Topic ID #17424 - posted 4/2/2012 4:38 AM

things to watch out for in CRM job ads-hiring 10 warm bodies for an archaeology dig...

Jennifer Palmer

Most of the time I pass along just about anything I find on the web in terms of job ads for this site. (I hope folks realize that just because something is posted here, doesn't mean it gets a big fat thumbs up endorsement from me!)  On our jobs Facebook page there is griping from time to time about the wages and/or lack of benefits offered for some of the positions. Please know that some of these are posted to the website almost for educational benefit only. I think it's important to see just what is being offered in the job market, and how much firms are offering paywise throughout the US (and beyond). Students and new grads in particular should check out job postings to see what they are in for.

Since is my website, I do have the discretion of deciding what gets (and remains) posted on the site. There are ads from a handful of companies that I refuse to pass on for various reasons. There are also ads I've seen posted elsewhere that just somehow seem a little bit shady (a lot of them seem to end up on places like Craiglist or web bulletin boards). An example of this is an advert is calling for field crew without asking for even the most basic experience (like time as an anthro student or a field school). Do they ever care if someone knows how to hold a shovel? I know I would be nervous sending in my resume (and personal information). Personally I'm also not a big fan of adverts where companies like to remain anonymous. I can understand why this may happen for some senior level advertisements, but I think it's a bit odd for hiring field crew.

Without naming CRM company names (please!), please share your experiences with running across any of these questionable ads. Have you ever responded to a sketchy job ad? Have you been hired after responding to one of the ads basically asking for warm bodies, and if so, how did it turn out? I've always been curious to hear from someone who responded to and was hired by one of these firms.


Post ID#19491 - replied 4/2/2012 5:30 AM



  I have a different angle on this to provide for you - as a reviewer I get to visit many projects in the field - and see a wide variety of skill sets among the field crews I get to see working.  In most instances there is a range of abilities with more seasoned folks working with less experieinced.  This is a great way for a company to a) keep payroll under control and b) train folks for future work.  From a techs view - being the less experienced worker this is a great way to gain knowledge and experience. This setup allows the Pd/Crew Chiefs to have more freedom to work on specific tasks as they do not have to oversee every minute of crew work.

 I have seen other crews where everyone is well experienced and able to work on their own.  Needles to say such crews typically can work on their own freeing the PD/Chiefs even more - and often lead to the best resutls, field notes, etc.

But then I have also seen crews where it is clear that there is little to no experience for any of the crew.  Situations like this are tough to work in, tough to learn from, and can be very exasperating for the PD/Chief as they need to spend most of their time overseeing the little things.  Working on crews like this are not fun for anyone that needs to work with the data produced.

But the worst situations I have ever seen (and I have - from a few companies that must remain nameless here) are ones where they have hired a full crew with nearly no experience, and the PD/Chief is not working with the crew!  The absolute worst I ever encountered was the day I visited an urban dig, found the PI sitting in his truck and a single crew person in the trench monitoring a backhoe.  Walking to the trench it was clear the crew person had no real idea what she was doing, how to control the backhoe (hand signals, etc.) or even what she was seeing stratigraphically (complex fill levels).  I spent several hours working with her - pointing out some basic things about working in urban settings, what different artifact types meant etc.  By the time I left she had a much better understanding and ability to work than she did a few hours earlier - but I was still concerned that she was basically left alone while the PI did other things.  I never thought to ask her about her experience that day, assuming that she had simply never worked an urban/hisotric site before.  Imaging my surprise when the next summer I visited a local college's field school and found the same woman there.  she thanked me for the help I had given her the year before and we chatted a bit - during which I asked if she was back to the field school for a special project, or to do Master's work - she laughed and said no, this was the first field school she had ever been on.  Apparenlty the day I had first seen her alone in trench in a complex urban site - was the first day she had ever put trowel to dirt!!.  I was more appalled to hear that than I had been that first day in the field.  (I was also more impressed with how quickly she had picked up what I was able to show her that first day- some real innate skills there).  

So, my advice to anyone starting out - beware those folks Jennifer is talking about - they do exist and will be happy to take you on for minimum pay and provide you with no real help in bettering your skills.  Always look to get partnered with someone with some experience who is willing to teach you.  Now I'll sit back and see what other horror stories get shared =).

Post ID#19492 - replied 4/2/2012 7:24 AM


After spending more days then I care to think about analysing job postings I would add one caveat to the shady job postings. That is sometimes someone drops out of a project mid-way though, night before, etc. in this cases you will get some shady sounding job postings like “need someone for dig contact me at 555 – 555- 5555”. Sometimes no company name or even name of the person to contact.

