to work there?

  17. Tell me who this did not get incorrectly. My above comment should have read 550 million dollars. That was 550 million dollars. That’s a little bit of change and you think the company could least afford a a thank you for a pat on the back or perhaps a 1% bonus?

    • @Wes: I know two employees of an old iteration of AT&T, actually a mother and son. Her job was to find locations in the U.S. for new AT&T facilities where local and state government would provide tax credits or abatements for building new facilities and creating new jobs. By herself, this woman brought millions to AT&T’s bottom line. Her son, a programmer, helped her create analysis tools (in his spare time) to optimize these profits. Between the two of them, they understood the game better than anyone. Yet when AT&T announced a huge downsizing (in the 1990s), they included her. She took the package AT&T offered and gleefully left, and her son went with her.

      “Oh, wait a minute!” AT&T cried when she signed the package. “We didn’t mean you! We want you to stay!”

      The pair started a consulting firm with her severance and made money hand over fist helping other companies capitalize on the same kinds of government subsidies.

      A 1% bonus? How about a percentage of the extra profits generated by the worker? Call it “the employee’s share.” I think this kind of deal for employees is just too much for companies to grasp — because they view employees as expenses to be minimized, not investments to be cultivated.

      • More power to her and him. I should talk to Nick because I now know I am valuable enough to spin my value into real dollars. I have consistently set records in my area for Savings and finding new opportunities – yet, I have not worked here long enough to be considered for more – four years at a company isn’t enough? What about my 20 years experience?

  18. There are people in the great out there on the internet and search whose full-time job is to go do networks and make political commentaries on anything they can imagine. It’s not honest it’s not seeking the truth it’s not speaking to the subject at hand. Everybody might take note of this then remember that when you see things said that our political and have nothing to do with the subject at hand, be very cautious about what you’d leave.

  19. The company I am working for is one that is going to have to readjust. They were already losing people before lockdown. The attitude was/is “if people want Google-level salaries, they can go somewhere else”. I was actually told that by my manager – who later left for Facebook.

    Our HR department, which is under Legal, has just re-branded to “People Ops”, and is separate from recruiting. I doubt anything will change. And being under Legal, I’d guess their primary goal is keeping the company out of lawsuits, not keeping employees.

    Perhaps the problem stems from a gap, a gulf, between the executives and the workers.

    For example, when lockdown started, there was an initial hiring freeze. The process would continue for people already being interviewed, but no one would be hired after that. When an employee asked about what to tell a friend they were about to refer, the CEO replied to go ahead and refer them – even though we weren’t hiring, they should feel honored to interview with us.

    Management says they care about the employees. But it may be like the French kings caring about the French peasants – from a vast distance.

    Right now I’m feeling guilty because someone I really value has just told me she is leaving. She also told me her best experience at the company was being part of the team I was leading – up until the team dissolved this past January. So I’m wondering if I could have kept the team together and perhaps we could have kept her. On the other hand, her being successful and happy is the most important thing.

    So why am I there? Because of the age-discrimination in tech. As Connie described above, I don’t want to go through the interview process again. We “hire old people” is the exception rather than the rule: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2021/08/26/tech-job-posting-we-hire-old-people-went-viral-for-highlighting-ageism/?sh=43a9c879272a

  20. Nick, I agree applicant tracking systems do contribute to the issue. I recently applied for a position and later found out my application never made it to the hiring manager. I got screened out by the ATS because I was not a perfect fit for the position and the hiring manager was not given the opportunity to consider some of my additional qualification beyond what was on the job requisition.

    A factor that will definitely contribute to hiring problems are companies that inquire about your health status as part of the hiring process or as terms of employment. Very clearly this is discrimination and companies should not be allowed to inquire as to an applicant’s health records. One’s health records are private and are protected information under existing laws. Companies that force medical procedures need to be held accountable for violating medical privacy laws and discrimination. [REDACTED]

    • [REDACTED]

      Please refer to my NOTE TO ALL at the end of this column, just before the Comments begin.

