Monday, February 10, 2014

Stump Me

I used to love as a kid the quiz show and game shows like Concentration with puzzles. Anything that required you to think on your feet and words I would watch much more so than the game shows with prizes. To think that we still only have two prime game shows on still that do both - Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune - at night during family viewing time makes me realize that I am old and watching old people teevee.

And it does make me wonder what the point of a puzzle is except to have fun, build some skills, challenge your creativity and lend to overall cognition. But a job interview should not be that. And yet when you hear of the tech sectors endless round of questions, the unwieldy process in which it takes to get a job let alone an interview at these highly competitive companies one wonders if they are not doing so to keep more people out then let people in.

There is much to be said about the need for jobs and the supposed skill set lack that many companies, and particularly the tech sector claim that Americans lack and therefore need to outsource and import more foreign workers. So I wonder do they put these English as a second language individuals through the same process?

I have written about my own job search scenarios and what I believe contributed in a good way for me to find something else that I was good at and work around doing that and returning to teaching to remind myself what I really want to do but refuse to get engaged in politics.

I always believed and still do that both gender and age had a great deal to do with why I encountered a reticience in hiring and I do believe that in fact companies actually may hire older workers now thanks to the removal of extra insurance and pension costs if in fact the MYIRA plan goes through. Companies want skilled workers they just don't want to pay for them I am afraid, that has not changed, wages are sill stagnant. But a job is a job and coming with a suitcase half full vs empty may be a negotiation point.

However there is still one hurdle that has not changed and that is the interview. When I went on Glassdoor recently to read current questions done on interviews, I found that the "acclaimed" tech sector seemed to rise to the top, like the cream we believe they are to saving the world, the economy, the whatever, with bizarro land questions. The link to the site is here and their Top 25 "oddball" interview questions is well worth a perusal.

My favorite is always Zappos as their reputation precedes them. This personal antedote was emblematic of the culture and the hubris of this firm.

If you are a true professional looking for a professional environment, this is NOT the company for you. If HOWEVER you are looking for young group of 'kids' to hang around with and have fun, this is probably a good gig for you. Just be prepared for a LONG, RIDICULOUS, JUVENILE, , and at times down right DEMEANING process!!!!

And here are some highlights of the interview questions at Zappos.

"If you were stranded on an island and had only 2 things, what would they be?" "if you could be doing anything in the world and money didn't matter, what would it be?"

Give us 2 ways to use a brick other than for building or as a paperweight

If you had to buy Tony shots (Tony is the CEO), what kind of shot would you buy him.

If you were given $500 to plan a company event what would it be and why?

would you rather be a taxidermist or a flight attendant?

Or these at other "tech centric" firms:

Asked at Airbnb: "How lucky are you and why?" "If you were a pizza deliveryman how would you benefit from scissors?"

Asked at Apple:" If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?"

Asked at Red Frog Events: "Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer ?"

Asked at Dell: "If you were on an island and could only bring 3 things, what would you bring?""

Asked at Yahoo: "If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why?"

Asked at LivingSocial: "If you were 80 years old, what would you tell your children?"

And some are not limited to the tech sector but to retail and other service oriented jobs.

Asked at Bed Bath and Beyond: "Do you believe in Big Foot?"

Asked at Norwegian Cruise Line: "Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?"

Asked at Applebee's: "How many snow shovels sold in the US last year?"

And we wonder why we can't get more individuals employed. How do you answer these and more importantly why are they being asked? This is not an interview about skill set, desire to learn, to grow or to simply have a job in order to live and be a functioning part of soceity. This is finding like individuals who you can be bff's with or pretend to like and care about as opposed to learn about and accept diversity with.

We are in the debate over miniumum wage, we have less than stellar job numbers and we have a culture that is clearly divided on the role of immigration and the role of outsourcing work to countries who are also coming to terms with their own neglect and abuse of workers - from conditions to pay - an exact mirror of our own during the 19th Century. This is now the 21st and we can all move forward and learn from history.

I wonder if some of this odd mindset is why we have a serious underemployment problem? Paul Krugman writes about this issue and once again makes salient points with regards to the ever present and growing stigma of being unemployed. There are over 400 comments so clearly he is making a point that connects on some level.

