On Bearing the Burdens, Being Considerate, Special Pleadings, and Policy Fights

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106 Responses

  1. Murali says:

    Multicultural and homogenous?

    Also, it’s not clear what the stuff happening in the 7th paragraph onwards has to do with what’s happening in the 1st to 6th paragraphs.Report

  2. Like Murali, I’m having some difficulty teasing out what the intended argument is, so this comment will address what I think you meant and not necessarily what you meant.

    First, I get greatly annoyed with people who tend to be tardy. I’m a stickler about being on time. The chronic tardiers seem, to me, to be arrogant, believing that they’re so important that I need rearrange my life for them. That said…..sticklers like me can be arrogant, too, believing that chronic tardiers need to be so concerned about my desire for punctuality that they *owe* me punctuality in return. Also, I don’t have kids and I have enough free time that I can usually plan to get to places on time while other people do not.

    Second, I think I agree with your propositions that in the US, much of our discussions about regulation, equality, and even rights have to do with who bears what burden and who doesn’t. To that I’ll add they also have much to do with how much scrutiny we apply to whatever burden is born. I think I see how that applies to the A&F example….and if I understand right, the burden is assigned more by positive legislation than by constitutional norms.

    For the (apparently bad) practice of major companies hiring at some elite schools (and not other elite schools that unlike mere state schools, I suppose, are supposedly just as deserving), the burden seems to be on the one who would tell those companies to expand their hiring pool.

    In both cases, we’re talking about laws or practices that presume to tell others to do something they might not be inclined to do. So in a sense, we have conflicting burdens. In the A&F example, we (the collective we) have adopted a value that religious discrimination is wrong unless there’s a good reason (unless a reasonable accommodation can’t be made) and a correlative value that it’s generally wrong to tell people what to do with what’s theirs unless, again there’s a good reason.

    In the recruiting example, we still have the value of it being generally wrong to tell people what to do with what’s theirs, combined with a general sense that it’s bad to limit opportunities to some elite schools and not expand them other elite schools, and with another general sense that we need honor the proposition that America be a “land of opportunity” (a common trope of American exceptionalists and slogan artists).

    Do those general senses count as a value to override the other value that we (the collective we) bear a burden of having a good reason before telling them what to do with what’s theirs? I really don’t believe so. There might be other reasons to tell people what to do with what’s theirs, but those reasons need to be stronger and more directly targeted.

    Finally, another burden we bear when it comes to regulations, rights, etc., is to demonstrate that any given intrusive policy actually has the effect we want and has few, or at least has manageable or acceptable, tradeoffs. For policies that forbid religious based employment discrimination, we probably have that. For most policies that would require or encourage companies to broaden their recruiting horizons, we’d need to think about those tradeoffs and their effectiveness. That doesn’t mean “don’t do them,” but it does mean “be careful.”Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      The chronically late person had darned well bring a lot to the table. If said person is witty and charming–a delight who brightens any conversation–then yes, we will eagerly await this person’s arrival. But if said person is merely average, like the rest of us, then it is unrealistic to expect everyone else to put their life on hold.Report

      • This, pretty much. It’s a pretty ruthless calculation, really. While I object to people who argue that tardiness is some random rude choice, nobody owes it to the tardy to accommodate them. If you have a tardiness problem, you need to make it worthwhile for them.

        Relatedly, I’ve never quite found the wording for a post on those people who say “I can be kind of an asshole” as though that is a personal trait like being 5’4″ that other people just need to accept.Report

        • Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

          Oh, you’ve yet to meet my friends…
          The only possible ending to “I can be kind of an asshole” is “but you all love me for it.” with a knowing smirk.
          (this works when the bastard’s a comedian, and thus has the timing, charm and wit to pull it off).Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:


          I’ve noticed the “I am kind of an asshole” open admission tactic since I was a freshman in college in 1998.

          Interestingly this might be the kind of thing that works really well in a school-setting. There were people like that in law school as well. A friend of mine from college noted that the cool kids in high school immediately stop being cool kids after high school but it takes college cool kids a while to realize that they are not as awesome as they think they are.Report

          • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            My friends who are assholes don’t bother saying it. It’s obvious when they’re being an asshole, and who really wants to be introduced to someone who is entirely proud of being a jerk?Report

      • Kim in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        The chronically late person had also better bring an entertaining reason.
        “And then the crow dropped a dreidel on my head — yes, in May, totally out of season.
        Well, it hit my head hard and then bounced onto the ground, where it started to spin.
        It did eventually stop, so I suppose we’re not inside someone’s head…”

        (real story from my friend the resident luck magnet. Good Luck, Bad Luck? Doesn’t matter, he’s just Lucky).Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


      I feel obliged to point out that punctuality is a cultural norm that is far from universal.

      Think of a meeting scheduled to start at 9AM. 9AM arrives and two invitees are not yet present. The meeting starts without them. They arrive at 9:05, shocked that the meeting has begun. “How could you guys start without us?” “How could you be late?” Who is right? Both sides could make an argument that the other is being discourteous. But hell if I can provide an objective argument that one is right and the other wrong.