 You can usually tell these as they say emergency hire, backstory about someone dropping out, etc. but they can come off as shady because the person is in a hurry and really will take most anyone.

Though I wouls still echo Jennifer and say becareful about jobs.

Post ID#19494 - replied 4/2/2012 4:34 PM


One thing I look for is companies that seem to be perpetually hiring for the same project. I take it as a red flag if a company can not keep their projects staffed and continually need to bring in new people. On a big project their is always some turnover and the scope of work can increase as time goes on requiring new hires, but if the same job posting seems to be coming up month after month their is usually a reason people aren't sticking around. I've taken jobs that I've seen advertised over and over and once I got there the working environment was so bad it was easy to see why so many people had come and gone from that job. I find most companies worth working for try to hire same people again and again for their experience and quality of work, and do their best to try and keep those people around.

Post ID#19498 - replied 4/3/2012 5:26 AM

Jennifer Palmer

@Dmack - yes, I've had to supervise some of those crews. I think I may have posted some of the horror stories here before. Among other issues, it creates an incredible amount of stress for the person in charge (anxiety over things getting missed, work not being done, memories of going back out into the field after the crew was back at the hotel to do more shovel testing since we were so behind..). Everyone has to get experience somewhere, and ideally there is a mix where a more experienced field archaeologist can mentor a greener crew member.

@DougRM - Oh sure, a lot of those "quick need to fill a slot" jobs have been posted. I've responded to a few of those myself. Sometimes you don't find out the particulars until you initially respond to an advertisement. What is troubling is when a company still won't cough up information even after you've talked them. Instant red flag.

@Ro-Ro - an excellent point about companies that always seem to be hiring for the same position. Makes you wonder what is going on. Are they unable to hold onto their crew because of low pay, conditions, lack of work?

On a general note, I would add that it's important to obtain feedback from your friends/fellow archaeologists about a potential employer. I know there are exceptions to this, as some reports of "bad" companies may stem from a particular experience with one individual (field supervisor, PI, whoever) that may no longer be employed at the firm. However, if you've heard several negative reports about a company, it's a good idea to exercise caution. There are a few times I've taken work against my better judgment (because I needed a job!) and have come to regret the decision.

Some of the best companies I've ever worked for have rarely, if ever advertised open positions. Just something else to consider.

Post ID#19500 - replied 4/3/2012 5:49 PM


I was hired from one of those ads and never worked for the company again. Horrible pay, field supervisor fresh out of school with hardly any experience, and crew with even less. Luckily we were in an area where the probability of finding anything was close to zero.

Post ID#19517 - replied 4/6/2012 4:20 AM

Jennifer Palmer

I just forward an advert to the website from an employment agency. The advert was so vague on the details that I had no idea what they were even hiring for (other than the pay scale, which suggested a PI or project archaeologist). I guess this is one more thing to consider in these job adverts - sometimes the copy is obviously written by a person who is not an archaeologist.

Post ID#19519 - replied 4/9/2012 2:16 PM

SHPO Grunt

I would add that if you are working for a truly bad company, the odds are that other companies are aware of the reputation.  Don't be afraid to quit or be fired.  It can actually look better on your resume to those who know, than sticking it out and having the bad reputation rub off on you.

As far as job adds, I once saw and ad for "walkers" to help with survey.  Nice. 

Post ID#19520 - replied 4/9/2012 4:02 PM


I think everyone who has been around the block long enough is aware of who the bad companies are. I've worked at more than my share and thought about making them disappear from the resume on several occasions when applying for jobs (especially the supervisory roles of a short duration). One of my friends stuck it out at a really horrible firm (no longer in business) and later removed over a year at that company from his cv. However, why make legitimate field experience disappear, and have unnecessary gaps in employment?

Post ID#19522 - replied 4/10/2012 10:41 PM


I know there is always a certain amount of settling on a newly formed crew (especially on a large project), but what really grinds my gears as a relatively more experienced tech is that I usually end up having to train someone who is completely green, but getting paid the same amount as me, and maintain my own performance level, or worse still, have to babysit an incompetant crew chief who was hired on the basis that they were "RPA eligble" and always wants to ask what I think we should do.

Some companies hire at a single rate for techs on the principle of equality and some hire on a graded scale based on an HR decision made off of what they see on paper which is seldom thoroughly verified.  Somehow it seems a little unfair either way. 

I don't mind helping newbies and giving a few pointers, but it is not in my job description and I am certainly not paid any extra for doing it. This is most upsetting when you realize that a field school is the minimum gold standard and it almost neber includes how to do basic transect of shovel tests (including my own).  When these field schools are "acredited" does that mean they meet a checklist of criteria or they are just run by an acredited institution?


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