Readers Respond: Help Wanted?

 
 
By eweek  |  Posted 2002-08-27 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Readers respond to Alan Joch's article on the reliability of online job postings.

I am a stay-at-home mom who has a degree in Human Resource Development and a minor in Employment Studies. I read your article in eWeek entitled, "Help Wanted?"
I do not believe "the experts" who ramble on about HR cutbacks as being the cause of bogus IT job postings.
I have worked for one of the largest staffing services companies in the world. I worked behind the closed doors of HR enough to know what goes on. It isnt always honest, pleasant, fair, realistic, etc. My husband was recently laid off from his IT job at Kmart world headquarters. It has been a wild ride. I found him a position in three weeks. The best advice in the article was submitted by Margaret Dikel. So many people lack the skills to search for a job. Using the Internet is similar to answering want ads in the newspapers. The results are usually dead-ends.
I have found out myself that the IT job postings are usually bogus. My husband has been registered with a well-known recruiting company. The company mistakenly gave him the name of an organization that was supposedly looking for a programmer/analyst. My husband went around the recruiting company and called the firm himself (we have a family member who retired from the company). My husband discovered the company was waiting on a licensing for Microsoft. They projected the job to be open in a couple of months. It wasnt for certain. When my husband went back to the recruiting company they were angry. The recruiter accused him of being unethical. I had to chuckle. The recruiter didnt think it was unethical to post an ad for several months with a ridiculous salary of $0-$70K for a position that is nothing more than a prospect. Professionals in need of employment dont have time to waste on empty leads. My husband also called him on a similar position that had been posted and he met all of the requirements. The same recruiter said that the job was not "firmed up." I think all IT folks should know how to search for jobs. They should first know that most of the job postings are through recruiting companies. Watch out. It makes little sense to answer all those different jobs for all those different recruiting companies. Many of them have the same jobs. The clients who agree to use recruiting companies are looking for the lowest-cost candidate with the best skills. In other words, they are looking for a deal. The lowest recruiter with a good match candidate usually wins. IT professionals looking for jobs should register with one or two top-notch recruiting companies in their area. Preferably, the companies should be referrals from other IT people who have been successfully placed by the company. My husband has used the Internet for almost a year to search for IT jobs. One company contacted him. It is the one he is currently with today. He has yet to be placed. He is working as an independent contractor to a company that needs an e-commerce site built. He is targeting companies that he has an interest in their business. He is setting up informational meetings with key managers or stakeholders. He isnt asking for a job. He is showing them what he can do to help solve some of their challenges. I know it is a difficult time for IT professionals. But most people do not pay attention to their various skills and fail to keep current. The lack of networking greatly hinders many IT professionals. Please tell the Austin, Texas, programmer to seek out a job counselor. There is usually a Human Resource Association chapter in every city. They can direct him to a reputable source. I have a lot of empathy for people who are alone in their quest for work. If they remain unemployed for long periods of time, it begins to erode their self-esteem and attitude. Thank you for the article. I am saving it for my husband to read. He is still a bit "green." He is lucky to have me as his wife. Denise Caputo-Cuenca I would like to suggest to frustrated programmers that, acting on Phyllis Rosens suggestion, candidates target the companies they want to work for. Also, more than half of the Fortune 500 companies, according to a recent survey by Gerry Crispin, author of CareerXRoads, use search agents that let candidates fill out a profile and submit a résumé so they can be contacted when a company has a job that fits. Although it has always been common for recruiting agencies to solicit résumés using job listings, I agree with Margaret Dikel that it is not likely companies are using this tactic. They have the opposite problem right now. The chief people officer of Yahoo! recently said they get 10,000 résumés a month for 100 job openings. Companies are overwhelmed with good candidates to select from, from the raft of layoffs in recent months. Further, candidates may not be aware that while most of the job listings on the job boards, like Monster.com, are for recruiting agencies, companies pay these boards for the opportunity to look through their database of résumés. So, even though a company may not have posted all, or any, of the job openings they have, they may still find candidates through the boards posted résumés. One organization I recently profiled in "The Best Computer Jobs in America: 20 Minutes from Home," [Note: the correspondent is the author. –Ed.] will serve as an example of what most companies are doing when they look for candidates. Freddie Mac, a secondary mortgage broker, says it finds 36 percent of its candidates through Internet postings, 34 percent through employee referrals, 6 percent through college recruiting, 2 percent through job fairs, and 1 percent through advertising. The balance they find