A War for Talent? As We Say in Brooklyn, Forgetaboutit!

Do you know my friend MJ? You should, because that will almost certainly be you someday. But more on that depressing reality later.

Let’s start with MJ’s reality first. He is 45, brilliant, accomplished, and well-spoken. He is politically savvy, knows the right things to say in all situations, and even looks the role of a corporate executive. (Truth be told, he is almost as strikingly handsome as I am.)

He is technically up to date, communicates well, and has all of the requisite educational credentials. There is only one small problem. He can’t get a job.

To quote Ron Jenkins, “Something is wrong here; something is terribly wrong.”

If there is a war for talent, why can’t a highly skilled, amazingly talented overachiever who lives in a major metropolitan area find a job after one year of searching?

What expectations, position profile, ATS, political ramifications, compensation structure, communication protocol, workforce planning initiative, talent acquisition strategy, or lord knows what else has broken down so miserably, so totally and completely that all of the companies that are warring for talent have not hired MJ?

If the war for talent is as portrayed, companies engaged in this war should be beating each other with sticks to hire MJ. So, why can’t MJ get a job and how does it relate to this war on talent? (Please don’t tell me he needs to do more social networking or I might just have to get on a plane and slay you.)

We have heard for endless time of the war for talent. I remember the war on poverty, but we lost that one. We have a war on drugs but that seems to be a losing proposition as well.

But a war for talent? I find that to be an interesting war because there seems to be no winners, no losers, and little set out to define specific battle plans or terms and conditions for victory.

Yet we are so glib as it relates to this war and so accepting of its existence. Tell me, when will it end and how will we know it is over? When all of the organizations that want the very best talent, have the very best talent? Talent by whose standards? For how long must this condition exist? How is it measured and by whom? Is that the win? I hope not, because that is not going to happen. Not ever. Never, never, ever!

Who do you suppose is in charge of this war for talent? Please allow me to introduce the cast of characters:

We have thought leaders and futurists as our field generals (few who really agree on anything but will consult with you for a fee) and recruiters as our foot soldiers who spend most of their time “runnin and gunnin” in an attempt to find great candidates.

Tossed into the mix are those in management who sweat more than the rest of us because no matter what they do, it is never enough. The reason for this, of course, is those darn recruiters who are clearly guilty of the following:

  • Not identifying candidates who are quite as good as management had hoped for. (Surely, there must be a Java programmer out there who also understands composite iron tensile capacities and plays accordion.)
  • Not able to meet the sheer number of qualified candidates for which management had hoped to pick through. (You only found four PhD toxicologists local to Shaboine? What do you do all day?)
  • Not capable of finding the qualified candidates as quickly as management was hoping they might. (What do you mean it is going to take a month? Don’t you use Facebook? Where are the programmers with the pierced tongues and cleverly concealed tats? (Tattoos to those of you in the Midwest.)

Wait…perhaps it is time to get new recruiters to help us to win this war. But who hires new recruiters? Other recruiters? Hmmmmm.

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Ok, to quote John Updike, “I have had my say,” but let me highlight one important point. MJ is not an apparition. He is a real person who has no clue as to what is going on and why he can’t land a job.

More important, I have no idea either and therein lay the problem. A war for talent perpetuates the myth that great talent will be gobbled up as fast as it hits the street. Truth be told, we don’t even wait for it to hit the street. We unearth passive candidates and try to pull them in as well.

Wait! What about “the recession?”

Are we in a recession? The government seems to think not, but for those of us with an IQ over 34 and 11 cents worth of common sense, it seems as though we are. Layoffs are either the reality or the rumor and the other signs are there as well. (Got fear?)

So tell me, what happens to the war for talent in a recession? Is there a cessation of hostilities? Less recruiting? More use of Friendster? OK, enough with the questions. Let’s look at what I see as some answers.

Is there a war for talent? Not as I see a war because you go to war to win and no organization will ever have the capability to simply turn on the faucet and get as many of the great employees they want when they want them. Quite frankly, their childlike carping as to not being able to have exactly what they want as quickly as they want it is almost embarrassing at times. (Not to mention that fact that one can’t apply a liquidity metaphor to new employees. That is creepy at best and dehumanizing at worst. They are human beings, not things.)

