In the June 28, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, several readers raise questions about HR that we can’t keep ignoring.


this-way-outReader 1: Back in the 20th century, employers actually reviewed resumes by reading them rather than scanning them into a computerized ranking system. Keywords have turned hiring into a pass-the-buck game, with HR complaining it can’t find talent! Well, HR isn’t looking for talent. HR isn’t looking for anything. Phony algorithms are keeping the talent unemployed while HR gets paid to do something else! The question is, what is HR doing?

Reader 2: Two weeks after receiving a written offer from this company — and after I quit my old job and moved — HR sends me an e-mail saying there’s no job. That’s right: They hired me and fired me before I started! What am I supposed to do now? I can’t go back to my old job — I quit. The HR person who gave me the offer still has her job. Shouldn’t she be fired?

Reader 3: I was selected for a new, better job paying more money after rounds of interviews. I was all set to start when my HR department called me in to say the job was withdrawn due to budget problems. This was for a promotion at my own company! How did they have the budget a month ago when they posted the job and gave it to me, but not now? What can I do?

Reader 4: My friend attended a business roundtable where multiple employers complained they couldn’t find people. She stood up and said she was a member of several large job-search networking groups, with an aggregate membership of thousands in the Boston area. She offered to put them in touch, help them post positions, and contacted them multiple times afterwards to help facilitate this. Nobody has taken her up on it. Talent shortage my…!

Nick’s Reply

This edition of Ask The Headhunter is dedicated to good Human Resources (HR) managers who work hard to ensure their companies behave with integrity and in a businesslike manner toward job applicants — and who actually recruit.

This is also a challenge to the rest. Do the readers’ complaints above mystify or offend you? You cannot pretend to manage “human resources” while allowing your companies — and your profession — to run amuck in the recruiting and hiring process.

The problems described above are on you — on HR. It’s your job to fix them. Either raise your HR departments’ standards of behavior, or quit your jobs and eliminate the HR role altogether at your companies.

Here are some simple suggestions about very obvious problems in HR:

Stop rescinding offers.

oopsBudget problems may impact hiring and internal promotions, but it’s HR’s job to make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed before HR makes offers that impact people’s lives. Don’t make job offers if you don’t have the authority to follow through. If your company doesn’t give you that authority, then quit your job because you look like an idiot for having a job you’re not allowed to do. What happens to every job applicant is on you. (See Pop Quiz: Can an employer take back a job offer?)

Stop recruiting people then ignoring them.

In other words, stop soliciting people you have no intention of interviewing or hiring. More is not better. If it’s impossible to handle all job applicants personally and respectfully, then you’re recruiting the wrong people and too many of them. Either treat every applicant with the respect you expect them to show you and your company, or stop recruiting — until you have put a system in place that’s accurate and respectful. Having control over people’s careers isn’t a license to waste anyone’s time. Your company’s rudeness in hiring starts with you. (See How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.)

Stop recruiting stupidly.

stupidThe job of recruiting is about identifying and enticing the right candidates for jobs at your company. It’s not about soliciting everyone who has an e-mail address, and then complaining your applicants are unqualified or unskilled. You can’t fish with a bucket.

You say you use the same services everyone else uses to recruit? Where’s the edge in that? Paying Indeed or LinkedIn or so you can search for needles in their haystacks is not recruiting. It’s stupid. Soliciting too many people who are not good candidates means you’re not doing your job. If you don’t know how to recruit intelligently, get another job. (See Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired.)

Stop demanding salary history.

It’s. None. Of. Your. Business. And it makes you look silly.

tell-meI have a standing challenge to anyone in HR: Give me one good reason why you need to know how much money a job applicant is making. No HR worker has ever been able to explain it rationally.

It’s private information. It’s personal. It’s private. It’s shameful to ask for it. Do you tell job applicants how much you make, or how much the manager makes, or how much the last person in the job was paid? If you need to know what another employer paid someone in order to judge what your company should pay them, then you’re worthless in the hiring process. You don’t know how to judge value. HR is all about judging the value of workers. You don’t belong in HR. (See Should I disclose my salary history?)

Get an edge when HR gets in your way!

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Overcome the daunting obstacles that stop other job hunters dead in their tracks!

Stop avoiding hiring decisions.

In a market as competitive as today’s, if it takes you weeks to make a hiring decision after interviewing candidates, then either you’re not managing human resources properly, or you’re not managing the hiring managers in your company. Qualified job applicants deserve answers. Taking too long to make a choice means you have no skin in the game, and that makes you a dangerous business person. After you waste too many applicants’ time, your reputation — and your company’s — is sealed. With a rep like that, good luck trying to get hired yourself.

Stop complaining there’s a talent or skills shortage.

There’s not. With 19.5 million people unemployed, under-employed, and looking for work (even if they’re no longer counted as cry-babypart of the workforce), there’s plenty of talent out there to fill the 5.6 million vacant jobs in America. (See News Flash! HR causes talent shortage!) Recruit is a verb. Get out there and find the talent!

If your idea of recruiting is to sit on your duff and wait for Mr. or Ms. Perfect to come along on your “Applicant Tracking System,” then quit your job. If your idea of recruiting is to pay a headhunter $20,000 to fill an $80,000 job, then you are the talent shortage. Your company should fire you.

“Human Resources Management” doesn’t mean waiting for perfect hires to come along. Ask your HR ancestors: They used to do training and development to improve the skills and talent of their hires — as a way of creating competitive value for their companies.

The good HR professionals know who they are. The rest behave like they don’t know what they’re doing and like they don’t care. We’re giving you a wake-up call. Do your job, or get out.

My challenge to HR professionals: If you aren’t managing the standard of conduct toward job applicants at your company, if you aren’t really recruiting, if you’re not creating a competitive edge for your company by developing and training your hires, then you should quit your own job. If you aren’t promoting high business standards within the HR profession, then there’s no reason for HR to exist. Your company can run amuck without you.

To everyone else: How do these problems in HR affect you?

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  1. Nick these guys are wasting my time. Accenture just sent me HR spam. I applied to them ages ago and now they want me to join their “Talent Network”. There is no network, it looks like they are just updating their resume databank. Maybe they are trying to cut back on fees to Monster and Indeed who knows but this is the opposite of sincere recruiting.

    Here is is the start of the email:

    “Accenture is committed to attracting, developing and retaining the best talent for our business, which is why we created the Accenture Talent Connection. The Accenture Talent Connection allows exceptional professionals who are interested in Accenture to learn more about what we do, how we do it, and what makes us different.

    We’re looking to grow our network, and we invite you to join us. Registering is easy, and provides a great opportunity to learn about the challenging and rewarding opportunities offered by Accenture. Whether you are a prospective candidate, a past applicant, an experienced hire looking for a change, or a graduate looking to jumpstart your career, we want to know.

    Stay connected by joining our network!

    (Please note that if you forward this email to any third party, they will be able to view your personal data once they click on the link to join the Accenture Talent Connection.)”

    There are links to complete a generic application form. This is the best the can do? Why don’t they send their HR department to industry tradeshows and meet the talent face to face?

    • Hey Michael-
      I got the same email after interviewing with Accenture. And then learned that NO ONE made it to round two. Oh they decided they really need more abc rather than xyz. You couldnt figure this out BEFORE you wasted my time? Im fine if I didnt make the cut- but dont keep changing the goal post.

    • I had a similar experience with Accenture. They spent weeks interviewing me by phone and then offered to fly me to Chicago for a final face to face. On the day I was supposed to leave, my flight was canceled due to bad weather. I had already been out of work for nearly a year, so I begged the desk attendant to reroute me on another flight. She did, getting me to Chicago at a little after 11:00 p.m. Having spent a lot of time preparing for the interview and bringing samples, I aced it and was told to expect the offer the following week. Three weeks passed before I got a phone call at 5:00 p.m. telling me I had been recommended for hiring but that the position was canceled. I pointed out that not only had we wasted several hours (and weeks) of one another’s time but that I was open to relocation and had seen numerous similar positions on Accenture’s Web site. The response? “I know, but it’s still not a match.” This from a company that supposedly prides itself on helping other companies IMPROVE HOW THEY DO BUSINESS!

