Move Over H-1B: Make way for L-1 visas

The H-1B visa is well-known in technology circles: U.S. employers use it to hire temporary foreign workers in “specialty occupations.”

Engineers and Information Technology (IT) workers have long complained that the H-1B program takes jobs away from Americans. While H-1B requires employees to be paid the prevailing wage, some argue that employers actually pay lower salaries to H-1B workers — and that this depresses salaries across the board.

Enter L-1: A dog of a visa?

While there is a cap on the number of H-1B visas issued in the U.S., there is no cap on the L-1 visa, which has no prevailing wage requirement.

The L-1 visa is used by foreign companies for intra-company transfers of foreign employees into the U.S. L-1 workers are supposed to have “specialized knowledge” — but my dog could claim that his nose enables him to fulfill that requirement.

Use of the L-1 visa is growing, in part because the definition of “specialized knowledge” makes it easier to abuse.

Leading work to other countries?

Computerworld reports in an article, Charting H-1B users, as attention shifts to L-1, that, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), L-1 could start resulting in significant job losses for Americans. EPI warns of “offshore outsourcing firms whose business model is to first hire L-1 workers to learn the work done by Americans, then to transfer that work overseas.”

Says an EPI analyst: “The L-1 program was not intended to function in this way. Nevertheless, this blatant misuse of the program is legally permissible. As a result, the program is operating at the expense of American workers.”

The issue: The U.S. government is considering changing the definition of “specialized knowledge,” and EPI is warning that the new definition could cause new, more extensive job losses. Are American jobs being led out of the country on L-1 leashes? I mean, L-1 visas?

Meanwhile, foreign companies that want to transfer more of their employees to work in their U.S. facilities complain about the restrictions.

Have you encountered L-1? Is it the new H-1B?

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Facebook: Pimping your cred to employers?

Q:

At what point will Facebook start selling your “timeline” to employers who will be as happy to pay for it as they are to pay for access to your online resume?

A:

When is Facebook’s IPO?

There’s a news story that’s made the rounds in several media outlets. It’s about employers that demand a job applicant’s Facebook login and password, so they can check the person’s online bona fides. The Chicago Tribune reports there’s already legislation under way to stop the practice.

The articles ruminate on the whys, the wherefores, and on the proper response. But the proper response is easy: Up yours! This blog has already asked the question about Presumptuous Employers: Is this HR, or Proctology?

Everybody does it

But the problem isn’t just with employers. I found one version of this Facebook story on USA Today: Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords. It was the best of the articles I’d read on the subject, so I wrote a comment and tried to post it.

Imagine my ire when USA Today demanded my Facebook credentials in order to post the comment. Say what?? I clicked out of the comments box. Up yours, USA Today. F you and the Facebook you rode in on.

If I want to go to Facebook, I’ll go to Facebook. But when I want news, I expect my experience will be with USA Today, or whatever news outlet I choose to visit. There is no more reason for me to transfer my Facebook bona fides to another website than there is to disclose my salary history to some personnel jockey. “That’s the policy” isn’t a good enough reason. (If you wonder how to avoid turning over your salary history to an employer, see Keep Your Salary Under Wraps.)

So, Up the yin-yang of media outlets that are selling me out to Mark Zuckerberg’s database. They won’t get my comments — and I’m not so likely to bother with them next time I want news and discussion.

Did you give permission?

Of course, whether we’re talking about employers, USA Today, or any other partner to Facebook — the problem is suckers who play along. The problem is what you choose to share on Facebook. Because if you think it’s a problem when employers demand your social media credentials, you’re not thinking ahead. Did you already give permission for your credentials to be sold to them?

Monster.com and other big job boards rent, sell, and trade your resume information to parties you know nothing about.

LinkedIn is is now selling access to its database to employers who pay for access to people’s credentials.

Google just got sued again in federal court for misusing your personal information.

Pimping your cred

How much do you wanna bet that Facebook — especially once it does its IPO — doesn’t start pimping your “timeline” to employers who are willing to fork over the bucks? It’s gonna happen. Employers won’t need to embarrass you by asking for it in a job interview. They’ll already have it. It’s all part of “improving your social experience.” It’s all part of shareholder value. It’s all part of turning yet another database of personal information into a “career service.”

