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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • Although I haven't seen these particular ads in London, it sounds very familiar to openings I've seen elsewhere. And it's not limited to Perl -- it's common throughout the industry, regardless of language choice.

    The root cause is that most businesses aren't in the IT business. IT is a cost center, a necessary evil of getting the real job done in the modern age. Because it is a cost center, it's an area where costs should be contained and ideally minimized. Thus the downward pressure on salaries -- on the one hand, you don't want to hire someone junior and inexperienced. On the other hand, either you're not willing to pay market rates for senior staff, or you're willing to pay market rates, but don't have the kind of work to keep senior staff from getting bored and moving along.

    Java shops have had these problems at least since the boom -- simply knowing Java isn't enough, and all candidates need to have 3-5 years experience in the platform of choice -- related or competing platforms aren't good enough. No interest in hiring senior people who learn on the job. No value in finding someone with a different perspective. Management has selected the technology stack, and now it's HR's turn to find someone who can maintain and extend a project using that precise stack.

    This process goes on until it becomes obvious that the first choice -- hiring precisely the skills you need -- is no longer a viable hiring strategy. Next comes putting out ads for related skills. Hiring Tcl programmers is beyond impossible, unless you can get someone in the door by being vague and listing one of (Perl|Python|PHP) as 'valuable skills'. You have a chance of hiring that candidate if all the stars are aligned, particularly if there's a mortgage due and the job market generally sucks at the moment.

    What's lost are the positions seeking senior staff, with salaries and challenges commensurate with the desired skill. In positions where IT is a cost center, this shouldn't be surprising -- the goals of management and the candidate pool are at cross purposes. The problem is that these are the bulk of the positions available, sadly.