      There is simply no way, without giving the appearance of bias, for me to selectively redact or delete comments that reflect one or another personal or political opinion about vaccination. I have my own opinions, and I’ve erred in even bringing up vaccination issues in hiring. I have redacted or deleted my own statements on the subject.

      While the vax issue is a legitimate one in the job search and hiring domain, it’s not necessary to the discussions on Ask The Headhunter. It has always been my policy to discourage overtly political discussion, not because it’s not legitimate or valid, but because it is distracting to the primary topics we discuss and, frankly, because some cannot discuss political topics without resorting to rudeness and personal attacks. Every participant here deserves civil behavior. As long as vaccination remains controversial and politically volatile, it has no place on this website. There are plenty of other websites where such discussion and debate is welcomed and appropriate.

      That’s why I am deleting comments and threads that specifically discuss one position or the other about vaccination. In some cases, where comments are primarily about other issues, have redacted only those portions about vaccination. If I have redacted a comment you have posted that you would prefer I delete entirely because you feel the redaction has changed your meaning, please let me know and I will delete it if you wish.

      I firmly believe in public discussion and activism about political issues. There are places for this. Ask The Headhunter is not one of them. I hope you understand.

    • Robert ATS’s are a tool and their value to a company is what they make of them. As I left my last company we had just installed one. Certain processing specs were under user control. Most notably what happens to an application and who are the recipients. An applications itself goe into a data base. Per our setup we recruiters got them all, as well as the applicable hiring manager(s). That done, what’s important and related and not the job of a dumb piece of ATS software, is who’s primarily responsible for dealing with it. that’s management’s or likely too often, an HR call.

      For example in our company the Owner wanted the hiring managers to drive their recruiting, so once it hit their inbox it was on them. We recruiters backstopped as secondary recipients. A nice way of saying monitoring, nagging the HM and at times per agreement with the HM to process the application, for them. One feature that was the applicant’s friend is the ATS would track & report on status, where was in, was it read, was their a decision etc, per HM and in total. There is no “hiring manager didn’t get it” but there could be “hiring manager got it, but didn’t read it, or it’s aging out without any actions.

      Applications are not hidden. ATS’s don’t come cheap, so it’s insane to buy them & then negate their very purpose.
      You can automate it, email them, send them in by snail mail. The delivery method isn’t the issue. the issue is managerial attitudes about how they address the applications. In the case I noted upper management/owner made quite clear that HMs were to drive THEIR recruiting, not HR. And in this case the ATS was set up to support it. If management doesn’t make clear who’s driving the bus, an ATS becomes just an e-excuse.

  21. I have to admit that after years of slap downs, sticking it in, and twisting it off from employers, it’s refreshing to see them get a taste of what it’s like to grovel for a job vs grovel for hiring employees. This trend will continue, for how long, who knows. Employers did it to themselves, and they cut the nose off despite their faces.
    Btw, why isn’t the editor calling out the posters for political banter? Getting soft now?

    • @Antonio: While I was thinking about the most appropriate way to handle the many (many more than usual) “political banter” comments that don’t belong here, I encountered your comment. And you’re right. You gave me the impetus I needed to redact or delete them all, including my own. Thanks. And thanks for sticking to the topic. I may not always agree with you, but your comments are usually right on the mark.

  22. I would certainly like to be able to do this discussion within the boundaries of what the apparent subject was. Can we get back that and stop the nonsense about people’s opinions, please?

  23. I think the main reason is that employers are behaving as they have for more than a decade (since the Great Recession of 2008) and perhaps longer, not treating applicants as people. They are still relying upon ATS and other programs to do the screening for them, refuse to talk to people who walk in, résumé in hand.

    Stores in my area all have “Help Wanted” sign if you go in and ask to speak with the manager, you’re told to apply online, and the manager won’t bother to talk to you. Nor will he take you up on your offer to come back at a time more convenient for him and that you won’t take more than 10 minutes of his time.

