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Old 01-14-2009   #1
120mm
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Default The Military Contractor Hiring Process

I cannot help but think that the process of getting hired on as a contractor is at least part of the problem, when it comes to getting quality people.

Sometimes, the problem appears to be "get a warm body in there", where they just hire someone sight unseen, with little regard to qualifications or suitability. Two of my contracting gigs were cold calls, to me, asking to come work for a company. I have no idea where they got my name, and once I accepted the job, it became apparent that they didn't care if I knew how to do the job or not.

But even more corrosive, I think, is the long, drawn-out process of COR approval, when the military is trying to appear to be getting the most qualified person possible. (emphasis on "appear") I have personally witnessed several extremely qualified individuals drop out of the process out of frustration at this point. I can't help but think that this is a phoney, "appearance of due diligence" move by the COR.

I know we have a few contractors on the board, and I'm wondering what you think about the hiring process. Not that I'm motivated by personal frustration, myself....
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Old 01-14-2009   #2
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I've had two relatively short contracts (3 years each) where little more than my CV was needed (sight unseen) (I don't know too many retired NCOs with Estonian language background ). Nearly the same deal with them initiating contact. I will however say that the company administrator and logistics guru were on me constantly with financial and accountability documentation and stats, so I wasn't just out there with free reign.

On the other hand, I received a strange request last week from the same company inquiring about Explosive Detection Dog (EDD) capabilities. My pathetic and often sarcastic self is pondering over the CV for our four-legged members
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Old 01-15-2009   #3
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In the projects I have worked on, all the pilots seemed to be qualified. One or two unqualified slipped through but I attribute that to the normal flaws in the hiring process and not to any rush to get bodies in the seats.

Something I have noticed about the equipment operators is that at times, they seem to be hired based on computer proficiency almost to the exclusion of all else. We've had guys who didn't know what a mortar was or couldn't see the importance of using the phrase "apparent machine gun with a bipod" vs. "automatic weapons."
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Old 01-16-2009   #4
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In the projects I have worked on, all the pilots seemed to be qualified. One or two unqualified slipped through but I attribute that to the normal flaws in the hiring process and not to any rush to get bodies in the seats.

Something I have noticed about the equipment operators is that at times, they seem to be hired based on computer proficiency almost to the exclusion of all else. We've had guys who didn't know what a mortar was or couldn't see the importance of using the phrase "apparent machine gun with a bipod" vs. "automatic weapons."
The more I look into this, the more I'm convinced that a lot of this is the fault of the hiring agencies. The great majority of job announcements are horribly mis-written, and the people who do screening and hiring go off the job requirements as written on the announcement.

The hiring folks are most often caught in a "box" mentality. With pilots, and other specialists, the box works, but in the less easily defined jobs, "boxing in" candidates actually gets you less qualified people. Add to this the problem of "qualifications". In my opinion, I would rather hire an unqualified guy who is trainable and adaptable, than a fully-qualified individual, who is not, except in those few cases where qualifications really matter. (I think Academia is the worst for leaning upon qualifications, where qualifications are functionally irrelevant.)

I've seen where a certain company requires knowledge of FARs for all employees hired, even the wheeled vehicle mechanics and trans/log weenies. It's obviously just some hack cutting and pasting an announcement that started as an A&P slot, but there it is, right on the requirements list.

I'm currently in competition for a job with a person who is more qualified on paper than I, (according to the job announcement) but if she gets the job, she will be an epic fail: The job announcement says that they are looking for "her", but in reality, what the really need is "me".
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Old 01-16-2009   #5
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Hi 120,

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Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
I'm currently in competition for a job with a person who is more qualified on paper than I, (according to the job announcement) but if she gets the job, she will be an epic fail: The job announcement says that they are looking for "her", but in reality, what the really need is "me".
'tis a real problem that has only gotten worse in the past 20 years. It's really a problem of numbers: too many people apply for too many positions. The HR "solution" () was to computerize using simple keyword searches, a process that allowed junior HR dweebs to "go through" thousands of resumes an hour. Of course, that meant that you could get rid of those expensive senior HR people who actually knew something about the real job requirements .

So, now lists are king, ~30-50% of HR people doing the hiring have no idea about what they are hiring for, and the name is mistaken for the thing.

BTW, if you want me to give you a reference let me know ....
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Old 01-16-2009   #6
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The HR "solution" () was to computerize using simple keyword searches, a process that allowed junior HR dweebs to "go through" thousands of resumes an hour.
Unfortunately, that keyword system doesn't really simplify things all that much. The keywords just select a bunch of resumes. Those resumes must still be reviewed and applicants interviewed. If anything, the keyword thing makes it more difficult.

