The mystery of what the hell employers are looking for continues

I really wish I knew the answer to that question. But like so many things in the business world, the answer has to be a big secret. Which in itself is a red flag: typically when something has to be a freaking secret, it’s because there’s something embarrassing or corrupt or something that can’t be justified if it were to become common knowledge. As mentioned on an earlier post, I have a job lined up, thank the noodly appendages of the Great FSM. It starts in a couple of weeks. It’s a real job with real benefits, and it pays a living wage. But by living wage I mean, after adding up pay and bonuses and perks, it only pays about 17 bucks an hour to start. I can survive on that, it’s not pretty, but with zero debt and my dismal, frugal lifestyle, I can get by. But I’m always open to better jobs and as luck would have it, a recruiter for a prospective company contacted me about one that pays closer to 50k a year.

After a phone interview and skills test, the recruiter was really hot for me. Always a good sign by the way, virtually necessary to have a snowballs chance in hell. And I got a little excited, too. This particular company is doing something really neat. They’re basically going to try and beat Paypal at their own game. More to the point, they have the potential to become what Paypal could have become before it was bought by eBay and turned to shit.

What it really boils down to, there is a huge market niche for any financial services company that combines traditional banking with the conveniences of online services, the most obvious example: enabling depositors to email money to other people or orgs. Emailing money like you can with Paypal is no longer merely a huge convenience, it’s damn near a necessity in this digital world, that’s how I’m paid by FTB for example. That one feature is the biggest reason why Paypal has survived despite being lamed by the shortsighted dumbasses at eBay.

That’s what this company is doing, and they’re just out of the start-up phase with oodles of venture capital and technical know-how. I was contacted because they’re looking to expand staff who combine financial savvy, tech support, and customer service/contact center skills. Not to brag, but it’s not bragging if it’s true: I’m a former registered rep who managed tens of millions in retail and institutional assets at a major Wall Street firm, everything from stodgy old municipal bonds to credit default swaps and forward pricing contracts. I have a degree in math, recently worked as network admin, enjoy immense tech support experience, and I’m an absolute bad ass CSR able to handle three channels simultaneously — chat, ticket, and voice — who rose to be come the number one producer out of 500 colleagues in my last shitty paying job at Blizzard. The new company even used the exact same metric and UI tools that were used on my last two jobs.

So in I go for an in person interview this past Monday. I strike up a conversation with the other two prospects waiting with me, we exchanged emails, they’re both in their 20s. I learn one got a job at Apple support for three years after being hired right out of high school, the other worked at AT&T’s billing-escalations department for a couple of years — after dropping out of a local community college. And I’m knocking those two folks, but if a job description says college degree preferred and experience in financial services a big plus, it seems reasonable to take them at their word. If it says outstanding communications skills required and prefer some technical writing background, it seems reasonable that being a published author or appearing on cable news and televised panels, or having knocked out more formal and informal proposals and multimedia presentations that I can remember, would all fit bill.

Who do you suppose they hired and who do you suppose got a form rejection letter stating the company had decided to go with better qualified candidates? Yeah, those two got hired, I didn’t. And honestly, I’m sorry if this sounds conceited, but that’s absolutely fucking crazy. It makes no sense at all (And no, being “over qualified” has nothing to do with it, at least according to my HR contact). Anyway, I have a job waiting so I’m not too pissed, just totally baffled as to what they were really looking for.

Other than that I may be going out of town for a day or two. So have a great weekend!


  1. hopeleith says

    my experience is that employers are looking for “people like us”, whatever that looks like to them in terms of age, or ethnic background or education. As well, employers would often rather hire young and dumb, willing to work crazy hours because they don’t have families.

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    Wolf Richter: Startup CEO (Unwittingly) Explains Biggest Problem in America’s Unemployment Crisis

    And Rebekah Campbell, the clear voice from the startup trenches, told us why. She used to post job ads for developers on the “appropriate websites” and then “braced for the flood of applications.” She’d delete three-quarters of them and email the rest a list with questions they’d have to answer by a deadline – “to filter out at least another half who either didn’t reply in time, wrote dud answers or couldn’t spell and didn’t pay attention to details,” she explained. In the end, she’d set up some interviews, which often “would all be disappointing.”
    Then she discovered that “the best candidates all had good positions and were not reading job advertisements.” Later she added the corollary: “I know the people who apply through online job ads are seldom the best candidates….”
    So she decided to chase down people who already had jobs, and to heck with the unemployed and those actively seeking jobs…
    “Some companies, like Google, have a reputation for hiring the best developers. On LinkedIn I can run a search specifically for engineers who have worked or are currently working for Google in my area and have been in their positions for more than two years – so they might be looking for a new challenge.”