through a number of other methods. Internet postings are split about half and half using job boards and their own corporate Web site. This is representative of what other companies are doing as well. This means that candidates should be spending equal proportions of their time on these methods. Employee referrals translate into networking--try to find someone who works at the company and who can get you introduced. This is how you get to the top of the résumé pile. Networking can take several forms, from asking your friends and colleagues if they know someone at your target company, to the recently established layoff lounges, where groups of laid-off people meet, divide into small groups and exchange requests for information about target companies, leveraging the 6 degrees of separation rule in your favor. As far as call-backs go, few companies have ever had the time or resources to notify candidates if they are not interested. A very few companies did have a policy of sending out postcards letting candidates know their résumés had been received, a practice that can now be handled by e-mail for companies that choose to do so. Carol Covin Your article is written from the perspective of the job seeker, and what they are NOT getting out of online postings. I am writing to you as a potential employer, and my experience with these boards, in comparison with the old headhunter scenario. Back in the day when I would look for people using a headhunting service, they would ask for the kind of talent I was looking for. Then, I would get back a filtered list of possible candidates. If I found that a headhunter was not responding to my needs, I could move on and find one that was. There were several advantages in using an employment agency: 1. Timeliness. The time it takes to place a newspaper advertisement, get in résumés and evaluate them all is usually measured in weeks. The employment agency can usually respond the same day with a short list of résumés. 2. Cost. The cost of placing ads in newspapers could run to a couple thousand dollars very quickly, with no guarantee of any kind of result. With employment agencies, you only pay if they are successful. 3. Intelligent prospect selection. Dealing with a knowledgeable employment agency meant that a human being who understood the needs had screened the résumés and forwarded those that were the most likely candidates to me. This saved me a lot of time in the evaluation process. 4. Efficient completion of the hiring process in real-time. Most managers who are hiring have a substantial workload in parallel with the hiring process. With the assistance of an employment agency, the hiring process can be reduced down to days, rather than weeks, which means the decisions are being made while all the information is fresh in the employers mind. The cost structures of using an employment agency were justified in terms of the efficiencies the employer would achieve in the pre-Internet world, where there was no alternative to the delays and high cost of newspaper advertising, and the further cost of the staff involved in winnowing down a short list of interview candidates from all the résumés which would flood in. Now, with the Internet, there is a much better communications solution for both employers and prospective employees. However, it seems that the companies who have jumped into this Internet employment environment are basing their revenue models on the old cost structures, which makes them expensive for employers to use. But they are not providing the service levels that employers have received from employment agencies in the past. The Internet companies only accelerate the candidate-finding aspects. They provide large lists of candidates which still have to be winnowed by the employer to a short list. So they are not providing an equivalent service level to the old-style employment agency services. Further, the prospective employer has to pay up-front to even access the services, and usually pay pretty substantially. This is in line with the newspaper advertising model. The major difference is that a newspaper is going to hit everybody in the area looking for work, and will also get some traffic from people who are not actively looking for work, but are interested in whats out there. If an employer chooses to use a particular Internet employment service, such as Monster.com, there are no assurances that he will reach the people looking for employment in his area. He will only find the people who have listed themselves on Monster.com. Accordingly, the employer who wants to cast a wider net in a local area has to subscribe to multiple Internet sites offering employment services. This means redundancy in the résumés they receive. Many of the people looking for work will list themselves on multiple employment Web sites, because there is usually no cost to the employee. This substantially increases the administrative workload for the employer, who has to remove all the duplicates. Now, look at the internal demography changes in the corporate world. There has been a lot of downsizing. Payrolls may have fallen substantially, and improved profitability, but you cant eliminate people without losing expertise. One of the important elements in successful hiring is picking the right person. That means the hiring company needs to have somebody involved in the employee selection process who understands the job that needs to be done and has a very clear understanding of the skills the prospective employee is bringing to the company. If the people who can do this evaluation are no longer there, then the quality of hiring decisions will typically suffer. The Internet employment services are not expediting companies in the employment process. They are getting a lot of companies