Friday, April 24, 2009

The Silence of the Recruiters

I have a fair streak of the cynic in me. I am aware of it, and try to avoid it. Sometimes, though, it seems justified.

Particularly when it comes to the job market. Having been on the unemployment scrap heap several times in the past, I am aware of a number of annoying attitudes and mindsets of employees and agencies.
No denying times is hard!
Almost as hard as the worst pies in London
- Mrs Lovett, from 'Sweeney Todd' (Sondheim)
Now, I know there's a global recession on and not enough to go around and all that. But consider what is on offer.

We have the buzzwords and vapid phrases that accompany adverts, and which are supposed to ignite our interest:
  • 'passionate about...' (under 25 and will work for Red Bull)
  • 'hit the ground running' (like the strawberry jam from a dropped piece of toast, perhaps?)
  • 'work/life balance' (according to Dilbert: 84 hours/week for us, 84 for you)
  • 'friendly workplace' (never go home)
  • 'work hard play hard' (see work/life balance)
  • 'team player' (will shaddup and do as told. Can be harangued for not being able to work independently when they ask where the documentation is hidden)
  • 'can work independently' (can ask where the documentation is hidden. Can be harangued for not being a team player if the questions become too uncomfortable)
(Well, OK! Maybe I *am* being a cynic. Maybe I've come across too many NPD types. Luvett's pies got their content from somewhere!)
We have the entrenched mindsets that require a new applicant to be precisely like the previous one. I have previously referred to this as the Athena wishlist that creates stifling GlassWalls and results in a DryWaterhole of talent.
You are supposed to stretch yourself by operating outside your zone of comfort, but not your employer's
Then there is the claim that many jobs advertised are fake: trumpets to blow hot air into an agency's prospects. This is possible: but it is usually apparent in the spam-like number of hastily scrawled adverts from one company or another. I did apply for a couple of positions with one such company, and rang them up to find out what was going on: I became rather fed up when they kept 'losing' my resume and asking me to resubmit, and resubmit.

I am putting together a personal blacklist of such.
(message to recruiters: if I am expected to write an intelligent, well structured, grammatically correct, and properly spelt letter of application, *YOU* are expected to do the same with your advertisements!)

So much for nihilistic grumbles. Let's try and provide a little constructive criticism.

At this point, I would like to thank all recruitment folk who *have* told me I was 'unsuccessful on this occasion'. The message may be a little disappointing, but at least it's a message. The reason for my gratitude is that there is another regrettably common practice to add to the above litany of long term foolishness. I refer to the 'Wall of Silence' that appears to surround many of the job applications I make.

What happens is this:
  • I see a promising sounding job
  • I submit my resume, together with a cover letter to emphasise how my skillset matches the job description.
  • - And that's it! No simple response rejecting my application. Not even an acknowledgment that the application was ever made.
Now, I am trying *not* to be a cynic here. I have been through the outplacement process, and am aware that recruiters are often swamped with applications and can't be expected to give personal attention to each and every applicant.

Nevertheless, I think that some recognition needs to be made for the effort in putting together those applications in the first place. It needn't be much: just a brief note letting people who don't make the short list know they haven't made the grade on this occasion. It should be as easy as launching a script that scans the mail list and does this:
if subject contains jobref x and source is not in shortlist x then:
send sorry note
discard application
Good manners cost nothing. Bad manners cost you customers.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

We Were Doomed!

Jamais Cascio has an unusually sober assessment of humanity's prospects in his latest posting.

The only thing I can add is this:

The world hadn't ended as promised.
Screaming in outrage, the mob gathered up all the doomsayers, tied them to stakes, and lit the flames.
Chants of 'Die! Die!' drowned the screams and protests. Through the smoke and haze, no-one else noticed the tall cowled figure standing beside Cascio.
"I don't understand" protested Cascio feebly, looking at his corporeal form crisping in the pyre.
"YOU'RE NOT THE FIRST." replied Death conversationally. It seemed to be what was required on these occasions.
"I mean, *why* didn't it all end? We had all the data we could have. Petabytes of it! We double checked the GEAS figures in a dozen scenarios: a DOZEN d'you hear? The margin for error just wasn't there!"
Death looked at Cascio with renewed interest.
"What else? It couldn't be avoided. There was no way we could have survived it. So... how?"
Death considered stories he'd heard when he was younger (if he ever *had* been younger). Morbid and cautionary tales of Deaths in other Universes consulting doomsayers and betting the graveyard in the futures markets. The trouble was, that nothing was separated from anything else, not really. It seemed to be something you forgot when you had discarded the personal touch of a scythe for an shiny, new, ultra-efficient combine harvester that just begged to be taken out for a spin. At that point, something about all those rotating knives seemed to get cause and effect a bit blurred.
A smile lit up the shade's face as realisation dawned "Oh! Of course!" he whispered as he faded away.
Death contemplated the spot where Cascio had been, a frown trying in vain to crease his calcified brow.

- with apologies to Pratchett