On the other hand, if YOU believe there is a war for talent, consider the following five ideas to ease your pain and anguish:

  1. Look at older workers. By older, I mean over 45. Take me seriously, because what goes around has an almost cosmic ability to come around. If you are 33 years old in a happening company on the left coast that gives out free lattes, with cargo pants as the dress code, do not pass on the older folks when you make hiring decisions. If you live long enough, you will make it to those ages as well and suddenly see what it is like to be left out in the cold. Print out this message and bronze it because you heard it here first. (If you think OFCCP prevents this, I have a bridge to sell you; email me for details.)
  2. Develop reasonable position profiles. Loosen up! Perhaps you really need 10 people as opposed to 8. Don’t have headcount for 10? Go get it. (Budgets are artificially imposed. Build a business case to have it changed.) To be understaffed and not meet organizational objectives as you whine about those bad recruiters who can’t find you the people you want is laughable.
  3. Pay an agency. Folks, at times you have to simply bite the bullet and pay an agency because they have the person you need. Tell me, would you sell your best salesperson or Java programmer to the competition for $25,000? No? Then why would you not buy them for the same price? (Have you spoken to Shea Putnam at Cool Hires lately?)
  4. Do you deserve great talent? Being from Brooklyn, I seldom get overly philosophical, but I can’t help wondering if your company deserves great talent. I have been asked to go out and find the “best and the brightest” by teams of leadership losers that were so inept, so devoid of any ability to create a great company, I did not know if I should laugh or cry. On some level, it is sad because these folks will forever be in a war for talent.
  5. Look closely at active candidates. In recent years, a number of people have made big money beating the passive candidate drum. They plumb the deepest depths of the solar system (at times as far as Pluto) to uncover the candidates no one else can find. (Attend a workshop for $399.00 and you can learn this, too.) That’s ok at times, but what about the good, active candidates who apply to the postings for which you pay? Too busy to read those resumes? I do sympathize, but looking at resumes is part of our job and the sooner we stop complaining and get to it, the faster we will fill positions with candidates who came to us.

Is there a war for talent? Hard to say, but I think not. I do believe there is a perpetual need for talent; a supply-oriented balancing act that is in endless flux.

But a war? Only if you make it one.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See twitter.com/howardadamsky if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at H.adamsky@comcast.net


19 Comments on “A War for Talent? As We Say in Brooklyn, Forgetaboutit!

  1. Hi Howard,

    Pithy maybe, but certainly on point! My friend Wendell Sherrell used to say, War For Talent? It’s over, the candidate won. Now, however, we wonder if that really means only the GenX/GenY candidates have won.

    I certainly hope that MJ finds a perceptive employer who realises that the over 45s, over 55s are more likely to deliver a career style performance and commitment than those that are always looking for the next great role.

    Best regards

    Alan Whitford

  2. GREAT article, well said. I wish my clients and all the Corporate Recruiters and Hiring Managers would read this :-).

  3. Thank you, Howard, for taking the thought leaders’ivory tower discussion on this topic and bringing it crashing down to earth. The simple fact is that there is a high level of competition among relatively few truly innovative companies in any industry that tends to strain the boundaries of available/interested candidates, but that is not the the case for the majority of the employers. Thank you for separating the hype from the reality, and doing so with some humor as well!

  4. i believe that we’ve got some “institutional age discrimination” or bias going on in our hiring practices. we’ll take a chance on a genX of genY person, with no guarantee that they will stay with us, but when a 45+ or 55+ worker comes along, we won’t hire them because there’s no guarantee that they will stay with us, and we’re afraid that they will leave us for a better opportunity. so, what’s up with that? do we really think that the 20-something won’t leave us for a better opportunity? thanks for bringing these types of issues up for all of us to think about.

  5. Thank you for insightful and humorous comments. How can there be such a war on talent if the unemployment rate keeps going up? When job seekers complain about not being able to find a job and recruiters complain about not being able to find candidates you know there has to be a disconnect somewhere.

  6. Howard,

    Snarky, but accurate, I love it. I recently cohosted an event in Portland, Oregon called the Green Professionals Conference. It was a regional event focused on the sustainability industry. We had 300+ attendees comprised of a variety of job seekers – graduating students as well as mid-career professionals. They were all actively seeking employment in the sustainability industry.

    I did a presentation to more than 100 job seekers on how best to approach the companies exhibiting (all were there because they need talent). I was very honest about most of the pitfalls that you mention in your article and tried to give them some inside information about how to get around the breakdown in the recruiting process.

    It was obvious to me after speaking with a multitude of screamingly intelligent candidates that there is no shortage of talent out there. If recruiters can’t find the people they want,then: A) their expectations are off base, B) they are looking in the wrong places, C) their company isn’t desireable to applicants.

    Just because we have access to a bunch of new cool tools and social networks, doesn’t mean we should throw out the old-fashioned (but effective) God-awful process of posting jobs and screening resumes.

    It’s also up to us as recruiters to explain the concept of transferable skills to our hiring managers. Show them how the non-obvious stuff applies to their open positions.

    Wow, guess you’ve inspired my own little rant! Thanks for the article, it was fantastic. Hope it makes it to the folks who need it most.

