Four Dangerous Mistakes Employers Make in Job Ads

If you hire people, contract with freelancers, or are looking for help, you might have occasion to advertise a job on any of a number of web sites or even in newspapers or trade magazines. Why? Because you want a variety of candidates from which to choose the best new employee or contractor.

All too often, you will miss the best candidate because you made a fundamental mistake with your job ad. Hiring has changed, to be sure. Most employers think they have an insurmountable advantage and all the power, and they are utterly wrong. Everything you think gives you an advantage in the marketplace as an employer can be flipped around and used against you by faster moving candidates just like a Judo move. The truth is you have no advantage. The harder you squeeze, the fewer good candidates you’ll attract.

Let’s get something straight right off. Your candidates can survive without a paycheck a lot longer than you can stay solvent. What’s your daily burn rate, boss? Exactly.

If you are one of the many employers who whine constantly that you can’t find qualified people, take a good long look in the mirror. You’re liable to find the person responsible. In the meantime, if you are willing to admit you aren’t perfect, and you can avoid these four mistakes, you may find you have much greater success.

Passion

Do not ever use the word “passion” or “passionate” in a job ad. If you are using either of those words in your current ads, stop it. Right now. Human beings are passionate about two things. One of them is payday, and the other isn’t the job you are offering them. This might hurt your feelings, but your employees don’t care about your company or whatever it is you do all day. For the most part, they never will. Your business is important to you. The paycheck is important to your employees.

When you hire someone, you are paying them in exchange for work. That’s it. They don’t want to be your friend. They don’t want to join your righteous crusade to change the world. They don’t care about anything but paying their bills and going home on time. Let them live their life and you run your business. Stop making them pretend to be obsessed with whatever it is you think is important. In the long run, you’ll get better employees who will probably do a better job.

By the way, since payday is one of the things that makes people passionate, if you really want your employees to get excited about something, give them a raise. It’s probably been too long since the last one.

Precious

If you put little “gotchas” in your job ads, like waiting until the second-to-last line to include important instructions like “put your favorite color in the subject line or we won’t review your application,” you are being what freelancers call “precious.”

I have news for you. On any given day, there are several dozen new ads for work for whomever it is you want to hire. You might think that your offer of money for work is rare enough that it gives you the power to dangle people and play games with their job applications, but it isn’t and it doesn’t. Most good candidates will just hard next and go elsewhere without even bothering to apply.

Your job ad is a preview of what it’s going to be like to work for you. If you’re already playing games before you’ve even met your candidate, and you’re tossing their application for childish and frivious reasons, why should they take working with you seriously? How many great applications and great candidates have you thrown out? Is that how you run your whole business? For your customers’ sake I certainly hope not.

The truth is good, highly qualified grown-ups are not going to tolerate gotchas and game-playing. This is their income and career we’re talking about. This is something they likely take rather seriously. If it is clear you don’t take it seriously, they’re going elsewhere, and they should. That leaves you with the not-so-qualified candidates, which is probably not what you wanted.

Birthday Cakes

If an application to your company requires documents in a particular proprietary format, pictures, video, tests, filling out elaborate online forms, recordings of your co-workers singing the company song, choreography, charts and graphs, cover letters on expensive stationery and costumes, you are the kind of employer who wants your candidates to bake you what freelancers call a “birthday cake.”

In the current hiring climate, candidates are required in some cases to send out dozens of applications a day. This can go on for weeks and sometimes months at a time. Why is this necessary? Well, it turns out the people doing the hiring have all kinds of reasons to throw out applications that have little, if anything, to do with a candidate’s qualifications, experience or education. Job applicants didn’t make it this way. They are just trying to adapt to the world as it is: An adversarial world created by employers.

Since dozens of applications a day is essentially the only way they’re going to find work, job seekers are required to standardize. They don’t have time to bake each employer a custom birthday cake, nor do they have time to entertain hiring managers. When they see a long list of little goodies they must include in the care package they are expected to send HR (while knowing full well it will probably be heaved into the trash the moment it arrives), they have to weigh the advantages of sending one application over the next 30 minutes with sending six. See if you can guess which option wins every time?