      Now… this isn’t to say that people can’t get frustrated by a violation of a social norm. But it is important to recognize that it doesn’t make the other person inherently flawed or objectively wrong.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’m not 100% sure on that it totally goes equally both ways (though I do agree social norms differ – if you have any Cuban friends, you’ll know what “Cuban Time” is).

        We’ve talked before about how it’s courteous to call someone whatever term they prefer to be called. If you don’t do that, you better have a good reason, else you are probably being rude.

        If I prefer to meet at 9 (scheduling something, is expressing a time preference for its occurrence) and you fail to do so, aren’t you being rude (assuming you are aware of what I mean by “the meeting begins at 9”)?

        ETA: and cultural differences on scheduling PALE in comparison to ones around queuing, traffic/driving norms, and littering. Some of these really make me grit my teeth.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:


          A work meeting was a poor example. The workplace culture — whatever it may be — should predominate.

          Let’s say we are having a party. I say the party starts at 9. Some people will consider it rude to show up before 10. Others will think it rude to show up after 9:30. Who is “right”?Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy says:

        I admit that this is an issue where some leeway and grace can be shown and there are norms within cities. The most common New Yorker/East Coast Complaint about Californians seems to be about punctuality. Even New Yorkers who love California complain about this.

        That being said it depends on who calls the meeting or not. The person who calls the meeting probably sets the norm.Report

        • Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          I used to work in a call center that had East and West Coast offices, dealing with some pretty type-A callers, whose calls would get routed to whichever Coast had open lines.

          Some callers from the East Coast would ask immediately which Coast they were speaking to (we were not to volunteer this info, but if they asked…) and would hang up immediately if they were speaking to the West Coast and call back, hoping to connect with the East Coast; there was a perception by East Coasters that West Coasters were too lackadaisical, laid-back and content; and not quick enough to answer caller questions or resolve problems with the urgency of East Coasters.

          Conversely, I could often tell which coast a caller was from. East Coast? No nonsense, all business. West Coast? How-ya-doin’ chit-chat.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Glyph says:

            Another thing I noticed is that some people just have a very relative attitude with time.

            My GF is like this. Suppose she has an 8:30 dinner reservation. It does not seem to stress her if she is still getting ready at 8:20. She also doesn’t mind if it means that she will not be seated until 9:45. She will just hang out at the bar and drink. That sort of relative attitude with time stresses me out.

            Most of her friends are also pretty lax with time. We went away for Memorial Day Weekend. If I was in charge, I would have been out the door by 8 AM on Saturday for hour 5 hour drive. We didn’t leave until about 11 AM and this did not bother her friends. My attitude is that if you are going away you should spend as much time at the destination as possible.Report

      • aaron david in reply to Kazzy says:

        If the meeting is set for 9am, and they know it starts at that time, then they are being rude. I have found that people who are chronically late to meetings are also chronically late on pretty much everything. As that affects other peoples timelines, it is generally unacceptable. If you do end up being late, apologize and let others know as soon as possible. I don’t find cultural reasons for being late acceptable. If you say you are going to do something (such as agreeing to a meeting) then do it. Likewise, if you can’t do it, don’t accept the responsibility.

        (This comes from being best friends with someone who is constantly late.)Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

        Caveat re: tardiness

        Traffic in the Puget Sound can be pretty bad. It’s not uncommon for people to be late because of traffic, especially if a meeting is first thing in the morning, or if a person has to travel between sites for a meeting and traffic snarls unexpectedly (accident or what not).

        I’ve had quite a few meetings I’ve had to call in to while stuck in my car.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy says:


        What if someone is being late as a kind of psychological powerplay? What if it is a largely unconscious psychological powerplay?Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:


          What if someone is demanding promptness as a kind of psychological powerplay? What if it is a largely unconscious psychological powerplay?Report

          • Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy says:

            What if demanding promptness is a means to an end? As in, getting the job done? As in, maximizing the efficiency of everyone’s deployment of time, effort, and money? Must such objectives need to be declared before they will be respected?Report

            • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

              I think “not arranged meetings at particular times” tends to spend time most efficiently. You look up, grab people, and then have meeting. No need for everyone to spend 5 minutes waiting for the meeting time to arrive.Report

            • Alan Scott in reply to Burt Likko says:

              Yeah, but demanding promptness often doesn’t come close to maximizing the efficiency of everyone’s time, effort, and money.

              Asking everyone to show up 10 minutes early so that they’re not made tardy by occasional delays is demanding a level of promptness that’s appropriate for important meetings, but is really just wasting everyone’s time when it comes to day-today operations. If I show up to work at 8am most days, 7:58 occasionally and 8:02 occasionally, that’s not chronic tardiness. That’s just being an actual human being.Report

          • Brooke in reply to Kazzy says:

            I think you’re reading too much into this. I work in an office environment where scheduling is referred to as “Tetris” for its difficulty. Being at a meeting on time and prepared to work is good manners, but it’s also the best way to make use of all the resources that have been reserved for that time.Report

      • Brooke in reply to Kazzy says:

        To a degree, these preferences vary from culture to culture, just like those for personal space. It’s always safest to do the research when doing business in a foreign country and to make an effort to conform to the expectations of the local culture.

