Some large and well-known consulting companies are known for hiring graduates on average salaries and then charging really high rates (higher than most experienced consultants charge) for their time. I can not think of any logical explanation for this.
I suggest that any manager who is considering the services of a consulting or outsourcing company request a copy of the CV of every employee of that company who is going to work for them, and that the CV should contain test results from reliable 3rd party testing organizations (such as (Sylvan Prometric) proving that these employees have relevant skills. If the employees are good then their CVs should show this. Also if they have skills then getting the test results will take a couple of hours of their time and a couple of hundred dollars in test fees.
For what it's worth I scored 94% on the IBM C programming test and 86% on the IBM C++ certification test (both tests were administered by Sylvan Prometric). I believe that IBM's tests are fair and difficult (I failed the test on installing and supporting OS/2 Warp even though I have installed that OS on machines that IBM's tech support people say won't run it). I believe that these tests are difficult enough that no graduate is likely to pass any of them. But a company should not be expecting a graduate when they pay $100 per hour for someone's time!
Another thing that I suggest doing when bringing in a consulting company to a project would be to analyse the market and determine how much each of the employees of the consulting company is likely to get paid (this is not too difficult with the recruiting companies advertising rates on the Internet). If the company wants $2000 per day for an employee's time and you estimate that the employee is receiving $1000 per day then it's probably reasonable value for money. If the company wants $2000 per day for a graduate who is almost certainly getting less than $200 per day then I consider a markup of over 900% to be excessive and unreasonable. The options are to either only allow the consulting company to bring in more senior people, or to find another company. Then they could use some of the $1800 per day per person they save to give pay rises and other incentives to permanent employees.
Many people wonder about whether they should apply for work at one of these large consulting companies and why these companies have such strange methods of hiring.
Firstly if you are a graduate and looking for work then one of these companies will look closely at your high school results. I think it's reasonable to pay some attention to the high school results, but generally if the results are good enough to get into a computer science or engineering degree course then most people would regard them as good enough. I've found that the material I learnt in high school is sometimes useful in discussions in bars (particularly organic chemistry regarding alcohol). But it has little relevance to computer programming work. Even the material I learnt in the "Computer Studies" subject is of no use to me (the stuff that is useful I had already learnt before I started high school).
The consulting companies don't think so and it's known that if you have any marks that don't count as a distinction (or A) then it will limit your chances of gaining employment at such a company. Now we have to theorise as to why this is. One theory is that it's too difficult to try and assess accurately how well someone might be able to do the job (this would require tests and detailed interviews) so it's easier to use the high school results and just add up the numbers. However the consulting companies will often conduct more detailed interviews than other companies. My theory of the moment is that it's what the marks indicate about the personality that is important to them. As a general rule students don't decide to aim for the highest marks, there are many other things that they can do with their time, and hardly anyone gets serious about a career until they're >21 years old. So if a graduate has got lots of high marks then it's almost a certainty that they have done the work to please their parents. If you want an obediant employee who will do what you want as efficiently as possible then such a person will suit the position. Also you have to keep in mind that in school it doesn't matter whether your project works, just as long as it's well documented and all the proceedures have been followed - I've seen some companies that work in the same way.
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Copyright © 1999 Russell Coker, may be distributed freely.