HR Requirements (Full of Crap)
Good day all,
Every time I read a posting for an editor, graphic designer, audio engineer, (insert creative position here) it really pisses me off that a huge majority of these listings ask for a two year and yes believe it or not four year degree. Really? Don't get me wrong about higher education, I have no problem with learning as much as your can. My problem is that as an editor and creative person all my knowledge of the equipment/tools that I use have been OTJ. I've learned so many damn editing systems, graphic systems and audio boards in my 24 years, its not funny. And I think a lot of you can relate to that. I also honed my client skills that I as I assisted Senior Editors many years ago. I have taken many AVID classes, and who know how many tutorials I have watched and done over the years.
My client base reads like a who's who in the DC market. But heaven forbid that one of the key words in that wonderful keyword laden online job application happens to not contain anything about a degree. Hell I've been in this business straight out of high school. We are creatives, but yet someone thinks that we should have had some sort of college just to be able to make it through the screening process for a damn online application.
I just don't get it? I think there are lot more jobs out there that you should have a degree in to be able to do your job. So, I don't have an AA Degree from insert your local college here and I never will, but I can tell one hell of a story with (insert your edit system/graphics software/platform here) and get it to air all with in legal specs and on time.
You damn straight nailed it!
SST Digital Media
Much anger I sense in you.
Frustration is obvious in your post.
A good employer should recognize talent and work ethic regardless of a degree. Of course, HR departments, which do the initial screening at tv networks and large organizations have requirements they need to check off. You might try to get in touch with someone who works for one of the companies to which you are applying and get their opinion on this issue.
We have discussed many times on this forum the value, perceived value, or lack of value, of a degree of any kind (AA, BA, BS, Full Sail, Film School, Maine Workshops, etc). To each his own opinion.
I have a 4 year degree. Out of the 124 credit hours I took, 12 were internships, 10 were actual production classes, 15 credits of other Communication requirements, and the rest were a combination of history, arts, sciences, music, math, literature. In addition to the classes, I spent about 20 hours a week at the campus tv and radio stations, several on-campus AV jobs, reporting assignments for the campus newspaper and a lot of hours in the library.
So in a nutshell, the production classes taught me the basics - technology has changed 500% since then - the rest of the classes taught me to be a critical thinker and made me a more well rounded person. But it was the internships, paid work and extracurricular activities that really let me learn and immediately apply what I had learned.
Can you get similar experiences on your own, without college, on the job? Absolutely. As you have obviously learned over your career, you need to apply yourself and work your bazooka off. And as Bob Zelin always reminds us, you need to keep learning because the 22 year olds trying to get your job know a lot.
Does that help?
Good luck in your continued career success.
Medical Education / Multimedia Producer
[John Grote, Jr]My problem is that as an editor and creative person all my knowledge of the equipment/tools that I use have been OTJ.
Maybe it is instead your lack of consideration of their perspective. Do you know what an NLE is? What about AAC, MP4, MP3, 4:2:2? Of course you know because you're an expert in the field. The job postings are written either by an HR person or a hiring manager, neither of which is an expert in the field. They are grasping for straws and making listings based on guesses. They need you to show them why your experience is what they are looking for. They have identified where they are at.
Rather then get upset about it, which will only eliminate you from the job market, change your attitude and help them find a great person to fulfill their immediate need of a pro editor. Write in your cover letter that you are happy to demonstrate how your experience will meet their needs more effectively than having a degree. Be prepared with your client list and portfolio.
[Cory Petkovsek] "Write in your cover letter that you are happy to demonstrate how your experience will meet their needs more effectively than having a degree. Be prepared with your client list and portfolio."
Y'know, once you have the client list and portfolio, you probably won't even have to mention the degree. The HR folks have a list that says "You must be this tall to ride this ride," but for the right work, they'll set that aside. I've seen it before.
The point is, don't let the "requirements" throw you off your game. If it's the right job for you, show them.
Besides, a lot of companies will pay you to go to school. Never too late if somebody else is paying, and it will set you up for the next job. :-) Because one thing about the market right now is that people with experience AND education are desperate for jobs.
For now, though, show 'em the work, show them the recommendations on your LinkedIn page- which goes a LONG way with HR people, and, no kidding, by itself could be enough to overcome the education objection - and don't sweat the rest. From the sound of things, your larger risk is getting bounced because you're overqualified.
