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Microsoft Says 6,000 Jobs Open, Wants More Visas

Microsoft says it can't find enough skilled IT workers to fill open positions, but critics say the company is merely trying to justify hiring foreigners.

Microsoft has thousands of openings for computer scientists, programmers, and other IT pros that it can't fill due to a shortage of skilled workers, a company executive said Thursday.

"We are creating unfilled jobs," said Microsoft chief counsel Brad Smith, speaking at a forum on immigration policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. "We have a shortage."

Smith said Microsoft currently has 6,000 openings, 3,400 of which are for software engineers, developers, programmers, and the like. He said Microsoft can't fill many of the positions because it is unable to find enough applicants with the high-tech skills it needs in key areas like cloud computing and mobility.

[ For another perspective on IT hiring, see How To Build A High-Performance IT Team. ]

Smith said the problem is twofold: U.S. colleges aren't turning out enough grads educated in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and the U.S. government's immigration policies are preventing the company from importing enough foreign workers to fill the gap.

Smith said the economy is creating 120,000 new jobs per year that require STEM skills, but colleges are only producing 40,000 STEM grads annually. "This shortage is going to get worse," said Smith.

Smith called on Congress to increase the number of high-tech visas available for foreign IT workers. He said the government should issue 20,000 STEM-specific visas each year, in addition to the 65,000 H-1B visas currently available. He also called for 20,000 new green cards for tech workers. Smith said the government should charge companies $10,000 per visa for the former, and $15,000 for the latter.

Smith said the government could use the $500 million that such programs would create to fund more STEM training for U.S. students. The programs would also allow Microsoft and other high-tech employers "to fill the jobs that are simply sitting open today."

Smith said the shortage of high-tech workers is impacting more than just technology companies. "The future of any industry in this country, you're thinking and talking about the future of software," said Smith, who noted that industries like financial services, healthcare, and manufacturing are more dependent on IT than ever. "We are not alone," said Smith.

If Congress fails to enact immigration reforms, "the jobs could go to other countries," said Smith.

Not everyone buys Microsoft's claim that there is a shortage of American IT workers. Critics say the company simply wants to hire more foreign workers because they cost less.

"They probably have 6,000 jobs to fill because they are enamored of foreign labor," said Les French, president of WashTech, a Seattle are tech worker advocacy group that is affiliated with Communications Workers of America. "I doubt they couldn’t fill the jobs from the available labor pool in the U.S.," said French, in an e-mail to InformationWeek.

The 65,000 H-1B visas that were allotted for the government's new fiscal year, which starts next week, have all been used, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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User Rank: Strategist
10/1/2012 | 4:20:01 PM
re: Microsoft Says 6,000 Jobs Open, Wants More Visas
Already done as the one example subject of your proposed test (and yes I agree with Les French's opinion). I graduated in a STEM related degree field with a 4.0 average after having concentrated on and held top certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, Citrix and others. Still, the rejection notices when I was looking were all the same "sorry, but the competition was extremely keen or we have identified someone who better matched the skill set we desire." Implication, there are a lot of candidates. Interpretation, you are not under 25 or willing to accept less than $X to work with us. It is much less the hard qualifications than the accessory quals they are looking at and it is not only Microsoft (HP, Dell, ...listen to the footsteps).

As for more highly qualified, do this. Visit some english language tech blogging/chat sites where professionals try to exchange info or solve problems and try to identify the native english speaking from the foreign participants. Evaluate and analyze the level of the questions being posted and give consideration for possible language limitations. I think you will still be surprised.
User Rank: Apprentice
10/1/2012 | 3:06:18 PM
re: Microsoft Says 6,000 Jobs Open, Wants More Visas
With all the job posting going on, in what I classify as the volunteer employment market, perhaps Microsoft would reduce the number of job openings by defining a value add propostion that would make Microsoft more attractive from a career prospective. By adopting a more pro-active recruiting approach with a value add propostion that makes sense, many of Microsoft's positions could be filled by top performing individuals from Microsoft's competition.
User Rank: Ninja
10/1/2012 | 1:28:25 PM
re: Microsoft Says 6,000 Jobs Open, Wants More Visas
So what happened to all the ones they fired years ago? Did they all find new jobs or dropped off the earth? Any reasonably smart HR department would call all these folks and ask them if they want to come back. Offer them a sign on bonus and restore their seniority, plus give them a written contract guaranteeing them to stay with Microsoft for at least three years (or even longer). If they found a different job and make more money there then at least match it. Offer relocation assistance if necessary. That should fill a good number of positions with people the company already knows (and of course, don't call those you were happy to see leaving) and at a price point that is sweet for both sides with the result that skilled workers can start in some cases even within a few weeks.
For the rest, hire within and fill the lower end jobs with new folks. Having your existing employees move upwards is very motivating and they already know the inner workings. They may need some training, but that should be a matter of weeks or a few months to get done. While that shifts the issue of open positions only to a different place it is likely much easier to hire for entry level positions than for upper level positions.
So much for my advice...not that anyone from Microsoft HR reads this post.
User Rank: Apprentice
10/1/2012 | 12:17:52 PM
re: Microsoft Says 6,000 Jobs Open, Wants More Visas
"If Congress fails to enact immigration reforms, "the jobs could go to other countries," said Smith."

