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Changing the balance of power in job seeking

By aantonop in Culture
Tue Oct 03, 2000 at 07:21:38 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

In most of the world today, if you're in the IT business and even vaguely competent, finding a job is as easy as finding lint in your belly button. The balance of power is firmly on the side of the job-seeker and employers are having a bad decade. It would seem natural therefore for the supporting industry (head hunters, employment agents etc.) to be heavily biased towards supporting the needs of the job seeker, not the employer.

I am planning on moving to a different country and "throwing" myself back into the job market. I have been putting out feelers to see what kind of opportunities are available out there and have been rather disappointed. Although there are plenty of jobs out there, they are all advertised from the perspective of the employer only, i.e. they put the emphasis on "what is required for the position" rather than "what is offered to the job seeker". My biggest problem as a job seeker is not finding a job I can do, but finding a job I would want to do...

Looking at the employment agency web sites or at specialised job-sites, I see a pattern that does not match the reality of the market. I know I have literally hundreds of jobs to choose from, yet none of the services allow me to *choose*. Why is it that the search facilities are more focused on the job title and keyword-skills I would need to do the job, instead of the benefits, salaries, opportunities, training packages etc. that should be "enticing" me.

Last time I tried to "find" a job (about 4 years ago), I found about 1000 postings, went to about 15 interviews, got 15 offers, and started a free-lance business because none of the jobs interested me.

It is no longer only about money. Employers are busy out-biding each other, ignoring the fact that most of us our looking for job satisfaction, stimulation and other factors. Some of us value the "fun factor" more than the money.

Many job sites offer a facility to "post a resume". What about the companies posting a resume as well? How am I supposed to choose from thousands of job offers, avoiding wasted time?

On a more personal level, you can go to a head-hunter or an employment agency to get a more "custom" approach. Even in this case however (as a head-hunter recently told me), they are generally "looking for people" rather than looking for jobs. As the name implies, a head-hunter will try to find a candidate for a job, not a job for a candidate. Even the term "candidate" always applies to the employee, whereas nowadays it should apply to the employer!

In a way, the problem is that we have become much more "picky" while the employment industry is still about finding a job (any job!). What I want, is to find a *great* job. I intend to interview the employer, not the other way around. I am not getting much help though.

I think it is about time the employment industry realises this isn't a "temporary shortage". The entire economy of the world is shifting and there aren't enough capable technical people.

I would like to see some major changes in the way jobs are sought and offered. One such change would be to have more people acting as agents (very much in the way talent agents work). Such an agent would interview me, trying to find out what kind of employer I am looking for, and go out and find me a dozen *interesting* positions for me to research further. I have yet to find anyone doing this, and would welcome any pointers or hints.

I am getting very frustrated, wading through thousands of job postings and finding it very difficult to differentiate one from the other. I also find it difficult to put myself in a "category" (slap a label on my forehead) and look for jobs with specific titles. Like many people in this business I have a wide range of skills which may not fit in any particular category.

Anyone have any recommendations?


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Changing the balance of power in job seeking | 15 comments (13 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
Piece o' cake! (3.90 / 10) (#2)
by Greyjack on Tue Oct 03, 2000 at 05:16:29 PM EST

All you have to do is start paying the headhunters to find you a job, instead of the employers paying 'em to find them employees.

Once we make that flip-flop, it'll start heading the way you describe (which, I have to agree, would be danged nice). Until then, the entire industry will follow the wishes of the ones willing to pay the fees--namely, the companies actually doing the hiring.

If someone could figure out a viable way to actually make money on a job site like you described, they'd make a killing.

Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett

Re: Piece o' cake! (none / 0) (#11)
by enterfornone on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 02:48:29 AM EST

agents have been around for a long time, actors and writers use them all the time. it would be nice, but i'm not sure how much i'd like to pay an agent 12% of my wage.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Re: Piece o' cake! (4.00 / 1) (#12)
by deaddrunk on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 06:32:29 AM EST

I'm a self-employed contractor in Europe, and I go through an agent, because most of the companies won't let you go direct. The agent charges the company a certain amount, takes anything between 10 and 30% and pays you the rest, so they are being paid by me strictly speaking, since I'm doing the work and earning the money. I agree that companies think they only have to offer plenty of money to keep their employees happy, but having worked for a huge amount of money on a nightmare project, I've got to agree with the original poster that job satisfaction is at least as important as the wage. I and my contractor colleagues were treated like overpaid morons by the bosses on that project, and no amount of money was going to make that situation any better. What's required is an anonymous site for contractors to companies' employee-friendliness.

[ Parent ]
Since when... (2.00 / 7) (#4)
by Miniluv on Tue Oct 03, 2000 at 05:43:38 PM EST

did employers have to pander to their employees? I realize the dot com startup craze has begun a trend, and that currently employers are doing just this...but it doesn't make it right.