No offense, but I've been doing this for 24 years if I don't have a damn good resume and cover letter by now, I should get out of the game and start digging ditches. I'm not going to go in begging them for a job just because the HR department doesn't have a clue. Nor is it my job to enlighten them. Hell I have to do that on a daily basis when I work with clients, as most of us do. That is what we as editors do, it's the great Jedi Mind Trick and I save that for paying clients to try to guide them through a session, not a HR person who has no idea what I do, and doesn't care either.
You seem to be missing the point, so I will try to clarify it a bit. This has to do with ONLINE Applications that get sorted by a computer. That is my main part of frustration. The computer doesn't care about ACC or OMF or 4:2:2. It looks for keywords, degree being one of them but other keywords as well. Somewhere they were given a list of Keywords, AVID, Final Cut, Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, Camtasia and other applications, hardware or software based that the person who left bought and had no clue what half of it does. But they read about it or saw it online somewhere and so now this gets added to the keywords too. Plus the people in HR for the most part could care less about being educated in the difference between .mov or .wmv or SD and HD. They think that their little HD Flip cameras are the equivalent to a RED camera because it says it shoots HD.
What you say has a lot of truth to it, but only when you can actually get to a a live body and not what HR perceives to be the Key Words. I have been a post manager and I pay no attention to key words, because I know what I'm looking for and I find it in that person during a live face to face interview. There is these things called potential and determination and for me that goes a hell of a long way in the hiring process.
J. Grote, Jr.
Those keyword searches are really dumb; I mean, they can easily be fooled. Re-submit your online app and put the key words "bachelor's degree in communication" it... in a sentence like "my experience can be demonstrated to be equivalent to a bachelor's degree in..." The computer may pass thid thru. The keyword programs are not sentient; they merely count words that fit their list and add up a score. You can game this, and people often do.
That said, if you think you're going to be applying for more and more gigs like this, perhaps you should look into an easy online degree program, and run thru it a few hours a night.
I have battled this same fight and have been frustrated by it time and time again. Unfortunately, the reality is that the lack of a 2 or 4 year degree can make a difference. It doesn't matter if it's right or wrong, it's just how it works most of the time.
Take for instance a scenario where a large Post House is hiring a new editor. The hiring manager gave their position to HR to fill and HR screened 250 resumes. They had phone interviews with 10 or so and brought in 4 for in-person interviews. Of those 4 final candidates they all have great reels and good references.
In a second round of interviews two of the candidates are weeded out because of other variables. That leaves two candidates, both with killer reels, great references and personalities that jive well with the existing team. They both have great experience and skill sets, but the only real difference is that one has a 4 year degree and the other doesn't.
The hiring manager is responsible for the new editor. The successes or failures of this editor falls on them, and their boss is watching. When a hiring manager hires someone, they put a little bit of them self on the line for that person. If they hire the candidate without a degree and that person washes out in 6 months, their boss may ask them why they hired that person instead of the one with the 4 year degree. The degree may have absolutely nothing to do with it, but the reality is that perception matters.
Just my 2c.
Maybe not completely full of crap...
We do prefer applicants with a degree, but for this reason: It shows that you can make a huge commitment, and finish something.
We are perfectly aware that any fresh college graduate will have to be re-taught from day one. The buttons change so fast, no 2 or 4 year program can keep up. It is easy to start a project, but the ability to start a project, and finish the project, is something that not everyone has. A degree of any kind shows an employer that you have that finish inside you.
That's why we like to see something like that on a resume.
Good luck job hunting.
[Scott Rachal] "We are perfectly aware that any fresh college graduate will have to be re-taught from day one. The buttons change so fast, no 2 or 4 year program can keep up."
I agree with this. You should not go to school specifically to learn software/hardware etc. You go to school for the fundamentals and to learn how to work hard.
When I had an opportunity to do some editing at my new job, I had never used an Ampex online bay, but I had used a Sony 9000, a CMX 3500 and a variety of decks and terminal equipment. It was enough to get started, but I had to learn the operation of the new suite from scratch.
But I had the fundamentals. That is what got me my job and allowed me to keep it.
[Mike Cohen] "I agree with this. You should not go to school specifically to learn software/hardware etc. You go to school for the fundamentals and to learn how to work hard."
Agreed. By the time I finished school half of what I learned in my first two years was obsolete and useless. But the process of learning and the tools you learn to absorb and retain knowledge never go obsolete.
