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How to Get a Job (nytimes.com)
135 points by nsedlet 1243 days ago | hide | past | web | 127 comments | favorite

Did anyone else catch the irony in Friedman talking about employers that "increasingly don’t care how those skills were acquired: home schooling, an online university, a massive open online course, or Yale," then writing an article entirely about two Yale graduates who went to work at McKinsey and Goldman Sachs post-graduation?

Last time I checked, McKinsey isn't recruiting at University of Phoenix. Going to Yale doesn't hurt in getting into YCombinator either. Nowadays, YC's name recongnition functions as a credential as well. Dig a little deeper than the title, and this op-ed only reinforces the reality that credentials and connections matter a lot more than raw skill.

Elli from HireArt here. I think your comment is really interesting and important to take note of. It's a bit funny in my particular case because I actually worked for University of Phoenix for a few years which is how I got the idea for HireArt.

I met a ton of students at UOP who hadn't been as lucky as I had in going to a school like Yale (FYI, I was an athletic recruit so felt really grateful to be there). Employers literally ignored their resumes and would never get back to them. I was shocked because I would talk to some of these students and thought they were talented, ambitious, hard-working, etc. The thing that makes me passionate about HireArt is trying to overcome the obsession with credentials (which are very highly correlated with socio-economics) and moving toward a more meritocratic way of hiring.

Can I say that I am totally rid of the drive towards prestige? No. I fall into that trap. It's a hard trap not to fall into given how much society values brand names. Anyway, you pointed out a tension that I actually struggle with a lot. A recent article about the "college bubble" recently called for all Ivy-League graduates to 'renounce' their degrees to stop the bubble from continuing. It's hard in practice but the point of the article is that unless the people with Ivy-League degrees stop caring so much about them, the status quo cannot change.

Thank you for the insightful response to a comment that frankly felt a bit baiting. I admire how you're approaching the problem at HireArt, and am thankful that the current wave of disruption in education should hopefully keep society from feeling the full fallout of the education bubble. It will be interesting to see what the world looks like in 10 years.

However, I think the bubble will persist even if all degrees were viewed as equal due to the economics around cheap financing of degrees and disincentives among universities to compete on price and incentives to compete on ancillary concerns like luxury housing, amenities, facilities, and the like. Of course, even without this warped structure of incentives, the university model is one with huge overhead, a rigid and inflexible structure, slow to adapt to change (though they are trying), and not nearly as well positioned to take advantage of economies of scale as the likes of Udacity, Coursera, or even UOP.

This entire topic fascinates me, and I don't think we've even begun to unravel all of the causes and implications of what these changes mean for society and the future of education. Exciting times!

> The way HireArt works, explained Sharef (who was my daughter’s college roommate)

Congratulations on the free advertisement in the most respected newspaper in the world.

Debatable. It would be better to say the most respected newspaper in the USA. The US has a tendency to refer to their best as the best in the world. I found it really interesting when I was watching "How I met your mother" how often they would refer to NY as "The greatest city in the greatest country in the world".

Oh come on. The US is the global hegemon and the New York Times is by an overwhelming margin the most respected newspaper in the country. I know the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times exist and I have occasionally read stuff from the WSJ and the Washington Post but the New York Times has a global brand in the same way Le Monde has for the Francophone world or Der Spiegel does where German is spoken.

The only comparable publications are in adjacent niches, not the same one; the Economist, and, and ...

This is largely subjective.

The largest circulated newspapers in the world are Japanese, the largest English is The Times of India, and the largest US are the WSJ and USA Today.

For online publications by readership, the Daily Mail from the UK often beats the NYT, depending on who is counting.

With regards to being respected, it depends on where you are from, but from where I am standing the British press often attracts more respect in the English speaking world than any US publications.

>>>The largest circulated newspapers in the world are Japanese, the largest English is The Times of India, and the largest US are the WSJ and USA Today.

Influence > popularity.

Do a few google searches and you'll see a broad range of newspapers cited as the best in the world. Search in a few different languages and you'll get an even wider variety. My search brought up The London Times as a contender for prestige. Wikipedia cites "Yomiuri Shimbun" as the newspaper with the largest circulation. If you were to survey people in varying countries they would give varying answers. Unless you state specific metrics it is very difficult to choose a "best" anything.

The Times/Sunday Times?

The Guardian.

But... the USA is the greatest country in the world by a lot of metrics... and it isn't a stretch to say NYC is the greatest city in the USA.

Not according to the HDI, on the inequality-adjusted HDI it's not even in the top ten. Not in the top ten for literacy rates. Not in the top 5 for GDP/Capita. I'm sure there are tons of other metrics as where they fail as well, those were just a few that I googled. They have a lot going for them though, a strong economy and military, a incredibly strong media industry that is affecting the culture of countries throughout the world, an innovative technology sector etc. Greatest as a broad label however cannot be applied to any area without very specific metrics.

New York has a military? Sweet!

Perhaps Mister Bridges can take this one :)


FWIW, that's Jeff Daniels not Jeff Bridges ;)

Dammit! I suck at Jeffs :( I should stick to my strengths.

Ha. I remember the facebook posts from several fans declaring the Baltimore Ravens the "World Champions". Er, no.

This is splitting hairs a bit. They are, for all intents and purposes, world champions.

Yes, in the sense that I could create a new sport that hardly anyone else plays and declare myself world champion.

Best comment on HN in ages!

I'm the greatest white-hat troll[0] in the world. I'm the greatest white-hat troll on the most interesting Internet forum in the world.

[0] Actually, I'm only 15% troll. The 85% of my activity that is legit gives a scary credibility to the other 15%.

>I'm the greatest white-hat troll on the most interesting Internet forum in the world

Wrong. And that's because we don't give you access to it, because of your puerile ego-driven behavior, kiddo.

It is commendable, especially since its an important service people should at least know about.

> Employers literally ignored their resumes and would never get back to them. I was shocked because I would talk to some of these students and thought they were talented, ambitious, hard-working, etc. The thing that makes me passionate about HireArt is trying to overcome the obsession with credentials

Your team is impressive, lots of credentials - even the hire via HireArt went to an Ivy League school. Have you thought about hiring any UoP students that impressed you?

