why good people can’t get jobs

This is a really interesting article that you should read.

It’s an interview with Peter Cappelli, who wrote Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It. He talks about things like:

* how the bad job market has made employers pickier and slower to hire
* how fewer and fewer companies train workers anymore, especially younger ones
* how you often hear that schools are failing to produce grads with the right knowledge, but employers aren’t especially interested in academic skills anyway (I love this point because you hardly ever hear it made)

Note that I do think he vastly overstates the extent to which computers do initial screening for companies, but overall this is a great article. You should read it.

{ 144 comments… read them below }

  1. Jubilance

    This is something I’ve seen – hiring managers and/or recruiters that don’t understand what things are absolutely necessary & what things are just “nice to have”. I see this a lot in my industry – you start out in a technical role & then are forever pigeon-holed unless you luck up on a hiring manager who can see what transferable skills you have. Or they may be looking for someone with experience in a particular technology & won’t budge from speific degree or years of experience requirements even though they may not be needed to do the job effectively. So then positions sit unfilled for months & other employees are burned out picking up the slack.

    You also never hear anyone talk about companies post for positons & then the pay is not in line with job seekers are looking for. If a req stays open for months & and qualified people don’t take the job solely because of pay, that’s not a skills mismatch, that’s a pay mismatch. Companies have to stop being so cheap if they want attract & retain qualified workers.

    1. K Too

      +10,000. I don’t know how many times I had to explain this to my still employed friends when I was unemployed. It’s very frustrating!

    2. Catherine

      Absolutely! I was incredibly fortunate that I got hired in my position with an English degree (I’m in IT, and I’m not a technical writer), but then I was pretty much hired into the exact same position at another company, which is what the article mentioned. I had the 3-5 years experience because it was the same job. In our recent hiring round I really argued for hiring individuals that had the soft skills and critical thinking skills we needed, not the degree or the experience – because we could never find the right combination.

      Add to that, the job description posting was not accurate. I kept telling mgmt this was why we kept getting undesirable candidates but they still have yet to change it. So when we inform the candidates during the interview, they are really surprised and a lot of them pull out.

      1. Jubilance

        Wrong job descriptions are a killer. My first job was in a lab, and after I was hired I was told the story behind my hiring. Apparently the team knew a person was going to retire & worked with the company’s recruiting team to draft a job req. Well for some reason the company’s rules said that the position had to be listed as an engineering positions which required an engineering degree, even though the position was clearly a chemist’s role. They spent 9 months interviewing engineers who would come in & learn that they really didn’t want to do the job. By the time I was hired, I had no time to train with the person I was replacing. All because recruiting didn’t understand that chemical engineering is NOT the same as chemistry!

        I’m sure there are lots of stories like that out there.

        1. Alisha

          Jubilance (love your name and photo!), I had an experience like this just last week. In early June, I applied to a large company for, seemingly, a UI design manager position. The HR director (who’s in another state) called me for a first-round interview 2 weeks ago, and I hit it out of the park, he said. He scheduled me for round 2 ASAP and I felt excited about returning to work – and managing design/ers!

          Well, last week, at my 2nd-round interview, I bombed spectacularly. Turns out that there isn’t much communication between HR and the web/mobile department, and the latter wants a candidate with major content and data strategy/development experience, which I in no way have. I ended my candidacy at the interview’s conclusion, and the dept. director said, “That’s a shame – but I didn’t think it was a fit anyway.”

      2. Jess

        That’s been my experience, too. My first employer took a chance on me when I had transferable skills but not content area knowledge of the field. After I had that 3-5 years experience, I essentially moved into the same kind of job with a different employer. The other employer wasn’t going to take a chance on someone who only had the transferable skills, when they had the option of choosing the person who was already doing the work somewhere else. Which was good for me in this instance of course, but not good in general.

        1. Piper

          Which sort of begs the question, how in the heck does one ever advance their career if they’re just moving around doing the same job for different companies? Seems like a no-win situation here.

          1. Lore

            Yes. Exactly. My situation is that my job is about as good as it gets at my level, but there’s not really options for promotion, growth, and so forth. Making a lateral move would probably involve either a pay cut or an environment with less flexibility and control of my projects, and I’m reluctant to do that without feeling certain that the environment would in fact be more conducive to growth. But I keep falling just short of getting the jobs at the next level, which would mostly involve managing a small team: I get interviews, but then they want someone who already has formal management experience. Which there’s no realistic possibility of getting at my current job. It’s a frustrating spiral. (I have managed volunteers, freelancers, and theater production staff, so it’s not like I’m starting from zero, but it’s not quite getting me there.)

            1. Piper

              This is my exact issue, too. I had a job briefly where I managed a few people, but I got laid off and couldn’t find work at that level again. So I dropped back to my previous level. And I’ve been stuck there ever since now that the management position is two jobs behind me, no one ever wants to talk about that. And forget about the fact that out of college, I managed retail stores for two years (working up from assistant manager to store manager over that time). Most people in the corporate world view that kind of management experience as a joke.

              Fortunately, my current job is talking about hiring at least one person who would report to me. That would help a bit, but probably not much. So frustrating.

        2. Alisha

          I’m definitely seeing a majority of jobs that want 3-5 years of experience, no more and no less, and I have significantly more. Also, by using LinkedIn to check out who gets hired for the jobs that don’t call me back, I’ve noted that the chosen candidate has done the exact same thing at a competitor. “Transferrable skills” are non-entities, and in my specialty, it seems that even if you have the skills, you’re toast if you haven’t worked with the exact type of scenario or client the prospective employer works with. I find myself in the latter category often – if my work samples aren’t for competitors of the prospective employer, they’re not interested

          My headhunter says he loves my work and I’m #1 on his list when a management job that isn’t programming- or systems analyst-related comes up – and both he and the staffing agencies mentioned that my old boss gave me top reviews and an enthusiastic “yes” to re-hire. Regardless, I seldom see myself as “good people” now, especially since the dominant opinion is “anyone who’s good is employed.” I don’t let it show – my husband and I do mock interviews for several days before the real thing, I obsessively edit cover letters, etc. – but the feeling of failure gnaws at me constantly anyway. “Oh well” is sometimes the only thing I can say, you know?

          1. Rana

            Try being a full-on career changer! This attitude of wanting the perfectly square peg for the existing square hole is death when it comes to those of us who *could* do the work, but who don’t *look* like the sorts of employees that usually get hired.

            It’s why I’ve ended up freelancing; I find it a lot easier to explain to clients how my particular *skills* allow me to complete their projects than to explain to would-be employers how my years of experience in career A translate into equivalent experiences in career B.

          2. Rana

            And you have my sympathy; I’ve been there, done that, and on bad days it’s hard to shake off. I won’t tell you it gets better, because that sort of blithe comfort bugged the heck out of me when I was deep in the weeds myself, but I hope that you can find a space of grace where you can tell yourself the truth: you’re trying to find work in a shitty economy, you deserve to have your skills and talent recognized, and you are not alone in your struggle. You *are* good people!

