Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Posts Tagged ‘employers

Down in the Valley: How Tech Leader Policies Limited Recruiting

leave a comment »

Google. Apple. Intel. Adobe. Intuit. Pixar. Each of these names is known to elicit superlatives for innovation and leadership. Each is also counted among the most desirable employers of Silicon Valley. And yet, as a U.S. Justice Department investigation has revealed, working for one of them could mean your career prospects could be severely limited for the rest.

On Friday, the aforementioned gang of six collectively consented to a Justice Department order to cease a series of clandestine no-poaching pacts. The department alleges that, through much of the past decade, the implicated parties kept do-not-call lists to mark each other’s staff as off-limits for job offer solicitation. In turn, those recruitment restrictions hampered opportunities for rising talent at top companies.

As the government’s resulting settlement describes, “The agreements eliminated a significant form of competition to attract highly skilled employees, and overall diminished competition to the detriment of affected employees.”

For tech professionals, the existence of such policies can only be disheartening. It’s difficult enough to soldier on in the IT field’s current state, as the rise of mergers and acquisitions threatens to consolidate the industry—and squeeze out workers in the ensuing layoffs. To know that employers actively avoid certain candidates can quash not just advancement or competitive salaries, but the perceived value of one’s own accrued skills and experience.

Moreover, Silicon Valley is a climate that thrives on migration. For decades, the industry has been characterized by the ability of its workforce to roam amongst market leaders and scrappy startups alike. It is this viral spreading of knowledge and talent that bolsters progress. The actions of Google et al risked stifling that dynamic, at a time when new ideas were so vital to the market amid a dire recession.

But even after striking a blow against the major players, this may only scratch the surface. In announcing its settlement with the six conspirators, the D.O.J. said it “continues to investigate other similar no solicitation agreements,” raising questions as to the scope of this practice. It may be minimal: while leaders such as Microsoft and IBM were implicated at the investigation’s inception, they were ultimately omitted from the settlement. But given the industry’s interwoven dependencies among firms, it’s not hard to suspect that many alliances have included deals to prevent poaching.

A statement by Google (thus far the only party to publicly respond) bodes particular ill: Assistant counsel Amy Lambert assures on its Public Policy Blog that Google “abandoned our ‘no cold calling’ policy in late 2009.” But by acknowledging “a number of other tech companies had similar ‘no cold call’ policies,” she seems to imply that the company followed an established trend, rather than marching to its own drummer. That’s not what you come to expect of an innovator.
— Alex Tuttle,

Did Goldman Break Its Diversity Policy?

leave a comment »

For the 11th straight year, industry insiders named Goldman Sachs the most prestigious bank in North America in Vault’s latest ranking. In hindsight then, all the public mudslinging of recent years has done little to upset the bank whether it’s in attracting the biggest deals or the best talent. And according to our survey, bankers continue to want Goldman on their resume.

Ironically, a day after the rankings debuted, the bank’s prestige is under attack by three former female employees who charge, according to The Wall Street Journal, that “The investment bank practices a system in which women are paid less, promoted less and ‘systematically circumvented and excluded.'”

Jobs, Careers and Reviews at Goldman SachsWhat’s astounding about the allegation is the repeated emphasis on intent, i.e., that the bank has a system that almost formulaically excludes women from getting promoted and compensated on par with their male counterparts. While the bank has called the suit without merit, stating that, “People are critical to our business, and we make extraordinary efforts to recruit, develop and retain outstanding women professionals,” it seems it is yet again in the red with the public.

Comments from our Banking 50 survey—culled from responses submitted by over 1,300 banking professionals earlier this year—provide further perspective:

“Supportive and respectful management”

“They could do a better job of promotion as well as placement into areas that are a good fit and utilize skill sets…”

“Having come up through the ranks, from a junior trader to now an experienced one in fixed income products, I must say that I’ve been very pleased with the level of training, support and guidance that I’ve received over the years from the firm…”

“I’m a firm believer in the culture at Goldman Sachs. The firm is team-focused, emphasizing integrity and personal development within the industry.”