Yes, absolutely. We would love to hire someone from UOP.

The real Hacker News in this article is how you've hacked the NYTimes to promote HireArt. I'd love to hear more about how you did it.

Thank you for your perspective, it's easy to get defensive but it seems like you maybe made it through whatever "prestige traps" you may have encountered along the way.

college dropout here, I didn't have money and now that I've been working, it's hard to have the time...

Connections and credentials matter in getting a job. If I had to pick between the two, I would say connections would tip credentials in opening the door and credentials could keep it open. Getting a job in a startup especially in a smaller market, raw skills get noticed. When someone I know and trust, refers me to a rock star developer, I don’t even look at his CV and don’t really care who he knows. I simply throw the sink at him. His work shows his worth fairly fast. This is true even when the developer has no educational credentials.

Have people considered that "credentials and connections" are actually a valuable signaling mechanism? Connections (in the broadest sense of the word) indicate that a candidate is able to form strong personal relationships. People are not robots, and this ability goes a long way in the workforce. If you are hiring someone, you know you're going to spend the majority of your waking time with that person for the foreseeable future. So any kind of signal that this will prove a positive use of your time is a valuable one. This is not to say that other schools don't offer this mechanism. I'm simply observing that the idea of "connections" does not carry nearly as much negative weight as its connotations often imply.

Similarly, credentials indicate that a candidate has conaistently passed more screening processes over a long duration of time than a company could practically present to the candidate. Consider that nobody is born into Yale (contrary to popular belief, and any exceptions to this are in the minority). To get to Yale, you effectively must pass through a fifteen year funnel. No company can match that kind of screening rigor, so why not leverage it? From a company's point of view, it would be dumb not to. (Also, think about it this way -- if you are a high school senior with a choice of any school, and therefore one of the smartest in your class, will you choose Yale or a state school? I parenthesized this because it's a straw man argument, but do consider that financial barriers to the Ivy League are basically non-existent nowadays.) Yes, you can get qualified candidates from other schools. But your chances of getting a "lemon" candidate from Yale are, I presume, much lower than getting one from another school. You know that at the very least the candidate is capable of learning quickly on the job. In many industries, especially those where most domain knowledge comes from real world experience, like finance and consulting, the ability to learn quickly is a candidates most valuable asset. If every candidate will arrive at the company with a "blank slate"of knowledge and experience, why not recruit the ones who can fill up their slate the best? This is why finance companies recruit history majors, for instance. They know that success in a liberal arts education demonstrates an ability to learn quickly (not to mention strong writing skills).

I know many people on here are anti-liberal arts or anti-Ivy favoritism. Those arguments, especially the latter, have obvious validity. But I hope this post will cause you to consider the other side of the argument.

Disclaimer: I go to Yale. I realize we are extremely spoiled in the job market, but I also do not necessarily think it's undeserved. It's unfortunate that other people suffer, but I do not feel like we are disproportionately favored. I think a VERY high majority of Yale students are top 1% job candidates. Everybody gets in here for a reason.

You got into Yale because you were privileged. You had literate, educated parents. Your high school didn't have metal detectors on the doors and a razorwire fence. You didn't have to cut school if a younger sibling got sick, you didn't spend every spare minute looking after an elderly relative. Nobody on your block was a crack dealer.

Sure, you're smart, but America is full of people much smarter than you who didn't even finish high school. The "fifteen year funnel" is a filter primarily of socioeconomic status and only secondarily of ability. Most people fall out of that funnel through no fault of their own, because they didn't catch the breaks that you did.

That's the fundamental failing of a meritocracy - unless you take steps to ensure equality of opportunity, you just end up with an oligarchy.

The funny thing is that "meritocracy" was never supposed to have a positive connotation. It was satire.


Unless you personally know the other person, I'm not quite sure how you make these claims. On the face of it, you're slinging mud at walls and, of course, some may stick. In other words, your claims may be on point some of the time. Some Yale students (undergraduate or graduate) may have had literate, educated parents. Mine aren't. Many others here could say similar things. Some Yale students may have come from Andover, Loomis Chaffee, and the like. Not all. And I'm willing to bet there are numerous students who came from high schools like the ones you describe. Or, as in at least a few cases, came from "schools" that were essentially converted sheds or barns. Some Yale students may not have had to worry about taking care of their families or being the breadwinner during adolescence. But others did. Some Yale students may not have lived in shady areas. Many did.

We're an intelligent lot, certainly. And certainly there are many others who are much more intelligent than us. But Yale does not exist to serve the world. Yale is not a public service. Yale is exclusive by design. You don't get here by being intelligent, but by the same token, being here does not mean we're more intelligent than you (in the plural sense). The fifteen year funnel notion that the other person described is, in fact, much more a filter of ability, grit, and exceptional achievement than you could ever dream of. A minority of students here come from the sort of Gatsby-ish background that popular myth suggests. There are students here who may not be the most intelligent in the world (certainly, not all of us are MENSA members), but they are, for the most part, people who have proved time and again their exceptional qualities. There is a reason this institution has been an incubator for leaders around the world.

Yale is not a meritocracy. Yale is one among a few institutions that have carefully cultivated the ability to choose from an exceptional pool of human beings each year. If you point out the issue of legacy admits, I'd ask: why not? Why not give back to those who have given to Yale? I don't simply mean monetary contributions, though certainly I would wish to signal appreciation of someone who has endowed a chair, a library, or has done something to grow Yale as an institution. But, in general, if someone has reflected well on Yale, then I believe it is worth nurturing that relationship. So, yes, not all legacy admits are evil.

The world is not equal, and equality is not a given. We will never be equal, as long as scarcity exists. But instead of whining about how "all Yale students are privileged" and thereby exposing your own prejudices and jaundiced perceptions, why not make the best of your circumstances, much as we have of ours?

> I'm not quite sure how you make these claims.

