“We’re Desperate to Hire — Unless You Refer Applicants to Us”

One of those testifying in the recent Senate hearing on H-1B was German immigrant Bjorn Billhardt, CEO of Enspire, a startup the develops e-learning software. Apparently, during the course of his testimony, Billhardt offered to introduce American IT workers to employers.  IT worker Virgil Bierschwale, who lives in Billhardt’s general region, wrote an open letter to Billhardt on his blog, asking to avail himself of Billhardt’s offer of introductions. According to Bierschwale’s blog posts, Billhardt never responded. And even after American IT worker Jay Palmer, who also testified at the hearing, personally met with Billhardt and asked the latter to contact Bierschwale, there was still no response.

Billhardt may or may not know someone worth introducing Bierschwale to. But given Billhardt’s claims, he at the very least owes Bierschwale the courtesy of a reply.

One can’t blame Bierschwale for being reminded of the old saying, “Talk is cheap.” In fact, I’ve seen this pattern — someone from the industry claims employers are desperate to hire, but when one offers to connect them with qualified workers, they aren’t interested — occur many times. I’ll give a couple of examples, which I believe will be illuminating.

Some years ago, something like the year 2000, I was invited to appear as a guest on a Bay Area TV talk show, hosted by the late Pete Wilson, a prominent local anchor. The other guest was Coetta Chambers, VP for HR at Intel. A very high-level Intel executive, Tracy Koon, was also present, but not on camera. She said she was Chambers’ ride, though I suspect her job was to make sure Chambers didn’t say something “wrong.” Yet what was most damning was what Chambers  did NOT say.

I told Chambers, on camera, that I could help remedy the desperate labor shortage she described at Intel, as I had CVs for five or six well-qualified engineers and programmers that I could forward to her. She greeted my offer with awkward silence; she just sat there. I repeated the offer, but again no response for her.

Similarly, a March 17, 1999 PR Newswire statement stated (I’ve adapted this material from my University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform article),

“Something is wrong when you put an ad in the Washington Post for a software engineer and the only qualified applicants you receive are from non-U.S. Citizens,'” said John Harrison, CEO and co-founder of Ecutel, one of the nation’s most promising high-tech companies.

In testimony before the House Science Committee today, Harrison told of the extraordinary cost and difficulty he has experienced trying to keep his company staffed with engineers. Harrison asked our nation’s lawmakers to proceed on a two-pronged approach — dramatically stepped up math and science education for today’s students, and for the short-term, eased immigration laws…

Ecutel’s Web site said that the firm was seeking people with the following skills:

Intermediate and Senior Engineer Positions Looking for several energetic and self-motivated Software Engineers with at least 5 years of experience or familiarity in 2 or more of the following: C/C++, TCP/IP, Mobile IP, IPSec, Device Driver, Internet RFC, Mobile Computing, GUI, RDBMS, Networking, Security, Web Development, Microsoft/Unix OSes, general Internet communication protocols.

Bill Halchin had years of work experience in six of the skills this ad expressed interest in, considerably more than the threshhold of two stated by the ad itself. Yet he was not even called for an interview when he applied to the firm, even after two followup e-mail messages to Harrison. A subsequent inquiry under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) showed that Harrison was paying many of his H-1B programmers only $35,000 per year, far below the market rate.

And of course, the following year, Congress, apparently trusting people like Harrison (not to mention Intel), enacted the second increase in the H-1B cap in two years.

And here’s one I’ve told before. In 1998, I spoke at a conference organized by the industry and the Dept. of Commerce. Afterward, a man approached me and said, “You’re wrong. I’m a tech employer, and I really am desperate to hire.” I replied, “My wife is a software engineer. I’ll ask her to apply to your firm. Her surname is different from mine, so you won’t know it’s my wife, and we’ll see how desperate you are.” He immediately backpedalled, saying, “She’s probably too expensive for us!” THAT of course was the nature of his labor “shortage” and “need” to hire H-1Bs.

As the French say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Today we see the industry making exactly the same pitches to Congress as they were doing 17 years ago (more H-1Bs in the short run, develop STEM education for a long-run fix to the “shortage”), and moreover, we see Congress giving credence to the disingenuous statements of people like Billhardt, and 17 years earlier, Harrison.

And one more point about Billhardt: In his verbal statements during the hearing, he said that it wasn’t enough for an American applicant to his firm to have the desired technological skill sets. No, what is also crucial, Billhardt said, was that the applicant be a “cultural fit” into Billhardt’s team. A quick glance at Billhardt’s YOUNG team would seem to indicate that the culture he was referring to was that of 20-somethings, with maybe the odd 32-year-old being marginally acceptable. He may have one or two older accountants, say, but older programmers need not apply. Once again, the age issue is central to H-1B, a tragically overlooked point by not only Congress but also even the critics of the H-1B program.

