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The Top 100 Recruiters as Defined by our research for the 1999 Electronic Recruiting Index


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    HiTech HiJinx

    August 30, 1999

    Either there is a shortage of information technology workers, or there isn't. It really ought to be that simple, don't you think?

    As usual, the answer is a frustrating yes and no. And peeling back the hyperbole surrounding the issue is definitely worthwhile for those of you considering entering (or continuing education in) a field that falls under the broad heading of 'information technology sciences'.

    What is becoming clear is that there is rampant age discrimination going on in the hi-tech workplace. While the ITAA (Information Technology Association of America) claims that there are 400,000 unfilled programming & software positions in the US, anecdotal evidence is building that suggests this is not the whole story. The ITAA backs its numbers with a US Commerce Dept. study projecting a shortage of 1.3 million information technology workers by the middle of the next decade. Technology companies prize techies that are willing to work 10-12 hr days, are so inexperienced that they can't demand huge salaries, yet have the raw abilities to jump into a project without requiring a huge investment in training. And older (30 yrs and up) workers no longer fit into these categories. Over 80% of employed programmers are under 45 years old. Many of these workers end up in management or sales, and not because they want to - they are forced to move out of the field they love by the push for younger and cheaper workers.

    Congress is pushing to increase the number of H1-B workers allowed into the US to 200,000. The advantage of using H1-B workers, from an Employer's standpoint, is that these workers can only work for the firm that sponsors their special visas. The sponsoring firm does the paperwork necessary for green cards/work permits, and then can use the threat of revoking the Employee's work status to keep wages down. For the six years that these hi-tech immigrant workers toil long hours in Silicon Valley's version of a sweatshop, these workers have little bargaining power to try for a fair and competitive wage.

    If you are considering a career in programming, computer science, or another similar field, think long and hard whether this is just a stepping-stone to something else. If it isn't, and you want to stay in the field for a number of years to come, you may have a tough battle ahead. Computer sciences may be the ticket to a decent starting salary that turns into a career dead end.

    -Mark Poppen

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    Boom, Bust

    August 26, 1999

    Offspring of the Baby Boomers are beginning to hit the workforce, and the onslaught won't let up for at least a decade. Enrollments in Kindergarten through 12th grade have been on the rise since 1984, and will set a record of 53 million students this year. The figure is projected to top out in 2006, with the greatest increases appearing in high schools, colleges, and universities. They will be your friends, colleagues, and competitors for the Job you want.

    Known as Generation Y, and born between 1979 and 1997, this group of future workers already outnumbers their parent generation, the Boomers. Generation Y has been swelled with the addition of children of illegal immigrants that entered the US in the last three decades, many of whom are not yet accounted for in official Labor Department estimates. When added in to the totals, Generation Next (or Y, if you prefer) could total more than 85 million new entrants to the work force in the next twenty years.

    If the present nine-year economic boom (the longest in US history) continues unabated, then Employers may be able to find room to squeeze these workers into the workforce somewhere. This assumes that US Employers won't opt for hiring the lowest wage workers available in burgeoning countries like India, Pakistan, and China. And the next downturn in the Economy isn't likely to be a pleasant time to look for work - depressions never are.

    So, what do you do?

    Arm yourself with an increasingly diverse set of Job skills, and prepare for the worst. Increase your Job options by considering where your skills are transferable, and making sure that your multiple, different targeted resumes reflect your suitability for a variety of positions. You don't want to be an assembly line worker when they start shutting down the assembly lines.

    Use the resources at your fingertips and take advantage of online training opportunities. The ass you cover will be your own.

    -Mark Poppen

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    Slavery Returns

    August 25, 1999

    Talent auctions are here, and there are unpleasant ramifications for most Jobhunters.

    Free trade, if such a thing really exists anywhere, tends to promote the interests of the most powerful trading partner.  You might think that Employers bidding for your labor could only be to your benefit as a worker, and this idea is not unreasonable.  In a constrained environment where there are more Jobs than workers to fill them, an auction for the talents of 'free agent' Jobhunters could easily lead to wage increases and sizable signing bonuses.  Some argue that Information Technology workers are in this position today.

    Unfortunately free market auctions for labor so far have allowed Employers to post Job openings and then sit back and watch Employees play a perverse game of "How low will you go?"  The real danger for US and first world workers is that they will be competing against potential workers in low wage countries where one dollar/hr is considered a decent wage.

