Much Ado About Something Already Well-Known

Occasionally I receive so many e-mail messages about a certain news article that I feel compelled to blog about it. Such as the case for the Pro Publica/New York Times article, “Report: Major companies excluding older workers from job ads on Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn.”

What were firms like Amazon, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, UPS, and Facebook caught doing? They were placing job ads in social media sites that targeted young people — targeted in the sense that only young people received the ads. So you say, “Aha, gotcha!”, right? Not really.

The article’s expose’ is merely a reflection of the REAL problem, which is that these employers are earmarking these jobs for young people in the first place. All the major tech firms have ads explicitly stating that the jobs are for “New or Recent College Graduates” (along with internal documents using acronyms NCG/RCG). Or the ads will state “3 years’ experience,” meaning that applicants with 15 years of experience are “overqualified” and automatically rejected. So the article is not news. And since the vast majority of new graduates are young, it makes practical sense for the firms to target their social media ads to the young.

Not that I am defending any of this. On the contrary, I have written extensively about age discrimination in tech, and on the fact that it is fueled by the swelling of the young labor pool by the H-1B visa workers, who are almost all young. (A point that Pro Pub./NYT would not state even if they knew about it.)

Instead, my point is that it is futile to treat the symptom and not the disease. If these firms stop restricting dissemination of their ads only to the young, they still will be restricting their hiring to the young. And they still will hire lots of young H-1Bs.

Interestingly, KQED, a Bay Area NPR station, ran a piece Thursday morning on Facebook and the age issue. It profiled a 54-year-old man with extensive, sophisticated tech background who lives just a few blocks from Facebook but has failed repeatedly to get even an interview with the firm. Facebook and the reporter spun this as problem of a large firm that would like to hire people like this man, but has problems connecting the right applicants with the right managers. But not to worry, Facebook is going to set up a special program to remedy this. As you can see from my comments above, this is not the problem at all, and the special program will help only a few token hires.

So the social media targeting issue is a distraction from the real issues. The same statement holds for the “Intels Good, Infosyses Bad” false dichotomy that I rant about here so often. The claim is that the “Infosyses,” firms that hire H-1Bs and then rent them out to other employers, are the main abusers of the H-1B program, while the “Intels,” who hire H-1Bs directly, typically as foreign students at U.S. campuses, use the program responsibly. Again, that is just a distraction from the real issue, which is that the Intels are just as culpable.

Take a look at this LinkedIn page. Almost all of the Facebook engineers appear to be foreign-born, and most of those would be current or former H-1Bs. Indeed, Facebook has recently “qualified” as an H-1B-dependent employer. Mind you, those engineers are probably well-qualifed, but Facebook is rejecting lots of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are also well-qualified. I’ve called attention here before to similar LinkedIn pages showing the same pattern for eBay. (Largely Indians there, compared to the Chinese-dominant Facebook.) Once again: Congress could shut down all the Infosyses entirely, yet Americans still wouldn’t be getting these jobs. 

“Keep your eyes on the prize” — not distractions.

 

 

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30 thoughts on “Much Ado About Something Already Well-Known

  1. I agree that Intels are bad but the body shops that are used to place “less qualified” contract workers are at least half the problem.

    These body shops used to be the place you would go to for your break into tech, if you were an older worker or just quickly get a job after being let go at the higher end company. The recruiters at these shops have direct ties to their h1-b friends working at the facebooks, googles, etc…. this alone has driven the many American born (mostly female) recruiters out of business.

    The intels and facebooks work hand in hand with the infosys’s to keep Americans out of high tech work force.

    It would be wrong to give intel a free pass but we want to keep the pressure on the body shops as well.

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    • “I agree that Intels are bad but the body shops that are used to place “less qualified” contract workers are at least half the problem.” Do you believe that restricting the Infosyses, even banning them outright, would SOLVE half the problem? Because that is what all of the proposals in Congress would do, i.e. restrict the Infosyses in various ways. One more time: “Congress could shut down all the Infosyses entirely, yet Americans still wouldn’t be getting these jobs.”

      There is only ONE question that should be asked about any proposed legislation: Would it result in more Americans getting hired?

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      • Hey Norm, to be honest, I think it would help but to quantify it over all would be tough.