At best, birthday cakes should be step five in the hiring process. Be happy with a resume and an e-mail address. Or learn to be happy with candidates who are a fair distance south of the top-tier. Choose one.

Blivets

You know what you get when you stuff six pounds of s*** in a five pound bag? You get a blivet. You know what you get when you mash six job descriptions together and post that as the skill requirements for the entry-level temp position you are advertising? The same thing.

Good job candidates can tell when you are overreaching with your job descriptions. They’ve been there and done that, and in a lot of cases they know more about the job than you do. When they see long unrealistic lists of requirements, overinflated educational requirements and inaccurate and sometimes fictional experience levels, they just move on. Their job is not to train you to manage people properly, and if you post a ridiculously overdone job ad, they know working for you isn’t going to be much better. In the meantime, you’ll be left with the people who don’t know any better, and that’s not going to look good on those expensive business cards.

Lose the Ego

Hiring managers have a bad habit of letting their ego override their sense of reality. They also have a lot of trouble admitting when they are wrong. People do not have to put up with you, even if you are waving money in the air. They can also tell nobody wants to work for you if you post the same ad in 12 different cities six times a week.

The Internet may give you an endless fountain of resumes, but it also gives your candidates an endless fountain of job ads. The best candidates will look for hiring managers that give them confidence. They will look for ads written by competent professionals. They will bypass ads that lord over applicants with burdensome nonsense. If you write such ads, you’ll get the runner-up, not the champ.

Be the competent professional. Your next round of hiring will be far more successful. Black out.

There is No Better Web Host Right Now

Have you noticed Amazon’s cloud offerings? For most people, the dizzying array of services being offered can be confusing, but there is a humble little option right in the middle of that big shelf called “Lightsail” you should be aware of, especially if you’re running your own web site.

Lightsail allows customers to buy a remote server month to month. Installed on that server is some variant of Ubuntu Linux, and it is hooked up to a network that is so fast you simply won’t believe it.

What can you do with a remote Ubuntu Linux server? Well, you can run a world-class web site with it. You can install and configure web server software like Apache. You can install a content management system like WordPress and run it on a database like MySQL. You can install an e-mail server like Postfix and retrieve your e-mail with an application like Dovecot. Amazon will give you a best-in-class e-mail relay with a service called SES.

Basically you can have your very own web/e-mail and even cloud server with SSH access for a tiny fraction of what you’re probably spending on web hosting right now. As an added bonus, that server is going to be lightning fast. Why, you can even have secure http with a Let’s Encrypt certificate. Won’t cost you a cent. In all other respects, it works just like standard Ubuntu, which means it is rock solid, reliable and has access to the Debian repository and its some 20,000 applications.

As someone who has had at least one web site live continuously since 1995, I can tell you this is the best hosting option I’ve ever seen. It’s affordable. The performance is unmatched and without putting too fine a point on it you can do literally anything from an application development standpoint.

If you need web hosting, take a look at Lightsail. Learning curve will be a bit rough at first, but there are dozens of walk-throughs on how to set up the software. The results are worth it.

On Sourcebooks

The proper balance between illustrations and words has been a controversial topic for writers for some time. As authors, we rely on words to communicate, and to the extent we need illustrations, we limit them to book covers.

There is a reason for this. Imagery, animation, illustration work, and getting the look of something right is almost as time-consuming as getting the story right. As authors we end up with a trade-off. Either we spend hours making what will never be better than an amateur illustration combined with an amateur attempt at compositing typography and effects, or we spend that extra time working on the words.

The old cliche “a picture is worth a thousand words” isn’t quite accurate. A picture is worth more like half a day and at least one derailed train of thought, and for me, that can add up to more like six thousand words. That’s ten percent of a medium-length novel, and that can be expensive. Really expensive.

I’m fond of saying I have an unlimited special effects budget. But I only have that if I stick to my knitting. The very moment I open Photoshop or GIMP or whatever, the limits on my special effects budget become overwhelmingly apparent, and the limits on the time I have to fiddle and adjust and tinker become even more apparent. Every hour I spend on that illustration is 1500 words I didn’t get written today.

