There are 2.6 million unfilled jobs in the U.S. Why??

Posted by: Peter Coy on July 10

Guest blog from Economics Editor Peter Coy

cruise ship.jpg
Yes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary), there were just under 2.6 million job openings on the last business day of May. (The report was released July 7.) These are jobs that employers are actively recruiting to fill, not just slots they’re leaving open until the economy gets better.

How could there be so many jobs going begging, when so many Americans are begging for jobs? As I wrote in a story a few months ago, the big problem is a mismatch. Often the mismatch is in skills: Workers don’t have the skills that employers are looking for, or in some cases they’re overqualified and employers won’t hire them because they fear they’ll bolt as soon as the economy revives. In other cases it’s a geographic mismatch, which has been worsened by the housing bust. People owe more on their mortgages than they can get by selling their homes, so they can’t afford to move to where the jobs are. Sad.

OK. You’re wondering why this post is illustrated by a pair of cruise ships. It’s to make the point that some of the 2.6 million jobs are actually pretty good. Here’s an excerpt from a press release I got today from a public relations woman named Heidi Allison, who also runs a reference-checking service called Allison & Taylor. Three categories of jobs that cruise lines need to fill:

Wine & Cheese Sommeliers: Crystal Cruises was the first line (in August 2008) to feature professionally trained and certified cheese sommeliers who introduce travelers to samplings of new flavors, textures and cheese combinations that complement food and wine. These sommeliers receive intensive training and certification supervised by world-renowned authorities on this subject.

Gentlemen Host: Gentleman hosts exist for the simple reason that there are more single ladies than men on cruise ships and cruise lines like to provide dance partners and companions for their lady passengers. And while the criteria for gentlemen hosts are very strict, there are numerous vacancies available. Cruise lines offering gentleman host programs include Cunard Line, Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Orient Lines, Silversea Cruises, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, and World Explorer Cruises. [A reader points out that some of these lines are defunct or have new names.]

Art Auctioneer: Over the last two decades, auctioning “fine art” on cruises, often to first-time bidders, has become big business. Park West Gallery of Michigan handles such a high volume of art sales at sea that it bills itself as “the world’s largest art dealer”, selling art on the Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Carnival, Disney, Holland America, Regent and Oceania lines. (Princess runs its own auctions in-house.)

I asked Heidi Allison why these jobs are hard to fill. They all sound pretty cushy. She said the art auctioneer can make six figures a year. The gentleman hosts get paid less but have nice fringe benefits.

She said: “People don’t know about them. I’d say that’s the main reason.”

A market imperfection! Now, that’s an explanation an econogeek with a taste for cruising can relate to! Any unemployed economists who wind up on a cruise ship after reading this post should contact me by ship-to-shore radio, or whatever they use these days.

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Reader Comments

G33kKahuna

July 10, 2009 07:27 PM

Peter,

IMHO, you are being lenient on the unemployed by raising doubts of jobs qualigication and employers' attitude as opposed to the so called victims. I am a consultant and work for an implementation force. I work many firms; small scale to large. I just see people take advantage of the current market condition. They have opted to stay low profile on project attendance to meeting deliverables or even spin of dead end projects that would be a cost burden on corporations that they have to end these. It almost seems like people wanted to be shown the door. Now you many ask me, why would anyone in their right mind do this?? It’s simple called untaxed unemployment income. All this check requires of them is to fill up a resume and attend job fairs, which they are doing and seems to get printed across all papers. Also, if you have more dependents/ children, the government sends you a fat check for this as well. So, all in all you have a pretty sweet deal; need to live slightly below the needs and transfer the recuperation burden on to someone else (aka currently employed) .... Now so many are used to this free check that they dont want to get back to normal life .....

I don't believe this represents all the unemployed but a majority of them.

G33kKahuna

July 10, 2009 07:31 PM

Peter,

IMHO, you are being too lenient on the unemployed by raising doubts of jobs and employers as opposed to the so called victims. I am a consultant and work for an implementation force. I consult at many firms; small to large. I just see people take advantage of the current market condition everywhere. They have opted to stay low profile on project attendance to meeting deliverables or even spin of dead end projects that would be a cost burden on corporations that they have to end these. It almost seems like people wanted to be shown the door. Now you many ask me, why would anyone in their right mind do this?? It’s simple called untaxed unemployment income. All this check requires of them is to fill up a resume and attend job fairs, which they are doing and the news about lines at job fairs seems to get printed across all papers. Also, if you have more dependents/ children, the government sends you a fat check for this as well. If you dont think this is enough to pull a family, just ask Nadia Suliaman. So, all in all you have a pretty sweet deal; need to live slightly below the needs and transfer the recuperation burden on to someone else (aka currently employed) .... I know of many who would not like to get back to work any longer ....

timothy e rubacky

July 10, 2009 07:55 PM

Hi Peter,

very interesting and informative article. Just so that you are aware, Delta Queen, Orient Lines and World Explorer are all defunct. Also, Raddison Seven Seas is now Regent Seven Seas.