        Many people, like me, don’t even think it is possible to get in a high end job at the intels, hp’s or googles. I have applied at Apple 18 times over the last 27 years and have only got one interview. To worry about Facebook and google not hiring me now isn’t something that ever crossed my mind. I simply don’t care to even try them because I know what the result will be and I have had this view long before the h1-bs became an issue.

        The second tier contract job market used to be ok through 2005 or so and then it collapsed for pretty much everybody except the h1-b workers.

        I know your view that this issue can’t be differentiated between the intels and the infosys’ and you are probably correct at a political level but I do think the American 2nd tier contract workers have taken a harder hit than the American top tier google types have.

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  2. Well that’s right, but the problem is more ingrained than that, the whole computer industry is shot through with this cancer, that all software should be developed – by newbies! Better yet, by the cheapest available newbies. Is that how we choose doctors, lawyers, or Indian chiefs? No, it is not. How did such a crazy idea even get started?

    Like

  3. Trouble with password – hope this isn’t a duplicate comment.

    Hi Norm:

    I have a LinkedIn page – seems to be a requirement these days. I believe it adequately reflects my education (PhD) and experience (30+). (but I’m analog hardware, not software)

    I found I was deemed wonderfully qualified for many positions; I received many invitations to apply for positions … but the application process has many ways to determine age – among them year of graduation and TSA requirements for travel arrangements. Privacy, eh? Laws, eh? …

    Never did get an interview for these positions I was so highly qualified for. But I kept getting invitations … probably only to fill some recruiter’s database.

    So I now put my age right up front of my LinkedIn page (I don’t do Facebook). Funny … my Search hits have remained about the same – but I no longer get the invitations I did only a few months ago … before I posted my age.

    But no worries – I got used to (sh-h-h) age discrimination beginning about when I was 35. I’m a tad few decades older now but little else has changed. If a company wants what I have to offer, age won’t matter – but why push the issue (at an individual level)? If I were to somehow “force” a company to hire me, they could always find a justifiable way to fire me “with cause” later.

    The problem seems to be more that “cheap” is the primary need; the consumer wants the latest, greatest, and pretty – whether or not the product is “quality” (quality doesn’t generate on-going revenue; quality and cheap don’t go together). Quality personnel with experience don’t add enough “value” to a product to justify the cost and might subtract from profits. And from a business point of view, I guess I can’t argue. Not that I agree.

    Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
    Dave

    Liked by 1 person

    • When you’ve a monopoly on a market, quality is not an issue. You just need to produce enough “new and improved” marketing buzz to keep the sales going. Apple, for one, hides its market decline by claiming “job creation” of peripheral industry, charts with cumulative sales (across years, in fine print), etc.
      Note the reemergence of things that engineers thought were long dead, known user irritants such as popups, auto-play of videos, etc.
      Monopoly has a tendency to bring about its own death, in a little way or in a big way (taking the economy down with it).
      Given big ships can’t make hard turns without endangering all on board, I’m seeing no indication things are going to change any time soon. Some activity on slowing down Level 1 H1B approvals, but not much else.

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  4. I found this posting on Indeed for a technical support – call center job with Arris:
    https://arriscareers.taleo.net/careersection/ex/jobdetail.ftl?job=95382&src=SNS-10041

    May I quote:
    “Basic Qualifications
    Currently pursuing a degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering or a similar program with a graduation date on or after December 2018
    Must be graduating on or after May 2018
    GPA 3.2 for undergrad and 3.5 for graduate/Phd level”

    Looks to me like they are not interested in getting a qualified American worker.
    Could they just be fishing for H1Bs?

    Like

  5. As a veteran that could easily pass this course, I bet I wouldn’t be hired by facebook if I could afford to attend it, simply because I will be 60 on 27 Dec 2017.

    Dear Fellow Veterans and Colleagues,

    VA would like to take moment and highlight a unique program being offered to the Veteran community by Facebook. Facebook recently announced the launch of Facebook Cybersecurity University for Veterans. If you are a Veteran with a CS background or a student Veteran studying CS and interested in learning more about Cybersecurity, then this a great opportunity to learn more about this important and emerging field. Through the course, students will gain hands-on, real-world cybersecurity skills. The program is hosted onsite at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, CA and starts on February 3rd, 2018. It is hosted every Saturday for 12 weeks. If you are interested in learning more, check out the course information here.