          3. Alisha

            Rana, thank you for your kind words. If you’d asked me a couple months ago about freelancing, I’d have dismissed it – I can’t even get much indie work in my current town. But that’s all changed when I learned a couple things:

            1) My town has a glut of freelancers in my field, which gums up the demand side of the equation, depressing wages, freelance options, and available FT jobs alike for high-tech professionals.

            2) Our target city has TONS of part-time and contract jobs, freelance opps, and everything else you could dream of in my field – as well as other disciplines I practice (i.e. health and medical news writing). A decent introduction letter and a strong work ethic take you far.

            3) Our target state does not do medical underwriting – so regardless of how the 2012 election and HCR play out, I can get myself and my spouse insured via a guild for a very, very reasonable price.

            Best of luck to you too in your freelance career. I’d love to check out your site sometime!

  2. Work It

    If employers don’t really care for academic skills why do so many of them require degrees? It chaps my hide every time I see an $8 hour job where a degree is a prerequisite.

    1. Sophie

      It annoys me too. I guess it depends on the industry. I have worked at two universities (one public, one private), and since both are higher education institutions, they overvalue degrees for the most basic of jobs. Trimming the grass on the quad? You best have an MA in Landscape Design.

    2. Mike C.

      My father works for the local city public works department. To apply as a “day laborer” (entry level ditch digger essentially), you need a four year degree.

      What the heck.

      1. Anonymous

        It’s also a sneaky way to filter out older workers who were less likely to bother with degrees if they didn’t need them for lower level career paths than kids are today.

      2. Mike C.

        “But it shows you can complete something over the long term.”

        That’s the excuse I always hear.

        1. Jamie

          So does years of work experience and eleventy billion successfully completed projects.

          Mike is right that it’s the common excuse – but it’s specious logic at best when evaluating anyone with a proven track record.

        2. Anonymous

          It’s a quick and easy way to reduce the number of applications to have to screen. It’s not entirely arbitrary, because you could make arguments that [i]on average[/i] the degree group probably has advantages over the non-degree group [i]on average[/i], and employers will argue they “don’t have time” to evaluate all the candidates individually to find the non-degreed person with potential without whittling the field first (because they fired their HR staff and unemployment is so high they received 500 applications for the job). Plus, they figure they don’t really need to find the non-degreed person with potential because most likely they’ll find a comparable candidate in the degree pool. Saying “degree required” is seen as one of the only quasi-legitimate ways to immediately narrow the pool by a couple hundred applicants.

          It’s the same reason in college a lot of programs had GPA requirements for admission, even though plenty of people with lower GPAs were probably capable of the work. Supply of applicants is so far ahead of supply of positions that you need an objective criteria on which to strike people out – so 3.5 is adequate, 3.498 is inadequate.

          1. Alisha

            Woah, there are a couple companies in my town run by people my age (turned 34 last month) where, in order to be interviewed, you must send copies of your HS transcripts, your SAT scores, and sealed college transcript with final GPA. I applied to two out of desperation to meet my weekly job application quotas, and both claimed that my college GPA, which rounded up to 3.75 (school said I graduated magna), and my SAT score in the high 1400s (with a 780 math score) “fell below our requirements.”

            Sure, maybe they were only hiring people with 4.0s and perfect 1600s, but I knew a couple people working there, and none seemed studious or likely to get such scores. Something told me it was really about getting access to your HS and college graduation dates, and about the bosses not wanting to hire peers (or especially, people over 40). It kinda stung, but I just let it go…

            1. Liz

              Where is this place? The stories you’ve mentioned sound horrible. Please tell me it’s not the Pacific North West? Because if so I am going to start crying and might not be able to stop… and some things sound a little familiar…

              1. Alisha

                The Manufacturing Belt – primarily comprised of midwestern and Appalachian states – so I hope I’ve eased your mind! While there are some similarities between the two regions in terms of how the early 1980s recession affected them, I would say that Seattle, at the very least, is a much more diversified economy with a much more robust high-tech market.

                Specific to my industry, unless you are a systems analyst or .NET programmer – in which case, you can work for a mega-corp like a bank or insurance co. – your best bet is smaller companies, but working at each is a gamble. I happen to prefer smaller companies, but in my region, they carry a disproportionate amount of the tax burden (as do us taxpayers and sole proprietors), since the banks and healthcare companies get major tax breaks or non-profit status. In addition, angel investors simply aren’t interested in this region.

                Thus, with a handful of exceptions, including a couple companies I’ve worked for (when I was there, anyway – now, different story), companies either struggle to get past the start-up phase, which means they seldom hire – or, if they succeed, they move their headquarters to Brooklyn or Silicon Valley, where the investors are, and don’t look back on this region or the huge talent pool available here. Add to that a lack of economic diversification (i.e. each city in this region only has several verticals in which to work) and a predilection for mid-20th century social mores, and it’s easy to see why even top-ranked candidates are begging on their knees.

                What’s up with the PNW? From all I’ve heard, it’s a socially progressive mecca, but just like the coastal media paints my region as a booming paradise (when it’s anything but), I may have an image of that region in my mind that doesn’t align with reality, too. (p.s. I am aware that getting hired in Portland is rough, and an acquaintance who grew up in Bellingham complained about the Seattle Freeze when new to my current city, too.)

    3. Kelly O

      + eleven billion

      I do administrative support. Right now I’m trying to transition to a more HR related role and am looking at assistant roles in those departments, or that are heavy on that particular function.

      I would say a solid 90% of them require a Bachelor’s Degree and 2 years of experience. And we’re talking about jobs that list pay anywhere from $10-$14/hour. So, I either am at the top of their pay scale and they don’t think I’m worth it because I “only” have an Associates and all this support experience, or they won’t even talk to me because I don’t have formal HR experience.

      I just think to myself “good luck with that, buddy” whenever I see a degree required for a $10/hour job. That won’t even cover a student loan payment. (I mean realistically it barely covers a car payment if we’re being realistic. )

      1. Blinx

        I wonder if those $10/hr employers know how much they are competing with Unemployment Insurance. In my state and with my work history, I’m currently “earning” more than $14 an hour! Even if I go after an $18/hr job, with all the taxes, etc., deducted, I’d still be taking home less than UI. Something’s a little skewed here!

        1. Anonymous

          I’m on unemployment as well and it actually pays about the same as it would at a previous job I had before the one I was laid off from last year, ironically enough!

        2. Laura L

          Unemployment is usually a percentage of your income from the last 5 (or however many) quarters. So, this is more an issue for people who were let go from higher paying jobs than those let go from lower paying jobs.

    4. Piper

      This. Plus in my field, I see more and more “master’s degree preferred” crap. So, argue all you want (the general “you,” not the specific “you”), degrees and advanced degrees help you get better jobs. Whether the employer says they value them or not. If they’re requiring them for the job, then they’ll boot out anyone who doesn’t have those qualifications.

      The problem is, a lot of those jobs pay so poorly, no one with an advanced degree plus 10 years of experience is going to go anywhere near them. I’ve been recruited for jobs that had “manager” in the title and the pay was 50% less than I’m making now (and these are not small companies). It’s ridiculous. Companies are cheap and picky. That’s a hard combination to reconcile, and then expect to get good candidates to actually accept their jobs.