Because statistically, this is nearly always the case.

>And I'm willing to bet there are numerous students who came from high schools like the ones you describe.

I'd be surprised if there is even one student from the kind of school the GP describes. Even if you find one, you've found an anecdote. An exception that proves the rule.

> There is a reason this institution has been an incubator for leaders around the world.

And right here is where your argument flies out the window. "Leaders around the world" are usually not better than anyone else, often worse. They're simply better connected. Which, incidentally, is what is being pointed out.

I know you really want to believe it was grit, determination, and something extra that everyone else doesn't have that got you where you are but it was actually privilege. If you had been born to the wrong family all the "grit" you think you have wouldn't have gained you anything.

Statistically, what is nearly always the case? Please, point out these statistics specifically instead of making airy allusions.

You may be surprised to see "even one student" from the 'wrong' sides of the city, the 'wrong' skin of colour, the 'wrong' nationality, or the 'wrong' religion. Get here and get your mind exploded, then. Or learn to accept that you are clinging (futilely) to popular misconceptions and that Yale, like most other "elite" institutions, is a home to all kinds of people. Privilege may have gotten some of them in, but it sure as hell is not the norm.

As for your final claims: You wish to imply that leaders in various fields got there solely by leveraging connections. I am pointing out that leveraging connections is by no means disproportionally represented. Leveraging connections is an incredibly useful skill, and of course it has its place. What I am pointing out is that for most undergraduates who ever got here, connections didn't exactly play a big role. Yes, the people here probably have a lot more grit, determination, and "something extra" that most of you don't. Some of us are here thanks to family connections, sure. Now go find out just how many students Yale (for example) has graduated in its entire history, and compare that with the number of legacy admits. Or compare that with the number of admits for whom a plausible case of "connections" may be argued. I can assure you that it won't be a pretty picture for your case.

I'll reiterate what I've said before. Most of you are using popular misconceptions to make straw-man arguments. Most of us here are not from "connected" families, and most of us are here not because of some mythical privilege. The sort of logic you people are using would make the mere fact that you can go to the corner store and buy a pack of bread a "privilege." Privilege is relative. Most of us got here because, yes, we did a few things more and were a little better at some things than a lot of other people.

No reason to whine about it.

Let it go. You lost. Not only did you lose, you lost so bad that yahoo! wrote an article about how stupid your post was.

No one likes a person telling them that he/she is better then them. Especially when that's clearly not the case.

Rare to see such insight here. Can't upvote enough.

I regret I have but one upvote to give you sir!

> Everybody gets in here for a reason.

Oh no doubt.

But consider the criteria for getting into any top-tier school: teenage academic performance and extracurricular participation between the ages of 14 and 17.

And while top-tier schools are demanding and hold you to higher standards, they're not SEAL school meat-grinders. Your school, and several other Ivies, have a graduation rate in the high 90's... and something tells me those 2-6% who don't make it aren't dropping because it's too hard.

Ultimately, your prowess on the job market is tied to your conduct as a teenager. That's weird, but I guess that's how things work.

As someone who is apart of the 2-6% who dropped out of an Ivy (about a year and a half ago), I assure you it wasn't because it was too hard. The reasons are multi-faceted, and closer to wanting to get away from this pervasive air of "I realize we are extremely spoiled (so lets milk it for what it's worth and cba about anything else)".

Been trying to find my way through the start up world in NYC for about a year (coming from the midwest), meeting amazing people and experiencing things with a perspective many would even be afraid to try because of fears that are so far removed from things like death. I haven't "made it" yet (not sure if I will ever feel like I will no matter what I do), but I am far from being spoiled (I've been sleeping on a couch for over a year, doing occasional freelance work, and helping out with friends projects, meeting founders of start ups, sitting in on university classess), have a good beachhead, content with where I am and what direction I am moving in.

I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I was a teen - all I wanted to do was play music, but I was grounded enough to know that that wasn't a safe and reliable bet at all. Sure, I could have buckled down more and tried to get top grades in everything just in case it turned out that I wanted a profession were grades matter a lot, but at that point I might as well have ended up being a plumber who did really good at the local quiz nights.

Thankfully, "Ivy League" is a foreign concept in my part of the world.

I have a Yale degree. I hope one day you grow up enough to be embarrassed by your post.

do consider that financial barriers to the Ivy League are basically non-existent nowadays

For middle-class families, that is categorically false.

The point is that right now people don't look at anything other than the fact that you went to Yale. If you didn't go to a good school, it's very hard to get noticed in today's job market. There's something fundamentally wrong with that given that with a few exceptions, where you went to school is directly correlated with your family's household income.

That may have been true ten years ago, but is completely untrue today. Every Ivy League school, at least, is completely need blind. Financial aid packages are extremely generous and you pay only what you can afford. If your family's income is less than $70k (or more if you have siblings), you pay nothing.

I'm sure there is a correlation, but I disagree that it is a causation. Much of the correlation is probably the result of early-life educational advantages for stronger socioeconomic families. That's an unfortunate correlation indicative of a larger social problem, but not indicative of admission to Yale depending on income, as you seem to be implying. The two just unfortunately correlate.

> where you went to school is directly correlated with your family's household income.

Not sure where you got causation from that statement. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if Yale "means" to discriminate against poor people, but the fact is that if you are poor, you are far less likely to experience a childhood and academic life that will do well against the Yale admission requirements.

I think you're missing the point. The argument is not, as far as I can tell, that fancy schools provide no signal at all. What it's saying is that they're unfortunately the best proxy historically available, but that it's possible to improve on it. You've marshaled various arguments on why it might be a decent proxy, and of course other people can marshal arguments on why it's not as good as you think. That's a reasonable debate, though I disagree with your side of it (context: I went to MIT for undergrad and have worked in the job market for almost a decade with people from a broad range of educational backgrounds). But I don't think it's the relevant debate.

