In an imperfect world, can the growing trend toward perfectionism in the hiring market really be healthy?

Beveridge Curve So, there is this thing called the “Beveridge Curve” that I find extremely interesting. A Beveridge Curve, named after the British economist William Henry Beveridge (1879-1963), is more or less a visual representation of the ratio between unemployment levels and job openings.

We can spend years on end studying the many economist viewpoints of the job market; shifts in economic growth, unemployment vs. job openings, pre-recession statistics vs. post and on and on. The fact of the matter is the job market is slowing getting better, the latest recession is on the mend and we are seeing the unemployment rates decrease.

It is definitely a positive to see unemployment rates decrease, but on the contrary, we are not seeing the job vacancy rate shift as much as we would expect. Simply put, trends are indicating that employers are becoming more and more reluctant to hire anything but a “perfect” candidate and any staffing firm could validate this fact.

There are many factors supporting the ratio that makes up this Beveridge Curve, but the questions are….is this curve damaging to the employer, the candidates or ultimately the economy? Does the employer need to change or do the candidates? What can we, as recruiters, do to help?

Over the past year, we’ve been seeing more and more companies being non-committal when it comes to pulling the trigger on a hiring decision. While the reasons and symptoms vary, it tends to be something as simple as having a “desperate” position needing to be filled but not giving timely feedback, going through the motions of multiple interviews only to drop out of contact or reject the candidate at the last minute for what seems to be an obscure reason. Companies are giving all the reasons in the world on why not to hire a particular candidate and this Beveridge Curve is proving out this theory. Companies within the hiring process often complain the candidates are either overqualified, too entry level, not an exact match on skillset for every manager involved in the hiring decision or perhaps the candidate simply answered one question less than ideally in an interview even when everything else was a match.

The requirements for this “perfect” candidate are simply what is best for the company and tend to sway away from the employee benefit. Often, the requirements for an ideal candidate will include the need for someone to be up and running quickly with minimal training investment, someone who is in it for the long haul, while being willing to sign a restrictive non-compete agreement, someone who will work their tail off while continuously accepting whatever challenge is given to them. The company ultimately wants an employee to provide them avenues for quick growth without always giving the employee a piece of the reward in the end.

In today’s instant gratification, multi-tasking, desire for astronomical growth economy, we have inevitably brought this minor epidemic on ourselves. It’s a catch 22. Employees want to work somewhere they will be appreciated. They want a company to invest in them, nurture and train them, provide them with a flexible work environment while understanding the need for a work/life balance. Employees want the ability to moonlight (see recent article on Moonlighting in the US), they want to be provided with lateral career move opportunities and ultimately be given the chance to move up that corporate latter as quickly as possible through dedicated training and development.

The bottom line is, there needs to be a give and take among both parties here. Shifts in the economy will continue and we will forever find ourselves going through the “employee vs. employer job market”, but through this process, we need to remain focused on the end result. Companies need to realize it’s OK to grow modestly and to do this they need to take on modest risks. Those modest risks include investing in their employees. I realize the value in spending additional time upfront to bring on that right candidate the first time, but there has to be some limitations. Employees, on the contrary, need to realize the same. Reality is, they may not achieve that corner office in 1.5 years or double their salary in 5 just because they are in a “hot” geographic area. Simply put, candidates need to try harder. They need to sell themselves appropriately and work hard to succeed. It’s not a right to be promoted, it’s earned and that takes time. The media tends to cover only the extremes of everything. They focus on the extreme success stories and the extreme failures, yet the bulk of us (employees and employers alike) are riding in the middle of the pack.

The fortunate part for us being in the staffing industry is that we can help provide support to both sides. It’s time for us to speak up, help educate and provide guidance since we are one of the few industries that can do so. The end goal is to ultimately find and place employees that best suit the position and company at hand, allowing for both parties to thrive. Values, principals and work ethics need to match for a continual gain of growth and success. In the end, that is all that really matters and both parties will benefit. The employees experience career growth and employers experience corporate growth and increased profit margins, an unbeatable union in my eyes.

Josh Kaplan writes on a variety of subjects including IT Staffing and IT Healthcare Staffing.
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E Pluribus Unum – Could multitasking make the leap from personal choice to key professional skill?

it-jobsSome activities are not meant to be attempted in tandem. There is a time when doing two things at once can only end badly. I sometimes wonder what became of Lacey Underlay from Caddyshack, who enjoyed Skinny-skiing, and going to bullfights on acid.

