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Labor Shortage

 
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The latest from the Wall Street Journal...

"No one I know who has looked at the data with an open mind has been able to find any sign of a current shortage," says demographer Michael Teitelbaum of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

At a forum on innovation and education held at the Library of Congress last April, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said, "There just aren't as many graduates with a computer-science background. (That) creates a dilemma for us, in terms of how we get our work done."

Which of these two guys is more likely to be playing golf in Edinburg, Scotland?
[ February 11, 2006: Message edited by: Homer Phillips ]
 
Homer Phillips
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I found this article after listening to www.onpoint.org

Radio Program Here

The chairman of Intel says he's having trouble finding people too. At one point the Intel guy suggests to the caller that he send him his resume.
 
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There are not enough deeply discounted labors (skilled and unskilled) in US as well as deeply discounted managers, executives, and politicians...
 
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There is never enough labor for employers, since the more people looking for a job means the less they have to pay for that one person!
 
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The disconnect is in terms of employable people. I see no shortage of potential employees. I do see a lack of employable candidates. Many are mediocre at best and some I wonder how they could ever find a job.

--Mark
 
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Originally posted by Branko Santo:
There is never enough labor for employers, since the more people looking for a job means the less they have to pay for that one person!



This argument assumes that people are interchangeable. And if you are developing code, that is not critical, and will be replaced in a year, then it would probably be true. Unfortunately, this is not true for most cases.

Henry
 
Homer Phillips
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Some elite companies have an even higher applicants-to-jobs ratio. Microsoft received resumes from about 100,000 graduating students last year, screened 15,000 of them, interviewed 3,500 and hired 1,000, says a spokesman. The software maker receives about 60,000 resumes of every kind monthly, and currently has 2,000 openings for software-development jobs.


One in a thousand is employable.

IIRC, profit margins are very tight at M$.

I guess screening is a peliminary fact checking?

This argument assumes that people are interchangeable.



The law / relationship of supply and demand seems so primative and fundamental to me. When hike time comes around, there seems to be little difference in what the median technicians raise is. Then there's the management adage that No one is irreplaceable.

Origianlly posted by George W. Bush @ www.whitehouse.gov

Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science, bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms, and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs. If we ensure that America's children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world. (Applause.)



IMO, this impies that there is a shortage of people who failed to master high school M&S. Let me guess Mark, you need exactly the same guy that M$ needs. The other 999 are no good.

I'll bet m$ finds very few of the other 60,000 CVs it gets a month even worth considering.
[ February 12, 2006: Message edited by: Homer Phillips ]
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Homer Phillips:
Let me guess Mark, you need exactly the same guy that M$ needs. The other 999 are no good.



I'd say maybe 1 in 20 are employable, meaning 19 out of every 20 resumes I get I wouldn't hire. (I should do count more formally next time.) of course, that 1 out of 20, while someone I would be willing to hire, might not be someone I would hire for that role; i..e. the person may be smart a capable, but underqualified, overqualified, different skill set for the particular opening, etc. I probably hire maybe 1 out of 50 or so.

Yes, I only hire top candidates and I am proud to say I do so. I am happy to pass over the sea of mediocrity. If you find youself getting placed in that sea, work to improve your presentation to these companies when you apply to jobs.

--Mark
[ February 13, 2006: Message edited by: Mark Herschberg ]
 
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Those numbers sound completely reasonable. I've seen the same thing wading through the "monster.com" resumes that get dumped on the desk. You count yourself lucky if 10% of them would tempt you to do a phone screen, only a few percent seem like really strong candidates and the rest you hold on to in case the initial phone screens don't pan out.

Definitely nothing to apologize for in trying to hire the best candidates. Nothing stops a company from choosing to work with interns or hire a certain fraction of "junior" staff who will be assigned work of an appropriate complexity for them, but if you aren't trying to fill junior slots then you should hunt for the best you can get. Anybody who doesn't do that isn't fulfilling their responsibility to their employer or their co-workers. Besides, if you don't think much of somebody during an interview where you've only had to deal with them for a 1/2 hour, how are you going to stand them having to work with them every day? An offer of employment is a business decision, not a charitable donation.
[ February 13, 2006: Message edited by: Reid M. Pinchback ]
 
Henry Wong
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To be fair... and to counter the hiring managers on this thread...

The ratio of highly skilled to mediocre is not that bad. The problem is that highly skilled people are sought after. Their resumes don't get put on monster.com -- at least, not publically.

