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Job Spam: 6 tip-offs save you hundreds of hours!

In the July 25, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a seasoned reader recognizes job spam and deletes it.

job spamQuestion

I just received this URGENT OPENING from a recruiter I don’t know. I’m in Silicon Valley with a real job. The contract position is in North Carolina. Now I realize how many hours I’ve wasted over the years, responding to job spam, filling out forms, doing phone screens, even showing up for interviews — when I should have realized I was being jerked around from the start. (I even got scammed on an airline flight I paid for without getting reimbursed.) The worst of it is the anticipation and wasted energy expecting something to happen! But these e-mails keep coming, with barely a few legit ones every now and then. You must have some way to quickly pick the ones to ignore. I’d love to hear your tips!

Nick’s Reply

You can save lots of time (and frustration) by checking those e-mails for the tell-tale signs of job spam — also known as drive-by recruiting. Don’t become just another victim by responding when you should hit the DELETE key.

Thanks for sharing that e-mail. I’ve redacted the names so we can take a look at it. I’ll show you want to look for. You’re not being recruited. You’re being asked to apply for a job.

This is not a recruiter.

A real recruiter or headhunter comes after you specifically. He knows who you are and why you’d be a good candidate, or he would not get in touch. Here are the tip-offs that this guy is wasting your time. (See Why do recruiters suck so bad?)

1. He “came across your resume” and is polling you “to see if you or someone you know is interested” in an “opportunity.”

A real headhunter doesn’t “come across” you. He already knows this job will appeal to you, because he’s studied your background and is confident he’s got something that will get your attention. He will usually drop the name of someone you know and respect — because they recommended you –, to get your attention and to establish his own credibility. (See How to screen headhunters.)

But this is not a recruiter.

2. The second tip-off that this is job spam: The sender wants you to “read the Job Description.” Say what?

This guy wants you to do the work of matching yourself to the job! He has no idea whether you’re a match, or whether you and his client have any reason to talk! He has sent this mail to hundreds if not thousands of people.

And if he found your resume online, why does he need “an updated MS Word version?” If he’s coming after you for this job — that is, actually recruiting you — then he doesn’t need another version of your resume.

He’s sucking you in by making you take an action while he does nothing at all. In case you don’t realize it, this e-mail has all the impersonal hallmarks of a mail-merge from a database. This guy doesn’t even know he sent it to you! If you respond, next you’ll rationalize why you’re wasting your time sending him even more information and filling out job application forms that a real recruiter does not need. Then you’re hooked. Then you’ll write to ask me why you’re not getting responses to your follow-up e-mails.

3. He’s not really a recruiter. When a recruiter or headhunter tells you he’s going to “help you” with “positions,” run. He’s telling you he’s a phony.

Real recruiters and headhunters find people for specific jobs. They don’t help you find a job. (See Headhunters find people, not jobs.) While a good headhunter may remember you for a job that comes along later, this come-on is the classic sign of a quack trying to get you to respond to spam.

Read our database.

4. You’re a number. Just like the “Job id” in the e-mail, you are a number in a database. A real headhunter would never say he’s recruiting you for “Job id-CRNGJP00011964.” How impersonal is that?

When you ask someone on a date, do you say, “Hey, Babe — Wanna join me for some WYPF94006 at LOCATION: Hickory, NC?”

Gimme a break. The purpose of this mail is not to recruit you. It’s to make you read a database record.

A real headhunter contacts you to entice you. To cajole you. To inspire you. To convince you. To sweet-talk you into talking with him about filling this job. (See How to judge a headhunter.)

This guy has no time to discuss the job with the 2,000 people he’s sent this spam to. He wants you all to read it while he has lunch. I’ve cut off the rest of his solicitation — but it’s 469 more words he wants you to study and check off before you bother him.

Now we get to the insult.

Do my job.

This guy needs to fill a job fast to make a buck, and he’s made that your problem. Er, “opportunity.” So sit up and beg, and do it fast.