The point is that regardless of the merits of a Yale degree, it doesn't really come close to measuring, "will this person be good at this job?" Signaling is a shortcut, something you do because you don't have time or energy to measure something more directly aligned with what you need. It's not wrong, just a blunt instrument. Yale will graduate tons of dud candidates, and far lesser schools will graduate hoards of great ones, even if they do so at a lower rate. So the question is, can we create a more precise tool for measuring what we actually want to measure? We should certainly be trying. A Yale education might be well correlated to, say, the ability to learn quickly, but a good test for the ability to learn quickly would be even better correlated. If the talents that got you into Yale, not to mention the stellar education you got there, cause you do better in those measurements, then good for you! (None of that is to say this particular company is successful at this measurement, BTW.)

Another thing that went unstated in the article is value. Yale (and MIT) grads are expensive! Penn State grads, relatively speaking, are not, which creates a huge incentive to find the good ones and hire them instead. So at the very least, you should agree there's a big opportunity in a more precise tool for separating the chaff from the wheat, even if you think all the Yale wheat is pre-husked.

>>>What it's saying is that they're unfortunately the best proxy historically available

And yet most of the global industries of today were formed by people with little or no formal education (Carnegie and steel, for one). And then ruined by those who have had it.

You go to Yale? As an undergrad? I am no old man, but it's pretty smug of you as a very young person to be so sure your cohort is top 1% when you have such little life experience and have likely met and interacted with a very small percentage of the 99% of people you're claiming superiority to.

Pure ignorance.....Setting aside admissions because of who your grandfathers, fathers and mothers families were/are and the prospect of future donations to the endowment program from same, it appears that the gifted students among the student population know who arrived on campus by merit and those who arrived via the silver spoon (similarity of diploma does not translate to similarity of characteristics) Concerning employment, I believe personnel officers make judgements reference their selections on a Yale bias (Yale is a great school; Jimmie went to Yale ; Jimmie must be a great person) which saves time and effort on their part no matter the consequences i.e. George"Dubya" Bush

>I think a VERY high majority of Yale students are top 1% job candidates.

I'll grant that, but how much of the 1% pool do Yale students make up? Are employers missing the other 99 top 1% candidates because "university name" != Ivy League?

Also, about this:

Have people considered that "credentials and connections" are actually a valuable signaling mechanism? Connections (in the broadest sense of the word) indicate that a candidate is able to form strong personal relationships.

They don't care if you have strong personal relationships. They don't care how many close friends you have, if all of them are plebs. They only care if you have ties to the right kind of people.

Credentials and connections are a valuable signaling mechanism because having them most certainly does create value--knowing powerful and wealthy people is how you close the biggest of deals.

I have heard (anecdotally, I have no proof of this) that the most selective, high-paying employers are now asking candidates what prep schools they went to, because they no longer consider an Ivy League education a reliable enough marker of social class. If this is true, it's sadly ironic.


HN officially jumped the shark when some off hand comment becomes yahoo headline

I don't know. It's certainly a sign that the quality here has gone down, but at least the quality is still good enough that such an ignorant comment still stands out as such.

You know you are following right on the heals of a lifetime earnings study that shows grads from U. Penn earn no more than grads from Penn State? If the Ivy League is really better, it doesn't show up in paychecks.


That was a very sad incident, but I fail to see the relevance at all.

It's "consistently" not "conaistently". The fifteen year funnel apparently omitted proofreading...

Have people considered that "credentials and connections" are actually a valuable signaling mechanism?

Credentials, yes. There is some signal there, no doubt. There's no question that the average Yale or Harvard student is going to be better than the average X student for almost all values of X. Most people agree with this. The problem is more in society's attempts to enforce a total ordering. How would compare 75th percentile Penn State vs. 50th percentile Harvard? I actually have access to numbers on how strong students are across schools, and the 75th percentile Penn State student is a better bet. (Student quality-- work ethic plus capability-- in the Ivy League seems to be a N(1.70, 0.65) distribution by most measures; at the state flagships it's about N(1.35, 0.75), so you're comparing 1.85 vs. 1.70.)

Or, here's another question. Which has more positive signal? That Tom went to an Ivy League school? Or that Bob majored in math? The latter, actually. This is borne out, for one example, in LSAT performance. The average Ivy Leaguer scores about 160-163. The average math major scores 165-166.

Connections? No, not really meritocratic at all, because there are social connections and then there's Connections. The kind you work for aren't that powerful. The kind you're born with open doors that are closed to almost everyone else (e.g. getting VC funding without having to take risks with personal finances that only 25-year-olds can afford). Connections are powerful in inverse proportion to the amount of work involved in scoring them. That's what you're missing in that analysis.

Where is this data coming from? I'm assuming you have law school admissions data from somewhere?

Bit of a difference between 'getting a job' and getting funded at YC or publishing in the NYT :)

>The way HireArt works, explained Sharef (who was my daughter’s college roommate), is that clients — from big companies like Cisco, Safeway and Airbnb, to small family firms — come with a job description and then HireArt designs online written and video tests relevant for that job. Then they cull through the results and offer up the most promising applicants to the company, which chooses among them.

So hireart is tackling the problem from the demand side for employees by improving the signal to noise ratio of applicants, so to speak.

This is only a partial solution, since at least a significant part of the problem is the skill mismatch of the more "ordinary Joes" (for lack of a better word) and the skills that are asked of them by their prospective employers.

I don't think there will be a one size fits all solution for the variety of employment related issues we face today. We'll probably see many "winners" in the market that offer very distinct sets of benefits to both job seekers and employers.

That makes me think that my friend's startup [1] which does focus on the more basic tier of the supply side of the job market problem, training ordinary people to gain the specific skills that specific employers want.

We can't have enough hypotheses tested in this market, so I genuinely wish the best for all the current and future players in this market.

[1] http://www.learnup.me/about

learnup is awesome. we need lots of companies to solve this problem. Elli (co-founder @hireart)

To the extent that these are solving the problem, they should work well together. They gave the example of a candidate learning excel.

If that person has an effective way of proving that skill to an employer who wants it, they are more likely to acquire it.

>The company receives about 500 applicants per job opening.