[Scott Rachal] "the ability to start a project, and finish the project, is something that not everyone has. A degree of any kind shows an employer that you have that finish inside you. "
If I were to wager on an individuals ability to finish a a project I'm putting my money on the person that has made a living in the industry for over 2 decades. They've proven themselves, if they couldn't 'finish a project' they would have washed out of the business 18 years ago.
I get your point with regards to entry level positions. I doubt John is applying for an entry level position. Work experience is extremely important for those positions above entry level. When I hire freelancer editors or motion designers I want to see their reel. If they have a masters in fine arts that's a bonus. But if their reel is solid then the bonus round is unnecessary. John's frustration is that prospective employers are putting the bonus round 'degree' ahead of work experience.
Only slightly off topic, but mildly pertinent to this discussion...
Everybody knows that the world's richest man, Bill Gates, was a college dropout. Arguably one of the world's most clever men, Steve Jobs, was too. It's astounding to see the list of those who didn't finish, or even start, college.
Lucille Ball (half of the team that INVENTED the sitcom as we know it)
Carl Bernstein (Investigative reporter of Watergate fame)
Warren Buffett (I believe the world's 2nd or 3rd richest)
Robert Byrd (US Senator)
Grover Cleveland (US President)
… and we're not even out of the C's. Google "college dropouts" if you want to see the whole list.
Wonder if ANY of these people would make it through HR's first level of screening.
For what it's worth, with the exception of two independent study courses I designed for myself, my college simply wasn't teaching any of the things I -- at the time -- wanted to know. So I found the funding and built the music department a rudimentary recording studio while working on air and eventually managing the campus radio station. These are the places I started learning what I do for a living today.
One last thing; there are usually two ways into a house; the front door and the kitchen door. If you can find and talk to someone in the actual media department where the job IS, they can sometimes walk your resume past the computerized resume spam wall and into the hands of an actual human being in H.R.
When I got hired for the job I have now, the boss at the time had been frustrated by a lot of applicants who claimed experience or skills in their letters or phone calls but showed up empty-handed, having bluffed their way into the interview que. To "save us both some time", He asked me some tech-related qualifying questions over the phone about time code math, how to light in a room with multiple color temp sources, and how to back-time an edit, and when I had detailed and complete answers for them, plus back-up strategies or suggestions, he said: "I've heard enough, get in your car and get down here as fast as you can. When can you start?"
True, I DID have a 4-year degree, but barely more than that at the time. I had had a little street/field experience plus some really great experience from internships to bolster my "book larnin'"
"We do prefer applicants with a degree, but for this reason: It shows that you can make a huge commitment, and finish something." I don't offend very easy, but I take exception to this in a huge way. I had a wonderful television experience in middle school (1980) and caught the bug. So I did not see the need to flounder around for four years and waste my time and parent's money. I had a plan and direction to get where I am today and I didn't need a piece of paper to get me there. Also, I've seen more than my fair share of college graduates that didn't have a clue and wasted valuable time and training because they were trying to figure it the hell out. Or better yet feel entitled because they have that piece of paper and figure they should be cutting the final show instead of coming up through the ranks and learning their craft. I say craft, because this is what it is a craft. You have apprenticeships in a craft, I started as a dubber and then moved into an E2 position, where I started to learn my craft from the editors before me. I learned about timing, pacing, when the best transition can be a simple cut. I learned to suggestive sell a better transition or shot to work instead of what the client had in mine. I learned to trouble shoot equipment to keep the session going. I learned the importance of bars, tone and signal flow. How to read scopes to make sure that what I did passed QC. All of these things are not taught in most colleges.
My clients, Under Armour, America's Most Wanted, ABC News, Discovery Channel, ADT, Progressive Auto Insurance, Doner Advertising, and the list goes on, never asked to see a piece of paper. They wanted my ability as a create person and editor to work on their projects. Why? Because I get the job done.
J. Grote, Jr.
John, your story is awesome and compelling, a true self-made success story. And it proves you're an auto-didact that did more than sit around and kill time for four years to get a piece of paper. My hat is off to you.
That said, I know the flipside to your story. Kid who fell in love with TV in high school, as I think most of us did, got hired on at a local station to work afternoons and evenings after school, and did so well, he dropped out and never completed formal high school. Had a long career at the station but then joined another shop, where he was also an editor. I have a number of stories where this guy ruined edits and cost the organization time and money with misspelled Chyrons, or made errors in aesthetics that pointed up gaps in his formal schooling. He wasn't able to advance his skills and his quality level, in a non-mechanical sense. Yes, he could read a scope, and knew what buttons to push to get a result. But he wasn't a formal engineer, nor could he do spot work past the most basic story telling. His work never got above the level of a local used car spot.