    Facebook Cybersecurity University Information

    There is no cost to enroll in the program and spots are limited, so apply soon! The application window closes January 18, 2018.

    As always, thank you for your service.

    Regards,

    Curtis L. Coy

    Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity

    Veterans Benefits Administration

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

    Washington, DC 20420

    VA Core Values: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, Excellence (“I CARE”)

    Like

  6. For a number of years, “experts” have claimed that people in most industries would have many, short careers instead of one long career. The implication is that few people would have more than 5 or 6 years of experience in their current field… Doesn’t this mean that asking for “3 to 5 years of experience” should have little or connection with a person’s age? The hiring managers simply don’t want to hire somebody with 3-5 years of experience, if that experience was 5 or 10 years ago. But they will never say it that way.

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  7. I think that going after the Infosys-type companies is a good tactical move.
    It functions as good propaganda; it causes the average voter to understand the problem;
    it may put a few of these bastards in jail (we can only hope); and it causes
    some number of companies outside of the hard-core Intel/Cisco space to think
    that half-priced foreign workers are not worth the hassle.

    Also, it is good to hand out people a victory once in a while.

    That is why I feel that attacking the Infosys-type companies while basically
    ignoring the Intel-type companies is a good move.

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  8. I have read your blog posts multiple times both as a former H1-B, now citizen Indian as well as a hiring manager in semiconductor high tech. I cannot stress enough that I don’t get enough US born and educated applicants of any age for the jobs we post. When qualified apply, we make an offer that beats the market, they still don’t choose the job. This is not just my experience but also that of other managers- both Indian and American. The issue you are highlighting about displaced American worker and depressed wages are not visible to me from the hiring point of view.

    You are forgetting that most of the tech jobs do not require senior engineers or heavily qualified expensive engineers. We’d offer the lower salary to the older worker but that is not acceptable either.

    I simply don’t see your positions to be practical from a business perspective. While you fight the immigration policy battle battering the poor and yes undertalented cheaper imports, you forget that lots of really smart Americans were probably kids of people who were plenty undertalented and poor immigrants.

    American worker is screwed because the nation is amorally capitalistic to the core. The new immigrants like me will suffer too sooner or later. Why not ask the nation to be less driven by wall street capitalism ? Why not ask the nation to ensure policies that are not so free market brutal to people ?

    So, Professor, fight your injustices but try to be humane to people like me for a change. You may not mean to come across like that but your blog sounds mean, divisive and cruel

    Like

    • I’ve heard remarks like yours so many times.

      You don’t see the American applicants (NOT the same as U.S.-born) because HR doesn’t send them to you. This is what happens in the industry. In fact, an Intel hiring manager complained bitterly about it to me. He had to go out and recruit his own American engineers. I see this in the industry all the time.

      Concerning your statement that most jobs don’t need a senior engineer, I ask you to confirm the following for all the readers to see: You believe it is justified to hiring a young foreign worker in lieu of an older American.

      And for the record: My father was an immigrant from a poor family. He had just a high school education, and my mother, who was the daughter of immigrants, had just an eighth-grade education.

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  9. It would be illegal for HR to filter like that. Companies get audited by EEOC for filtering applicants on the basis of national origin. No, sir, your assumptions are wrong.We look for qualified candidates to fill the role within the budget allocated to us. The cost of hiring and retaining foreign employee is much higher than an American one. It makes no sense to prefer an H1 .

    Your entire blog and previous reports are targeting Indians and Chinese immigrants. It would not be the first time a previous generation of immigrants complained about the policies admitting the next wave. If you want to champion the cause of older tech worker, find another way to do it rather than producing reports based on conjured metrics. Anyone can define a metric and measure a population on those metrics and try to effect an argument. Your metrics in your reports are nonsensical and designed to be a malicious attack on a yet newer immigrant community.

    H1 is not perfect but neither will be any other policy. People will always find a Way to exploit an economic opportunity, Protectionism and isolationism of strictly orchestrated immigration will be unsuccessful.

