Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Help! My Boss Has a Fake Degree! What Should I Do?

I recently vented to you nice folks about job hunters in Sand Land running around with bogus credentials from U.S.-based diploma mills. In response, I've received several emails and a comment from people asking what they should do about a boss or co-worker who is sporting a fake degree.

How naive I was when I wrote that post - I hadn't given alot of thought to the possibility that numerous people have managed to parlay meaningless pieces of paper into gainful employment, let alone positions of authority. But I guess it makes sense, doesn't it? I've never come across bullshit degrees in the U.S. but I've run into more than 20 in Sand Land. Large numbers of people wouldn't continue to plunk down hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for fake credentials if they didn't see a return.

So, in response to the emailers and commenter, let's play a game I learned in Sunday School.

[That's a sentence I never thought I'd write.]

Way back in the days when my parents forcibly dragged me to church multiple times a week, my Sunday School class often played a game called "What Would Jesus Do?" Or WWJD for short. We would sit in a circle on the floor and snack on Cheez-It's and Kool-Aid. One by one, kids would describe a problem or dilemma they were facing. Then they would say "WWJD?" At which point the listeners would debate what Jesus Christ would do if faced with the same situation. The ability to recite mad quantities of Bible verses from memory was key to getting your peers to buy in to your suggested course of action. So basically my thoughts never counted for shit...but anyway...I'm not bitter. Really.

For purposes of our "Would Would You Do" game, please use the comments section of this post to tell our advice seekers how you have handled (or would handle) the issue of bosses/co-workers with fake degrees in your workplace.

To squeal or not to squeal?
 For the people who asked my opinion, here are my thoughts:

(Disclaimer: I am not a seasoned HR professional. All of my training and most of my work experience is in an unrelated field but my current job requires me to spend a good deal of time blundering through all things HR. If you want the opinion of a respected HR pro, you might consider sending a query to someone like the Evil HR Lady):

The 5 year-old tattletale in me screams "Bust those fakers!" For those of you who have sacrificed time and tuition money to earn bona fide credentials, you have a right to be pissed when people use fake degrees to weasle their way into the same or better job. A fake degree is a time bomb on a resume and, in my opinon, an imposter deserves to have it blow up on them.  

However, my jaded, office-politics savvy self says keep your indignation in check and tread carefully. This is a serious accusation to level against someone. Before I contemplated saying anything to anyone, I would need to be 10,000% sure the credential in question is bogus - not simply from an obscure school I've never heard of. If I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the degree was crap, I would still think long and hard about the following considerations:

1. Is this faker a high performer who's exceeding expectations? Yeah, I know that's unlikely but if it's the case, the powers that be might not care about the faker's dubious academic background (assuming the faker is not masquerading as a doctor, attorney or other licensed professional).

2. What is the faker's position in office hierarchy? Are they very tight with the company's owners or top-level management. If they're a sacred cow, be aware that you're taking a big risk by ratting them out. Nepotism and personal connections play a bigger role in the Sand Landian work place than any other place I've seen. Outing someone with influence could backfire on you. No, it's not fair, but that's reality.

3. Would the people in power at your company be upset by an employee with a fake degree? Are you sure they understand what a degree mill is?

4. What is the risk to your company if it becomes public knowledge that the faker has a bogus degree? Again, if this is someone claiming to a be a licensed professional, it could be quite a scandal. If your company deals closely with firms from abroad (particularly western countries), employees with fake degrees may tarnish your company's credibility. But if it's a small, Mom and Pop enterprise, the risk to the company is less.

Without firsthand knowledge of your work situations and office culture, it's impossible for me to give you quality advice. The points I've raised are general things I'd consider before calling someone out. Best of luck, whatever you decide.

Ok, party people: You just discovered someone in your office has a fake degree - WWYD?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Are the Hookers of Sand Land Trolling For Johns in the Classified Ads?

I regularly advertise job vacancies in the classified sections of Sand Land's local papers, and I always use an email address that gives absolutely no indication of Fuckwittery, Inc.'s name. I've learned the hard way that if you use an "@fuckwitteryinc.com" address, a minimum of 100 people per hour will call Fuckwittery, Inc. and a good 70 to 80 will end up being transferred to me.