I've been through the federal hiring process from the employer side. Absolutely mindless. Five of us were given 25 resumes to review (we were all reviewing the same 25 resumes). We were to rate them in five areas on a 1 to 5 scale and then we would see which 4 of the applicants scored highest. All of the applications were about 3 or 4 pages, single spaced, tiny font, 1/4" margins, and they all sounded the same because the resume was simply a vehicle to deliver all of those keywords to us.

If nothing else, it was an interesting exercise in random number generation. Because all of the resumes were alike, all five of us scored different ones highest and lowest - it was completely arbitrary. But, in accordance with some federal practice, we found the 4 whose scores on our arbitrary scale were highest - even though they were insignificantly higher - and we called them in for the interview.

Then came the interview. We were each assigned a specific question to ask (basically, our jobs amounted to reading a script). In order to ensure "fairness" we had to ask each candidate the same question. The candidates were like their resumes - canned, non-specific responses to cookie-cutter questions. The position was some a personnel slot - similar to a BN or BDE S-1, but dealing with Active, Reserve, and DOD Civilians. I could have asked the same questions to an infantry E-7 and gotten the same answers, and learned about as much about his qualifications.

I think the woman who broke down crying during the interview eventually got hired.

Last edited by Schmedlap; 01-16-2009 at 06:49 PM. Reason: addition
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Old 01-16-2009   #7
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Hi Schmedap,

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Unfortunately, that keyword system doesn't really simplify things all that much. The keywords just select a bunch of resumes. Those resumes must still be reviewed and applicants interviewed. If anything, the keyword thing makes it more difficult.
Too true! I could tell you stories as well from the hiring side .

I think the mindless bollix-up that many organizations substitute for a real recruitment and hiring process is one of the reasons (amongst others) why so many people are relying on personal networks and contacts to get their next jobs - the recruitment process just doesn't work.

But just wait for the next, web 2.5 enabled, online resume screening software! It will use the latest, bleeding edge technologies and algorithms to select the right person for the right job. And it will do it as well as a a recruiter did in the early 1950's .
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Old 01-16-2009   #8
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Default Have you tried

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in reality, what the really need is "me".
standing outside the HR guy's window wearing a trenchcoat and blaring some Peter Gabriel from a boombox? It worked for John Cusack...
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Old 01-16-2009   #9
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Unfortunately, that keyword system doesn't really simplify things all that much. The keywords just select a bunch of resumes. Those resumes must still be reviewed and applicants interviewed. If anything, the keyword thing makes it more difficult.
Say you had candidates of interest that you would prefer to see in the job. Say they got a hold of the keyword list, prior to submitting resumes. Now things are a lot easier.
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Old 01-16-2009   #10
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Say you had candidates of interest that you would prefer to see in the job. Say they got a hold of the keyword list, prior to submitting resumes. Now things are a lot easier.
Nah, the best tactic is to actually sit down with the person writing the actual requirements before they are written up. The best one I ever saw was a Government of Canada position for a website administrator where one of the "required" skills was an extensive knowledge of Baroque music (the site had nothing to do with music). I was tempted to apply just for the fun of it .
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Old 01-16-2009   #11
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Say you had candidates of interest that you would prefer to see in the job. Say they got a hold of the keyword list, prior to submitting resumes. Now things are a lot easier.
They already have the keyword list. I know guys who took courses for their functional area and had instructors from the courses give them keyword lists to include in their resumes should they choose to move into the civilian side of the force. And it still doesn't make it easier, because the algorithm or the lottery machine - whatever is used - does not choose the 1 "perfect" resume. It chooses a bunch that are reasonable matches. You still need to have people dig through the 25 or so resumes.

When I was taught how to write a resume, I was told to make it concise, readable, and within a page or two. These resumes violate all of those rules.
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Old 01-16-2009   #12
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Default Anyone that cannot look at a halfway decent job description

or hiring announcement and not pick out the keywords probably doesn't deserve the job...

What used to be a one page resume has morphed into a multi page C.V. -- to the detriment of both, IMO.
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Old 01-16-2009   #13
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When I was taught how to write a resume, I was told to make it concise, readable, and within a page or two. These resumes violate all of those rules.
Concur. Resumes for USG jobs are ridiculous. I believe the process would be well served by limiitng all applicants to two pages max, although anyone who understands brevity should be able to highlight their important qualifications within one page.
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Old 01-17-2009   #14
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Hi 120,



'tis a real problem that has only gotten worse in the past 20 years. It's really a problem of numbers: too many people apply for too many positions. The HR "solution" () was to computerize using simple keyword searches, a process that allowed junior HR dweebs to "go through" thousands of resumes an hour. Of course, that meant that you could get rid of those expensive senior HR people who actually knew something about the real job requirements .

So, now lists are king, ~30-50% of HR people doing the hiring have no idea about what they are hiring for, and the name is mistaken for the thing.