5. “Hurry up and do my job!” He’s got a deadline! Did you ever ask anyone out on a date — and tell them they have to decide “by CLOSE OF BUSINESS TOMORROW?”

A real recruiter is worried he’s going to lose you. He’s not going to threaten you — not any more than you’d threaten the person you hope will go to dinner with you!

But the real tip-off that this is a worthless drive-by recruiting e-mail is in what it doesn’t say. There is nothing personal in the closing. There is no effort to demonstrate a sincere interest in you.

This is a cheap salesman telling you to apply for a job. You can do that on any job board without being insulted.

This is job spam.

Now for the piece of resistance, the drop-dead, in-your-face, no-question tip-off that this is junk mail — not anyone recruiting you.

6. This is job spam. We know it’s spam because of the opt-out section at the end that’s required by the CAN-SPAM Act. When’s the last time you saw this at the bottom of a legit e-mail?

Please: Get real!

Desperate job hunters want someone else to find them a job. They engage in wishful thinking — and get suckered easily by spam like this. There is no recruiter behind that mail!

A real headhunter will call or e-mail you (I’d call you — e-mail is too non-committal) and say something like this:

“Hi, Steve. I’m Nick Corcodilos — I’m a headhunter and I’m filling some key positions for Big Buzz Systems. Sharon Jones, who worked with you at Superfluous Technologies, suggested I talk with you about a design engineering position I’m working on at Big Buzz. This job could get you into the project management role Sharon tells me you’ve been working toward. Please call me at (800) 111-1111. Thanks — I look forward to meeting you, Steve.”

That’s it. Would you call me back?

That’s not what those e-mails say to you? Please. Get real. How many hundreds of hours will job seekers waste responding, sending information, filling out forms, waiting for feedback from junk mail? It seems you have finally figured it out. My compliments, and many thanks for sharing this example of cheesy “recruiting.” I hope these tips wear out the DELETE key on everyone else’s keyboard before thousands or millions of hours get wasted on job spam!

How do you know it’s not a real recruiter? What tips you off to job spam? And what kinds of embarrassing time-wasters have you fallen for? Don’t feel bad — please share so we can all learn how to avoid getting suckered!

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LinkedIn Job Roulette: A career suicide game?

In the July 18, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, LinkedIn members reveal how they use the network to commit career suicide.

Question

Do you think LinkedIn has lost whatever promise it once had for people hoping participation would lead to job leads and better positions? Does it have any value now to the job seeker, or to the person seeking a better position than the one they currently have? Thank you for your thoughtful commentary.

LinkedInNick’s Reply

LinkedIn once showed promise as the leading professional network. Sadly, today it is at best merely an online directory. I think CEO Jeff Weiner sold out LinkedIn’s original mission when he first hired a boiler room of phone jockeys to sell “seats” to recruiters. This instantly turned LinkedIn into just another job board. The Microsoft acquisition seems to have had no meaningful impact on LinkedIn’s business model.

LinkedIn sells dope to dopes

When it told members to upload their contacts and tacitly encouraged them to connect to every connection of everyone they knew, LinkedIn devalued all those professional relationships. In generating every meaningless “contact” possible, LinkedIn could claim that every person and employer could make every possible job match. All its members had to do was ask.

And ask they did — and ask they do. You and I get their requests every day.

LinkedIn turned the delicate matter of approaching the right employer about the right job into a game of roulette. Every spin through millions of “contacts” leads to a beggar’s banquet at the world’s biggest professional-data dumpster, where everyone gambles for scraps.

Job search as gambling addiction is now the preferred way to commit career suicide. While publishing “career content” that urges members to make only quality connections (wink, wink), LinkedIn’s system facilitates and speeds up random, stupid, embarrassing and potentially self-destructive begging for jobs.