You won’t find Facebook managing the comments section of this blog. Not now, not ever. You won’t find me cueing up my Facebook bona fides when I want to post a comment on USA Today. As Mark Zuckerberg starts pimping out his members’ timelines, you’ll also probably find me canceling my Facebook account.


UPDATE March 23, 2012

Facebook has issued a statement: Facebook warns employers not to solicit passwords, calls it an ‘alarming’ practice. Gimme a break. That’s like bars and liquor distillers issuing statements that they are “alarmed” by drinking. My prediction stands: After the IPO, Facebook will sell employers access to your personal data. “A powerful new social feature to help you land that job!”

 

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Resumes: Job hunting suicide

The Wall Street Journal reports that you’re screwed if you’re looking for a job, in Your Resume vs. Oblivion. A guy at IBM who sells the systems employers use to process incoming resumes says that 90% or more of employers use sophsticated technology (“which can cost from $5,000 to millions of dollars”) to scan resumes.

So the Journal offers lots of insider tips about “How to Beat the ‘Black Hole’.” (Ain’t it funny how derogatory even the insiders are about Resume Hell? The Journal cleans up on its own job board, which wants you to submit all the resumes and applications you possibly can.)

Chief among the tips:

  • Copy the keywords from the job posting right into your resume. That way, the scanners will pick them up and your resume will fly right through the drek into the hands of many excited personnel jockeys who are waiting to call you up!
  • Keep the formatting simple, to make it easier for the scanners to read your credentials!

If you’re going to play this game, I’ll give you the best tip of all:

Copy the entire friggin’ job posting and paste it right onto the last page of your resume. That way you can’t get screwed by the software because it’s all in there!

Of course, there’s another solution entirely, that will thwart both the machines and the “millions” of competitors you’re facing:

Don’t use a resume at all. Here’s how to write a resume that’s designed to be tossed in the trash when you’re done, and still get the job — without ever showing it to an employer.

Like the guy at the end of the article says about a company whose HR director is too busy to read his resume, “What I’m going to do is turn up on their doorstep,” says Mr. Denton. “I really have nothing to lose.”

Sure he will.

The inside joke is, the hiring manager at that company is going to hire someone who was personally referred by a trusted contact. Not someone who sent in a resume.

Meanwhile, millions commit job hunting suicide every day when they swallow this drivel about “how to beat the machines” at the keyword game. They dutifully craft their resumes, pull the trigger, and lean into the mass grave.

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Update: Not all employers operate resume grinders. Mike R., an HR manager at a small manufacturing company, posted this comment on Recruitomatic & The Social Jerk (Or: Why you hate recruiters):

“As someone who does review every resume that is submitted (no keyword screens for us), one problem that I often see is that many people do not take your advice and explain how they will do the job profitably. In my job postings and contacts with candidates, I spell out what the person will have to do and achieve in the position to be successful. However, many people simply send me a standard resume, which gives me little clue to whether they can do the job. It’s almost as if their attitude is, I can’t be bothered to customize my resume to demonstrate that I can do the job, so YOU figure out whether I can do the job or not.”

Would you make it past this human screener who actually has a brain and behaves like a savvy businessman?

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TheLadders’ Marc Cenedella: A dirtbag with money running for office

Who would have thought? This isn’t even worth commenting on:

Under the Name of a Senate Hopeful, Blog Posts on Sex and Drugs from The New York Times. It seems TheLadders CEO Marc Cenedella is getting ready to run for U.S. Senate on a Republican ticket.

My favorite parts:

“Until recently, a Web site, blog.theladders.com/rock, bore Mr. Cenedella’s photograph and the title “The personal blog of Marc Cenedella.” It provided tips on polishing resumes, preparing for job interviews and the like. But it also had a number of entries containing random observations about sex, women and drugs…”

“The entries had headlines like “Sexy vs. Skanky,” “Dating Advice for Girly Girls,” “He Stole My Weed” and “High Quality Dope.””

“In an entry titled “A New Holiday for Men,” there was a link to a separate site that designates March 14 as a special occasion on which women are encouraged to offer steak and oral sex “to show your man how much you care for him.””