    At the local Wal-Mart, there is even a table, chair, and paper applications and pens set out. I overheard one of the employees telling a couple of women who wanted to apply what happens to the paper application they fill out: the manager of that store NEVER sees it because it gets scanned into the computer system, and only if the computer determines they are a fit will they be contacted for an interview. Additionally, I heard her telling the women that although the sign advertised that Wal-Mart will pay new hires $15.00 per hour, that will not happen. She said that new hires start at $7.25 per hour, and that is where they will stay until they quit. No raises. No full time jobs either, despite the sign (because they don’t want to pay any benefits). And to add insult to injury, she told them that they will not work the same number of hours per week, nor the same shift, making getting a second job impossible.

    Yes, I know, I would expect no less from Wal-Mart, or any other retailer. But then don’t lie on your “Help Wanted” signs, and if you really don’t intend to hire people, don’t put out “Help Wanted” signs.

    Last week at one of the malls there was a job fair. The local newspaper covered the event, but focused solely on employers’ complaints about poor attendance and “lazy” workers. I’m looking for work, and after seeing the list of employers, decided to go with a friend of mine (also looking for work). I shouldn’t have wasted my time. The employers who were there pushed us to their websites, told us to apply that way. Several refused to take our résumés, and the ones that did dumped them (some within our sight). I stated to one “You’re not really serious about hiring, are you?”, and when said “yes”, I asked why he refused to talk to me about the job. He said that I had to apply first (online) and be screened before he could talk. If that’s the case, then why bother to attend the job fair? The whole point of a job fair is for employers to meet job hunters without computers and ATSes getting in the way. Far too many of the employers attending were not hiring managers, and the HR people there couldn’t tell us what jobs were available (“don’t be lazy and go look online, then apply” was the most common response).

    The other issue is pay. Pay is still far too low. You can’t live on $15.00 in my area, and employers still think people should be grateful for the scraps.

    • I remember that ATS systems were just starting to become a “thing” when I was graduating college decades ago now.

      Employers would just direct you to their website at job fairs and it felt like I was just wasting my efforts.

      • @David: Twenty years ago, when the company I worked for was outsourcing jobs to the Albany area, they held a job fair on site, invited local employers who had job openings as most of the employees were not moving to Albany and would be looking for work locally.

        I went because it was easy. My employer had hired people to help employees with résumé and cover letter writing, practice with interviewing, and more, and this way the job fair was easy and convenient. No long trips or expensive stays in hotels or parking fees.

        I remember quite a few employers participating, and back then, in 2001, people were willing to talk to us, to look at our résumés, to discuss what jobs were open, what they were looking for, to actually interview us. I had three interviews, two follow up interviews later at the employers’ places of business, and two offers.

        But that was the last time I had a good experience at a job fair. I reluctantly went recently, hoping that if employers needed help as badly as they claimed they did, that perhaps things would be different. But they weren’t different–so either they really don’t have all those job vacancies, or they’re attending merely to say they can check boxes as Nick suggested in his comment below. I have come to the conclusion that employers are not hurting for employees. Their complaints feed a narrative of “lazy people” who don’t want to work, and makes for filler on the evening news.

        If employers were serious about filling their job vacancies, they’d look at job fairs as opportunities to get around the road blocks the online application systems put up, look at them as opportunities to meet people, to talk shop, and if they were smart, they wouldn’t throw people’s résumés in the trash or tell them to apply online (don’t bother us, and if we’re interested, we’ll contact you). Maybe the person they talk to isn’t a good match for an open job now, but might be for job in the future. Burn that bridge by dissing the job seeker, and that person won’t apply to that company again.

    • @Marybeth: Please check this column for another dirty little HR secret about job fairs.

      https://www.asktheheadhunter.com/10112/job-fairs

      In brief:
      “The other little secret some HR folks have sheepishly shared with me is that job fairs enable them to check off more boxes on federal employment regulation forms. Maybe this is how they identify race, color and disabilities and get credit for entertaining certain applicants. I welcome HR managers to explain their behavior.”