Henry
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Henry Wong:
[QB]To be fair... and to counter the hiring managers on this thread...

The ratio of highly skilled to mediocre is not that bad.




Do you have any evidence to back this up? Otherwise this is just conjecture.

--Mark
 
Henry Wong
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Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:

Do you have any evidence to back this up? Otherwise this is just conjecture.

--Mark



Good point... I can't back it up. All the evidence that I have are from my little circle of friends.

Henry
 
Reid M. Pinchback
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As a point of counter-evidence, further back when I got resumes dumped on me from personnel because they'd received them in the mail in response to a newspaper add, the percentage of viable candidates didn't seem dramatically different. It cut out a bit of the more absurd noise you get from monster.com, but the absurd resumes get tossed out with a 5-second-or-less glance anyways. The only time I really noticed an improvement was prior to the full internet+dot-bomb explosion when jobs were posted on usenet newsgroups like "ne.jobs"; the market for those postings was more targetted, so the signal to noise ratio was better.
 
Reid M. Pinchback
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Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
the person may be smart a capable, but ..., overqualified, ...



One thing to note; not hiring somebody because they have more skills or experience than you were looking for may not be legally defensible, and definitely contradicts equal opportunity practices, if you are in an organization that cares about such things. It tends to smack of ageism in disguise, even if that wasn't the tenor of the original decision. It is also potentially the loss of a good candidate. I've known people to have very good personal reasons why they've shifted from the higher-stress jobs that tended to go with those qualifications. An employer isn't responsible for making or agreeing with the life-changing decisions of individuals, just making sure the individual is very clear about the nature of the job they are applying for.
 
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Homer Phillips
.....
Microsoft received resumes from about 100,000 graduating students last year, screened 15,000 of them, interviewed 3,500 and hired 1,000,
....
One in a thousand is employable.



I am just wondering that wouldn�t hiring 1,000 out of 100,000 applicants makes 'One in every hundred is employable'? At least one in hundred sounds more realistic than one in thousand.
 
Gagan Indus
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Plus, if they were able to screen only 15,000 and hire 1,000, then it probably infers that 'One in every 15 is employable', which sounds like a normal ratio, just like any other company.
 
Gagan Indus
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Plus, if they were able to screen only 15,000 and hire 1,000, then it probably infers that 'One in every 15 is employable', which sounds like a normal ratio, just like any other company.
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Henry Wong:

Good point... I can't back it up. All the evidence that I have are from my little circle of friends.



I hope you didn't take it personally Henry, I'm very strict about making sure personal speculation isn't touted as "fact"... especially in cases like this where I have some data from the field.

In Peopleware the authors reference their Coding Games experiments (p. 44-50). The have run it with over 300 organizations in 92 countries. there data below is from 1984-1986 and involved over 600 programmers. He are some key findings...

- best to worst 10:1 ratio
- best to average 2.5:1 ratio
- better half to worse half 2:1 ratio
- above ratios apply to any metric: time, defects, etc
- no correlation to success from any of the following factors below
- language: no effect (except for assembly)
- experience: no effect, e.g. 10 vs 2 years (except under 6 months experience with the language used)
- defects: people with zero defects paid no performance penalty (in fact, took slightly less time then people with defects)
- salary: very low correlation

The graph they have, which the claim is the same for all metrics measures is roghly bell curve shaped, except there's a long tail on the low end and a sharp decline (no real tail) on the high end. The median is a little worse (towards the low end) than the peak.

--Mark
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Reid M. Pinchback:


One thing to note; not hiring somebody because they have more skills or experience than you were looking for may not be legally defensible, and definitely contradicts equal opportunity practices



I have been lead to believe that this is not the case. For example, someone once told me (and I've heard independent confirmation from someone in the field) that bus dirver applicants can be rejected for having a high IQ. The theory being that very smart people would get bored on the job and be a danger on the road.

More generally, it is defensible in that there can be concern about the overqualified candidate not likely to stay in the job. Understand I'm not talking about rejecting someone with 8-10 years of experience for a role that requires 2-5, but someone who is just way overqualified that you think they will soon get bored and leave in 6 months, e.g. are taking the job just because the market is down at the moment, bt will get a better job the instant the can find one.

--Mark
 
Henry Wong
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Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:

I hope you didn't take it personally Henry, I'm very strict about making sure personal speculation isn't touted as "fact"... especially in cases like this where I have some data from the field.



Mark,

I didn't take it personally.... ... Opps I mean....