      1. K.

        Totally. I just came across a job that I thought would be great: associate director level, MBA required, wanted 8-10 years’ experience, all of which I have … and the pay was tens of thousands below market value. It was a coordinator-level salary. Come on!

        1. Nathan A.

          I hate to say it, but so many jobs are like that… Employers seem to want Aventador performance at Civic cost. The job market isn’t Walmart.

          1. Kelly O

            They don’t even want a Civic cost. We’re talking a leCar, or perhaps a Kia Rollerskate.

            1. AG

              The problem is that companies don’t need to grow to be profitable. They’re making money just fine right now as it is. Now they’re just trying to stockpile talent at below-market rates.

              We have a working population of about 165 million people with an economy designed to support 150 million. Sometimes I think people with jobs are glad there are so many unemployed. More people with jobs means more consumers, and more consumers means higher prices. 8% unemployment is a small price to pay to keep gas below $4/gal. Especially when you can tell yourself that price is being paid by “lazy” unemployed and “spoiled, entitled” new grads.

      2. Rana

        Of course, then there’s the flip side, which is being afraid to mention you have higher degrees out of fear that they’ll put you in the discard pile as automatically “too expensive,” “easily bored,” “will act snobby,” and “won’t stick around.” Nobody wins!

        1. Julie

          I’m very lucky that the person who hired me for my current position took a chance on me, despite the fact that I have an M.A. and was applying for an entry-level admin assistant job. It worked out for everyone: I started as a temp, got hired full time, and will be getting a promotion in September. But I’m very glad she decided to look beyond the seeming overqualification in degrees.

        2. Catherine

          Yes, the thing about preferring master’s degrees kills me. The job I recently hired someone for had “master’s degree preferred,” so of course we got tons of applicants with MAs, but then my boss (who was making the final decision) kept throwing out those applicants because he didn’t think they would take the job seriously and stay for 5+ years. In an entry-level position. That pays crap. No one is going to do that, MA or no!

      3. Bleumoon

        In the design world, there’s old saying: “Good. Cheap. Or fast. Pick any two.”; it seems like companies these days want all three, plus a Master’s degree plus 10+ years experience, while offering the “generous” sum of $15/hour.
        I have to admit, I would rather offer my services as an admin assistant for $15/hour (quite possible) than offer up my 20+ years of experience as a graphic designer for the same amount. Methinks something’s wrong with the companies looking for employees while employing these search and pay tactics!

    5. Alisha

      My city, a college town that has a glut of degree-holding workers with less than 5 years’ experience, tends to require college degrees for retail and service-sector work that pays the minimum wage of $7.25/hour, maybe up to $9-$10/hour for high-end places. Older people can get shockingly critical of kids who can’t afford to do this too. It’s also assumed that only liberal arts grads are in these straits, but it’s not true…

      The CS and IT grads wind up taking low-level tech support positions, which typically require a 4-year degree, being on call, working rotating shifts, and doing 2 people’s jobs for the princely sum of $10-$11/hr. Which sure, is better than $8, but not when you’re paying off $300/month in student loans, plus auto loans and related costs (our public transit is the least extensive and most expensive system in the country – and many office parks are in the exurbs), plus $750/month for a house share + utilities, if you want to live a step above Joe’s Apartment. I don’t know of any young people putting plasma TVs on their credit cards – but I know several using credit just to keep up each month

    6. Jen M.

      Yes. This is supremely annoying, especially when the positions are things for which a degree is not actually needed!

    7. sjm

      Far too many people are pushed and pulled through the high school system and graduate when they are, in fact, functionally illiterate. This is why so many employers do not want to bother interviewing candidates without college.

      This having been said, I know of college grads who are incapable of properly structuring a sentence, writing a simple letter, or holding a respectable adult level conversation.

  3. Anonymous

    I pretty much agree with most of this article – especially the parts where he talks about finding the ‘purple squirrel’. I’m employed now but very actively looking for a new position. I do everything right – targeted applications, custom cover letters, etc., and I have a call-back rate of 56% (yes, I keep track). Since April, between phone, in-person, and Skype interviews, I have had 23 interviews. Some organizations I’ve interviewed with three times. And you know what? I STILL don’t have an offer. Some employers make it a point to tell me about their enormous applicant pool and that they are just swimming in resumes. These are jobs that are mostly lateral moves for me, and with a couple I even have strong network connections. And still, no offer. Honestly, I feel like they are waiting for Jesus to float down from Heaven with a halo and a sign that says “World’s Perfect Candidate”. I hate to break it to them, but that is never going to happen. Buck up and hire an “imperfect” candidate.

    1. Sophie

      “I feel like they are waiting for Jesus to float down from Heaven with a halo and a sign that says “World’s Perfect Candidate”. ”

      LOL

      1. Mike C.

        Given the extensive overtime some places call for, I don’t think they’d go for Sunday being a day of rest…

      2. Suzanne

        “I feel like they are waiting for Jesus to float down from Heaven with a halo and a sign that says “World’s Perfect Candidate”. ”
        Absolutely the most perfect line ever!
        And, sadly, all too true except that I don’t think most employers would hire Mr. J. Christ because he’s a little too “outside the box” and changed careers with only 3 years experience in the new position.

    2. Kelly O

      I’ve been actively looking since January. I have had half a dozen interviews, nearly all with third-party recruiters that have led nowhere.

      I completely agree that Christ himself would have to float down, dressed appropriately, with a degree in one hand, documented experience in the other, and a willingness to work for $20,000.

      1. Anonymous

        documented experience in the other

        “So…. you created the universe in seven days. But what have you done since?”

        1. Kelly O

          I normally don’t propose marriage in this forum, much less to an Anonymous, but seriously… I could be down with polygamy in this case. (Hope you like cats!)

    3. Jen M.

      -Honestly, I feel like they are waiting for Jesus to float down from Heaven with a halo and a sign that says “World’s Perfect Candidate”. I hate to break it to them, but that is never going to happen. Buck up and hire an “imperfect” candidate.-

      LOL!

      No, sadly, he would probably be ruled out as “overqualified”. ;)

  4. Julie

    The part that really spoke to me was where he said that most companies don’t really have any metrics in place for their human capital. “They easily know how much it costs to employ somebody, but they can’t measure that employee’s contributions.”

    Obviously, it’s easier to track contributions for some positions (like sales) than others, but it seems a failing of the modern business model that you can have such detailed information on every other aspect of your business (inventory, sales, salaries, etc.) but almost none on your workforce’s value.

    1. Anonymous

      Yet most companies can come up with a perceived “loss” to throw at someone who has been ill in the last year and therefore shows a high level of “absenteeism”.

      /hijack, sorry.

      1. Shane

        I think this is a good point. Companies track the loss of sick or vacation days but not the loss of failing to find someone for the position in the first place.

    2. sjm

      absolutely right. Today’s business model is based on the adage that “if you can’t count it, it can’t be measured.” So what can’t be counted isn’t given consideration. This explains why the last people to be cut from a company’s roster are sales staff. The first to go are support staff including service techs and production staff, even though their role is equal in importance to, perhaps even surpassing, the role of sales staff.

  5. Hugo

    This article was very interesting and informative – thank you. It’s nice to see an “academic” take of the hiring process.