As authors go, I’m relatively experienced with graphics tools. I know GIMP and Photoshop well. I’m a fair to middling Blender user, and I’ve got journeyman skills with the tools in the Adobe Suite. I’ve had to develop those skills over the years as I’ve worked on video game projects, animated ads, audiocast projects and so forth.

But now, my business is books, and if I’m going to be good at something, it’s going to have to be writing and not gee-whiz graphics. I’m well aware of what happens when you overspend on graphics and underspend on script.

So on to the sourcebooks. You might ask what a sourcebook is? Well, it’s where I gather all the information that doesn’t necessarily make it into a story as is. It’s where, for example, I list things like a character’s favorite school subject, or a fighter pilot’s most prestigious accomplishment or award. It’s where I take what is two-dimensional and make it three-dimensional. It’s where I find out who a character really is before they get to that important scene readers care about most.

The sourcebook is where I describe all the creatures in a fantasy story, or all the enemy starships in a science-fiction story. I also build maps (without graphics, believe it or not) and name all the locations on various planets or realms where adventures take place. Readers appreciate it when stories get their own details right from chapter to chapter.

You would be surprised at just how much source material you can produce writing a 98,000-word fantasy novel. Every character has to be accounted for. Every treasure and creature has to be written before they can be included in the story. I have a list of nearly 100 starships in my Captain Jason Hunter series. It’s nice to be able to look up their names instead of trying to keep them all straight by re-reading previous chapters.

One of the most popular features of some of my past web sites have been the character profile pages for my LadyStar warriors. My Featured Creatures™ have also been popular, and I think some of the source material I’ve composed for Starships at War will be interesting for readers too. The thing is, those past sites had tons of graphics, which are among the things I can no longer produce in the quantities I need.

I want to start putting my sourcebook material up on my site, but I don’t have the time or the budget to illustrate it all. Naturally, I already have most of it written, but with thousands of pages of material, there is no way I can generate graphics in that kind of volume. There’s also the issue of mobile readers. Even if I could get the illustrations done, making them look right on desktops and mobile devices will consume incredible intervals of time I should be investing in new chapters and new stories.

So I have to make the trade-off and sacrifice graphics in favor of words. This is fine with me as an author because I’d much rather write my creations. I’m sure some readers will be disappointed I won’t have a pretty picture to go with each page. Perhaps someday I will find an artist to illustrate what I’ve imagined here and have the budget to do it well. In the meantime, I hope you’ll understand if I go easy on the multimedia extravaganza so I can get everything written that needs to be written.

Look for new material from my sourcebooks soon. Black out.

Reader Opinion: Would a Wiki make you Clicky?

As many of you know, there’s a lot going on in most of my book series. I have an 800-page source book for LadyStar, and my written notes for the Starships at War universe just passed 100 pages. I expect if I took the time to compile it, Kings and Conquests would be close to 100 pages too.

Question: Would it be of any value to you as a reader of any of these three series to have an online resource listing the characters, prominent locations, equipment, ships, creatures, villains, etc. possibly along with art wherever possible? I’m pretty sure it will help me a bit, as keeping track of 1000 pages of source material isn’t as easy as it sounds.

I’m not planning to use the standard wiki software, as I find it far too finicky and over-engineered for what I have in mind.

Instead I’m planning to establish permanent addresses for my books and their corresponding series on my web server. These pages will function as both information resources for readers and as landing pages for any promotions I do. Alongside these pages, I think background details on characters and so forth would be useful and attractive, especially for new people.

So, what do you think? Would you like to see something like this? Leave your comments below and tell me what you’d like to see! Black out.

Goodbye Gravatar

Memorandum to the WordPress developers:

I have a 60 second time limit on retarded in my company. I do this because I do not have time to debug someone else’s broken, buggy software. When I want to change my profile picture, and it takes four attempts (after three successful uploads and the WordPress.com site telling me the profile picture was successfully updated) only to discover my “gravatar” wasn’t changed, I take corrective measures.

Since I have 40 years of experience programming computers, those corrective measures consist of me reaching deep into the source code for WordPress and aggressively ripping all the gravatar code out down to the last byte.

