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The Hi-Tech Hiring Circus | Rob Gilmark

The Hi-Tech Hiring Circus

Written by Topic: Hiring Circus

The Truth About Hi-Tech Resumes and Interviews

One of the funniest parts of high-tech industry is its hiring procedure. The main components are the so-called professional resumes and interviews. Apparently, companies aim for hiring the best experts to enhance business, while individuals aim for best balance of salary and security. The huge number of resumes poses a formidable challenge for both parties. When those fortunate enough to get noticed and those fortunate enough to find someone who fits business needs sit down for interviews, sometimes a connection is made, and the lucky ones get hired for better or for worse.

While things may look logical and well-organized, there are a few little problems to consider: a) 80% of resumes are either outright lies or wild exaggeration; b) 80% of hiring managers are simply not qualified for the task of hiring, particularly in the areas of skill and personal evaluations; c) 90% of hiring managers prefer a candidate who is “comfortable to work with” over an expert in the field (whom they can’t recognize anyway). Qualified candidates must actually dumb down their responses to make sure the manager in no way feels threatened.

The math here is simple: there are four “digital” types of manager-candidate combinations in “professional” interviews. Their distribution is as follows:

  • A. A competent manager interviews a weak candidate – 10%
  • B. An incompetent manager interviews a strong candidate – 20%
  • C. A competent manager interviews a strong candidate – 2%
  • D. An incompetent manager interviews a weak candidate – 68%

These statistics may not be perfectly accurate, of course, but they are far more accurate than most exaggerations found in both resumes and executive biographies, and those experienced in either seat can attest to their reality. Let’s take a closer look at the subject.

I believe there are a few capable professionals in each field, but everybody needs a job, right? A paper tolerates whatever is written or typed upon it, doesn’t it? Given this combination, crowds of far less capable or—more often—fully incapable individuals write resumes describing competent, experienced, energetic professionals (easy-going too, of course) and put their own names at the top. The fact that they are poorly educated, slow-thinking, hopelessly untalented, and lazy will not show unless they are in fact so lazy that they have blatant chronological inconsistencies or grievous grammar mistakes. The last point does in fact eliminate quite a few impostors and, unfortunately, some talented individuals, however entrepreneurs have wasted no time in this regard and a booming industry of resume consultants has spawned. There’s an army of “professionals” who can spin any resume into a winner. Unfortunately, these consultants, like those who hire them, have only one thing in mind: the position. Truth, talent, and productivity have no role in the process.

With enough experience, one can decipher the cryptic language of a resume. Below are some of the typical resume fragments along with appropriate translations.

Resume Translation Table

Resume Phrase True Meaning
Looking for a challenging senior level position. In a challenging search for the position offering the highest pay for the least amount of work.
Experienced senior process/product engineer Knows how to push a few buttons on a specific machine and can take a few high-school level measurements and can (usually) follow the data analysis instructions out of a manual or get an intern to do it.
Strong background in XYZ field. Capable of using Google and memorizing a few key terms and facts about the XYZ field.
Proficient in statistical data analysis (SPC) and design of experiment (DOE)* Knows how to find the mean and sigma in Excel and can summarize disorganized trials with pretty charts on a PowerPoint presentations. Cannot design a statistically justified sequence even if own life or money depends on it.
Designed ZYX device or product. Copied the product from a book, article, or previous report. If candidate brings a portfolio, the candidate has expertise in selling other people’s ideas [as their own] and should be considered for as a sales engineering position.
Developed a new method of YZX Copied the method from an article, often without a clear understanding of either the method or its relevancy. If candidate can explain the process somewhat coherently, consider for a sales engineering management position.
Significantly improved yield (or quality or throughput) Was present when company upgraded equipment.
MS in ZZZ Science from YYY University May be as capable as a European BA program graduate.
Proficient in Word. If prominent, translates: “I am completely incompetent.” If minor, translates: “You, your HR filters and staff are completely incompetent.”
Familiar with ATLAS, CAD, DB, etc. Shows off knowledge of acronyms to cover up for incompetency.
Hard-working, dedicated, energetic, easy-going, friendly, etc If self-describing adjectives account for over 5% of the resume: lazy, non-motivated, slow, and hated by fellow peers. Has to use self-describing adjectives to make up for lack of relevant experience. If you see a solid resume with a few of these terms thrown in, the candidate probably considers the hiring manager lazy, non-motivated, slow, and incompetent.

* DOE requires conducting trials in a certain statistically justified sequence.