“I think we do a good job at getting women and diversity candidates in the door, but for real success we need to work on better retention.”

And, finally a snippet of their Diversity Mission Statement from Vault’s Annual Diversity Survey:

“The firm’s commitment to diversity is evident at the most senior levels and is driven down through the firm by way of our seventh business principle: “We offer our people the opportunity to move ahead more rapidly than is possible at most other places. Advancement depends on merit and we have yet to find the limits to the responsibility our best people are able to assume. For us to be successful, our men and women must reflect the diversity of the communities and cultures in which we operate. That means we must attract, retain and motivate people from many backgrounds and perspectives. Being diverse is not optional; it is what we must be.”

So where does this leave the banking king: A chauvinistic boys club, truly diverse with a few unintentional victims, or the victim of a ploy to take advantage of its current poor reputation? Weigh in by leaving a comment, emailing In Good Company or connecting on Twitter @VaultCSR.

More reading: The complete WSJ report.

What other banks made the Top 10 most prestigious banks in North America this year?

What’s Keeping You From Getting Hired?

leave a comment »

If there was one thing that stood out from Vault’s recent Job Hunting in CSR series, it was the disconnect between candidates and employers. A recent survey by Towers Watson further indicates that this disconnect might be much more widespread because of a difference in priorities for employers and employees.

Job Skills

A survey released by TalentDrive, the team behind online resume aggregation search engine TalentFilter, now adds yet another layer to the troubling scenario. The report suggests a widening gap between current employers’ expectations and job seekers’ actual skill sets.

In a month-long survey, 79,000 job seekers (86 percent actively seeking employment) were asked to assess their personal skill set and attitude toward the current job market. Additionally, 20,000 hiring managers from Fortune 1000 companies were asked if they had noticed a change in the quality of candidates since the recession’s start.

The results of the survey are unnerving:

Almost three-quarters of the job seekers surveyed were pessimistic about their career search: that’s the number of respondents who indicated that they possessed the required skill set for positions, but were not getting hired. Little wonder, then, that 37 percent of respondents expressed no hope that things would improve.

However, 42 percent of the employers surveyed indicated that the recession had not only increased the quantity of candidates, but that they were finding more qualified candidates than in years past.

So where is the disconnect? When candidates believe they possess the required skill sets, why are they not getting hired? Take into account that 67 percent of those surveyed reported having between one and five interviews per month since the beginning of their job search, and that 75 percent of those had not received a single job offer.

Specialization or general business skills?

Since your company started hiring, how many interviewed candidates on average would you consider

Could the disconnect come down to a question of specialized vs. general business skills? According to the report, 71% percent of HR representatives reported that more than half of their open positions were specialized.

Comparatively, 61% of the job seekers’ group considered themselves to be “professionals with broad skill sets.”

Interestingly, my interviews with MBA graduates Ashley Jablow and Geet Singh reveal a flipside to the specialization picture. Having focused on CSR and sustainability at business school, both Jablow and Singh confessed that their job hunts weren’t exactly working out to be walks in the park. However, in their case, partial blame goes to a lack of demand for CSR work. For the respondents of the TalentDrive survey, specialized skills leaned toward more traditional fields like IT and technology.

Job Search Destinations

What source has recently delivered/uncovered the most quality candidates?

If there is one area where the TalentDrive survey shows job seekers and employers in agreement, it is where they are finding each other. The winner: Social Media.

An overwhelming 74% of job seekers said the most beneficial job search method was posting a resume on job boards followed by 27% picking social media, for the first time surpassing traditional methods like classified ads, professional recruiters and networking events.

Agreement was mutual with 27% of employers saying the highest response for most effective search method was social networks, followed by resume sourcing technologies.

