Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Employment Disparities Piss Me Off
Business Week reported last week that there are currently 3 million available jobs in the U.S., and not all of them are cruddy. There are jobs open in healthcare, construction, finance (grinds teeth), and these positions are open all over the country.
Why then, is the unemployment rate so high? In California it's about 12% - more than double what it should be in a healthy economy. It seems logical that jobs and people would be able to find each other more easily, especially given how easily information can travel over the internet. The companies interviewed in the article complain about a lack of qualified workers, which I think is rubbish. The workers are there - you just can't see them.
I fix a lot of blame on human resources departments - I think they are largely staffed by morons who cannot distinguish between a horrible candidate and a great one. They also must work within arbitrary confines that dictate, for instance, that they cannot hire someone with 4 years and 11 months of experience in a field, and must hold out for someone with 5 years of experience.
Another problem is the resume system - a human being and their accomplishments, strengths, and weaknesses cannot possibly be summed up on a sheet of paper. Given all the advances made in psychology, organizational behavior, and genetics, can't we invent a better system for summarizing people than a pre-formatted fluff piece littered with buzz words?
And the whole job interview system that stems from pre-fab resumes is basically a mating dance, where the interviewer asks a canned question (Tell me about a time you experienced conflict) and expects a canned answer in the proper format (Situation or Task, Action you took, Results you achieved). We don't reduce dating to acronyms and action verbs, so why would we reduce the job search to such an ill-fitting format?
Here's my suggestion for how to deal with both unemployment and a perceived lack of qualified workers: instead of screening job applicants for relevant experience, why not administer a basic skills and intelligence test? Those who pass are obviously capable of learning new skills. Then take those applicants and train them to do jobs you need filled. This would work perfectly for a job like a lab technician. I have never read pap smear results, but I certainly think I could do it if I had the training. In exchange for a month or so of training, my employer could make me sign a 2 year contract (ensuring their training money wasn't wasted). Everyone wins in this scenario: the hospital gets a body to do a job that needs to be done, and I get a guaranteed job for 2 years, plus a valuable new skill.
It seems so obvious to me...I don't know why companies aren't doing this.