      • @Nick, @ Marybeth.
        I don’t totally agree with the negative views of job fairs. It’s not that simple. there are job fairs and there are job fairs.
        A. The biggies. Held usually in large city areas, promising hundreds of jobs, lots of employers etc. Set up and run by companies who make this their biz, & they don’t come cheap. Cattle calls. Which I think are the source of most people’s poor impressions. they come with the mystery of why companies pay a lot of money and just send warm bodies who collect paper, or tell you apply on line & are ill equipped to even discuss a job

        A.1 Similar but hosted by a single company, usually a large one, with aforementioned companies paid to set up etc. If it’s away from their own space less likely you’ll see a hiring manager.

        B. Academia run. e.g. universities and community colleges. Usually self run, but I’ve been to some where there’s a 3rd party doing the grunt work of set up etc.

        C. Smaller company run where they don’t farm out the grunt work. for example 1 company I worked for, set up “invitationals” Aim at a venue (populated by competitors or industry saturation), advertise, vet and invite selected, fly in Hiring managers and recruiters. Meetings in hotels, one on ones. 1 or 2 days of it. Scheduling sensitive, so bosses don’t run across people working for them. Pretty useful to both sides of the table

        D. Local, volunteer run job fairs. Usually church based, or military advocate groups. Free to employers, and of course job seekers.

        As a job hunter I mostly did type A, as a hiring manager, done them all, as a recruiter, all of them. In my last job Working for a small company as an inside recruiter we did well with types B & D. and we consistently hired people. In one particular volunteer run job fair (2X a year) I started going, and as the value became apparent, over 5 years we expanded attendance to include applicable Hiring Managers. Further, The volunteer team that ran these fairs got to know us and our needs and would refer people to us. With hiring managers at the tables, I’d roam the fair, talk with people and send them over telling them which manager to talk with.
        So blanket statements that fairs are useless are not on the mark. Job fairs are like any other aspect of job hunting. Research them just as you should research a company you target. You’ll find those with street cred & those that don’t. As many have noted, the company’s that have hiring managers at the tables, do offer good use of your time and theirs.

  24. “Far too many of the employers attending were not hiring managers”

    …and it’s been the way for YEARS.

    Most fairs are a complete waste of time…put on for theatre and image
    for local employers and politicians who want their name in lights (local news,
    online, etc.) with goal of looking as if they’re “doing good” for the community.

    Top candidates don’t waste their time in this manner. Why
    would anyone who is highly qualified want to mix themselves
    up in a massive anonymous crowd?

    Did you ever notice that many of the employers attending these fairs
    offer low lever jobs (not careers) and hire ex-cons?

    Yep, that explains why a certain percentage of attendees show up looking like
    they just rolled out of bed…because during this COVID-19 “crisis” they literally
    did just that.

    Many have figured out that these fairs are just physical manisfestations of bogus
    online job boards.

    • I have only been to a couple of hiring fairs, and neither of them panned out for me. I do not think as theater. To me, it was more of a numbers game. For any opening an employer had, you get many more applicants than the employer had openings for at the fair. From an applicant’s point of view, you go into a fair, you should be thinking — if I get lucky this time, an opportunity pans out. Maybe every 10 fairs I go to, a good opportunity comes my way. Those are not bad odds — one fair per month, and unless you are unlucky, an opportunity comes you way some time this year. If you add other job seeking strategies in to the mix, who knows. You have to put yourself out there. Some one needs to teach you how to fish :-)

      • @Jay: If it works for you…! Thanks for a different data point!

  25. Chris S I agree with Junior in Mass, let’s back get back to the original topic.Duh!

  26. Nick thanks for removing the vaccination controversies and political agendas, not relavant here. Job fairs are good for one thing… leads for companies; then see if there are opportunities there.

  27. NOTE TO ALL: Please see my other NOTE TO ALL that I just added to the very end of this column, about posting comments. Thanks!