Other highlights:

For the types of positions your company fills, what skills/activities make an applicant stand out?

Differs for each position: 55%
Longevity with past employers: 21%
Certification: 16%
Advanced degrees/MBA: 5%
Extracurricular work/Volunteer work: 3%

What category would the majority of your open positions fall under?

Mid level/management positions: 67%
Entry level: 16%
Director/Executive positions: 14%

Since beginning your active job search, how many interviews have resulted in an offer?

No offers: 75%
Less than half: 21%
More than half: 3%
All interviews resulted in an offer: 1%

Given the current job market, how willing are you to transfer fields or change your skill set to adapt to a new work environment or industry?

Not willing or interested: 11%
Somewhat willing, depending on the opportunity: 44%
Very willing: 45%

Does your experience relate to these results? Do you have a story to add to these numbers? Leave a comment, email us In Good Company or connect on Twitter @VaultCSR!

Should You Bring ‘This’ Up During a Job Interview?

leave a comment »

In 2007, when the financial industry was at the brink of collapse, one executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) saw opportunity. Shannon Schuyler, then a member of PwC’s recruitment team, wrote a white paper for company leadership emphasizing that the firm needed someone to reorganize and refine their community initiatives, and give their corporate responsibility a face.

Three months later the job was hers. How did she re-strategize the firm’s hiring policies and recruitment outreach to encompass PwC’s commitment to corporate responsibility?

  1. For one, having a background in experienced hiring and on campus recruitment helped. She has seen first-hand the gradual evolution of the hiring landscape, where candidate priorities shifted from the best-paid job offer to work/life balance, and today, to a company’s commitment to responsible corporate citizenship. Her experience assured peers that directives coming from the new Corporate Responsibility Leader would be balanced and realistic.
  2. Secondly, the message from campuses was loud and clear. According to Schuyler, candidates are increasingly asking what the firm is doing to give back to the community, who they donate to, what they do toward the environment, etc. “They want to know how they can get engaged when they start. They want to know what our strategies are,” she said.
  3. Finally, she noted, markedly changing business strategies and decision making processes can be a double-edged sword. As her team continues to work on ensuring that new hires are aware and receptive of the company’s commitment from day one, she is also responsible for inculcating a deeper cultural change among current employees. And that is where her real battle lies.

Her observations mirror findings of Vault’s recently concluded Job Hunting in CSR series, where four MBA candidates discussed business school, their career transitions and job hunting, all connected with a commitment to CSR and change management.

For now, Schuyler is focusing on the “life cycle of a student.” Her team is busy redefining the firm’s hiring strategy by shifting their focus from best practices to candidates’ personal journey. “Increasingly, we ask, what are the opportunities? What could we continue to build on as a continuum? Would that really change what their education experience is, and ultimately, their success? It’s not just how you do the equations, but how you’re taking that and making it part of their life.”

–Posted by Aman Singh, Vault’s CSR Editor

Five Upcoming Green Career Events You Can’t Miss

leave a comment »

Getting a job in the green economy means networking. After all people hire people, not resumes. When it comes to green conferences there are several upcoming events that I can’t wait to check out. If you want a green job, these are the events you should be attending. Not only will you learn a lot about going green, but you’ll make some great contacts to grow your green network.

1. Good Jobs Green Jobs

When: May 4-6, 2010
Where: Washington D.C.

This event is expected to attract almost 4,000 people and features several speakers from the federal government including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Colorado Governor Bill Ritter. The conference takes place over three days and feature several workshops and tracks centered on growing green jobs. Registration is $165 for two-and-a-half days of more than 100 workshops, the Green Innovation Expo (with dozens of companies) on May 5th, and Green Jobs Advocacy Day on May 6th. Click here to hear a podcast about this event.