  7. Howard,
    I’m torn in 2 opposing views on this. On one hand, you’re absolutely right. The ‘war for talent’ is an ongoing process that no-one ever truly wins… not even the candidate when they ‘luck-out’ with a horrible company. Within particular industries, there is always a war for talent… but, again, who defines this?

    On the other hand, I think of the friend you know that can’t find a job… I’m sorry, but if he is REALLY THAT great, my mind tells me he could get a job without a problem. My questions would be more of “Exactly how old is he? Is he 45 with 20 more good yrs left or is he 65 with MAYBE 5 yrs left?” Also, “What industry is he in? Has he spent his entire life in Residential construction where NO ONE is hiring??” I think you get my point.

    In closing, someone mentioned they wish that ‘internal recruiters’ would read this…well, I read it. I found it to be great for those ‘internal’ folks who don’t lay down the hard work to find good poeple regardless of background. But for those of us who pound the pavement daily… I have to say no to good people if they don’t match what we’re looking for while dying to find someone who does. So, yes, there is talent out there and we need that talent…but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the talent they provide is the talent that we need… sorry for the long post…

  8. Good article, thanks for the smiles. The “war”, in my opinion, is for “specific talent” as Howard mentions “the Java programmer out there who also understands composite iron tensile capacities and plays accordion” – not too far off from some searches we have had from clients (Howard forgot they also wanted that person to be left handed and over 6 feet tall).

    If I have an issue with some clients it is that once they have something set in their mind they refuse to consider someone that “can do their job”, instead of demanding someone that is currently doing the exact same job for their competitor.

    There is loads of “talent” out there, the big issue is that everyone is running so lean that no one has the time to “hire for attitude and train for skills”. So instead, companies burn out their best by demading they work 12 to 16 hour days, don’t give them the help they need to meet their goals, and then don’t replace the talent when it goes to greener pastures and the cycle repeats, and repeats, and repeats.

    As for MJ he may be part of his problem, He would rather be out of work than take a step or two back to get his career back on track. he may have had an offer and turned it down. Possibly he won’t move, or the location is too far to commute, or his sisters second cousin says he heard from his brother-in-laws wife that it was not a good place to work.

  9. the kind of article that most recruiters need now a days.. :).. a thought provoking and informative one..

    “Where are the programmers with the pierced tongues and cleverly concealed tats? (Tattoos to those of you in the Midwest.)” we have a few Indonesian – Filipino coders/programmers that looks like this. I could still remember the last time we had a “coffee with the ceo” when these coders were invited.. our ceo just love them the way they are.. 🙂


    “Why the IT Industry Doesn’t Need More H-1B Workers” FAIR.org

    The supply is already keeping up with demand.

    The reports from the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) implied that one in every twelve positions (8.4 percent) in IT was vacant.8 But the BLS found that from 1996, the number of Core IT jobs would increase by about 10 percent a year through 2006.9 So over that period, one would expect one in ten jobs to be vacant if only because it’s a new job. Clearly, if the job vacancy rate is lower than the rate of growth in an industry, then supply is more than keeping up with demand.
    Potential supplies of native IT workers are being neglected.

    There is large supply of experienced IT workers the IT Industry won’t trouble to recruit. A third of those with college-level IT credentials have had to find jobs outside of the IT field. Even less use is being made of graduates with IT minors.

    Age discrimination in the IT industry is a well-known commonplace.10 By insisting on new workers whom they can pay lower wages, IT firms can maximize their profits, while they justify not hiring experienced workers by claiming they haven’t learned that year’s latest programming language.11 Among workers with IT degrees, less than 40 percent of 55-year-olds are in Core IT jobs, compared to 75 percent of 20-year-olds.
    Native supply is about to increase.

    Enrollment in computer-related programs in American colleges is skyrocketing. Bachelor’s degree enrollments in the computer science / computer engineering programs more than doubled between 1996 and 1998.12 As a result of this upswing, in a year or two, the supply of graduates in IT fields will rise dramatically.

    In addition, more and more money is being invested in training American workers for IT fields. In 2000, the Department of Labor awarded $52.4 million in grants to train Americans to do the jobs now being given to foreign workers.13
    IT firms are addicted to the quick fix of foreign talent.

    It’s easier and faster for IT firms to bring in temporary foreign workers than invest in their own people, so that’s what they do. “Evidence exists that companies, because of short product-life and product development cycles in IT-intensive industries, have been pursuing a ‘buy’ (from the external labor market) rather than a ‘make’ (by training employees within the firm) employment strategy.”14

    Michael Rose, Chief, UI Research in his July 1998 report “Is There a High-Tech Worker Shortage? A Review of the Evidence” noted, “ It has been said that the Forecasters Hall of Fame is an empty room.”

