Letters: April 2010

Feedback from our members

6 April 2010

The Human Resources Takeover

It’s no surprise that the latest human resources tactic is to pursue social networking sites to gauge a job candidate’s fit in a company [“Beware: Recruiters Are Screening You on Your Social Network Profiles,” January].

Employment practices have changed drastically since I joined IEEE in 1958 as a student member. When I looked for my first job in 1961 as an electrical engineer with a master’s degree, I had many offers. In each case, I was first contacted by the engineers with whom I would be working. The personnel department was not involved in candidate selection or hiring—it would be contacted only after the hire was made, and merely to complete minor administrative tasks. Personnel departments existed then only to serve the employees of the company.

At some point, the personnel wonks inserted themselves directly into the hiring process and renamed themselves Human Resources. The name says it all: An employee is no longer a person but a resource. Through the decades, I have seen a progressive decline in the professional status of engineers in the eyes of human resources personnel, whose haughtiness and outright arrogance has increased progressively. They are now in complete charge, and you had better know it.

If a candidate doesn’t have a social networking site, it says to human resources they are hiding something. If a candidate does have a site, pictures or comments can be taken out of context, and the candidate could be doomed without ever knowing why. Whether an engineering applicant gets the job or not is no longer based on technical knowledge, education, or experience.

After a number of bitter experiences with human resources, I never found even one honest person willing to explain why I was rejected in favor of an applicant with less education and less experience. That is, of course, because human resources personnel are carefully schooled to avoid statements that may lead to a lawsuit. Human resources people are the lowest form of life on the planet Earth.

Paul Gregg

Seymour, Wis.


Bureaucratic Issues

John R. Platt makes some good points regarding the movement to develop ultra-low-cost technology for poorer consumers [“Introducing Gandhian Engineering,” February]. However, having recently spoken with an engineer who lives and works in India, I believe the foremost problem to be fixed there is not a technical one but one of bureaucracy and corruption.

I suggested to my engineer friend that he could easily purchase electronic components at a discount from an online distributor based in the United States. His rather sad answer was that he would have to drive almost 500 kilometers to the nearest customs authorities and, despite the low online price, pay an exorbitant fee to clear his purchase through customs. In a nutshell, his message was: In India, if you can’t get parts through some local shop or electronics hobby store, you can’t engineer your project.

Joerg Schulze-Clewing
Cameron Park, Calif.

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