Once upon a time, unbeknownst to me, a former HR manager submitted a job ad to the local papers that contained my personal mobile number(!!!). Starting at 7:00 a.m. one morning (and continuing for 2 weeks), at least 20 hopeful job seekers per hour were dialing me up. I contemplated flinging my mobile out the window as it rang nonstop on the drive to the office. When I got to work, I called the numbskull HR manager into my office:

Me (shrieking, jumping up and down): Dude, what the hell were you thinking listing my mobile number in a job posting?

HR numbskull: Madam, I thought that you would want to screen the candidates personally.

Me: Okaaay. And why wouldn't I do that by checking the HR email account and reading their CVs?

HR numbskull: Well, madam, what about those applicants who aren't knowing how to use email? How would you screen them?

Me (foaming at the mouth): How would I screen them? How would I screen them?!?! They'd be weeded out automatically since it's 2011 and I have no earthly use for people who want to work in an office and can't use email!!!

 Anyway, I digress...when we place an ad in the paper, our anonymous email account generally receives the following:

  • 500+ emails from job seekers who want to apply for some job other than what we advertised for (i.e., systems analysts responding to an ad for reception staff and vice versa).
  • 300+ emails from job seekers who want the job advertised but who are in no way qualified.
  • 50 - 60 emails from local suppliers wanting to sell us shit like printer cartridges, window washing services or various power tools.
  • 20 emails from people who appear somewhat qualified for the job advertised but look to be total wackadoodles.
  • 10 emails from weirdos inviting us to join Facebook, Linked In, Quepasa, Brijj or any of the other half-baked networking sites people in Sand Land use.
  • 4 emails from African princes asking for our bank account information so they can hide $30 million from some usurping dictator who has killed their whole family.
  • 2 emails from people who want the job advertised and appear to be reasonably qualified and normal.
But with the past couple ads we've placed, I've notice something new in the mix - emails from girls with names like "Orchid Lovely" and "Sweetie Luuuvie Baby":

Dear Hensome Man,

Perhaps you will be suprise to know that I am loving you. Did you know it? Did you see how I do?

Tuth of this matter is I do, for all of the heart and for always. I seen you from a distance. I admire your grace. I know you are not only a strong man and a hensome man but also a important man.  So I confess to you I want you for myself.

If you want to ask me why I love you, sweet man, do not. I will be so bashful to tell you. So do not ask me that. Just write me back to say we can see each other. Don't make me a sad girl. I am a shy girl who has never loved anyone the way I love you. I want to see you, so tell me we can.

Loving you in etirnity,

The first time our account got one of these emails, I thought it was a fluke. But then I got two more this week - all professing their undying love and respectful admiration of the handsome hensome/wealthy/powerful/strong man that I apparently am. All emails ask me to write back to arrange a meeting. So, with curiosity peaked, I did write back:

Dear Ms. Lovely,

Finally! At last you have found me! Orchid, I know you must be my true love because you are the only one who recognizes me for the manly man that I am. Most people mistakenly assume I am just an average looking woman. Only you were able to discern that I'm actually a hensome man.

I long to meet you!

Forever yours,
Ms. Adventures

The next day, I got this response:

Dear Ms. Adventures,

Only the foolish person could not see your hensome. I am happy you love me. I can meet you at th entrance to the [dodgy grocery store] in [neighborhood in Sand Town] at 10:00 p.m. tomorrow. I can't hardly wait to love you.

Loving you in etirnity,

What's going on, folks? Are any of you HR/recruiter types out there getting these emails? Are times really that tough for the hookers of Sand Land? Judging from the skanky/trashy nightspots, I kind of had the impression that, beneath its puritanical facade, Sand Land was a fairly freaky place where ladies of the night wouldn't have to troll the classified ads for their johns.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

U.S. Diploma Mills Do Brisk Business in Sand Land

The sad state of higher education in Sand Land has been a recurring theme in several of my posts. I've written about a few of the young people I've interviewed who are unable to apply what they studied at Sand Land's universities and training institutes. But over the past few months, I've increasingly noticed another education-related problem - a problem that appears to be most pronounced in certain quarters of Sand Land's expat community: degrees issued by U.S.-based diploma mills.