    I think companies would create stronger teams and more dedicated employees by hiring people with perhaps less experience but providing top-notch training. But, like Mr. Cappelli noted, I suppose the lack of obtaining concrete data on the tradeoff is what makes companies stick to “what they know”.

  6. Anony Mouse

    There’s just not that much an entry-level candidate can do to distinguish his/herself. It’s silly to think that employers comb through tons and tons of resumes, because at some point, they are all the same, and you have to just find one that is good enough and make the hire.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I agree with your point, but I do dispute that entry-level candidates are all basically the same. There’s actually a really wide spectrum of differences!

      1. Anony Mouse

        Correction: there are huge differences among candidates, in soft skills and the like. But if you have 50 resumes from seniors at the local university, they are all going to have the same hard skills and mostly know the same stuff. Picking through another 50 isn’t going to get you anywhere.

        Sure, some might have internships or volunteer stuff in the field, but entry-level is called that for a reason.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I know this sounds like I’m nitpicking, but I think it’s valuable for people to hear. If I have 50 resumes and cover letters from graduating seniors, 25 are going to be pretty bad, 15 are going to be okay but not particularly impressive, and 5 (at most) are going to be people I want to phone-interview. And often it’s far fewer than 5 — so I would definitely want a larger pool than 50 for that reason.

          (This is why I’m constantly harping on people to really put care into their resumes and cover letters; if you do, you will really stand out.)

          1. Anon

            That hasn’t been my experience, but I generally get resumes from career centers, so there has already been a level of preselection that you wouldn’t get with an open posting, and I also know that you and I are in very different fields.

            1. Job Seeker

              I am believing Alison when it comes to resumes and cover letters. I believe gone are the days you can just count on getting an interview and eventually getting a job. I have been given a few interviews since I have been looking and I would have thought I would have a job by now. I could beat myself up over a couple of opportunities that were just handed to me, I blew them. I interviewed wrong and I followed up wrong. I am discouraged right now, but I also know winners never quit and quitters never win.

              1. Liz

                Don’t beat yourself up. Seriously, where I live it is common to hold interviews after the real candidate has mostly been decided and hired informally. It sucks when you think you have a shot, but I would bet some of those interviews were not real opportunities anyway. You will be ok!

        2. Jamie

          Yep – this is where the cover letter comes in.

          Entry level it’s not so much about skills or experience, but rather it’s about potential, attitude, work ethic…all the intangibles.

          As important as a good CL is for everyone, I would think it’s even more critical when it’s not backed up by an over-achieving resume.

          1. Anonymous

            I was on two hiring committees recently. Each had 25 applicants, and what AAM said was basically true. It took 5 of us less than two hours to go through the resumes and cover letters and narrow to six we wanted for phone interviews. It’s easy to tell who is just applying for everything they see and who has taken the time to find out something about us and what projects we have going on, etc. And it’s frustrating to read letters that don’t link the candidate’s skills and experience to the position we have open. Please, please, practice your answers to behavioral questions! When I ask, “tell us about a time when you had a conflict, how it was resolved, and what you learned from it”, don’t tell me you’ve never had a conflict with anyone, or talk generally about how you usually handle or would
            handle it. Be ready with a concrete example.

            1. Jubilance

              Oh absolutely. I always always always practice before each interview, whether its a phone screen, behavioral interview, or panel. There’s nothing worse than frantically searching your brain for a scenario so that you can answer the question. Practicing beforehand allows you to have that scenario already worked out in your head. In my case, I work in a very technical area, so practicing helps me figure out how much to “generalize” my scenarios so that a person outside of my industry can understand.

            2. Hari

              Can I just say I hate that “Tell me about a conflict you had with an employer or a time you made a mistake and how you dealt with it.” I feel like its a valid answer, especially for entry-level, never to have had a conflict or a made a mistake. Honestly in most internships or other entry-level jobs that person isn’t having a ton of responsibilities yet, enough to really even make a mistake or have conflict past typing the wrong number into the fax machine.

              I’ve had an entry level job in project management and honestly the extend of my mistakes and conflicts have been accidentally hanging up on a client on a multi-line phone, a fault that I’m not even sure was mine, theirs, or the connections. It would be a better question to say “How would you deal with a conflict with a fellow employee?” OR “If an error was made and the fault was placed on you how would you deal with it?” That way one doesn’t feel pressured to fabricate non-existent situations or exaggerate minor ones.

              I tended to see more conflicts with mid and senior level employees than entry level. In fact only time I saw entry level conflicts was when that person just was not a good employee in general. Also it is a very negative question I feel. No matter how the person responded its hard to come off as positive afterward.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Good interviewers won’t ask “how would you handle X” because it’s pretty easy to BS your way through those and give a good answer. They ask “tell me about a time when…” because that gives a lot more insight.

                Someone who’s entry-level can talk about situations with internships, class projects, volunteer work, extracurriculars, etc. It’s fine to say, “I haven’t been in the work world long so I don’t have a great example, but I can tell you about a time when this came up a bit in a class project” or whatever.

                1. Hari

                  But its just as easy to BS a real situation too. I also feel like when this question is asked the interviewer expects some big scenario to have went down where you have been in the center of it. And honestly no one, or most people at least who are trying to make the best impression possible, aren’t going to give some irreparable situation where they were at fault for fear of blowing the whole interview.

                  I understand that a reasonable interviewer will realize that, we are all human, make mistakes and the most important part of the answer is the conflict resolution. However by reading about all the unreasonable bosses, recruiters, etc, on your site on top of the fact that even you have said before good bosses can be bad interviewers, it seems like far more would twist some sort of negative connotation out of it focusing more on WHY it happen rather than HOW it was solved. Such as “Is this person just a bad communicator, trouble employee, doesn’t pay attention to detail, etc.” It could be just a random mistake on a 99.9% clean record but once that seed of doubt is planted it could be over for that candidate. (Especially if we take this article of employees wanting these non-existent dream candidates on top of everything else).

                  I also feel like a good interviewer would also realize that many may be BSing as well. That’s why I feel like its a question best saved for asking references, if not the previous direct manager over the candidate. Of course a better way I suppose would be to double check the story with the reference. I would be curious to know if this has been done before.

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  In my experience, it’s pretty hard to BS your way through detailed questions about the specifics of a situation if it’s a good interviewer and they’re really probing for details.

    2. Rana

      Heh. Right now I’m applying for entry-level jobs, because I’ve given up trying to explain to people how my 15+ years working in academia translates into other fields, freelancing doesn’t pay enough, and it would be really nice to have benefits again. I know I’m not the only one in this boat, either; the days of entry-level folks being entirely new graduates with no job experience are long gone.

      1. Piper

        I feel like every job other than something in management is considered an “entry-level” job at this point, especially with the paltry pay most employers are offering. I hate this job market and the way employers mess with job seekers and employees. I really hope the scales tip back in favor of the seekers and employees soon because companies are getting out of control.

  7. Mike C.

    I really don’t understand this fear that if you train employees that they’ll up and leave.

    One of the biggest reasons people leave for someplace else is because they get stuck in a rut or there is no room for advancement, and even the folks who have the means to go back to school find that their employers will not allow for alternative schedules to make this process any easier.