        However, it does seem like the simplest possible interpretation of a meeting that is made for a designated time is to be there and be prepared to conduct business at that time. Otherwise, make the appointment for a later time if that’s what’s truly desired.Report

  3. j r says:

    You can probably find a one percent in geographical regions as well that do better than the rest of the nation economically.

    Don’t quote me on this, but I am pretty sure that you can find a one percent in any distribution.Report

  4. veronica d says:

    I’m not sure if it’s accurate to compare how the big tech companies hire and how big law firms hire. Those seem like pretty different worlds to me. Yes, in tech it will help to have the MIT or Stanford degree. Sure. Obviously. But there are many other paths.

    I’m not saying it’s trivially easy. It’s not, and you do have to learn the stuff. But the other paths exist.

    Part of this no doubt emerged because tech is a growing sector, whereas law probably is not. Plus tech talent is perhaps easier to recognize than legal talent, at least in a world with open source and Github and so forth.

    (Note I said “easier” to recognize, which is not the same as “trivially easy” to recognize. I know finding good tech talent can be hard.)Report

    • j r in reply to veronica d says:

      I cosign @veronica-d. The easier it is to judge objective talent in a field and the farther away you get from school, the less it matters that you did or did not go to the United States’ version of Oxbridge. If management consulting firms and investment banks needs smart 22 year old Excel jockeys who don’t mind working 12-hour days, then it makes perfect sense for them to go to a list of ten schools to find them. Yes, those kids have a head start in moving up in those organizations, but over time the washout rate and the people who come into these firms after grad school or as experienced hires makes for a much more dynamic situation.

      It would be nice to see more analysis on the underlying data, but from what I can see so far, the data just does not support the OP’s claims.Report

  5. LeeEsq says:

    During the WASP ascendency in the United States, roughly the period from 1865 to 1945, a lot of the best jobs were offered in a very old boy’s network pattern like the ones described in the linked article. If you belonged to the wrong ethnic, racial, religious, or gender group than you were denied opportunity. This wasn’t a constant thing. Being a White Protestant man was better than being an African-American women and you possessed more power and opportunities as a White Protestant man even if you didn’t go to the right college. Still, the wealthiest families in the United States had a caste like nature for a good part of this period.

    Opportunity opened up after 1945. Various economic, social, and political changes made more well-paying jobs available to more people. We seem to be returning to a period of a closed elite though. The new elite is different than the Old WASP elite because it is more diverse in many ways. It is also potentially easier to join the new elite now than it was to become a WASP. However, if the current hiring practices continue than we could return for a period lasting generations where the wealthy form a caste of sorts.Report

  6. Damon says:

    I’ve never had a problem being late. In fact, I’m so consistent, that when I AM late, people worry because I never am. That’s I consider it a matter of courtesy and respect for the other person to arrive when I say I will, and yes, when someone else is late, I’m annoyed. Given the ability to communicate 24/7, not sending a note saying you’re running late is disrespectful. Chronic tardiness is met with either disengagement/no longer socializing, or telling the person to meet at an earlier time to ensure they punctuality for the actual time.

    I really don’t see the need for employers to accommodate individual employees preferences or religious beliefs. If you can’t work Saturdays for whatever reason, and the job requires that, you’ll not be hired. It’s not the employer that is creating limits on employment, the applicant is. And, as such, if employers want to only hire from specific colleges or such, that’s their choice. Seems foolish, business wise, but hey, run your company the way you see fit and see if you survive the marketplace.

    And let’s remember that regulation and laws in this are, as in many areas, serve to entrench the existing status quo and drive out/prevent smaller companies from competing well. That’s one reason “those who have” keep getting more.Report

  7. aaron david says:

    I am with you, Damon and Gabriel on tardiness but I am with Veronica and JR as to hiring. In ’09 I got to listen to my wife complain about the applicant pool for the university performing arts center. For part-time, no benefit positions with some cache (development, artist in residence, etc.) she was getting 5-600 applicants, all qualified per university standards. Now, the uni can’t limit recruiting to only a few area’s such as big law or finance can, but they can get ruthless about how they process the pool. And yes, knowing someone will get you pulled out of the stack and looked at. This is just human nature.

    Big law and big finance pay huge salaries if you can perform. Lots more people think they can perform than can. Even more would apply for the positions. The pool gets to be too large, and they find a way to cut it back a bit. Or in this case, a lot.

    None of this prevents anyone from going out and starting a company or firm and building it up over generations. When I drive through Berkeley I see several importers of highly fashionable Middle eastern and South Asian clothes. Many small, new designers sell through places such as Etsy or Ebay, trying to carve out there place in the world. These companies will be the future of fashion and the companies that need new, innovative legal and financial products. That other new firms will emerge to provide.