in as first-time users, but they often depart the service in disillusion when their membership expires because it has not met their expectations or their needs. There are aspects to the employment market that you have not addressed. In the late 90s, there was a sudden increase in programmer salaries as a result of the dot-com boom. Programmers who were earning $45,000 in 1995 were making well over $100,000 by the year 2000. With the dot-com bust, salaries have plummeted back down to 1995 levels. However, many programmers still have high salary expectations, which they have not adjusted downwards. I hear a lot of programmers complaining about their ability to find work. They blame offshore outsourcing, the inability of employment sites to find them work, and have a host of other reasons for being unemployed. This is classic victim mentality. I do not see any effort on the part of these people to do anything positive to change the scenario. For example, if the unemployed programmers banded together and built a Web site where programmers could post their résumés so that prospective employers could view them for free, they may possibly improve their opportunities substantially. Companies would not be held to ransom in the process of looking for employees, and personally, I would be far more inclined to use a service like this to search for prospective employees. You can be sure that search engines like Google, which have a social conscience and an understanding of the programmers plight, would put them high in the search results to help their public efforts. I believe the employment situation for programmers is going to worsen. It is ironic that the group of people who have the skills to assist themselves in the Internet world are doing nothing to help their cause. I could understand their inaction if they were all Internet-illiterate, but many of them have worked for very high salaries in the Internet world. They have all the skills necessary to revolutionize the Internet employment scenario, but choose to complain instead. Richard Hamilton Your eWeek article on nonresponsive job boards struck a chord with me. Thats typical of the "performance" Ive seen from such sites. Your article focused on online job boards like Monster.com, but I have seen the same when responding directly to postings companies placed on their own Web sites. Im in the Chicago area. Ive received non-responses from such companies as the Chicago Board Options Exchange and the University of Chicago. I was so frustrated by the lack of response from the UofC to one job I applied for (one for which I felt extremely well-qualified), that I called their HR department directly. The woman I spoke to was able to confirm that my résumé had passed their initial filter and had been passed along to the hiring department. Unfortunately, UofC has no universitywide policy about responding to job applications. Its up to the individual department. I apparently applied to a department that feels they dont need to respond. On the positive side, I just interviewed with a company I applied to in May based on a Monster.com job posting. They were swamped with work and are only now getting around to processing applications. Looks like a good fit, so all is not gloom and doom on the job front. Skip Montanaro I posted my résumé on three or four different job boards. As a result, I got at least 20 spam contacts from companies wanting to re-write my résumé for a fee. No job offers, however. I actually came across one job opening posted on one of the boards that was so close to my résumé that myself and several other people who read it felt it might have been lifted from my résumé. I e-mailed the company that had the listing directly and never heard anything from them. Three weeks later I saw the listing was still posted, so I again e-mailed them. This time I got a reply that "as a consulting firm we only hire local talent." There was nothing in their posting to indicate they were consultants. The job posting read as if it were for a permanent position in a manufacturing firm. And, if they were only looking for local talent, why didnt they state so in the ad? I suspect these job boards make more money from ads and selling e-mail addresses to résumé rewriters than they do from valid employers. Bob Willsie I dont suppose youd ever be interested in publishing something on this topic that might actually be useful to applicants? There is rhyme and reason to this recruiting madness ... I have been doing it for seven years now and I would be happy to share my insights ... on the condition that they are reported honestly. Thanks! John S. Kennedy
Belcan IT
In my opinion, every job board on the internet should be shut down. How do they survive? Do they receive compensation for hits to the site? Do they place more than three people a month? Is it just a cheap source of advertising for employers? Are the sites built in hopes of having CareerBuilder buy them? You have a better chance of winning the lottery in lieu of receiving a response (unless its an automatic response). Government sites, such as http://www.tsa.dot.gov/, are just as bad. For grins, giggles and laughs, go complete one of their on-line forms. Its still not what you know or networking, its being in the right spot at the right time. Dan I was surprised two weeks ago when résumés started coming in for jobs such as creative director and designer at Redline Networks. Sure, were one of the most successful startups around, but not quite big enough for such lofty positions. It turns out that somehow job postings on Flipdog.com appeared as our job postings. The positions were actually for Key3Media, not for Redline Networks. Weve expressed our apologies--but it was not our fault. Tony Tissot
Redline Networks Inc.