Seriously, I wasn't trying to argue against the original point. In fact, I agree with much of it. I definitely ran into enough mediocre technical people to know that the signal to noise ratio is not that high. I was just trying to throw in another data point -- however small.

Maybe it is due to professional networking, or maybe I have a habit of recommending people that I have technical respect for -- almost to the point of cronyism... From my point of view, I can clearly state that I do not know anyone (in my circle) who went on a "cold" job interview in the last 10 years.

Henry
 
Henry Wong
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Mark,

BTW... Did someone really have to run a survey in 92 countries, to figure out this statistic?

- better half to worse half 2:1 ratio



Is there a case, where this is not true? ...

Henry
 
Reid M. Pinchback
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Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
but someone who is just way overqualified that you think they will soon get bored and leave in 6 months, e.g. are taking the job just because the market is down at the moment, bt will get a better job the instant the can find one.



Not hiring a *particular* candidate because you've been given reason to think they are going to job hop makes sense, but consistently rejecting applicants from a category labelled "way overqualified" as candidates worth considering simply because you've adopted a habitual reaction of discounting such people without talking to them about the issue is very clearly discriminatory.

Rationalizations about why somebody can get away with a behaviour doesn't stop it from being discriminatory; finding rationalizations for discrimination is pretty much the normal human condition, alas. Pre-filtering candidates on what are essentially demographic factors is a discriminatory practice pretty much by definition. If you think you are justified in this position I'd suggest discussing it with your H/R department; at least for organizations large enough to have a real H/R department, I suspect you won't get as sympathetic an ear to your position as you clearly currently expect.

I've seen multiple situations where this kind of filter would have eliminated extremely good hires. As a particular example, I know of a town that hired a manager who, from the resume alone, would have been considered massively overqualified. He was a senior executive from a large insurance firm, and had been for probably twenty years. However, he didn't want to keep doing the same thing any more. For years he'd also trained and worked as an EMT and the town job allowed him to focus more of his attention on that, have a shorter commute, and probably have more of a life outside of work than his previous job. He has been in that new position for at least a couple of years, is well regarded, and there is no sign that he's ever even thought about job hopping... in spite of the fact that in his previous job he was probably responsible for more people and a larger budget than those of the entire town.

Individuals like forming opinions, we do it as easily as breathing. Sometimes we just need to limit how readily we apply that habit to the hiring process. An individual can form any opinion they want, but it doesn't mean that an employer should always assume the broad perogatives that individuals assume for themselves. Individuals don't have to bother investigating the specifics before forming an opinion, but an employer should try to rise to a higher standard of practice before taking (or refraining from) a specific action.
[ February 15, 2006: Message edited by: Reid M. Pinchback ]
 
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Reid,

I'm getting rather annoyed at your implications. You know what, I've rejected African American candidates, too, want to tell me that I'm racist? (I know they were African American, because I could see their skin color when they came in for the interview.) I'll bet I've rejected some without an interview. Oohh, I know I've rejected Jewish candidates from a resume alone--since I could see their name--I guess I better check with HR about being antisemetic.

Please don't second guess my decisions. I you think I've done something inappropriate, contact EEOC. Otherwise, I encourage you to drop it, or at the very least open a thread talking about this issue in general, and not as a comment on my hiring practices.

--Mark
 
Reid M. Pinchback
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The intent wasn't to identify you personally; profuse apologies if you interpreted it that way. Unlike English usage from 50 years ago, we don't tend to use phrases "when one does X" any more, which makes the intended context for the discussion more obvious, although the wording these days sounds tediously artificial. The point of suggesting talking to H/R was that it just may be an easy opportunity to get the viewpoint of a professional of that field; unlikely of us here can truly claim to be a somebody with an H/R career path.

My point was that in fact you see people in organizations really do use the notion of overqualification as a basis for disqualification, i.e. for not interviewing and not hiring, and describe it and justify it using exactly the same rationale you yourself provided. I've sat in meetings and heard it myself, more than once. I've also talked to H/R professionals about this specific issue, and was simply trying to communicate what I was told from more than one such source. From those interactions it seems clear it is generally considered in that field that overqualification bias as a hiring behaviour at the very least is sub-optimal, in spirit of US legislation and H/R practice undesirable, and in litigation potentially difficult to support.

If you don't feel your particular circumstances don't fit into that description, there is no reason why that information should apply to you. Just view it as information exchanged in a thread just as people do for many topics in forums throughout JavaRanch. I will say, however, as a bartender of the forum the extremity of your reaction is surprising and doesn't seem particularly in sync with the stated policies and attitudes of this site.
[ February 15, 2006: Message edited by: Reid M. Pinchback ]
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Reid M. Pinchback:
The intent wasn't to identify you personally; profuse apologies if you interpreted it that way.

