The Need for Employees Who Think Like Hackers-Or Are Hackers

Don Tennant

If you haven't lost your job, you undoubtedly know someone who has, and you've likely heard some disturbing accounts of what those colleagues are going through in their relentless search for employment. The last thing these people need to deal with is having to perform what amounts to slave labor in order to get a job. Yet many of them are doing just that.


In the past year, I've watched as some of the most talented and accomplished IT professionals I've ever met became victims of the recession. Award-winning CIOs and other IT leaders with exemplary track records have been laid off in numbers that none of us who follow this industry could ever have imagined. As much as I question the competence of corporate directors who are making the grossly shortsighted decisions to cast aside this talent in the name of cost-cutting, I find the tactics of companies that are taking free dips into the unemployed talent pool far more questionable.


What's happening is that potential employers are taking advantage of the desperation of many jobless professionals by making unfair and overzealous demands on them as part of the recruitment process. A particularly troubling tack taken by some companies, especially in dealing with unemployed CIOs and other senior executives, is to demand that the job candidate analyze the employer's operations and prepare a strategic plan (or some other intellectual property that's created and surrendered) to improve those operations.


I don't know how widespread the practice is, but I know it's happening because I've talked to enough people, not just in IT, but in journalism and other professions, who have either experienced it or know someone who has experienced it in some form. I would love to know how many millions of dollars in consulting fees companies are saving by simply tapping the expertise of job candidates as part of the candidate assessment process. Because they can.


If this has happened to you, let me know. And if you've been subjected to any other job application practice that you felt was unfair, let me know that, too. If we're able to call some of the worst offenders to account, perhaps they'll find they can't, after all.

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