  2. During 2009, I applied for several jobs where I already knew people in the hiring company. These interviews overlapped. The last company hired me into my dream job 2 weeks after the initial meeting. The runner-up firm seemed surprised that I would not drive 70 miles, round-trip for a 3rd round of interviews

  3. All I can say to Nick’s article is AMEN!

  4. I, too, have had to wait weeks on end to hear a yea or nay from HR departments who seem to be in control of the entire process. What is wrong with the Senior managers of an organization that let their hiring managers off the hook and leave the hiring process to the HR department.

    On another note, it seems that people who go into the field of human resource management don’t receive the proper education from the various colleges and universities that hand them a diploma in stupidity. Then follow that with the type of additional credits earned from SHRM. What a waste.

  5. You read these, and other, stories countless times – in articles, on LinkedIn comments… people are PISSED at how they are treated, both as candidates and even as expendable-asset employees.

    And companies remain baffled why morale and retention are bad.

    To use an analogy: it’s like a serial-and-ongoing spouse abuser who can’t figure out why the spouse doesn’t seem 100% “in” on the marriage.

  6. It seems the bigger the firm, the worse the recruiting and hiring experience is for job hunters. Two recent examples as told by two colleagues illustrate the point.

    Case 1: a large hospital system in a major Midwestern city advertised for senior IT project managers, e.g., people who can drive enterprise system involving double digit $M efforts to successful deployment. Wanting people who understand medical data, the hospital HR dept tacked on a requirement for an RN, LPN, or “other clinical certifications.”

    The HR dept then dutifully rejected every otherwise qualified candidate that showed up – for weeks – until the hiring manager finally woke up with an empty resume file and wondered what happened. By then, the best candidates who understand IT tech, scope, schedule, and budgets, and the diplomacy skills needed to deal with “C” level executives and stakeholders, had long since found other jobs.

    Case 2: A large global manufacturing firm seeking IT project managers to help run their enterprise systems advertised and then cancelled the same position three times in as many months. Some candidates told recruiters, “stop calling me about X because they don’t mean it.”

    As far as so-called “talent networks” are concerned, they are mostly just resume databanks that get purged after 90 days or they become mailing lists for company spam. And why do firms who don’t call candidates for interviews then put them on their promotional marketing email lists? Seems like a waste of electrons even if they are recycled.

  7. Back on April 29 Transamerica flew me down to Baltimore for an interview (they paid for the flight, I paid about $100 for taxis and parking). Afterwards the HR rep told me they loved me and I should get him my references ASAP and I should “expect an offer by the end of the week.” Well, I gave him my references along with a few written accolades…and I’ve since heard nothing back. At first, I figured it would take longer than a week to make me an offer what with all the silly background checks and all these days, and they actually didn’t call my 2nd reference until 5/11, so then I figured okay, they’re just slow, I’ll give em a few more weeks. It’s now two months, and I’ve since given up on them. No, I will not contact the HR rep to ask what the hell happened, as it shouldn’t be necessary to even do that, I mean, what kind of doofuses am I dealing with here???? Most of all I’m angry they bothered my references for no reason at all. I may send a nasty letter to the CEO, but a lot of good it’ll do (I’ve sent lots of nasty letters recently, they go nowhere).

    • I feel your frustration! Take a deep breath and cool down.
      It is NEVER a good idea to send nasty letters to prospective employers, even if they are jerks. Things like this have a bad habit of coming back to bite you.

  8. Some comments after initial phone screens from HR ‘professionals’:
    “I don’t think he has the deep-dowm determination needed to complete a complex IT problem fix;” She doesn’t seem to have the right attitude and empathy toward educating associates into a new technical program;” “He seems indecisive – he paused before answering several questions;” and, my favorite, “She seemed to harbor negative thoughts about some decisions made by her previous employer which led to their bankruptcy.”

  9. I had an interview with a company for an engineering position that went really well. Talked to the hiring manager and a couple of other engineers. The feedback on every conversation was basically, “Wow, you obviously would have no problem doing this job and could do it well.”

    At the end of the process, the HR person handed me a giant packet to fill out with background checks, reference checks, driving record checks, etc. It was to make sure I was ok before they even made an offer.

    I told them I’d get right on it…..then threw it away when I got home. Their HR policy made me not consider them. It was the same as being treated like some shady person who had to prove he wasn’t a criminal. Assumed guilty unproven innocent. Screw that.

    BTW, Emerson Process Management if anybody else ever gets a call from them or a recruiter representing them.

  10. We all know almost everyone on this blog (well, possibly) has had several different (bad) experiences with HR. I would truly LOVE to hear from the HR folks themselves on this particular subject.

    Kind Regards

  11. @Michael: One of the funniest, silliest, most pathetic trends in HR is “Talent X.” Thus we have talent networks, talent solutions, talent management, talent shortages, talent acquisition, talent development, and the talent-less jargon-meisters you refer to at Accenture who have created “Talent Connection” out of whole cloth. The psychology behind this sort of “branding” has always been self-evident. When you have no idea how to do something, give it a name that implies you’re an expert at it. Thus, a company I once worked for kept failing to deliver products to customers on time. So, the president of the company re-named the shipping department the “Department of Efficient Deliveries.” Nothing changed, except that employees winced when saying the words to irate customers. As you point out, there is no “talent network” but an expired database in need of more data.

    Thanks for quoting the Accenture spam. It’s Marketing 101, not recruiting.

    @Linda & John Franklin: Looks like Accenture is drawing attention with it’s Talent Marketing. It’s a tacit admission that Accenture’s HR department is failing at recruiting. Wind up the inflatable dolls!

    @Mayor Bongo: “resume databanks that get purged after 90 days”
    Yep, that’s one for the board of directors. HR spends millions rounding up resumes to fill jobs. A few months later, HR spends millions to round up resumes to fill more jobs. Meanwhile, the effort that went into the process the first time was wasted because nobody stayed in touch with the first round of candidates. Result: Those resumes go stale because any good headhunter will tell you the shelf-life of a resume (or database “profile”) is about 3 months. This is Sales 101. YOU NEVER LOSE TOUCH WITH YOUR PROSPECTS. Mainly because you invested so much to find them to begin with. Whoops. HR has unlimited “Talent Funds.” So, who cares? Every time HR re-starts recruiting from scratch, HR jobs are protected. Who’s watching? There’s always more money to find Talent in a Talent Shortage!

    @sighmaster: “I mean, what kind of doofuses am I dealing with here????” Please check the title of this column. :-)

    @Peter: Those HR quotes are priceless – thanks! May I ask how you got hold of them? Are you a manager? Is this what HR reported to you, after interviewing job candidates?

    @Chris: You da Man! “It was the same as being treated like some shady person who had to prove he wasn’t a criminal. Assumed guilty unproven innocent. Screw that.” Imagine if McDonald’s started treating customers like that at the front counter. Would anyone notice they were walking out the door? Why doesn’t that happen with HR?

  12. I think that some of the HR problems identified here are endemic to the modern corporation. White collar work is increasingly more about creating conceptual models of how work will get done and less about actually doing work. Creating plans, strategies, and reporting mechanisms, proposing new systems and software, and “socializing” all the former; all of which dwarfs the amount of time actually spent executing and getting things done. I think this happens because executives see the strategy slides and dashboards, rather than everyday labor, so employees dump their efforts into the conceptual work.

    HR is in the same predicament. Executives don’t see the one-on-one time an employee spends coaching a manager on interview skills or attending industry networking events. Executives see strategy slides and workflow charts and proposals for new resume-scanning software. HR efforts get directed towards these activities, rather than the recruiting and personal involvement this article is encouraging.