In other words, "immigration reform" means "moving" the other countries here so that the jobs stay here...just not with American workers.
User Rank: Apprentice
9/30/2012 | 9:29:48 PM
re: Microsoft Says 6,000 Jobs Open, Wants More Visas
The talent that Microsoft and other high tech companiesare looking for is here is the US. The thing that MS doesn't want is to pay an American wage for the talent because some Harvard or Princeton trained MBA has them concentrating on the "bottom line" to the exclusion of everything else.

But there might be a fairly simple solution:

Let MS and the rest of the H1B seekers have all of the H1B visas they want. Just one minor stipulation: with each visa comes a full ride scholarship for an American born citizen to a good tech school. That way in 4 years they can begin to replace the H1Bs with home grown talent. If MS were smart they would go on a "hiring" spree at the high school level to populate all of those scholarships then monitor their progress as they made their way through college. They could even give the scholars an internship at the end of their junior year to get the student accustomed to doing things the MS way. When the student graduated, they would be very well prepared to hit the ground running in their MS career.

The "bottom line" would even be pleased since in any job there is anywhere from 6 months to a year and a half "getting started" time when the new hire is not pulling their own weight. That would be effectively eliminated thus getting up to 18 months of full productivity where you would normally have a loss.

Just a thought.
Programmers Guild
Programmers Guild,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/30/2012 | 3:52:06 PM
re: Microsoft Says 6,000 Jobs Open, Wants More Visas
Microsoft is falsely using their unfilled positions as lobbying tool. Microsoft has 100,000 resumes from highly qualified Americans on file and could start hiring the best candidates immediately. However their hiring process is flawed.

First Microsoft needs to change their recruitment process: Currently applicants must apply separately for each opening. This a absurd - applicants should be able to apply for "all openings that match my skills." There are too many highly skilled Americans applying for jobs at Microsoft and never hearing back. It's difficult to believe that they would not be a good match for some of those 6000 positions.

Next Micosoft needs to not robo-reject (or reject by non-technical HR staff) resumes based on key-word matching.

Many of these job posting have unrealistic "laundry list" requirements like 3-5 years of experience in a set of specific new technologies. Note that NO new graduates - including "PhD from Stanford" - would qualify for these positions. The unrealistic requirements dissuade top candidates from even applying

I hope Microsoft is suggesting that is intends to fill the bulk of their 6000 openings with H-1b workers rather than Americans. In any event, even when the H-1b cap had not been reached, Microsoft had several thousand jobs opened. This supports our claim that the problem is not a lack of applicants, but rather Microsoft's flawed recruitment process and unrealistic expectations (and the natural lag that it takes to post and recruit for openings.)

There are perhaps 20,000 fast food openings, 10,000 truck driver openings, 40,000 retail clerk openings today in the USA - does this mean that there is a shortage of qualified Americans?

Microsoft does not disclose how many unfilled openings they have in India. But the tech job market is tighter in India than in USA - why is Microsoft not also calling for an H-1b program in India to solve their unfilled positions there? (I have also observed in the past that the openings in India have a lower bar - there are many more entry-level openings than in USA.)

I object to Microsoft's $10,000 fee - that is only $3,300 per year - while H-1b are typically paid $10k to 20k less per year than comparable Americans. In order to assure that H-1b are only used to fill key positions that require exceptional skills, the "minimum wage" for all H-1b workers should be $100k. Once this flushed out the vast majority of employers who use H-1b for cheap labor, the current cap would never be reached.