Employers aren't around to provide jobs, they exist to make money, otherwise they shouldn't be in business, and the way to make money is to spend the minimum necessary to get employees who can do the job. Obviously this isn't an ideal situation either...what needs to be struck is a balance of power between the job seeker and the employer.

Having recently changed jobs in the tech field I know there aer plenty of places offering insane incentives..but this worries me more than entices. The reason is that what are they trying to compensate for by offering me free massages, health club and a pool table in my office? Is it the fact that I'll have to work 90 hours a week for my salary, or perhaps that this lap of luxury will only be in business another 9 months until their VC funding runs out?

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
Re: Since when... (3.25 / 4) (#6)
by dabadab on Tue Oct 03, 2000 at 06:37:49 PM EST

"Employers aren't around to provide jobs, they exist to make money" - you write.

But, I could add, that employees are not around to work their a** off for some greedy company

Employers and employees should be equal parties - just as buyers and sellers are in general.

The long tradition of job-shortage put employers in a dominant position and this is what we are used to have - and it is most regrettable if we think that this is natural

The IT boom brought us the workforce-shortage - but it also would be regrettable if we would think this is how thing should be.

There should be balance - but it is most unlikely to happen.

Real life is overrated.
[ Parent ]
What Color is Your Parachute? (2.60 / 5) (#5)
by Hillgiant on Tue Oct 03, 2000 at 06:10:51 PM EST

Head on down to your local book store and buy the latest edition of "What Color Is Your Parachute". Read it. I know there have been alot of jokes on the whole parachute thing. And the MBA jargon gets a little trying. But, it does present some good ways of looking for a Career. It sounds to me that you dont want a job. You want a Career, your life's work.

Hope that helps....

Oh, and quit whining. *slap*

"It is impossible to say what I mean." -johnny

Not so easy... ;-) (3.20 / 5) (#7)
by MeanGene on Tue Oct 03, 2000 at 07:06:46 PM EST

1) In my opinion, it's pretty easy to get a zillion offers while you're not asking for much. In other words, most companies are looking for "fresh meat" - and lots of it. But as soon as you want to get a job in the upper echelon, much more attention should be paid to the dreaded "personal connections." Also, because the world is built with a pyramide structure, there's significantly less space upstairs.

2) There's a cultural thing as well. Right now I'm trying to relocate to Portugal from the U.S., and there's virtually nothing available on the Internet. So, how do you get a job without knowing somebody?

By the way, if anybody needs a senior "quant" - with 5 years of experience and a Ph.D. - in Lisbon, please let me know! ;-)

Re: Not so easy... ;-) (4.00 / 1) (#10)
by canthidefromme on Tue Oct 03, 2000 at 09:13:37 PM EST

It's interesting that you mentioned being a quant-- Right now, I'm in NYC doing quant-ish research at the Mathematical Finance Dept. at NYU. I'm not even looking for a job right now, as I'm not too close to degree at this time, but I already have some banks knocking on my door, who are pitching themselves to me. Especially in finance, banks really focus more on what they can offer YOU. There are so many programmers out there, but people with your skills are very few and far between.

In my opinion, it's not much about who you know as who knows you. Finance is a small world, and it's not too difficult to get known. That means publish, publish, publish=)



[ Parent ]
Why concentrate on the job description alone? (4.25 / 4) (#8)
by Eremit on Tue Oct 03, 2000 at 08:06:07 PM EST

I can understand your interest in more information about the job you might apply to. But how much should the company include in the job description? Where should they draw the line when describing possible benefits?

Let's assume there is a person who just fits their minimum expectations. They are interested to hire him for a proper salary. But the same company might be willing to give lots of benefits to another person who fits the job description perfectly and brings lots of additional skills with him that can be applied to the job? They might mention those benefits in the job offering and this person might apply because of them. But they wouldn't want to give those benefits to the person who just fits the minimum requirements though they would be interested to engage him anyway. But because of all those mentioned benefits he might feel bad when he doesn't get them and decide to not sign the contract which he otherwise might have. Of course a possible solution would be to post several job descriptions for the same vacancy with differing requirements and differeing benefits.

But to come back to your problem: You want more information about the possible jobs. It seems to me you concentrate on the job description alone. What about the environment? General data about the company or the division can be had from other sources as well. Another important thing seems to me to be the team in which you will work. How is the project managed? How does the team interact? What is their main focus? All those things can't be mentioned in a job description. So I guess you just have to go to the interviews.

If you want to spare time, you might describe some wishes in your resume. Mention what you expect and some companies will tell you they can't or won't offer that, while others might just agree and take you for your unique skills.