    I work for an old school company that pays for employees to get additional education – courses, certificates, even full degrees. And you know what happens when an employee has some new skills? They put them to use at the company! And then they stick around because they know they can continue to advance. I know folks who started at the very bottom and are now in the upper echelons of corporate management. Others have gone from building our product to designing it. These folks don’t just up and leave, they stick around!

    I understand that not every company can afford to pay for unlimited degrees for all employees, but for goodness sakes it won’t kill most businesses to offer to cover some textbooks, pay for some on campus courses or at least allow for some scheduling flexibility.

    1. Kelly O

      Mike, my company just sent an email that they’re considering cutting health insurance altogether because it’s “too expensive in this economy and anyway in 2014 this healthcare act will help you. Here’s a list of insurers if you want to see what it will cost you on your own.”

      Not kidding.

      There is no way in H-E-double sippy straws they are going to pay for a copy of Excel for Dummies, much less formal training. And I hear other stories from people who struggle to get even the time off to attend a training they pay for themselves, much less get any reimbursement or corporate buy-in.

      1. Mike C.

        Christ, that’s terrible. I’m really sorry. :(

        What companies like yours need to understand is that it’s too expensive to go cheap. I don’t mean that money should go out the door with no thought to where it’s going, I mean that there needs to be planning for the long term.

        Building a skilled staff is a key part of that.

        1. Anonymous

          A lot of companies don’t get this. While my company has not cut our insurance, Kelly’s description sounded VERY familiar!

      2. Anonymous

        WOW! I’m so sorry! It’s ridiculous that the company doesn’t realize that this will cause a big turnover. It’ll cost them in other ways than the health care costs. And good luck hiring people when you tell them “we don’t offer health insurance”. A great candidate might see this as a deal breaker.

    2. Natalie

      “One of the biggest reasons people leave for someplace else is because they get stuck in a rut or there is no room for advancement, and even the folks who have the means to go back to school find that their employers will not allow for alternative schedules to make this process any easier.”

      I just went through this idiocy with my corporate office. A bookkeeper position became available when the last (outside) hire left after 18 months. I had been here for nearly 4 years and when I applied for the position our HR department asked why they should promote me when I’m probably going to leave in a few years. At that point, another outside hire in our office had quit after only 6 months.

      Thankfully, my boss (who had the final call on the hiring decision) is a sensible person.

    3. Liz

      I think the unstated assumption the companies make is that a trained employee will not stick around IF TREATED POORLY.

      A company can do ok with a lot of B- employees, but if you treat an A+ rudely he or she will have options. So it’s easier and safer to have a lot of frightened employees with few options, rather than a workplace where the good ones will walk every time the stock drops or the company cancels health insurance, or whatever.

      1. Mike C.

        What more owners need to understand that is that treated well, those B- employees will produce more and better work than if treated like crap. Otherwise they’ll cease being B- employees and go down further.

        I mean seriously, if someone is demoralized are they doing to do their best work? Are they really going to go that extra mile if they know it won’t help them get farther where they are? Of course not.

        1. Liz

          I agree with you. But honestly, if you’re just loading up a company with debt so you can outsource functions, make it profitable, and then dump it, or maybe if you are running something like US news or WalMart, you don’t need star performers doing great work. You just don’t.

          Star performers matter for the long run, but how many companies are still focused on the long run? Bonuses, stock prices, and so on… These are all boosted by cutting costs, and that is supposed to work out for the economy over the long term.

      2. EngineerGirl

        Actually, the A+ employee will also leave if B- employees are being treated rudely too. No one likes to watch abuse.

        1. Liz

          That sounds right. I hope it all shakes out eventually, but the kind of thing described in the article sounds like the inevitable result of the emphasis on stock prices in the last few decades. What would you expect a company to do if share prices are the only way performance is measured and rewarded?

          Like I said, the market is supposed to adjust. It just hasn’t yet, maybe because the short-term rewards seem really high right now compared to what theyve been historically?

      3. Alisha

        All of you are right, IMO. My old boss rated me very highly and gave me a lot of authority, but also pretty much ignored me; I largely trained myself aside from one web cert., and I had to fight for basic work equipment – i.e. my first computer was badly out of date, and when it inevitably broke, I was asked to replace it and its software on my dime. When I left, my team followed me, and now I’m told the company is in dire straits, with layoffs of people who may have been B- at best, but were key to their departments. It’s sad, and I felt bad for them when I found out, but it was preventable.

    4. Alisha

      Liz, I also think you’re on to something with the obsessive focus on profits. I’ve yet to work at a company that cared about the long-term. And considering all but one were companies of less than 100, so not exactly traded on the NYSE, that’s bad news. Quick profits and easy bucks rule the day. And in my town, where even star performers don’t have many options, you can treat people however you please – formal dress just because, rigid hours, lousy benefits, 1 week of vacation a year – because really, what choice do they have?

      My husband got a job offer in our new city (E. Coast) contingent on him following the boss around for a couple hours to see how he likes it, so we’re going up there in two weeks to check it out. Can’t wait! My confidence is shaken but I’m hoping a change of location and a more diversified job market will do the trick for me getting my life back on track.

    1. Bleumoon

      But please note: this is “research” provided by one of the largest for profit educational companies in the country, one that makes most of its money by encouraging its students to take out federal student loans (never dis-chargeable). They take their profits from these student loans, and then don’t always provide educations that have any significant return on investment (that is, people are under-employed or unemployed for a consistent and/or lengthy period of time).
      Also note, the Apollo Group has spent millions of dollars on DC lobbyists so that Congress will not change the rules and force them to prove that they are providing quality educations, i.e., they want access to the federal education dollars but don’t want to have to prove that the educations will ever provide significant benefits to the students.

  8. Anonymous

    This article was…needed. After 14 months post-grad school without any hint of a job, it’s a day-to-day endeavor to evem keep from giving up. Due to how I “became” unemployed, I am not eligible for benefits. I see all these (terrific) articles about “fit” and “the right job,” but, honestly…I can’t be choosy, because I have no choices. I honestly regret getting an advanced degree, because I am overqualified for jobs my BA would cover, but underqualified for jobs my MSW would cover, due to a lack of experience and my unemployment not making it feasible to get licensed yet (no ability to get hours towards an LCSW). I don’t know what good shaking fists at employers does, though. I’m glad at least someone is thinking about us.

    1. ChristineH

      The part that spoke to me was where he spoke about experience requirements.

      I have an MSW as well with the intention of working with people in the typical social work roles. However, after my layoff, I decided to try to change directions and go a nonclinical route. However, the roles I’ve been wanting to get into all require experience! For example, I’m always looking for research assistant-type jobs at my local universities; yet, they all require experience and a degree. I’m like “how do I get this experience??” My university uses the ATS software, so I don’t even bother because I know there’s no way in heck I’d get past the ATS program.

      I’ve been volunteering to try to get some research, grants and program evaluation experience; I just hope it’ll be enough.