“An adviser said the entries were from a site that Mr. Cenedella previously published called Stone…  which the adviser said had multiple authors.”

You mean TheLadders CEO didn’t actually write all the drivel he took credit for on his blog???

Oh… I also liked this part:

“Part of Mr. Cenedella’s appeal within Republican circles is that he is a nonpolitician at time when voters seem weary of insiders. Republicans also believe that Mr. Cenedella’s business success allows him to present himself as the candidate most able to help the nation in these tough economic times.”

“More than all that, though, some Republicans are encouraged by another asset Mr. Cenedella brings: a big checkbook.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time Mr. Cenedella’s behavior has been exposed online.

Mr. Cenedella’s references:

TheLadders: How the scam works

Running on Empty: TheLadders folds up its shell game

Whorin’ around with TheLadders

TheLadders: A long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled PR machine

TheLadders: Job-board salary fraud?

Marc Cenedella sells e-mails, $30/month!

The Dope on TheLadders and Liars at TheLadders

One tiny $100K+ mistake

[Update: The Huffington Post provides screen shots of the personal blog posts Cenedella removed when his blog made the news.]

[See also: A Painful Online Personal Brand.]

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Recruitomatic & The Social Jerk (Or: Why you hate recruiters)

This week we started a “pound Nick with questions” thread — and you’ve been pounding! Great questions and topics — and pointed insights. A recurring theme on that thread is recruiters — the inept, the inane, the ones who waste your time, and the ones who leave you frustrated and angry. (There are good recruiters out there, but that’s another topic.)

Reader Dave started to boil it down in his 1/18 comment on the previous posting:

One other thing…

Just recieved the occasioal newsletter from a so called “head hunter/recruiter.”  He said he has developed a relationship with an offshore vendor in order to provide services/people to do work.  One of the reasons he gave for doing this is because companies “can’t find the right people.”

Quite frankly, this made my blood boil for all of the reasons Nick states in his blog post.  You can’t tell me that with all the unemployment, underemployment, people who gave up looking for now, people looking for a change and all the people graduating from college, that you cannot find anyone to fill your positions? 

This is a prime example why I dislike most “search staff.”

Dave draws a whole new thread from the strands that come together in that discussion. I was going to respond to him briefly, but then I realized Dave has generated a whole new topic. He deserves to know…

Why You Hate Recruiters

It’s no accident. It’s a well-orchestrated con game run by experts. HR departments pay expensive consultants to define the “best practices” ($$$) and to promote the “best technologies” ($$$$$$$) that enable HR to maintain the 4:1 ratio of unemployed people to unfilled jobs in America. (That’s 14.2 million unemployed, and 3.2 million vacant jobs.)

Translation: Corporate America pays a lotta money to act dumb when it recruits and hires.

Thanks, Dave, for sharing that newsletter you received from the recruiter who’s going offshore to fill American jobs. But the problem is higher up the food chain. Employers are the ones spending the money here. Recruiters like this one just chase the low-hanging fruit. I’d love to see Congress haul these people in front of a committee and ask them:

“So, when you interview talented job applicants, then what do you do to cultivate them into productive employees?”

The answer is splattered all over the popular media:

“We hire only perfect fits! With these intelligent databases, we don’t have to take chances on training anyone who can’t already do the job with their eyes closed!”

People and companies want to believe that technology can meet the hiring challenge. Savvy, insightful managers who know how to judge talent are no longer required. Give HR a database of jobs and resumes, and they’ll throw money at it forever, waiting for a payout. The job boards are like slot machines for HR wonks: An addiction. The only beneficiary is “the house” — in this case, HR consultants and database vendors who cater to employers who want to believe.

Selling The Mess to HR: A full-time gig ($$$$)

Example: Check out RecruitingBlogs, where “internet recruiting gurus” tout the databases and the social thingies that they get paid to explain to their clients:

“…we’re going to release a ranked list of the Top 25 Online Influencers in HR. This list is completely generated by algorithm (think Google). The list ranks the Top 25 voices in HR based on their online footprint…”

Gimme a break. Online footprints? That’s how we judge value? That’s what consultants teach HR — and HR pays big bucks. That’s why job hunters like Dave are left swinging in the breeze. The recruiters are part of a big social jerk, fantasizing about social media. The blogging consultant goes on to describe his brethren:

“So, I was at this party a couple of weeks ago. All sorts of twitterati were there…”

Then it gets down to brass tacks: Making money by “explaining” the databases to HR rubes with deep pockets:

“There is money to be made in the field today because the techniques required to find people are arcane and confusing. Additionally, with the strong exception of Avature and Broadlook’s products, there are no useful tools for the automation of the process.”