    Some of the findings:

    A 1997 report by The National Science Foundation’s Science Resources Studies Division examined employment trends of scientists, engineers, and technicians in the portion of the services sector that includes trade, transportation, communications, and utilities (SICs 40-59). [4] Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics survey, it found that between 1988 and 1994, the total number of employed scientists, engineers and technicians in this subset of services declined from 472,500 to 422,700, a drop of 10.5 percent. Little change occurred between 1988 and 1991, with virtually all of the reduction taking place after 1991. The study found that technicians fared worse than scientists and engineers over this time with employment drifting down from 270,500 to 258,900 between1988 and 1991 before slipping further to 237,500 in 1994. On the other hand, both scientists and engineers saw employment gains between 1988 and 1991. However, after 1991 each occupational group experienced declines, with scientists suffering a drop from 63,900 to 55,400 and engineers a loss from 155,100 to 129,800.

    Another 1997 study by the Commerce Department uses a similar methodology to advance the skilled labor shortage idea. [10] In addition, this report cites rising wages and a large number of unfilled IT jobs as evidence of a labor shortage. Quoting from a variety of compensation surveys, the report indicated that for some groups of IT professionals salaries have risen between 10 and 20 percent since 1995. Finally, a survey of employers conducted by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) placed the number of vacant IT-related jobs at 190,000 in 1996.

    However, Norman Matloff, a computer scientist at UC Davis, counters that, at least for computer programmers and software engineers, there is no shortage. Using anecdotal evidence from technology industry hiring managers, Matloff believes that hiring rates for programming applicants run in the 2 to 5 percent range. [11] He argues that such extreme hiring selectivity mpoints to a glut of qualified workers rather than a shortage.

    Still, the combination of a declining number of science and engineering graduates, brisk IT job growth, and sharply rising wages would seem to lend compelling support to the idea of a skilled labor shortage.

    The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) recently criticized such an approach to identifying skilled labor shortages. [12] The GAO noted that information technology workers, like those in other industries, have a wide variety of educational backgrounds and training. For this reason using the number of science and engineering graduates as an indicator of the availability of IT skilled labor is both unproven and unreliable. The GAO criticized other aspects of the Commerce study as well. Although rapidly increasing wages might indeed be symptomatic of an undersupply of IT workers, the GAO distinguished between long-and short-term labor shortages. In particular, they mention that weekly earnings for persons in computer occupations rose at about the same rate as for other skilled professional occupations between 1983 and 1997. The GAO also found fault with the ITAA employer survey used to approximate the extent of unfilled job vacancies in IT industries. The survey’s low response rate and the lack of information regarding the nature of the unfilled positions led the GAO to conclude that the survey’s findings were highly unreliable.

  11. This missive is lengthy but we’re all adults so no one is required to read it. On the other hand it offers clear evidence that the notion of a labor shortage is a fairytale. The myth has been told so many times that even professionals in the field of the human capital industry seem to believe it. Alternatively they are just to lazy, incompetent, or worse complicit in the crime. While the evidence overwhelmingly supports the case against this fiction of a labor shortage; the fraud continues as a result of unchecked private sector influence peddling and public sector corruption.

    I offer the following commentary and examples to demonstrate the point.

    Impact on the American worker…off-shoring/outsourcing

    The impact of jobs outsourcing according Alan Blinder a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve’s board a mainstream economist (making is comments all the more compelling) has warned that 42 to 56 million American service-sector jobs are in jeopardy of being outsourced…three times the number of manufacturing jobs (14MM).

    Impact on the American worker…legal immigration

    Legal immigration, until the mid 1960’s, was limited to workforce replacement needs at a rate of about 170,000 per year; but now immigration flows at a staggering rate of one million per year. These increases and the practice of importing high numbers of technical and professionals via a myriad of visas, hiring foreign post-secondary masters and doctoral students, has reduced wages for both skilled and college educated American workers. According to the DOL citizens wages are suppressed nominally by 30% and as much as 45%. And according to a recent report on the MSNBC financial news, as many as 3 million or more domestic white collar jobs are at risk over the next decade. I really want to tell my kids that.

    For detailed discussion on the impact of H-IB visas see the hot off the press article “H-1B Visa Numbers: No Relationship to Economic Need” http://cis.org/node/222 by Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) Fellow John Miano, an author and expert on the software industry.