LinkedIn’s connection engine — LinkedIn messaging — is the new mail merge. It makes otherwise intelligent, capable, respectful people look like idiots. LinkedIn sells dope to people it turns into dopes. Every time I get a LinkedIn message announcing that someone I don’t know wants me to read their profile and lead them to “an opportunity,” I want to connect them to an addiction clinic. They’re not looking for jobs — they’re avoiding talking to employers.

Do you know what you look like?

Long ago, most LinkedIn users stopped being selective about accepting connection requests (see Join My LinkedIn Gang-Bang) because more connections meant higher status. Now the value of your n-th connection is probably zero. LinkedIn is a useful research tool, but forget about it as a networking tool. Look up people you want to do business with, but make contact with them the old fashioned way: through trusted referrals that actually know you. That still works best.

A person panhandling on a city street corner knows what they look like. Does this LinkedIn member who contacted me through LinkedIn Messenger know what he looks like?

Nick, My name is [Name]. I am looking for a position in healthcare. Do you know of/have any openings? Thank you.

He looks desperate and clueless — lost in the job market. Why would I recommend or hire someone who doesn’t know how to approach the right employer? Why would I want a healthcare worker who gambles with his reputation? Why would I want him working with my patients or customers?

Job panhandling

Let’s take a look at some of the panhandling requests I get via LinkedIn from people I don’t know who don’t know me. I don’t respond to most of these, but I sometimes fantasize about the snarky replies I’d send them.

Hello Nick, I’m currently looking for a full time job as an analyst or client/project manager. Please take a look at my professional and education background on my LinkedIn page. Kindly consider my application for any current or future employment opportunities. Looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks, [Name and cellphone number]

Nicks’ Snarky Reply

My responses to each sentence of that query, respectively:

  1. Who cares?
  2. How will looking at your LinkedIn page pay off for me?
  3. No.
  4. Don’t bother.
Hi Nick, I hope you’re well. I am interested in learning if we can work together. I am an MIT alum with 4 yrs experience running a startup in Silicon Valley, and am currently looking for a FT role (open to industries). Is this something you specialize in? Thank you. [Name and cellphone number]

Nick’s Snarky Reply

You went to MIT and you’re panhandling strangers for a job? Is this how you got your startup funding, by spamming venture capitalists? If you don’t know what I specialize in, why did you contact me?

Hello Nick, Thank you for Linking. I am currently seeking the next chapter of my 20-year marketing career. Throughout my career, I have established a reputation as a leader who is driven by challenge, undeterred by obstacles, and committed to furthering standards of excellence. My expertise encompasses business development and marketing administration, from controlling costs and maximizing revenues to harnessing team strengths to improve brand awareness, client service, and project performance. Further, my ability to build consensus among executive teams and stakeholders to promote transparency and influence positive change has been repeatedly proven. I have attached my resume for review and am excited about this next chapter of my career and hearing about any new opportunities that are out there. Sincerely, [Name and telephone number]

Nick’s Snarky Reply

You work in marketing and you can’t write a note that instantly makes me want to call you? You want to hear about “any” opportunity? Paint my house.

Hi Nick, hope you doing great. we specialize in IT consulting and provide manpower ,if you have any open position you can contact me on [telephone number] or email me your requirement details at [e-mail address]. Regards, [Name] Business development Executive [Company]

Nick’s Snarky Reply

How’d you sneak in among job seekers? You specialize in IT consulting? Everybody specializes in IT consulting! Do you paint houses?

Nick, do you headhunt now? I need a job! Sorry to be so dense. I could really use someone to help me get my next great job in the greater NYC area. Thanks so much! [Name]

Nick’s Actual Reply

Please check these two articles:

Headhunters find people, not jobs

They’re not headhunters

You have a common misconception. It doesn’t matter how much you need a job. The best headhunters will not help you find a job. They focus on the assignments their client companies give them — and they go looking for the people their clients need.

Do not rely on headhunters in any way. If one finds you, great — but that’s like counting on lottery winnings to pay your mortgage.