Consider this notice the gravatar “feature” has been permanently disabled on this web site with extreme prejudice.

The new editor was yanked out too. When I write, I really don’t need a “user experience.” I don’t want a 20-something to ride up on a scooter, straighten his horn-rimmed hipster glasses and start gesturing at Powerpoint. I just want to write the post. Perhaps soon I’ll write an article about why hammers have handles and why there aren’t a thousand buzzword-hooting idiots chasing VC dollars promising to upgrade handles for a better user experience.

Black out.

Site of the Day

Long ago, when the Internet was very different from what it is today, there were more than a few destinations that had lists they called “The Site of the Day.” This was how we discovered things like the live coffee maker camera and Zombo.com before social media and search engines.

As you may have guessed, social media and search engines have done away with most of the fun on the web (along with pretty much everything else), so sites like mine are taking up the slack with our blogrolls. Enjoy my new Site of the Day list alongside links to my other web projects.

Those of us who know what the Internet used to be are not thrilled with what the Internet has become. The main reason I have a blogroll and a “Site of the Day” list is because we need to return to a time when sites just linked to each other.

If you have a site and would like to exchange links, drop me a line!

Headed Back to Comics

As part of the 20th Anniversary celebration of LadyStar, my next book will be a digital comic. I’ve been developing models for the LadyStar characters for some time now, and I think my technology (such as it is) has caught up to the capabilities we had when I did my first webcomic back in 2008. I’ll be performing a couple of simultaneous experiments as part of the project.

First, I have a Patreon, where I’ll have previews and extras for readers. I’ll be publishing the books on my bookstore and on Kindle. The books will be titled Fury of the Venom Legion and will depict a confrontation between the Ajan Warriors and the minions of Bane Cryptic Sai Magnen. Each book will be 60-80 pages and will release in sequence.

Secondly, I will be publishing a free parallel story in weekly chapters on Webtoons titled Jessica Halloran and the Ajan Warriors. The parallel story will serve as a prequel to the events in Venom Legion and will be released in weekly chapters.

I produce a fair amount of art that doesn’t find its way into the comics during production, so I will be posting some promotional works on Instagram.

The purpose here is two-fold. One, I am fully committed to promoting Enchanted Airship and middle grade fiction in general. Also the LadyStar characters have always gravitated towards books, comics and games, which means once we have a new comic we’ll be 2/3rds of the way to fulfilling the trifecta.

If I’m successful, I will rebuild LadyStar.net to its original vision and launch our first new game book sometime in early 2019. All the new books will take full advantage of the version 12 Jericho engine and the premium EPUB3 format I spent most of the summer converting my bibliography to.  I think the comics and fiction will promote each other quite effectively.

If you’d like updates on my progress, be sure to join my mailing list. Black out.

What Do You Want for your Kids?

I’ve met a lot of people from many different cultures around the world and one thing I know for certain they all had in common was they wanted the best for their kids. I’ve wondered on occasion what parents would say if they were asked “if you could make a list of the top three things you would want your kids to be doing when they aren’t in school or asleep, what would they be?”

My priorities might be a little different than others but I think most parents would agree they would want one of those three things to be reading. There is no doubt that reading improves educational performance among all ages and all achievement levels. The best part is it doesn’t matter what your child is reading. It could be a comic book, a history book or a story about pirates. The more children read, the better they get at learning.

Books have a unique magic that other media cannot duplicate. They inspire something called the “fictive dream,” where a reader and an author work together to create a story that takes place entirely in the mind. Active minds create opportunities to learn, whether it is facts on the page, new words a young reader has never encountered before or just dreaming about what a faraway place or time might have really been like. There is no activity a child can engage in that can be potentially more rewarding.

My other two priorities would be going outside to play and explore and either playing or practicing music or a musical instrument. I have to admit those two are my based on my own experiences as I was heavily involved in both sports and music growing up and in school.

Because I know how rare educational opportunities can be for some families, I make it a priority to include “learning moments” in my LadyStar™ and Ironjammers™ stories. I introduce real-world concepts like why iron creates sparks in this excerpt from Dawnsong The Last Skyblade:

“We should keep one candle lit all the time, huh?” Jessica said.