What’s he touting with those two products? Expensive databases that employers use to intoxicate their personnel jockeys. Note the implicit focus on automation of recruiting. The more automated HR becomes, there’s more “money to be made” because nobody can understand this crap. (Try to scrape this one up off the ground in one piece, from the HR Examiner Blog: “Meaning and data in the social web.”)

One of the “strong exceptions” blogger John Sumser refers to, Avature, has a tagline:

“Bring Social Media and Web 2.0 tools together and create unique and innovative solutions to your recruiting challenges.”

How about getting the consultants out of the bars (where they’re being wined and dined by the “arcane and confusing” online recruiting tools vendors), and the recruiters off their asses, and bringing together a few brains to meet some of the 3.2 million “talents” that the software can’t quite figure out? HR is bogged down, and employers are dying for good workers, because HR doesn’t recruit — it pays consultants to distract it with non-stop workshops, white papers, and “best practices” designed to facilitate deep contemplation of the HR navel. ($$$$$)

(By the way, John Sumser is not the only consultant driving HR down into the whirling blade that’s waiting to process you. There’s the aforementioned RecruitingBlogs.com, which delivers non-stop juice to keep the blender going; ERE.net, where recruiters go to talk it all through; and a host of sycophants that have figured out “there is money to be made in the field today…” so let’s get together for another mind-expanding party and to count our money.)

Recruitomatic: It’s all in there

Then RecruitingBlogs.com refers to “Mr. Recruitomatic.” That’s where I rest my case. This is a cluster duck.

Mr. Recruitomatic could be the title of a book about the state of unemployment in America, or it could be an inside joke about how HR rotates on its consulting budgets. It’s all one big database blender, grinding up people into keywords with no decision-making or intelligence beyond the algorithms. Mr. Recruitomatic is churning out swill that nobody wants — or there wouldn’t be 14.2 million unemployed, and 3.2 million vacant jobs, would there?

Or maybe it’s just your fault, Dave. You ignorant, behind-the-times, unemployed slob — you’re just not prepared to be “the perfect fit.” Get some new keywords. Find some meaning and data in the social web. Reduce yourself to what HR is willing to hire.

Welcome to The Social Jerk

“We have a shortage of talent!” Yah — in HR. No shortage of consulting fees, though. ($$$$) No shortage of jargon to mix up with algorithms and some social sauce. But the farther HR sticks its head into the blender, the more it’s clear the talent shortage is in the corner office where the consulting bucks are spent.

Dave, this is what drives HR departments stupid. This is why you hate recruiters. There is an entire industry that earns big bucks mixing up the HR mess that you describe. It’s the motor driving the HR Recruitomatic. Why do I rag on it so? Because the consulting crowd doesn’t have any idea what’s going on outside the blender — they don’t see you getting splattered with muck. There are no fees to be had from you.

While these twitterati advise their eager HR clients about what’s “completely generated by algorithm,” ($$$Cool) they have no idea what is the impact of their only-half-clever, inbred “initiatives.” They’re not out on the street, where guys like you don’t see what’s “social” about software deciding whether you can ride a fast learning curve so you can do a job.

The Recruitomatic and HR’s database-itis — this is why there’s a 4:1 ratio of unemployed Americans to vacant jobs. It’s why you get splattered with HR’s mixed-up rationalizations while you’re trying to earn an honest dollar for doing honest work with an employer that knows how to run a business. And that knows how to hire.

Anyone’s odds — if they’re unemployed — are about 4:1. But what are the odds the board of directors at any company has a clue what’s going on? They don’t get why you hate recruiters. They don’t get why so many jobs at their companies are vacant and work is left undon. They don’t get that the “talent shortage” is largely manufactured by consultants who make out only when HR is playing with Mr. Recruitomatic — not when HR actually hires anybody.