The tools an editor brings to her or his work can cover a really diverse range, and it includes some pretty basic stuff, as well as exotic experiences. Formal schooling doesn't guarantee you a good editor, in and of itself. But yes, the discipline applied to learning is a factor, and the background you acquire informs your work. The critical thinking and analysis skills hopefully honed by formal schooling are valuable to an editor, as is some aesthetic visual, auditory, and design "vocabulary" you pick up in arts-related classwork and reading. Basically, the more well-rounded a human being you are, the better I think you can potentially become as an editor. I know that when I started working in video, I had to lean heavily on principles from my schooling when explaining to clients why we had to do things a certain way. I couldn't just say: "Because I have twenty years' experience in doing this and I know what works". I had to say: "I'm doing it this way because painters as far back as Caravaggio all the way to famous photographer Ansel Adams composed the frame like this." or "The principle of the rule of thirds makes this layout more visually pleasing than just stacking the type the other way". Or "The kind of music you're describing (but can't really define) sounds like the style of a Pachelbel canon; let's see what we have in the library that sounds similar". Or "This color would work much better behind your logo, because it is across the color wheel from your logo's shade". Yes, some of these things, you can pick up on the job thru osmosis or something. How much easier though to not have to re-invent and discover all these bits and pieces of knowledge on your own. That's the value, IMO, of a Liberal Arts and Sciences background to an editor.
Yes, there are many paths to get there; yours was one such and it was obviously successful. I think a lot of that success in the unconventional paths comes from being a singularly focused and ambitious creative personality. I think schooling can't hurt: it can only help.
[Mark Suszko] "But yes, the discipline applied to learning is a factor, and the background you acquire informs your work. The critical thinking and analysis skills hopefully honed by formal schooling are valuable to an editor...the more well-rounded a human being you are, the better I think you can potentially become as an editor."
Full Sail, one of the most hard-core trade schools, puts everybody in every discipline through drawing and painting before they ever touch a piece of hardware.
None of this is to belittle the value of decades of experience in the trenches, or your experience in particular, John.
But speaking strictly from the perspective of somebody who has been through the HR process from both sides of the desk: skills are teachable, traits are not.
So in disciplined hiring, you look for signs of traits, not skills.
Education is obviously not a trait in itself. But it's a great way to look at a lot of traits in a very short time. Discerning traits through a lens that takes education seriously has also proven itself to be a better predictor of success in an organization than skill.
The best HR people are working from their own long experience too - and this is what their experience has taught them.
And not to put too fine a point on it, my experience is that HR didn't write the job description or requirements. The manager did.
Switching tracks to a secondary, but intriguing sub-thread:
To extend Nick's point about successful drop-outs: every one of them succeeded BECAUSE they were bad team players.
I'm not speaking about dropouts in general. There are many excellent reasons to drop out - family, finances, etc. Many people have diligently taught themselves what they needed to, and risen to the top with a spirit of creativity, energy, humility and generosity. The sense of responsibility that led them to drop out may in fact reflect the core traits that make them successful.
My experience is that folks who drop out in those circumstances are still reading more decades later, working harder to keep themselves educated with fresh perspectives than graduates. They succeed through a remarkable combination of passion and discipline.
Nobody like that is on Nick's great list from Wikipedia.
A lot of these people were (and are) egomaniacs, in some cases driven by their senses of previous failures, or their desire to show up the people who said they were failures, and without exception, share the trait unmanageability.
Many of the ones in creative fields have all also publicly missed huge deadlines, including deadlines of their own making.
Most of the ones who succeeded all the way to the top are also famously awful bosses. The best of them are merely neurotic rather than psychotic, but many are famous for some combination of management through intimidation and humiliation, random psychological brutality, and fostering overt hostility between teams in the same organization.
The absolute worst of them make wonderful products. But, to cite two of them: don't be shocked if you never see a high-level collaboration between Steve Jobs and James Cameron. :-)
And to bring it back to the main topic, the most enduring of what people learn in school often happens outside class, and HR pros are well aware of this. Indeed, what Nick did outside class showed the set of traits that has made him a spectacularly successful entrepreneur without being a weenie.
Bosses expecting education is frustrating, yes. Unfair, often. Ideally, folks hiring would be infinitely flexible, but the set of traits related to education has proven to be a better predictor of success in an organization than skills.