All the best,

Tim

Ajay

July 10, 2009 09:37 PM

Heh, how perfect that Peter was unaware that those lines are defunct. These employment articles about people not having skills always piss me off, because of the great stupidity of employers to require a meaningless threshold of specific experience and not to hire anyone if they're below that threshold. The WSJ had a great article on this a couple years ago, highlighting the perfect stupidity of these employers. If you're hiring an engineer, somebody who's shown himself adept at all kinds of computer languages from Lisp to assembly programming is not going to have any problem working with your dumbass Java code. Yet, these employers will not hire anyone who does not have 5-10 years Java experience coming in. Every employer wants someone with 5-10 years experience, presumably cuz of whatever training they got from doing the job, but nobody wants to actually hire the new graduate and do the training. Ultimately this moronic mentality hurts employers as much as it does anyone, but it really highlights how things are going to change. Companies will mostly not exist online because they've shown themselves to be horrible at almost everything they do. These outdated notions of "experience" will disappear because entrepreneurs will split up the work in a task-based fashion, rather than the current job-based process. You'll show your capability by doing things, rather than talking about how you did things.

Strategery

July 10, 2009 09:51 PM

The jobs of the future will be working for the government or catering to the rich. These will be the only middle class jobs; everyone else will be poor in 3rd world America. I also believe these 'unfilled' jobs are actually fabricated to gain political support for bringing in more (less expensive) guest workers.

Lord

July 10, 2009 10:06 PM

Unemployment is _not_ untaxed.

No employer that ever wants to fill a position is unable to do so. They are merely being selective in who they are willing to accept and feel no urgency to do so. At times like these, they are often work projects for HR so they can look busy to avoid being laid off themselves. Separations don't change over recessions; hiring drops.

cm

July 10, 2009 11:37 PM

Several have commented on employer pickiness, and I'd say most of the "market failures" (of achieving "clearance") are related to that one way or the other.

* Excessive credential requirements (ideas about "buyer's market", unwillingness to acknowledge necessity of settling into/learning on the job, incompetence or unwillingness to do the work of (pay for) genuine and effective applicant evaluation, inflated self image of the employer and its products)

* Looking for implausible credential combinations, or overly broad job resposibilities (attempts to overload or compress job/business functions)

* Age discrimination (stereotypical ~5+ years "experience" as proxy for prime age - able to get stuff done but still gullible enough to be easily "motivated" by ideas about career growth)

* Looking for Mr/Ms Right (no apparent hurry filling the position - suggesting it's more of a fishing expedition for discretionary projects or low-ball takers) -- lots of experience in the family in that regard

* Employers/contract shops fishing for candidates out of area

* Especially in these tough times, one of the big hurdles (at least in "tech") is that employers are strongly preferring job switchers over the unemployed, while the employed rather stay put if they have no compelling reason to leave and move to another employer with "buyer's market" attitudes

cm

July 11, 2009 12:01 AM

Lord: "No employer that ever wants to fill a position is unable to do so."

As evidenced by what went on during the dotcom heyday. There was a lot of demand to staff positions for all kinds of funny projects in order to get one's fingers on the freely flowing funding - you would only get funding, or repeat funding, when you had a workforce working on some stuff, no matter how inane. As a result, even "conservative" employers were forced to drop their standards as everybody was bolting to the dotcoms, and a certain segment of desirable workers wouldn't take the usual shit, and everybody in tech would have to more or less issue employee options, throw parties, provide free food and drink, and accommodate all kinds of working from who knows where arrangements.

But even then, there was rampant age discrimination, everybody was looking for adolescents and twenty-somethings, and thirty+ somethings only for certain niche skills or where "traditional" experience was critical.

All kinds of people were able to forge a career, even if only for some time, who will be effectively untouchable today, when the money is not flowing so excessively anymore. The current job market feels rather "eurosclerotic" to me ... high risk aversion for employers as well as job switchers, and exclusion of the unemployed and the non "high potentials". Perhaps that's what any "normal" (non boom) job market looks like.

I'm probably not adding any insights here aside from the ranting ...

John Wilson

July 11, 2009 02:09 AM

My strategy to keep me employable is to make sure my skill is always in top 20% of my profession. And I do not ask for top 20% salary.