    Nick

  28. Forgive the “when I was young” tine of this comment but my first job after university was IT in the ‘80s. They looked at our marks but they also did one on one interviews with the graduates to get a feel for who we were. I had a choice of jobs from seven different employers. I chose the one that made me feel they actually valued who I was and wanted to develop me. My orientation was “follow that guy around and do what he does”. We did everything associated with the IT networking from the ground up. Nothing was “beneath” us but we were treated as professional. It was all hands on deck to deal with issues and we learnt from, and supported, each other. It was the social networking that allowed me to move around the company if I hit road blocks and the background that made me valuable to the groups I joined.

    I think the real problem, now, is everything if just too disjointed. Companies expect that “buzz words” will deliver them the best candidates and that people can hit the ground running with no guidelines. That people will “develop” on their own time. That people are available at all hours. That people, magically, work well together. That outsourcers deliver what they say they will. That you can provide people with vague notions on what needs to be delivered and they will spin gold out of straw. That you given them half baked systems and they will work around the flaws.

    Me, if I was addressing this, I would go back to the old fashioned notion of employment being a mutual contract between the employer and the employee. That both sides understand that development Is required. That a person’s technical qualifications are only a part of what they are delivering to the company and that the pay packet is only part of what the employee receives. I would start by getting people back to the cover letter and reading that before getting to the qualifications. Get them to discuss their approaches to problem solving, their views on team dynamics, see how they would present to “customers”, how they deal with issues. During interviews look for people who would mesh well with your groups, the idea providers, the ones who will step up as needed, those that are empathic to others. Yes, people need the qualifications but that is not all they need.

    It takes a lot of money to recruit someone. So why would a company then blow it by treating them badly or misleading them as to what the work entails? Why use an arbitrary software package to look for buzzwords? What you don’t need is everyone pulling in a different direction with no idea what they are meant to be doing. It is at recruitment that everyone should be clear what the outcomes will be.

    Frankly the final few years of employment was very trying. They installed senior management that treated us as dirt and outsourced some of what we did overseas. Projects were being delivered poorly, because of this, and the blame was being slated down the tree. Because IT has been so lucrative hundreds of years of experience is walking out the door to retirement because we have savings, stocks, superannuation. Me, I would’ve, happily, continued working if it wasn’t for the mess they had made. They wanted me to stay but I’d had enough. I would’ve walked across glass for the original management but not what we ended up with.

    • @Margaret: If I may take a liberty with your statement that “I would go back to the old fashioned notion of employment being a mutual contract between the employer and the employee” …

      It should also be base on “a mutual contact between the employer and the employee”.

      Employers expect to hire effectively without showing up face-to-face during recruiting and, now, even during interviews!

  29. Over the years I view the main problem to be is managerial attitudes and failure to learn from it’s collective and historic experiences about hiring.
    From what I’ve lived through, it’s like a pendulum.

    When it’s a candidates/sellers market, and there’s a shortage of candidates, companies learn to hire people with potential, since they can’t get perfect candidates. From the company standpoint this is a worse case scenario.

    When the pendulum swings to a buyers/company market companies get ridiculously picky, & seek perfection, and cop an attitude along with it, the one that signals they are doing someone a favor by hiring you and as such you gratefully cast aside comp, quality of life factors.

    Even if they got good at moving quickly hiring those with potential, they act as if it was a humbling experience they needed to forget..which they seem to do.
    Savvy companies retain what they learned, plan and execute their hiring using a worse case scenario. Which doesn’t deny them from raising the bar & looking for the highly qualified, while they retain the ability to quickly close on good potential.

  30. One of the things that I don’t necessarily see that anyone has touched on yet (and I hope it’s not just the company I work for) is that there can also be an issue with the managers actually doing the hiring.

    The agency I work for has a large number of executives at mid and upper management who are within 5 to 6 year of retirement. The majority of the mid level managers being setup to replace them are staff that have done really well as lead counselor, business managers, etc… but have never held a true management position. In my opinion this has compounded the hiring of new staff even more. These new managers will hire anyone who “checks the boxes” and fills out HR forms without properly understanding/vetting their department’s (or the agency’s) business needs. I’m not necessarily surprised with some departments when the new hire doesn’t last 24 hours (and my team has to disable their account). For those new managers that are well prepared, they are so new they don’t want to “rock the boat” until they have some seniority and will not go against/raise issues with their senior managers. A couple have left their management positions not even 3 months in due to this.