I first became aware that people over here were purchasing bogus degrees when Fuckwittery, Inc.'s former HR manager introduced me to "Jake" a candidate who had "done graduate studies in the U.S." The conversation went something like this:

Me: How's it going, Jake?

Jake (shaking head quizzically): I'm sorry. I didn't get you?

Me: How's it going?

Jake (continues to shake head): I can't get what you're saying.

Me (enunciating): How. Is. It. Going.

Jake (looking at me like I'm insane): What is this thing that is going?

Me (shooting the HR manager the "are you f'ing serious?!" evil eye): Don't worry about it, Jake. So where in the U.S. did you study?

Jake (looking at me blankly): I can't make out what you're saying.

Me (trying to talk like a CNN newscaster): Where in the U.S. did you study?

Jake (eyes lighting up): Study?

Me: Yes!

Jake: I studied at Lawrence University.

Me (nodding): Nice. How'd you like those Wisconsin winters?

Jake: What?

Me: Lawrence University is in Wisconsin, is it not?

Jake: Uh.....um....I don't quite remember where it is.

Me (grabbing his CV from the HR manager): You don't remember which state you lived in?

Jake: It was a few years back.

Me (skimming the CV): You have a Masters of Accounting from Lorenz University? Where in tarnation is that?

Jake (shrugging shoulders): As I told you, it was a few years back. I don't remember.

As soon as I gave Jake the boot, I googled "Lorenz University." After spending roughly four seconds on the website, any marginally intelligent human being will recognize it as a diploma mill. You can "express order" everything from high school diplomas to doctorate degrees (thesis optional). They make idiotic boasts like "One of our prodigies, has been promoted to the post of Divisional Head." They even have a separate website dedicated to proving they're not a scam.

Since running into Jake a few months back, I've now come across 13 resumes listing degrees from Lorenz and many more resumes with credentials from other U.S.-based diploma mills. I know I'm probably preaching to the choir, but come on workers of Sand Land, don't waste your time or money on this crap! These degrees are worth less than the paper they're printed on and any employer with a brain will see through it. It's better to list no education on your resume than to tarnish it with this shit. If you don't believe me, check out the list of cats and dogs who have been awarded "life experience degrees" from these clowns.

And if you're still not convinced, consider my personal investigative research: I filled out an inquiry form on one of these websites for my feline BFF, Sand Cat. Luckily, Sand Cat has a rather sophisticated human-sounding name. I explained that, because she has a speech impediment, Sand Cat preferred that the university deal directly with me as I am her authorized representative.

27 minutes later, I received a call from some redneck claiming to be an "ed-joo-kayshun consultant." As the redneck's dog barked incessantly in the background, I explained that, because of her speech impediment, Sand Cat had never been able to attend school but wanted to know if she qualified for a Bachelor's of Science degree based on the following life experiences:

1. She'd hung out with me while I studied for graduate school entrance exams and was very familiar with my notes. [Sand Cat likes to lay on paper.]

2. She had participated in all of my grad school study groups and project teams. [Sand Cat sat on the group members' laps. When she was feeling frisky, she would swat our pens around my living room while while we worked away.]

3. For the last three years, she's sat in on all my study sessions and attended all my online review courses for a certification that I'm working on. She's much more intimately acquainted with the study materials than I am. [Sand Cat sleeps on my desk while I study and she spends a good 4 to 5 hours a day sleeping directly on the textbooks whereas I have to leave them and go to work.]

Sand Cat BSc, MS

As I stated Sand Cat's case, I started to doubt the redneck would buy it. But quite the opposite:

Redneck: Now, here's tha thang I'm wunderin' 'bout: If yer friend has got all this post gra-joo-wait expeereeunce, why isn't she kunsiderin' gettin' 'er master's at tha same time?

Me: You can do that?

Redneck: Well yes m'am, ya sure can. If yer friend goes an' gets 'er masters at the same time as tha undergra-joo-wait degree, she'll only have to go through tha review process one time. And she only has to pay fer one shippin' charge fer her degree dock-u-ments. If she gets tha bachelor's and then waits on tha master's, she's gonna hafta pay those shippin' fees twice. Thangs start ta add up, ya know.