Lately, I find myself increasingly curious about how the growth of social multitasking among the technology generation, and the many products and applications that make it easy, are changing our ability to do two things at once.

The ‘second screen’ is now a daily part of our downtime entertainment. Watching the Oscars would not be complete for some people without the constant Twitter feed of hashtagged witticism and opinion. In many circumstances, the tail is now wagging the dog, with social media second screen antics becoming the headline news. The Onion’s now infamous insult of nine year old Best Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallace created one of the talking points of the evening.

Celebrities line up to be the most followed Twitter feed of the evening, offering play by play comedy and gossip to customers ready to devour a hundred different feeds at a time.

The practice is so common that companies are now targeting this market with apps and programs designed for you to interact with while you’re watching TV. The potential for sports alone is easy to imagine.

But what’s all this doing to the concept of multitasking as a key skill? Are we soon to find that the ability to double screen will be a natural function of working life? Will we be asked in job interviews as a core skill. Will an engineering job description include ‘must have strong second screen aptitude’?

Lots has been written about how we can’t really multitask like we think we can. (See my colleague Richard Spragg’s blog – The Myth of Multitasking.) But the truth is that we engage in so much natural multitasking in our private lives, how long can it be before we expect to manage the same double productivity at work? Is it even possible? Is multitasking productivity only possible when we’re engaged in two things we can genuinely enjoy? Do most people not find it hard enough to get through an office-dwelling work day focusing on the one thing they have to get done.

There is a real possibility that a gap could open up between our capacity for multitasking on our own time and when we’re on the company dime. I’ve already see a clear disconnect appear when it comes to technology with some people I’ve interacted with. To their friends and family they are a constantly available communication whiz with a smart phone, tablet and super fast techno-skills. At work they have a Nokia flip phone that they turn off at 5.01pm. They won’t miss a Facebook comment at 3.00am but if you send them a work e-mail while they’re on lunch, they won’t look at it until they get back to the office. This is the same issue – you have to care to want to take advantage of all the technology that’s available to you.

Will business drag us further and further toward a work/life merge where we don’t get to switch off at the end of the day. Or will a schism appear between the accepted expectations of doing ‘enough’ and the social willingness to do doing ‘anything physically possible’.

Perhaps this will end up being the easiest way to differentiate a great employee from a bad one.

Josh Kaplan blogs on IT jobsHealthcare jobs and other issues affecting the engineering industry.
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Your Facebook profile may be damaging your IT jobs prospects right now.


Do employers think you have Bieber fever?

I do not have Bieber fever. Let’s get that clear from the outset. For the uninitiated, Justin Bieber is a teenage Canadian pop star who has sold fifteen million records, made $55m in the last twelve months, been nominated for two Grammys and is ranked by Forbes as the third most influential celebrity in the world. Of most interest for a business audience, he is the most followed person on Twitter, with over 33 million followers. This makes him a genuine power house of commercial possibilities for anyone tapping into his brand.

I have a great deal of respect for the young man. He’s applied his talent from humble beginnings and he’s on top of the world. I just don’t like him. By which I mean, I don’t have any of his albums. I’m not one of his Twitter followers. I wouldn’t go to his concerts or wear a t-shirt with his face on it. I’m not a fan. I like him fine, I just don’t like him.

  But according to Facebook. I am a Belieber. (That’s not a typo, that’s what they’re called. Get it?). Based on what my friends will see posted on their Facebook walls as a result of my activity, I like Justin Bieber. I have never taken any conscious action to recognize him at any point. I would not have been aware of the connection at any point unless a friend of mine had got in touch to mock me about it. So how is this possible? The answer is that Facebook has very gently removed your control over what you like and putting in place a highly spurious mechanism for deciding what constitutes your endorsement.

See this gets down to the unspoken truth about Facebook that with all the hulabaloo that goes on about their horrible privacy policies, most people don’t know what it means or how to change it. Most people never visit the section of Facebook where they control their privacy. Most people don’t scroll far enough through their own profile after it’s been setup to look at their list of likes, so they never find all the things they liked by accident. Yes, by accident- see liking something on Facebook is far too easy. So the exact embarrassing things that people will find, when made public that you enjoy- for example- Justin Beiber, is really only there because one of your friends posted it a little picture that you clicked on, and ended up inadvertently liking.