This succinctly demonstrates everything that is wrong with the entry-level labor market, especially in fields dominated by overabundant cohorts like political science and english majors. There are a deluge of incompetent graduates competing for a negligible number of jobs. They are either forced into menial shift jobs for years or, if they're fortunate, will have the privilege working 70 hours per week in an unpaid internship before taking a jobs marginally above the poverty line.

especially in fields dominated by overabundant cohorts like political science and english majors

Actually, according to Louis Menand's book The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in American Universities, the absolute number of English majors has declined over the last 40 or so years:

"Between 1945 and 1975, the number of American undergraduates increased 500 percent, but the number of graduate students increased by nearly 900 percent. On the one hand, a doctorate was harder to get; on the other, it became less valuable because the market began to be flooded with PhDs.

This fact registered after 1970, when the rapid expansion of American higher education abruptly slowed to a crawl, depositing on generational shores a huge tenured faculty and too many doctoral programs churning out PhDs. The year 1970 is also the point from which we can trace the decline in the proportion of students majoring in liberal arts fields, and, within the decline, a proportionally larger decline in undergraduates majoring in the humanities. In 1970–71, English departments awarded 64,342 bachelor's degrees; that represented 7.6 percent of all bachelor's degrees, including those awarded in non-liberal arts fields, such as business. The only liberal arts category that awarded more degrees than English was history and social science, a category that combines several disciplines. Thirty years later, in 2000–01, the number of bachelor's degrees awarded in all fields was 50 percent higher than in 1970–71, but the number of degrees in English was down both in absolute numbers—from 64,342 to 51,419—and as a percentage of all bachelor's degrees, from 7.6 percent to around 4 percent.

What field has taken its place? Business, which now accounts for about a quarter of all degrees awarded.

Moreover, according to the research done by Arum and Roska in Academically Adrift, undergrads in the hard sciences and humanities (including English) tend to show substantial increases in their reading comprehension skills, writing skills, and math skills over their first two years of college and over their college careers.

Friedman is such a shameless hack.

Using his column as an ad for his daughter's college roommate's business? Honestly? Ugh.

Nothing against the HireArt folks who may be great people, and maybe they are offering a useful service. I even understand why they couldn't tell Friedman not to do this for them. I doubt anyone could turn down the free exposure.

But it's just tacky, and it doesn't help that Friedman is a hack to begin with.

It's really sad to me that the top comment on any thread at HN is ad hominem. I'm not around much but this community really has changed.

Seriously, ebbv you have nothing to add that is interesting or unique? Calling a columnist at the NY Times a "hack" is hardly original or insightful.

I pointed out he's shilling for his daughter's friend. That's not enough to support my characterization for you? I think it's plenty.

But there's tons of other examples of how terrible Friedman is, and most people don't need me to spell them out because they are very familiar with them already.

Do a quick Google search and you'll see what the rest of us already know.

There's nothing substantial about that "critique". You only know of the relationship because he disclosed it. And any columnist of the last 50 years at the Times provokes the same exact response from a segment of their audience. In fact, as a columnist, that's the point of his job and so your "test" would fail for every columnist at that paper.

My point still stands. Your comment adds no value to this community and itself is a comment on the state of this community. You start with ad hominem then work backwards to the "critique". When pushed, you simply re-state the ad hominem. This community used to be much better than that, esp for a top comment in well-read thread.

EDIT: At the very least, I'm glad vapid comments aren't staying at the topmost position. I hope that's a combination of downvotes and the time-gravity function. Too bad ad hominem is so easy to upvote and leads to the herd mentality that begets the trivial.

It's not a critique, it's a simple fact. He's shilling for a friend. That's shady at best. Disclosing it is better than not disclosing it, but using your Times Op Ed column to shill is always shady.

"Every columnist" at the Times (or anywhere else) does not elicit the same response that Friedman does. That in itself is a baseless statement, which is something you claim to dislike so very much.

Here's a short article pointing out one of the problems with Friedman:


You seem like you could be a smart person from your profile, so I'd think that if you actually read Friedman with any regularity you'd see what every other intelligent person who reads him does; he's a hack. Call it an ad hominem if you want, but to me it's like saying an apple is red. It's a statement of fact backed up by evidence.

Also complaints about how the community used to be so much better based on one comment you don't like being top temporarily is so ridiculous as to be comical.


Also the subtext of your complaining about the decline of the community is "ebbv get out you make this place worse." To which I say, you're the one who's basically throwing a tantrum because you disagree with me regarding Thomas Friedman.

You've done nothing to substantiate that charge of being a shill short of pointing out the very relationship he himself disclosed.

As to the claim on columnists all being "hacks", I have little doubt that every single columnist at the NY Times has been called that or worse in their tenure by some segment of their audience. Saying Person X is a "hack" (or troll or asshat) has no place in rational dialogue. It's a non sequitur. Stick to what's being said and dispute that. In this case, that would be a matter of arguing that HireArt is not part of some broad new trend in hiring and being hired. You are very far from arguing contra Friedman.

I don't know you. All I know is one ad hominem comment you made and continue to defend. That's a problem for this community and indeed any community that aspires toward rationality. What you continue to be (and this community, even) is only up to you (and us). That you assume I'm throwing a "tantrum" and that I disagree with you on Friedman won't ever get you (or us) there.

Ok clearly my effort is wasted on you. You are not even reading what I'm saying. So just a couple quick points:

1) Just because someone discloses something doesn't make it ethical / not shilling.

2) I (and others) are not just calling Friedman a hack and leaving it at that as you seem to insist we are. We are calling him a hack and backing it up with evidence -- as I have said repeatedly, and I have pointed you to the evidence. It absolutely does have a place in rational dialogue.

You pay lip service to being interested in discussion, but your behavior indicates you are not at all interested as I have attempted to engage you repeatedly and you pay it no heed whatsoever.

It seems a bit lazy of Friedman to interview his daughter's roommate. Why not include other sources? At least he mentioned the relationship.

I don't begrudge Sharef for using the connection. It's another reminder of how important networking is.

Tom Friedman quit writing real articles back in the 90s.