I have seen many of my coworkers stop learning anything new unless it is needed in their jobs immediately. Once they need to apply new jobs that require somewhat newer and different skill set, they are at disadvantage.

Ajay

July 11, 2009 02:38 AM

In a way this is all great for potential employees, because what better way for the potential employers to reveal their great stupidity than by doing so from the initial hiring process itself? One would hope the stupidity weren't universal but unfortunately it appears to be, with different varieties like Google only hiring PhDs. The great news is that the online market is almost here and there's tons of opportunity for entrepreneurship. Rather than working with some idiot established company, you can work on Android/iPhone apps on your own or set up a simple webapp. Online's not as optimal and widespread as it'll be with micropayments but it's still fairly good. Of course, you can't work in capital-intensive fields like microprocessor design but there's a lot of opportunity for software and content online, which will explode much bigger soon.

feizhigao

July 11, 2009 10:59 AM

I agree with Ajay. Employers, especially HR practices, have suddenly become too picky about specific skills. I am a chemist, a leader in my field with tons of success and awesome recommendations- yet every employer has turned me down due to lack of sufficient skills in fields that are simple or basic compared to my own. They don't realize that a great scientist with doctoral training is going to do well regardless of whether they are working on one skill or another in a closely related field. PhD's in chemistry are self-starting, self-training, and autonomous, and they know how to research and learn whatever chemical techniques are needed to solve problems and get work done. Employers need to get smart and look for a strong record of achievement rather than comparing candidates only by what they claim as experience. I would be willing to be that companies with this hiring practice are going to suffer from lack of creativity and have trouble competing in the coming years.

CADiver

July 11, 2009 11:07 AM

Sometimes you wonder how some of these articles make it into a publication, especially the caliber of BW.
ABC did a similar presentation a few months ago, two of the man issues were that most of the jobs required relocation (a little difficult when you are upside down in your mortgage for one, and the way the RE market is for second)never mind that the jobs were in the kind of states few want to move to. The second issue was that most of the jobs were dead end low paying jobs in fast food, retail and as the article mentions cruise lines and tourism in general, notorious for low paying jobs. As for these Cruise auction jobs, they are commission only in a market where cruisers themselves are bargain hunting for low prices, the six figure "potential" might have been true when the economy was on cocaine, but usually "potential" is a term used when employers cannot substantiate their income claims.

cm

July 11, 2009 01:55 PM

John Wilson: You can learn only so much by "studying books" (I paraphrase) - when you say "immediately needed in their jobs" that pretty much means "opportunity to practice the book knowledge".

In my field, employers are not looking for "home brew" skills, but stuff that you have actually practiced *in a business context*, and preferably as the latest thing you have worked on so you have the most recent state of the *practiced* art. In other words, they want to hire know-how that has already been (allegedly) proven elsewhere. It's part of a risk control strategy, they don't want "I know how this could be done - let's try out some stuff". Sometimes, in more standardized fields, it goes as far as "reproduce the exact same thing here that you have done in your previous gig" - of course it's not stated like that but that's the idea with hiring very specific expertise.

cm

July 11, 2009 02:06 PM

Feizhigao: I don't know much about the businesses that hire chemists, but I suppose to a significant extent there are high barriers to entry, in the subject matter of the business as well as on the market/business relationship side.

Those "stupid" employers will not suffer as much as you imagine as they are (somewhat) protected by their market position and barriers to entry.

What Ajay is talking about may work in fields where projects are relatively small, short-lived, or independent. This is more a characteristic of services than of product development. A subsector of IT-type work can be (and is being) structured like that, but then much of IT is really a business service, and whatever product development is happening quickly turns into a service model. There is of course nothing wrong with that, but I posit that the largest part of the tech industry will never, and can never, be like that.

cm

July 11, 2009 02:17 PM

And to comment on the subject matter of the article, is the suggestion that the field of glorified food servers, gigolos, or souvenir hawkers is the one most wanting of jobs being filled? I have nothing against those honorable occupations, but for over a decade I have been only hearing how tech and professional companies cannot find workers with skills in the respective fields and we have a deficit of engineering grads and professionally trained people.

Simon

July 11, 2009 02:44 PM

There are maybe only one or two ships that an Art Auctioneer can make 6 figures in sales. The Art Auctioneer will only get a percentage of that and still have staff to pay.

Simon
(Who works on Cruise Ships)

dw

July 11, 2009 03:01 PM

G33kKahuna, I doubt very seriously that any of the unemployed fit your description. its obvious that you have been lucky (and its just that) and never been on unemployment. the income you get from this is so minimal that it will not support any body for very long. and it doesn't last that long (normally only 6 months. only very recently extended to 12 months). and its taxable, its not free income. and if your lucky it might replace 25% of your jobs income. and there are no health benefits.