Hi Nick, Thanks for connect. I am looking for Job change, would you dont mind to help me with relevant job opening matching my current job role pls. Currently working with [Company] as Sr Manager content/ OTT domain responsible for EMEA and India markets distribution across digital channels, formats & screens, managing annual revenue portfolio of $ 10 MN. Shall remain at your disposal. Regards, [Name]

Nick’s Snarky Reply

Yes, you shall remain in my disposal! Regards!

How to search for a job

You search for a job by identifying companies that make products or deliver services you’d like to work on. (See Pursue Companies, Not Jobs.) Then you figure out — figure out — what problems and challenges those companies face in running their business.

Most important, you carefully and thoughtfully pick a handful of your skills that you could apply to those problems and challenges, and you prepare a brief business plan showing how you’d use those skills to make the business more successful.

(Note that this does not involve reading job postings.)

Then you hang out with people who have business with the company, for as long as it takes to make friends with them, until they get to know you well enough that they’re happy to refer and recommend you personally to the manager whose department you could clearly help.

That’s how you connect with a job. You don’t ask someone else to do the work. Because they won’t.

How to commit career suicide

When you hang out on an online street corner (LinkedIn is just a street corner), throwing handbills (your profile) at passersby you don’t know who don’t know you — and expect one of them might take you by the hand and lead you to a good, well-paying job — you commit career suicide.

When people in your line of work recognize you on that street corner — or meet you later — they realize you’re undisciplined, lost, thoughtless, and incapable of demonstrating your value to the handful of employers that would really benefit from working with you.

I want to ask those who sent me the above requests, did you calculate what happens when all of my (or anyone’s) LinkedIn contacts send such queries to all their connections? LinkedIn makes money! But you kill your career. Your blind solicitations make you a dead man walking.

It’s embarrassing. Begging opportunities from people you don’t know that don’t know you reveals that your judgment stinks. Playing LinkedIn job roulette is a sign that you’re addicted to gambling. And people who gamble are bad risks in anyone’s business — or professional circle.

What kinds of LinkedIn solicitations do you get from people you don’t really know? Is LinkedIn a job hunting tool? Or an excuse for not job hunting?

ADDENDUM

In the comments section below, reader Cynthia Wharton, a headhunter, explains better than I have how LinkedIn has become the career suicide game de rigeur. When they use the tools LinkedIn conveniently provides to easily spam all of kingdom come with “requests” for job leads and introductions to employers, users kill any interest a good headhunter or employer might have in them.

Says Wharton:

I steer a wide birth away from Linked In candidates and resort to what I do best, headhunting the perfect fit via my own network and other avenues that have been successful in my career.

She steers away because over-exposed LinkedIn candidates appear desperate and undesirable:

…candidates have over saturated their resumes out via Linked In and I cannot consider them if they have already sent their details to the employer I have in mind for them…

And it’s not only headhunters who don’t want sloppy seconds. Wharton notes that employers steer away, too:

I am finding many of the companies I do placements for, have indicated they are exceptionally frustrated by the daily inundation of unsolicited applicants. I’ve had several tell me that when they see a resume come in from the site, they instantly drag it into their trash folder. They know full well that every one of their industry competitors more than likely also has it as well. Why would they hire someone who may be constantly contacted by other employers?

That’s what I mean when I suggest LinkedIn is a game of career suicide. Thanks to Wharton for explaining it better than I did. Please read the rest of her comments below.

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Don’t Fill Out That Job Application!

In the July 11, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job seeker tries to avoid going down the job application hole.

In the last edition, we discussed mistakes people make regarding information they share about themselves — and about information they fail to get from an employer. Now we’ll focus on a special kind of information employers demand from job applicants — your salary history.

job applicationThis has always been a hot topic, mainly because employers just won’t stop asking for information that’s none of their business. Even if HR managers swear up and down that they need your salary data “because that’s our policy,” we all know why they really want it: It gives them an edge on job offer negotiations.

I also promised you some interesting statistics about the value of personal referrals. What’s that got to do with how to deal with salary demands? Let’s take a look!

