You're Overqualified

In recent days:

–The French try anonymous resumes.

Washington (state) legislature passed a law banning discrimination against gays. The governor will sign it and opponents may try to get a ballot initiative passed that would overturn it. “The legislation adds sexual orientation to a state law banning discrimination in housing, employment and insurance,” according to the Yakima Herald-Republic.


–At a Los Angeles “career conference” late last week put on by SeasonedPro (it was similar to a career fair, but for experienced candidates), Amgen found some strong IT candidates. What one Amgen recruiter tells me she’d also really like are some good recruiters. It’s a highly regarded company out here, but the contract recruiters either have to be willing to commute from LA, or move out to Thousand Oaks, California, where housing’s not cheap either. According to CNN/Money, Coldwell Banker estimates that in 2005, a 2,200-square-foot house in a “neighborhood typical for corporate middle-management transferees” cost about $964,000 in Thousand Oaks. In Santa Monica, it was double that.


–Earlier, I asked a Boeing recruiter how his recruiting was going at the conference, and he simply turned to me and mentioned how unaffordable it was for people to live in southern California. He said he’s looking forward to retiring in a few years, moving out of the area to a location where he says he can buy a house, a BMW, and a flat-screen television.


–Spherion director Carleen MacKay was asked by one candidate what to tell employers who early on in the process ask him what his salary expectations are. “Say to the employer, ‘How much you got?'” she joked.


Another candidate asked what to do when employers tell him he’s overqualified. MacKay suggested he say, “I may be overqualified, but I’m an underperformer.”




I talked yesterday with Ilka Schroeder, who was speaking from her new and probably temporary home in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood of
Washington, D.C.


Schroeder (whose Web site is in German with some English here and there) defies party and ideological labels. She got involved in Germany’s Green Party, interested in environmental and other issues, at age 15 and was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2004. In 2001 she quit the Green Party, becoming an independent but lining up with left-wing groups in the parliament.


What Schroeder found in the parliament, she said to me yesterday, was not quite what she expected. Decision-making, in her view, was being clouded by people’s anti-American and anti-Jewish views. “Not only the politicians, but people anywhere else,” she says.


No longer in office, Schroeder is spending a semester in Washington, D.C., teaching a course at Georgetown University. The topic: anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism.


Meanwhile, Germany–Europe’s largest economy–is showing mixed signals, according to Reuters. Exports are hot; private consumption is not. Schroeder is optimistic about Germany’s economic future, and notes that while some complain about the “social system,” it has been around since 1949, she says, and the country has done well. She’s not happy about the coming increase in the VAT, one that she says will “hit the poor the most. It’s not a progressive tax.”


Two months ago, a Watson Wyatt survey found that only 14 percent of German employees planned on leaving their jobs within the next 12 months. This is a low figure, particularly compared to Sweden, Spain, France, Ireland, the UK, and Italy, all 40 percent and over. “Maybe people are more afraid,” Schroeder says, noting that she hears of more Germans “taking internships for no money,” as well as working temp jobs.


While some German companies have talked about cheaper labor being available elsewhere, Schroeder says that “most who threaten to go elsewhere do stay in Germany.” This, she says, is because the country is in a good geographic position and is politically stable. Despite high taxes and thick red tape, Germany is one of the world’s most advanced nations.

Yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “change and innovation are needed to address malaise in Europe,” according to the Xinhua News Agency. “We have no choice but this urgency to change,” Merkel said. “Something has to be done. As the biggest economy in Europe, we must take up our responsibility.” These changes, Merkel said, include reducing labor costs.


Working on the Railroad

With its 60-year-olds retiring, imports of electronics and clothing strong, coal shipping in high demand, and lumber needed throughout the
Western U.S. for construction, Union Pacific is hiring aggressively.

Bill Behrendt, assistant vice president of human resources, tells me that the economy isn?t slowing down. ?From our perspective, it is booming. We have frankly, at times, more business than we can handle. We?ve always had growth in our organization, but it has never been to this degree.?

Union Pacific?s looking for people to operate trains, fix trains, and fix tracks, jobs that are particularly hard to fill in remote areas of the Western United States. It?s also looking for managers, marketers, auditors, and other employees. Because of a change in government rules, experienced railroad employees are sometimes retiring at age 60 now, causing the much-talked-about wave of baby-boomer retirements to hit this company before others.

Over the next decade, nearly 40 percent of its employees will reach retirement age, according to Barb Schaefer, senior vice president, human resources.

The company?s selling points include its growth opportunities, the chance to learn new technologies, and its role as part of the foundation of the American economy.

It heavily recruits military men and women. The company says they are particularly well-suited for jobs such as diesel locomotive mechanics, electricians, and railcar mechanics. They not only have the mechanical skills but also a lot of safety training. They also are used to working schedules similar to Union Pacific?s. Four of the railroad?s recruiters spend 50 percent of their time on military recruiting.

Union Pacific has a payroll of about $3.3 billion, about 48,300 employees, and about 7,531 locomotives. 

The FBI?s Hiring Blitz

The FBI is moving aggressively to hire what it calls ?a large number of information technology professionals.?

These positions include computer scientists, computer engineers, information technology specialists, and IT project managers. Salaries range from $35,452 to $135,136. Candidates with hot skills can get signing bonuses.

Gwen Hubbard, who is the chief of the FBI?s recruiting, tells me she?s running a ?very aggressive Internet campaign,? and that the Bureau is using the agency Bernard Hodes. The campaign includes a vigorous attempt to work with the computer-related departments at universities. ?The FBI has changed,? she says. ?We need desperately need IT professionals ??


She draws the line at poaching. ?Only if we find that the company is downsizing and they?re interested in placing their employees,? she says. ?As far as going out and stealing, we don?t do that.?


Hubbard?s team includes 39 recruiters at headquarters as well as recruiters and others helping out in 56 field offices.

Joseph Persichini, Jr., is the acting assistant director in charge of the
Washington field office of the FBI. He says that most of the new hires will be in states near Washington, D.C.?in Quantico, Virginia, for example. The Bureau, he says, will use ?every possible medium that we can–radio, print, universities, Internet, publications, particularly technology-related periodicals, minority papers.? It?s also partnering with organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce.

?We?re looking for people to make this a career,? he says. ?There are tremendous promotional opportunities in the FBI.?


That?s only part of the message to candidates. It?s also, according to Hubbard, that they can ?change government today.? And that they can participate in the agency?s effort to combat terrorism.

The agency?s looking for system engineers who can help tie its systems together better. It?s looking for data engineers to work on transitioning from its legacy systems. And it?s looking for experts in portal technology.

?The bureau is engaged in a massive improvement and change refurbishment,? Persichini says.

The FBI is using Monster?s QuickHire hiring system. Only people with top-secret clearances can take the jobs.