Bob Melvin

July 11, 2009 05:35 PM

This article is just propaganda to be used to 'prove' that we need to flood the US job market with additional millions of cheap outsourcing visas. It's trash. Look at the jobs he listed, they are a joke. But I'm sure later we will see this article tied into another one pleading for more work visas because of ‘shortages of available workers’.

Johannes

July 11, 2009 08:57 PM

Companies with double standards and a lack of professionalism are worsening the situation for the unemployed.
The double standards are that even if you get hired during this crisis, half a year later they might lay you off again. After all, some markets or areas are lagging behind.
Then, look at HR people. Examples a plenty: they put up vacancies that aren't vacant (no need to hire anyone in the first place), they don't closely look at your resume, and worst of all: get you e-mail replies that are unprofessional or lack all decency!
This is absolutely the year of HR, but better yet it is the year that proves the fact that 99% of HR people lack the most basic of skills.

Johannes

July 11, 2009 08:59 PM

Companies with double standards and a lack of professionalism are worsening the situation for the unemployed.
The double standards are that even if you get hired during this crisis, half a year later they might lay you off again. After all, some markets or areas are lagging behind.
Then, look at HR people. Examples a plenty: they put up vacancies that aren't vacant (no need to hire anyone in the first place), they don't closely look at your resume, and worst of all: get you e-mail replies that are unprofessional or lack all decency!
This is absolutely the year of HR, but better yet it is the year that proves the fact that 99% of HR people lack the most basic of skills.

sam

July 11, 2009 11:00 PM

Just about any professional job can be off-shored these days, yet many professionals continue to support globalism. Wake up.

jbm_thestateofaffairs.com

July 11, 2009 11:32 PM

Boy are authors of the "lack of jobs" fantasy hoodwinked.

Wages have been level for thirty years. If there was a serious labor demand we would see wages begin to rise. It does not happen anymore. We have settled into a permanent, fortune 500 company-based employer's market.

If congress was awake at any hour of the week, they would temporarily cut off all skilled immigration. We would then see the job market shift a bit toward employees, including better wages.

Instead, congress is merely watching this, knowing it is happening, and they are intentionally eliminating the middle class.

I will throw you one more: Where is the promise of a labor shortage due to baby boomers retiring? None of them are retiring. Again, a much higher percentage of the population remains in the work force than "experts" thought would because the elderly cannot afford to leave. This is bad all around for us middle class (now upper lower class?) saps.

HL

July 12, 2009 01:52 AM

I agree with many particular points posed especially when it comes to HR and Tech as that's the scope of my knowledge/experience. I'd say HR people do not have ANY idea of the positions they're actually staffing for. An evident example being many Ruby on Rails positions on job boards. Employers ask for standard 5+ years experience despite the technology not having existed 4 years ago and almost every position advertised being that of a Senior Developer meaning there are no entry points for bottom-up and sustainable growth from the unemployed. It's really fucked up that the same 'underqualified' people that stormed the doors during the dotcom boom close them now.

To make a case from a book I'm currently reading 'Pragmatic Thinking' by Andy Hunt, the overall hierarchical structure of a business should involve 'farming'/internal development of talent which today's job market seems to completely forget about. Having teams of overqualified people who are all essentially the same person leads to counter-productivity rather than gelling of teams which is equally applicable in overall business. The idea of having too many 'rockstars' or 'ninjas' at every position is pretty dumb as politically no valuable production is possible with workers pitching their own expertise as solutions.

My point is the solution to many current work dilemmas is to staff accordingly and responsibly - as Johannes said, HR should at least learn some professionalism - spend time researching the actual position rather than reading statistics off some software and stop trying to steal a superstar at EVERY position. It shows you big-business always wins - they padded their pockets and as Ajay/Feizhigao alluded to they win trying to staff PHD level people as entry level clerks because a paper skill isn't present.

Hanrod

July 12, 2009 02:23 AM

Kahuna: Your incompetent and unnatural use of the English language, demonstrates a part of the problem...i.e. too many non-natural U.S. citizens seeking jobs here. Go back to "Inja", or what ever.

Author: This is a ridiculous article, minimalizing and trivializing a serious problem, with "cute" and inappropriate solutions.

cm

July 12, 2009 04:11 AM

HL: "PHD level people as entry level clerks"

It is slightly different (at least in software development) - the PhDs or otherwise highly credentialed are often initially hired for their (supposed) "highest skills", but are then treated as warm bodies by managers overwhelmed with mundane issues and asked to cover the whole gamut (or euphemistically "project life cycle") from high level design through low level coding, troubleshooting, production support, and operational tasks of business process execution and following up on project management trivia.