There are thousands (if not more) programmers feeling exactly what you said in this article. It is beyond frustrating … you have literally hundreds of very qualified people vying for the same job that may or may not exist. And usually someone (H-1B) is willing to work for $10/hour, which absolutely kills the market. I dont blame them, however … the fault lies with the lack of IT spending and business leaders. Most companies (finance department) freaked out in 2001 and pulled back spending based on what looked like a bad forecast. Because companies pulled back on a forecast, it actually came true … we stopped spending. We became a self-fulfilling prophecy because of fear … much of this could have been avoided with just some basic leadership and a little spending. We didnt have a money crunch in early 2001 … all we had to do is keep some of the [money] flowing and we would have only had a mild recession. Now we DO have a money crunch because people are sitting on their money while it dwindles in value. Bankruptcies would have been less, jobs would have been saved, and the general feeling of the economy would be OK. Yes, some of the stuff had to go (dot-com), but this is an over-correction that is fear frenzy. As you know, with a feeling of general well-being, spending continues. Its pretty easy to understand … its too bad that business leaders are only concerned with guarding their little treasure hoard and not taking a general view of things. In the end, their treasure hoard is now worth less, there are a lot less jobs, and the IT market is basically depressed. Now, thats leadership. Bryan I agree that replying to individual job board postings is probably a waste of time. I have applied to hundreds in the last eight months [since] I have been laid off and received a handful of responses. What I have found out in this exercise of futility is that posting your résumé on the job boards does lead to results. Most of the serious employment inquiries to date have come from concerns that viewed my résumé on one or more of the job boards. My opinion is that the problem lies in the vast number of independent recruiters that exist today. Many set up Web sites to give the appearance of substance. Dice.com appears to have the largest number of these independents. My advice is only reply to concerns that are known players in the contracting industry and to company Web sites that you are redirected to or that are listed as links on the job posting. Another major annoyance is that résumé writers, for-fee listing services and the like prowl the job boards looking for referrals. I know my junk e-mail has increased considerably from these outfits. Donald S. Ziehm
North Olmsted, Ohio
I found your article of interest, because even back in the "boom" times, the demand-driven market for programmers seemed to be driven by online job boards: particularly, almost every prediction, trend and statistic in the late 90s-early 2000 (that I saw) seemed to be traced back to one of these sites and their PR. Very little corroborating evidence existed outside of their own PR. Did it take a bust to expose them for hyping up the job market? Scott I am cautious about selecting job sites to post my résumé. Unfortunately, other real or phony job sites pick up that info and inform me (they do not ask) that they will also post my résumé and send it to their employer subscribers. They offer to let me unsubscribe. I have tried unsubscribing and also ignoring the messages. Either way, you cannot unsubscribe. A site called Jobs.com picked up my résumé from an online jobs site (Im on Dice, Monster, and HotJobs) and informed me that by posting to Jobs.com (I never did), I am allowing them to send me "offers;" i.e., SPAM. You cannot opt-out ... if you try, it just gets worse. I really get a kick out of these Web mail sites that offer a bigger mailbox for a fee ... my question is, why should I pay for a bigger mailbox to get more spam? My spam messages outnumber personal messages 10-1. After reading your article, and experiencing spam frustration, Im ready to shut down all Web-based mail and start over again. If the online job sites were useful at one time, they are now less than useless ... they are easy pickings for spammers. Diane Kistler
LMIT - Lockheed Martin Information Technology