BTW, if you want me to give you a reference let me know ....
If I could, I'll take you up on that. I am rather frantically looking for my next job, as my contract expires in 6 months, and I don't want to be the last one standing. Plus, I think I need to get overseas with this gig, for a variety of reasons.

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standing outside the HR guy's window wearing a trenchcoat and blaring some Peter Gabriel from a boombox? It worked for John Cusack...
Yeah, but look how poorly it worked for Stan Barflowski

As an update to my efforts, the individual I was competing with ended up turning down the job, but since she had a PhD, the customer now believes they need someone with a PhD, despite having advertised for someone with a Master's. They are now looking at an unfilled position, but since they've rejected me, (officially - they sent an e-mail and everything) I am tainted goods.

I am taking bets that they hire someone less qualified than me a few months down the road, and the job will be unfilled until then.

I am currently dealing with the HR department of another prospective employer who just asked me to rewrite my resume, again, despite their unintention of ever hiring me. It seems that there is a "standard" resume they have to adhere to, and failure to have your resume "standard" is a fail to their HR department.

Of course, they furnish an example resume, but do not explain what makes it "standard". I am humoring them by resubmitting mine in different forms just to get triangulation on what they consider "standard."
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Old 01-17-2009   #15
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If I could, I'll take you up on that. I am rather frantically looking for my next job, as my contract expires in 6 months, and I don't want to be the last one standing. Plus, I think I need to get overseas with this gig, for a variety of reasons.
Any time .

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As an update to my efforts, the individual I was competing with ended up turning down the job, but since she had a PhD, the customer now believes they need someone with a PhD, despite having advertised for someone with a Master's. They are now looking at an unfilled position, but since they've rejected me, (officially - they sent an e-mail and everything) I am tainted goods.
Typical, freakin' typical - sigh . What they don't realize is that the process of getting a PhD tends to canalize one's thinking. Well, if they end up offering it to you, stick them for a 20% salary hike.

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I am currently dealing with the HR department of another prospective employer who just asked me to rewrite my resume, again, despite their unintention of ever hiring me. It seems that there is a "standard" resume they have to adhere to, and failure to have your resume "standard" is a fail to their HR department.

Of course, they furnish an example resume, but do not explain what makes it "standard". I am humoring them by resubmitting mine in different forms just to get triangulation on what they consider "standard."
I'm surprised at that. Most resume forms nowadays are based around elements described by the HR-XML Consortium, although the print version (placement, font, typeface, etc.) change radically. Don't they have an online submission tool that reformats it to meet their own template?
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Old 01-17-2009   #16
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Any time .
Typical, freakin' typical - sigh . What they don't realize is that the process of getting a PhD tends to canalize one's thinking. Well, if they end up offering it to you, stick them for a 20% salary hike.
The real ironic thing is, the position doesn't require any special skills and knowledge, except the ability to make a campaign plan to achieve an objective.

Quote:
I'm surprised at that. Most resume forms nowadays are based around elements described by the HR-XML Consortium, although the print version (placement, font, typeface, etc.) change radically. Don't they have an online submission tool that reformats it to meet their own template?
Yes they do. And the company has an official "no resumes" policy. Which they violate with the resume requirement. Welcome to Wonderland, Alice. But it is fun to toy with them, while being frustrated in other venues.
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Old 01-17-2009   #17
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Yes they do. And the company has an official "no resumes" policy. Which they violate with the resume requirement. Welcome to Wonderland, Alice. But it is fun to toy with them, while being frustrated in other venues.
(respondeth he after a 3 hour rehearsal....)

"Wonderland"? The allusion is correct, but "Hell" might be a better description . I'll admit, having fun with them can be enjoyable.... Still, one has to wonder about the disengagement from reality they deal with. Humpty-Dumpty comes to mind...
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Old 03-27-2009   #18
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I have had little success in hiring contractors based on the "keyword search" method employed by some of our support companies. It's even worse when applicants don't fully read the position description. There's a huge difference between, say, acquisition logistics and tactical logistics, and success and proficiency in one does not imply success and proficiency in the other.
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Old 03-27-2009   #19
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There's a huge difference between, say, acquisition logistics and tactical logistics, and success and proficiency in one does not imply success and proficiency in the other.
Reminds me of when I spoke to head hunters as I was getting out of the Army. I was sure that I could learn just about any job fairly quickly, but I also wanted to make sure that a potential employer did not overestimate anything on my resume and assume that I could hit the ground running in something heavy with jargon and technical stuff - there would need to be a brief adjustment period. The head hunters insisted that I oversell myself (that was how I saw it, anyway). They would take a general skill set of mine and overlay that into a myriad of more specialized skills in various jobs and tried to convince me that I was a good fit. The process gave me a bad feeling - like I was helping the head hunter to misrepresent a product (me) to a customer (my potential future employer), so I just stopped working with them and went to school. In light of the current economy, maybe that wasn't such a bad move.
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