So what does this have to do with staffing?

Like it or not, Facebook is part of your public persona, and until people start realizing this fact, it will continue to be a reason they might not get the job they want, be it IT jobs they’re looking for or any other kind of employment.

Just like you would proof read your resume and ask someone else to proof read it for you, you should proofread your online “self” and ask a trusted friend to do the same for you. Ask them what you look like when they look at your profile. Because the Bieber example is harmless, it doesn’t necessarily follow that everything is harmless. You could have likes that break all your own rules about politicizing your online profile or following organizations that are not credible or whose philosophies are inconsistent with your own. Even the timing could be sensitive. You may have inadvertently liked the NRA during a widely held gun control debate. In doing so, you’ve politicized your resume and made yourself potentially unappealing to a certain mindset of employer, who otherwise would never have developed this perception. Equally, you may have inadvertently liked a gun control lobby group and created the same problem with an employer on the other side of the argument. All unfair. All prejudicial. But all a problem for you and nobody else. We may have gone to great lengths to maintain an employer friendly social media persona that will only be a credit to us when it is snooped by someone in the field of work. All our hard work will be for nothing if we are allowing our profiles to say things that we would not really want to say.

Review your online resume with all haste. Check your Facebook privacy settings; check your list of likes. Make sure that the things you like, are things you are actually prepared to publically endorse.

You may be surprised to find out that you are, like me, a closet Bieber fan. That’s my story anyway and I’m sticking to it.

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If only the laws of physics were so easy to manipulate…

IT Healthcare Jobs

Patent Office Clerk

Ask anyone to name the greatest thinker of the 20th century and few people will pause for more than a second or two before they name Albert Einstein.

The refreshingly unkempt theoretical physicist who would later win a Nobel Prize and change the way human beings understand their universe was not always a household name. He began life as a lowly clerk in a patent office, reviewing patent applications.

I have always enjoyed this. I like the idea that a theoretical scientist who will spend eternity straddling the gap between space and time, began his career basically helping small businesses and entrepreneurs to protect their inventions and define the true differentiators of their products. Almost like the superhero whose humble day job belies his super powers.

If you’re lying awake in bed any time soon, pondering life the universe and everything. You may hear an almighty scraping sound disrupting the space time continuum like finger nails scraping down a huge intergalactic blackboard. This is the sound of Albert Einstein, philosopher of our very existence, turning in his grave.

The source of his eternal unrest is not the explanation of the universe that evades his race, but a much simpler problem, one with very human origins.

The professor would surely find it hard to believe that the US Patent Act put into place in 1790 that he applied himself to protect the American culture of entrepreneurialism and nurture innovation as a source of prosperity, would now be used by people who have never created anything to strangle the creativity of the next generation’s ideas.

See the problem is, our patent system is based on very idealistic principles, and in a utopian society it would work amazingly well… Unfortunately the reality of our corporate and especially legal environment is much more Machiavellian than that. This is a world where companies, protected by the law, purchase bulk numbers of patents from dead companies with the sole intention of suing another company that infringes on that patent. Otherwise known as patent trolling.

It happens in so many cases as to be almost the rule, not the exception.

At the route of the issues is the age old problem. Sometimes there just isn’t enough money to fight the good fight and get what you deserve. As with so many frivolous law suits which small businesses don’t have the pockets or the time to fight, sticking up for your inventions in the face of a challenge from a supposed patent holder is often just too involving an enterprise to consider. Risk is substantial, cost is substantial; perhaps worst of all, the distraction is crippling.

Patents supposedly protect the individuals and the companies who are the true innovators in this country. They protect them from having their dreams stolen. It also allows those less scrupulous people to take advantage of the system and cause the total opposite effect of stifling innovation, making it prohibitively expensive to do business because of their processes. To further complicate the issue, the US patent office is overwhelmed more and more as companies dedicate entire teams whose sole purpose is to churn out patents for what might be possible one day.

We need reform to continue to promote innovation- and this is one area the government does belong. While inventions are a right guaranteed by our government through the patent act, I believe it to also be a right guaranteed by basic intelligent, innovative humanity in any established society.

And let’s be clear this is not just about edible business cards (seriously, what’s the intrinsic point of a business card?), the paper scissors stone card game and so many other inventions that took an idea that need no further development, offer no potential for revenue or in the worst cases (which include nicotine infused coffee) actually pose significant threats to potential users. This is mostly about very precise elements of technical machinery and technology, where a great deal of ambiguity can exist over what is truly a new idea.