Good luck for your search...

the problem with this is... (3.83 / 6) (#9)
by Bloodwine on Tue Oct 03, 2000 at 08:31:43 PM EST

The problem with this is that you are assuming that the balance of power will remain with prospective employees. There is always someone out there who will work for lower wages or longer hours. With the recent (and it will continue) crashing of dot-coms (and tech firms in general) there will be more and more displaced IT people seeking new work.

As soon as people's egos normalize, they will start taking the drab jobs to pay the bills and the shortage will not be as great as it is made out to be at the moment. Sure, it would be wonderful to have a rewarding job which one enjoys, but employers know that people will eventually settle for what ever they are offered.

Once IT firms realize that the tech industry can get along without having 50+ programmers and webmonkeys per firm, then they will start trimming the fat to increase profit margins. That will be more people looking for new work.

Besides, a company could really give a damn how much you think you are worth... most of them want malleable young drones that they can mold into a specialized employee for their particular business.

I hate to say it, but perhaps there does need to be some sort of guild or union (I hate the word "union"). Of course, I know it'll be started for good intentions, but will eventually be corrupted and people will demand too much money for writing HTML or VB (same pay as that one guy who works 80+ hours a week keeing all the servers on-line).

Learning about prospective employers (4.83 / 6) (#13)
by roblimo on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 09:30:33 AM EST

Too few people do any *real* research about companies they are considering as prospective employers.

An hour or two doing a WWW search can turn up a *lot* of information about almost any Internet or tech company.

In the U.S., one of the most informative documents relating to any public company or one planning an IPO in the near future is the S-1 that company is required to file with the SEC.

Reading S-1s is not fun; they are the most turgid, lawyer-vetted documents imagainable. But they give a clear picture of the company's finances, hopes, dreams and goals, along with executive resumes and other useful information.

Companies that have been public for more than a year have put out at least one annual report. Annual reports can be excellent sources of information.

Public company or no, you can look at the prospective employer's Web site and sales documents and see if you like the way they approach their customers. If you think they are lying to the public about what they sell, chances are that they'll lie to you, too.

And call customer service a few times! If the people who answer are knowledgable and upbeat, that's a big plus. If they're ignorant or rude (or both), you know this is a company that has problems, and if it is one of many that has made offers, you should give it a pass.

Another rule: Never *ever* accept a job offer before you spend at least part of a day, hopefully including an off-premises meal, with the people you would be working with every day. Not the bosses. Your peers. They can give you the inside scoop better than anyone else, and they're more likely to be honest with you in a restaurant at lunch or in a bar after work than when they're in a physical environment (office or lab) their bosses control.

Last note: turn down even the worst offers politely. You may be in big demand today, but times change. Two or five years from now the employer or headhunter you don't need this month may be able to help you get working the day before your unemployment runs out and you're desparate for a job, any job, to pay your bills and buy food. People move, too. The really nice manager who is working for a crappy company today could move to a hot startup (or take over an interesting division in an established company) next month or next year, and you might want him or her to have fond -- not nasty -- memories of you.

- Robin

Ask if they've read Peopleware (none / 0) (#14)
by Marble on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 02:19:33 PM EST

...and if they have, what they thought of it. It's got a lot of good info on creating good working conditions. If the prospective employer has read this book and taken its lessons to heart, they might be worth working for.

But of course, your mileage may vary. Having a clue in one arena does not translate to necessarily being well-endowed in the clue department overall.

Good luck.

P.S. Be sure to ask for a Lego desk, too.

The recruiters are the weak link (none / 0) (#15)
by sera on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 05:16:35 PM EST

The biggest problem is this: Recruiters know almost nothing about the technical fields they recruit in. If they knew more, they wouldn't be recruiters. They'd be working in actual technical companies themselves. (Not necessarily in engineering, more likely in the kinds of jobs that are halfway between organizational and technical, like project manager.)

So that's why you'll get recruiters who see that you have ASP on your resume and call you up with offers for a dozen mindless jobs where you pound out ASP day in, day out, without gaining any broader understanding of the engineering process. And that's why the companies that are looking for genuinely smart, motivated people often avoid recruiters: They don't want to have recruiters wasting their time with candidates who have the right language-du-jour on their resume but aren't actually motivated to keep learning.

The way to get around this: Try to skip recruiters, if you can. Ask around, see if your friends, or friends of friends, are in any companies they're really excited about. (I know you say you're moving to another country, but I'll assume you'll have some kind of a social network there.) Make sure they have a copy of your resume. Chances are good that their company has a referral bonus, so they'll probably be quite willing and happy to pass your resume to the right H.R. person.

In a nutshell: Start with the people who you know aren't morons, and go from there.

firmament.to: Every text is an index.

Changing the balance of power in job seeking | 15 comments (13 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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