The social jerk is a profitable $$$$$proposition, Dave. Except for you and your 4.2 million buddies.

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Half-Assed Recruiting: Why employers can’t find talent

In the November 15, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter who tries to take a personal approach to an employer is told to “go tell it to our website” in order to comply with federal rules:

Nick, this is a new one to me. Do we really need to apply online for positions before contacting anyone in a company, “to be compliant with government programs?”

Is this true, or are they using a federal smokescreen here? I made a personal inquiry about a job through LinkedIn, and they sent me to their website to apply. Here is the reply I received:

“In order to be considered for any of our positions at [Fortune 100 company] it will be important to apply to the position. To be compliant with our Govt programs, a candidate has to apply to the positions to be considered. Also, if you are interested in moving forward, can you please send to me a copy of your resume and I will send it over to our hiring manager.

Mary [surname omitted]
[tel omitted]
[e-mail omitted]
[Company]
Global Recruiting
BE VITAL in your career, Be seen for the talent you bring to your work. Explore opportunities within the [Company] Family of Companies”

When I did as I was told in the past and applied online at this company’s website, they immediately sent out a notice of rejection, thanking me for applying, saying they have no open positions at this time, and wishing me best of luck in my job search.

How do they expect to get good candidates?

My Advice

Many companies have policies requiring submission of an application online, even if they don’t cite federal law. (The feds require employers to document their compliance with equal opportunity hiring laws, and this may be why some companies like to have an online audit trail of applications.)

But what does this have to do with intelligent recruiting and hiring practices? Nothing at all. Employers can be total dumb-asses when it comes to hiring and recruiting, and still obey the law.

You’ve encountered a company recruiter who is more concerned about dotting i’s and crossing t’s than recruiting competitively. Telling you that the personal approach you took is inadequate, and to go fill out the online form, is not smart, competitive behavior. (I do give her credit for requesting your resume. But after you went to the trouble to make a personal contact, her suggestion is no more personal than filling out that online form.)

Even if this recruiter were to respond to you outside the confines of those online forms, she could still make sure that your application was properly documented — later. To answer your question, I don’t know how a company expects to attract “VITAL” candidates and to “see the talent you bring to your work” when the first order of business is to shunt them to the website, where applicants can do the HR staff’s adminstrative work — filling out forms and tracking applicants.

What you should do

Keep taking the personal approach. If you can make a good contact through LinkedIn, go for it — but don’t bother with contacts in the personnel department. Find a manager in the company who actually needs to hire someone. Establish mutual interest, and even get an interview if possible. If the discussion becomes serious, then you can submit the online stuff to satisfy the bureaucrats who had absolutely nothing to do with attracting you to the company. In the meantime, you’ve got the ball rolling with that hiring manager, ahead of your competition.

The personnel jockey who told you to go fill out the online form will be busy driving away good candidates — to her competitors.

Half-assed recruiting

Your experience isn’t unusual. Employers seem to have turned half-assed recruiting into a top-level strategy for turning away top talent. “Recruiting” has been reduced to running ads, telling people to fill out forms, and waiting for talent to show up. In New Jersey, lazy, mindless recruiting practices are getting companies busted for violating the law: See my blog posting, Employer Fined for Stupid Recruiting, about the first employer to be fined for posting a job that requires applicants “to be currently employed.”

I’ll keep saying it: Stories like this prove that the talent shortage is in the recruiting department and in the leadership of many companies. It’s why employers can’t find talent when we’re in the biggest talent glut in history. Goof-ball personnel jockeys send talent away, while foolhardy CEOs (see the aforementioned New Jersey story) would rather leave a job undone for three years than even consider jobless talent.

Did you go sour on an employer who wouldn’t give you the time of day after you went to the trouble to make a personal contact? Have you opened a door to introduce yourself to an employer, only to wonder, “Is there anybody in there?” What behavior do you see among employers that tells you they’re not doing this right?

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Employer Fined for Stupid Recruiting

New Jersey is the only state where it’s illegal to publish job ads that exclude unemployed people. Is that because New Jersey has especially stupid employers, or because New Jersey is the first state to recognize that there are too many employers everywhere that behave stupidly?

Does it matter? Here’s what matters: The company that took the first bust under this new law reveals a lot about Stupid Recruiting.