This showed up on HN a while back: http://thomasfriedmanopedgenerator.com/


When i was younger and trying to educate myself into a higher class, I read a couple of his books. The only good one was From Beirut to Jerusalem, which was published in 1989. Everything after that was just crappy analogies.

I really don't understand how an "expert" in Middle East affairs could think that the USA going to war in Iraq was a good idea.

This is a bandage to the problem, perhaps even a good bandage, but not a cure.

The issue is so much deeper than this.

On the "physical labor" side of the economy, the college system, in its current form, will not efficiently fill America's production lines with workers. It will not create more craftsmen. It certainly does not cure the average American college graduate of the mentality that they are above being a gardener in their own backyard.

On the knowledge side of the economy, MOOC can potentially add enormous value. The distribution of credentials (aka a degree from an elite university) is being decoupled from the educating of the knowledge workforce. Rather than a couple thousand or tens of thousands of people having access to the highest levels of education, it is now accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

P.S. I take issue with anyone who is 28 years old being considered a "veteran" at her job, let alone at McKinsey. Perhaps I think too old-school.

> Rather than a couple thousand or tens of thousands of people having access to the highest levels of education, it is now accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

The printing press has been around for hundreds of years. The problem has never been access to knowledge. It has been:

1. Selecting what people need to know (curricula), and

2. Checking that they know it (credentialling).

If people want to learn about anything, about any topic, to any depth, public library systems enable that and have done so for a long time.

Plus, the reductionist view of Universities as mere generators and disseminators of knowledge is inaccurate. Attendance at universities introduces you to new people, many of whom have similar interests. This leads to friendships, business partnerships and romantic relationships that MOOCs can't replicate (and libraries only poorly).

> If people want to learn about anything, about any topic, to any depth, public library systems enable that and have done so for a long time

About a year ago, I decided to read through what I considered the most interesting topics in my old discrete math textbook, on basically this theory.

The first few sections were fine. Then I started getting different answers to the ones published in the back of the book. Lacking someone who could tell me what I was doing wrong, I gave up. :/

Did you try a different book? When I get stuck on a subject I often turn to a different book to get me over the hump.

P.S. I take issue with anyone who is 28 years old being considered a "veteran" at her job, let alone at McKinsey. Perhaps I think too old-school.

There are specific verticals, where one can very well be. For e.g. I know people who have been focussing on a vertical since they are 15 years old (e.g. web design, digital art). You can definitely master some verticals after 13-14 years.

So the Detroit woman who taught herself Excel and outscored Stanford and Harvard grads, and is held out as validation of Friedman's thesis - she's only referred to as a "top applicant". Did she get the job? And if not, what was the background of the person who did?

Otherwise, my only take-away from this article is that in a column ostensibly about meritocracy, Tom Friedman managed to turn 3/4 of his column inches into a PR piece for a company run by his daughter's Yale buddies.

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality...

Hi, Elli from HireArt here. She didnt get the job because she lived in Michigan and couldn't move to SF but she made it as a finalist. I was directly involved and was astonished at how well she did given her lack of "formal" education. I wish more people were like Patti. She really inspired me. The fact that Michigan is struggling economically and that she was unable to leave is a different and very interesting topic.

This feels a lot like an advertisement to me

I took a hireart interview recently, really excited for a chance to show off my skills. However, the responses asked for were basic interview questions like, "Describe yourself" and other personality questions. Which is fine, but I thought it had more potential.

One caveat is that it was time consuming and cost the company doing it nothing. I really hope such time consuming tasks do not become the first line of defense against job seekers, but are only used on already vetted resumes.

I'm injured. Right arm can lift much more than 5 lbs above horizontal. On Voc rehab, yet disability says it's not one.

Been without a job for 2 years. Before that, fired from wal-mart because I got injured (faulty equipment) and had to go to hospital.

What the hell do I do? I look and apply for jobs. I'm in school for drafting. Every sign and indication says if you're without a job for 6 months, you're screwed.

Do I just start and lie about my credentials? If they catch me, all they can do is just fire me... I'm already up shits creek.

No, you're not screwed. Acquire a useful skill that's in demand and which can be done from a desk: drafting, CAD, graphic design, 3D modeling, video editing, web design, programming. Do that craft, and develop a portfolio of work. Find a non-profit that you like that needs that work and spend some time donating that work to the non-profit so you can have some real world experience in that field, that demonstrates that you can work with other people.

Almost every reasonable hiring manager (which may be a minority of hiring managers, but is still non-zero) will value someone with a good portfolio who's shown that they can get the job done over someone with credentials and years of experience in the industry who doesn't have a good portfolio to show (as someone who's been doing technical hiring recently, I've always wondered about people who apply for a job with 20 years of experience and not a line of code they can show me; I realize that there may be many jobs where you work on proprietary code that you can't show to someone else, but not having a single side project, one-off hack, a few patches to the mailing list of an open source project, or even a former employer you can ask for a code sample to show under NDA in your whole career seems a bit odd).

I already am going for drafting, which includes Autocad and Solidworks. I already am decent at general 3d design (and still have plenty of classes to go).

Still, because I'm past the 6 month employability gap, NOBODY will touch me.



It's actually easier to do "creative career repair" on a 6-month gap than a 4-month one.

Don't get me wrong. You always want to avoid being unemployed for 6 months if possible; but there are ways of touching that up.

If you were in full-time school, just use that. You don't even need to lie. The truth is always better-- not because there's major risk of getting caught, but because it's always better to form relationships based on the truth, and the cognitive load of maintaining a lie will take steam out of you even if you never get caught. The "6-month problem" doesn't include full-time students. If you were a part-time student, maybe you can make it look full-time?

However, if you are stuck needing to lie, I advise the "odds and evens" strategy. Rank your choices 1, ..., N. Odd-numbered choices get full disclosure of the truth. Even-numbered choices get the story you want to tell. (Or, if you think your history is that damaged, tell the truth to evens and your new career history to the odds.) This gives you a sense of whether the issue you are covering up is an actual employment problem, or whether it's something else.

volunteer? find a project where you can help someone!