    I do think that the US is a land of opportunity. Though the opportunity might not be what you expect and or feel you deserve.Report

    • zic in reply to aaron david says:

      While I agree with your greater point, fashion design, in particular, might be a really bad example. Designers often have their work copied; it’s a well-known phenomena on the high end — the fashion houses hold their highly-covered cat-walk shows, and the knock-offs appear in stores in a matter of weeks. Fashion, at least in the US, is not provided any sort of intellectual property protection because clothing is considered a useful object; instead, trademark and surface design (when they’re separable) are protected, which is often why so much clothing as business logos or designs printed on them.

      Small, independent designers also have their work copied constantly, often by those very same high-end houses that are supposedly the innovators of style. Steal like an artist. Small designers rarely receive any compensation for that; and I’ve yet to see a small designer selling on etsy hired to produce a line for a larger company, though that doesn’t mean it’s doesn’t happen. Big fashion houses don’t need to hire these people, they can simply copy them because there’s so little protection for fashion design.

      I’ve been in the design business for about a decade now; and this is a constant topic. Many people who design have no notion of what IP rights they have (or more to the point, don’t have). Trademark and copyright infringement is rampant; it costs a lot of money to pursue an IP case, and the protections are so limited as to be meaningless. Most designers don’t bother; and I pretty much think that imitation is the highest form of flatter is probably the healthiest attitude.

      It is possible for small designers to build a brand for their work,, Alabama Chanin has done that, and her high-end (read expensive), hand-made clothing is pretty awesome. My favorite thing, however, is how she opted to combat knockoffs: she’s published three books with patterns and instructions for making your own, and sells the materials to crafters. Its one of the most innovative responses to fashion copying I’ve ever seen — if you can’t beat ’em, give ’em the tools to do it themselves.

      But the difficulties are huge, everyone thought L’Wren Scott was at the top of her game when she committed suicide, in part, because her business was failing financially and overwhelming her.Report

      • aaron david in reply to zic says:

        Point well taken Zic. What I was trying to convey is that not all lines of wealth generation are going to be the same and that what is perceived now as the new normal really isn’t.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to aaron david says:

      The accountant at The Restaurant had a master’s in finance and worked on the floor of the NYSE for a spell before moving out to Colorado Springs to become an accountant for a dinky little restaurant. Anyway, as we were looking at resumes for applicants for the restaurant, we encountered a resume given us on blue paper with all sorts of sparkly flair. He gave me a rant that I’ll try to paraphrase:

      When his brokerage firm went through resumes, they threw out all of the ones that weren’t printed on white paper. No bone, no off-white, no cream, no beige, no ivory. White. Then, when they looked at them closer, any of the resumes that had a non-standard font were tossed. (There were, like, only three standard fonts.)

      Only then, would they start reading the remaining resumes.

      I boggled. “How many really good applicants did you not even look at???”

      He shrugged. “If you don’t know how to write a resume, you wouldn’t be a good fit.”Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

        How would a person know how to write a resume though unless they receive explicit instructions? If many or most employers eliminate as many resumes as possible by using criteria like paper color or font used before actually reading the resume and each employer has it’s own standard than it is effectively impossible for people to apply for jobs. Most people do not tailor their resume for a particular job, that would be impossible. They write one resume and hope somebody takes it seriously.Report

        • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Only IDIOTS don’t tailor their resumes to the next job.
          Seriously, it’s not much, simple tweaks that’s all.

          My skillset lists programming languages that I’m proficient in, and have a working knowledge of. You put the ones the job listing wants up front. I don’t want to look like a Java programmer applying for a C++ job. That’s a route to the waste bin, and deservedly so — someone else is going to be more talented than you.

          That said, discriminating based on people who can’t fold a letter is ridiculous.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Most people do not tailor their resume for a particular job, that would be impossible. They write one resume and hope somebody takes it seriously.

          The company that I work for (and, I presume that it is not unique in this) does not aspire to hire “most people”.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

          I agree with Kim, you have to tailor the resume & cover letter to each serious application. I start by building a general resume, one that I would probably send to a headhunting firm or the like, who would digitize it & scan it for keywords (e.g. the resume I keep on Monster.com and LinkedIn for people to search for).

          If I am applying for a specific job, the resume is set next to the job listing, and tweaked to appeal to the listing. I also do company research. Is it an old, conservative firm? White, high quality paper with a matching envelope & Times New Roman with a very conservative formatting. Is the firm new & edgy? Then I might try a non-white paper and a more fun font (except Comic Sans – I have tossed so many resumes printed with Comic Sans, or a Script style font, or something similar – sorry, serious applicants only).

          We had this discussion a few posts back. What the hell are you kids learning these days about how to market yourselves?Report

          • Kim in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            I’d never change fonts, personally. I might change work product dramatically (all coders have a portfolio), but no matter the “looseness” of the firm, I want to make sure they know I’m taking them seriously, and I’m a serious applicant.

            Same font for Google and the two-bit startup, and the Insurance Company.

            Of course, I’m not the one going for a front desk position.

            Best Sample Work Product Ever Given:

            … apparently the company it was given to decided to run with it, just to see how well it would work.

