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Stacking the Odds 

An article has made the rounds insisting it is harder to get a remote job than it is to get accepted into Harvard. Hi, I’m Jason, here to tell you why this is patently false and perhaps intentionally misleading.

I posted an Engineering job and got 185 responses. The next day, about 130. Though I tried to quickly shut the ad down, by the end of the week I had more than 500 applicants. Of those, one was extended a job offer. With those numbers my “acceptance rate” was almost identical to Harvard’s 0.2%. Here’s the catch, it was a Midwest Manufacturing Engineer job in a town of 18,000 people, in person… in 2008. Ideal Industries had an acceptance rate of lower than Harvard University!

Here is the remote work situation used to prove remote work is harder to get into than Harvard:

It offered a salary of $55,000 to $70,000, required two to four years of relevant experience, and included standard benefits like health insurance, dental, and a 401(k). But the position came with an incredibly coveted — and increasingly rare — perk in today’s job market: It was 100% remote.

Within the first week, 573 people applied. A week later, another 634 applications poured in. By the end of the process, more than 1,700 candidates had lined up for the job. The hiring manager at Cribl eventually interviewed three applicants before extending an offer to a lucky winner in Ohio.

Aki Ito, Business Insider, 26 Sept 23

Assuming the analogy is fair, there’s a lot wrong here to use the anecdote as empirical fact. First, the position isn’t just remote. It’s remote, sure, but also entry level, paying up to double the average salary of the US. Hardly representative. Also, why was this ad left on for 3 weeks? Why were applicants “eventually interviewed?” How many self-selected out in that eventually? It would be as fair to label this article “Mismanaging Hiring leads to 99.94% Dissatisfaction.”

I started saying “assuming the analogy is fair,” but the analogy is dumb. In fact, let’s stop the Harvard comparison or any other institution to which the candidate is paying. Let me give you an analogy. You are shopping when you find two booths with samples. One will pay you $1 to try their chocolate chip cookie, the other wants you to pay $1 to sample their cookie. Assuming you can only choose one (or I’d transfer $1 from one booth to the other and sample both) wouldn’t you always take a cookie and a dollar?

People applying for a job and people applying to be considered worthy of taking on massive debt for the Harvard name aren’t candidates in the same way at all. It costs an average $83,538 per year to go to Harvard. The average annual US income is $37,585. We are comparing paying for something which costs more than double what the average American makes per year, to something which gives that income. It is literally like comparing credits to debits, then being shocked when the general public prefers credits.

If we stopped there, we would still be missing an important element. It is estimated that 18-20 million of the small business owners in the US work from home, and most small businesses start from home. Remember, it is allegedly harder to get a remote job than it is to get accepted into Harvard…. Yet here you are, likely reading this from home (where you work) without an Ivy League education. (And here I am, a graduate of a midwestern state university, disproving the logic of someone who graduated summa cum laude from a private university with a significantly lower “acceptance rate.”)

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Jason Thibeault, acclaimed recruiter, trainer, coach, and superhero. Jason brings decades of experience in search, and is also a published author, a black belt martial artist and a former chess champ. His specialty is getting into the minds of people and unlocking the big picture and clearing the next obstacle. You’ll have so much fun with him; it won’t feel like work. 

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