Billhardt’s testimony, of course, repeats the claim that “for every 100 H-1B workers, an additional 183 jobs are created for workers born in the United States.” omitting mention of the fact that this figure is from an industry-sponsored study. Sadly, none of the senators called him on that point.


21 thoughts on ““We’re Desperate to Hire — Unless You Refer Applicants to Us”

  1. Yeah, I got yer “cultural fit” right here. Wages, sure. But also expertise. Is that a list from 1999, really, a bit early for mobile. But I’ve never seen a single human who had more than a duffer’s familiarity with that many areas. Even if you get expert on one after another, you will FORGET the earlier ones, much less their new releases will change and obsolete what you learned! So basically, only a liar will ever claim to have significant expertise in that many areas, and more important the employer is assembling a team of liars and fools. No wonder they’re not paid much! And I’ve seen it, too many times, they don’t produce much either, a dozen guys at $35k won’t produce anything that works reliably, you get an “Obamacare website” that doesn’t come close to working, until you finally call in a team of experts to “fix” it. Which they could have done in half the time if you called them in the first place.

    The point being the “cultural fit” is to be happy being part of a team of bozos, producing nothing. That is a harder job to find Americans for. Not impossible, but I respect the difficulty.

    What I just don’t (want to) understand is the employer’s state of mind in all this.


    • The employer is unaware for the most part from what I’m learning.
      I’ve been working to understand this nightmare with some H-1B’s.

      Apparently yesterday they had somebody new show up to work.
      He supposedly had 7 years experience, etc.

      Yet nobody knows who hired him, AND he knows nothing about the business.

      What I’m finding out is it is all caste-ism which is something I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around.

      Apparently they think nothing of taking bits and pieces from other peoples resumes and nobody verifies their claims, which tells me that it is because of the H-1B manager runs interference for him because of his caste.

      Yesterday a boy joined Indian. ???? asked him, what do you do in citrix? he didn’t answer anything. no idea who hired him?
      he told lies he worked 7 years in NYC, his wife doing MS in CA.
      25,000 MS students every year same story.
      someone took his telephone interview for sure.
      don’t you think America, American clients are not aware of it?
      All knows but 2 layers, his employer get $100 share and he gets $35.
      same story every where.
      If they pay taxes, IRS know this.
      Same case with new H1Bs, 65000.
      Who Will Rock the boat?

      That is a small part of our conversation.

      What is sad is not only is it us Americans that are getting screwed by the temporary worker scam, the workers themselves are being preyed on like vultures.

      What follows is a link I used on a new site I created the other day to draw attention to this scam

      This appears to be happening in every industry, including technology

      To Louise Luis, it sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to come to the U.S. from the Philippines on a guestworker visa to work for a new bakery being opened by Filipino investors Ana and Goncalo Moitinho de Almeida. The Almeidas promised Luis and ten other Filipino workers good working conditions, fair pay, and the chance to more than quadruple their salaries in time.

      “I wanted what everyone wants, Luis said, “the chance to help make a better life for my family.”

      Instead, the Almeidas subjected Luis and her fellow workers to severe exploitation—not only at the popular L’Amande bakeries in Beverly Hills and Torrance, but at the Almeidas’ private home: 14-hour work days with pay as little at $3 an hour, and threats of retaliatory deportation and financial ruin to silence their complaints.


      Virgil Bierschwale – 2016


      • Virgil,

        There s more about that same bakery here:


        Michelle Chen’s work is quite good, in my opinion. http://www.thenation.com/blogs/michelle-chen She has also written about the H2B guest workers who who labored in abusive conditions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. http://www.thenation.com/blog/203513/even-governments-own-accountability-office-found-major-flaws-us-guestworker-programs

        I think you pointed me to this ZeroHedge article: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-06-12/youre-fired-%E2%80%93-now-train-your-much-cheaper-foreign-replacement – which is where I found this link: https://aadivaahan.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/on-outsourcing-and-its-ills/ which gives the Indian side of the story.. They are not happy, either.

        But here is a particularly illiminating link.. Prof. Jane Kelsey, who has written extensively on the GATS and TISA, has a great deal of information on the exploitation of guest workers in South Asia and the Middle East in her (really quite good) 2008 book “Serving Whose Interests?: The political economy of trade in services”
        Basically, large multinational corporations have been doing this kind of thing for quite some time in other countries and we Americans either (mostly) did not know or often when we did know, turned a blind eye. We should have spoken up sooner. Now its being done to us. We’re being treated like we’ve treated others. lets hope we can rise above all of this – All of us. Fighting each other is a trap, its a setup. We’re being set up to fail while the real crooks take the money and run.