    The new managers do get HR’s “manager training”, which is a 1 hour slide deck/video. Ironically it too is being taught by someone who is being setup to replace the head of HR in a couple years. My opinion is it’s a bad feedback loop that to me reinforces all the previous points about HR brought up in this thread and Nick’s many articles. Unless managers (or I pray senior management) look outside for additional help/training/2nd opinions or there becomes an agency culture change I don’t necessarily see things getting better on employee retention or filling positions.

    I realize not every agency is going through a mid and upper management refresh (about 40% in the next 5 to 6 years), but I can’t help but think that to some extent the blame can be spread not just to HR but other management within an organization (especially at the top).

    • @Brian: I believe one of the main reasons HR shovels its budget into the eager hands of headhunters and staffing firms is because corporate managers (at any level) are incapable of recruiting and selecting new hires — and because HR itself is incapable as well.

      When will boards of directors step in to see to it that their CEOs fix this? A company’s employees are usually its single biggest competitive edge. So why outsource selecting them??

  31. I’ve been noticing when applying on Indeed (yeah, it’s urinating on your shoes) for jobs, that quite a few employers are requiring doing assessment tests as part of the initial application process. Many of these assessment tests are strange, and take upwards of 30+ minutes to complete.
    So why exactly does a serious, experienced, ethical, and mature job candidate want to waste 30+ minutes of their time on some assessment test, and the employer either will ghost you, or reject you. The juice isn’t worth the squeeze.
    I still contend refusal to play these games with employers is the best push back.

    • @Antonio Zoli: Indeed is a huge waste of time and energy. There’s a local farmer who closed his farm stand last month because he says he can’t find any employees. The local newspaper and tv news have done a few stories about him, very favorable, and bemoaning the “lazy” people who don’t want to work.

      This farmer posted his job vacancies on Indeed, then complained to the media that he hasn’t gotten any good responses. He had college kids and his own kids (also in college) to staff the farm stand over the summer, but when the kids returned to college, he apparently didn’t have a plan for what to do. He’s still using Indeed, getting the same results, and still complaining.

      No one has suggested to him that it might be better if he didn’t rely on Indeed–hire high school kids (or younger) to staff the farm stand after school and on weekends. If he wants someone to staff it during the day, there are young people living in the area who don’t go to college and who might be able to work there if he’s flexible (especially if they have a part time job elsewhere).

      There’s another farm stand in the next town from this guy, and they never have a problem with hiring people to staff it. Perhaps they pay more, or perhaps the young people working there are family. Still another farm stand has dispensed with the idea of having someone there to staff it. There’s a lock box and you put the money in it for whatever you bought. Yes, it means you need the exact amount, but that’s not a big deal. It is an honor system; he’s trusting you to do the right thing and pay him, and I’m sure that there are some who take produce and don’t pay. (I don’t get that either, given how reasonable his prices are, but that’s another issue entirely.)

      I wonder how long it will the first farmer to realize that Indeed isn’t the solution? When he gets nothing for the money he paid to Indeed? Or will he keep going back to the Indeed well, and keep complaining, instead of changing how he searches for employees (and perhaps how much he pays) and how he hires?

      • @Marybeth-I agree, Indeed is (as my late father would’ve said) “worthless as paps on a boar hog”(pardon my French)Unfortunately, we’re relegated to pajama blogging on Indeed in these strange times we live in.
        For giggles, I’ve applied for some jobs on Indeed that a year ago either ghosted me, or told me to take a hike. While I have no intention of pursuing said jobs, it’s interesting to see these same employers calling me now with the inflection of desperation in their voices. Even when I say “no thanks” I’ve had several call me back, sometimes 2 or 3 times. So why am I suddenly such a prize for them? Beats me. What goes around does come around!
        This particular farmer you speak of, is he a lout, does he pay substandard wages for the vegetable/fruit stand, is he difficult to work for?
        You and I will agree to disagree here, but I do see a fair amount of people in my area who just flat out don’t want to work, even when offered decent paying manufacturing type jobs. If it involves getting dirty, physical effort, is unglamorous, isn’t “entertaining”, isn’t sitting in a cube picking on a computer, doesn’t have flexible hours, or have remote work, well then, forget it.