    Key Findings:
    o There is no cause and effect relationship between H-1B visas and job creation. Adding H-1B visas does not create additional jobs for U.S. workers.
    o Since 1999, the United States has approved enough H-1B visas for computer workers to fill 87 percent of net computer job growth over that period.
    o Since 1999, the United States has had a net loss of 76,000 engineering jobs. Over the same time period, the United States has approved an average of 16,000 new H-1B visas each year for engineers.
    o If current employment trends continue and the H-1B quota remains unchanged, the United States will approve enough H-1B visas for computer workers to fill about 79 percent of the computer jobs it creates each year.
    o Pending legislation would increase the number of H-1B visas for computer workers to above the number of computer jobs created each year.
    o The data suggest that a large percentage of those who legally enter United States on H-1B visas go into the illegal alien pool.

    In Dec. 2005 Miano also wrote “The Bottom of the Pay Scale Wages for H-1B Computer Programmers” http://www.cis.org/articles/2005/back1305.html

    Key Findings:
    o In spite of the requirement that H-1B workers be paid the prevailing wage, H-1B workers earn significantly less than their American counterparts. On average, applications for H-1B workers in computer occupations were for wages $13,000 less than Americans in the same occupation and state.
    o Wages for H-1B workers in computer programming occupations are overwhelmingly concentrated at the bottom of the U.S. pay scale. Wages on LCAs for 85 percent of H-1B workers were for less than the median U.S. wage in the same occupations and state.
    o Applications for 47 percent of H-1B computer programming workers were for wages below even the prevailing wage claimed by their employers.
    o Very few H-1B workers earned high wages by U.S. standards. Applications for only 4 percent of H-1B workers were among the top 25 percent of wages for U.S. workers in the same state and occupation.
    o Many employers use their own salary surveys and wage surveys for entry-level workers, rather than more relevant and objective data sources, to make prevailing-wage claims when hiring H-1B workers.
    o Employers of large numbers of H-1B workers tend to pay those workers less than those who hire a few. Employers making applications for more than 100 H-1B workers had wages averaging $9,000 less than employers of one to 10 H-1B workers.
    o The problem of low wages for H-1B workers could be addressed with a few relatively simple changes to the law.


    The report “America’s High Tech Bust” clearly demonstrates the absurdity in the notion of a War for Talent. The report lays bare the fairytale in detailed analysis on employment numbers in technology employment. Here’s just some of what it had to report:

    “The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research
    (NBER), the organization that puts official dates on U.S. business cycles, announced that the 2001 recession officially ended in November of 2001. An analysis of IT industry employment reveals that job losses have continued well after the end of the recession.
    While there is a lack of current and reliable information on the extent of job losses due to offshore outsourcing, there is little doubt that it has contributed to soaring unemployment rates in the industry. For instance, UIC-CUED analysis of the Current Population Survey reveals that national unemployment rates for computer programmers was 6.7% in 2003, two years after the end of the recession, compared to 2.5% in 2001. Incidentally, computer programming is also one of the top occupations sent offshore (ITAA, 2003).(2)”

    “Employment Data…Summary Findings – Despite recent aggregate monthly job growth numbers, there is little evidence of significant job expansion in the IT industry. IT industry employment changes reveal that nationally, between March 2001 (beginning of the recession) and April 2004 (the latest month for which revised data are available), the industry lost a whopping 403,300 jobs, of which 200,300 jobs were lost after the recession was officially declared over (Tables 1).”


    Information Technology Labor Markets: Rebounding, But Slowly

    A Long Jobless Recovery

    “After a protracted period of employment decline following the onset of the 2001 recession, the IT industry is showing signs of a turnaround (Chabrow, 2006; Forrester, 2006; Gartner, 2005; Koprowski, 2005). Prodded by increased spending on information technology products and services, the IT industry labor market has been expanding slowly since May 2004. During the 12- month period March 2004 – February 2005, the IT industry added 34,600 jobs nationwide (2.0 percent of employment). This period was marked by volatility in employment levels throughout 2004 and growth in the first quarter of 2005. The following 12-month period March 2005 – February 2006 saw the continued rebound of IT industry, as employment increased by 54,000 jobs (3.0 percent), with most of this growth occurring during the last five months.”

    “Much of the recent hiring in the IT industry reflects a cyclical recovery in IT labor markets, not a sustained trend of secular growth. Faced with a slowing economy during and immediately after the 2001 recession, many employers delayed implementation of IT projects. The headcount reductions that followed led to rising unemployment of IT professionals, creating considerable slack in IT labor markets (Srivastava and Theodore, 2004). But beginning in early 2005 “Strong gains in CIO confidence about the health of their budgets and future spending prospects” (ITAA, 2005) have led to increases in IT spending. Renewed confidence on the part of IT managers, it seems, has largely been due to improving corporate profit expectations and rising stock prices of U.S. technology vendors. IT projects that were put on hold earlier in the decade are now moving forward, and this has corresponded with modest levels of new hiring of IT workers.”