    It’s simple. Get Google to hire you, stick around for a couple years, then you can get any tech job you want.

  3. Nihilismus says

    If the company has more than 20 employees, you might have an Age Discrimination in Employment Act claim. Some lawyers will pursue such claims on a contingent fee basis, so it might not cost you anything to try.

  4. foreverunemployed says

    I’m actually shocked that the recruiter told you what happened. My experience with them is: they contact me because they think I’m perfect for the gig they’re trying to fill, they say they’ll follow up with me in a few days, and they swear they’ll give me feedback if the client passes on my candidacy…and then I never hear from them again. Oh, sometimes I hear from them two months later trying to fill the exact same job — and they don’t remember they already contacted/submitted me…

  5. yorick says

    These posts are compelling, especially since I am of a similar age albeit (currently) steadily employed. If it wasn’t likely to get you “blacklisted” by prospective employers, I’d suggest you have a great idea for a mini-documentary. Follow the process from go to whoa/woe on camera. From seeing the ad, talking about your qualifications and background and getting the other candidates to talk about theirs, comments about how you felt about the interview, to the final verdict. There’s a lot here to highlight a serious issue about age and the job market. But again, there are so many practical barriers and implications to doing this stuff on camera that it’s hard to imagine getting the cooperation of the participants. You could always try a book: We’re [not] Hiring [you]!

    Hope you find the right employer!

  6. magistramarla says

    I like yorick’s ideas. I think that the AARP would be very interested in stories such as this.
    They often highlight age discrimination stories in their magazine.

  7. bugmaster says

    I am not an employer myself, but I am a senior software engineer, and our company recently went through a period of hiring, so I have some experience. So, I can give you some insight into our own process; there’s no guarantee that it’s representative of the industry at large.

    Firstly, the applicants we get from recruiters are almost uniformly terrible. These are people who are calling themselves “senior software engineers”, and yet do not know how many bits are in a byte (literally); nor can they solve basic programming problems of the kind that are taught in any “intro to CS” class. And yet, all of these people come highly recommended — which is why we now simply ignore the recruiter’s recommendations.

    The first thing we look at is an applicant’s resume. If it mentions something to the extent of “I am brilliant at X”, or “I am STRONG at Y” (yes, these are both real examples, caps included), then — again, based on past experience — not only do we acquire a certain level of prejudice against this candidate, but we also make sure to ask lots of in-depth questions about X or Y. Most people can’t answer them.

    Once the candidates pass our 15-minute technical screening consisting of the aforementioned basic questions (which approximately 80% of them cannot do), we invite them in for an in-house interview, where we ask them to sit in front of a computer and program some stuff. We watch over their shoulder to see what approach they take. We also ask them some in-depth questions on the whiteboard. What we are interested in is not necessarily whether they answer all the questions correctly (though if they do, great !), but how their thought process works. Is the candidate able to take hints when they are offered ? Does he (or, much more rarely, she — we’ve only seen a handful of women apply) understand the underlying concepts, or is he just parroting back some memorized solution ? Is he brave enough to say, “you know what, I’m not sure how to solve this ?”. If the candidate says something like, “No, I refuse to answer this question”, then it’s pretty much over for him or her (again, this is a real example).

    If the candidate passes the second interview, we all get together and consider the other factors (besides technical skill): money, and attitude. In terms of attitude, we have rejected a few technically qualified candidates because of their sheer arrogance, or their repeated attempts to steer the conversation away from our questions (which they had trouble answering) and toward their past accomplishments (which we didn’t care about). Basically, if the candidate behaves as though he’s the second coming of Turing, then he’s very unlikely to find employment with us.

    In terms of money, we had to reject at least one candidate because he asked for more than we could pay — once you figured the recruiter’s considerable commission into the deal (incidentally, this is why we prefer “organic” candidates as opposed to ones that come from a recruiter). I personally would’ve loved to pay him that much, but, as a small company, there’s a sadly a limit to what we can afford.

    I realize that these revelations about our hiring process are not exactly earth-shattering, but, well, it is what it is…

  8. says

    It’s simple. Get Google to hire you, stick around for a couple years, then you can get any tech job you want.

    So making sure one put’s a lot of “Google” phrases onto one’s resume and LinkedIn Profile (and better yet, take and list online courses from Google Developers University Consortium) will up your chances of being noticed?

  9. magistramarla says

    It’s been about six weeks since you posted this.
    Are you ok? Have you started a new job? Is it going well?

  10. says

    Just wanted to echo magistramarla’s question. How are you? It has been close to 2 months since you posted this. Have you started on your new job?

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