CEO J. Michael Goodson explained Crestek’s recruiting strategy. The job posting for a service manager included the requirement, “Must be currently employed” because Crestek wanted someone “at the top of their game and not people who have been unemployed for 18 months.”

Now for the punchline: According to the Star-Ledger, Goodson “spent three years seeking the right person and sifting through resumes was time-consuming…” [Emphasis added.]

Recruiting is hard work: You have to sit and wait an awfully long time.

This $185 million company spent three years trying to fill a position so important that the CEO waited leisurely for a resume to come along and nibble on his job-ad line. Translation: Hiring what comes along. Gee — I wonder how much it cost Crestek to leave that job unfilled for three years while Goodson sifted incoming resumes. Did it ever occur to Goodson to go out and find, cultivate, cajole, steal and otherwise recruit the person he needed?

The Talent-Shortage Brain Fart

Waiting for job ads to deliver a top candidate to your front door is like waiting for customers to show up. Doesn’t Crestek have a sales force that goes out to find customers? Then why doesn’t Goodson get out there to find top talent? Why is this company banking its future on want ads? I can see Goodson’s next initiative: Fire the sales force and run more ads!

Why did this company resort to warning jobless applicants away? “This was the only time we ever advertised that way and we only ran it when the other ads failed to produce any viable candidates.”

Ahhh… this was an experimental, state-of-the-art job ad. A new way address the talent shortage. A brain fart.

Remember the talent shortage? 4.2 million Americans are out of work, and almost half a million of them in New Jersey. Not one qualified applicant came along while Crestek was dipping its line in the water. Must be the talent shortage at play — or poor management?

Stupid Recruiting: A sign of lousy management

Says Goodson: “For this job, I wanted somebody that’s in the service business and is employed. If someone is out of work for 18 months, my concern would be that their last job was in a bakery or pumping gas.”

If I were looking for a job at a good company, my concern would be that the service manager’s job at Crestek was empty for three years because the CEO didn’t know how to fill it. I’d wonder whether the the company might be better off if the CEO would go pump gas.

Running ads and waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right to show up at your company is passive recruiting and poor management. Now that the CEO has tripped over his tangled recruiting line, Crestek’s corporate resume has been updated with a rap sheet for violating New Jersey employment law. But no state in the union fines companies for Stupid Recruiting.

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Big Brother & The Employment Industry: “All your employment are belong to us!”

Suppose that every time you applied for a job, some guy in a little room checked an Excel spreadsheet and notified the employer: “No interview for this guy. He’s a bum.”

It’s already happening.

Several years ago I published a series of articles about identity theft via job boards, including a report about Monster.com’s troubling practices by Pam Dixon from the World Privacy Forum (Click, You’re Hired. Or Tracked). Later, I published a newsletter titled Does HR go too far when screening candidates? in which HR consultant Earl Rice warned that:

“…in their zeal to protect themselves and their companies, HR departments may be covering up illegitimate and possibly illegal practices. When HR outsources background checks and investigations of candidates, is HR doing its job, or is it ensuring plausible deniability while letting loose an investigative demon that systematically violates people’s privacy and feeds the specter of identify theft?”

Trading privacy for Big Brother’s social initiative

It’s a world where Facebook routinely collects and profits from massive amounts of personal information. It’s a world where people enjoy the benefits of “social networking” and just want to keep up with their friends minute-by-minute. It’s a world where Big Brother has taught people to shrug and say, “Privacy? There’s no privacy any more. My information is in lots of databases and it’s not worth worrying about it!”

It’s a world where corporate employers are covering their legal asses while you get rejected for jobs that have long been vacant because “there’s a talent shortage.”

It’s also a world where opening a financial account in your name doesn’t take much more than your name, address, social security number (SSN), and a signature — any signature. But in today’s economy, the permissions you grant to employers when you apply for a job can continue to cost you lots of jobs — and you’ll never know it.

Let’s go back to what HR consultant Rice said back in 2003:

“If you have signed one disclosure for one employer, the investigations company that did the checks will keep the information about you in their database and then just re-sell the results to their next client.”

How does this happen? HR outsources the investigations, and the third party investigations company owns the information it gathers about you. The next employer rejects you for the same reasons the last one did. Were those reasons legit?