There is no comprehensive answer to the problem, no E=MC2. Perhaps we need to look at the initial intentions of patents; perhaps we can apply that test to whether or not a patent can be granted, in addition to the current tests. But we cannot allow the process of protection to become restrictive to innovation, when it is the promotion of this very innovation that remains the essential purpose of patent legislation.

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Why Talent Management is NOT a Zero-Sum Game

Staffing is not a Zero-Sum Game
During the course of my regularly scheduled research last week I ran across an article that immediately got me fired-up from the title alone. Tim Sackett’s post ‘When It Comes to Talent Management, It’s Just a Zero Sum Game’ on TLNT, sent an all too familiar chill down my spine and had me looking for something on which I could inflict some damage. (Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that dramatic but you get the point.) The idea that talent management is simply taking someone from one place to fill an opening in another is so basic and archaic, that it really invokes that kind of passionate response every time I hear the sentiment.

After the dust settled and I read the rest of the article, I had calmed down and realized that Mr. Sackett had some valid points. I do agree organizations need to find a balance between funding with regard to attracting, succession planning and training of their workforce rather than spending the most money and effort on candidate attraction.

The problem is that I vehemently disagree that we have to convince hiring managers and whole organizations that the current market is a Zero-Sum Game. The idea devalues what a true workforce solutions team does.

Companies like Microsoft and Google sprung to being in an industry that was created out of garages, through innovation and a pioneering spirit. If talent management was Zero-Sum, they wouldn’t exist as they both created a previously unknown talent pool need and filled it.

The majority of the people they initially employed were home grown talent because frankly there was no company doing what they did. It was an entirely new ‘thing’ created out of nothing. They may have taken some college kids out of a classroom to put them to work early, or stolen a drive-thru clerk passionate about BASIC and FORTRAN away from a fast food joint; it was hardly a Zero-Sum Game; it was a Human Development Game.

People can be developed, trained, motivated, and unmotivated.  We do need to convince hiring managers of the value in taking someone that can do 95-percent of what they need now and developing the other desired 5-percent in-house. We also need to convince them that they do not have the luxury of the 3-5 year IT wizard or engineer any longer. They will have to start hiring out of colleges again; investing time in developing curricula with educators to fill their needs. Some of our most successful candidates are those ‘95-percenters’ because they have a desire to learn the other 5-percent and have loyalty to the company that provides it.

It’s not zero-sum.  It’s not a shell game.  It’s the game of life as it pertains to business and it’s our job in recruiting to help companies realize the best talent to develop, and to help candidates find the next step in their path.  So much more can be gained working together; with hiring managers, HR, talent development, and candidates for a mutually beneficial outcome. There doesn’t have to be a clear cut winner and loser when it comes to talent management.

Here’s a simple analogy to demonstrate the point further:

The Biggest Loser, a popular US television reality series, is a competition whereby, in theory, everyone comes out a winner. The goal is to get healthier through weight loss, nutritional changes and exercise. At the shows close, there is ultimately a grand prize winner but, there was no cause to which they had to take from another to come out on top. Nearly every contestant seems to walk away from the program better for it, even the non-prize-winning losers. That’s kind of how how I view talent management and recruitment.

If you’re engaging a ‘passive’ candidate, chances are they aren’t engaged with their current company for any number of reasons. They are likely dragging down their current company in some way because of this sense of disengagement. In hopes of a brighter future, they are willing to talk to you about a new position with growth potential either economically or professionally.

The losing company actually wins because they have offloaded someone who was probably producing at a level below their potential. The hiring company wins because they’re getting an employee who is reinvigorated and engaged. The candidate wins for obvious reasons. The recruitment firm wins because they provided value to both customers of their services and were paid for the match.

To me, calling recruitment and talent management a Zero-Sum Game; that cynicism that removes the exact value from staffing that we bring; is simply inaccurate. If you are truly invested in the job at hand, then you’re looking to help the organization and the candidate grow. If you’re good at filling both customers’ new needs; creating a value proposition along the way; you simply cannot look at the game mathematically. There is so much to be gained from looking beyond the ‘perfect’ skill set to find out what real potential lies within a candidate or in an opportunity. Humans aren’t dollars, or market share, and therefore can’t be zero-sum. 
Just ask Microsoft and Google.

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends.
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