    When other people in a business spend their time this way, it may be inefficient but doesn’t necessarily directly impact anyone’s life or family. However, in HR, livelihoods are at stake. So HR may get the brunt of the criticism that needs to be aimed at the entire corporate style. But the urgent impetus to fix HR may be a great starting point for making life and work at big companies better for everyone.

  13. @ Chris: From an identity theft standpoint, handing over your vitals such as SSN, DOB, drivers license #/copy, passport prior to a bona fide, written offer is extremely foolish and opens you up to major hacking. You don’t know where your information is going and who’s seeing it. Many of the sleazier (read, Indian) recruiters for contract and perm positions ask your SSN because supposedly their clients use it as a screener for duplicate sourcing–this is BS. You have to say NO as you did. Even with references, wait to give them as long as possible when you know you are a finalist. Again these recruiters often ask for the names upfront. Refuse. And if they won’t deal with you, you’ve dodged a bullet.

  14. I’m a headhunter.
    Those are only a few of the silly things I’ve heard from HR folks I encountered. Not any recent clients I am glad to say.
    I have been fortunate over the years to deal with some real business professionals whose expertise happened to be in HR – who had a sense of urgency and who improved and stream-lined the hiring process.
    My all-time favorite comment from an HR professional after a phone screen, ” You know, she sounded lazy like maybe she’s a fat person.”
    ….No, I didn’t know what to say either. I did ask myself, “Why have I wasted my time with this nitwit?”.”

  15. @sighmaster: After one particularly bad experience, I wrote to the CEO about my impression of the company and how it not only affected my perception of the company, but how I would inform others about my horrific and dismissive treatment by their HR person. I got – to my surprise – a call from their VP of HR who was apologetic but, ultimately, was a “Sorry if you were offended” non-apology apology.

    @Chris: It’s not ONLY “prove you’re worthy of working for us” it’s “let’s test you to see how much BS you’ll tolerate”.

    @peter: Especially in regards to “being indecisive”. Getting interview feedback – a rare thing – on one interview I was told that I was “too deliberative” in my answers. Heavens, I think before I speak. The horror!

    I’m just a jock engineer. I have no aspirations to move up the food chain. Yet why are these things so obvious to me – and others whom I know – and so opaque to people making many multiples of my salary… you know, those people whose positions purport to indicate a broad perspective and vision of the corporation and long-term impacts of decisions and actions?

    And I find it doubly-distressing that I’ve been “called out” for this essay (and others), despite the fact that this essay consists primarily of quoting OTHER AUTHORS who are recognized names in the HR / recruiting field. I suspect it’s very simple. It’s one thing to have experts make these observations; but if a PEON like that little nobody David Hunt can see this, we’re in trouble – quick, quash him lest HR’s New Clothes be revealed as being vaporware.

  16. Ian nails it @ June 28, 2016 at 10:41 am.

    We have generations of “people” who only know “words” instead of actually having the skills these words label. Right there, I lost most people because they can’t follow the importance of what I just said.”

    People say “tell me the problem” so I can “check a box” that says “FIX PROBLEM” (on a website) and ta-da! The problem is magically fixed.

    Sorry, but you can check the box that says “fix” plugged toilet, but you must get off your desk chair and actually do REAL WORK.

    We have a society of people in that 95% of the people do NOT do REAL WORK. I am not working typing this review. I am not unplugging your toilet.

    At best, I am revealing the lack of abilities in most people to be able to do real work.

    The indoctrination system, excuse me the “school” or “university” you went to–has dumbed you down, made you unable to critically think at all. All you know how to do is to memorize words and repeat them back.

    Exceptions are: math, computer programming, anything you use your hands for, other than a keyboard.

    Here’s what is NOT WORK: emails, talking on the phone, talking at meetings, texting, chatting on instant messaging. That is NOT WORK and achieves ZERO. It doesn’t unplug the toilet.

    At best, the above call themselves “office workers” who tell the “help” to “get to work”.

    At a hospital, you have 95% of the people telling 5% of the people that actually DO the work–to do the work. WTF???

    HR is a symptom of the above. To expect ANYTHING out of an HR dept is…raising the bar too high.

    There is no bar anymore, it’s gone. We have email jockeys who think they’re working, gumming up everything and managers, and managers above them also gumming up the works and doing NOTHING.

    Consider the Hollywood Academy Awards. The actually have an award for “Best Picture”. But it’s not for the people who did the work. It’s for the “producers”, the people who do email, phone, they type and talk.

    Really, it should go like this at the Academy Awards:
    “The award for Best Email goes to; …best phone call; …best speech; best meeting; best text.

    I know a place that didn’t have a CIO for X months. Nobody noticed. They had one for years. Nobody noticed. The IT dept is in shambles. Still using telnet. Can’t “make” anyone do anything. No money for more people who actually do the real work, but let’s pay $300k+ for the new CIO…to replace the last one who was the invisible person.

  17. @ David Hunt. Spot on!

    Today’s companies are:
    “Prove to us that we did anything wrong” vs. “The customer is always right” (R.I.P.)

    “I don’t have to listen to you complain…but here’s a survey for you to fill out…”

    And the number one problem:
    Corporations are making record money$$$$ every year! So how do you convince the people “running the company” (talking and typing emails…) that they are doing anything incorrect? All these morons care about is finding a way to make more money.

    How about getting rid of the customer and the product? Just make the scumbag people these corporate people despise (the customer) just work for free and kiss their butt?

    Oh yeah, that’s the privatized prison system. Free labor and we get to torture you daily.

    Now THAT’S civilization!!! (people tell me I’m sarcastic and gloomy, not a happy person. Must be because I see things and don’t repress my feelings…)

  18. This is for “Reader 4:”

    I would tell your friend that Boston is “the worst of the worst” as far as hiring goes. I hear about the talent shortage in Boston daily. There is no talent shortage in Boston.

    That roundtable did a huge favor for your friend by not wasting her time. Hiring in Boston is a joke.

  19. It didn’t used to be like that. Back when hiring mangers hired, and the C-suite had a backbone, qualified candidates were walked down to HR’s predecessor, “Payroll”, given a short form to fill out to start the file and set up the pay, tax, next of kin info and insurance information, and that was that.

    Back in the early 00’s, I was on a contract at a Fortune something-or-the-other international corporation. We were just wrapping up a 3-year project, and our manager wanted to roll everyone who was left up into his group to keep doing what we had been doing on an ongoing basis. A couple weeks into this process he came by and asked me if I had applied at the link he sent around. I said “Sure, a couple of times.”

    He took me and my resume down to the local HR office, and basically asked them outright if I was good enough to contract, why I wasn’t good enough to hire? I can’t remember what tiddly bit I lacked, maybe it was a degree in Underwater Basket Weaving (or maybe it was any bachelor’s degree). Doing the job for three years didn’t count.

    I think some of this got traction when it became OK in the 1980’s to treat Vietnam-era veterans like crap to the cheering round of applause that HR would get from their peacenick bosses, but I could be wrong about that.

    Maybe it stems from when HR was little more than make sure all the “preferred applicant” quota slots got filled so HR could file the requisite EEO reports and go back to sleep. Again, I could be wrong.

    Simply put, lazy no-longer-hiring managers and complacent CEO’s hired lazy HR and they all sat by while the competitive edge slipped right off our shores while they sang Kumbaya around the camp fire at the team-building retreat.

    Now they wonder why the talent they seek would rather write a business plan and deal with the bankers for a Quilt & Sew Outlet with a 1-page website than fill out their reams of personal info for their demeaning job.

    I too would love to see more HR “Professionals” who had the courage stop by here, read their reviews, and have the dedication, the pride and the selflessness to take a fierce (moral?) inventory of their actions and profession. Then they could go back and figure out how to put 19.5 million people back to work in middle-class jobs with real opportunity.

    @Nick: Always glad to see the “Labor Force Participation Rate” in use.

