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Arguing with HR

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  • Arguing with HR

    I've mentioned in a couple of posts lately that very few employers look at grades after graduation. Seems I spoke too soon.

    Three or four years ago our HR department decided that graphic designers are skilled professionals requiring professional-level university degrees. Now they're insisting on proof of performance during college and proof of graduation. Every new job application for a marketing, design or communication position where I work must now be accompanied by a complete transcript from the university before the application will even be considered.

    When I questioned this new requirement I was told that increasing numbers of applicants have been dishonestly trying to pass themselves off as college graduates. When I countered that with the argument that I can tell more in 5 seconds from a portfolio than I can by studying a school transcript, I was told that it was too subjective of a measurement for an initial cut whereas a college transcript was subjective in the sense that grades and degrees were measurable.


    So now, no proof of a degree and no proof of a high gradepoint average means that I don't even get to see a list of those not making the initial cut, let alone get to see their portfolios to make the judgments for myself. It's a ridiculous remedy for a ridiculous problem.

    As upset as I am with our new HR requirements, I'm even more upset at the entire design profession for failing to develop and lobby for minimum competency standards. Every professional from a dentist to a social worker to a hair stylist needs to meet minimum testing and licensing requirements that supposedly ensure competency. All designer wannabes need to do is call themselves designers and they're good to go. They're free to work anywhere, pass themselves off as professionals, and they're welcomed into AIGA or GAG or whatever with no questions asked (as long as cash accompanies their membership applications).

    If the HR policies where I work are any indication of a bigger trend, it seems that companies might be clumsily taking things into their own hands in light of our profession's failure to do so. In other words, they're saying that if no recognized standards exist to ensure competency, they'll take measures to do it themselves -- no matter how misguided they might be.

  • #2
    The problem would seem to be twofold:

    1) For all the talk about basic competency requirements or certification, you can only really apply that to the technical end of design. The creative aspects are just plain too subjective to classify along the lines of what the right procedure to deal with an impacted molar might be. If there is to be such an entry bar, the two aspects of design need to be separated along those lines or something very much like them.

    and, 2) Most H.R. people are idiots. Or at least, they have no idea of what competency actually looks like. Otherwise, they wouldn't be in a field in which they try to select the best employees to help their company prosper by using computer programs to screen for "key words." The idea that someone like yourself is actually qualified to decide who is qualified is not only beyond their ken, it's foreign to their entire way of thinking. You couldn't even bring it to their attention, because they simply would not understand what your'e saying. It would be like trying to explain the blurring effect you get from the juxtaposition of bright red and green to someone who is colorblind.

    Anyway, my sympathies.
    People will believe anything, which means I will believe anythingI want to start believing in things that have shapeliness and harmony.
    -Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.


    • #3
      If a ruling body simply verified education, a core of coursework that would standardize the education designers require, a resource for meaningful internships and verification of the internship process (apprenticeships), and vetting of college programs that teach 'graphic design', that would be a good start. The concept of portfolio review need not enter into it. Not only would a review be difficult to judge, but there are so many niche markets out there in the design field that the AD or CD, as B said, can judge for themselves whether a candidate is worth calling in. A ruling body can't do that.

      The other problem is determining a passing grade. At a time when everyone gets an award just for participating, things have pretty much changed from pass/fail to pass/showed up.

      And the third problem is we are in an economy where corporate behemoths like Walmart think a $10/hr wage is a boon. Even with some type of licensing, will the middle-lower end graphic departments hire on someone who can command a professional wage?

      It's 15 years too late to take back your profession. If I went out there right now and set up an organization where a designer would have to pay in order to get licensed, I guarantee you, none of them would pay it. Especially not those who are pretty far into a successful career.
      Last edited by PrintDriver; 11-06-2015, 07:22 AM.


      • #4
        If the larger, national design clubs got on board it could still happen, but that seems unlikely. It's likely a lost cause, but assuming it was doable, I can see a couple of possibilities for a meaningful certification or licensing.

        First, a tiered, statute-driven license could be required to practice. There might be a basic or apprenticeship license that required a minimum amount of education, say a degree, and being able to pass a licensing exam that focused on those things that every graphic designer should know. There might be specialty categories on that license that required testing for basic knowledge of, say, HTML/CSS or basic understanding of print processes. After, say, 1500 hours of professional experience working with an accredited, fully licensed designer, the apprenticeship license could be upgraded to a professional license.

        Second, short of mandatory licensing, like I just mentioned, there could be meaningful certification by, say AIGA, that was only awarded upon meeting certain requirements, like testing, education, experience, competency in specialty areas, making good judgment calls, etc. This certification program would then need to be promoted widely to the general public, by AIGA, as a reliable means of vetting designers for knowledge and basic competency. And who better would be able to successfully promote the relevance of an accreditation than an organization composed of professional designers.

        I do agree, though, that a portfolio review in either a licensing or accreditation program would be difficult and, probably, too subjective to make it realistic and immune to constant challenges. Anyway, it should be up to employers and clients to decide whether or not a designer's portfolio of work meets their particular preferences. What I'm suggesting would be more about putting licensing or accreditation programs in place to ensure basic knowledge and competency in measurable areas that every designer and design specialist should know.


        • #5
          (I know this thread is over a month old, but I just saw it).