The reality then becomes that when herded through or constantly interrupted by an overwhelming volume of mundane tasks, they never get to do the high level stuff for which they were supposedly hired, and are perhaps at risk of being marked as "not performing" in their nominal role/level.

That's another special case of the job function compression that I was alluding to earlier. As opposed to "horizontal" generalists (who cover different functional areas) perhaps this concept can be named "vertical generalist".

Apparently most managers are not getting it that this kind of (daily) job overloading cannot work, and the idea seems to be that skills are strictly linear and additive - somebody with high level skills can (and gladly will) do all "lower" skill level jobs too, so let's hire the highest credentialed only and they will cover all of it. (Observed reality suggests that in this job market they actually will.) Or quite plausibly the whole credential game is a smoke screen used for discrimination and to make up "evidence" of a talent shortage.

BBG

July 12, 2009 11:14 AM

Companies also put way too much stock in 'degrees,' requiring them for jobs that any reasonably smart middle school student could easily do. I went to college for 5 years, but never finished a degree (switched majors twice). Since people have been replaced by computers as resume evaluators, I get sifted out of consideration for many jobs my resume would more than qualify me for.

MsMyTPen

July 12, 2009 04:29 PM

Interesting article. If employers want an employee they can no longer look simply to the loyalty factor since it's not a two way street. For economic reasons, employees are cut everyday as we've seen. Outside of security concerns like the gentleman hosts mentioned above, perhaps companies hold back to conserve their funds. One responder mentioned fat government checks, I think that's a myth. Newsweek and Family Circle just focused issues on families who have lost their jobs or faced a catastrophic illness in the family that put them below the poverty line. A few dollars over on job under $40k put the family out of contention for any government benefits and these were basic for health and food.

Ken

July 12, 2009 04:51 PM

Regarding qualifications, the reason why many listed employment opportunities have a laundry list of virtually unattainable qualifications is to help the HR people sift through the hundreds or thousands of resumes that pour in for each position. What I've heard is that most positions these days are filled through networking and cultivating personal relationships. Perhaps you don't have 10+ years of Java experience, but various people have thought highly of your skills, you have 3 years of Java and maybe a certification, word gets around, and you're hired for that position that "requires" 10 years of Java.

logic

July 12, 2009 06:02 PM

Strategery has it right. The future does not look good and it can fairly be said that America is "no country for YOUNG men." Sadly, for a certain segment of our ruling class, this is playing out perfectly. The book "the Family" does a pretty good job describing the WASP-y power brokers in this country, who think it's "part of God's plan" when ordinary Americans become ever poorer and more desperate. I guess The Family can be happy, the rest of us, not so much.

cm

July 12, 2009 07:15 PM

Ken: "What I've heard is that most positions these days are filled through networking and cultivating personal relationships."

It was always like that (in that networking certainly helped in getting to know of jobs, or being among the first interviewed, before anybody else had a chance), but back in the day resume based staffing was not done by computerized keyword search, so your resume was presumably still seen/read by some person, however qualified. And probably the "noise" volume was lower, i.e. the labor oversupply not as large as now.

"Perhaps you don't have 10+ years of Java experience, but various people have thought highly of your skills, you have 3 years of Java and maybe a certification, word gets around, and you're hired for that position that "requires" 10 years of Java."

That's precisely what I was referring to by "discrimination" in one of the previous threads - selective waiving of "requirements". As long as you are not screening out *applicants* based on the protected discrimination categories. But raised "requirements" should help to discourage the "wrong" people from applying, or at least the honest ones among them.

None of which takes away from the validity of your observation of course.

Ajay

July 12, 2009 11:11 PM

Feizhigao, what you describe is nothing new in tech, perhaps in chemistry.

Cm, funny how you sometimes claim that employers want experience cuz they don't want to do on the job training and other times complain that they only hire young, dumb workers to get rid of older workers' higher salaries. Not only tech, but all work will move to a task-based model. As for PhD's being forced to do mundane tasks, boo hoo, perhaps they could suggest a better organizational process to their superiors? Oh, that's right, they're too stupid to think of an idea like that. How do exaggerated experience requirements keep the "wrong" people out if the final hire doesn't fulfill the requirements anyway? All you do is get a lot more liars applying as it doesn't take them long to figure this out, that employers are making up idiotic requirements that they cannot possibly verify. So they just use fake resumes with all kinds of lies about experience and then get the job and read the book on the job, since the employer has no clue how to tell the real experienced worker from the neophyte. I know people who do this, such idiotic requirements keep nobody out cuz they have no way to enforce it, they just emphasize the stupidity of the employer to the employees.

Johannes, my friend who got an MBA from a mid-tier business school said that he found that inevitably the dumbest people in his class would chose HR as their specialization. HR is where they shuffle the dumb kids, hence hiring being done so badly at most companies.

HL, whenever I read a job description with the words "rockstar" or "ninja" used, I know that the people hiring are morons and not worth dealing with.

Ken, what you're basically saying is that job descriptions are a sham, which isn't far from what we're saying.

While I agree with most of you that the current hiring process is highly flawed at most companies, we can always route our way around the system, that's how capitalism works. We can strike out on our own and create companies that don't use such idiotic filters to determine who to work with. I'm currently consulting with a startup and trying to do exactly that, there's nothing stopping any of you from doing so too, other than your mentality that you have to work for someone. Perhaps you don't want to take the risk, but your current situation can't be much better. Such downturns as the current one are actually beneficial in many ways as they cut the fat out of the system and force people on the edge like us to think of ways to upend the system with something better: start thinking. :)

Dr. Gene Nelson

July 12, 2009 11:32 PM

This article seems to be another piece of PR "spin" used to support the false employer claims of "shortages" so that they may maintain the status quo of an "alphabet soup" of work visa programs. Work visa programs such as H-1B are used to facilitate illegal discrimination on the basis of age. They also discriminate against U.S. citizens, either natural born or naturalized. I strongly urge the passage of Sen. Durbin's S.887 to close down this huge loophole.

If you would like to see how bloated the numbers are for these work visa programs, please use google to locate the PDF version of the investigative article, "The Greedy Gates Immigration Gambit."

Finally, as a happily married man seeking employment, Peter Coy's idea of being employed as a "gentleman host" is morally reprehensible.

Come on! Be reasonable!

July 13, 2009 01:18 AM

Do you want job seekers become hooker!

cm

July 13, 2009 01:24 AM

Ajay: "and other times complain that they only hire young, dumb workers to get rid of older workers' higher salaries"

When have I "complained" about precisely that? The only thing that could be (mis)construed this way that I said is that (a certain brand of) managers try to hit the "sweet spot" of people in the phase of their career where they have a few (about 5+) years of experience under their belt and their career growth has not yet flatlined (or they haven't noticed yet). Even so, I have presented this in the way of "manageability" and "motivation".

"As for PhD's being forced to do mundane tasks, boo hoo, perhaps they could suggest a better organizational process to their superiors? Oh, that's right, they're too stupid to think of an idea like that."

That was not my point. My point was that the employer has vague ideas about "high level skills" but no real intent of using them, or vested interests suppressing new directions (or those "better organizational processes"), judging by observed business process and management practices.

"How do exaggerated experience requirements keep the "wrong" people out if the final hire doesn't fulfill the requirements anyway?"

Notice I put "wrong" in scare quotes. People have agendas besides hiring adequate employees. Often it is desired that candidates are a "cultural fit", display other favorable traits that have nothing to do with their proficiency in the subject matter, or are willing to accept a below-market wage.

What usually happens is that the marginally competent liars and posers are screened out. This is part of "we cannot find qualified applicants". Of course, nothing in the world will stop liars from hitting the first stage of screening.

A use of optional "requirements", besides filtering the flood of resumes, is as another discrimination tool, where "requirements" can be selectively waived for favored applicants, and often the "requirements" are phrased as "strongly preferred" or "strong plus" attributes. A number of the traits I mentioned above are quite dicey, and employers prefer to cover them with a "factual" veneer. I know that many employers record who they interview, and probably as part of this they document the reasons for rejection. This documentation is probably happening for compliance reasons, e.g. when doing business with the government or applying for work visas.

cm

July 13, 2009 01:37 AM

Ajay, and as for your repeated allegations of "shifting claims" on my part, most players in the domains discussed here (and elsewhere) don't have coherent motivations, hence one cannot coherently discuss them, but only particular facets which often enough contradict each other.

Of course one can adopt the coherent unified view that everybody else is stupid, but that's not how I look at things.

Heidi Allison

July 13, 2009 10:55 AM

Apologies for any errors in the information provided to Peter. My intern named some of the lines incorrectly.

However, the jobs do exist. I have worked on commission my entire life and guess what? Commission work can be a viable career.

Growing up in Michigan around the automotive industry, many of the workers here have no idea about other types of employment, they merely think you go to work in the morning and return every evening. There are many other types of jobs out there – you have to think out of the box and try some new ideas to make it in the new 'normal' economy.

cm

July 13, 2009 11:02 AM

"Do you want job seekers become hooker!"

Let's not go overboard here. First of all the proper term would be "lady hosts", and secondly the article has explained that only gentleman hosts are being sought.

Ken

July 13, 2009 11:30 AM

Ajay,
You mentioned the idea of starting your own thing. That happens to be my approach to a tricky market and my own bumpy career. And, yes, many job postings are essentially shams. If they find that person with those outstanding qualifications, great. However, in the meantime, someone who's perfectly adequate who used to work with someone's brother walks in and the position is filled quite well. My first post was partially for the benefit of those whose idea of a job search is posting their resume on monster.com and waiting for the phone to ring while getting discouraged reading posts that are asking for 30 years of C++ exp. ;-)

rosedap1919

July 13, 2009 12:09 PM

C'mon all you smart people that read Business Week. Aren't we overanalyzing and some may be looking for any excuse not to act on job opportunities? How about some mental extrapolation to dig into this and apply for some of these mentioned opportunities that Peter has tried to present. If some of the information needed to be updated, so be it. The Web will lead you to the right information if you really want to take advantage of the opportunity Peter tried to present. Good job (no pun intended) and thanks to Peter!

Jeff

July 13, 2009 01:10 PM

The majority of you folks are cursing the darkness instead of appreciating Peter's lit candle. I thought this was a first-rate article on a subject (cruise employment opportunities) little known by almost everyone. As a resident of Michigan - with the unemployment rate over 12% - I fully concur with the reader who emphasized the need for thinking out of the box vis a vis new employment. Peter, thanks for your look at some truly intriguing employment opportunities.

Jeff

July 13, 2009 01:18 PM

The majority of you blogging to this article are cursing the darkness instead of appreciating Peter's lit candle. This is a first-rate article on a subject (unusual cruise-ship employment) little known by almost everyone. The reader who advocated "out of the box thinking" is right-on - I'm a resident of Michigan (leading national unemployment at over 12%) and I hope at least a few job seekers read Peter's article here and take hope in the possibility of career transition. Way to go, Peter!

Jeff

July 13, 2009 01:20 PM

The majority of you blogging to this article are cursing the darkness instead of appreciating Peter's lit candle. This is a first-rate article on a subject (unusual cruise-ship employment) little known by almost everyone. The reader who advocated "out of the box thinking" is right-on - I'm a resident of Michigan (leading national unemployment at over 12%) and I hope at least a few job seekers read Peter's article here and take hope in the possibility of career transition. Way to go, Peter!

Jeff

July 13, 2009 01:27 PM

The majority of you blogging to this article are cursing the darkness instead of appreciating Peter's lit candle. This is a first-rate piece on a subject (unusual cruise jobs) little known by almost everyone. The reader who encouraged out-of-the-box thinking in seeking employment is right-on; I'm a resident of Michigan (unemployment over 12%)and I hope a few Michiganders read this piece and are inspired enough to consider a career transition. Keep it coming, Peter!!

Paul

July 13, 2009 03:50 PM

"G33kKahuna" is clueless. Unemployment IS taxable income, and leaving a good job for unemployment money and uncertain job re-entry in a recession makes no sense. And it only lasts 26 weeks, not forever. He should take a ride on the layoff train and see what it's like.

Ajay

July 14, 2009 03:28 AM

Heh, Peter might be looking for work as a gentleman host soon, considering Businessweek is tanking and McGraw-Hill is looking to dump them: http://www.businessinsider.com/mcgraw-hill-hires-bank-to-dump-businessweek-2009-7

Cm, you have made many comments about older, higher-paid workers being dumped for younger, below-market wage workers, not always the nuanced views about motivation you now claim. If PhD's go to work for an employer who stupidly hired them just cuz of the degree, I don't think they can complain when that employer also has stupid organizational processes. Either fix them or leave, the stupidity of the employer was apparent from the hiring process itself. You make no reference to what makes for a good cultural fit. In my experience, they just grab employees from the local colleges when they need them, rather than considering all the good candidates from distant colleges who apply. I don't know why you mentioned the documentation of who they reject: are you saying that they record the experience requirements as the reason? If so, it wouldn't be hard to explode that by looking at who they did hire and finding that they didn't meet the same requirements. Obviously, situations vary, I was referring to your shifting descriptions of what predominates. My view is that stupidity is the rule, I'm not sure why you'd ever disagree with that. :)

cm

July 14, 2009 11:50 AM

Ajay:

* "you have made many comments about older, higher-paid workers being dumped for younger, below-market wage workers" I'm not aware of having made "many" comments about that. What I did, and will, harp on a lot is (tech) employers trying to staff people who they think are carefree to manage - who are either "self motivated" or otherwise will agree to all kinds of requests. There is some correlation with the career "sweet spot" of young yet experienced workers (degree and around 5+ years, plus minus a few). Money is in the equation too, of course. But many of the disillusioned would be willing to work for entry-level rates (which are usually still significantly above other "commodity" occupations), only (tech) employers don't want them. Outside of tech, the effect seems not to be so pronounced.