Mr. Kim Berry
Programmers Guild
User Rank: Apprentice
9/30/2012 | 12:32:44 AM
re: Microsoft Says 6,000 Jobs Open, Wants More Visas
That is EXACTLY what MS does! And I say this with the certainty of one who worked for them, until the early 2000's, when they ACTIVELY went recruiting in Dubai, Bangalore, et al...forced us to train our replacements, then "disposed" of us. I started out there at the Redmond campus, when they were still using "perma-temps", shortly before they were forced to "convert" a certain percentage of us to FTEs.

They resented losing that case, and their eventual response was to do an 'end-run' around the entire matter by starting up that whole H1-B visa gambit, which they've been milking ever since. Roughly speaking, they still can hire between 3 and 5 'imports' for the price of one of us 'home-grown'.

And contrary to their contention that it's a matter of finding adequately SKILLED individuals, their hiring practices have ALWAYS focused on one's adaptability...that is HOW one thinks, NOT WHAT one knows...The idea being, they want bright, inquisitive, EMPTY cups, the better to be filled with how MICROSOFT does it, since you will be generally working on bleeding edge technology that doesn't/didn't exist during your time in class. Keep in mind, Gates himself was a drop-out. MS culture prides itself on hiring the brightest, NOT the 'best-trained/highest educated'...Let the 'other guys' hire those whose strongest skillset is their ability to conform.

A truly business-savvy presidential candidate could likely secure a voting bloc larger than he realizes right about now, by taking a strong stand AGAINST this whole H1-B visa BS, effectively poking his (and, by extension, "the American peoples'"thumb in the eye of the likes of IBM and MS.

Unfortunately I'm afraid that would require a larger pair of cojones than either of our current stalwarts possess.

But, hey, you never know...(just don't hold your breath).
User Rank: Apprentice
9/29/2012 | 11:14:54 PM
re: Microsoft Says 6,000 Jobs Open, Wants More Visas
My experience is that employing Indian workers (in Bangalore, India) requires about 8 to 10 engineers to be equivalent to a US engineer except where grunt work is concerned - that is, coding GUIs or Javascript when the ratio is about 2 Indians to 1 US developer.

So the question is what is MISFIT wanting to do? Assuming it is more than grunt coding and requires actual application architecture and design well it is counter productive.

But that does not stop them. Here's what I've seen IBM do:

1) Claim there is a shortage of workers.

2) Advertise for some unusual developer skill such as Javascipt code generation (an actual example)

3) Interview a few US techies who prove to be unsuitable. Sorry but they don't have the prerequisite skills.

4) Apply to US Labor department for some H1-B visas claiming the absence of skills in the US (documentation provided).

5) Bring Indians over to the US and, of course, by the time they arrive the technology has moved on and unfortunately Javascript code generation skills are no longer needed, but hey we have a few cheap developers we can put on other projects.

6) Repeat from step 1) again and again while US developers struggle to find jobs.

And that folks is how the US is going down the tubes one Indian hire at a time with large software and service company CEOs bleating on about the lack of skills in the US as a clever smoke screen story for bringing in low cost workers.
Tom Mariner
Tom Mariner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/29/2012 | 2:49:03 PM
re: Microsoft Says 6,000 Jobs Open, Wants More Visas
Hey, we aren't talking best and brightest here -- they become doctors, lawyers, and earn $20,000,000 bonuses on Wall Street for telling you where to invest your money. Take all of the money the feds, the states and local governments are throwing away hiring politicians to spend more money talking about "STEM", and get it to companies as incentives / tax breaks.

And ... almost forgot about the only remaining prejudice -- AGE! If you don't think somebody who wrote main frame operating systems in assembly can get excited about JavaScript, Modernizer, HTML5 and RTOS's in weeks, you value prowess on an air hockey table higher than getting a great product to market fast. Oh wait, let's see the reasons; not keeping up with tech, can't work three days straight because of family, and get to the real one -- they want more money than somebody fifteen minutes out of college.

Microsoft and the rest of you bums -- this is the country that landed a guy on the moon -- just because our politicians sacrificed that tech incentive to get votes for 40 years doesn't mean science is not in American genes. Train them you turkeys -- then stand back and watch them take you to market dominance. Yeah, that's an in-your-face challenge! Microsoft are you bold enough? American Enough?
User Rank: Apprentice
9/29/2012 | 1:18:08 PM
re: Microsoft Says 6,000 Jobs Open, Wants More Visas
There's definitely great talent available already in the USA. Microsoft just prefers not to pay for it, despite the fact that they're one of the richest companies in America. They've actually been agitating on this visa issue for years. Typical big corporation, consumed with greed.
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