2. Windpower 2010

When: May 23-26, 2010
Where: Dallas

Green Jobs

This is perhaps the biggest event to be held all year. According to their website, last year’s event drew 23,000 attendees and 1,280 exhibitors. Former President Bush is the featured speaker. After looking at the speaker and exhibitor list, anybody who is anyone is going to be there. Texas is the wind power capital of the U.S. (about 20 percent of the state’s power comes from wind). If you want to work in wind this is the conference for you.

3. The National Solar Conference

When: May 17-22, 2010
Where: Phoenix

Arizona is mad for solar so it’s no surprise this event takes place in Phoenix, organized by the American Solar Energy Society. According to the website the show is now in its 39th year, the SOLAR 2010 program will be developed by solar energy experts in all topical areas—technology, buildings, policy, professional education, workforce development and consumer education. Many sessions will offer continuing education credits for architects, installers, engineers, and more.

4. Alternative Fuels & Vehicles National Conference + Expo

When: May 9-12, 2010
Where: Las Vegas

We all know that electric, hybrid and hydrogen cars are coming and this conference is the preview to that world. AF&V 2010 showcases natural gas, ethanol, biodiesel, propane, electricity, and hydrogen, and their companion vehicles. The Conference embraces advanced technologies that result in fuel efficiency, petroleum displacement and emissions improvements. Included are hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid technologies; blends, including hydrogen; fuel cells; and, idle-reduction devices. All of these are featured as part of the diverse program, Expo Hall and Ride-n-Drive.

5. Green Buildings NY

When: June 16-17, 2010
Where: New York, NY

Serving the world’s largest real estate market, GreenBuildingsNY educates building and design professionals on the latest innovations around green products, services and regulations. Over 500 vendors will be in the exhibit hall at the Javits center.

Visit the event section of for a complete list of 2010 green conferences.


—Chris Russell is a ten year veteran of the online job search business. His latest project is the search engine for green jobs.

How Abuse of Interns Undercuts Company Success

leave a comment »

AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

Want a snapshot of everything that’s wrong with corporate culture at present? Try the following two news items—posted the same day in the New York Times last week, and fortuitously juxtaposed on the paper of record’s site—for a little perspective.

First up, the Gray Lady reports that there has been significant growth in unpaid internships—so much so that labor commissioners across the country are now examining the phenomenon for evidence that employers are using the schemes to bypass labor laws.

The second item for consideration is a special report into CEO pay, which found that  median executive salary packages in 2009 “declined by 13 percent […] to $7.7 million. The average total pay tumbled by 15 percent, to $9.5 million.”

We’ll deal with the obvious dangers in correlating the two phenomena in a second, but let’s first note the (not entirely inappropriate) knee-jerk reaction. The “average” CEO is taking home $9.5 million while their companies are taking advantage of free labor from interns to cut costs.

Now, the caveats: the “average” salary figure is only drawn from the top of the CEO pile. The Times piece notes that the salary report they cite is based on “the pay of 200 chief executives at 199 public companies with revenue of at least $5.78 billion that filed their proxies by March 26. (Only 199 companies are on the list because Motorola has two co-C.E.O.’s.)” Some companies abusing free labor, therefore, are likely only paying their leaders hundreds of thousands of dollars, rather than millions.

Additionally, the piece on internships notes that “[n]o one keeps official count of how many paid and unpaid internships there are,” and bases its assertion that the market for unpaid internships has mushroomed largely on anecdotal evidence.  However, that includes a tripling of the number of unpaid internships posted on Stanford’s job board in the 2009-2010 academic year compared to two years ago, and a 2008 study that found some 83 percent of graduating students had held an internship position prior to graduation—up from just 9 percent in 1992.

If it’s no secret that the internship market has exploded in the last couple of decades, and that the number of unpaid intern postings has increased in the last couple of years, it’s probably not too much of a stretch to assume that the number of students and recent graduates taking unpaid internships has indeed grown since the onset of the recession. Neither is it too much of a stretch, then, to assume that some of those positions will be with companies where the executive team a) is taking home salaries most workers can only dream about and b) is of an age that they entered the workforce prior to the boom in internships, and is likely very far removed from the difficulties of surviving while making zero dollars. (For a list of reputable internship programs, check out Vault’s 2010 Guide to Top Internships.)