    I do recommend you to stop measuring quality of immigrant workers and students and get on with championing virtues of older Americans workers and help make it easy for mangers like me finding them. Influence US policies by advising about tax incentives that encourage high tech to hire American and older first. Make other policy fixes before slitting the throats of immigrants new to US

    Like

    • “It would be illegal for HR to filter like that. Companies get audited by EEOC for filtering applicants on the basis of national origin”: I was an invited speaker at EEOC a few months ago, and worked closely with them for a while after that. They basically decided that although the situation is bad, there is nothing they can do about the problems of H-1B, specifically age discrimination. (I did not bring up the national origin issue in this thread. Perhaps you’ve made a Freudian Slip here?)

      “I do recommend you to stop measuring quality of immigrant workers and students”: My first response to you yesterday was, “I’ve heard these things [that you said] so many times.” But now you are bringing in something truly novel, that research into the quality of H-1Bs/F-1s should be verboten. Congratulations for being the first one in my 25 years of researching this topic to say so!

      “Your entire blog and previous reports are targeting Indians and Chinese immigrants. It would not be the first time a previous generation of immigrants complained about the policies admitting the next wave”: You know nothing about me, and are making reckless statements without first investigating whether they are valid. I suggest that you read my bio, heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/matloff.html, and then offer me an apology.

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    • “illegal for HR to filter”
      Ha! There’s what should be … and what is. Anyone moderately competent knows how to not document something to avoid an audit (or lawsuit) – especially when many if not most audits are scheduled in advance. Secondary screening by manual means is hard to prove …

      When it comes to employment, my long experience is that there’s ALWAYS a legally justifiable reason to hire or not hire, regardless of any unspoken or undocumented reality.

      This is not my blog so I won’t address my experiences with and thoughts about H1Bs … but I believe the original post was about age, not national origin.

      “Someone also in HighTech”

      Like

      • Then one doesn’t blame the H1s or the quality of H1s. if businesses are assessing them to be good enough for the work they are hired for, what is the problem ? By your logic or anyone else’s logic, if the quality of work is so poor that businesses are losing money due to this, this would have been shut down. So, H1s work more and at cheaper price and do good enough work. Why target the H1s ?

        What gets me is the everyone in high tech is a shareholder and wants market growth but doesn’t realize the cost of it. You can get greater dividends without lower cost of business. Simple economics. Which one will you sacrifice – your stock returns or wages.

        If Americans took the wages that the market was bearing and competed with the evolving labor pool, it could be a win-win. If the American turns up his nose at a lower wage or working with the immigrant, then sure you’ll see what you are seeing. Don’t blame the immigrant for it.

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        • I know many older Americans who would take a pay cut if given a chance. Indeed, all of the independent contractors are getting lower rates than they used to. The problem is that HR automatically rejects them.
          “Why target the H1s”: In spite of being an American citizen, you don’t know the American spirit. Americans are among the most welcoming people in the world toward immigrants, in order to give them a better life. But Americans don’t like being taken advantage of by immigration policy. By the way, the victims blame Congress and the employers, not the immigrants themselves.

          “If businesses are assessing them to be good enough for the work they are hired for, what is the problem?”: You don’t know U.S. immigration law either. H-1B law makes it very clear that the goal is to ensure that American workers are not hurt by immigration. Sadly, the U.S. gov is not willing to live up to that promise, largely because of pressure by Deep Pockets firms like yours.

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  10. There is no apology to be rendered – a social theorist could and would deconstruct your motivations in many ways. Your background and your activities don’t preclude you from targeting a group of new immigrants which in this case are H1Bs majority holders -Indians and Chinese. It is not verboten to measure quality but it is useless to do so – businesses and economic migrants will find opportunity to exploit any immigration policy to their benefit. Measuring quality of immigrants should have way more vectors than you include in your reports to be fair. Inherently, as with any performance measuring system, which I as a manager am familiar with many, there are limitations and biases. I simply don’t expect any quality measuring metric to reflect the true ability of a human being. Businesses are judged by results and if these immigrants are meeting the needs at the price point , that is the true measure. Silicon Valley is fueled by immigrant labor from everywhere in the world. As I said before – let policies give incentives to universities and businesses to favor Americans via tax benefits or other free market tools – and forget this blatant attack on new immigrant communities.

