WorkI’ve been in a conundrum for several months now. Most of you know I left my “day job” of twenty-three years to pursue writing full-time, not because I was already making enough money from sales to live but rather because the hours of marketing and branding and promoting and responding and making book covers and blogging and doing the other dozen things an independent writers (and traditionally published) authors do was demanding all my time and I didn’t want to let the previous year’s hard work fizzle.

CorporateOne of the things I never considered was that I’d be sitting here, over twenty years of exemplary fitness reports, experienced in more technologies than the average potato farmer, having a difficult time even garnering an interview. In speaking with all the recruiters, hiring managers, and other peripheral people, and listening to the stories they tell me (and also reading between the lines, where the real scoop is at), I’ve learned some saddening facts about Corporate America.

Rather I should say I have learned some and verified others. I used to be on the “other side” of these situations. I’ve interviewed and hired well over several dozen people in my time and I have seen the ridiculousness that is “the American Corporate Hiring Process”. (I’ve literally pulled a resumé from a trash can in the HR office and asked a hiring representative what it was doing there. After being told the candidate didn’t match the job requisition, I scanned the resumé and told the hiring person (full well meaning it), “There’s a very good chance I am going to hire this person.”

ctrl-fSome recruiters call it the “Control-F Problem”. Control-F refers to the Windows keyboard command for “Find” in a document. More than several recruiters have told me they themselves do not ever talk with anyone that has anything to do with the actual position being hired but rather, once they find an excellent candidate, they must send the resumé to the HR department, where most employees scan documents with Control-F looking for key word matches in the job requisition.

So if the job requisition calls for “Experience farming potatoes” and your resumé explains in great detail how you “raised potato crops”, and quite successfully, you’ll stand a very good chance of having your resumé dumped in the circular file because you lack “farming experience”.

ArrogantThere is another phenomenon (and I have witnessed it within my own company) I call “Arrogance Hiring”. This is when a person with veto authority in the hiring process eliminates candidates that they perceive as having superior skills than they and thus might make them look less valuable to the company. (It’s a first cousin to the government’s policy of promoting failure to move it away from your area.)

I’ve been looking hard for a couple of months, and very recently a company expressed interest in me. Let’s say the job in question was (you guessed it) Potato Farmer. I’ve been farming potatoes for over twenty three years. Not only that, but the specific brand of potatoes (and in the same climate, soil, and conditions) as the hiring company. The strange/ironic thing is, they also (in CAPITAL LETTERS at the end of the document) had to have a Potato Farmer with extensive experience baking chocolate chip cookies with a very specific maker of chips.

chocolate_chip-cookies_1As it happened, the past three years, in addition to being a Potato Farmer (and being named Potato Farmer of the Year), I also just coincidentally had spent three years also baking chocolate chip cookies with the exact same brand.

Wow. Could there be a better match? You have to understand that experienced Potato Farmers almost NEVER bake chocolate chip cookies, much less with the same brand of chips that I did (and the company had to have). Let’s call it an industry nuance.

In the first serious telephone interview with the company’s head recruiter, she’d been given a list of technical question to screen candidates. I could tell the questions had been chosen by very junior Potato Farmers (which was confirmed in my second interview with the Head of Operations, who told me they had no Senior Potato Farmers and needed to hire several). I also noticed from the questions they were also in dire need of a Potato Analyst, a very different job than Potato Farmer but one with which I had solid experience (when the government funds Potato Operations, you are always expected to do a lot more, a lot faster, with a lot less. Remember the line from the movie Armageddon? “You realize we’re sitting on 45,000 pounds of fuel, one nuclear warhead and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder?”).

In the first interview, however, the first potential snag: it came to light that the company could only pay the going rate of a low-to-mid-range Farmer. Just slightly over half my salary at the last farm and quite a bit lower than the established going rate well-documented in the industry.

As I had told other recruiters, I said it wasn’t a big issue for me. I would be combining this salary with my writing salary and could be very flexible for the right job (and this particular job seemed written for me).

In my second phone interview (the one with the Head of Operations) I learned that she had just been put in charge of Potato Security as well and she couldn’t believe that I had added Potato Security to my repertoire over ten years ago.

So let’s summarize:

2824589-13260-gamesrocks-supermanThe job listing is Senior Potato Farmer.

They also need an experienced chocolate chip cookie maker, which I am (and it’s well-documented).

They clearly also need a Potato Analyst, which you’ll find very few hybrid Farmers who are one, but I am (having answered all the Analyst questions correctly, even).