            Sometimes it is inadvisable to hire people who can swindle spots off a leopard.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


            I think a lot of this is advice for an older era. What I’ve noticed is that a lot of companies don’t necessarily put their name on the net when they put up a job posting. They might but the general location but not the full name. Sometimes you can guess by the area but not always.

            What I do instead is try and tailor my cover letter based on the job description but even these can be vague. This leads me to wonder whether firms are just posting jobs out of a vague sense of fairness but they already have a candidate in mind.Report

            • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              Even when the job’s pretty well listed, it’s still possible to have a candidate in mind…Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:


              I think there is always a little wiggle room for font style, but you have to be careful with it. As I’ve said before, a person’s best asset when job hunting is an honest friend who has done hiring who will read your resume & cover letter.


              I’ll give you that HR firms & departments are notoriously bad at writing job postings, especially if they have zero guidance from the hiring manager. The job posting that wants you to be the career equivalent of The Most Interesting Man in the World is one certain to get either too many, or nowhere near enough applicants, and the likelihood of any of them being good is slim.

              That said, If you truly can’t find out the hiring firm because they are listing through an agency, then you do the best you can. However, if a company has an exclusive contract with an agency, then you should be able to have the agency tell you who is hiring. If there is not an exclusive contract (which is the primary reason agents hide the employer), then the posting is probably online in multiple places, including the firm’s/company’s website, and some keyword searching should get you a pretty solid idea who the agent is working for (I’ve done this in the past & it usually takes me about an hour to figure out who is hiring with a high degree of confidence). If I can’t figure out who is hiring, my suspicions will be raised that I’m walking into a scam or the company is not a good employer.

              All told, when I do an application, I can easily spend 4-6 hours on searching for information, making notes, and tweaking the resume & cover letter. I get a pretty good return on that time investment in the form of phone & site interviews.

              PS I had a former (younger) co-worker at Lazy B who got laid off after I left the company. He needed a new job, and I encouraged him to apply for a position with my current employer. He did, and after he didn’t hear back, I had to rescue his resume from the slush pile & put it in front of the hiring manager, because he did not tailor the application to make it appealing, even though I know he had the skills & experience to be a good fit. I also had to convince the hiring manager to give him an interview, which he flubbed, because he did no preliminary company research, so knew nothing about what we do. Getting hired without the network connections takes creativity, attitude, preparation, & effort. I don’t care how impressive your degree or work history is, it’s not a guarantee of employment.Report

              • Autolukos in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Your first paragraph nails the problem most young people have: their peers are the same age and either also searching for a job or too junior to have hiring experience. College grads probably have some sort of career center, but the quality and quantity of their advice is variable. The companies dumping their resumes have no reason to write back and tell them why the resume was dumped. There is simply very little opportunity to get useful feedback when you’re just starting out.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Autolukos says:


                That gives me an idea!

                Hey, Mods, seeing as how we have a solid mix of young & old, management & entry level hereabouts, and we all have a particular delight in being brutally honest, perhaps we should offer some resume reading for those active members who are looking and not finding reliable work?Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I’ve already gone to Brother Burt.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Good! I hope it was instructive.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                There were some minor changes and suggestions. Burt liked my writing samples.

                The darker and more disturbing question is what if the legal market is still not recovered or going to recover. Everyone I know seems to think I am meant to be a lawyer and nothing else. So getting advice on how to switch industries has been like pulling teeth, only worse.Report

              • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                You seem like a decent writer. If creativity’s in your bones, there’s plenty of work for video game writers… If not, maybe advertising?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Dude, since I’ve been working I’ve been a janitor in a slaughterhouse, a gas turbine technician on a hovercraft, a hotel front desk agent, a CNC stone cutter, an engineer, and now a software developer.

                Changing careers is not that hard, it’s figuring out what your skill set will let you earn money doing, and then leveraging that into something else. A law degree can be a very flexible asset if you let it.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Oh, yeah, and 10 years in IT.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


                “a gas turbine technician on a hovercraft”

                So you ARE the most interesting man in the world!Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


                Depending on the size of a law firm (or any other company), they might not even have HR departments.

                I am not even talking about going through an agency. There have been plenty of times I have seen a Craigslst or Lawjobs.com post with something like “Law Firm located in Neighborhood X. Does Y and Z. Looking for an Associate.”

                I apply. There have been times I received an e-mail or a call weeks later asking me to come into an interview and that is the first time I find out the name of the firm. I think smaller firms do this because they don’t want door knockers (or maybe they want to see who can triangulate and figure out who they are, I have been able to do that when a firm is in a niche area).Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Ha! That would be a good weeding strategy for a legal firm that does a lot of investigative work. Give bread crumbs in the posting & interview anyone with the research skills to call the main office line.

                As an engineer, I am very careful when I apply for a job without having some idea who I was applying with.Report

              • Kim in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I’m pretty sure that “Chris-chan” was the best “figure this out and you’re hired” of all time.
                (those not in the know: one guy posts a picture on the internet. Everyone gets to decode where the picture was taken, who the guy is in the photo, get a full rundown of what he’s like, dox him… etc.).

