You Must Have a Job to Get a Job

Wolf here: occasionally I highlight comments that add a different angle or flavor or an illustration or more depth to an article published on Wolf Street. This comment by Duke is a personal perspective in response to Startup CEO (Unwittingly) Explains Biggest Problem in America’s Unemployment Crisis.

Rebekah Campbell, CEO of a startup called Posse, explained that you must have a job to even be considered for a job – to heck with active job seekers and the unemployed. She described the cheap, universally available tools that allowed her to eliminate the unemployed from consideration.

By Duke:

I’d hate to admit it but Rebekah’s story reflects the reality…

I was unemployed and underemployed for 2 years (2009 – 2011) after a stint at a biotech start-up which was not acquired and didn’t even receive a decent partnership offer from large pharma companies (countless DD) due to the dubious drug in joke clinical trials. We even pulled out of IPO 2 days before trading date in 2007 due to lack of interest.

I barely got by as consultant for a small company client that paid late. I must have applied to 200+ jobs as my goal 1st year out of work. I had interviews but also found out that I was over-qualified and frankly maybe perceived as threat to hiring managers. I see this at work now as other hiring managers pass over qualified and competent candidates over “fear.” Only the competent and “secure” managers seem not to mind hiring the A-class talents.

I work for a very large biotech company and also worked for large medical device and “once largest” software company. I’m getting a lot of unsolicited inquiries thru Linkedin from recruiter poachers. It seems like they are the arms-length independent contractors hired by HR departments. Companies are targeting those who are employed. We also give names of people we like at 1st tier suppliers so that recruiters can poach them.

This is indeed bad news for those older and qualified candidates who have been out of work for some time. I was there once and really saddens me as those 2 years were the darkest moments of my life, and it affected my family greatly with my kids seeing their once proud dad shrivel, and even my wife beginning to question my ability and resorting to part time work (she always stayed home) to get by.

Duke then added a second comment:

So checked out what Rebekah the hiring guru was able to muster:

Is it me or is she only hiring Asian worker bees (Chinese and a lot of Filipinos)? I mean 12 out of 20 employees are Filipinos, no doubt mostly domiciled in Manila, AKA outsourced, 3 Chinese, 4 young attractive white women, and 1 Hispanic male?

So let me get this – she resorted to outsourcing which she did not disclose or mention on her NYT piece. I bet that none of her staff worked for the tech giants Google, Apple, Fakebook, Microsoft, etc. No I take it back – I hear my ex-employer Microsoft has been hiring B/C talents, and couple of Chinese engineers are probably ex-Microsoftees.

Been to Manila once in 2008 for outsourcing prospect and stayed at a call-center neighborhood and saw the stream of young Filipinos heading home around 8 AM – the end of their shift toiling for multinationals. Outsourcing, the short-term profit making route, is literally killing the goose that lays the golden egg by decimating older tech workforce (especially hardware) and young kids can’t get into tech unless they join the worthless non-productive social mania bubble which is soon to pop. That’s why I’m telling my kids to get into medical service field…By Duke, in response to Startup CEO (Unwittingly) Explains Biggest Problem in America’s Unemployment Crisis.

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  13 comments for “You Must Have a Job to Get a Job

  1. Ahjay says:

    Sounds like my story. In order to be competitive and diversify my skill set from stiff competition from cheap IT labor and outsourcing, I went back to Stern Business School for full-time an MBA degree. After completion, I could not make career change due to employer preference for younger and low paying students. As far previous jobs, hiring managers’ excuse is I am over qualified and too rusty with IT skills due 2 year gap despite agreeing to low pay and one or two step down career level. I am still unable to secure any since 2009 and I end up in school debt of $150K and opportunity cost about million.

    • Vespa P200E says:

      Sorry to hear about your situation Ahjay…

      I got an MBA in mid 90’s and looking back it was not a smart move. Costed me a bundle even with my employers pitching in a little. MBA was perceived as good things to have in the 90’s and even 10 years ago but somehow it lost luster.