The internship started out as a noble idea that benefited both parties: students could gain experience in the workforce while gaining academic credit, and companies got the opportunity to identify and nurture top talent, and gain fresh ideas and perspectives into the bargain. It’s increasingly obvious, however, that the concept has morphed into something entirely less wholesome in many cases. The Times claims to have spoken to many students who “said they had held internships that involved noneducational menial work.” While that’s not a problem per se, “when the jobs are mostly drudgery, regulators say, it is clearly illegal not to pay interns.”

Worse than mere illegality, however, is the stunning lack of long-term thinking evident in such an approach. By choosing to abuse entry-level workers while granting outrageous privilege to top-tier employees, companies are focusing only on the short-term. In assigning menial work to interns for no pay, companies are in many cases learning nothing more about an intern than the willingness of their parents to support them. And, while they’re missing out on a golden opportunity to identify the leaders of tomorrow for want of a few thousand dollars, those same companies are awarding many times that amount to the people who set the institutional culture that permits such behavior. And make no mistake: a company that isn’t actively invested in grooming its own talent is one that is undermining its own potential for success in future—actions that hardly deserve any reward at all.

How to Get Back to Work After YEARS of Downtime

with one comment

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

With so many laid-off lawyers and jobless JDs flooding the legal market, there would seem to be little room for an attorney who’s been out of the workforce for years. Lawyers who set aside their careers–whether to raise a family or for other reasons–and are now looking to reestablish themselves face a very tight job market, a pool of much younger talent and, if they haven’t kept on top of developments in their field, a steep re-learning curve. The prospect can be daunting.

Yet, as is clear from a story in this Sunday’s Washington Post, opportunities do exist. (hat tip: ABA Journal) The Post piece, despite its television for women flavor (“The Return: A stay-at-home mom attempts to go back to work after nearly two decades. Can she revive her career?”), offers some real hope to onetime lawyers looking to return to practice. [Spoiler alert: our heroine, Amy Beckett, does eventually land a job.]

Among the takeaways from Beckett’s story that might help in your own search:

Don’t be afraid to volunteer or take on contract work while you look for something more permanent. Unpaid or part-time work can help you build a network and maybe even do something worthwhile. (“For years, I had resisted signing up and volunteering somewhere because lack of salary means lack of prestige,” Beckett said. “In this case, I feel it’s an investment, and it’s a project that I identify with. I love to pull weeds and be in the dirt and be in gardens. This may point me in a good direction.”) Beckett eventually obtained an interview at the employment law firm where she was offered a job because of contract work she’d done for one of the firm’s tenants.

Expect to have bad days. Notwithstanding self-boosting daily affirmations (“I keep thinking, ‘I’m an appealing person, I’m smart, I’m good to talk to, I would be good at this!’”), you’re going to get rejected, feel discouraged and lose confidence (“I’ve failed at everything I tried. I failed at my first job here. I got fired and was told I was incompetent. I’m hanging onto the shreds of my professional identity with this contract work, which is unsatisfying.”). The key is not to let it overwhelm you: “Tarbox [Beckett’s husband] had seen Beckett low before. ’Fortunately, she was dogged enough that she would pick herself off, dust herself off and try again,’ he said.”

In the end, Beckett’s air of confidence and self-assurance apparently “made a strong impression” on the hiring partners at Passman & Kaplan, as did her intelligent questions during the interview, and she was offered a position. As Suzanne Bianchi, a UCLA sociology professor, told the Post, “You’ve got to convince somebody to take a chance on you, and you have to have the self-confidence that you can do that.”

–Posted by Vera Djordjevich, Vault’s Law Blog

%d bloggers like this: