The gist: There appears to be an issue with employers over-specifying the properties required of applicants for job openings.
I am not sure if the article is wholly accurate, and if so, to what degree existing Tech-related or Non-tech-related concerns are guilty of this charge, but I can vouch that the concern is real.
Moreover, I will use my podium to take Loukides' assertion two steps farther:
- Most companies over-specify jobs because they want to hire tallent, sometimes from somewhere else, attempting to avoid the perceived drag of inexperience from a new hire
- Over-specification has a long-term negative effect on the tallent pool by building silos
Shooting the Moon
H.R. reps, by and large, are not so good at selecting or pre-selecting candidates for positions if they don't fully understand what the hiring manager really needs.
My uncle graduated with a degree in HR, worked in a major tech firm in the HR department for many years, and has since left to be an officer in the family business. He was the first to inform me that many HR reps feel it's their job to find the right person for the position, when in fact their job should be limited to ensuring that good applicants don't get missed, and/or that the hiring managers not make costly mistakes. The problem of over-specification of a job opening, then, can arrise with '... the Pointy-Haired Boss,' when she/he doesn't want to spend resources [that they may or may not have] on training someone -- or at least seeing that they have a handle -- on the specific problem to be solved. Instead, they write up a new job description, and hand if off to the Human Resources group for fulfillment.
I have seen this happen a few times, where the process can only seem as if a manager feels their organization deserves the tallent they are hunting, or as near an analog as their brand may attract. It has been explained to me that they are '... Shooting the Moon,' and seeing if even a little lunar regolith will grace the applicant pool... after all, aren't there 1 Million worthy candidates out there, already? Why should anyone have to handle (the thinking continued) the crush of replies to a job posting for a good programmer which would have to train up a bit before being let loose on the issue while earning a salary?
So, instead, the manager feels comfortable to post an add specifically describing a friend they already know, who works in that OTHER successful company. The description enumerates their friend's exact duties (which, the manager may not realize, are most likely NOT the ones for which her/his friend was already hired). And, the manager hopes, if the perfect analog tho their friend should apply, H.R. won't miss the resume.
The real downside here is that, in each case, the hiring manager usually
- never gets exactly what they were looking for:
- blames H.R. for the resulting lack in their productivity/ability to reach some goal
- missed out on at least a few people who, in retrospect, would have been a perfect fit for the position
Usually, the manager would forget the forces exerting pressure on their team, resulting in shifting goals and dynamics, along with shifting job titles and responsibilities. Hiring someone that they, and their team, can work with in the long term never seems to be as important as trying to fix something broken at that moment.
That's why my resume is not particularly good or focused on some skill set: I want to be handing a resume over AFTER I have met them, so they have more to talk and think about before our next meeting, instead of my attempting to fit myself into some arbitrary and ephemeral box. Chances are that the manager who hires me will see my skills for what they are, and can be... not necessarily what they want to see at that moment.
Which brings me to my second point:
If the job description is so targeted (and sometimes unreasonable), does the application pool fail if no one submits a perfect resume? In the real world, probably not. Close-enough will do, by-and-large. This is most likely why most online job postings have at least 5 bullet points each for the sections on Experience and Responsibilities*.
Either way, the 5+ bullet points are a scoring mechanism to add some arbitrary level of comparison of applicants**.
By releasing these strong job descriptions, in-transition professionals (such as myself, at the moment) may be forced to assume their only chance at being hired on to any organization is through possession of the exact skill set and experience listed for some job. This leads to professionals working harder to build up their '...credz,' in a given discipline, or to abandoning hope altogether and instead going out to play some Ultimate.
By constantly working towards a job title, the professional eventually builds a skill set that may only be marketable to one or two organizations. By the time they are ready (in the case of the Tech industry, around 5 years) the need for those skills has been satiated or depleted. A good example are people who worked very hard to become versant in repairing radio electronics by hand in 1996, which turned out BIG mistake, from the future-marketable-skills perspective. Instead of looking for the next brace of technologies that would bring increasing job opportunities, I was repairing equipment that would probably not be in service 5 years later. It took me another eight years of hard work just to 'come even.'
The idea, of course, is that a good professional will always be able to see the new trends while they are hired in the industry, so that when the time comes, they will either be ready with required skills for the next '... Generation[al Fad],' of jobs, or that they will at least have the contacts established, and therefore able to find new employment.
Unfortunately, I have some friends who are otherwise well qualified to handle just about any programming job, but have struggled to find work, for lack of publishable skills matching to the needs of the job postings. One has told me this is because their previous employment required so much of their time that they didn't have any resources left to network or train up properly. Again, with the '... Pointy-Haired Boss' argument, from the perspective of the 'victim,' but I do believe there a seed of truth in their argument: silos happen before and after the hire.
* Try counting how many experience-required bullets each job posted on one organization's website has. Notice that it's the same number each time?
**The fact is, by the time a job is posted on-line, either/or:
- the hiring manager has probably exhausted all possible leads from internal contacts
- the job description is likely for a number of positions (i.e. '... generic')
- the H.R. Department might just be following some internal protocol intended to gain more applicant submissions
So, What to do?
I have a few suggestions:
Future Employees, You need:
a) Luck (We all have it, just not always at the right moment...)
b) Networking Skills
c) A worthy display of passion for something that may not endear you to the next employer, but does display an ability to do great things
The right manager will come along, as long as you are 'out there.' In the Tech industry, we programmers tend get noticed when we have our signature on a project or software release, but that's not a good answer to the problem, either.
When I was hiring people for my teams, the I found those who proved to be the most awe-inspiring, innovative, hard-working employees were referrals. Resumes were submitted, and I admit that I missed some good opportunities by relying on paper. Referrals, on the other hand, came from friends in my hobby, professional and service group circles, and then from my own employees. Likewise, for almost all of my friends, I have watched their progress to being hired into some amazig jobs through the simplest connections. With sports (e.g. Ultimate Frisbee) and other Endeavors of Entusiasm, the silo walls tend to come a-crashin' down.
a) Consider what it would be like to throw the resume'd application system out of the window.
b) H.R., by it's nature, is not set up to find you the one person who will be the perfect fit for your team [trust me, here]: it's up to you, in the end. Solely relying on resume metrics to distill your applicant pool can run a serious risk of loosing that applicant you are really looking for (see 'a').
c) If you haven't found someone within your pool of local contacts, try expanding the circles... or [to be kind] if you are already working too hard to build a pool of candidates already, hire the head-hunter that can tap into, and build those social circles. Either way,
d) Try to use H.R. in the manner which they were intended: to disallow you from making bad mistakes. e) Resumes should be seen as a conversation starter, not as the main course! Otherwise, we all loose out on the chance to find, foster, and lead great tallent down the road.
In short: Perhaps it's time to play some more Ultimate Frisbee!
My real point: Emphasizing relationships and trainability (two metrics NOT easily evaluated from a flat resume), a hiring ecosystem can be developed where the barriers of generic, compartmentalized, silo'd, measurable organizational charts can be broken, and everyone has a better chance at a fair shake.