  20. @Ian: “White collar work is increasingly more about creating conceptual models of how work will get done and less about actually doing work.”

    I agree that HR is caught up in this. But I think the problem is deeper – and I think the blame is spread between the HR profession (and function) and the C-suite. In many companies, HR is not a C-level office. It thus has less authority. That’s part of the problem, and it seems boards of directors just ignore it and don’t realize what it’s costing them. HR can’t very well drive strategy and good practices if it isn’t at the C-table. On the other hand, the HR profession is partly responsible for what it claims is a lack of authority. It’s up to HR to makes its case for more authority and control, or get out of the business. Stop calling yourself “HR Management” when you’re not really managing “human resources.” The debate about HR is long overdue. Failure to address it has left companies to dine on a fraud: “the talent shortage.”

    @Peter: “My all-time favorite comment from an HR professional after a phone screen, ‘ You know, she sounded lazy like maybe she’s a fat person.'”

    That ranks right up there with the HR manager who followed up after his team interviewed an engineering candidate from me. “He’s well-qualified and could easily do the job. But, Nick, you know, he’s not a man’s man.”

    “What do you mean, Ted?” I asked.

    “Well, I never said this, but he’s kind of effeminate. The engineers around here would never go for that.”

    @All: Some of your stories are just stunning. I wish Tom Perez, the US Secretary of Labor who is constantly preaching about “the skills shortage,” would take a look at the kinds of people HR routinely rejects in spite of their skills and acumen.

  21. Bob, as one still stuck here I concur the Boston job market truly is decrepit along with the entire state of Stinkassachusetts (have you read Dan Lyons’ “Disrupted” about his experience at Hubspot?). There was an article a few weeks back saying Boston is now the startup capital of America, overtaking SillyCon Valley. Considering the putrid work environment prevalent at startups, i.e. “nap Thursdays” and “don’t hire anyone over 30,” it’s no wonder this place stinks so bad…

    • @sighmaster: Interesting comment: “don’t hire anyone over 30″. This is likely the result of VC’s vast preference to fund only entrepreneurs under 30. facebook’s Zuckerburg has been quoted saying the same thing. In another hiring area, Zuckerberg also said “degrees don’t matter” if you can do the job. Great, Zuckerburg is known to have foresaken a degree to do his startup, BUT, facebook’s HR department insists on a degree for any job I’ve seen at facebook. Disconnect somehow?

  22. (I really do *try* to limit my comments here, honest, but sometimes it’s just impossible to resist) I recently received confirmation that HR does not read cover letters. Last year I applied multiple times to NVIDIA in California. I explicitly stated in my cover letter that I do NOT need relocation assistance (my father lives in Oregon). After seeing the same damned job reposted umpteen times I sent a nasty letter to them. The HR twit replied to me stating that I was disqualified because the jobs did not offer relocation assistance and the hiring manager only reviewed applications from local candidates, and if/when they do advertise a job that comes with relocation assistance I’m more than welcome to apply (but only then! good grief).

    Where did this crazy belief come from that an American needs a special work permit or visa to be eligible for work in another state? Newsflash to HR, you don’t – hell, you don’t even need a passport. It’s particularly silly in this era of “globalization,” where this company no doubt brings in loads of H1B applicants (no “relocation” issues with those, smh)…

    • @sighmaster: Maybe reapply using your father’s address?

  23. @sighmaster: Don’t resist. Your comments are always welcome. Cover letters? That’s what “HR Experts” who write “job hunting books” tell you to always include with your resume to “personalize” it and to “communicate your fit in more detail.” (What else are they gonna write to fill all those pages…?)

    What happened when you explained (again) that you don’t need relocation? Or did you bother?

  24. No, I didn’t bother replying, I figured what was the point. One of the jobs showed up on StinkedIn which shows the # of applicants, it had a whopping 179 applicants so even as a local candidate I doubt I’d have stood a chance. (Btw, we’ve got near “full employment” at 4.7%, is it normal for a job to receive so many applicants at near full employment???)

    I did, however, make a nice scathing entry in my personal blog publicly mocking them for this.

    Okay, one more and I’ll try to retire for the day. Cylance, a cybersecurity co. in Irvine, advertised for a senior designer last Sept. I had just completed a six month design contract in the CYBERSECURITY division at Fidelity, plus I met every qualification including the “Cinema 4D knowledge helpful” – I mean, how much closer of a fit can one get here??? They didn’t even look at my website/portfolio (courtesy of tracking stats). When I saw the job reappear last February, I got pissed and sent them a nasty note via their “contact us” page, questioning why this job remains open after seven months and “how bizarre that I didn’t even qualify for a telephone screening considering my recent work experience!” I then came right out and accused them of discrimination, their “meet the team” webpage didn’t have a single woman (I took a screenshot, hee hee), plus it’s California where if you’re over 30 you’re not welcome. I really only sent this note just to jab at them for fun, I certainly didn’t expect any reply…within one hour, not only did I get a dumb email from their HR toadie, but five idiots in Irvine snooped on my webpage and on my StinkedIn profile. Unfortunately for them, I changed the login credentials so they couldn’t view anything beyond the index page.

    “Thank you for your interest in Cylance and for recently contacting us. On behalf of the recruiting team, we apologize for the delay in response to your application with us as we haven’t had much movement in terms of hiring for the Senior Designer in recent months; this explains the lack of contact. After reviewing your application, we regret to inform you that it has not been selected for further consideration. Again, thank you for your interest in Cylance and your recent note via our Contract Request Form. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. “ — Warren Hinton, Talent Acquisition

    Haven’t had much movement…what does that even mean? You’d think they’d be just a little bit embarrassed here, but nope, no shame at all. I’m eventually going to write in detail about this one, possibly on StinkedIn once I no longer care about my reputation, and I’m going to end it with “would you trust your cybersecurity to a company this inept/unethical?”

    • Sounds Warren needs some Ex-Lax if there hasn’t been much movement. Couldn’t resist.

  25. We’re no longer human beings to companies. We are ‘human resources’

    –A Soylent Green made up of ground up keywords and search algorithms, useless results of impersonal and unfounded psychometric psychobabble tests, flawed perceptions of value by 22 year old HR bots and their HR databases.

    Every time I hear from a recruiter and not a technical person, I dread it. I parry requests to fill out forms with a submission of my CV and a “let me know if the hiring manager is interested. I am too busy for forms.”

    Even if the HR phone screen shot s unavoidable, I anticipate the checklist of keywords they require, and end all calls with the “I would like to speak with the hiring manager to truly see if I would be the right hire for this assignment.”

  26. @Mayor:

    IMHO the reasons all these extra qualifications are tacked on is to eliminate that which cannot, really, be eliminated: risk.


    Nick’s kind to make it anonymous. (Cue Darth Vader voice.) *I*… am Reader 4. Yes, Boston is a joke as far as hiring goes. The companies here are literally swimming in educated, accomplished, talented people…


    Look me up on LinkedIn if you’re in the area!!

    @Jurassic Carl:

    Yes, we’re a resource, and the entire corporate structure has been corrupted by the language choices. (Shameless self-promotional plug to an essay I wrote that was republished on a UK job-related blog.)

  27. Update: phone screen was as awful as expected.

    Their questions suggested that they didn’t read my resume, and only did a cursory Google search of me (that didn’t include my LinkedIn page… Because that has my work/project history too!)

    I am convinced that most people are stupid. (The movie “Idiocracy” was a documentary, not a satire, I guess. )

    Everything is TL/DR (“too long, didn’t read” -millennial parlance ). They need everything spoon fed/read/spoken to them in a podcast or video.

    I will, of course SEO that stuff so they don’t have to travel past the first page in their one cursory Google search because, well, that would take too much effort….( And they have keywords that find them ‘TALENT’ !)

    Looks like I might invest in a marketing video on my website. I mean, who the heck reads anymore?!