        We are not that different. China- for example. In 1989, the Chinese democracy movement made a large statute of a Chinese goddess of democracy, who looked much like Lady Liberty. She was destroyed the night of June 4 – Beijing rose up. Remember that. On that day i was demonstrating with Chinese in San Francisco against the crackdown. I heard on the BBC that the tanks were coming in and literally ran to the Chinese embassy with a friend and sign making material. I only lived a few blocks away. We need to see that its not the Chinese people who we are against, its the corrupt system that prevents the true costs of development from being recognized and accounted for, there and here. here, its the high costs of education and housing and healthcare that are especially to blame. If indians and Chinese had to pay those costs, they would see our side of the story.

        Indians are increasingly outraged at their government’s corruption. The best thing we could do is start building global networks to recognize and expose corruption and support democracy. And increase the quality of life everywhere, fairly, so that these wont be these huge value gradients which the well connected can exploit to the world’s detriment. they call this “maximizing the value in the supply chains”.

        Jobs as we know them are vanishing globally and we don’t know what’s coming next. But we still have to think ahead. The current situation wont last long. As i said before, the real training of replacements will be done with AI. And its not far away.

        TPP and TISA (which also forces privatization on a massive scale, as a prelude to globalizing services) are not the only issues. People should become aware of the TTIP – especially its chemicals issue.. It is extremely important to our future quality of life and cost of living. Especially the EDCs issue. How costly/ very! See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4399291/ – that and the TTIP energy deal, which will vastly increase fracking and drilling and paradoxically, also increase the price of heating and electricity here as the ban on exports, in place since the 1970s, is lifted. That jump in the cost of heating and cooling could result in a loss of a great deal of affordable housing. landlords may decide to go out of business rather than upgrade. I think that is very likely.

        that and the energy cost hike itself likely will lead to the loss of a great many jobs. We need to stop Fast Track, TPP, TTIP and especially TISA and repeal GATS- which is the reason our health care is trapped in limbo. In a situation which is going to be continued by TISA. Read http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi= Yes, they lied about health care too, just like “immigration”. They wasted years of the country’s time. GATS also was responsible for our loss of Glass Steagall. Obama didn’t want to go near that one, or mention GATS or the WTO, (which could also end up telling us to “roll back” our minimum wage like they did to El Salvador in the late 90s) , so he lied to Elizabeth Warren’s face. he lied to the closest person we have to an expert on these things and they both knew it. She is one smart lady to get him on the record on that one. thank you.

        There is another vote on Tuesday.

        Thank you all.


    • If an American of any race dared to make the “cultural fit” argument, it would loudly be decried as “racism”. How dare Americans require only other Americans, or Americans of a particular race or ethnicity?


    • A former client of mine in Austin outsourced an order-entry system written in Visual Basic using a SQL Server database in 2002. They originally had 2 American employees and 3 American contractors working on the system.

      When asked why the project was being outsourced, the IT Director was quoted as saying:
      “I am currently paying around 100/hr for American contractors. I can get Indians for $20/hr, so even if they have to redo the code 5 times, I’m not paying any more money!”

      He obviously didn’t place a value on time or the meeting of project deadlines!

      A small Indian consulting company was engaged to do the project, and they consequently turned the 2 American employees into PM’s to manage the offshore team.

      (By the way, the American employees were very technical and frequently had to rewrite code written by the offshore team after making code reviews.)

      Curiously enough, the Indian consulting company was rotating a couple of their billable Indian employees in and out of the country on 3-month schedule. Remember Jay Palmer vs Infosys? Similar issue…

      It turned out that the Indian consulting company was (quite illegally) using B-1 visas for the consultants being brought here. When questioned about the practice, the company’s New York-based consulting manager was quoted as saying “Our business model is based on using B-1 visas for our onshore workers.”

      An anonymous ethics complaint to the company’s ethics hotline spurred an investigation by the company’s legal department which confirmed that they were breaking the rules for B-1 visas, and they sent the B-1 worker(s) home.

      In the end, they had 29 workers in India working on the project…


  2. Great title Dr. Norm…. I’ll enjoy sharing this with my co-workers tomorrow ! Regards, John & Jan PS You’re an inspiration to us all….

    John Walker Beasley Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2015 01:01:21 +0000 To: johnbzly@hotmail.com


  3. > Billhardt’s testimony, of course, repeats the claim that “for every 100 H-1B workers, an additional 183 jobs are created for workers born in the United States.” omitting mention of the fact that this figure is from an industry-sponsored study. Sadly, none of the senators called him on that point.

    Yes, Billhardt would make a fine parrot! I looked into the 183 number and posted the results at http://econdataus.com/amerjobs.htm . If you use the study’s exact same formula but go from 2002 to 2008, excluding the tech crash and financial crisis, you calculate that for every 100 H-1B workers, 68.6 jobs are LOST by native workers. Hence, to a large degree, that 183 signifies that both H-1B workers AND native workers lost jobs during those two periods. Not quite the “happy, happy, joy, joy, everybody wins” story being pushed by those quoting the number. Of course, neither Billhardt or the others quoting the number will ever respond the these facts. 183 is quite a fine number and they’re sticking with it!