    “It is important not to overestimate the strength of this recovery. IT employment declined in 23 of 24 months between April 2001 and March 2003, during which time 383,100 jobs were lost in the IT industry. From that point onward, employment levels have been volatile. Employment expanded in 21 of the following 35 months while it contracted in the other 14 months. Overall employment during this period of recovery (April 2003 to February 2006) increased by just 76,300 jobs, recouping less than one-quarter of the number of jobs lost earlier in the decade. When viewed in historical context, IT industry annual growth rates in the current period are anemic (Figures 1 & 2). After enjoying strong growth throughout the 1990s, the IT industry endured a deep recession. Though annual employment increases have been registered in 2004 and 2005, they have been modest in comparison.”


    UC Davis Prof. Norman Matloff, a computer scientist has for yeas written extensively about the H-1B FRAUD being perpetrated against U.S. native born workers in computer programming and software engineering. Examples include:

    “Should the U.S. increase its H-1B visa program?
    CON: Wages belie claims of a labor shortage” http://www.sfgate.com/cgibin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/12/07/EDGOULJ5BC1.DTL


    Also see the recent report “Why the IT Industry Doesn’t Need More H-1B Workers” posted at FAIR.org

    Impact on the American worker…illegal aliens

    The arguments some use justifying current immigration by citing immigration demographics of the past immigration waves are absurd. In the past the jobs available required little if any education. The jobs that illegal immigrants now take are the jobs that once supported a vibrant American blue collar workforce. Now a growing number of these jobs go to illegal aliens rather than to the millions of less educated Americans having a high school diploma or less. This tragic trend has affected every racial demographic; but has been particularly hard on the 40 percent of all black males in the U.S. that are unemployed. Here are the facts. When it comes to illegal aliens, they currently occupy somewhere between 7 and 10 million Americans jobs or more. Accept for agriculture jobs, these are jobs in construction and myriad other occupations that Americans use to do and would do again, as proven after every ICE raid, where companies pay more to Americans that fill the vacancies. When it comes to skilled jobs as many as a half million are taken by illegal aliens.

    For a broad overview read Center for Immigration Studies Director of Research Steven Camarota’s missive “Immigration, both legal and illegal, puts huge strain on the country” is at the http://cis.org/node/464.

    Finally a personal example:

    In 1967 I turned 18. At that time I worked in the construction industry as a laborer [hod carrier] tending to bricklayers. It was one of the best jobs in the market place for kids both in high school and those with nothing more than a high school education. At the time this was a job that paid between two and three times what my peers were making in other jobs (soda fountain, grocery store, custodian, at the hospital, etc). I was earning $6.00/ hr. Today, 40 years later, that same job pays between minimum wage and about $7/hr. It doesn’t take a math genius figure that there is something wrong with that picture, when some 40 years later, the pay for the same job is as much as a whole $1/hr more for what it was. While I don’t believe this is a job that American workers now won’t do…it’s no surprise that American workers aren’t in this and what were the even better paying jobs of skilled tradesmen such as block/brick layers, carpenters, plumbers…sorry, I’m preaching to the choir.

    Using the BLS CPI Inflation calculator…that same $6/hr job in 2007 is now equivalent to $36.36/hr; 80% than inflation adjusted dollars.

    How is it that 40 years later this job, and jobs in the skilled trades, are now paying the same nominal dollars (in some cases even less)? What happened in America that caused this dramatic decline in wages? Do they believe it might have anything at all to do with employers hiring illegal aliens? Could it be that the bottom line for employers is simply much better when in many cases they: (1) don’t pay overtime, (2) don’t provide benefits like, vacation, paid time off, and healthcare [because such services are provided tax payer supported emergency rooms] etc., (3) don’t pay SSI and the myriad other taxes; or alternatively employers pay significantly less in SSI and other taxes to people [employed at lower wages] who have gained employment with fraudulently acquired documents such as social security cards?

    IF this is happening, wouldn’t that depress wages, tax revenues, and living standards of American workers?

    Is there really a labor shortage…in any industry?

  12. Howard, thank you for your article, it sums up the situation very nicely.

    I agree that in some sectors there is a war for ‘specific talent’, as Jim highlighted, yet perhaps too many others have jumped on this band wagon as it is easier than addressing the situation.

    Speaking for Australia, where the talent shortage catch cry is constant, I can confidently say there is an abundance of talent out there in our market. In particular at the higher level, the talent is just exceptional. Where the problem arises is that many businesses cannot identify talent, unless of course the talent comes in a nicely packaged box that they can tick off against their job spec or job ad and feed into their database. This basic matching style of recruitment was successful in the industrial age yet many businesses have not evolved their recruitment processes into the 21st century. There simply are not enough progressive hiring strategies being used by businesses, which has left them unable to successfully attract and identity with today’s market of talented and savvy job seekers.