Me: Ok. I don't think my friend has considered the possibility of earning both her bachelor's and master's at the same time. Let me confer with her and I'll get back to you with her decision.

Redneck: Yeee-ah. Tawk to yer friend because whut I'm suggestin' is tha smarter way.

Me: Ok. Will do. So if she wants to go with your school, we just need to fill out the order form online, describe her life experiences and pay the fees, right?

Redneck: Yes'sum that's rat. Tha education committee will review her qualee-fuh-kashions and if they consider her expeereence suitable she'll get 'er degrees by express mail. Tha degrees'll be signed by Hill-uh-ree Clinton and they'll be embossed with a gold seal.

Me (snorting): Hillary Clinton? The U.S. Secretary of State is signing these degrees? Come on, you just legally changed your name to "Hillary Clinton" didn't you?

Redneck: M'am. Whut I can tell ya is these degrees're all signed by Hill-uh-ree Clinton.

Since my conversation with the redneck, my mobile has received a deluge of text messages (usually around 3:00 a.m. Sand Land Time) addressed to Sand Cat from the diploma mill:

"Act now, Sand Cat! Get 25% Off + Free Shipping!"

"Enroll today and save, Sand Cat!! Fees increase on January 28th!!!!"

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Unabridged Walk-In Application

In my last post, I described a workplace problem that is endemic to Sand Land: job hunters roaming door-to-door pestering employers to interview/hire them on the spot. Over the past few days, I've received numerous emails asking for a copy of the application that I use to scare away these walk-in job hunters.

The text of my walk-in application is pasted below. After adding copious spaces for the applicant's responses, the formatted version of the application is 13 double-sided pages. Remember, the whole point of this application is to look huge, scary and time-consuming - a magical combination that causes at least 95% of walk-in job hunters to hastily beat cheeks out of my office. The few who do stick around to fill it out usually give up mid-way through. To date, only "Mr. Mechatronist," the subject of my last post, has gone the distance.

For those of you who have the misfortune of dealing with walk-ins, I hope this helps get them out of your hair. For those of you who don't have to deal with walk-ins, the application will probably not make for very interesting reading as it is simply a mixed bag of random and, at times, nonsensical questions.

The Official Misadventures in HR Walk-In Application

First Name:
Middle Name:
Last Name:
Email address:
Mobile number:
Mailing address:
House address:
Landline number:
Fax number:
License plate number:
Driver’s license number:
Date of Birth:
Passport Number:
High School
Did you complete high school?    
High school graduation date:
Vocational/Professional Training: (please list each training program separately)

Course Title
Course Description
School Name            
Dates Attended
Did you graduate?

University: (please list each training program separately)

University Name
Name of Degree Program
Subjects Studied
Dates Attended
Did you graduate?

Post-Graduate Education: (please list each training program separately)

University Name
Name of Degree Program
Subjects Studied
Dates Attended
Did you graduate?

Work Experience: (please list most recent job first)

Job Title
Starting & Ending Dates

Computer Applications:

Rate your skill level from 1 to 5 (1 = basic knowledge, 5 = expert)
How many years have you worked with this program?