And let us not forget that for older workers who are less inclined and interested in being "best friends" and staying at work til all hours despite the endless red bull or living in some overpriced flop house, dorm house or shared accommodation in which to wean even more work from the paid acolytes and sycophants that many of these companies seem to thrive and exist upon, we have an economy that is slanted and biased and clearly not thriving and growing.

We are becoming communities of one. One like mind apparently and that is not sustainable.

Writing Off the Unemployed

FEB. 9, 2014
Paul Krugman

Back in 1987 my Princeton colleague Alan Blinder published a very good book titled “Hard Heads, Soft Hearts.” It was, as you might guess, a call for tough-minded but compassionate economic policy. Unfortunately, what we actually got — especially, although not only, from Republicans — was the opposite. And it’s difficult to find a better example of the hardhearted, softheaded nature of today’s G.O.P. than what happened last week, as Senate Republicans once again used the filibuster to block aid to the long-term unemployed.

What do we know about long-term unemployment in America?

First, it’s still at near-record levels. Historically, the long-term unemployed — those out of work for 27 weeks or more — have usually been between 10 and 20 percent of total unemployment. Today the number is 35.8 percent. Yet extended unemployment benefits, which went into effect in 2008, have now been allowed to lapse.

As a result, few of the long-term unemployed are receiving any kind of support.

Second, if you think the typical long-term unemployed American is one of Those People — nonwhite, poorly educated, etc. — you’re wrong, according to research by the Urban Institute’s Josh Mitchell. Half of the long-term unemployed are non-Hispanic whites. College graduates are less likely to lose their jobs than workers with less education, but once they do they are actually a bit more likely than others to join the ranks of the long-term unemployed. And workers over 45 are especially likely to spend a long time unemployed.

Third, in a weak job market long-term unemployment tends to be self-perpetuating, because employers in effect discriminate against the jobless. Many people have suspected that this was the case, and last year Rand Ghayad of Northeastern University provided a dramatic confirmation. He sent out thousands of fictitious résumés in response to job ads, and found that potential employers were drastically less likely to respond if the fictitious applicant had been out of work more than six months, even if he or she was better qualified than other applicants.

What all of this suggests is that the long-term unemployed are mainly victims of circumstances — ordinary American workers who had the bad luck to lose their jobs (which can happen to anyone) at a time of extraordinary labor market weakness, with three times as many people seeking jobs as there are job openings. Once that happened, the very fact of their unemployment made it very hard to find a new job.

So how can politicians justify cutting off modest financial aid to their unlucky fellow citizens?
Some Republicans justified last week’s filibuster with the tired old argument that we can’t afford to increase the deficit. Actually, Democrats paired the benefits extension with measures to increase tax receipts. But in any case this is a bizarre objection at a time when federal deficits are not just falling, but clearly falling too fast, holding back economic recovery.

For the most part, however, Republicans justify refusal to help the unemployed by asserting that we have so much long-term unemployment because people aren’t trying hard enough to find jobs, and that extended benefits are part of the reason for that lack of effort.

People who say things like this — people like, for example, Senator Rand Paul — probably imagine that they’re being tough-minded and realistic. In fact, however, they’re peddling a fantasy at odds with all the evidence. For example: if unemployment is high because people are unwilling to work, reducing the supply of labor, why aren’t wages going up?

But evidence has a well-known liberal bias. The more their economic doctrine fails — remember how the Fed’s actions were supposed to produce runaway inflation? — the more fiercely conservatives cling to that doctrine. More than five years after a financial crisis plunged the Western world into what looks increasingly like a quasi-permanent slump, making nonsense of free-market orthodoxy, it’s hard to find a leading Republican who has changed his or her mind on, well, anything.

And this imperviousness to evidence goes along with a stunning lack of compassion.

If you follow debates over unemployment, it’s striking how hard it is to find anyone on the Republican side even hinting at sympathy for the long-term jobless. Being unemployed is always presented as a choice, as something that only happens to losers who don’t really want to work. Indeed, one often gets the sense that contempt for the unemployed comes first, that the supposed justifications for tough policies are after-the-fact rationalizations.

The result is that millions of Americans have in effect been written off — rejected by potential employers, abandoned by politicians whose fuzzy-mindedness is matched only by the hardness of their hearts.

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