Re: Obsession with University Degrees?

Subject: Re: Obsession with University Degrees?
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 19 Sep 1996 22:38:42 PDT

>Why are recruiters and employers so obsessed with someone possessing a
>degree in English Lit, Journalism or Tech Writing before they consider
>someone for a job? Recruitment postings keep popping up in this group and
>it's always a long list of requirements like: must have 5 years of writing
>experience,a degree and know nine different software packages. The writing
>experience I can agree with, the software packages I can agree with but the

(Actually, I think that requiring specific software experience is
pretty stupid, too. People who require, say, Interleaf experience
will hire some dreadful hack who never learned the package properly
in preference to someone who will sit down and learn it backwards
and forwards. If you REALLY cared about training, you'd provide it.

A properly worded ad would say, "Must be an Interleaf wizard or be eager
to become one." That would scare off the committed hacks. But I digress.)

I have discussed the degree requirement with hiring managers who know
better, and it comes down to this: they are uncertain in their
abilities to hire good people, and feel better if they cling to
traditional methods -- however ineffective -- than by doing things
on the basis of their own analyses.

Thus, a manager who knows perfectly well that there are new-grad hotshots
out there who would be perfect for the position will put "five years'
experience" in their ad anyway. People who know perfectly well that many
excellent technical writers have no college degree will demand one

To put it bluntly, they're a bunch of spineless wimps who make decisions
based on deflecting future criticism rather than solving the problem
at hand.

(Well, they're not all spineless wimps. Some of them really do believe
that college degrees are magic tickets to success. I have a name for
them, too, but after the way Geoff got kicked around for quoting a
naughty word, I figure that "spineless wimps" is enough negativity for
one posting.)

The wimps in question excuse their behavior on the grounds that people
who don't fit the parameters will apply anyway, giving rise to the
possibility that the penalties of wimpiness will somehow be averted.
But most people reading job postings do not imagine that the authors
are, in fact, backbone-impaired, and thus take the ad at face value.

(Note that, when I say "spineless wimps," I mean "spineless wimps in
this particular situation." The same person might be ferocious in
other situations. I've seen people who were very capable managers
at almost every conceivable situation fold up like like a like a pile
of soggy cardboard when it came to writing job descriptions.)

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon, President/Managing Editor, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139

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