I've suggested folks with interest and drive find a non-profit they can assist. This is the sort of advice I offer folks who are trying to break into web dev, though it is certainly not an easy road to go down. It can be immensely satisfying though...

It's much harder in some ways than it used to be to break into the industry without a degree or formal work experience, but if you work with an organization that has to have "lower" standards due to budget constraints or resources, you can get your foot in the door. I've suggested churches, local social welfare groups, etc. Often times the deadlines aren't as tight or are non-existent and you have a lot of an opportunity to "play" with the technologies and potentially learn from someone there.

good luck!

kefka as in kafka? Mine comes from there too, just took out the vowels.

Yes, I suggest you lie. Also, if you are into drafting, what about learning a bit of web design? There are different type of arts that seem to sell well on the web:

1. icons (http://www.shutterstock.com/). 2. T-Shirts (http://www.threadless.com/) 3. Etc.

I've come to the conclusion that lying would be my best bet, until I obtain some stable work history. If I lie, I can get a job. If I do not, I do not even get a "too bad, soo sad" letter.

I've also tried (badly) in entering the web design market. Where would you look for training yourself in this area? I know my skills here are nigh nonexistent, so I won't lie about what I do not know.

And yes, Kafka was already taken.

Well, my design skills are horrible, but since I was playing with the idea of creating an application to design and print work outs, I stumbled against the limit of buying my own icons as many exercises are very specific and there is no complete set out there.

So, I started to use Inkscape and there are many very good tutorials out there. Check how to go from a sketch to an icon (for example: http://kalaalog.com/2007/10/11/dragon-sketch-to-vector-art/).

Of course that's not "professional" web design, but it's a start. If you start studying this, feel free to ping me for questions (you'll probably know more than me soon enough I will ping you for questions).

Awesome login name. You don't plan on pulling a Light of Judgment, do you?

What the hell do I do? I look and apply for jobs. I'm in school for drafting. Every sign and indication says if you're without a job for 6 months, you're screwed.

We can talk offline about that (michael.o.church at gmail). There are plenty of ways to hide unemployment time. Trust me, I know a lot of people who've had that issue.

One thing you can do is do a lot of freebie work for friends but claim they were paid gigs to capture the validation that employers seek. If you do free work for someone, you'll usually get a great reference, and they're not going to oppose saying you were paid $100 per hour to help you out. Most people know the corporate system is a lie, these days, and really have no problem subverting it. Corrupt systems make liars of everyone.

Where do you live? Do you have the financial resources to move to an area that might have more freelance opportunities?

Do I just start and lie about my credentials? If they catch me, all they can do is just fire me... I'm already up shits creek.

You have to be careful about that. The only person willing to broach this topic under real name (and, therefore, with some credibility) is... me. You need to be very cautious, but if you have no other opportunity than lying... go for it.

Most resume cheaters and liars are people in the 75th percentile of their industries trying to become 99th because they're narcissists who feel entitled to be at the top. I don't advise that. It's not worth the risk when you have a good thing going. Personally, I don't lie on my CV for that reason. However, if it's between being unemployed versus creating a new history, I think the latter is morally defensible. Just don't get caught.

My personal ethical stance is that there's a difference between charlatanry (claiming skills you don't have) and social status inflation (which everyone does). The first is unethical, wrong, and if you try to do it I won't support you. The second I am fine with. Changing dates and titles to reflect promotions one should have had, IMO, is in the second category. It's lying about social status, which everyone does. Just don't do it on paper. There's a way to leave your paper trail vague and then tell the story you need in person, but we'd have to go offline to discuss the details.

What is the HN term for "slashvertisment"?



having been on both sides of the hiring equation, my sense is that the current system is broken by design.

For myself, I've read positions at a company that are a perfect fit, only to see things like (paraphrasing) "5-10 years of prior experience at a digital media company required". To get that, there are a small handful of companies one could have ever worked for. why wouldn't the hiring manager just call the 5 people you know who are a fit? right - because HR says we have to post the job.

From the hiring side - it is important to understanding managerial objectives in hiring, which frequently diverge from company interests beyond a certain size and maturity. Job security and minimizing headaches come to the forefront. The most understandable is training - even a smart pup needs time to learn. the remaining motives are questionable, and hard to surface.

No doubt there's room for a company like HireArt, but when i read the description of what the company expects to solve, my first thought is that rather than fix a broken-by-design hiring market, it will mostly relieve the guilt of HR employees who know hiring is intentionally broken.

I don't know if hiring is "intentionally" broken, so much as it's a casualty of bureaucracy. Very few companies invest strategically in HR, and for the most part, they treat the hiring process on an ad hoc basis. It's a nonissue until it becomes an issue, at which point, it's a fire drill that nobody has really thought through. The hiring manager has other things on her plate, and the HR manager has a few dozen other positions to fill out. And then there are the legal requirements, the risk mitigation, the forms and procedures, the pay bands, and so forth. Nobody's set out to create a broken system; the breakage in the system is the result of a couple dozen microscopic fractures that have built up along the way.

What seems intentionally broken is the general approach to human capital. The workforce is massively, ridiculously undervalued. Most companies -- especially the bigger ones -- would rather churn and burn through their employees, replacing them as they leave, than invest seriously in training, retaining, and developing a strong and long-term workforce. The inefficiencies resulting from this attitude are hidden, but massive. But the short-term ROI is, sadly, quite positive. So nobody's got any incentive to change the approach.

Isn't that the reason most unions formed in the first place?

I wonder how many generations it will take to fix the current approach to human capital. The current pessimism around employee training and development will rub off on the next generation, like a downward spiral, but without some of the reasoning or perspective.

We had a fix. Unions. They were dismantled by Nixon, Reagan, et. al. from 1968 to the present because the professional classes believed that they were insulated from the problems of the working class.

They were wrong, and we are paying the price, the profits going directly to the owners of capital.

So basically, Marx was right.

More relevant than ever in today's economy.