      1. Jacob N.

        Sorry, I meant to put my name, but it messed up and I had to copy/paste my comment to get it in. I know you might not have been replying directly to me, maybe I can help. If I may ask, what was your concentration (mine was mental health)? Where I went, you had the option of adding a research specialization to you degree program, but, like you, I wanted to go with the traditional, direct practice route.

        I also wish you good luck…I am lucky in that I was required to take a program evaluation course, but, then again, you might have been, too. Not that it’s helped. I am struggling to find someone willing to give me experience, but it’s hard to come by.

        1. ChristineH

          Just re-read my post and realized it wasn’t entirely clear. My ORIGINAL intention was direct social work; nowadays, I’m leaning more towards the research/program development end.

          Anyway, in answer to your question – My MSW “cluster” was health, mental health & aging. My area of interest is in disabilities, and it was really hard to design my course of study back then (graduated in 2007) because they only had 1 or 2 other pre-defined clusters. (The School has since revamped its curriculum; I just glanced over the website, and now it’s being called “areas of emphasis”, but it looks like students can now develop their own area of interest!! Arrrggghhh!!). There were two required research courses, but no research specialization. The second course focused on program evaluation, which got me really interested in that area, but haven’t found a way to get any solid experience.

          I’ve also become interested in learning about curriculum development. I *might* have an opportunity here, but it’s not concrete yet.

          1. Jacob N.

            Right, I got that you were wanting to move away from direct practice social work, I was asking what your “area of emphasis” (that’s as good a term as any; ours were called “concentrations”) was to try to better think of options that I would know of.

            I would say that your “cluster” is broad enough to work on a range of issues, especially if you still want to specialize in the area of disabilities. I was lucky in that we could either select a concentration or kind of create our own (I graduated in 2011), but, differences aside, I think the “cluster” format lends three different areas of disability research, potemtially (again, assuming that is still the area you want to work in).

            One option is a doctorate, although that entails its own issues. I mention it because a doctorate in social work really is designed for things like research and program development, with really no practice-related content. I normally wouldn’t recommend more school and more costs, but I can’t think of any sort of, say, research assistant-type jobs that aren’t tied to being in a degree program.

            I hope that the curriculum development opportunity works out, but, I am sorry to say, I am not well versed in the non-practice side of social work.

  9. Student

    I had the skills thing come up recently. I applied to a job with a posting that was short on specifics as to what the job would entail.

    I got to interview with the company. No one could tell me what I’d be working on specifically. Neither one could identify specific skills that they were looking for when asked. They’d go on about finding a project that’s “right for me” and said that they just needed more people to get all the projects done. Asking for examples of what projects I might work on didn’t work – just got brushed off and a subject change. I just ended up telling them about the skills I do have, the things that I know I’m missing but I’m eager to learn, and the things I’m not suited to at all. The guess-and-hope approach to job interviewing.

    The rejection letter said that someone else had a better skill set match. While it’s probably true, I found the phrasing terribly annoying after they tried to duck the skills question so thoroughly. How am I supposed to help you figure out whether my skills match your needs if you cannot figure out your needs? I hope they picked someone whose skills include putting up with a lot more waffling and deflection than I can.

  10. Mike C.

    By the way, that was a great article, and I love the fact that this fellow actually looked at the damn numbers .

    Also, the discussion about generational issues was a great point that I wish more folks would discuss. Yes Mr/Ms. Small Business Person, twenty year olds are going to act like 20 year olds have always acted and folks who are older are usually great assets to your staff.

    And yet all I hear is, “folks don’t have the skills we need (at the price I want to pay)!”. There’s an entitlement complex for you!

    1. Charles

      “folks don’t have the skills we need (at the price I want to pay)!”

      Very true! There is a well-known Pharma giant in my state with several locations. They have had a job posting for the last 7 weeks which is paying one-third what the going rate used to be. To top it off they are asking for (nice to have, but not required) an MBA! Are you kidding me!?

      Funny, but several recruiters have contacted me about it – sorry, the pay is way too low I tell them (although they have raised it by a few dollars over the weeks!) I cannot make a commitment to a temp job for that low rate.

      1. Anonymous

        I saw a temp job that I had interviewed for and rejected for (ironically for not having enough experience with the ATS they had required) re-listed recently. Before this, I had been contacted by over a dozen different agencies about the same position. I’m seeing it re-listed with the ATS software being reduced from “required” to “nice to have.” WTH?

        I understand why hiring is slow–why take the first person who fits when there could be an even more qualified candidate 15 or 50 interviews down the line?

    2. Laura L

      When I was a young 20-something (now I’m an old 20-something) and first started working, I quickly stopped listening to people who whined about “kids these days.” Most of the people I heard this from were baby boomers and I knew for a fact that their parents/grandparents said the same thing about them. So, not worth listening to.

      I just laugh about it. And now I do it, so…

  11. Charles

    Interesting article!

    There is one point I would like to add and many such articles really never touch on it – this economy.

    Without getting on my political soapbox too much – this economy is just way too murky and has been for a few years.

    Many large companies have plans in place on how to weather an economic downturn. “Let’s just tighten our belts for 6 months.” or “There is a hiring freeze until sales pick up in 8 months.” etc.

    But, in this economy too many companies are finding that their plans just aren’t holding up like they have in the past. The future is turning out to be way more unpredictable than it has been in the past. Many folks really don’t know what to expect; so, many companies are holding out much longer than they would have previously before hiring folks. Counting themselves lucky to not do another round of lay-offs seems to be good news thesedays!

    (sorry, getting off my political soapbox now)

    1. Alisha

      This is true in my experience. While the positions I haven’t been interviewed for went to candidates possessing exact experience with the companies’ competitors, the ones I have interviewed for went one of two ways:

      1) The job posting had nothing to do with the job, and I had to back out, since it was a gross mis-match. This tended to happen at large companies where the department and the person crafting the job description didn’t communicate, and was the less common scenario for me.

      2) The job was cancelled, or cut up into pieces and thrown to various existing staff members who are already doing too much, or perhaps, at most, they’ll farm out any speciality skills to a 1099 contractor or someone willing to work PT. This scenario was more common to businesses of under 100 people, and since I prefer smaller companies, and applied to more, I experienced this a lot more often.

      I wonder if other management or senior-level candidates are experiencing a boatload of #2? (Bathroom pun not intentional!
      ;-) ) And I also wonder if anyone’s experienced #2 while interviewing at large companies – or #1 while interviewing at large companies? Last week, on the same day, my two most promising prospects terminated in Scenario 1 and 2 respectively. It fit my pattern, where the large company turned out to be way off from the job description (and thus, not within my range of capabilities), and the small non-profit cut up the job and threw it to existing staff.

  12. Suzanne

    I am thrilled you highlighted this article. I read it recently and have been recommending it to everybody I know.

    I truly believe that a great part of the poor economy is employers inability to look beyond the cost of employment to the cost of screwing up employment and the complete inability to hire.

    I am fortunate to have a part-time, no benefit job but continue to look for something better. I have a Master’s degree, but have taken to leaving it off the resume. I get interviews, but no jobs. The last interview went very well! I’m trying to change careers, and this was entry level, perfect for my skill set, but guess what? I came in second because the person they hired had previous experience in this particular field and would need less training.