If you don't feel your particular circumstances don't fit into that description, there is no reason why that information should apply to you.



The use of the term "you" right after you quoted me seemed to suggest it was a personal response to my actions/decisions/comments. As you know we encourage a debate of ideas here, but not personal attacks. Your comments ("you've adopted a habitual reaction of discounting such people without talking to them about the issue is very clearly discriminatory") were, by the language, implying something about my person, specially, you were stating that I was discriminate. Perhaps, as you noted, this was not your intention, but again, the use of the second person in those comments right after you quoted me seemed to address those comments to me, and that type of comment direct at another member of the community is not appropriate at JavaRanch.

--Mark
 
Homer Phillips
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Originally posted by Gagan Indus

One in every hundred is employable

You are correct sir. I do have my math off. IMO even at .01 vs .001 these companies do not employ any hiring methodology that can distinguish between candidate 99 | 100 with the sort of confidence they insinuate that they have.

In Peopleware the authors reference their Coding Games experiments (p. 44-50).

Is this some sort of standardized test you reference?
Is the test administered?
a candidate to human data collector
b candidate to computer interface

I have been lead to believe that this is not the case.


IMO hiring bus drivers and hiring technologists are entirely different events. An absent minded professor does not make a good bus driver. But an absent minded professor that even fell asleep after lunch could be a very valuable software developer.

More generally, it is defensible in that there can be concern about the overqualified candidate not likely to stay in the job.


You base this statement on what evidence Mr. Herschberg? Are you talking about a candidate hired as a contractor or as a direct employee?
 
Homer Phillips
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In Peopleware the authors reference their Coding Games experiments (p. 44-50). The have run it with over 300 organizations in 92 countries. there data below is from 1984-1986 and involved over 600 programmers. He are some key findings...


Your presentation here is based on a standardized test. I find the results you are touting to be all reasonable, even positive. I fail to see how the Pepopleware authors work differes from a certification process.

1) On one hand you find a certification process as of negligible value. On the other hand you are touting the results of the Peopleware authors process as highly credible.

More generally, it is defensible in that there can be concern about the overqualified candidate not likely to stay in the job.


Can you defend this by common law, by common sense or by the emancipation proclamation? NO, this rationalization is arbirary and capricious and you are quilty of acting in desregard of the best interests of society or your employer.

Monkey see, monkey do monkey business.
 
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Mark Spritzler said:
More generally, it is defensible in that there can be concern about the overqualified candidate not likely to stay in the job.

To which Homer Phillips replied:
Can you defend this by common law, by common sense or by the emancipation proclamation? NO, this rationalization is arbirary and capricious and you are quilty of acting in desregard of the best interests of society or your employer.



Common sense indeed suggests it, and experience -of a number of people, to say the least- backs it up. I would love to know what you take to be the best interests of society (which seems to be a topic of much discussion and little common ground) and the employer (which will vary enormously between them).
[ February 18, 2006: Message edited by: Ulf Dittmer ]
 
Homer Phillips
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Common sense indeed suggests it, and experience -of a number of people, to say the least- backs it up.


That's but half the story. The opportunity cost of hiring the older worker is that you did not hire the new college grad or the 3-5 year persons.

Empirical evindence, and common sense, indicates that both of these workers are likely to jump ship for more money too. Because these younger workers are more more sought after and likely more mobile, their probability to leave may well be higher.

It's arbitrary and caprious unless you have evidence to support the hypothesis.
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Homer Phillips:

Your presentation here is based on a standardized test. I find the results you are touting to be all reasonable, even positive. I fail to see how the Pepopleware authors work differes from a certification process.

On one hand you find a certification process as of negligible value. On the other hand you are touting the results of the Peopleware authors process as highly credible.



You logic is misapplied. I have no problems with standardized tests in general. I like the SATs, for example, for what they test. But that does not mean any standardized test can be used for any purpose. I can create a test for math ability and claim it demonstrates programming ability, but in reality it probably wouldn't be a good indicator. Likewise, I think the SCJP is a great test for demonstrating the baility to remember lots of Java facts. I think the has little correlation (not zero, but little) to programming ability. Hence I think the authors of the SCJP try try attribute too much to that test. I do believe the Coding Wars test is an accurate measure of relative ability across a large sample.

--Mark
 
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