Thursday, August 03, 2006

The IT Job Dance

Fresh from another interview, some thoughts come to mind that might make the whole process easier for both parties.

See, one of the most annoying things about seeking an IT job is that no matter how many positions there are, and there seems to be quite a few positions in the Tampa Bay area, there are always more applicants than the employer (or recruiter) really needs. In fact, I think a lot of employers turn to recruiters because they can't handle the flood of applicants on their own.

But there is another side to this coin: employers are publishing dreams when they list their required qualifications. One pundit observed that employers are trying to save a buck by advertising for a relatively lower-paying position, but asking for skills belonging to a rightfully higher-paying position. The thought is that the "network administrator" they hire with Java coding skills could actually fill the need for the "Java developer" they really want but can't afford.

I think of it another way. The employers list the skills an ideal employee would have, but fully expect to have to settle for something less. Maybe there is a "network administrator" with Java, ASP, and Oracle skills in addition to his CISSP and CCNA, but you'd stand a better chance of finding three people with those skills combined. Still, there's no harm in asking, right? So, the company that really needs an Oracle administrator asks for everything else, just in case.

Now, what happens?

At first, the company that asks for the moon gets nothing, but then it occurs to the IT workers growing desperate for work that the employer has published a wish list, not a true requirements list, so in their desperation they submit their resumes, matching maybe only 10% of the requirements. The employers get 100+ apps for every job advertised, can't handle the volume, and end up turning to recruiters, who probably end up manipulating the deal into something that cost the employers far more than if they'd kept it to themselves. The next ad is lighter on the wish list, maybe even accurate in the needs, but the workers are already used to applying to anything, and so the overall problem doesn't get better. Every job opportunity is met with 100+ applicants, few of whom are actually qualified, and many of the qualified are "round filed" due to the sheer volume of applications.

How do we fix this problem?

We'll start with the employer: only advertise what you need as requirements, and list the bonuses separately. Be realistic in your needs. A network administrator shouldn't be expected to know Java; either you need an administrator or you need a programmer, but don't ask for both as requirements. And does the administrator really need a Bachelor's degree? Or is that just something to try to reduce the volume. If the latter, it isn't working. Finally, list your salary expectations. You'll get a whole lot fewer applications once people see what you plan to pay, especially if you're hiring for an entry-level position.

And for the job hunters, stop applying for everything in sight. You're only making things worse. Only apply if you truly believe you have a shot at the position. If the ad seems genuinely written toward a specific skill set, only apply if you have that skill set. This reduces the number of applications HR has to screen, and increases the odds for the truly qualified. Essentially a win-win situation. And, of course, don't claim a skill if the skill doesn't exist. Not only does it hurt your reputation, but it makes it harder on everyone else who has to follow you.

I recently applied for a job I probably shouldn't have. The position was advertised way below my skill set, but in a moment of weakness, I went ahead and applied.

I was amazed to find myself granted an interview... which lasted a whole 10 minutes. Just long enough for the IT Director to look me in the eye and ask me why I applied for a position clearly beneath me. It then occurred to me why he granted the interview. I was simply a break from the norm, a chance to put his feet up. But I did point out that if he'd published his salary expectations, I wouldn't have responded. Hopefully, we both walked away from that interview a little more prepared for the next time.

Now, I need to teach Bocona to be a little more patient.

As for other things...

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