          Of the few places I've worked, I've never even had a place that has attempted to verify my prestigious art degree. It made me feel bad at first, because I earned it! It's like when you turn 21 and no one asks for your ID when you're trying to buy a box of Zima at the 7-11 (They ask for it all the time now that I'm 29). My current boss didn't even look at my Resume that I painstakingly typed up for our lunch date interview. We just sort of sat down together eating our chicken clubs as we talked. He barely even looked at my work, but I guess being in political advertising doesn't require much skill. It's all stars and stripes and red, white and blue.

          Not that it's anyone else's problem, but I would be pretty embarrassed to supply a copy of my transcript because there were two semesters where I dropped all of my classes halfway through. Not even for fun or exciting reasons like laziness. Once when my stepdad left my mom and I had to work to support her and my little brother, and once when we lost our house because we couldn't afford to pay the mortgage.
          "I used to wonder what friendship could be, Until you all shared its magic with me." - Jesus Christ


          • #6
            Oh good damn. I'm glad I got out when I did. Two comments:

            I had a coworker who left the company to be a supervisor at another company. About three years later, our manager left. HR set up requirements for the new manager and posted the job in PeopleSoft. Coworker applied, and in our minds she was the only real serious candidate.

            HR rejected her application. Why? The job listing required a BFA, and she had a BA (in Education). She was more qualified to be the manager than any of the other candidates we heard about. If she hadn't had an inside track, that would have been that. Twats.

            Also, I recently stopped by the musicians union hall. The three who work there are old friends and former musician colleagues. As we passed through the conference room to go out to lunch, I remarked that the last time I'd been in there was to audition about 40 years ago. I was shocked to find out that they don't do auditions any more. The AFM is afraid of a lawsuit. WHAT!?

            Now I imagine, because of the nature of the business, word-of-mouth and recommendation come heavily into play, and contractors are free to hire who they choose, but just like graphic design, there's no initial quality filter. (There are still audition requirements for organizations like the Symphony, Philharmonic, etc., but not for sidemen (freelancers).

            So in my almost 60 years on earth, I chose two careers that are now circling the drain. Please pass the scotch.
            This post is brought to you by the letter E and the number 9. Those are the buttons I push to get a Twix out of the candy machine.
            "I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process."


            • Obsidian86
              Obsidian86 commented
              Editing a comment
              Now sounds like a perfect time to invest in a lucrative career as a Blockbuster franchise owner.

          • #7
            I just saw this thread too today (now over two months old) but I have to comment because I have a big long braid.

            I'm embarrassed to say that when I went to art college 2 decades ago, they were more concerned with keeping students happy and paying tuition than challenging them to do better. It was all about making money. Instructors were the subject of student surveys, so instructors would hand out "A"s like they were candy in order to keep their jobs. It's probably worse today with the college bubble.

            Upping the professionalism of the industry can still happen, but it will take a generation or two from the bottom up in K-12 education. The STEM to STEAM movement is in a position to do it if it can get beyond preaching to the choir.
            Last edited by designzombie; 01-13-2016, 06:57 PM.


            • #8
              And then to add to the subjective mix, there is the grad from a prestigious art college that worked for me. She had high grades a wonderful portfolio and degree but couldn't do a darn thing.She just sat forever trying to think of creative ideas that she never like and hated. Obviously her college work was not done under any real life conditions. I had to light a fire under her and design for her and make her execute which she did like molasses on a cold day. So passing the HR demands listed above means nothing to me.


              • #9
                Am I right remembering that the OP works in the newspaper world? Just wondering because they do have tough hiring practices. I had a neighbor who graduated from another prestigious art school that landed a job in the big newspaper here. Her entire career was spent making the under 3" display ads. Crazy to require such criteria and then confined her to the display ads. I hope those hiring practices listed above don't spread to the rest of the HR's.


                • PrintDriver
                  PrintDriver commented
                  Editing a comment
                  B works at a high end design studio/production company. Newspapers are in his past.

                • Kayekaye
                  Kayekaye commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Well that doesn't bode well for the industry as a whole then. Yikes.

                • PrintDriver
                  PrintDriver commented
                  Editing a comment
                  There are worse things happening to the industry than HR culling by degree. There is a reason they have to do that. There are too many Graphic Designers out there, and a preponderance of so-called Designers who have never had any training in Design (but they know Photoshop real good.)

                  It's unfortunate for those who've been in the industry 20-30 years, who have actually moved up through the ranks the old way, learning from people in the industry how to do things that work, having to compete with kids fresh out of college with maybe an internship, that don't know squat about what makes a successful graphic design in the real world, but they got As on their own contrived in-class projects that only had to impress a professor who themselves may have very little real world experience.
                  Last edited by PrintDriver; 01-15-2016, 07:38 AM.

              • #10
                As I've said before, the HR function has become over-empowered. They now specialize in finding all the right reasons for enacting wrong policy.
                I'd rather be killed than come to your party, but if you don't invite me, I'll kill myself.


                • #11
                  I've had the exact same problem dealing with HR staffers who are not qualified to be judging applicants for something as specialized as graphic design. It's so common that many big companies are figuring out ways to go around HR... like hiring "consultants" who do not have to go through the HR process, then converting the consultants over to full-time staff after a few months.


                  • #12
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