    The web's first online auction for human labor is Monster Talent Market, but plans are in the works for imitations by eBay, Yahoo, and's version began on July 4, and has been a dismal failure for workers seeking Jobs.  Over 60,000 hopeful Jobhunters have listed themselves on the site, and less than 50 have found Jobs.  Jobhunters so far have been looking primarily for salaried work.

    Several sites (notably eLance and Bid4Geeks) are targeting free lance workers as a segment of the market, but the results have not been promising either.  A recent auction at Monster Talent Market found the low bid going to an engineer from Bombay, India - an ominous sign of the times.  Jobs will flow to the lowest common denominator, and the web is making it easier for Employers to access those willing to do the Job for the least amount of money.

    Perhaps this is ultimately fair and will level the world wage structure for most workers.  I suspect, however, that it is going to wreak havoc with workers in the first world who have grown accustomed to periodic wage increases and at least minimal Job security arising from temporary low levels of unemployment.

    -Mark Poppen

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    Bad References

    August 24, 1999

    At some point in the course of Human Events, which includes your career, somebody is not going to like you.  When that person is your boss, bad things can happen that could follow you around like a persistent yellow jacket, ready to sting when you're not looking.

    Is their anything you can do to either avoid the pain of a bad reference, or negate its significance?

    Sure.  First, if you have a previous Employer that is giving you a bad reference, you probably know who it is.  If you were fired you know why, and if you quit without notice in a barrage of expletives undeleted, your boss may recall exactly what you said.  Knowing where your problem areas were (if they are reflected in your resume and references) is the first step in responding to them.

    For example, if you quit your last Job in your current field due to a personality conflict with your Employer, you can explain in your first Interview that the problem wasn't one of competency but style.  Despite your best attempts to make things work, sometimes people are unable to work together.  There are many different styles of doing things that are not always compatible.

    Luckily most Employers (and even truer for HR managers) will only answer reference questions that can be answered with facts like date of hire, title, Job duties, and date of termination.  To say any more opens up the liability can of worms, which is filled with time consuming and costly lawsuits.  So it is unlikely that even an Employer with an ax to grind will use you as the whetting stone - it's just too dangerous.

    Furthermore, your prospective Employer knows you are switching Jobs, so the last one couldn't have been all peaches and cream.  Be positive and focus on the tasks you accomplished at the 'bad Job', while pointing to the competencies you developed at other Jobs where you have references that are decidedly in your favor. 

    Lastly, always remember to send copies of your resume to the people you have listed as references several days before your Interview so they can review it with plenty of time to spare before they get called by the Interviewer.  Nothing is more embarrassing to all parties involved than when you are contending for a Job and your reference (and possible friend) has to fumble through an ill-conceived response to a few simple questions about your Job performance.  This should be a time when your 'Employability' should come shining through - don't let ill-preparedness cloud the issue.

    Finally, if you really think that some vision of Employer Past is mucking up your current Jobhunt, try out a site like  They will call up past Employers and check what they're saying about you, both good, bad, and the subtle shades in between.

    -Mark Poppen

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    Top 100

    August 23, 1999

    You may have heard that most accidents occur within five miles of your own home.

    Sometimes the same thing happens in research as well.  The best sources may be right under your own nose, but you haven't been able to see the forest because all those damn trees were in the way. has recently posted one of the best resources for Jobhunters on the Net.

    We call it "The Top 100", and it represents the culmination of our annual Industry analysis of the top 100 recruiting firms in a variety of category niches.  If you ever need a comprehensive list of the best Job Boards and Online Recruiting Firms, this is the place to look.  It includes the major players like HotJobs, CareerMosaic, CareerPath,, Virtual Job Fair, Net-temps, Hire Systems, Infoworks, CareerSite, and, among others.

    Take some time and really investigate the incredible variety of free services these sites have to offer.  You should find everything from career advice to help in creating/posting your online resume.  All of these sites have search engines to assist you in finding the Job you want, in the right location and for (we hope!) adequate pay & benefits.  This site really does represent one-stop shopping for the Jobhunter - though you'll need to hop from one to another to get the full benefit from them.

    Sites are separated by different categories, depending on the market they are targeting.  While many sites are generic and will have job postings for all kinds of work, others are more site specific and are designed to attract programmers, MBA grads, accountants, etc.  See which sites are the most appropriate for your needs (by category) and use them for what they're worth.

    -Mark Poppen

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