Banking on H-1B to bail out the fat cats

The U.S. banking mess is a trickle-down scandal. The fat cats will siphon off billions in TARP funds while their “solution” trickles down onto your head — like water torture. While you’re bailing out the bankers, they lay you off and use our tax dollars to hire your replacement from overseas. Great way to put people back to work.

In Banks look overseas for workers, an Associated Press investigation reveals that while their balance sheets were tanking last year, the biggest banks (which are getting the biggest bailouts) started pursuing one-third more H-1B work visas than in 2007 to fill top-level positions with foreign workers. The average positions pay $90,721. We’re talking about senior vice presidents, analysts, corporate lawyers, and, er… ah… human resources specialists. That’s over 4,000 jobs.

Now, I’m not a troglodyte or a socialist. I believe the U.S. must compete with foreign producers (including workers) or suffer the consequences. But I’m not a putz, either. U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used to help stupid bankers recover their footholds in the financial world, and part of the deal is to resurrect dead American jobs.

Use those tax bucks to hire foreign workers right after the crash resulted in Americans losing their jobs? ‘Fraid not.

In a normal economy (if there is one), competition from foreign workers is a reality. We may not like it, but we have to deal with it. But in a crisis where nothing is normal and the government is propping up the economy, natural competitive issues are put aside in the interest of saving the country. That means American jobs.

When the fat cats are banking on H-1B to bail themselves out, it’s time to, er, ah, skin the cats.

(Hey, I have a cat that no one’s gonna skin… it’s a metaphor so don’t send me hate mail.)

The dope on TheLadders

I’ve written before about TheLadders’ veneer of exclusivity and the mass-market business model underneath it. When a paying customer of TheLadders recently shared the transcript of a customer-service “chat” she had with a Ladders’ rep, I had to hit this topic again. The misrepresentations TheLadders makes on its web site are beyond the pale. “Only $100k+ Jobs. Only $100k+ Candidates.”

Only it’s not true.

The story is in this week’s Ask The Headhunter Newsletter: Liars at TheLadders. E-mail from readers has been filling my mail box — comments that I’m sure other readers would like to see. So I’m opening this up for discussion here on the blog. Please feel free to post your comments below.

UPDATE March 19, 2014
Angry, frustrated customers of TheLadders who say they were scammed finally get their day in court. Federal Court OK’s Suit Against TheLadders: Breach of contract & deceptive practices

UPDATE March 12, 2013 A consumer protection class action suit has been filed against TheLadders. If you believe you’ve been scammed by TheLadders, you can join the suit by contacting the law firm that filed the complaint. More here: TheLadders sued for multiple scams in U.S. District Court class action

: :

Who’s holding the H-1B bag?

Blame the attorneys, or their clients who pay them? A reader passed this youtube item along. It’s a lesson in how to post fraudulent ads so you can qualify to hire foreign nationals.

What an embarrassment to the HR community, which hires the attorneys who teach how to scam the H-1B program. The law firm in question has reportedly removed the video from its own web site (they were advertising it?). But YouTube is forever.

There’s a bigger question here. Sure, companies hire H-1B’s to save money. But I think the problem is far worse than that. Consider that to hire via H-1B, you have to define a position narrowly to demonsrate that only a very specific person — who happens to be a foreign national — can do it. Just how narrowly can positions be defined? Well, judging from current management practice, very. Tie this to the “war for talent,” and an underlying trend becomes clear.

I think the “war for talent” and “the H-1B solution” together are a smokescreen. The problem isn’t talent — there is a lot of talent around. The problem, I think, is management. Companies have become so focused on their stock price and PR that they have become shortsighted. They want to solve mostly very specific problems. They don’t seek out talent, which requires cultivation and feeding. They define jobs so narrowly that they can’t easily find “the perfect candidate” — who isn’t really talented, just specifically-skilled. The candidate also happens to be overseas and inexpensive. HR can’t (or won’t) find the very candidates it advertises for, so lawyers have become the new recruiters.

A lot of pundits write about “the talent war” and the H-1B controversy because that’s what sells advertising. The real story is that much management today is stuck in narrowly-defined objectives. The focus is on filling jobs rather than building bench strength. So companies wage a talent war, lawyers handle the recruiting, the whole thing is revealed to be a sham, and HR is left holding the H-1B bag.

Maybe HR will put down the bag and finally stand up — when a Senate subcommittee issues the subpoenas.

Proctology in the service of HR

In Just how good are your references anyway? I suggested that we might all raise our standards by applying the extreme methods that President-elect Obama is using to screen candidates for cabinet positions.