Finally someone has figured it out! I am not alone in my experiences with online job sites! I was laid off last November from a major telecommunications firm and immediately posted my résumé on the major online job boards and responded to ads therein. I cannot tell you how many times I have sent a résumé (e-mail or fax, oftentimes both) into a company claiming to be looking for someone with my skill set ASAP. On those very, very rare occasions when I spoke with a live person, or got a response, I was most often told that the job I sent my résumé in for was "just" filled by another, but that they would keep their eyes open for more opportunities in my field. They would all ask the standard questions, and then they never rang me up again. Or more often than not when a phone number is listed on the posting, Id reach a voice mailbox and never get a call back; some people I would call three of four times a day and never get a call back. I have never, ever had a lead or phone interview with an IT recruiting firm manifest itself into a real interview with a hiring manager. After six months of this, I finally had a recruiter at one of the major IT recruiting firms tell me that the listing on Monster.com, Dice.com, ComputerJobs, etc., were just a lure to get IT professionals to send in their résumés so that the firms could get a good listing of résumés from varying IT fields; data-mining, if you will. So, I stopped responding to online ads and only responded to newsprint ads, where I achieved success; I just started a new position as a network administrator. Now when I hear ads on television or the radio for one the online job site, I can only sigh and shake my head in wonderment and disgust. If my experience is any guide--and I do believe it is--then a real job is not to be had via online venues. My advice is to stick with newsprint ads; the online venues have been nothing but a source of frustration for me. Vincent E. Martin
MSCE, MCSA
Aurora, Ill.
I read your article on eWEEK and I greatly enjoyed it. The topic is of great interest not only for job-seekers but for IT managers, market researchers and so on. I fortunately do have a job nowadays. Nevertheless, I write to you because your article doesnt address a serious aspect of the issue that it raises, i.e., the support of the reported claims. For example, I quote, "Rather than behind-the-scenes trickery, tough economic times are the cause, Legrand said, with cutbacks in human resources staff making it impossible to respond to every applicant." Nice. Now, what is this claim based on? His good faith? Isnt he an HR person himself? Dont they (the HR in the companies) have this process automated? These are reasonable questions to ask for someone who reads this article. I would very much like to belief him, as well as everyone else who purports similar views. In order for this to happen, however, an impartial study should be performed about the hiring practices of the companies. How many employees have been hired directly and how many through an agency? If this turns out to be something like 10 percent and 90 percent, respectively, it means that your chances of getting a job by applying directly are negligible; i.e., you need the connections of the HR agents. Is the distribution among the agencies, that are eligible to supply employees, uniform or not? Is the distribution among the HR employees of an agency roughly uniform or not? If its not, why not? Are there valid conditionals to skew the distribution? Or is it simply bias? There are many scientific measures to assess the truthfulness of the claims that appear in your article; I mentioned only a few of them as examples. No proof is given from the people that are interviewed. It is easy to blame it all on the plight of our economy. You, as a journalist/technology writer, could perhaps ask them for such norms (measures) next time around. If nothing else it will make a few people out there feel a little bit better. For they will know that, at least, they fight a fair battle. Haralambos Marmanis, PhD They are and always will be BOGUS job listings, and that is what they are regardless of what people are saying. No one is going to come out and say it. Here are a few facts: I sent out almost 75 résumés, through these useless job boards, and 28 of them the same day said that the job has been filled. Something else that is interesting, the EDDs job listings, which used to be squeaky clean, is now infested with headhunters. And EDD wont do anything about it. Chett Salzman I am firmly convinced that trolling is the answer to the job boards with no response. I wouldnt even care, and I would even be pleased-as-punch to get an auto-response. Then I could trace the mail server domain/IP address to validate who it was that I actually sent the dang résumé to! I am a mainframer by trade. Ive been doing MVS and its variants for more than 30 years. In