  28. @sighmaster

    Unfortunately, for any position in the Valley, there’s the problem of cheap H1-B and OPT labor.

    There may have been 179 applicants for that job. All local (US Citizen) talent, displaced by cheap foreign labor.

  29. @sighmaster

    Yes, I’ve read Dan Lyons’ book. I would suggest that anyone visiting this blog pickup a copy of the book. If you’ve worked around the Tech industry for a while, you’ve lived one or more chapters of Dan’s book. You’ll get some insights into a Millennial Day Care Center, as experienced by a talented writer.

    “Cranium” has turned up in Boston again, trying to position himself as some sort of startup marketing guru. Another long-term Hubspot marketing person just popped up at TruMotion (formerly Censio).

    You should take a look at VentureFizz & the “Tech In Boston” Slack group.

    Outside of Dan’s Book, consider this regarding Boston:

    I know someone who is on the Board of Directors of a High-Tech Council in another tech-heavy state. (The equivalent of the Mass High Tech Council.) His advice regarding Boston market was this:

    “The days of DEC and DG, with their associated spinoffs, are long gone. What remains is nothing more than a High-Tech Backwater. One of our goals is to attract High-Tech companies to our state. When I’m looking for companies to entice here, I’m not looking in Boston to find them.”

    This person could not have been more accurate.

  30. @nick

    I’m sure you’re aware that there is no hiring shortage that can’t be solved by:

    – posting jobs
    – collecting resumes
    – screening candidates on the phone
    – bringing them in for interviews
    – hiring the best candidate & training them if necessary
    – paying them a decent wage for STEM skills (which is the real problem)

    There is a glut of STEM candidates nationwide that can’t find work due to guest worker visa abuse. If this “talent shortage” exists, why isn’t HR going back to this tried-and-true method of hiring?

    The ugly reality is that there is a “talent shortage,” for US candidates wiling to work at H1-B or OPT labor rates.

  31. @Bob, I read a comment somewhere saying that the only thing keeping this place economically afloat is the education sector and its inflated tuition scheme, when that crashes it’ll be over.

  32. @sighmaster,

    You forgot about the inflated Medical sector in Boston.

    I’ve started to believe that many of the hiring issues in Boston can be traced back to the bad practices of the inflated education sector.

    One more thing… Nvidia may have done you a favor by ignoring you. I used to live in the Valley for 17 years. Nvidia IT was a real grind for a couple of PMs I knew were working at Nvidia.

  33. @sighmaster: “One of the jobs showed up on StinkedIn which shows the # of applicants, it had a whopping 179 applicants”

    The con job LinkedIn perpetrates on HR just astonishes me. Why would any employer want to ADVERTISE that it’s got so many applicants? Don’t they realize that discourages others from applying? The only benefit is to LinkedIn, which loves to reveal metrics that show other employers “how many applicants you can get!” Sheesh. The employer posting the ad takes the shaft. I wonder: Would LinkedIn like to add another metric? “How many of the 179 actually got to talk to the hiring manager” and “How many got any kind of honest response out of HR.” Sheesh! Why doesn’t Linked just show the profiles of all the people who applied? Double sheesh! (Of course, does it occur to anyone in HR that YOU DON’T WANT 179 applicants?? If you get that many, you’re not recruiting. You’re vacuuming up the proverbial haystack!)

    I love your drive-by actions… I can imagine seething personnel jockeys trying to avoid getting fired for telling you to f off… :-)

    @Jurassic Carl: Believe it or not, there are technical managers who actually contact candidates. Few and far between, but they’re the people worth talking with. The rest are dialing for dollars.

    The world needs more people that tell recruiters, “I’d be happy to talk with the hiring manager if he or she would like to call me… but until we establish mutual interest in working together, I don’t fill out forms or do administrative interviews. I hope you understand — I’m just too busy at my current job [none of their business at this point if you don’t have one, other than looking for a job, which is a job].”

    It’s a great way to weed out tire-kickers. Many people think such an approach will cost them “opportunities.” But if a manager isn’t motivated enough to talk to you first, there’s no opportunity. Just the Soylent Green Machine!

    For what it’s worth, I recently handled an assignment for a client to fill two positions. In both cases, we identified candidates without posting the jobs. (It’s called “recruiting.”) I then researched them in depth online: LinkedIn, Google, etc. We selected the best based on that research — no need to bother anyone with screening calls. When I called the candidates, I knew more about them already than they could have told me in a call. I spoke with people who knew them, and in some cases I had made informal preemptive reference checks. (Why bother calling anyone if you don’t have enough good info about them to justify making the call? Check them out first! It’s called “recruiting!”) During those calls, I encouraged each person to ask all the questions they wanted about my client, and by the time we were done, they knew all about him, his company, and the job — enough to make a decision about whether to interview. Most decided against it, and that’s the point! I love that! We ruled many more out that way ourselves. The point is, everyone got an honest chance to discuss everything we needed to before wasting anyone’s itme. My client and I actually interviewed just one person for each job in person. Who has time to waste? BTW, every candidate who decided not to interview asked me to keep them in mind for other jobs and sent me more info by e-mail. They love me. I love that. Because that’s how my community of contacts grows. I routinely make courtesy introductions for such folks. Though there’s no fee for me, the way they feel about me as a result is priceless. That’s where future good referrals come from :-)

    @Bob: DEC and DG created the 128 corridor, but what’s gone is the collegial attitude.

    The “tech talent shortage” is a myth. This blog is frequented by loads of tech folks from many fields who are looking for work — and I’d love to show them all off to the cranks who talk about “lack of STEM candidates.” I don’t agree that this is mostly an H1-B problem. This is a head-up-the-trailing-arbutus problem — employers really believe that anyone over 30 can’t possibly understand new tech tools, but those under 30 are just too inexperienced. So no one qualifies. I mean, if the job boards and LinkedIn can’t do 100% matches to over-loaded criteria lists, then there’s just no way to fill those jobs. Wharton’s Peter Cappelli found a company that advertised for a routine engineering job. It got 14,000 applicants. The algorithms rejected every one of them. If you’ll introduce me to 3 engineers, I’ll be able to hire one who can design anything I want. In the time it would take another company to match all their criteria, that engineer can come up to speed on anything he or she needs to know to get the job done, because that’s what engineers do. Duh.

  34. Thanks, Nic! Yeah, ready those dolls for the video interview.

    David Hunt’s link is also spot-on in terms of not just HR’s (mis)treatment of candidates but also the corporate world’s overall shabbiness. When I was out of work in 2009-10, I could not begin to count the number of companies that neglected to follow up, asked me to complete all sorts of test essays and exams before even CONSIDERING me as a candidate (“Hey, sounds great! Can I ask you to do the same to see if I think you’re the proper caliber for me to work for???”), and – my favorite – canceling positions at the final stages after all was said and done. If I don’t make the cut for some reason, hey, just tell me; but don’t waste my time making me jump through several hoops over weeks (or months!), fill out countless forms & provide references only to tell me at the end of the entire process that the right hand didn’t know what the left one was doing and you won’t be filling the position after all. That wastes my time and money (gas, parking, and photocopying costs add up, you know) and is a slap in the face that is only PARTLY compensated for by the fact that I can at least rest comfortably knowing I dodged a bullet by not working for your messed up company!

  35. Let’s hope the employers themselves, who employ the HR impersonators, will read this feedback as they are ultimately responsible for their HR depts. The “leadership” is driving this poor behavior.