Reader Lucille asked if I was being sarcastic and titaniumtux pointed out that I’m the guy who suggests withholding salary history information. So what gives? Should the hiring process now include a proctological exam?

I admit that I am trying to prod everyone into discussing this. The President-elect’s candidate-review process is extreme, and maybe it needs to be. I do believe, as someone said, that it’s more political than practical. When you become a cabinet member, you give your life up to the role. When you take a job, you’re devoting your professional time to it, not your life. Does an employer deserve more than just that part of your life?

Only if they’re willing to compensate you for it. Read more

Just how good are your references anyway?

You know how bugged I get when employers go over the top and ask background questions that are no one’s business. Reader Steve Amoia sent me a gem from the International Herald Tribune, about President-elect Barack Obama’s candidate questionnaire…

And it set me to thinking. Why shouldn’t an employer ask all these questions? Just how good are my references (or yours, or anyone’s)? Why not just lay it all out?

You’ve gotta figure, well, everyone has some dirty laundry. If we all hang it out, then we’ll all get judged on a curve, or no one will be hire-able. Is that going too far?

Maybe not. Maybe this kind of standard — applied to everyone and in every case — would actually raise our standards and we’d all behave a bit better, make better choices, and consider the consequences of what we say and do (and who we hang out with).

Some say the Net is making everything transparent anyway. So why shouldn’t all employers just ask people to put it all on the record — right there on the job application, just like the next president does? Imagine if companies took the lead and raised the bar. (Think of the fun people you’d meet!)

Armchair Recruiting: Hiring what comes along

Headhunting firms routinely claim they will bring the best candidates to their clients. Employers like to say that people are their most important asset, and they hire only the best.

It’s a load of crap. Most headhunters and employers recruit and hire from what comes along. They not only don’t recruit who is the best in the field; they don’t know who is best because they don’t often seek them out. They don’t make it their business. Hiring managers who fail to recognize this risk the long-term success of their operations, and the people they hire risk their careers.

In Headhunters, Personnel Jockeys & Monkeys I wrote about companies that don’t want headhunters sending them job candidates whose resumes are already on the job boards. It seems the personnel jockeys at these companies are already busy “recruiting” from the boards (that is, scanning and sorting resumes), so why should these companies pay for more of the same?

A couple of headhunters responded to the aforementioned posting, saying that they’ll take their candidates anywhere they can find them. This sharpens the distinction between active headhunters and passive headhunters. It also points out the enormous quality gaffe employers themselves make when recruiting. They are not hiring the best people for the job.

The distinction is sharp and it reveals a fundamental and profound difference in the quality of recruiting and hiring practices among headhunters and employers.

You can identify, recruit and hire the people you want by going out into the world with a set of criteria and tracking down the best people in your industry. You’ll encounter a few surprises and meet interesting people. You’ll become part of their network. A good network is a circle of friends, and those new friends will be your source for future searches, too. You’ll also learn a lot about the industry and profession you recruit for, and that makes you a better and more credible headhunter.

Or, you can sit at a desk and take what comes along. But don’t tell me you’re headhunting. You’re not a headhunter. You’re passive, like the employer’s HR department that does the same. And the quality gaffe you’re making is that you have settled — you have not hunted, found or recruited. You’ve made a forced choice. Read more

Job-hunting insanity

In an edition of my syndicated column, I ran a poll in The Seattle Times. I asked readers to pick from four methods they’d use to get in the door at a company. In other words, how would you apply for a job?

77% responded that they would pursue the channel that is most closed to them — the HR department. Even though they know that the line is long and the competition is stiff, people still take this path. Something like 40%-70% of jobs are found and filled through personal contacts. I don’t think that surprises anyone, and most people know in their gut that “it’s who you know.”

So, why do people go through HR?

Let’s see if I can help you view this from another perspective. Suppose your boss gave you an important project, and you realized it could not be accomplished by conventional means. In other words, the way it’s always been done ain’t gonna cut it. Your boss just wants the job done. Would you continue applying the same-old methods? Or, would you demonstrate creativity and try something new? (Your boss is watching.)

Hold that thought. Read more

Do you know where those references come from?

Is it okay if you write your own recommendation or reference letter and let your boss sign it? What does that say about you? About your boss?