  13. As an American citizen natural science Ph.D. who started to become an activist for the employment rights of experienced American “techies” in 1979, I strongly agree with Brian Ebeling’s comments. I have almost lost track of the number of times that I have been “thrown away like yesterday’s newspaper” by “high tech” employers, including some in the NYC Metro area. See my February 22, 2007 comments at http://news.ncmonline.com/news/view_article.html?article_id=17cb1f0c5e2ee248a71bd31df832fcaa&from=rss

    Another way to express it is, “Age discrimination is great while you are young!” Sadly, the current business model used by many so-called great organizations is one that is based on “fresh (inexpensive and imported) young blood.”

    Here is a YouTube video (viewed about 300,000 times in the past year) that clarifies these issues. The video is some excerpts from a 2007 conference in Pittsburgh, PA that was videotaped by the immigration law firm and posted to YouTube. A group of “techies” archived the videos and subsequently released them to national news organizations that covered the story in more detail. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCbFEgFajGU

    “And our goal is clearly not to find a qualified and interested U.S. worker. And you know in a sense that sounds funny, but it’s what we’re trying to do here. We are complying with the law fully, but ah, our objective is to get this person a green card, and get through the labor certification process. So certainly we are not going to try to find a place [at which to advertise the job] where the applicants are the most numerous. We’re going to try to find a place where we can comply with the law, and hoping, and likely, not to find qualified and interested worker applicants.” http://blog.vdare.com/archives/2007/06/17/lawrence-m-lebowitz-esq-our-objective-is-to-get-this-person-a-green-card/

    Public policy organizations including http://www.NumbersUSA.com, (which I work for as an information technology professional,) have a number of free tools available to help reform this corrupt situation.

    In my view, if this situation is not corrected, the U.S. will soon cease to be a participative democracy with a strong middle class.

  14. (The previous comment should read “Brandon,” not “Brian.”

    Here are links to six articles that I have written regarding highly-skilled labor markets and the controversial H1-B visa program.

    Whose University is it Anyway?
    February 8, 2008 University of Buffalo Spectrum (I earned my Ph.D. there in 1984)

    The Greedy Gates Immigration Gambit
    Fall 2007

    Career Destruction Sites – What American colleges have become
    Spring 2005
    Missing table regarding H-1B visa usage by NIH Grantees:

    How Not to “Solve” the Social Security Problem – Mass immigration is the wrong answer
    Summer 1999

    Gene A. Nelson, Ph.D.’s April 13, 1996 speech at the National Academy of Sciences Washington, DC headquarters.

    Note the draft of my August 5, 1999 Oral Testimony critical of the controversial H-1B visa program before the House Immigration
    and Claims Subcommittee, in particular the final two paragraphs

    Please submit your reflections regarding these articles, particularly the newest Social Contract article, which is about the “Abramoff Visa.”

  15. I am dismayed that commentary on a very good article debunking the “War on Talent,” I mean “War for Talent” degenerated to biased immigrant-bashing; many of the “experts” and sources listed in the latest comments are from anti-immigration groups and individuals.

    IMHO, we as recruiting professionals need to face an unpleasant fact- beneath a thin veneer of objective pragmatism, much (perhaps most) hiring is done according to “GAFI Principles”: Greed, Arrogance, Fear, and Ignorance. Each of us must decide if we wish to work with these principles (“Hey, it’s where my business comes from!”), ignore it (“It’s not my job to question the client but to carry out their wishes.”), or fight against them (“Even though my carer may suffer as a consequence, I am determined to improve things.”)

    Your thoughts….

  16. Kieth, since you asked…here are my thoughts:

    I put in a lot of effort (time) to lay out a logical argument, supported by facts from many points of view and sources. Your two paragraphs did nothing to dispel evidence offered by Gene, myself, or others. Much of the evidence offered was taken from U.S. government sources.

    Are the DOL and BLS anti-immigrant organization?

    Is the The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research
    (NBER) an anti-immigrant group?

    Is ITAA anti-immigrant or even anti-immigration? The evidence would suggest not.

    Is the AFL-CIO anti-immigrant?

    Is Gartner anti-immigrant?

    Are you suggesting that Alan Blinder a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve’s board a mainstream economist (making his comments all the more compelling) is anti-immigrant?

    Why do not address the findings of John Miano, Steven Camarota, and UC Davis Prof. Norman Matloff,? Are they anti-immigrant?

    And what about my personal observations backed by analytics of wage and income data? Are you charging that I’m anti-immigrant?

    The race card or in this case the “immigrant bashing” card is used as the last refuge in justifying a position by those who no longer have a logical argument left?