  4. Thank you for so many years of support in this area. 12 years since we brought up our replacement with TATA India employees on L-1b visas and Congress continues to ignore American workers. Nothing amazes me anymore.


  5. Regarding the “cultural fit,” when a company displaces Americans with foreign nationals who barely speak English, the American becomes the “odd guy out.” We used to see a multicultural work environment where the “best and brightest” foreign workers mixed well with Americans. Now in many tech businesses, the foreign workers have pushed out the Americans, established their own cultural dominance and leaving Americans feeling like foreigners in the workplace (that is if they even still have a job). Congress needs to hear from more displaced Americans and not just the employers with a vested interest to profit from cheap labor.


    • I couldn’t agree more, but how do we get these displaced Americans to speak up?


      I created this map to get people to tell their stories so that we couldn’t get swept under the carpet, but with the exception of a brave few, they cower in silence.

      If anybody knows how to get the americans displaced from any field, not just IT, I’m all ears.

      Our ancestors understood:

      United We Stand
      Divided We Fall

      It is time for us to realize that is still true today simply because it is our silence that allows this to get worse.


      • We need to figure out ways to get the young and the old together. Screw this model that says we cannot see things more broadly. The Internet routes itself around censorship, so should we route our skills development around small minded people. *Our Lives and our Earth’s future are not a zero sum game!*

        With computing, especially, we need to always be working on projects. because its both the mind and body that learn best together.

        Code to live.


  6. [A rare look at true hiring practices at Google is coming out because HR head Laszlo Bock is flogging his new book ‘Work Rules!’]


    Google receives more than two million job applications from around the world each year, hiring several thousand of those candidates.

    It takes an average of six weeks to secure a hire, and every candidate needs to be screened by their potential boss, potential colleagues, a hiring committee, and finally Google CEO Larry Page.


    [A WSJ article on Google hiring said they hire 1 in 200. I posted the following:]

    Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been in Washington clamoring for big increases in H1-B high tech visas. Ridiculous when Google hires 1 in 200. Global corporations do this because India etc. want the access to American technology so they can move it back home and produce it more cheaply. To operate in low wage countries bribery is usually expected, but U.S. laws make this difficult, so they bribe these countries with American jobs and technology.


    Of course H-1B helps hold down American wages also. Important for Eric who hasn’t quite made it into the $10 billion wealth bracket yet. The 11-figure bank account is so important for ego points at Davos. He was brought in first as a CEO to save Novell, and ran it into the ground. Then he parachuted into a sweet deal at Google.

    [I put this post together using an article at LinkedIn that I found here on this site]

    “And at Google we sometimes get more than 50,000 resumes in a single week.”

    Poor Eric Schmidt has been begging Congress for more H-1B visas, but this is the reality of hiring at Google, by the head of HR there: [over 2 million views on LinkedIn] – they are so flooded with highly qualified American applicants that only one typo will disqualify an otherwise ‘great’ candidate.


    ‘And at Google we sometimes get more than 50,000 resumes in a single week.

    What’s most depressing is that I can tell from the resumes that many of these are good, even great, people. But in a fiercely competitive labor market, hiring managers don’t need to compromise on quality. All it takes is one small mistake and a manager will reject an otherwise interesting candidate.

    Mistake 1: Typos.’


    [This is from Wikipedia ‘Novell’, but on controversial issues there, it is sometimes a case of who edited last…]

    “Novell’s decline and loss of market share accelerated under Eric Schmidt’s leadership, with Novell experiencing industry-wide decline in sales and purchases of NetWare and a drop in share price of $40.00/share to $7.00/share…

    Analysts commented that the primary reason for Novell’s demise was linked to its channel strategy and mismanagement of channel partners under Eric Schmidt’s leadership.”


  7. H1Bs destroy businesses just like Monsanto destroys farmers – from the INSIDE.




    Education HERE. Mentoring HERE matters and they will NOT.

    Their universities have FAILED them and they then go to OTHER countries to get their workers after REFUSING TO TRAIN AND MENTOR? NO!

    NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! Noooooooooooooooooooo!


  8. I like to share the following quote from Nobel Prize Economist Paul Krugman…

    “Whenever you see some business person quoted complaining about how he or she can’t find workers with the necessary skills, ask what wage they’re offering. Almost always, it turns out that what said business person really wants is highly (and expensively) educated workers at a manual-labor wage.”

    “The Fake Skills Shortage”
    NOVEMBER 25, 2012 9:02 AM


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