                … unless you want to count Crazy Eddie’s “I’ll hire you if you can find some new porn for me.”Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                You hire P.I.s to do that stuff.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Really? Lawyers do no investigative work at all?Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


            Depending on the field, a single resume might suffice for multiple industries. If I’m applying for a teaching job, I use the same resume regardless of the school. When I was exploring different admin roles, I had different resumes for each.

            But cover letters were ALWAYS personalized. I made a point to citing something specific from the school — the mission statement, the philosophy — and explaining why I thought I was a good match. Not only did this help me identify the right schools (if I couldn’t find anything to speak to, it wasn’t for me), but it sold me on two fronts: 1) I demonstrated I fit what they were looking for and 2) I communicated the seriousness of my search through the legwork I put into this.

            I read cover letters that are clearly stock. And speak with candidates who have to say, “Were you the school with the green-and-gold competition or the swim team?” EGADS!!!Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:


              True, a single may suffice across multiple postings, but I still take the time to make sure that the resume will work for each posting.

              Stock cover letters will get your resume tossed in the slush pile so fast I won’t have time to look at your resume.Report

            • veronica d in reply to Kazzy says:

              Seriously, I don’t think I could write a proper cover letter to save my life. Which is not to say I cannot write, but I’m not sure I could write to that register. Like, how personal to make it? What tone should I set?

              Mine are software jobs. Are math nerds reading my resume? Or wannabe pseudo-hip Silicon Valley nerds, who have their own style? Or people who hate those guys (such as me)? What to do?

              A crisp white resume?

              Obviously, right? Unless it is not obvious.

              One of the points made in this article, which is about SV hiring practices, is that unless you are part of their cultural milieu, the SV bros will blow you off, especially in startup space. (Bigtech has a different set of problems.)

              So maybe the people applying to these big firms got bad advice. Maybe the firm down the street does want their resumes in bone white or something. Maybe the candidate read that advice on some shitty blog.

              And unless they have contacts within the firm, to give them the straight dope, or unless they guess well about which bit of contradictory advice they’re getting from friends, blogs, and professors, they have no chance? Fuck that!

              It’s who you know, right. That hasn’t changed.

              When you interview with my employer, our recruiters sent you a video about our interview process. They tell you how to dress (casual, jeans are fine). They go over the structure of the interview and the evaluation criteria. They even suggest some textbooks to read, to prepare for the type of content we look at. (It’s Skienna’s Algorithm Design Manual, which is seriously a great book.)

              We want people who have programming chops, not people who can pass an irrational culture barrier.

              Which is not to say we don’t care about culture. We care a lot. But we are a diverse culture that places a premium on manifest brilliance, not superficial nonsense.

              The color of your resume paper?

              Holy shit what an unimportant thing.Report

              • Kim in reply to veronica d says:

                wait, I actually remember why the color of the resume is “somewhat important”.
                Someone picking a subtlely different color than everyone else is trying to stand out, and betrays nervousness.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

                veronica d: It’s who you know, right. That hasn’t changed.

                Truly. If you don’t have the connections, it’s difficult. Not impossible, but very difficult. But without those connections, that other stuff is important.

                I got a job offer from GE Global Research by putting myself in front of one of their recruiters & just, you know, talking to the guy about what I enjoy about engineering (Networking). Before that fell through, I had an interview with Boeing. That job was the result of a database search by one of the hiring managers (keyword search in the resume database). Paper & font meant nothing to either of those two jobs.

                My current job was the result of me searching for jobs, finding one that looked like a good fit, and then researching the hell out of it. No contacts at the company, no networked connections. Just pure, straight out, selling myself on paper & nailing the interviews. Paper, font & format all mattered, as did the cover letter.

                It matters. Not always, but often enough that acting as if it doesn’t matter is going to hurt you more often than acting if it does.Report

          • When I applied for my current job, they wouldn’t accept a cover letter, just a resume. It’s also one of the few job I’ve ever gotten by going through the full hiring process, rather than short-circuiting it by being recommended.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        And this is why you have online brokerages now.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:

        A lot of this is irrelevant because most job applications are now done through the internet. The only places that still seem to want pen and paper applications are fellowships and government positions.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to aaron david says:


      I know that during recessions that there are going to be a huge number of applicants for any given position and measures need to be taken to cull the sheer number down.

      This does raise questions and problems though. What measures should be used? Suppose you were a young college grad applying for jobs around 2009. You were sending out resume after resume and not getting any replies. How is someone supposed to know whether they are not getting any bites because their resume is lacking or simply isn’t getting read? What if a resume is not getting read because someone in HR is using software and tossing any resume that is not from a handful of schools?