  36. @Giantor, I tried to think of bowel movement analogy but failed, so thanks for thinking of one :)

    Okay, last one and then I’m retiring for the night. StinkedIn wouldn’t stink so bad without the other half of the con (HR). For example, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank posted this job back on January 5 – note 132 applicants (I confess I was one):

    They posted it again on February 11, 114 applicants:

    …and again on March 13, 120 applicants:

    I guess 366 applicants wasn’t enough so they posted it again on May 9, 108 applicants:

    When I saw it for a 4th time I sent a nasty letter to their Fakebook admins asking just what kind of game are they playing here…no response. So, I sent an email to their “public relations” team. No response. I’m now about to send off a nasty letter to the CEO, including screenshots of the pages above, “You are quite obviously a company with no ethics. I am sending a copy of this letter along with the enclosures to the US Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch in the hopes they will investigate this matter, as I am convinced you are harvesting applicants’ personal information for ulterior motives.” Will be mailing registered with sig confirmation tomorrow. Doubt I’ll hear anything. I remember a time when sending a nasty letter actually got you somewhere, *sigh*

  37. This is “for Cynthia”.

    I am an HR professional that loves this site. I am not however a big fan of most recruiters. There are a small handful that are fantastic but they are the exception not the rule.

    That said, I have been job searching this year and have gotten a real dose of it. The Boston market is arrogant and unreliable. Many roles I have interviewed for were cancelled. Often the role is posted as one thing and later changed to something else entirely. Many roles are in the cue but not actually being recruited for. Other role descriptions are so nonsensical that I can tell their organization is a mess. Follow up is non existent. Many companies ask more of their talent than they ask of themselves– and it is often clear when thismismthe case.

    In my last role I was asked if I wanted to do some recruiting, it was phrased like it was some kind of honor. Interviewing I like from time to time, but I have never had any desire to actively recruit. I’d rather grow people than judge them and I knew that I would not fit in within with that group– they are their own archetype. It is the one area of HR expertise I don’t want on my resume.

  38. Oh, regarding applicant tracking systems.

    When One wants to search open positions, you should be able to search, view and apply in 5 clicks or less. More than this, for me, is a sign of dysfunctional processes and future work frustration.

    Any software product that requires I extract every item off my resume and re type into form fields is a huge turn off and makes a bad first impression.

  39. To By Bob
    Yes, we have a problem with H1Bs. The minimum salary should be raised to $110k from $60k to make is a level playing field between US and Foreign labor.
    Read about what abbot laboratories did and the severance that swore silence from those being replaced by local foreign labor

    It is also my opinion the FLSA should be updated (it hasn’t been since creation in 1938). Hours overtime between 40-50 could stay 1.5x. Overtime hours works above 50 could require 2 X. Overtime hours above 60 can come in 2.5 x.
    Instant job creation…..

    1×1/2 time is still less than what it cost to pay and provide benefits.
    2x time or more means it is cheaper to just add a new job.

  40. One of my benefits of recovering from depression since circa 2010 (brought on, of course, by a combination of no jobs and all of the HR silliness described here) is the ability to slow down my wild mind and carefully absorb the comments made here.

    The links and references provided by this blog are invaluable in keeping me connected to the same problems 20 million Americans still face.

    I am 40% retired, only months away from full retirement, but on my days off, my body and soul still feel unemployed. The only reason I don’t feel badly about this is because it keeps me in the fight.


    The six step program you outline is the same program I utilized for thirty years when I was the hiring manager. Our little 500 person, ten-branch company had no HR department, just a management team that kept abreast of state and federal hiring and firing guidelines.

    The only thing I have to add to your six-step process is three piles of paper (you remember–that white stuff with black symbols that you physically picked up, read, pondered, and put back down) that were placed in three piles: the candidates that you really wanted to talk to, the candidates that you would talk to, and the candidates you would only hire in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

    By federal law, all applications had to be kept on file for seven years, so pile three went into a box with a discard date on it, and was kept accessible in case the Feds came knocking on our door.

    Pile one was kept in my desk, and pile two was kept near my desk. We only ran an ad again if the people in the first two piles were happily employed elsewhere when openings at our company materialized.

    This worked really well for thirty years, and I’m sure someone could write an app that would duplicate this process on a smart phone.

    I hate to admit my bias against zombies, but many people don’t remember the dot-com bubble circa 2000-2001, when unemployment actually dropped between 1% to 2%. Hiring managers were literally standing outside the company door, waving people in. It was my darkest management period.

    Finding “qualified” people actually was impossible. In order not to have to ask that embarrassing question “How can I be assured that you won’t try to eat my brains, or your co-workers’ brains once you’re hired?”, we instituted the Mirror Test. (I found out later that we were not the only ones that did this.)

    The only test an applicant needed to pass was the ability to fog a mirror when held close to his or her mouth.

    As funny as that sounds, it was true, and I still to this day feel that the period of darkness I’ve struggled with being long-term unemployed is less dark than the period when I had to fight for my company’s survival trying to manage the unemployable.

  41. @Nick

    ‘The “tech talent shortage” is a myth.’

    The IEEE agrees with you and provides numbers:

    Anyone who says that there is a shortage is either blind or doing their jobs incorrectly.

  42. @David Hunt

    “I’m just a jock engineer. I have no aspirations to move up the food chain.”

    One thing I noticed in my career is that many people have the aspiration to become a manager are not necessarily well suited to become one and to compound problems, are not given proper training/support to become one. In other words, their strength is being a contributor rather than a leader and there is nothing wrong with that.

    • When you see the arbitrary and subjective criteria used to select managers, no surprise many are so awful. Take someone at one job, then stick them into a completely different job for which most have no aptitude, education, training or experience. So contrary to the super tight criteria used anywhere else. Gallup has shown just 10% have the characteristics to be truly good managers, but companies routinely get it wrong:

  43. @Bob: Correct. There’s no shortage; there’s a shortage of people willing to work for peanuts.

    E.g., a couple of years ago I FINALLY got a callback from a local company. Interviewed. Literally the next day get a request for my desired salary which I cited was actually about the same as I’d been making a couple of years earlier… for a company farther away from Boston than this place… for a position that, arguably, had a higher level of responsibility.

    Sticker shock. They came back with a max salary that was over $20K lower.

    Really? REALLY?

  44. @David – re: salaries. You are not kidding. I don’t recall it being THIS bad 3 years ago when I was last unemployed. I live in the DC metro area – like Boston, an expensive area. How can you possibly, seriously look at someone with 20 years of experience and offer a salary 20-30k less than what he/she were previously making. Let alone survive with the cost of living. Unfortunately, I have found this to be the norm. In talking with my network – same salary issue no matter if manager, VP, or Director. No wonder the 20 and early 30-year olds are dominating the work place. What’s someone over 40 to do? Everyone I know has had to accept the fact that he/she will be making a salary what they made at least 10 years ago. Maybe get something on the side. We are in a different world these days. I thought it was just my profession (marketing) but it sounds like this issue is across the board.

  45. I knew it was time to start looking for a better gig when my motorcycle mechanic started out with “Since you are on a fixed income …”

    (I seriously need to find out which bar project managers in this town hang out at, and do my drinking there.)

  46. @HR Hybrid,

    I’d look at the stories about Abbott, but I just had dinner with a couple of the Disney 250 that were tossed out the door 18 months ago. When your dinner buddies have Sara Blackwell on speed-dial, you get to learn a lot about outsourcing & H1-B labor.

    There is such a glut of STEM talent on the streets, there’s really no need for the H1-B visa at this point. Truly exceptional candidates can be brought in on an O-1 visa. The H1-B needs to be eliminated until STEM employment returns to historical levels.


    Because of my personal experience & the folks I know that are part of the Disney 250, I tend to look at the H1-B & OPT visas as being a real problem these days. In some parts of the country, the H1-B may be more of an issue than HR idiocy.

    @Citizen X,

    When I mentioned the 6 step outline, I folded complying with gooberment regulations into “obtaining resumes.”

    I was hiring manager in the Valley during 2000-2001. I remember how bad it was, since I had to live with it. At the time, first cut with the resumes was with the hiring managers. HR wanted us to make the short list from the resumes they had.

    @David Hunt PE & Linda,

    When my friends and I see silly offers, we’ve started to fight back. We make an effort to get the word out when dealing with potential employers goes sour. We also try to get the word out about the early 20s dialing-for-dollars recruiters who tell us “we don’t understand the market.” You’ll find these early 20s recruiters always have a hot opportunity… at $10,000+ below market.