    Job security and training are only past memories. I hate to tell the employer though, that if you show me that you don’t really give a d**n about how your company is run, but only about the few pennies you can cut here and there, I probably won’t give a d**n about it either.

    So, the bottom line is that employers want God Almighty to come and work for minimum wage. He won’t need much training, being all powerful and stuff, which is good because there isn’t any budget for that. Benefits? Surely you jest, but it’s fine because Mr. Almighty can self-heal and won’t need much vacation. The rest of us mere mortals can just sit and stew in our miserable, jobless lives.

  13. Anon2

    Thanks for the recommendation. I really liked the article, so I’ve put a hold on the book at my local library. :)

    I have a decent job right now, but I’m very static in it and in a rut. I really want to break out, but the horror stories you read about are a little intimidating. My resume isn’t great (not layout, just very shallow), totally my fault, so we’ll see how it goes when I finally start really looking. At least I’m employed and don’t have to worry about the bills, so I have time to spend the months and months looking that I’ll need to find the right, next job. However, I do feel like almost every day I learn something valuable at this blog and I really appreciate all of the information from Alison and the commenters.

  14. EngineerGirl

    I thought it interesting about the “Home Depot” model of finding an employee who had the exact experience for the job opening. Now why would I want to take a job where I would learn nothing and have no room to grow?

    1. Bleumoon

      Yup. I saw a job posting on Craigslist a couple of weeks ago that was listed as Graphic Design Internship. In the job description, they wanted (of course): Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign skills, also HTML5 & CSS. Then they went on to list: Content Management Systems, Javascript, Drupal, Search Engine Optimization and about a dozen other skills that are only vaguely related to Graphic Design.
      (I think they have the concept of “Well, firefighters and police officers do the same work because they both wear badges and drive around in vehicles with sirens.” Nice try, but graphic designers rarely know much about IT; they only thing we share in common is that we both use a computer to complete our tasks.)
      While this was advertised as a paid internship, my question is: if I bring ALL this to the table, it would seem to me that there is precious little left for you to TEACH me as an intern, let alone how much money you are saving by rolling up FIVE distinct job categories into one intern position! I printed it out, because I just had to save it for posterity. It now is tacked up to my wall above my computer.

  15. Anonymous

    Sigh, while its soothing to a bruised ego, doesnt change reality….am still struggling to see light at the end of the tunnel…if ever. Yes, am super down today. :(

    1. K.

      Hang in there. I had a day like that this week too – I got a rejection for a job I would have been great at, at a company that would have been a big resume-boost AND paid well. They seemed to like me – they actually skipped the phone screen and went straight to meeting me in person, the interview went well, and the recruiter told me they liked me … but then they hired someone else. I was really disappointed.

      “This too shall pass,” as the saying goes. Throw something, have a good cry, write a maudlin journal entry, and keep at it!

      1. Liz

        I’m sorry that happened. Fwiw, if they were skipping steps in the hiring process it is very likely that they already hada a candidate. Maybe that happens less in other areas of the country, but in Seattle, it is really common. They still feel compelled to interview other people they like (and I’ve heard this justified as “A really good opportunity to get to know the job and the company…”) But sometimes a fast process means they checked out their real candidate and they already mostly have their minds made up. I know two people who were hired this way, one who had to advertise her job and reinterview with other candidates because of union rules, and I once went on an interview where the internal candidate was already doing the job WHILE I INTERVIEWED :)

        I doubt it had anything to do with how much they liked you or your preparation. Chances are good that it just easier for them to stick with the known quantity.

        1. Liz

          It isn’t clear above but I know three people total who were hired before their job was advertised, and one of these was for union reasons. I also know a fourth who was working as an intern an the office advertised his job for two months after he graduated, while telling him it was his, until he got annoyed and took another job. (lucky guy). The office then just filled the position with another intern.

          It’s tough out there.

          1. K.

            This … actually makes me feel worse, although I know that wasn’t your intention. (Truly – one of the many things I like about this blog is the camaraderie among the commenters.)

            1. Anonymous

              In truth, this place frequently makes me feel worse, heh. Not because people here aren’t lovely and encouraging, but seeing many of you lovely, encouraging, and talented people having trouble getting jobs, it makes me wonder if there’s hope for a schlub like me.

            2. Liz

              Oh I am terribly sorry!

              Hang in there. It isn’t you. I’m sorry the above happened. Hugs.

              And thanks for telling me it didn’t help. I would have hated not knowing my cheer up effort was a flop :)

              1. Liz

                PS – I’m pretty seriously thinking of rebranding myself as a schlub. I know so many fabulous people facing serious employment challenges that it’s making me suspicious… (I kid. Mostly.)

            3. Rana

              *offers the Tray of Comforting Things*

              (This is a concept I picked up at another site. The idea is that there’s this magic tray filled with whatever would be comforting to you, whether that’s mint ice cream, cuddly puppies, a bottle of bourbon, soppy movies, whatever. I wish I could do more.)

              1. K.

                That is so kind. Thank you. It’s just that I was thinking that things were finally turning around, and I was really disappointed when they didn’t. (One of the many things that sucks about job-hunting is that you start to get very bitter and jaded about the process, but you can’t let that come across in interviews. So I was actually PROUD for getting my hopes up, and then when it didn’t work out I was kicking myself.) I’m getting over it – I’ve got to, right?

                Also, I never had pets growing up but I was walking home last night (before The Rains Came) and got to pet a Newfoundland puppy and it was seriously amazing. She was so cute and soft and wanted to be friends! Also on the tray: red wine, seafood, sour cream and onion potato chips, and stand-up comedy DVDs.

                1. Jacob N.

                  I’m pulling for all of you. It’s amazing, the highs and lows of the job hunt. I have anxiety issues (a big reason I went into the mental health field), and it’s hard not to let that show after such a long stretch (that is still stretching) of unemployment, especially when you get bitter and jaded. As someone told me, keep at it, but make sure to do nice things for yourself, among the job searching. :-)

    2. Elizabeth West

      I hear ya.

      I have a learning disability in math, and I’m trying to find a job after being laid off in January. Unfortunately, in the six years I was employed there and with the recession, companies aren’t hiring many people and are consolidating accounting with the reception/admin jobs I was doing before. Which cuts me out completely.

      I’m struggling to figure out what else I can do, and there really isn’t much. I’ve been trying to get assistance from Vocational Rehabilitation but I often feel like they are just asking me what to do, when I went to them for that very same question! If I knew what to do, I would be doing it!

      It’s very very discouraging.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Elizabeth, try being very direct with them and saying, “I’d really love your guidance on figuring out what else I can do. I get the sense you’re looking to me to answer that, because probably a lot of people know, but I actually don’t know and am struggling to figure it out. Can you help me with that?”

  16. Laura

    I now own this book, and Peter Cappelli’s advice to job seekers is to get in front of a person and try to make your case. However, from what I’m gathering, phone calls, resume drop offs, or any number of other ways to engage an employer person-to-person before an interview are verboten. I suppose you can make your best case in a cover letter, but Cappelli addresses many situations where people can’t even apply for the position or will get kicked out of the pile because they cannot answer “yes” to all five picky questions on the applicant tracking system. AAM, what’s to be done to get these groups of people on the same page?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Well, first, be aware that he really overstates how often the initial stages of hiring are computerized/automated. There absolutely are some companies that do that, but it’s not the majority — smarter companies (look for ones with great reputations) and smaller companies don’t do automate like that. So it’s much less of an issue than he implies.