Question

When I go after jobs through job boards, they always send me a link to a job application form. I’m just curious about your thoughts on the advice of a career coach about what to do when those online forms require you to enter your salary at your previous jobs. She says to type in your desired salary and, when you come to a text field, explain what you did. Do you agree with this?

Nick’s Reply

I think that advice stinks. It’s thoughtless right off the bat. If you have to enter your salary for each of your previous jobs, what sense would it make to enter the same desired salary (for the new job) for each of the old jobs?

More important, such tricks encourage job applicants to play along with a game rigged against them, rather than to pursue the best way of getting hired.

We are so brainwashed by employers to do what they ask that many “experts” don’t realize that it’s simply wrong. The answer to this problem is to consider the facts and to refuse to be manipulated.

Say NO to job application forms

The problem is not whether to disclose your salary history. The problem is the job application form itself. If your path to a job is a job board followed by a job application form, don’t fill it out at all, because it puts you at a disadvantage. Don’t apply via the application. Ignore the application because people get jobs in other, smarter ways all the time.

Now we’re going to un-brainwash ourselves and change the subject to what really matters when applying for jobs: how you get in the door.

A 2013 study from the New York Federal Reserve Bank (“Do Informal Referrals Lead to Better Matches?”) compared methods that a single company uses to hire. The purpose of the study was to test theoretical models of where hires come from — not to describe hiring across many companies.

Where most job offers come from

The Fed researchers found that most job applicants — 60% — at this one company came from online job boards. Only 6.1% of applicants came from personal referrals by employees. But the biggest chunk of actual hires — over 29% — came from those meager but incredibly powerful employee referrals. (See How to engineer your personal network.)

Of course, you might be referred by a company’s employee and still be asked to fill out that form — but now you’ve got an advantage over every applicant who arrived via job boards.

Says the Fed report: “The pool of candidates receiving serious consideration increasingly favors the referred over the course of the hiring process.” (This doesn’t even include personal referrals and recommendations from people outside a company.)

Personal referrals pay off big

The study concluded that:

  • Referred candidates are more likely to be hired.
  • Referred workers experience an initial wage advantage (which dissipates over time).
  • Referred workers have longer tenure at the company.

Getting referred clearly pays off in many ways.

Other studies I’ve seen in the past two decades suggest that personal referrals can account for up to two-thirds of hires. But the main point here is not what the percentages are. It’s that you don’t need anyone’s advice to see that a job seeker’s best bet is to go find people connected to a company — and get them to refer you. (See Referrals: How to gift someone a job (and why).)

Do the work to get the job

“But Nick, that’s a lot of work!” you’ll say. Yep. So’s the job you want. Start working at this now, or you don’t deserve an interview. Stand out from your competition. Don’t take the way in the door that’s offered.

When you get referred by an insider — whether it’s a company employee or a company’s customer, vendor or consultant — you also have more power to say, “No, thank you” to questions about your salary history. A personal referral makes you a much more powerful and desirable job candidate.

How to Say It
“I’d be glad to fill out your application form after I’ve spoken with the hiring manager. [The person who recommended me] spoke very highly of the manager, and I’d like to make sure this is a potential match before I fill out any forms. I’m looking forward to telling [the employee who personally referred me] that I had a great meeting with the manager.”

Does that seem very personal? Yep! It has to be personal if you want to avoid being impersonally abused and rejected!

A personal referral makes you a worthy applicant. If it’s not worth the work to get that referral, so you can avoid job boards and mindless forms, then the job isn’t really worth it to you. Move on to a job that is.

Always question authority — even when it’s a clever career coach. Leave the job application forms for your brainwashed competitors. (See “Make personal contacts to get a job? Awkward…” Get over it!)

Most jobs are found and filled through personal contacts. Everyone I know knows that — but few act like they know it. Why do people still rely on job boards, application forms and rote methods? (Don’t tell me “it’s easier!”) What one thing could we change to shift job seekers’ attention to what works?