    My last word on this matter. May your heartlessness fail.

    Like

    • “It is not verboten to measure quality but it is useless to do so – businesses and economic migrants will find opportunity to exploit any immigration policy to their benefit… Businesses are judged by results and if these immigrants are meeting the needs at the price point, that is the true measure”: Interesting choice of phrasing, “exploit” and “price point,” a craven admission that the industry is abusing the H-1B program.

      “Silicon Valley is fueled by immigrant labor from everywhere in the world…”: Aha! Now you have hit on a key issue. Being in the semiconductor industry, you are probably aware of the scary security hole in Intel chips, announced this week. The entire world will suffer, due to a poor quality Intel engineering team. So quality matters! Thus research into the quality of the H-1B workers really matters, a LOT. Maybe Intel loves its labor “price point,” but they have some responsibility to society as well.

      “May your heartlessness fail”: Let me break the news for you — the victims of the H-1B program consider YOU heartless.

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  11. And yet, there is no other company in the world, American or otherwise to compete in the CPU space that Intel does, with as large a market share. ARM, AMD all have the vulnerability – fyi. All of them have immigrants from everywhere – hence they too must be producing crap. Get off your high horse, professor. Engineering teams everywhere make lots of tradeoffs -you’ll never know what decisions got made by who in any of these companies. Your guesses about the reasons of these flaws are nothing but prejudiced attacks.

    You may recall the space shuttle Challenger that didn’t go up at all – made all in USA by NASA engineers. Then there is Ford Pinto. Nothing made by Americans fails ? I call your B.S arguments out again.

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    • There are engineering failures everywhere. Challenger is a poor example, because that was a political failure, not an engineering one, but yes, there are engineering failures everywhere. The point that you are missing is that the better the quality of engineer, the lower the chance of failure. So once again, quality matters!

      And, I and others have done research showing that the average quality of the H-1Bs is lower than that of their American peers. Talk is cheap, Ms. SomeOneinHighTech. If you think my research on quality might be flawed, then read it (which you haven’t done) and then tell us where you think it goes wrong.

      By the way, as a woman I would have assumed you would appreciate my post the other day in which I said the H-1Bs have better gender parity than the Americans. No?

      Like

      • From a strictly humanist point, people perform to expectations that are set in their cultures. By virtue of factors that include militarism, earlier industrialization and longer period of free-market economy and other things, western people have developed certain competencies that eastern people have been behind on in the last 200 years. I don’t see human capability or potential too different among various civilizations. I am not going to support any effort to judge immigrants in the way you have in your report – reeks of eugenics and other ventures like that. Its not humane. I see the second generation – kids of H1 immigrants- being just as capable if not more of producing quality products and labors on all spectrum of quality as Americans do.

        What I can get behind is protecting the older worker and their right to suitable employment. This has to be effected differently than attacks on people via measuring performance/quality. US Citizenship is no longer a coveted price and nor are Americans Gods that should judge other people. But as you see Trump has arrived. You just might get what you want – a mass exodus of the hated immigrants back home from an increasingly hostile America. As Emmanuel Macron says – The 21st Century will not belong to America. Meanwhile, nor I nor any other immigrant will be accepting judgment from you or anybody else as a valid assessment of value of my labors or my humanity.

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        • First, you greatly marred what otherwise would have been an interesting post by using entirely unwarranted language like “reeks of eugenics.” There is absolutely ZERO in my writings about genetics. On the contrary, I have often cited cultural issues, notably the rote memory style of East Asian education/learning. I guess in your circle of friends, phrases like “reeks of eugenics” and “social theorists would easily deconstruct this” are magical incantations that shut down any discussion, showstoppers, but this gets you nowhere in general society. Frankly, this was a stupid thing for you to do. Please stick to the facts, OK?

          Putting that aside, the rest of your first paragraph is nothing short of a remarkable admission that the immigrant techies are generally of lesser quality. You then say, in effect, “But that’s OK, because the immigrants’ children do fine. What kind of justification is that for H-1B? The industry is claiming the H-1Bs are top-quality people. If the industry lobbyists were to go to Congress and say what you said, or worse, admit it to the press, Congress would SHUT DOWN the H-1B program, industry campaign contributions notwithstanding.

          Like

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