HireArt's approach is an interesting one, but culling through 500 video interviews by hand is time intensive for the reviewer and the 499 candidates who don't get the job.

We're working on these problems at Mighty Spring (https://www.mightyspring.com), with a focus on talent whose time is more highly in demand.

Our approach is to reverse this process: you have an anonymous profile that companies view. If a company sees your profile and they're interested, they can request an interview. You receive these requests via email and can choose to accept or decline. The anonymity means you can both freely decline interviews and use the site while employed with no repercussions.

The goal is to provide a similar service to working with a really great recruiter, but without the hassle.

As most of the readership here is in our target audience, we'd love any feedback and welcome questions. We'll expedite invites to HN signups - also feel free to email me: lumen@companydomain

The correct term is advertorial. It is when the editori staff does an advertisement disguised as an article. It works wonders, more so when it comes from the NYT. This company is now front and center. Well done to your marketers. You will get a lot of flack here, but this is one more way to jump start growth. Good luck.

I think a big factor in this discongruety between education and the job market is the fact that students cannot write off student loan debt in a bankruptsy. It alleviates the banks from their due diligence of making sure their loan will create a return on investment. There is virtually no risk on their side. They can be certain. That no matter what you do or where you go you will have to pay them and the longer it takes is just more interest for them to collect. You can be certain that if student loans required the bank to take a risk there would be a lot more engineers coming out of colleges in america and a lot less degrees in ancient Greek philosophy. The banks would require people to choose majors that will pay enough.

I agree that's a possible outcome, but I think an equally likely outcome is that banks would require parental co-signing of loans, from parents with income and credit ratings sufficient to mitigate the risks.

Which overwhelmingly means that the economically disadvantaged (or those estranged from one or both parents) would be shut out, which would make "college degree required" a proxy for "upper middle class or better".

I agree that it's a different outcome, but I don't agree that it's a better outcome. There are benefits to easy availability of student loans; with those benefits come some risks. You can't eliminate only the risks and leave all the benefits.

> Which overwhelmingly means that the economically disadvantaged (or those estranged from one or both parents) would be shut out, which would make "college degree required" a proxy for "upper middle class or better".

Considering the overall education picture in the US, this is already true. Students from low income families already have a hard time getting to a point where they can apply and be accepted to a university. See http://money.cnn.com/2011/11/21/news/economy/income_college/...

>So what does she advise? Sharef pointed to one applicant, a Detroit woman who had worked as a cashier at Borders. She realized that that had no future, so she taught herself Excel. “We gave her a very rigorous test, and she outscored people who had gone to Stanford and Harvard. She ended up as a top applicant for a job that, on paper, she was completely unqualified for.”

I don't know if I'm too cynical but the first thing that came to my mind after reading that was if her pay is gonna be the same of someone who went to Stanford or Harvard.

Isn't excel just a tool? The challenging parts are knowing what numbers to put in and the analysis of the results.

such a shameless advertisement on NYT that you can't even call it a placement marketing

This is a very interesting approach to solving an old age problem: how do you match the right people to the right employers?

The solution for most people used to be stacking credential and hoping the competition wouldn't have the same level of credentials as you.

What type of jobs are available on HireArt? How do you decide on what metrics and skills are useful for that particular post? How many test have you devised?

Hey, Elli from HireArt here.

We work only with non-technical jobs like marketing, biz dev, sales, etc (we think technical jobs are quite different). And then we have two different types of challenges: 1) Challenges that individual employers create 2) General industry challenges that candidates can use to apply to lots of jobs.

In terms of how we come up with the questions, we mostly just ask employers: "What does this employee do at work" and then we ask candidates to do similar tasks.

Hi Elli, thank you for your response. This is a very interesting startup that I will have to follow. I have a few more questions:

1) How do you price your service? Do you price it by the number of successful hires/ number of job listing / number of questions they ask? How much do you charge?

2) How long does it take to fill up a position after it is posted?

3) As I understand it, you guys are doing most of the heavy lifting by scanning through the questions yourself. How do you plan on scaling the business?

4) How do you judge whether a candidate is suitable for a position? In many instances, tell me about your personality or broad questions are not helpful in pulling top 10 candidates out of 500. I was expecting HireArt to focus on technical jobs since you can give out technical tests - like the excel test cited on NY times.

I'd be interested in hearing how you got such a high-profile writeup.

This is not a snark attack. Genuine interest.

> Sharef (who was my daughter’s college roommate)...

In the end, connections still matter then...


This read to me like think tank backfill. Friedman has definitely got his own angle on things. I think reading _Linchpin_ would be more useful advice, “The job is what you do when you are told what to do. The job is showing up at the factory, following instructions, meeting spec, and being managed.

Someone can always do your job a little better or faster or cheaper than you can.

The job might be difficult, it might require skill, but it's a job.

Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people.

I call the process of doing your art 'the work.' It's possible to have a job and do the work, too. In fact, that's how you become a linchpin.

The job is not the work.” ― Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Does anyone else find Seth Godins advice to be totally devoid of actionable suggestions? It reads to me as "the key to being successful is to be awesome!" It has some hand-wavey concepts, a few cherry picked anecdotes, and a pithy title. I don't get it...

The original article had a similar quality when it came to the question of how to actually acquire advanced skills. How many jobs exist in which the main skill is knowing Excel? Maybe there are, but usually if it is listed it's as part of a laundry list of required skills.

His books are about marketing. This one is about marketing oneself to managers and co-workers. In the beginning of the book he slams public education for preparing people to be good factory workers when there are no factory jobs in the USA. Some thought provoking analysis.

> Does anyone else find Seth Godins advice to be totally devoid of actionable suggestions?

Same as most motivational and self-help advice, then?

Point taken!

Personally I think this is not a Friedman level article, more like a HireArt advertisement.

After reading the article, I didn't really catch any tips on how to get a job other than use HireArt. I guess that was the message?

There certainly are multiple ways to attack this problem, but when the vast majority of jobs now are never advertised it makes me wonder how many people will find jobs with this kind of service.

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