      What I’ve experienced is that many companies focus on the bottom line with certain compensation figure in mind. Many of the recruiters acted surprised by my last compensation when I was not working/barely scraping by and offered lot less. It was insulting initially but I realized employers had pool of qualified candidates to choose from and was focusing more on filling headcount rather than hiring talent. I held out at times like a fool and ended up way beyond expectation which I attribute to the God’s blessing.

      What bothers me is that many qualified and seasoned professionals in the 40’s and 50’s are hired as contractors rather than FTEs. They are caught in a tough job environment, barebone benefits, lower pay since many are asked to be employed thru an agency, lack security, not treated well by some FTEs and as seen as some kind of 2nd class citizen.

      Vespa P200E AKA Duke

      • dc.sunsets says:

        The writing was on the wall 19 years ago. None of this made any sense, none of it was sustainable, and something HAD to give.

        I told my family 10 years ago that firms had to find a way to pay people less, WAY less, that incomes (in the industry I labored) were completely out of balance. How did it come about? Half the industry got laid off, and those few who came back did so as contractors making 2/3rds of prior salary.

        Anyone who wasn’t saving like there was No Tomorrow these past 14 years was completely asleep at the switch. I figured once I hit 50, if I lost my job I’d probably never work again. Came back as a contractor but any day that could end and I’ll be living on what I saved, wondering if any of the pensions & social security systems will even exist when old age arrives.

        This is why people >49 are clinging to their jobs no matter how much they may hate them. Employers from pharmaceuticals to public schools are working feverishly to decrease the average age of their employees (probably to save $ on group medical.) The best way to drop the mean is dump the 50+, and I’ve not seen anyone 50+ who has been rehired into “my” industry except as contractors (and even that’s rare.)

        I sure hope karma is operative for the animals in management effecting these policies.

      • Ahjay says:

        Thanks, Duke. I was hiking in Costa Rica and I had no internet access to check my emails until I got back.

        What bothers me the most is that the firms tout themselves – for PR stunt in media and corporate websites – big in diversity and promoting career and career change programs for middle aged professionals etc….but in reality most give lip service and just false hope.

        I worked twice for a big bank that recently paid hefty penalty for mortgage mess – as a consultant, not by choice though – for 8 years with good reviews from colleagues and supervisors. During the work, I expressed my interest many times in FTE to which they kept promising me, in order to keep me, and at same time totally ignoring…even after my frequent reminders. They kept me as consultant until they had let me go due to budget cuts.

        Few months ago, interestingly I had a chance to meet one of C level executives of same bank in school event. I inquired him in front of other audience about opportunities for middle aged professionals and the programs that bank currently had. Since he is in charge of bank’s programs, he got me in touch with one of the program recruiters who in turn simply suggested that I should apply on their corporate website and be in touch with her.

        Took her suggestion and religiously followed and applied – until I got tired and gave up – more than 200 jobs in 16 months …besides applying in other firms as well. The response was mute except rejection emails, not even for one positive response although I possess right relevant qualifications (3 Masters) and close to 20yrs of experience in financial sector.

        When I asked on the progress my candidacy, she said hiring managers do not see you fit for the roles and suggested me to keep applying. When I quizzed her further why I wasn’t being considered although I have right credentials and experience, she got defensive and started reading bank’s policies and non-discrimination in hiring based on race, age etc.. After seeing myself going nowhere, I again tried to reach executive few times but as expected received no response. I began to realize that their programs are no different and has no value. I blindly thought my efforts with them would make some difference but I was wrong :)


  2. williamwilliam says:

    “Dumbing down” your resume is a common tactic now. A candidate drops their advanced degree and expensive-sounding experience. Then they quote their past salary as much lower than it actually was. I first heard of this from an ex-CFO in the telecom bust years ago. I did it once years ago to grab a sales position to ‘pay bills’ and became top sales person of over 40 people in a few months.

  3. I was working in Milan, Italy when I got the email that I was being let go after the end of the project. I couldn’t believe they couldn’t have the decency to call me. I bitterly told them to just send me an SMS next time!

    But I am a resourceful fellow. Before I even landed back in the states, I had lined up a new job with a start-up company. They were firing on engineer and hiring me to replace him.