    I hope that my rant about Boston made you feel better. You are far from alone in this market. That being said, I would be very careful about any opportunity in the Valley.

  47. @HR Hybrid: Thanks for posting an HR perspective with firsthand experience looking for a job, and for your comments about ATSes, H1-B, FLSA and overtime — why aren’t more HR folks talking about this??

    You also wrote: “Many companies ask more of their talent than they ask of themselves.” I think that’s it in a nutshell. But I wonder how many exec teams realize this is what’s going on.

    @Dave: The media don’t read anything from IEEE :-)

  48. @Bob: RE: The Disney 250 and H1-B. Point well taken. H1-B is an issue. It’s a problem. But I think far more people are impacted by kooky HR policies that stand without question. I wish the impacts of HR got as much publicity as H1-B.

  49. @Linda: The FT job I just started puts me back to 2003; the good thing is that I have some adjunct teaching in the evenings that brings be back to close to what I was at, but at the cost of lost evenings.

    But you are right. And more importantly, from a human-factors perspective, you cannot take away what people have already had in their hands and expect them to be anything less than angry about it.


    I’ve actively warned people away from my LAST FT employer – successfully, hurrah. And also made some comments to some others about the place I mentioned.

    @Nick C: You ask whether the C suite knows. I suspect not, because they don’t really WANT to know… because if they did, if they were responsible, they’d have to act.

    No, far easier to just listen to the hiring managers and HR people telling them that positions aren’t being filled because there’s a “shortage of talent”.

  50. The elephant in the room, is that it is intentional, not accidental, to lower the wage amounts of americans, move them from full time with benefits to part time or contract.

    This is NOT a republican thing or democrat thing, but something dreamed up by International think tanks. They created the free trade acts and have created the mindset that “protectionism” (tariffs used to protect domestic manufacturing) is BAD, and so is ANYTHING that says a person born in America is GOOD.

    This thread essentially is stating the symptoms of a business culture that is allowed to do whatever it wants per the free trade acts. Look no further than “your govt” to see who signed the bill, but look beyond those positions to see who is really engineering this.

    And it’s not just the US. It’s everywhere. Everywhere is destined to be Mexico City. The goal is Detroit, a glorified 3rd world economy where the tiny percent are in control and too many people are willing to enforce it all–so they get a cut.

    Forget the economy getting “better”. Authentic statistics have showed a complete swap of full time with benefits jobs to part time and contract jobs.

    The amount of manufacturing companies that have been allowed to go overseas and import their stuff into Best Buy, etc. is just staggering.

    Oh, but people tell me that I am negative, have a bad attitude, and that I have to get with the new times.

    Enjoy it.

  51. @Bob, I’m think I’m done applying for anything in Calif (after all, I don’t have a Calif work permit, lol).

    Writing blogs and comments is getting us nowhere, *sigh*. Embarrassment via social media seems to be the only thing that works these days. And today’s avg idiot can’t be bothered to read and likes little tidbits that they can share on Fakebook. I’ve had this idea that I’ve been tossing around in my head for awhile this idea of creating video versions of all the scathing entries in my blog, one video per company, and then post to YouTube…envision my rants above illustrated and narrated by a cartoon character (looking at something like Powtoon or GoAnimate to do this), maybe call it the Talentless Acquisition Channel…just not certain I can do it, may try one of these days.

  52. @Bob I agree with you — too many abuses. Fortuntely places I have worked the desired skills really were very specific. Most H1b’s and green cards were for those with heavy Biostats experience etc. However it has become clear to me that all kind of games can go on, including writing role descriptions so expansive that no human could be found to fill it. Interesting is that the gov actually does conduct inspections. They show up unannounced and conduct interviews with the employee on an H1B asking question about the role, duties, scope. HR is allowed to be present. This happened to us once— all was on up and up and so there was no problem.

    Below is the Audio about the Abbott situation.

    @ Nick C regarding whether Exec suite know about “companies asking more of their people than they do of themselves”.

    I think that some do know but do their best in companies structured like the titanic— when EVERYTHING is outsourced, your values and behaviours are no longer in your control. And, The disturbing Company and personal branding trends are the modern equivalent of junk food being marketed as a natural product– and really starting to nauseate me. For many the image now matters more than the truth.

  53. Recruiting on linked in has morphed into something similar to dating websites— employers looking for dates that have the very qualities they wish they had more themselves. Whatever “magical qualities” they are recruiting for, be prepared to find them possessing the opposite.

  54. @Behind the Curtain, I agree. Businesses are focused on next quarter’s returns, instead of how to be in business for a decade or more.

    They can raise revenues (sell more stuff, add new services), or cut costs. The latter is painless for management, and pursued relentlessly.

    The problem is that 70% of our economy is consumer driven. No job or less personal income means fewer sales, followed by more cost-cutting, and so on. This often has another side effect; increased public funding to provide services in order to fill the gaps from PT work.

  55. @Jim
    @Behind the Curtain

    You are far more generous to the C-Suite of the average corporation than I am.

    Most Fortune 500 company’s take a “strategic planning” looks no further than this coming Friday’s analyst call.

    @HR Hybrid
    “When One wants to search open positions, you should be able to search, view and apply in 5 clicks or less. More than this, for me, is a sign of dysfunctional processes and future work frustration.”

    And yet corporations around the world shove ‘recruiting’ process off to Taleo. I have used Word Doc, PDF and text with Taleo. Then I spend the next hour editing the mess it creates to sorta look like my well-written and good-looking resume. When I bother.

  56. @Bob, take a look at this,, I read through some of the comments and am baffled, nothing but ooooos and aaaaahs about how great it is here. Maybe Boston is some sort of “looking glass” and we’re just stuck on the wrong side????? Or, maybe they’ve all purchased membership cards and we just need to get one as well? I don’t get it!

    @Deena: “It is NEVER a good idea to send nasty letters to prospective employers, even if they are jerks.”

    O, heaven FORBID we sheeple finally grow a spine and demand a little better treatment from corporate clowns, no, we must forever accept this sick job market run by a bunch of silly little fools who can’t open their mouths except to say “yes” and “no” and hire a passle of mealy-mouthed brats just like them (channeling my inner Scarlett O’Hara here).

  57. @sighmaster,

    I tend to think those in Boston look at the Boston Tech Market through rose colored glasses. Youngster or old-timers… everything is wonderful in the Boston market. As someone who has been looking for work in this market for a couple of years, I don’t see what they see. I’d suggest you sign up for the “Tech in Boston” Slack group & passively watch the postings. You’ll see the rose-colored view of the world in full bloom.

    There are a couple of suggestions I can make for you locally. Use Gmail to “russes” if you like.

  58. Apparently Spanish HR and recruiters are no better than what we find in North America. Check this article out from zerohedge:

  59. Here is something else from Techcrunch. There is consolidation in the job board space. Notice at the end of the article there is absolutely no data on how many job hunters were successful, just how many visits and companies were represented on the sites.

  60. @Michael: Thanks for the link the Spain story. If they look closely, my bet is those employers who can’t find a hire among the 5 million unemployed aren’t looking. They’re diddling the job-board databases, which couldn’t find a brick in Brooklyn. Just more evidence of the insanity. NO ONE is looking at the “tools” being used. It’s too easy to blame 5 million workers. There’s another article at Bloomberg:

  61. Hi Nick – I love this post. It’s about time someone took HR to task about their counter-intuitive practices.

    I say this part with love: I think you mean “run amok” rather than “run amuck.”



  62. @dbt123: I love it when readers raise usage questions. I use amuck because I prefer it to amok, which seems more suited to a Star Wars character. :-) Both spellings date back to the 17 century. Your version is 10 times more common than mine, but amuck is legitimate. (Cf. Bryan Garner’s excellent Dictionary of Modern American Usage.) Score 10 points for catching a good one! Thanks!