      However, in cases where it is, if you want to get in front of a human, your best bet is to find a personal in with the company — whether it’s a proactive reference from someone who knows someone there or a contact within the company.

      1. stan

        I disagree. Thousands of applications and resumes are received daily by each of the fortune 1,000’s and it is not humanly possible to review each and every application received. ALL big companies mine through the applications and resumes using the most sophisticated search engines pulling the very few resumes that have the keywords and experience required for their openings. Those are the resumes that are read by department heads and/or HR reps. The rest receive a “Dear John” automated response.

  17. Beth

    I am currently having the “Purple Squirrel” issue. I am trying to find an entry-level web developer position after getting an associates degree in computer science specializing in web development. There are not many entry-level listings currently and what I am finding are web developer positions that want a candidate to have that 3 – 5 years experience, must know all the web programming languages in existence, and have advanced graphic/web design skills as well. Oh, and they want to pay you only $12 per hour.

  18. K

    Laughing (or not laughing) because I recently applied to an Administrative Assistant job at the Wharton School (where this nice fellow apparently works?) and a) it has a crappy long online application form and b) they wanted several years experience.

  19. On The Money

    Cappelli’s article is right on, especially in technical fields. I just laugh at the ridiculous laundry list of requirements that have become so prevalent. Some postings list high level qualifications for two or three basically unrelated areas, like someone cut and pasted from what normally are separate job descriptions into one. Like asking for a heart, brain, and cancer specialist all in the same person. Or they want some really esoteric industry experience that could only come from working with a competitor. Purple squirrel is a very apt term for this insanity.

    But slow hiring isn’t a new phenomenon. I saw companies doing this as far back as the 1990s. I would see the same ad reposted for 6 months or more, still unfilled, even during major recessions with especially high unemployment. And even back then, more than a few times I would be told that just meeting my current/previous job’s salary was asking too much. Luckily, I had the freedom to relocate out of a dismal job market, so I didn’t have to settle for less.

  20. No Karoshi

    There is a cost alright to leaving vacancies unfilled. Like fed up employees doing at least 1.5 jobs while being told they have to work faster. I left an outfit that let vacancies go unfilled for months on end because the managers were too busy putting out fires, due in no small part to chronic understaffing. Several others left for the same reason.

    They eventually staffed up with inexperienced youngsters that will take a lot of time to become proficient, since there is no real training to speak of there either. Many came from outside the area, thanks to the dubious claim they couldn’t find enough local talent, despite a depressed economy.

  21. stephanie schenk

    Hi my name is Stephanie I live in fond du lac and come from a long line of bad jobs and bad bosses it screwed up finding good jobs. I’m useing dv r at the job vented for the 4 th time in my life in a row. Every job ive had I was harrassed picked on treated like crab p. I’m 34 yrs. Old have minor learning disabilities and a great deal of trouble finding work for at least 20 hours a pay period. I’m on disability. Live on foodshare. It stinks. I cant even get volunteer work. I don’t know what to do. D . V. R. Found me a small job but hardly get to work there. I can go months without working half the time. My first job was a disjwasher at a hotel. I quit due to high stress. Does anyone have any ideas or advice. I’m backed into a deep dark corner. Now o sit at home day after day doing nothing. Om going crazy from boredumn and lack of socializing. Please help me I’m despearate.

  22. Phil Janes

    I’ve been out of work for 5, yes, 5 years!

    Previously I was working in electrical engineering, with the caveat that I only had 2 years experience in a cost estimating role, in a field I’d originally done my degree in 20 years prior but had never succeeded in finding a role (early 90s recession!). So, my degree is virtually worthless – yes I have forgotten it all.

    The company I worked for understood that I had the intelligence, tenacity and ability to learn the role, which was a HUGE learning curve and I was bidding on projects up to 2 million in value come the end.

    Prior to that I had several positions in various industries, including but not limited to: arts, IT, education.

    I have been made redundant 4 times.

    Over the last 5 years to struggle to get by, I have attempted to be self employed (you can only be unemployed in the UK for 6 months anyway!) as a domestic IT tech, private tutor and living off savings, which are now all but gone: there will be no happy retirements in this household.

    I find I’m not experienced enough to get work in the role I was last made redundant from: all employers want 5-10 years experience and at least on-site project management experience, which I don’t have. The role was very specialised in a certain industry sector (control and automation) and I have made it to second interview with 4 different companies who then have either decided at that point, “not experienced enough”, or haven’t hired anyone at all!

    One of those companies has been using a multitude of agencies over the last 3 years, periodically advertising the same role. They have never taken anyone on. I could have had another 3 years experience for them in the role within their culture by now: often I am approached by the agencies re the role, to which I just laugh.

    I can’t get into buying roles (no experience and no certificate), even though it’s related to what I was doing.

    I can’t get junior, roles in IT, where they just answer the phone and work from scripts: no experience in this or that area….Well, I’ve done that job before for an international and believe you me, you do not need ANY experience for the role – you have to work from script and you cannot go off script!

    I’ve tried to get back into lecturing but my subject was music tech: there are occasional jobs around for hourly paid lecturers…but the colleges are a LONG way away. When you factor in travel, number of hours they’ll give you (plus all the additional hours you do in your own time: how about 3 months prep before the first year), with no guarantee of further work and maybe 5-10 hours a week. It is not feasible or even possible.

    I’ve applied for over 300 jobs from entry level minimum wage to those where my transferable skills could be of use. Often getting no response at all.

    I regularly fail the stupid psychometric tests for jobs such as warehouse person, postman, satellite dish installer, retail assistant etc.

    I’ve been rejected by McDonald’s, Cineworld (not enough man-management experience……errr for £16K a year what do you want? Richard Branson???)…..the list goes on.

    And the agencies. OMG! The agencies.
    “Can you tell us what your career objectives are and what kind of roles you are interested in??”
    “Yes, my career objective is for you to stop messing about and put me forward for the role you advertised and that I’ve wasted my time applying for again”

    I am absolutely fed up, day after day after day after long day, trawling through job specifications and person specifications which usually boil down to ‘must have done this exact job before, in this industry sector, with this range of pieces of paper…in fact for US’. You cannot even get a job on minimum wage, working in a shop unless you have X retail experience. It’s a job for school leavers for pity’s sake!

    Go back to college you say..

    Now hang on.

    I have an education, I have skills, I have transferable skills.
    Let’s see.
    Let’s spend a load of money I don’t have, gaining ‘skills’ that I don”t know if anyone will need, to attempt to get a job that doesn’t exist.

    Sorry, I need to pay the mortgage now. I need to put food on the table now. I need work now.

    Until more jobs are created, employers wake up to the fact that the ideal candidate probably doesn’t exist, and if he did, why would s/he leave their existing job when you’re offering peanuts and agencies are wiped off the face of the earth I don’t see anything changing any time soon.

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