the past 14 months, I have had three of gainful employment. And it was a contract that was severed early due to budgetary constraints. If the position I am currently working on does not pan out, by mid-September I will have my application in at a local REI store, and all (a dozen, or so) bicycle shops in my area (San Jose). Thanks for the article ... Bill Ive called EDD and the DOL about this, plus Ive met with Congresswoman Woolsey about the high number job postings that lead nowhere. This is her committee and shes on notice that DOL may not be following these jobs. I have the same posting feed that EDD gets so I can analyze using SQL to do comparisons. The counts that I have come nowhere close to what [the Information Technology Association of Americas study, Bouncing Back: Jobs, Skills and the Continuing Demand for IT Workers] has. Bogus [ads] and résumé fishing are one thing, but if the agency fishes for resumes but only hires H-1B, then thats something quite different. Peter Bennett I agree 110 percent with those upset at the system. I have the skills to apply for jobs at places like Lockheed Martin here in Orlando. I have even cut and pasted the key points in the ads to my résumé. I have NEVER heard back from them except from an automated response in the mail (a 3/5 card). I have been around this business since Noah. I know Tim Paterson (the father of DOS) but I cannot get the response that my résumé once did. I have sent 100s of résumés to the Web postings and nada. I just turned 50 this year. As an MCT and MasterCNI I can now say clients offer me $20-$30 per hour to teach an MCSE class three hours a night two or three nights a week. No full-time work. CompUSA just offered me $16 an hour part-time. Employers everywhere should be ashamed of themselves. They dont want experienced, skilled trainers; they want a warm body. Maybe its time for me to open an ice cream parlor. Bob Coleman My "inverse résumé troll" is documented at http://www.columbia.edu/kermit/case24.html. [It] seems to have generated one "serious" phone conversation/interview to get "into their database." (They did seem serious, but not for anything definite.) Besides the auto responses, vacation notices, etc. Similar to the story that lead off this article, I found a listing on one job site for "Jr. Network Engineer," in the L.A. suburb I live in, which needed SNMP background (Ive developed Simple Network Management Protocol tools for a utility company, given a talk on the topic several times in the L.A. area, and finally had it videotaped for www.lpbn.org), and they didnt seem to want to talk to me. Maybe I dont seem to fit the JNE description, but I dont feel that knowledgeable on routing or DNS--the company just wanted SNMP knowledge. Dallas E. Legan II I havent used them recently, so the "new" trend is interesting. However, I dont think you are experiencing a "new" trend. What you are seeing is a migration of the tactics used in newspaper ads forwarded to these boards. Consulting firms run the ads with generic requirements to draw in résumés. When they land a contract, they search their résumé pool to find someone that MIGHT fit the bill. Then they hire the person for the duration of the contract. It sucks, but thats the way it has been for quite some time. While working for one firm, as a fill-in project, for a single day they had me "code" résumés. You take key words and write them in the upper corner for sorting purposes. That was in 1984! Today, we have advanced to electronic storage. This job I have now started out on an online board. However, the HR department contracted the search out to a consulting firm, who in turn posted a job ad online. Most of the ads I answered during that time were by consulting firms (when did consulting firms and headhunters actually merge, anyway?). As for the idea of networking, well, that sounds good, but it just doesnt happen. In 20 years in the business, I may have actually networked into a job once. Even then, Im not sure I actually networked into it. James Eager One more reason is that job boards like ComputerJobs.com require bigger clients to post a minimum during their contract, giving the job board inflated job-opening numbers in these hard times. These jobs are usually the "need-a-god" postings that appeal to a wide range of potential candidates skills: the so-called cast net for résumé trawlers. I think a good article would be a how-to strategy on finding unadvertised openings for candidates. Anonymous
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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