      I am not anti-HYPS. I think people who generally go to those schools are hard workers and do well. But that doesn’t mean I think those degrees should act as a kind of super-club that provides a lot more access to various job. I remember reading that about 20 percent of Harvard grads end up in finance and the number is closer to 50 percent for economics majors at Harvard. I can think of only a handful of people from Vassar who ended up in finance. I don’t even think there was a big push to do on-campus recruiting at Vassar. Now Harvard might be more selective than Vassar but Vassar is nothing to sneeze at either. Neither is the University of Michigan or Cornell or any other alleged second-tier university. How much is Harvard acting as a key word or really being a better group of students?

      Opportunity is an interesting concept because it is one of those words that is very flexible and often gets bent for political purposes. We (as in the American public) is not using the same definition and I also suspect that definitions of opportunity come with large doses of cultural values and priorities. Americans have a strange relationship with individualism. We claim to like it but we act as if people making different cultural, social, and consumption choices are an existential threat. I remember once hearing someone complain about how biology majors would rather make 40000 dollars by being an admin assistant or bartender in a big city than using their degrees and living in a rural area for 24000 dollars in a state fishery or forestry department or something like that.

      How much of this complaint is valid and how much of it comes from “OMG people are making different choices than I made or would make, Why do young people like living in suburbs and cities instead of the country! I don’t get it!!”Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Standard trick is contacting the hiring manager directly, if you can wheedle that out of the website or someone you know.
        I know I’ve lost jobs because of my resume (specifically, lack of CS degree).Report

      • aaron david in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        A couple things Saul:

        In 2009 I was a laid off account manager for a multinational logistics firm. I was sending out 100’s of resumes with no bites. And after a year of that, I had to seriously look at what I was offering in comparison to other job seekers. Or, look at all of my other skills and go in a different direction. I took that later option and am mostly happy. My old career is still contracting as clients find that they can live without what I was providing.

        My son is a 20yo student at a very respected business and engineering school, CPSLO. He is focusing on marketing, as he enjoys it, and he realized that if he stayed with his initial plan (music, as he a quite accomplished guitarist) there was little chance of getting employed in the field. He is using every resource the college offers, such as being on the college radio management team, having a part time job, etc. As he has learned that there is no free ride, and that what worked for his parents generation (just get a degree, any degree) isn’t cutting it anymore. He is getting a minor in music, as he loves the world of it and wants to work in that world. But he knows that he is going to need to bring a whole lot more to the table than just love.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to aaron david says:

          All fair points. I try to do the What would I do differently question but it is quite hard considering it always ends up with me asking myself “Would I also be getting rid of the parts of me that I like?”Report

  8. Oscar Gordon says:

    I used to be punctual, then I had a kid.

    Now I try damned hard to be punctual, and as soon as I know I will be late, I send a message.

    Regarding recruiting, along the lines of Veronica, certain schools have certain programs that produce potential employees with skills that certain companies have found, over the years, to be a successful fit for the corporate culture & the work being done. Companies like Boeing try to attend as many college recruiting drives as they can (time and resources are limited, even for a company like Boeing) as they look for engineering talent, but there are a handful of schools they will be at EVERY year, schools that they draw heavily from for internships & full time positions. Should they be faulted for focusing the bulk of their recruitment at those key schools? If Boeing rarely, if ever, attends a career fair at Joe’s College of Engineering, should we blame Boeing for failing to provide opportunities to Joe’s COE students, or should we instead focus on what companies do recruit from Joe’s, see if those companies do provide good opportunities, and if not, perhaps we should look at Joe’s and see what they are failing to provide in the way of attractive education.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


      I was just thinking… I’d be curious to see the correlation between “has children” and “punctuality”. It is possible to be punctual with a young child through proper planning and the like, but it requires more work. And even then, there is only so much control one can exhibit. Furthermore, punctuality with a young child often means doing a disservice to that child. Demanding punctuality in such cases is not only discourteous, but is outright mean.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

        Well, between eating, snacking, potty training, random tantrums, and nap time, the correlation between tardiness & parents of children under the age of 5 is, I expect, exceedingly high.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


          Some people at work are really anal about being on time to things. “Music starts at 12! It’s 12:01 and we have to walk 100 feet down the hall! EVERYONE LINE UP!”

          After hearing this one too many times, I finally raised my hand and said, “At the risk of speaking for the specialists, I’d bet they rather us arrive 3 minutes late with a calm group of students ready to learn than arrive right on time with everyone frantic and stressed.”

          I got an Amen!Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        I remember seeing a sign in the elevator at work about a meditation class that started at 8:30 AM. If most people there want to arrive at 8:30 reliably in a calm, receptive state of mind, they’d need to leave home around 5:00.Report

  9. LWA says:

    I think its a good question worth probing. That is, where should we draw the line between free action and responsibility?
    We want to defend freedom of action;
    We want to promote inclusiveness;
    Freedom of association;
    Equal Access;

    I think the first conversation is to acknowledge that these goals are often at odds with each other; formulations like “Your right to swing your fist, etc” are inadequate and can’t provide guidance for resolution.

    As the A&F case showed, resolving these conflicts requires some larger outlook, a shared agreement on an acceptable outcome. American society has strongly agreed that we want to achieve an outcome where sales clerks come from all walks of American life- White, Black, Asian; Christian, Jewish, Muslim; Able bodied and disabled, and so on.