  32. I’ve said it before – it bears saying again:

    Employers: You get what you pay for (middle finger raised)

  33. Now is the time to improve our employment situation. If we will go in interviewing and show clearly how we have made money for our current and previous employers and how much that money amounts to, Etc then we have a good negotiating point to get a decent salary and benefits and bonuses. Part of this I mentioned in other threads, is interviewing up not just your boss but his boss and his boss. At least three boss levels. It’s the top boss that makes the money decision. And you need to tell them that you understand that money is not an issue, since they get paid so extremely well themselves. If they say they can’t afford you that’s one issue. I ask what their salary policy is: do they want just to pay the cheapest they can get away with or do they actually not have the money. If they want to pay the cheapest I’m out of there. If they claim they don’t have the money I tell them that’s all the more reason to hire me because I bring the cash in. It’s the people who bring the cash in who should be paid. Not just somebody who was a good buddy of the good buddy of somebody else who is also incompetent. My experience has been that I have not had a single manager all the way up the chain of command that I thought was competent. They are unifomally excessively greedy and dishonest. As a former HEADHUNTER it was ALWAYS the company executives who lied in recruiting, not the employees on their resumes.

  34. I have long advocated the concept of looking at the top resume applicants, interview 3, 4, or5 applicant and if one meets the requirements, I mean the requirements, of the job you hire him. To continue looking after you find somebody to meet the requirements is stupid.

  35. The perfectly adequate employee is out there for whatever position you have in your department is, in fact, out there.

    You will never get to interview them.

    First, your company, like a junkie in the alley behind the food bank, is still hooked on “try before you buy”, “contract to hire” or some other euphemism for “we are afraid to make a hiring decision”. So they put out an RFP or some such and every “Professional Contract Firm” large and kitchen table-sized starts advertising the position, and cold emailing potential candidates. The emails are scarcely literate English, filled with far too much unnecessary text. After gloating about the company (women-owned, diverse, top 1000 placement firms, etc), they finally get to the “urgent requirement” for a four-month contract “with great potential to extend!!”

    The potential candidate feels that they will be competing against 10,000 other candidates, and even if the fit were right, they just don’t want to do that dance one more time. And after the fifth or so email about the same position, they just hit delete having gotten no further than the subject line.

    Why should they? By now they have a position with someone who recruited them personally, making bank at the McDonalds that really did need people or are working some YouTube Guru’s “system” for at least high five figures a year. (It said “six figures”, but our savvy candidate knew there was some helium pumped into the advertising, and five will do for now working from the patio at home.)

    Just a microcosm of “employers have shown great disrespect for candidates, contractors, and employees” since white-collar work became a thing.

    Best of luck changing that.

    • @L.T.: That may be the best expression of job-seeker angst I’ve read. It needs to be nailed on the front door of every employer. Maybe THEN they will get it.

  36. The gritty no-nonsense commentary on this topic has been
    more like it. I trust more of this is to come.
    Not the usual fare of fairy dust, Ted Talks, and the nanny policing woke.
    As far as job fairs go (low wage service sector trade shows might be a better description) while I’ve only been to a few (waste of time) I’ve personally yet to have encountered anyone who’s ever been hired through them. In my area, virtually no manufacturing or construction related employers are represented. It’s hotels, restaurant chains, banks, care centers, temp agencies, insurance companies, call centers, and so on. Then they invariably direct the applicants to apply online.

  37. Greed, outsourcing, globalization, mismanagement, inadequate if any training for new technologies, dead-end jobs, feeling like a minority in the IT industry – it’s all caught up to HR, IT and corporations

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