Our own Foreign Legion

I don’t know if you noticed that in the recent conversations regarding the question of whether or not we have troops on the ground in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq the issue was two fold. First did a U.S. soldier dieing in a rescue raid in Afghanistan constitute “boots on the ground” and is 9800 troops being left in Afghanistan too few to be effective. What is seldom mentioned in this debate is the role of the “contractors.” I call them our own Foreign Legion although they are paid much better than the actual Foreign Legion based in French territory.

While it is seldom mentioned you may have occasionally heard a reporter reference the fact that in the case of Afghanistan there are three “contractors” for every soldier serving on the ground. Think about, three contractors for every soldier or in the case of Afghanistan with 9800 U.S. soldiers you have almost thirty thousand contactors or as I call them our own “foreign Legion.” Not all of these contractors are combat ready troops but most are. They are mercenaries being paid very well and they are in fact support troops governed by very strict U.S. rules of engagement…. maybe.

The one part of these two questions, are there U.S. boots on the ground in the middle east is easy, of course they are and have been in covert operations for many years. Regarding the “Foreign Legion” troops as I call the contractors, why don’t we just create an official foreign legion as a government agency and perform the “kill campaigns,” doing so with government pay and government rules and regulations. No, it won’t work we need to keep the contractors performing covert operations that keep our “military finger” in the Middle East fight.

Key words and phrases

In my blog; firefoxe.me [#205] “No end in sight” I referenced the importance of a “new” condition for on line job applications. Specifically one condition imposed by employers is a hidden trigger for rejection called “key words or phrases” that automatically ends the interview on line if the applicant says the “wrong” thing. That’s right an applicant’s application can be terminated if these key words or phrases are used. One of my readers asked the logical question; what are these key words and there in lies the rub. These code words are designed to fit the individual company or recruiting organizations goals and objectives. They are also frequently designed to detect attitudinal trends in the applicants thinking process. This may seem like a reasonable condition at first glance but as my friends in New Jersey say “not so fast.” Applying for a job should not require the applicant to reveal social or political points of view; what does that have to do with how you perform your work?

Invasion of privacy aside here are examples of code words that can cost you, your friends or relatives the opportunity to even be considered for a job let alone actually getting one.

I must say some code words make sense and generally are not hidden. For example if you are applying for a job at the Post Office and a question is asked like; do you have a dog at home and you say you hate dogs, the interview might be over however that’s not what I’m talking about.

In one application it is required to answer the typical math question; if a train leaves Chicago at sixty miles an hour and another train leaves LA at forty five miles an hour when will they meet in Kansas City? If the applicant fails to answer this question he or she might be immediately eliminated from consideration and in most cases notified on line that he or she is no longer a candidate for that job. You might say what’s wrong with that and I would point out the job was for a shipping clerk in a warehouse that does not require any math. Why then would the recruiter/employer put this question in and the answer is that there may be other answers on the application that the employers didn’t like. Questions that might put the applicant in an undesirable category like; too old, past medical problems, political affiliations, social problems in high school or the military. These “other” issues might not be legal issues for rejection but still a concern to potential employers.

A white-collar application might contain a phrase like; as a manager you are required to settle a dispute between two lieutenants regarding a racial issue that erupted within their respective staffs. Who would you support under these circumstances? If the applicant answers that he or she would support whomever was correct or not take sides or be inclined to support a minority manager the applicant would be shutdown but probably not notified via the computer application. By the way the correct answer would be to turn it over to your personnel department.

The application is for a fund raising job and a phrase is used; do you use and are you familiar with spread sheets? If the applicant says they are “familiar” with but don’t use spread sheets on a regular basis you could be eliminated and the job application could be terminated immediately. Mind you fund raising is a “personality” driven profession not an accounting driven role but failure of this question coupled with possible issues I outlined like age, medical history, etc might be reason for rejection.

In an application the statement is; you must be fluent in Outlook and if you say you are familiar with many computer applications and can make yourself fluent in Outlook it is a reason to reject your application.
Because the available jobs are low in number and demand is high there is no reason for companies to have to allow a learning curve with candidates for a job. Another computer related question is social media and if the applicant is not familiar with tweeter, facebook, Reedit, Pinterest, Care2, Cluster Flunk, Delicious and the list goes on they could be rejected. Failure to know all of these leading social network services could eliminate candidates from a job like media planning and buying in the advertising world.

I must point out that the recruitment agencies and companies paying for these employee applications keep these coded words and phrases very secret and they do change the words or phrases on a regular basis to avoid hackers attempting to beat the system. It should also be noted that some companies and recruiting agencies readily admit they use code words for acceptance or rejections but many others deny they use such tools. The facts are they are being used and they in many cases are totally unfair and cost you, your family or close friends job opportunities.