They also need Potato Security, of which I am a near expert.

They are paying 20% less than the going rate for JUST a Potato Farmer, about 60% of what I was making at the previous farm.

So they are getting essentially FOUR extremely experienced jobs filled with one person willing to accept a low-ball salary offer.

They never even gave me a technical interview, stating they wanted someone with more Potato Analyst experience (not mentioned in the job listing at all). I’m betting on “Arrogance Hiring” on this one since it was already disclosed that the current personnel lack the senior level skills required to take this company into the twenty-first century.

I also have shared my feelings with the company’s head recruiter, so that perhaps it might assist her with future hirings, candidates, etc. because I really liked her and I knew the decision was not hers (nor, I think, the Head of Operations and Security, who was only stopping over Denver for the day and works on the east coast).

Now lest you feel this is “sour grapes”, I assure you it’s not. I am an anomaly, well-versed in technologies outside the Potato Farmer box and also a quick learner (something that’s difficult at best of which to convince total strangers, I admit). What I have seen is an ugly trend that seems to permeate my industry’s hiring practices (and I have no reason to suspect it is any different in the hundreds or thousands of other industries out there).

tatteredFlagIt smacks of inefficiency and even laziness on the parts of individuals within the process itself. Some, I know, are swamped. I used to be swamped, and the last thing I needed was to take time from my busy day and interview candidates. But I did, and I took it very seriously, not only because we needed the position filled but also because the person on the other side of the table was a human being AND because I believe good people make a company successful.

My fears that America is falling behind and falling behind quickly are echoed with every job function that is outsourced to a foreign company, and I have now verified the belly of the beast.

And it’s covered with broken armor.

God bless America. She really needs the help.


The blank page is dead…long live the blank page.


WORK Image credit: zinco79 / 123RF Stock Photo

TEAM Image credit: andresr / 123RF Stock Photo

Corporate Bosses Image credit: kakigori / 123RF Stock Photo


6 Responses to Why American Companies Are Rapidly Failing

  1. Lawrence Anderson Jr. says:

    You sir, have hit the nail right on the head. There is just entirely too much work in the world that people are willing to do for far less compensation than what an average American needs to live on. High cost of living and unbelievably high standards of living will continue to kill the currency. I predict that if America doesn’t wise up and get with the program very soon, not only will jobs will begin to dissolve, but so will the companies.

  2. Renee Pawlish says:

    I’ve been in the type of situation you describe for three years. They’ve done studies that show that companies will hire someone with no experience in the posted position but that person hasn’t been unemployed, but companies will overlook those (like myself) that have been unemployed for more than six months. I understand companies worry that people will “lose the skills” but come on, most of the skills aren’t so hard that it would make that much difference. And if they’re willing to hire someone without the skills, then what difference does it make if you just haven’t used the skills for a while…
    God forbid if you’re unemployed in this country, you’re screwed. I just wish my writing made more 🙂
    Best of luck to you.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Well, First, best of luck to you, too, Renee! It’ll happen. But I DO 100% agree with you (unfortunately so). The attitude, posture, lack of vigilance, lack of understanding of the workforce that’s out there, it’s ruining not only the competitiveness of American companies, but the talent out there (who are losing confidence in the system). Thanks for sharing your (difficult) experience. 🙂

  3. Ryan Schneider says:

    My wife is a recruiter and I am privy to her side of many phone interviews with candidates working and/or searching for six-figure jobs. True, there have been some PERFECT candidates who weren’t hired, often because they were over-qualified. (Is this the case with you, Rob?)

    But the take-away message for me is that my wife finds a lot of hungry, talented people who are literally a perfect fit for the company, and it’s wonderful to see how happy the candidate is after having been hired. They go from being unemployed to making $150k annually in a week’s time. What a wonderful change for their family. It gives me hope that the country isn’t dissolving at the bottom of the fiery handbasket.

    Hang in there, brother.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Thanks, Ryan. Well, i was overqualified for the $78K job, but I was being honest when I told them it was a perfect fit and I was flexible on the salary. I think it’s more the fact that I have not been “doing the day job” for a year now. Like writing and all that goes with it is lying around eating Oreos AND as if I could have forgotten 23-years of experience in one (feels like yesterday). My big complaint is that I’ve only once or twice gotten to speak with the actual technical people who can understand who I am and what they are getting.

      Hey, if the books keep selling more and I get a few more out there, maybe the day job can smooch my patootie. 😉

      Thanks again, Bro.

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