This week three men shared the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economic Science. Here’s the problem they’ve been working on for decades:

The researchers spent decades trying to understand why it takes so long for people to find jobs, even in good economic times, and why so many people can be unemployed even when many jobs are available. (Economists Share Nobel for Studying Job Market, NY Times)

Blind leading the blindThese researchers took the classic, academic “long away around” and still haven’t figured out what simple common sense tells us.

People don’t find jobs. They don’t search for jobs. They post some information about themselves online and then wait like doofusses for jobs to come along.

Employers don’t search for new employees. They post job descriptions (a decade ago they ran classified ads) and teams of HR “recruiters” sit on their duffs in front of computer displays waiting for who comes along.

“Who comes along” usually isn’t worth hiring. So, what are these researchers really studying?

They’re studying the artifacts of Duh-oyyyy! They’re not studying the behavior of markets or the behavior of job hunters and employers. They are distracted and mesmerized by the artifacts of the mechanical process of sorting data.

The failure of job hunters and employers to come together “even when many jobs are available” has nothing to do with economics.

It has to do with the mindless process that promotes random job hunting and random hiring. Where in the Nobel Laureates’ reports is a description or analysis of the machine that grinds up job hunters and employers alike, without spitting out “matches?” Where is their prescription for beating the system to get the job done?

Life is short, for people and for companies. The prescription is simple. Go find the people you really want, and go find the companies you really want to work for. Don’t take what comes along.

These researchers’ explanation addresses the complications that come from searching for jobs and job candidates: it takes time for unemployed workers to be matched with the proper opening, since people are not identical, cookie-cutter units, and neither are jobs.

It takes time? Time is wasted because no one acknowledges that the Employment System we rely on has no clothes. I love the total failure to attribute any responsibility to anyone or anything: “it takes time for unemployed workers to be matched…” Duh-oyyyy! Why is that? Why does it take time and who or what is responsible?

How do you get a Nobel when you fail to answer that basic question?

Gee-whiz. “Neither people nor jobs are cookie cutter units?” Gimme a friggin break. The Employment System treats both exactly as cookie cutter units: records in databases, sequences of keywords, lists of skills, bits of data waiting to be matched at the level of letter combinations.

The scientists working on this problem need to pull out Occam’s Razor and start cutting through the bullshit. They problem they describe is not an economic phenomenon. It’s an artifact of the systemic robbing of employers and job hunters. Employers are systematically deprived of their workers, and job hunters of jobs, while everyone is off blindly roaming the jobs and resume databases.

This is not Nobel science. If you want a job, figure out who does the work you want to do and go hang out with those people. They will quickly help you determine what additional training you need, introduce you to the right people, guide and advise you toward a job.

If you want to find a good worker for your business, go hang out with people who do the work you need to have done. Learn from them who can do the work, ask for recommendations, and then go to the person you want and talk shop with them.

Stop washing your hands with gloves on. Get out of the databases and go talk to the actual people and companies.

The idea that Nobel laureate economists are missing the simple explanation suggests no Prize is warranted. The researchers are blinded by the process business uses to find new hires. Yet they don’t say one word about the fact that today, in the midst of what is arguably the biggest glut of unemployed, talented workers we have ever seen, employers and job hunters alike rely almost exclusively on a system that does not work. The Nobels aren’t seeing or reporting that the emperor has no clothes.

I mean, what are Nobel scientists for, if not to point out The Naked Embarrassment?

This is not an economic phenomenon. It’s a simple racket. Employers are being scammed by the behavior of an HR profession that is content to “interview who comes along,” and by the likes of CareerBuilder, and an Employment Industry which is glad to deliver “what comes along.”

The researchers spent decades trying to understand why it takes so long for people to find jobs…



  1. Nick:

    This reminds me of a quote I read many years ago by Bill Gates. He was asked what he liked the most about his job as CEO of Microsoft:

    “Hiring good people.”

    Perhaps the failure of HR can be seen in the policies of those who employ them. They do not share the common sense of Mr. Gates. How many CEOs or business leaders echo his thoughts today?

    It should be like a sports team. The owner is always looking for talent or other opportunities regardless of how well the team performs. It should be no different in other business settings.

    An example: John Henry, the owner of the Boston Red Sox, just purchased the iconic Liverpool Football Club. He has no background in soccer, but we have all seen what he has done since 2002 with Boston.

  2. Nick,

    I’m a bit perplexed by your assertion that this has nothing to do with Economics. Economics teaches us that people act, and that there are incentives behind all actions aiming for certain ends; it doesn’t just deal with the management of resources. I think it’s more correct for you to say that this problem has nothing to do with FREE-MARKET Economics, since this market is anything but free! There are plenty of obvious signs that hiring cartels exist with the force of law to back them up.

    I do, however, share your distaste for the recent Nobel prize winners. Idiots.

  3. @DW: Point taken. I’m not an economist, nor do I pretend to know a lot about econ. But I stand by what I wrote: “The failure of job hunters and employers to come together ‘even when many jobs are available’ has nothing to do with economics.”

    It’s got to do with databases.

  4. Amen, Nick, amen. You nail the issue.

  5. let’s see if this all helps them when they lose tenure. they give substance to the other acronym for phd, piled higher and deeper.
    And it presents a chicken and egg question. which set of idiots came first these guys, or the Nobel Prize committee that thought this said something that will help anyone at any level do anything about unemployment and finding a job.