How many words can you type per minute type?
Which models of photocopy machines have you worked with?
Which models of printer/scanners have you worked with?
Which models of fax machines have you worked with?
Why do you want to work for this company?
What does this company do?
What are the top three reasons this company should hire you?
List all of the great things that will happen to this company if we hire you:
What are your hobbies?
Spouse’s Name:
Spouse’s date of birth:
Spouse’s occupation:
Spouse’s hobbies:
How many children do you have:
Please list the full names of all your children:
Father’s Name:
Father’s date of birth:
Father’s occupation:
Father’s hobbies:
Mother’s Name:
Mother’s date of birth:
Mother’s occupation:
Mother’s hobbies:
Number of brothers:
Number of sisters:
Please list the full names of all your brothers:
Please list the full names of all your sisters:
How many pets do you have?
Please list the names of all your pets:
Please list the species of all your pets as well as their dates of birth:
What did you eat for breakfast today?
What is the meaning of life?
What is your favorite cuisine? Explain what you like best about this cuisine.
Why did Humpty Dumpty sit on that wall?
What is your favorite type of music?
As a child did you have any imaginary friends? If so, please list their names, genders and approximate ages:
What is the formula for the quadratic equation?
How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?
What is your favorite color and what do you believe this reveals about your true nature?
What is your favorite shade of your favorite color?
Solve the following equation:  5(-3x - 2) - (x - 3) = -4(4x + 5) + 13
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? (specify answer in kilograms)
What element are you ruled by: earth, wind, water or fire? Explain what this reveals about you.
What was Paraguay’s 2007 per capita GDP?
If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one around to hear it, do you think it still makes a sound? Why?
New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox? How come?
Have you realized your personal truth? If so, what is it?
What is your astrological sign?
Approximately how often is your astrological horoscope correct?
Solve the following equation: |x - 2| - 4|-6|
Whose version of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” was better – Bob Dylan or Guns n’ Roses?
What is your favorite movie?
How does the presence of “heteroskedasticity”  and/or “autocorrelation” impair the validity of a statistical equation?  
What Roman general conquered Gaul in the First Century BC?
From memory, write out the lyrics to Led Zepplin's "Stairway to Heaven."
Which actor portrayed James Bond most to your liking?
What is the difference between the product of carbon-12 reacted with chlorine and carbon-14 reacted with chlorine?
Rolling Stones or Beetles? Why?
Which general succeeded Alexander the Great in Thrace?
If given the choice, would you rather be a vampire or a werewolf? Please give at least three reasons for your choice (use complete sentences).
What is the x-intercept of the following equation? 2x - 4y = 9
If you’re driving at night faster than the speed of light and you turn on your headlights, will they work?
How far east can you go before you’re heading west?
When did the last emperor of China ascend the throne?
When does the weather stop being partly cloudy and start being partly sunny?
Explain how it’s possible for something to be both “new” and “improved”?      
List all of the countries you have visited in your life:
Do prison buses have emergency exits?
If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would you choose? Why?
In a movie theater, which armrest is yours?
In 1945, an Allied conference decided the partition of Germany in four occupation zones. Where was that conference held?
What is it about lead paint that small children find so delicious?
Is it possible to look into someone’s eyes and see their soul? Why or why not?
What was the most populous tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy?
What is the deal with "blue raspberry" flavoring seeing that there's no such thing as a blue raspberry?
If a genie granted you three wishes, what would you wish for?
Explain the concept of the “efficient frontier” in investment planning?
Who killed JR?
Who founded the Mughal dynasty?
What is your favorite holiday?
What does it mean to “find yourself”? Have you found yourself yet?
What is the difference between the mind resting in tranquility and the mind moving in thought?
How does soap clean?
171 gm of cane sugar is dissolved in 1litre of water. What’s the molarity of solution?
If you could be reincarnated as any animal besides a human, what would you choose to be? Why?
If the professor on Giligan's Island could make a radio out of coconut, why couldn’t he fix a hole in a boat?

With respect to commodities futures, explain the meaning of the terms “backwardation” and “contango”?

How has the increase in commodities speculation influenced the prevalence of futures that are in “backwardation” versus “contango”?

Do you believe in miracles? Why?

What is the population of Shanghai, China?

Summarize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in no fewer than 5 sentences:
Cake or pie?
In a fight to the death, who would win – a saltwater crocodile or a great white shark? Describe what such a fight would look like and how your pick would gain the upper hand.
How many times did you roll your eyes during the movie Eat, Pray, Love?
List all of the organic elements on the periodic table:
Do you see a glass as half full or half empty? Why?
List all of the planets in the solar system - starting with the planet closest to the sun and ending with the planet that is farthest away.
The ancient city of Antioch lay within the boundaries of what modern country?
What is the highest level you ever attained while playing Super Mario Brothers
What is the longest river in the world?
Explain why you agree or disagree with the premise of the Laffer curve?
Describe the perfect pizza:
Are there more grains of sand on the beach than there are stars in the universe?
What is the sound of one hand clapping?
Which is superior: white chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate?
What happens when you wish upon a star?
Explain how it's possible for bull sharks to live in freshwater rivers.
What would the perfect day be like for you?
Where do you think socks that get lost in the laundry go?
How much time did you spend filling out this application?