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Giving & Getting Information: Mistakes Job Seekers Make

In the June 27, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we consider two mistakes job seekers make. One is about how much information readers give to employers, and the other is about how little information they expect to get.

mistakes

Question #1

One of the mistakes I think I make is I give employers too much of my information. How far back (in years) should you go when constructing your resume or your LinkedIn profile? For example, when you list dates and years, is it important to include the years that you attended each university?

Nick’s Reply

You can include as much as you want in your resume or LinkedIn profile. Some persnickety HR people want to see everything – and that just reveals incompetence. They don’t need everything.

Information mistakes

In fact, too much information on a resume easily leads to confusion, mistakes, and decision paralysis. Very often, personnel jockeys are so unfamiliar with the details of a job that they have no idea what information about the candidate is important and useful. So they ask for too much, which gives them more basis to reject the applicant. (See How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.)

If you think listing certain dates will hurt you, leave them out. Is that risky? With some employers, yes. But relying on your LinkedIn profile or resume to get you in the door is a fool’s errand, because it’s just one of millions floating in an ocean of job applicants. The chances that someone will even read it are slim — most of the time an algorithm will reject you with no human review. So when you’re deciding what to put on your resume, you’re gambling.

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Help them ask you for more

Give an employer specific information about your skills and abilities — information you’ve carefully selected to show how you will help the employer tackle its problems and challenges. Tease the employer intelligently. That will trigger a request to learn more, so they’ll call you in for a meeting. No matter how much information you provide, if you don’t address the employer’s specific problems and challenges, they won’t see any reason to bring you in. So tease them with just enough of the right information to make them want the rest. That’s where interviews come from. (See Tear your resume in half.)

Please: Don’t count on your LinkedIn profile or resume to get you interviews. (Don’t help employers make mistakes about you.) Most interviews come from personal contacts that you initiate. There’s no way around that.

(Here’s my own teaser: I’ll share some interesting statistics about the value of personal referrals in the next edition — July 11. Ask The Headhunter will be on vacation for the July 4 holiday!)

Question #2

In Forget Glassdoor: Use these killer tips to judge employers, you give job applicants a list of questions to ask in interviews, including “What’s it really like to work here?” You also advise asking to meet people you’d be working with, as well as key managers in the company. But how many companies will allow you to make requests of that nature? Maybe in smaller towns, but certainly not in large metropolitan cities.

Nick’s Reply

“Allow you?”

Who cares what they allow you to ask? As the applicant, you can and should ask anything you want in an interview. A company reveals a lot in its response (or lack of one), and your goal is to learn all you can so you can make an informed decision about working there. Unfortunately, once most job seekers make their way into a job interview, they forget that. Suddenly, their prime goal is to get an offer — when it should be to vet the company.

From Fearless Job Hunting, Book 8: Play Hardball With Employers, p. 12:

“Job hunters don’t often think to check the boss’s (and department’s) reputation inside the company, or how that department interacts with the rest of the organization. Likewise, job hunters usually fail to carefully inspect a company’s reputation on the street. Investigate, and avoid disaster.”

A job interview is business

I find it troubling that job applicants are fearful of asking questions that any good business person would ask a prospective business partner, customer or vendor in the normal course of vetting a deal. This is your life and career we’re talking about! And a job interview is a business meeting.

Being in a big metro area doesn’t give an employer a pass. This is important stuff! Serious job applicants must realize a job interview is a two-way street. Hence the prefix “inter-“ as in “between.” It’s not a one-way interrogation where the employer holds the upper hand and unilaterally decides what’s allowed. (While vetting an employer is critical, as far as the job itself goes, I think there’s one general-purpose question both the employer and the applicant should ask — and not much more!)

Get the information you need

To make an informed judgment about an employer, ask anything you need to, and if you don’t get good answers — or if the employer gets annoyed — then tell them you’re not going to make them an offer to work there. They’ve been rejected. They made a mistake. They don’t meet your requirements.