* "You make no reference to what makes for a good cultural fit." I would leave this detail to the imagination of the reader. Let me just say that workplaces, organizations, and individual managers have a certain "culture", out of which grow certain preferences outside the subject matter of the work.

* Documentation of the hiring process: There are things like "affirmative action" and "equal opportunity employer". And then esp. large employers tend to be rather expansive about their legal butt covering. Usually every business process outside the very subject matter of the work (that most won't understand nor care about) is reviewed and litigation-proofed by Legal. Sometimes even the subject matter itself, when it touches any regulations.

* "Either fix them or leave" I'm hearing that often. In the (current?) situation of labor oversupply this is not a scalable solution. There are always *some* (good) jobs out there, and *some* people can switch to them. But most jobs are of the variety "some work needs to be done, and we won't do it ourselves". Now you can say "open your own shop", but the same principle applies there - too much competition at least where barriers to entry are not very high, and "margins" that don't beat employment, when adjusting for risk and effort. I'd refer you to CompEng's "Thai restaurant" metaphor in the Immelt thread.

Ajay

July 14, 2009 08:05 PM

Cm, How, pray tell, do tech employers tell the truly pliable applicant apart from the disillusioned who are willing to work at entry-level rates? I see no reason why you remain mum about what makes for cultural fit, I helpfully gave the example of hiring local college students just cuz they're always around. Yes, we all know about legal regulations and documentation, you still haven't mentioned why they're relevant to this discussion. It doesn't much matter what's a scalable situation: either you accept the shitty situation you're in, and stop whining about it, or you change it, those are the only options. I see, so in such a highly competitive environment, the employer should baby the employee and allow them to work only on some dream project that they have? Ridiculous, what it comes down to is if you have nothing extra to offer and are both unable to convince anyone of that or unwilling to strike out on your own, you're rightfully stuck in such suboptimal situations. CompEng's Thai restaurant example was both stupid and extraneous to that discussion, as I've addressed there, not sure why you'd want to repeat it.

cm

July 14, 2009 10:16 PM

Ajay: "How, pray tell, do tech employers tell the truly pliable applicant apart from the disillusioned who are willing to work at entry-level rates?"

I don't know. But age/career history seems to be considered a good proxy.

As for cultural fit, it varies very much by the individual hiring manager and immediate organizational context, but it ranges from personal chemistry to positive/negative stereotype about certain demographics to pigeonholing candidates by e.g. school or previous employers/industries.

Regulation/documentation is relevant to the discussion because it shapes behaviors, in particular having to come up with "kosher" rationales as opposed to just "at will" decisions. I clearly mentioned that.

As for whining, I reject the concept that any discussion about unfavorable phenomena is branded as such. If you are looking for motivational talk and cheerleading, I'm sure you can find better suited sites.

The point of the Thai restaurant example was the concept of market saturation. Seems you are dismissing that as well.

Matt

July 20, 2009 02:12 AM

Great piece, and I saw a really interesting perspective at this recruiter's website: http://karlaporter.com/workforce/so-why-are-there-2-6-million-jobs-available-in-the-us/

outShored

August 8, 2009 09:53 AM

I'm planning to stay the course. Once the economy improves and it turns out there are plenty of messed up computer "offshored" systems to get fixed, there'll be IT jobs again...

hidden agenda

September 12, 2009 12:22 AM

doesn't anyone see through this? The bailouts helped the banks, who in turn advertise a bunch of positions for which their not really hiring. It would appear to the average person that the bailout worked, however, most unemployed souls don't realize the purpose. It is not in Obabma Administrations benefit to "turn the economy around" His administration got their votes and will continue to get votes from those disenfranchised folks who are relying on "the government" to help them through this tough time. If the economy corrects itself too soon, there will be far fewer people dependent on "the government", and once again making their own living, and that's another vote lost for the Obama administration. 20 years from now you will learn that the entire financial collapse of this country was orchestrated to put mass decimation on business and personal wealth . That's the most efficient, immediate way to make the masses dependent to at least some degree on the government. In case you think this is that far fetched. Do some research... The mortgage industry problems began with the Clinton administration, and these wheels were put into motion intentionally years ago.

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Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.

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