“This total invasion of privacy beyond your wildest dreams (actually, nightmares) is outsourced. The worst part is that much of the data and information these outsourced security agents collect is erroneous.”

You sacrifice privacy; employers buy legal protection

But while you’re giving up your privacy for certain “social” benefits (like the ability to apply for a job), employers are capitalizing on the holes you just punched in your life. Then, those same employers are buying legal protection in case you sue them for peeking through the holes. Rice reiterated that the quality of information about you in those databases isn’t the issue; insulation of employers from legal liability is the issue. Rice warned warned that an employer’s intentions could be far more complex:

“This is an industry that is almost totally unregulated. The multiple levels of outsourcing and subcontracting yield enough plausible deniability to the companies themselves,  and their clients, that abuses run rampant.”

Are employers using third parties to distance themselves from legal liability when checking you out? Who’s responsible for auditing and tracking the use and security of personal information an employer gathers about you?

Like many people, I put all this aside and chalked it up to Big Brother’s ubiquitous presence in our lives… the Internet, after all, is the Big Brother we’ve invited into our lives, choosing to accept the quirks of his behavior in exchange for all the social gifts he bears.

The little man who controls your career

That’s how I compartmentalized it all, until a reader sent me the story of his recent experience with a major American corporation with operations around the world. The reader is a 20-year veteran of the information technology field, and has more than a passing knowledge about security. Read it and decide how worthy a trade we’re making — some of our privacy, in exchange for the wonderful social gifts Big Brother delivers into our lives.

During Q4/2010, I was being considered for a position with [Company X]. Before I could be submitted for consideration to the hiring manager, the recruiting agency required my name and full SSN so that it could be checked against a database of Company X’s former employees. I decided to dig into their process.

Each agency was collecting names and SSNs within their offices in a spreadsheet, then submitting them periodically to a third-party agency via unencrypted e-mail attachment (Excel file). I went as far as to contact the individual at the third-party agency who was receiving and processing the queries.

He told me that he logged into a Company X mainframe application to enter the names and SSNs, then returned the spreadsheets to the agencies with a Yes or No indication for whether the candidates were acceptable to Company X on the basis of when and how they may have might have been terminated, or if his check could verify that they had never worked for Company X. He then combined each of the spreadsheets into one of his own so that he could independently track and verify the names and numbers he had already processed.

Me: “Where do you keep that spreadsheet?”

Him: “In my in-box in Outlook.”

Me: “Do you see any security risk in that?”

Him: “No, it’s just on my desktop.”

I was shocked.  That was when I decided to pass on the opportunity. I also informed the agency rep who had contacted me about the job that this was how it was being done, and while he agreed that it wasn’t very good, he had no way to change the process put in place by Company X.

All your career are belong to us

You worry that you’re too old, or that you lack the proper college degree or skills. But employers are rejecting you before they check any of your work credentials. Your career is subject to “judgments” far more stupid and unsophisticated than you could imagine — judgments that could well be incorrect, and over which you have no right of appeal.

In 1991, a poorly-translated warning appeared in a popular video game: “All your base are belong to us.” Today, the game ends for many job applicants before it even starts.  Your career belongs to the little man with the spreadsheet, who operates at legal arm’s length from the employer that rejected you. He works for an agency that is contracted by lots of employers to handle candidate investigations, and to notify employers whether you should be interviewed.

But, the business is not about hiring; it’s about selling and re-selling data about you whose accuracy you cannot confirm.

“The larger outsourced security/investigative companies have started keeping databases of their own. One advertises they have a database of over 1.5 million people for employers to run their candidates against.”

At the time Earl Rice contributed his commments to Ask The Headhunter, he was working for a major employer that outsourced background investigations to third parties that weren’t even in the United States. They were based in what we used to affectionately refer to as Iron Curtain Countries.

“They start with a name and phone number and e-mail address from a resume or application. Then, they cross-reference information until they get a date of birth or social security  number and go from there. When an applicant walks into HR for that first  meeting, they already may have been investigated. Never mind that much of the  data gathered may be erroneous. The ‘data’ was gathered at arm’s length, but the  employer will treat it as absolute fact.”