  63. @Nick

    I got off the phone yesterday with a recruiter. Everything about the job seemed fine until he asked how much I earned. I pushed back with “How much does this job pay” and he answered 90K. I responded that this seemed extremely low and he acknowledged that it was 30 or 40K below market rates and he was having a hard time finding candidates.

    I find it amazing that recruiters would take assignments where they know they are trying to fill key roles at 30% market rates. I said this kind of salary, even if you can fill the role, will inspire high turnover rates, unambitious teams and long term vacancies. Not a recipe for organizational success.

    There is no talent shortage, the role is going unfilled because the employer cannot build a proper business case to fill it at market salaries.

  64. @Michael:

    I will go out on a limb and predict this employer will lobby for, or at least advocate for, more H1B visas because of the “talent shortage” that they have created entirely out of whole cloth.

    When you add this, plus the obsession for the Purple Squirrel, you have to wonder… where are the leaders overseeing this damage being done to companies’ ability to DO THE WORK?

  65. @David

    I am in Canada so H1B visas and temporary workers are not really an issue here. But the same whining about lack of talent happens here I can assure you. Employers also cart out “Brain drain” to the U.S. of engineers, doctors, etc. whenever the Canadian dollar drops relative to the greenback.

    The Professional Engineers of Ontario do argue that there is no talent shortage and complain that bringing in immigrants under the false promise that there is a job waiting for them is not the answer. Skilled workers from overseas rightly get upset when they feel they were misled.

    I really think the answer is to educate politicians that there is no talent shortage and there is no quick policy answer to getting companies to launch effective recruitment campaigns.

  66. @Michael: Here’s the problem. For every job going begging at 30% lower than “market,” there’s someone out of work long enough willing to take it. As you point out, that new hire will quit as soon as a better-paying job comes along — at which point the employer will complain employees are no longer loyal.

    Added problems:
    1. Recruiters won’t tell a candidate what the salary for the job is, unless someone (like you) bothers to ask. By the time interviews are done, the “foot in the door” effect kicks in, and the applicant rationalizes that they spent all this time in the process… they might as well take what they can get.
    2. Today’s accounting systems have no way of accounting for the cost (and losses) associated with vacant jobs. Not paying that salary actually shows up as a “lower cost” or “profit” on the books. So no one upstairs is concerned about the vacancies. Thus, HR will take forever to find a sucker to take the job for less money.

    Look at today’s federal unemployment figures. Over 250,000 jobs created! Great news! But… unemployment is up to 4.9% from 4.7%. Howzzat??? Wages and salaries are up 1/10 of 1%. Hooray! Most new jobs were created in hospitality and food service. Izzit any wonder?

    Here’s the net: More jobs, more unemployment. Translation: Employers aren’t hiring to save money. The economy continues to slide.

    Watch this:

    It really does explain everything. And it predicts the future, which is already here. The pitchforks are out. It’s in the news.

  67. @Nick

    I agree with you completely. I am living the experience with my current employer. Under new management we are not getting the pay raises/bonuses we were promised, and the staff is bolting. Out of a staff of 20 people, 5 people quit between April – May. We are high tech so these are pretty costly departures.

    And you are right about the loyalty. The CEO keeps squawking about loyalty, but in my view the single biggest way a company can show loyalty in return is to meet or exceed industry salary levels and be perceived as treating its staff properly.

  68. @Nick

    That video was extremely good and very honest.

    I thought I would add another link that I found on HBR that discussed many of the points in your Blog.

  69. Nick,
    Just discovered your site yesterday, and “THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS”.
    Last year, I applied a job with one of the major financial institutions. It was the “ideal” job based on my background and experience. I spent 2 days finishing the online application as the application required me to answer questions such as “what does exceptional customer service mean to you” (except the job I was applying was not a client facing position)..explain any employment gap > 1 month; why leaving your current job.. etc..
    Guess what, 2 weeks later, I logged on to check if there was any “update” regarding my application status, and I discover the job description changed. Needlessly to say, I have not heard anything from this company.

  70. Here is an example of HR really jumping the shark at Microsoft. I don’t think you could make this stuff up.

  71. Nick, The renovated site looks good!

  72. Has anybody out there interviewed for a job for which the opening did not exist? HR from a fortune 500 company spent an hour on the phone with me, and at the end told me that they would let me know if the position we were interviewing for was going to open up. I guess it is contingent on someone quitting or getting fired. I said that I was a little disappointed to hear that and it would have been helpful to know up front.

    This is why HR should be bypassed, and how they are making a mess of their corporate brands.

  73. Hey Nick, while I know you love to pick on HR for hiring dysfunction, and lord knows they deserve it, when recent surveys show the majority (2/3rds) of hiring managers still think they have the luxury of waiting for the perfect fantasy candidate, I think the primary malfunction lies higher up the corporate chain.

  74. As a person why recently left the job market because I finally found a job after MONTHS of applying and many panic attacks, I have found myself in almost all those situations listed above while I was actively looking. First and foremost, a job candidate’s salary is, in fact, NONE OF THE EMPLOYER’S BUSINESS. From what I experienced, they only demand to know because they want to lowball you. If you made $60,000/yr at your previous job and have at least 4-6 years of experience, and this new job pays between $65,000 to $75,000/yr, employers will only use your previous salary against you and only offer you $65,000, even though you are clearly worth AT LEAST $70,000. It’s either accept the insultingly low salary, or you are NOT getting the job. Your salary should be based on what you are currently worth, NOT your salary history. It is absolutely ridiculous that employers do this.

    And recruiting people and ignoring them, I have experienced this as well. Recruiters are the worst, ever worse than employers. So I will not complain there. But recruiters, they would contact me out of the blue, even when I am not readily available, call me in for an “interview”, and never keep in touch. It is like I never met them. And once upon a time, when I was applying for jobs and not getting much response back, whenever I got a response, I would instantly get happy, only to hear that it is not from an employer. IT IS ONLY FROM A DO-NOTHING RECRUITER that would never do anything after the interview and making me waste my time. Because of this, I have developed a real annoyance and anger towards recruiters. And let’s not forget ghosting from employers as well. Treating would-be employees who take interest in your company like they don’t exist is just as rude as treating customers with disrespect. If companies treat their customers like how they currently treat job candidates, every company in the United States would go out of business. It’s just sad.

    And recruiting stupidly, I have been contacted for jobs that I was either overqualified for, not a great match for, or something that is not related to my field. Because of this, these jobs did NOT work in my favor. I had to either turn them down before the interview process starts, or get rejected, the latter being the much more common. SMH.

    And rescinding offer, this has happened to me as well. I was supposed to start a job as an associate accountant at a college after showing them my proof of eligibility to work in the country (I am a US citizen), signing all the required documents, and agreeing on a start date. I signed everything, including all the agreements and my salary that I negotiated for. And guess what? They pulled it back at the last minute. They even lied to me saying that their company was getting “audited” so they couldn’t train me and had to push my start date back. Then they ghosted me afterwards. I just moved on, but I will never recommend working for that college to anyone, especially in the finance and accounting department. And I couldn’t care less that it is a well-known college in the country. And I will not specify what college it is for the sake of privacy.

    The sad thing about all this? Once upon a time, these occurrences were not as common. If you were a job applicant back in the 1950s, for example, whenever you applied to jobs, chances are that you would get a response. And chances are that, if the economy is roaring along, you would get a job within a month, if not sooner. This is no longer the case. With technology rejecting resumes before it reaches the eyes of the HR department, even if the HR manager would accept this for an interview, and the way job candidates are treated, it is no wonder why people have trouble finding jobs today, even with the economy in much better shape compared to back in the dark days of 2008. If we were treated like the way we were decades ago, almost everyone who wants a job would get it almost immediately, even with competition so fierce with the advent of technology.

    So hush HR managers. Please do your jobs correctly and stop treating job candidates like they are dolls.