    Yet at the very same time, and with equal force, we eagerly patronize and promote a store that holds up a mirror to our deeper desires. And the mirror suggests that what we really want is a world where everyone looks like the cast of Twilight.

    So it becomes a question of whether we are willing to confront the consequences of our moral code; What are we willing to sacrifice or accept, so as to get the outcome we say we want?Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to LWA says:


      I mentioned it above but I think Americans (and maybe all people) have a unique relationship with individualism and collective action. Meaning we all want to have it both ways. We like individualism when it benefits ourselves and our outlook and we like collective action when it does the same. Both sides do it. The differences are that liberals and conservatives use it for different things as you noted.Report

  10. Brooke says:

    Paraphrased from the original post as an answer to a question posed there:

    ” Individuals bear the burden of finding employment that confirms with their religious, moral, and ethical beliefs.”

    Religion is an opinion, a personal preference when it comes down to it. We should not treat it as any more sacred than any other opinion, nor endow it with any more power to let people demand concessions from organizations or individuals. If an applicant does not wish to adhere to a dress code because of religion, why should we treat that person’s preferences as any more important than those of a person who has a lucky hat?Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Brooke says:


      As I understand it, anti-discrimination laws often refer to the mutability of a given characteristic… how much control does the individual assert over possessing that particular characteristic?

      Religion would seem to be highly mutable and yet has special protections… presumably because of the 1st Amendment. But let’s assume we strictly looked at mutability: if an individual can exert control over the characteristic, then he must bear responsibility for doing so.

      But where does that take us? Science has progressed to a point that many things that were once considered immutable are now mutable. And that trend will only continue. Could an employer only hire light skinned folks because, hey, that new skin bleaching process is now available at CVS?Report

      • Zac in reply to Kazzy says:

        Apparently it’s pretty mutable, because as recently as 2009 polling showed that nearly half of Americans had changed religions since their birth.


        • Mike Schilling in reply to Zac says:

          Man, I don’t even remember what I believed when I was born.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Zac says:


          I don’t doubt that religion can change. But I don’t know if it is a conscious change in the same way that how one dresses is. Or whether one has tattoos.

          And I would extend this to things like political philosophy and the like. I mean, could you wake up tomorrow and suddenly believe that the flat tax was right? Or that abortion was immoral or moral… whatever the opposite of your typical stance was? Not only are our worldviews shaped by myriad outside influences, I believe research suggests brain differences also exist that contribute to how likely we are to accept religion or whether we skew liberal or conservative.

          I guess I’m just interested in the question of mutability, how we determine what is and is not mutable, and whether mutability is even the right criteria to go off of.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

            Oh, I don’t know, I remember my parents switching religions every few years before finally deciding to be Wiccan.

            If you are searching, you can try on different faiths or philosophies like so many hats, until you find the one that fits & looks good.Report

          • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

            Kazzy: whether mutability is even the right criteria to go off of.

            I go back to this a lot, since all of our ideas about justice, etc. – basically, the way we think the world works, and what humans should and should not do – is all predicated around the idea that we nearly-always have a choice in the matter, that free will exists, that we CAN be ‘mutable’ in any meaningfully self-directed way.

            There is, of course, another long-standing school of thought that says that this is simply not true.

            In ancient times, it was the gods or Fate that made it so; today, what we know of genetics and neurology and physics/probability makes it so.

            Sometimes we act as though human choices are freely made; sometimes we act as though there is no ‘choice’, and never was.

            I lean towards the former, but I suspect that is simply out of necessity (I have no idea how you would structure a human society that truly did not believe in free will – I think even those societies that placed a greater emphasis on fate or predestination than modern society does, still believed that humans made choices. It’s only today, with brainscans and very-precise clocks, that we know that those “choices” appear to be mostly post-hoc rationalizations and most choices are made long before reason ever enters the picture).Report

          • Zac in reply to Kazzy says:

            Well, I suppose I should state my priors here: I don’t actually believe in free will myself. Every conception of it I’ve ever seen is outright incoherent. So I feel like we need to drill into this part:

            “I don’t doubt that religion can change. But I don’t know if it is a conscious change in the same way that how one dresses is. Or whether one has tattoos.”

            It may have different social weight, but mutable is mutable. I don’t actually see the distinction between changing religion and changing clothes, beyond the obvious physical ones. Both changes are contingent upon all the inputs your brain has received (environmental, genetic, etc.) up to that moment.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Brooke says:

      Religion would seem to be highly mutable and yet has special protections… presumably because of the 1st Amendment

      The 1st Amendment mentions religious freedom because abridging it was one of the most common abuses of government. You probably recall from grade school that the Pilgrims came to America to escape religious persecution from the Church of England, and, if you had an above-average teacher, that once they got established in Massachusetts they began doing the same thing to Quakers. Laws don’t in general come from abstract arguments about how religion is exactly like believing in the Easter Bunny; they’re created to address genuine problems. Ones that are still with us today, as anyone can see by Googling “United States mosque building”.Report