No end in sight

In 2008 when the economy tanked it signaled major changes in the way we do business. The “global” economy signaled a shift in how we use our human resources. Manufacturing moved off shore and the need for many U.S. workers, especially low skilled employees disappeared. However what was less obvious was the affect the down economy and the global marketing had on support businesses and employees of these global marketers, many of whom are my friends and business acquaintances. I don’t need to expand on the facts as they occurred, suffice to say unemployment went up and more importantly the need for many of the market specific talented people we had in all professional walks of life were minimized. Logic dictated that they went looking for jobs and there in lies a story with no end in sight.

The GM’s “global marketers” recognized the obvious that cost controls were crucial to profits. One of the “next steps” in addressing global marketing strategies after establishing low manufacturing labor costs off shore was lowering “in-country” costs, especially personnel costs. We have approximately 319 million people in our country and according to government numbers a little over a 118 million are non-farm workers or I should say that was until recently. It is now reported by independent analyst that we have had 23 million working age women and men have drop out of the hunt for jobs, permanently. 20% of the work force has dropped out because they can’t find jobs and don’t expect to find one in the future. These people are living on savings; money borrowed from relatives, social security [if eligible] and other government subsides. The obvious reason is we don’t have jobs for these people and a stint in community college is not going to make them suddenly attractive to employers when those companies don’t have jobs for them to fill.

The GM’s put pressure on their in-country suppliers to lower costs and the most obvious area was personnel. Of course these supplying companies still have turn over and they need to hire people. There are a lot of people unemployed and they are knocking on the doors of supplier companies. It is a real management problem with so many people constantly knocking on their collective doors. What they are doing is putting separation between the people looking for a job and company management.

The level of sophistication in the computer world is giving the supplying companies a way to deal with potential employees at arms length and turning the process over to lower level employees. The personnel department has introduced complex formulas for job applications, complex time tests and testing processes that allowed the employee candidates to be eliminated without any direct contact with the company. At the same time the companies could build a list of resumes that “might” be needed in case there is a shortage of personnel in the future. The recruiters also developed “key words/phrases” that automatically stops the computer application in midstream and tells the applicant that they have tripped a key word or phrase that disqualifies them for the position they were seeking. The clever recruiters soon learned that the applicants researched questions and arrive at some key words allowing them in some cases to beat the “key word” traps. The recruiters have learned quickly and have changed key words and phrases.

Meanwhile the people looking for jobs spent weeks, months and now years applying and in most cases not even getting the courtesy of a reply to their hours spent on the computer filling out forms, taking timed tests and sweating out time tables for providing references, example of past writings [if they are applicable to the job] and in most case never receiving a response let alone a rejection. Did you notice something missing from the interview process? What is missing is person to person interviews. In the vast majority of cases no personal interview are carried out! This is an insult to middle Americans and there is no end in site until and unless we can stop GM’s from recruiting via visa’s well educated and talent people from Europe, Slavic nations and Asia. We must also change the educational programs in this country to promote engineering, math, computer sciences and other new technologies that will address future economic opportunities. We must deemphasize physiology, political sciences and other extraneous educational programs that don’t contribute directly to our economic future. I believe this is necessary because we as a republic are in a fight for our economic life.

It is no wonder that people looking for a job lose their faith in themselves and in human beings. On the other hand the low level personnel that handle the so-called recruitment are well aware of what and how they are doing their jobs. By the way they have started to build in job requirements far and above what is needed to perform the tasks they are setting out. For example in one application I saw they wanted a four year college degree with three years of business experience in lifting and moving boxes at a computerized company shipping products to consumers. Clearly the four-year degree was an out for the company if they didn’t want to accept someone. Another trick of the recruiters is to at the request of the clients line up people for positions that are not really open. It seems the companies sometimes want to send signals to competitors that they look like they are going to pursue a particular direction when in fact it is just an exercise at the expense of the applicant.

Mind you this misdirection and disregard for common decency has been going on for at least seven years and there does not appear to be an end in sight.

I don’t want the government to be left out of this conspiracy to give false hope to people in our country regarding job opportunities. The Obama administration has touted junior colleges, community colleges and trade schools as offering a direct path to new opportunities. Balderdash! These lower level degrees and partial degrees in public policy, history, political science, physiology, etc. or worthless in today’s marketplace. The trade schools for “hands on” jobs has turned out to be in many cases scams with no jobs at the end of the school. Remember the taxpayers at the direction of the administration are paying for the majority of these for the most part worthless degrees. GM’s are recruiting engineers and computer experts from advanced schools in Europe, Slavic countries and Asia on work visa’s at very attractive salary levels and in many cases free of many benefits.

These abuses of our citizens seeking jobs will continue until a need is developed in-country for our considerable talented employee base. How we developed these opportunities is the next challenge for us to address.

One of the questions that need to be answered is so called “free trade” agreements and attendant currency manipulation.