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Friday June 03, 2005
06:48 PM

What employers really want

[ #25036 ]

Scott wrote about his recent experience with job applications and what he had to do to get a response to a cover letter, even if that response was "Don't ever talk to me that way again".

He has his own theory on why and how people get hired, but I think it's all about being docile. Employers aften say that they want creative people who can think on their feet and have excellent skills, but I've never really found that to be true. Employers want somebody they can control. They especially want someone who will defer to them, which is why Scott got the reply he did. They need applicants who will fit into the power structure.

Scott's problem came out because he followed up his application with another letter. In real life, employers want their employees to keep track of the progress of their work and projects. In application land, however, they don't want to hear from all the applicants. In employed land, they want engaged employees who are excited about work, but in application land, they want to be left alone because they don't want to waste time on people they aren't going to hire.

In short, being the sort of person that gets things done and stays on top of things is just the sort of thing that can kill a job application. It reminds me of "Hassler Syndrome" which I read about in an article about MBA program applications. They interpret this sort of behavior as needy. I say it's "Let's get this done and move on." Employers really want someone who will be a pain in the ass to other people, but not them.

Employers don't want to see your skills in action before they hire you, and if you do have mad ski11z (CPAN author, book author, etc), they know they can't own you so they aren't interested.

Once you start down the path of independence, you'd better be ready to stay on it. :)

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  • s/employers/some employers/g and most of that is true.

    I've been a hiring manager many times (mostly in Silicon Valley startups). I've never looked for docile developers, but in high-pressure situations where everyone is stretched, candidates who wave an "I'm emotionally needy" or "I'm a smart cat who is going to need a lot herding" don't fare well.

    More often, sadly, candidates are mistreated due to time pressure. A large pile of resumes comes in, and has to be culled while the project is ongoing. In

  • I am an employer, and if I received a letter like the one Scott sent with "Hey, I haven't heard from you. What's up with that?" and "It blows my mind I can spend an hour a day writing coverletters (snip)" then I would definitely react along the same lines. Who the hell does this guy think he is, demanding things? An hour a day of his time is so damn precious? I try to reply to every candidate or resume I receive (even when I haven't posted a job offer), I think it's just being polite--but politeness and res
    • Who the hell do you think you are? :)

      An hour a day is a lot of time. If I had another hour in the day, I'd be happy.

      I think you, and the original employer, miss the point because you are taking things to literally and automatically going into "pissing contest" mode. Like I said in my post, I see that as a symptom of the power relationship. In short, get over yourself. :)

      Scott's query was tongue-in-cheek, and could have been worded a bit better, but why not send it anyway? What's the worst that can happen
      • But, as I said, this is the sort of thing employers want their employees to do: follow-up on projects and bug people to get things done. They just don't want to be the person to be bugged.

        Tosh :-)

        If I got a message like that the CV would immediately hit the bin. Not because I don't like being nagged (because I do :-). Not because I have huge control issues and hate people who show any kind of free will (I love it - it's a prequisite for the agile development methods I find most effective.)

        It wou