    We were expanding a little and were looking at hiring 2 new engineers . We received a lot of resumes from laid off engineers and it was up to me to filter through the stacks and bring them in for interview. It never even dawned on me to only try to hire people who weren’t laid off. In engineering, when layoffs occur, it doesn’t matter how good or bad you are, you’re OUT. Layoffs are part and parcel with Engineering and Construction firms. And in 2008/9 the number of engineers from Fluor Houston office alone measured about 500.

    We ended up hiring a bright young engineer with the skill set we were looking for. He was laid off from General Electric’s Coal gasification division. I would have preferred an older engineer, but none of them had the background experience we thought essential.

  4. dc.sunsets says:

    He’s telling his kids to get into a medical service field?!!!

    Egads! Talk about pushing them into steerage on the Titanic. Go over to Stockman’s Contra Corner and read his latest. He finally noticed that the Fed’s flood of credit money is flowing, via Congress, to four cartels: Military, Medical, University and Banking. These are the ONLY areas where Full Time breadwinner jobs have grown for 14 years.

    Unless you think the Fed/CONgressman cabal can keep growing dollar credit exponentially forever, the last thing you want to do is jump into industries 100% dependent on and addicted to exponentially growing federal borrowing of money-from-nowhere. There may be endless demand for medical services going forward, but there’s NO WAY this system of paying for them is going to survive.

  5. Lee says:

    Well, how do I start?

    I am employed now, but I hate my job. The pay is very low and the work is menial. I paid much more in income tax in my previous job than I make now. I guess I am lucky though that I have a job. Many people here in Australia don’t have a job. Many people with similar or better educational backgrounds or in my age group don’t have jobs either.

    I don’t know how long I’ll be able to continue to do do my job as the work involves extremely demanding physical labor. The others that were hired to do the same job at my workplace were in their 30’s and quit. I am quite fortunate that despite my age I am in quite good shape. Many days though after work I am just too tired to do much of anything.

    So back to the story.

    We were notified that our government department was going to be eliminated and that we had two choices:

    1. Take a package and leave or;

    2. Stay and maybe we’ll find you a new job, but then you may be let go in a couple weeks without the package.

    So, I started looking around and found a job in the private sector doing the almost the same job duties, but from the other side. I took the package and had a nice bundle of extra cash. In the discussions with my new employer I also was able to increase my income and get more vacation – five weeks a years. I also was able to work from home so no travel either.

    Then it all went south. About eight months after being hired I received an email stating that the company was filing for immediate bankruptcy and I was let go. One of the problems was that the owner was going through a messy divorce and the business suffered.

    Two jobs gone in about eight months. No worry, I had a good background: a couple of graduate degrees, experience in a number of different areas, and good references. And of course enough cash and assets to take care of any immediate and longer term needs.

    Unfortunately it wasn’t enough.

    The first six months were great. A nice break and I enjoyed the time off and began sending out resumes. Reject after reject.

    No problem. I kept sending out resumes and enjoyed myself. I started to ask for feedback on my job applications. I didn’t like what I heard. Silly, ridiculous comments that made my blood boil and ruined the day and rest of the week. (“Just becuase you’ve done the same job in the past doesn’t mean you can do it again” or “You should have put xx in your resume.” ) And of course on page xx of the resume was exactly what they were talking about………….

    It didn’t matter how well I met the job description or the requirements of the position.

    And yes, I did all the usual tricks of the trade to get a job. I even hired a professional resume writer to redo the resume.

    Here in Australia many government jobs require written ‘selection criteria’ where you have to tell them that you walk on water and fly through the air. I even had a professional write the selection criteria for me.

    It wasn’t enough.

    I applied for almost every job that I thought that I could do.

    Ever been laughed at over the phone when asking about about a job that only requires a high school education when explaining that you have two graduate degrees? Or requesting feedback and finding out that a comment is made about you because of your background but the person doesn’t know it is you that they are talking to?

    The range of jobs that I applied for? Everything from cleaning toilets ( I guess that I am not qualified for that!!) to teaching at a university (Something I’ve done before.).