The strange thing about this high-tech hiring circus is that employers force you to lie on your resume and lies on resumes force employers to filter out honest and qualified professionals. High ranking “hiring authorities” (formally trained but completely ignorant HR representatives and like-minded hiring managers) look for a specific skill-set, one which they feel their company most needs. This typically means 3-5 years of experience in pushing certain buttons on a certain piece of equipment or running a certain piece of software and reporting an outcome with little idea of what it actually means, if any idea at all. Minor things like intelligence, learning ability, logical reasoning, broad education, and creativity are not completely ignored: if they threaten a the hiring manager’s authority they are negative, otherwise they just have the lowest priority in the process.

Sunday, 2:45am: After a particularly bad few hours of first-person shooter games, a candidate chooses three random details to place on his resume from a list one of his brighter buddies suggested. “Hmm. 1909′s a cool number. I hope it really does go with this ZYZ machine, well I guess it does since my buddy said so. I’ll go ahead an add it right there.”
Tuesday, 11:15am: “Look! He used the 1909 version of the ZYZ-AAA tool! This is exactly what we need. Call him now! Hopefully he hasn’t already committed to some other place.”

Amazingly, most of the hiring managers and HR people are sincerely unaware (or pretend to be unaware just to avoid unnecessary competition) of the concept of the human capability. They refuse to admit the fact that most of their “highly sophisticated” technologies, products, and procedures can be learned and put to work by a capable individual within 2-3 weeks, with a much more substantial contribution to their businesses afterward. They don’t believe it because most of them are not of that type people. They would rather hire someone who will stay around and not cause any trouble. They can’t help it, it’s not that they don’t want to hire a “smart” one (competition), it’s because Company Policy demands it. (And guess who put together that policy?)

So they diligently and insistently look for a Mr. (or Ms.) Right, meaning the person whose professional resume (PR) is identical to the job description (JD). Capable individuals and “quick learners” better learn to adjust their resumes. Honest individuals better look for other professions or try to predict the skills for a specific company. Mr. Rights only! First selection rule: PR=JD. Period.

Now, let’s take a look at crown jewel of the hiring process, the glorious show of selecting Mr. Right and filtering out Mr. Wrong: the interview. As the statistics above show, despite resume and phone interview pre-screens, the majority of candidates are weak and irrelevant and the majority of hiring managers are incapable and incompetent. It is almost as if the entire conversation is scripted, and below is a typical example, with translations.

Hiring Interview Translation Guide

Manager: True Meaning Candidate: True Meaning
How do you like it here? None. (This is fluff.) I like it very much. None. (Only especially “talented” candidates can mess this one up.)
Tell me about your experience in XYZ. This makes it seem like I know something. Maybe I can learn something too. I’ve accomplished a lot in that area. John, my coworker, did it.
Can you describe a specific project? I have to ask this. [Cloudy Description] Vague recall of John’s last presentation.
What’s your approach to work? I like the way he looks at me. Seems like a winner. Independent, aggressive, and goal-oriented. I love you interview prep book! That top three adjectives activity sure came in handy! (Actually: refuses to ask for help until last minute, aggressively dumps projects on others, and is very oriented on presenting useless reports.)
How do you work in a team? Will he follow my instructions? Will he cause trouble? I’m a people-person: friendly, supportive, and a team player. I love you interview prep book! (Actually: I delegate out all responsibility, blame all failure on others, and use all results to promote myself.)
What are your strengths? This is in the manual. I’m hard-working, knowledgeable, dedicated, and easy-going. Interview prep book to the rescue again! (Actually: lazy, clueless, fickle, and payroll-oriented.)
What are your weaknesses? This is in the manual. Well, sometimes I may be a little too fast in fixing a problem. Thank you again resume prep book! (Actually: hasn’t fixed anything significant, nor had the concern or ability to fix anything. Ever.)
What are your salary expectations? He seems easy to work with. Hopefully, I can afford him. I am passionate about this work but I expect a fair offer. I’m expecting at least 15% more than the previous idiots paid me.
Thank you very much. We’ll be in touch. I like him. He shouldn’t cause trouble. Thank you! It was nice talking with you. Hope salary will be OK.

As you may have guessed, the candidate in question has a good chance of being hired. And others like him are indeed hired, every day, everywhere, in large numbers. Of course the real procedure is a little more complicated and “insightful”, but the general pattern is still there. And so… most resumes are lies and incompetent managers hire incapable employees.

Here’s a question: with all these problems, how come US high-tech is still the strongest and most advanced in the world?

Well, is it?

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