Advantage Employment Industry

Employers are ultimately responsible for the way job applicants are treated, no matter how carefully they’ve instituted legal protections by outsourcing candidate rejection. But the problem job hunters face is a systemic one. There’s an entire employment industry that now relies on Big Brother and the holes you permit in your personal privacy. Privacy expert Pam Dixon boils it down:

“The business of searching for jobs online has grown from a market niche to a multi-billion-dollar, rapidly consolidating industry that relies on the eager search activities — and employment dreams — of millions of job seekers.”

Every time a job hunter submits an application through the rote channels established by corporate HR departments, the employment industry gets paid — whether a match is made or not. The job hunter loses, and the hiring manager cries about the talent shortage. Employers give the advantage to the employment industry — a mafia of consultants and contractors who bear no responsibility, because they just manage that spreadsheet.

Every time a job hunter agrees to apply for a job via Big Brother methods, rather than through a personal contact with a hiring manager, the job hunter sets in motion the wheels of an entire data industry designed to make money — not to match people with jobs. Most of the time, the job hunter gets taken down in a drive-by data attack. The little man with the spreadsheet wears a hood, and even the employer has no idea who’s driving the data base. Or where the keys are.

The IT manager who shared the story above decided to skip the little middle man — and Big Brother. His next contact with an employer was direct, and he hasn’t submitted to a strip search of his personal information. His job search isn’t easy, but he still owns his career.

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Washington Post: Monster.com is no joke any more!

Gimme a break.

The Washington Post reports: Monster.com finally vindicated.

Say what?

Two reseachers, UC Santa Barbara’s Peter Kuhn and UC Denver’s Hani Mansour, asked this question in a study they conducted: Do job hunters who “use the Internet to look for work” spend less time unemployed than job hunters who don’t use the Internet?

Guess what? People who use the Internet spend less time unemployed. Whoo-wee. How does this study “vindicate” Monster.com or any other job board?

It doesn’t. The researchers mention Monster.com once in their 36-page report, and only in passing. The Post’s reporter, Brad Plumer, makes Monster.com the subject of his story and puts the name in the headline.

There’s no evidence provided by the authors of the study (or by Plumer) about what is the impact of job boards on how long unemployment lasts. The researchers merely speculate and toss out the names of two job boards — Monster.com and CareerBuilder. To suggest that use of the Internet makes finding a job easier due to Monster.com is like suggesting that having a car makes traveling easier — thanks to DeLorean Motor Company. And, by the way, this vindicates the Ford Pinto, too.

The reason more people are finding jobs “via” the Internet is because the Internet is a social venue where people hang out. It’s got little to do with where jobs are advertised, because most jobs continue to be found and filled through — guess what — personal contacts. And the Internet is a great place to make personal contacts.

How about we try a more robust approach to determine how the Internet really contributes to finding a job, eh? What’s up with promoting the idea that a ghost in the machine, like Monster.com, is what shortens anyone’s unemployment time?

A major newspaper like The Washington Post can do better than publish an advertorial for job boards. Well, maybe not. The Post operates a job board for profit. There’s no vindication of Monster.com here; just an indictment of a newspaper.

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How can I find out whether a job board is the real deal?

In the August 30, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks:

Have you ever heard of JobSearchSite Inc., dba NOW? It sounds good, but how do you check on them to see if they’re the real deal?

My reply:

In this edition, let’s try an experiment: Video. Hope you enjoy it.

There are so many job boards coming and going that it’s impossible to keep up — but I don’t even want to. While your competition is getting interviews and offers, you’d be spending your entire life trying to check these places out. Or you could pick four companies you’d love to work for and go research them instead, to make personal contacts who will give you the real low-down and help you get in the door.

Remember: There aren’t 400 jobs out there for you. Choose carefully and approach doggedly.

I already know how the Ask The Headhunter community feels about job boards… but tell me, what’s your favorite alternative that produces results? (Are there any job boards you like?)

So… how’d this video experment come off? (Other than my novice production values!) Is video Q&A to your liking? Should we do more of these? Hit me with your critique — too long, too short, get a new shirt, stop the rapid eye movements (sorry, I had to use a few notes…), add a CNN backdrop… use hand puppets…?

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