Since it’s appeared in two recent editions of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, the volume of reader mail has pushed this topic to the blog. I want to make it easier for everyone to talk about it. The pertinent newsletter editions are:

A boss who — when asked if he’ll write a recommendation — tells the individual to write their own reference letter so the boss can sign it, is an irresponsible jerk. He’s dissing his own company, dissing the employee, and dissing the entire business community. Who’s going to read that reference and base a hiring decision on it — at least in part? (Is this where crummy hires come from?)

There are some legitimate ways for an employee to make the task a bit easier for the boss, and to reasonably influence the result, and I discuss those in the newsletter. But, a manager signing someone else’s judgments as one’s own — that undermines business at a fundamental level.

Most readers got their hackles up over this one. One said his former boss did this routinely, and called him “a feckless loser.” One called the failure of managers to actually take the time to write a reference “another example of the general malaise that exists in Corporate America; it is like a cancer that is spreading exponetially.” Consistently, readers focused on the bigger underlying management problem. One put it very simply: “Not only is it deceitful, it’s also lazy and bad management practice.”

One reader explained that this is just how business is done and chided me for not accepting it. Bob Hooson wrote (and gave me permission to print): Read more

Aim, aim, aim, shoot foot

In the August 5 edition of the Ask The Headhunter newsletter, “How can I push the hiring decision?” (sorry, it’s not online; you’ve gotta subscribe), I advised a reader that you can’t push companies to wrap up the hiring process (translation: make you an offer) because sometimes they just don’t want to.

Andy Lester, who writes The Working Geek, followed up with this story about complacent employers.

You forgot one other reason that people get led around by the nose in the hiring decision: The company is too incompetent to close the deal.

I recently had a friend, “Bob,” find a job that sounded like a great fit. The hiring manager said he’d be working with HR to get the offer worked out. A week later, no offer. Bob had wisely continued hunting and had some interest from a second company. When the second company called back for the second interview, Bob called the first company to light a fire. The first company was where he really wanted to work. “Yes, yes, we’re working on it,” the first manager said. Second company gives Bob an offer, who of course says he needs a day to think about it. He calls the first company with an ultimatum: “I need an offer by Wednesday at 5pm or I’m going with this other company.”

Read more

What is the single best interview question ever?

The purpose of any interview is simple: to figure out whether a candidate can do the job profitably. Everything else is ancillary — or fluff.

A smart interview is not an interrogation. It’s not a series of canned questions or a set of scripted tests that have been ginned up by HR. You know the drill: the Top 10 Stupid Interview Questions for managers who don’t know how to talk shop. If you could be any animal, what animal would you be? Why are manhole covers round? What’s your greatest weakness? Where do you see yourself in five years?

An interview should be a roll-up-your-sleeves, hands-on working meeting between you and the candidate, where all of the focus is on the job. Think of the interview as the candidate’s first day at work, with the only question that matters being this: “What’s your business plan for doing this job?”

To successfully answer that, the candidate must first demonstrate an understanding of the company’s problems, challenges, and goals — not an easy thing to do. But since you want to make a great hire — and get back to your own job–, why don’t you help the best candidate succeed? Isn’t that what you’d do for any one of your employees after you give them an assignment? You want them to succeed. Why do the dopey interview dance?

A week before the interview, call up the candidate. (If HR warns you not to, remind them who runs your department.) Provide some instructions and advice:

“We want you to show us how you’re going to do this job. That’s going to take a lot of homework. I suggest that you read through these pages on our web site, review these publications from our marketing and investor-relations departments, and speak with these three people on my team. When you’re done, you should have something useful to tell us.”

This will eliminate 9 out of 10 candidates. Yah, tell your HR department to suck rocks. You’re not interested in tons of resumes, lots of candidates, and plenty of interviews. The fewer, the better. This is not a numbers game. Anyone without the motivation to do the job to win the job isn’t worth considering. Only those who really want the job will do the work to research the job. Everyone else is a tire-kicker who’s wasting your time.

In the interview, you should expect (or hope) to hear the most compelling question that any candidate can ask:

“Would you like me to show how your company will profit from hiring me?”

It’s no surprise. It’s the same question you’re asking, if you behave like your own job matters, and that hiring great people matters is a manager’s #1 job. The candidate should be prepared to do the job in the interview. That means walking up to the whiteboard and outlining the steps he or she would take to solve your company’s problems. The numbers might be off, but the candidate should be able to defend them intelligently.

If the candidate reveals an understanding of your culture and competitors — and lays out a plan of attack to solve your problems and add profit to your bottom line — you have some compelling reasons to make the hire.

If you trust only a candidate’s references, credentials, resume, or test results, you won’t know whether the candidate can do the job. Don’t talk around the job; get on it.