  17. Here’s more information. Even H1-B advocate Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) said of Cannon’s conduct in 2000, “It’s a really sorry way to run a railroad,.”

    Six term incumbent Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) lost his party’s 2008 primary on Tuesday, 24 June. This press release from 8 years ago from his office provides a historical context for Rep. Cannon’s absolutely awful history regarding H-1B visas. Regrettably, Rep. Cannon is not the only crooked politician connected with this scandal.

    The evidence shows that there is a clear connection between Cannon’s advocacy for programs such as H-1B and his primary election loss, particularly in light of the corrupt history shown in the article excerpt that follows the press release.


    For Immediate Release
    October 18, 2000

    Cannon Manages House Passage of High Tech Visa Bill

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon hailed passage of S. 2045, the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000, as a victory for both the economy and worldwide democracy. Cannon managed the bill on the House floor, completing swift passage of legislation approved earlier in the the day by the Senate. The quick action should provide immediate relief to the high tech industry.

    “The demand for highly skilled tech workers in the United States cannot be met by American workers alone”, Cannon said. The bill passed by the House will foster economic prosperity by meeting a critical shortage of high tech employees. The bill grants additional H-1B visas to highly skilled workers for temporary U.S. employment while adding training and education programs to train American workers.

    “Because the current federal cap on visas creates a barrier to continued growth, high tech American companies are faced with the artificial choice to either `import workers or export jobs.’ American companies want to recruit the top industry talent today and help train the American workforce of tomorrow. We should not have to force them to choose between these two worthy goals. The H-1B legislation we passed enables American companies to hire desperately needed, highly skilled people today to help create more jobs and prosperity in this country.

    “Exposing more workers to the United States will foster concepts of freedom they can take with them back to their home lands. The fact that the best and brightest from the rest of the world want to come here to work and learn, to invent and build businesses, is the ultimate compliment. We should welcome them with open arms. This is how America spreads democracy and the rule of law.”

    The American Competitiveness Act will provide 80,000 additional H-1B visas in fiscal year 2000 for a total of 195,000; 195,000 for fiscal year 2001 and; 195,999 for fiscal year 2002.


    Here is the history: In the morning of October 3, 2000, the Senate passed its version of the H-1B bill. At that time, two versions existed in the House, by Rep. Lamar Smith and Rep. David Dreier, both Republicans. Industry liked the Dreier bill (which was largely similar to the Senate version) and was adamantly opposed to the Smith bill, as the latter would have imposed various worker protections. The Smith bill, though, had the upper hand in the parliamentary sense, as it already passed through the proper committees.

    That afternoon, it was announced in the House that no vote would be taken on the H-1B issue that day, so the congresspeople went home. Yet a vote actually was taken that evening, with only 40 congresspeople present out of a membership of 435. In addition, the vote was on the Senate bill, adopted whole, instead of either the Smith or Dreier versions, thus slickly solving the problem of what to do with the Smith bill. [18]

    Here is how the incident was reported by the Cox News Service, dateline October 3, 2000 in an article by Marilyn Geewax

    WASHINGTON – The speed – and stealth – with which the House voted Tuesday to increase visas for skilled foreign workers left one lawmaker shaking his head. “Incredible,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, a major supporter of increased visas…
    Doggett, who had co-sponsored a bill to increase the so-called H-1B visas for foreign workers, gave this account of the evening:
    “At about 3:30, it was announced that there would be no further votes” on important issues in the House, he said. Because many lawmakers wanted to get home early to watch the presidential debates, nearly everyone left, he said.
    “But at about 5:30, an e-mail was sent over here” announcing that an H-1B debate would begin shortly. “I didn’t see the email until about 6,” he said. Doggett said he scurried to the House floor, while other major supporters of the legislation also rushed back to Capitol Hill.
    Using various procedural moves, the GOP leaders ended the debate quickly and called for a voice vote, even though the House was nearly empty. [5]

    Note that Doggett, a Democrat, also advocated increasing the H-1B quota – perhaps because he reportedly accepted campaign donations from H-1Bs.

  18. I heard that Pres. Truman upon being offered corporate jobs said, “You don’t want me. You want the office of the president, and that doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it’s not for sale.”

    Sadly, the American people now get people like Cannon, Pelosi, Reid, Cunningham, Clinton, Bush…just to name a few. They fill the ranks of every party…we vote them in. I was a member of SPJ (Society of Professional Journalist), but dropped it because most don’t follow their own self imposed standards Ethics.

    My next comment won’t go over well, but reading the book 1776 one might come to the conclusion that George Washington would have summarily condemned most of today’s “leaders” as traitors. I was not always this cynical; but we live in a time where national sovereignty and security are trumped by raw greed; and America is in deed for sale.

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