“Especially at night, otherwise we won’t be able to see at all. This place is going to be pitch black after dark,” Shannon added.

“How come it makes sparks like that when you hit those rocks together?” Cici asked, playing with the little pieces of flint.

“It’s ’cause of iron!” Jessica exclaimed. “I remember when me and Talitha were in the Dandelion Guides and went on the nature tour! We learned how to make campfires and torches and lots of stuff. If you take something real hard and hit it against a piece of iron, it makes sparks fly because iron burns in the air!”

Talitha nodded, confirming Jessica’s explanation.

Just enough to introduce the idea. Kids who read this might be inspired to go look up the rest of the story. There are numerous moments like that in each book. I plan ahead to make sure I have plenty of opportunities for learning moments. It makes my LadyStar and Ironjammers novels more than just novels. I want them to be inspirational and encourage readers.

I’d like to encourage you to consider a LadyStar story for your next book purchase. I think you’ll agree they help make learning fun and will make your son or daughter want to read more.

If you’d like to see some sample chapters from Dawnsong The Last Skyblade, you can read them in the Library-Tron.

Reading more is always a good thing.

The Astonishing Failure of the Windows Operating System

I am frequently asked to explain why I am so virulently opposed to Windows. Full disclosure: I’ve been using Windows personally and professionally for more than 30 years, so I have a few unpleasant experiences upon which to base my opinions.

Windows is without doubt the most incompetent commercial product ever invented by man. One of the key reasons many people take up Linux and/or switch to Mac OS is because they are so fed up with Windows and its comprehensive failure to function properly that they are willing to abandon all their familiar applications, risk losing all their data, forsake all their games and spend weeks, months and possibly years of their lives learning a different operating system. Millions of them are also willing to spend thousands of dollars on new hardware. At no other time in human history has a commercial product ever caused people to act this way, mainly because at no other time in history has a commercial product ever actively worked against its customers the way Windows does.

I have a three-decade career in IT. I’ve worked as a software engineer for companies larger than Microsoft. Nevertheless, whenever I boot Windows I am still beset with incidents like the one I experienced this morning, where it took me no less than forty minutes to attempt to change the default application for opening text files to Emacs on Windows 10. After nearly an hour of fighting, I gave up and resigned myself to the fact that I cannot open my files with the application of my choice.

This, of course, leaves aside the fact it takes up to nine minutes for Windows to boot to a usable state. I define “usable state” as one where I can open an application and use it. Windows also perpetually displays the wrong time, even after it is corrected again and again.

I have a fairly recent version of Linux Mint that boots in 20 seconds on the same hardware. Linux also manages to display the correct time of day somehow.

These are my text files, on my computer, in my home directory no less, yet Microsoft decides. This isn’t accidental, boys and girls. Microsoft making decisions for you is how they force you to use your property as they see fit.

It goes without saying that I can open text files in Linux with whatever application I choose. The reason this is true is because there is no financial incentive for Linux developers to interfere in my day to day work.

For those of you gearing up to send me comments like “works fine for me,” note that my problem is not unique. Also note the multiple suggested workarounds in that Stack Exchange thread and the fact each one failed to solve the problem. For my part, I manually edited the registry entries and Windows ignored them. If you do have a solution and everything works fine for you, please post your instructions in that thread so everyone can benefit.

Apparently there is some crucial corporate objective for Microsoft in making absolutely certain Notepad is the default application for opening text files. Oh, and by the way, it should be pointed out Ronald Reagan had just been sworn in for his second term when Notepad was new. Microsoft finally got around to updating it a few months ago after forcing the world to endure cheap failed software for more than 30 years. What if we had all those wasted man-hours back? What dollar value could we put on that?

What if Kenmore or Whirlpool had shipped a refrigerator that randomly reached temperatures of 150 degrees for an hour or so a couple times a month?

So for those of you wondering, that’s why serious people use something other than Windows when it comes time to do serious work. Those who do not are just better at tolerating failure, wasted money and wasted time.