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Fuck You, Ben Stein

No really, I mean that from the bottom of my heart. In case you missed it, Ben Stein wrote this piece for the American Spectator, in which he imparted his pearls of wisdom regarding the current unemployment crisis. They weren’t so much pearls, as they were shit droppings.

But before I get to why Ben Stein needs to go fuck himself, I have to address something profoundly stupid that he said in the article. Here’s the offending quote:

But the current recession, which really started with some very tense days in late 2007 and began in deadly earnest when…

Really Ben? The economy was humming along swimmingly, with no signs of trouble when all of a sudden, woooooo, everything imploded? We started 2007 off strong, with the trillion dollars in tax cuts for the really, really stinking rich “trickling down”. And the unbudgeted war, occupation, and medicare prescription benefits were all strengthening our economy even further. And then all of a sudden, the economy inexplicably imploded for no reason whatsoever? Wow Ben, that’s a fascinating and idiotic assessment of how the financial collapse happened, but one that you must cling onto in order to perpetuate your ass backward political ideology.

Let’s move on from the dipshitty stuff he said, to the assholey portion of the pile of shit he created;

The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities. I say “generally” because there are exceptions. But in general, as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day’s work. They are people who create either little utility or negative utility on the job. Again, there are powerful exceptions and I know some, but when employers are looking to lay off, they lay off the least productive or the most negative. To assure that a worker is not one of them, he should learn how to work and how to get along — not always easy.

(This brings to mind an idea I have long had: that high schools and colleges should have a course on “how to get along” and “how to do a day’s work.” This would include showing up in clean clothes, smelling well, having had a good breakfast, dressed in a businesslike way, calling the other employees “sir” or “ma’am” and not talking back. This would include a teaching of the fact that the employee is not there for amusement, but to help the employer make money and to get a job done. It would include the idea that once you are at work, you are not at play. It is an idea whose time has come.)

I will give Ben this; if anyone would be an authority on how to get the stink off themselves, it would be him, what with being a former Nixon speechwriter and all. And while I’m personally attacking Ben Stein, let me point out that as far as I can see, his contribution to society has consisted of writing lies for Nixon to spew, Bueller…Bueller…Bueller…, and his latest role as a pitch man for a pyramid scheme aimed at stealing money from unsuspecting people. Wow Ben, your parents must be so proud of your fine work ethic.

Now that I’m done debasing myself by hurling personal attacks on Ben Stein, I’m going to move on. Not that my attacks weren’t fun or well deserved, but I have more important things to say.

First, I have to share a little bit about my background with you. I’m a human resources professional. My specialties are benefits and staffing. When the market is on an upswing, I hire people. When it’s on a downswing, I figure out a way to shave off exorbitant benefit costs for small business that can’t afford them. I’ve been in this field for about fifteen years.

Despite the craptastic economy we’re in, I’m currently hiring people. My role is to find the best candidate that I can, for any given position. “Best” candidate is defined in two components; the first being that a candidate must have the skills required for the job. The second component is that a candidate must fit the culture of the company. That’s the piece that most job seekers don’t understand. “Culture” means more than what you think it means. Part of it is untangible and therefore, impossible to describe. Part of culture centers around a person’s personality, and whether it would fit well with the other personalities in the group and in the company as a whole. Another piece of “cultural fit” ties into the person’s employment history and the types of companies they have worked in before. For example, someone that has worked for very large companies  would not work out well in a startup environment because large companies tend to have very focused job duties. A desktop support technician in a large company would strictly provide support to a pool of users that they’re responsible for supporting, after that user has called the help desk to try and get the issue solved. If the issue is bigger than the user’s computer, the problem escalates to someone else. A desktop support technician in a startup would be the only person that any user in the company goes to, and often has to deal with server issues that may be the cause of the problem. A large company will have a separate server team. Startups are a much more dynamic environment, which is why the cultural fit wouldn’t work.

I understand how absurd this must sound to a job seeker, but it’s absolutely true. And it’s more complicated than that example. I would never consider someone from a non-profit background to work in a corporate position; it would be a bad cultural fit. I generally don’t consider people with a strictly military background for just about anything. It’s not that I don’t want to hire a veteran (I really do), it’s just that they haven’t experienced anything other than a rigid command structure. They don’t have the experience to understand the balance between autonomy and management that they would need to be successful.

I’ve shared all of this information with you because I hope that it will help you through the frustration of your job search, but also because I had to in order to give you some context on what I’m seeing in the job market.

My phone rings with prospective candidates calling me two to five times a day. This is very much out of the norm, as I go to great pains to not make my phone number public. This will sound harsh, but I don’t want to talk to applicants. I call applicants that look like they may be a fit for the position, but I have no desire whatsoever to talk to an unqualified applicant. Not in this market, not in a good market, not ever. I don’t want to talk to them because if I didn’t call, there isn’t a snowball’s chance that they have a shot at the job. I need to make it clear that when you apply for a position online, your resume is reviewed 100% of the time. I know that the perception out there is that your resume fell into a black hole, where no human will ever see it. That’s patently untrue. We review every single resume that comes in. Think about it, getting you to apply for a job costs the company money. Job ads aren’t free, and neither is the labor that creates and posts them. We don’t spend the time and the money because we get some maniacal pleasure from the idea that people are out there futilely applying for jobs. So when you apply for a job, and don’t hear anything within a week, it’s because someone like me assessed your resume and concluded that you’re not what the company is looking for.

That’s not to say that you’re a bad candidate (but let’s be honest, some of you are!). You’re just not the candidate for that job. Don’t take it personally, seriously. In most normal economies, people don’t take it personally.

Let me digress for a moment to let you know how to tell if you’re a bad candidate. In a normal economy, when unemployment is at 4% – 5% you can expect to get at least one call for every five to seven positions that you apply for. If you’re not getting a call, then you’re a bad candidate. Being a bad candidate means that either you’re not qualified for the job you applied for, or your employment history is full of 1 – 1 1/2 year stints of employment. You’re a job hopper, and no one likes a job hopper.

In this economy, as a good candidate, you can expect to get one call for every thirty applications you’ve submitted. That’s because there are a lot of “good” candidates on the market. When I have five good ones in process, I’m done looking. So a lot of “good” candidates don’t get calls. Now remember, “good” involves cultural fit and all of the other intangible criteria that job seekers don’t understand.

My phone rings two to five times a day with “bad” candidates calling. They’re “bad” candidates, only because of the cultural component of my criteria. They’re people that have the skills for the job, and that have a stable employment history. I hate talking to them because I have absolutely no desire to tell someone that they can’t get the job that I’m hiring for because the fifteen years they spent working for Citibank makes them a “bad” candidate. My logic can’t make any kind of sense to someone that has worked hard their entire lives to build a good career for themselves. And to make matters worse, most of those calls are from people that have been out of work for a year or more, which isn’t helping them in the current job market. Being unemployed and desperate isn’t any more helpful in getting a job, as it is in getting a mate. Employers don’t like the smell of desperation.

The people that are calling me are perfectly good candidates with the perseverance and ingenuity to get my ungetable phone number. They’re not lazy, smelly, or unpleasant. They’re just desperately trying to make sense of this economy, and working very hard to get a job.

As someone who is unable to give them a job, I’d like to say FUCK YOU, Ben Stein. Your resume, which consists largely of helping crooked people lie, cheat, and steal makes you the most undesirable of candidates. When one throws your acrid personality onto your shitty resume, the conclusion is obvious; you’re an unemployable asshat.


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