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[Tim Wilson] "what Nick did... made him a spectacularly successful entrepreneur without being a weenie."
Um... gee, Tim. Thanks? I Guess?
(BTW, I'd substitute "mildly" for "spectacularly.")
[John Grote, Jr.] "I started as a dubber ... I learned about timing, pacing... I learned to trouble shoot equipment ... the importance of bars, tone and signal flow. How to read scopes ... All of these things are not taught in most colleges.
Someone with your experience is always sought after this industry. Use innovation and tenacity to bypass the 'degree' filter...
//never felt entitled by a piece of paper...
"Maybe not completely full of crap...
We do prefer applicants with a degree, but for this reason: It shows that you can make a huge commitment, and finish something."
Well, I'm going to disagree because this is 180 degrees out of phase with my experience. As a person who has managed the Production departments at two different top 20 market stations, I have also had the privilege to run the production internship program at both these stations. This would include taking interns from 2 and 4 year schools, over the span of 16 years between the two stations. My anecdotal experience was that kids from 4 year schools all had poor, if any work ethic. They thought they were 'too good to do actual work', and everything on the planet was more important than showing up for work. On top of this, most of these kids didn't even know basic terms like '3 point lighting', or what is the difference between drop and non-drop TC. Which I don't think is asking a lot if you are 1-3 semesters from graduating. About 50% of the kids from 4 year schools received an 'incomplete' as their internship grade. This eventually caused us to end our relationship with the local 4 year school that had a Mass-Com program, and another with a journalism program. Kids from out of state schools with film programs were better in the knowledge department, but their attitudes still stunk.
We also took a lot of interns from a local 2 year comunity colledge, and they were a lot better in terms of reliability, attitude, and knowledge. Not great, but better. At least 5 or more from the local CC went on to become station employees, while none of the 4 year school kids did.
Being a person that learned this trade on the job without a degree, I don't have a built in prejudice against those without one, and have hired plenty of folks that had learned on the job. In my experience the on the job folks are the top tier for attitude, hard work, skills and reliability. The second tier would be those from 2 year schools. Probably because most of them are working their way through school, which helps them build theri work ethic.
SST Digital Media
[Scott Sheriff] "Probably because most of them are working their way through school, which helps them build theri work ethic."
I worked my way through school also, maybe you've touched on the key trait... The hunger to excel in this craft drives you, in school – or on the job. Without it, you get the malaise you describe in the first part of your post.
[John Grote, Jr.]You seem to be missing the point, so I will try to clarify it a bit.
John, forgive me for missing the point of this thread. You are using us as an outlet for your frustration. Some people offered suggestions, but it seems like you just want to dump your emotions? Btw, I did not take offense.
If you are so successful and have all of the hot clients, screw HR's and start your own company?
Editorial is a cluster$@#* goto job for everyone and anyone in the film world today.
There are absolutely no standards, because AE/FCP/MCR are so widely known. When hiring purely based on technical knowledge it becomes overwhelming. So I believe these HR's start putting in random requirements to cut down on the stack of twenty million otherwise eligible applicants.
I think what John may be missing is that a big company (who else would have a human resources person) may say "hey, we can get some smart new college kid, who knows FCP and After Effects, and pay him less than half of John Grote Jr. with his 24 years of experience".
A pro company isn't going to the "want ads" to find a pro editor. You put out a "cold call" to find cheap qualified labor.
Beautifully summarised. Straight to the three-chambered reptilian heart of how a manager thinks. I'd like to add:
[Bob Zelin] ""hey, we can get some smart new college kid who we can push around, who knows FCP and After Effects, and pay him less than half of John Grote Jr. with his 24 years of experience"."
And these managers wouldn't be wrong in doing so, right? Running a business is running a business, not a charity for out of work industry vets..
If task X can be achieved to todays standards using cheap young labor they'd only be screwing themselves by paying more then is necessary. Likewise, the vet is only screwing himself by doing a job that is below his skill level, right?
(aka, editorial is horribly over saturated)
Bob, you are 100% correct! This is why to some degree, people like you and me get the calls to fix the show that the hiring company paid the college graduate half to do. So in the end the pay almost twice as much or more, because I'm not gonna drop my rate, because of their incompetence in hiring. Makes me smile, because it has happened way to many times to count. Hell, I've become know as the fixer.
And as for a degree, well if I did ever decide to get a degree in something, it would be business management and not a mass communication degree.
J. Grote, Jr.
any company that corals artists through HR departments is not really in the business of hiring the best artists.