    Not one interview or shortlist for years until I applied for a fly in fly out position. Had the job and was scheduled for the medical exam. I was notified of my acceptance on a Friday and the exam was scheduled for the coming Wednesday.

    On Monday there was an article in the news that my future employer was no longer going to undertake that work. The contract was either lost or not they were not renewing it.

    Well, I had a six figure job for a few days!! Lucky me.

    So a couple of weeks later I fired off a really short resume for a low paying full-time job that I thought I could do.

    A couple of hours later I got a call and scheduled an interview on Saturday. (My first face to face interview in years!!)

    Got the job.

    And I am not the only one here in Australia in the same situation. In other replies I stated that over 30% of the people here on unemployment are in their 50’s.

    Highly skilled and educated people here are not getting jobs just becuase of their age.

    And by the way, who was hired to replace the kids in their 30’s that left? Yep, another ‘old’ guy – a highly skilled furniture craftsman in his 60’s that was unable to find another job.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Thanks, Lee, for sharing your story. Strange how these things happen no matter where you are.

      • Wolf, the desperation I heard from engineers frantically looking for a job would break your heart. Without revealing anything, we had some equipment that we were looking at scaling up and had to deal with some technological issues that come with that.

        We interviewed an engineer who was out of work and whose retirement fund was robbed by the company as it spiraled into bankruptcy. I was somewhat familiar with the equipment at the company he worked for and knew they had to deal with the same issues we had.

        I just off-handededly mentioned our scale-up issues and he knew exactly what I was talking about. Before I could finish my sentence about it, he blurted out “I’ll show you exactly how we did it!”

        We did NOT hire him and the reasons were numerous. But since he was so willing to divulge his company’s secrets, did this mean he would do the same with ours?

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Scary thought. But that’s what happens. When a company lets someone go and robs his retirement fund, loyalty stops. He probably wouldn’t have volunteered to divulge its secrets, if that’s what they were, had he still been employed there.

    • Vespa P200E says:


      Sorry to hear about your situation. Guess the job malaise impacting the older workers is truly global to land down under.

      I travel to Asia on business and noticed more oblivious discrimination there for the older worker. We’re looking for some local hires in Asia and surprised to hear the local recruiter ask us what sex, age, college (top school), overseas education, salary are we looking for. She showed us candidate CVs with recent photos and comments like he is too old, he looks too nerdy and she is too pretty so she will be seen as admin type and people may not take her seriously, etc.

      On the surface things do not look so bad to me in Germany and especially Switzerland unlike Italy.

      Vespa P200 E AKA Duke

      • Lee says:


        I know that I am lucky that I have a job. Many don’t. I’m also lucky that I had saved quite a bit when I was working. Well lucky in some ways as here in Australia they ‘means’ test you for the amount you can get when unemployed.

        IIRC you can make $68 a fortnight before they reduce your unemployment compensation by 50 cents for each dollar of income over that $68.

        And income includes everything: interest, dividends, capital gains, and any money from casual or one-off type work.

        And you have to also count something called ‘deemed’ income. For example, if you have $5000 in a checking account that earns no interest, the government will still deem that you earn some rate of return on it – whatever that deeming rate is – 2 1/2% and then count it as income to reduce your unemployment compensation.

        Have $50,000 in debt and $50,000 cash? The debt is not used to offset the asset. They only count the $50,000 cash asset.

        Too many assets will reduce your unemployment compensation to such a low amount that it just isn’t worth it.

        Overall I am quite disgusted with the situation right now and that goes for my kid as well.

        I won’t name names, but she works at an educational institution where I used to teach. In fact when she was going to university I was able to land her a job there.

        She also has a graduate degree and went for an interview for a full time position there and was turned down even though her qualifications and language skills were better than the person that was offered the job.


        Her experience was from working in Japan. The other person had Australian experience.

        Despite her graduate degree she is doing part-time clerical work…………

        And yes, I have sent resumes to that institution every time a similar position is advertised, but somehow, now I am no longer ‘qualified’ to work there.

        So we have two Bachleor’s degrees, an Honor’s degree, and three graduate degrees bewteen us…………………………….

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