Ever wonder why employers ask for the kitchen sink — your entire resume — rather than just certain, specific information they really need to determine whether you can do the job? Who cares what you did 15 years ago? How much information do you give to — and get from — an employer? Do employers go overboard, while job applicants don’t ask for enough? What information is reasonable to request?

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HR’s Submission To ZipRecruiter

ZipRecruiterJust how much can ZipRecruiter insult its HR customers and still get their business? And how many arm’s lengths away from federal employment law violations can employers get?

HR: We pay ZipRecruiter to insult us

ZipRecruiter, a venture-funded, privately held company, markets itself to employers as “The Fastest Way to Hire Great People.” It lets HR departments “Post to 100+ Job Boards with One Submission.”

What’s so insulting about that? In a long-running Bloomberg radio ad, ZipRecruiter features an employer who says:

“Hiring people is probably the worst part of my job. It’s such a hassle — the searching. The sorting through resumes.”

      Radio Ad Excerpt

Man, doing HR work really sucks. Is that an HR manager grousing? Or maybe it’s a hiring manager? Imagine a sales rep at your company complaining about what a hassle it is to sell.

HR executives ponied up over $100 million in 2016 to ZipRecruiter for help filling jobs so Zip could cast them as dopes who hate the most important part of their work — recruiting and hiring talent. That’s submission.

According to USA Today, “Zip makes most of its money by charging $249 monthly to employers to post [their job] listings.” That’s a lot of job ads. That’s a lot of passing the buck.

What’s it like when the vendor you rely on to do your job for you blares to the world that your job is one big bother? Do HR execs love being insulted? Well, they keep paying for it. “Revenue is up 270% since 2013,” says USA Today.

HR seems to love being abused.

“We started using ZipRecruiter about 3 months ago. Right from the start you could tell it was going to make hiring a lot easier.”

      Radio Ad Excerpt

HR also loves getting millions of job applications that no human ever needs to touch. Candidates “roll in.”

“One click and my job was posted to 100+ job boards — all the top sites.”

      Radio Ad Excerpt

One click and a job is sprayed all over kingdom come. Says one job seeker:

“I heard an advertisement for ZipRecruiter on the radio. In short, you can post a job on this site and it simultaneously posts it on other job boards and social media outlets. Does HR really need that many applications? Especially in these times?”

The challenge is not picking good hires. The challenge is wiping away the mess of unemployed lemmings dying for interviews. Who needs to learn how to recruit when you can have “all of the candidates” from all of the job boards in your “dashboard”?

What do you do with them?

“All of the candidates came to my dashboard and it’s easy to compare them. Thumbs up if I liked them, thumbs down if I didn’t. No e-mails and attachments, printing up docs, phone calls, none of that.”

      Radio Ad Excerpt

Imagine: None of that. No “docs” — no resumes, no application forms. No communications with applicants — “no e-mails, attachments… phone calls…” Nada. 100% keywords, no humans need apply. And HR can go home.

Zip takes care of everything — including turning job applicants into your own private digital beauty pageant.

Except really ugly stuff happens in beauty pageants when there’s no regulation. And while some venture-funded firm sucks up the profits, humans submit and are sent home to clean themselves up for the next opportunity.

What job seekers are saying about ZipRecruiter

While ZipRecruiter’s investors are cleaning up, job seekers are left drowning in the mess.

One job seeker says it for many:

“My Gmail inbox is littered with e-mails from ZipRecruiter, Indeed.com, and others. It is so frustrating to go through the daily search and submission only to get the robo-e-mails from ‘Phil@ZipRecruiter.com’ — the Job Seeker Advocate — and similar messages from Indeed and others. Sometimes I think it’s all one big bizarre video game and I am the hapless mark helping to feed the Monster(.com?). At first, I viewed them hopefully, but now I see them as a part of a giant ruse.”

Another job seeker peals out:

“Things have changed too much for the worse. The old, tried and proven Agencies have gone to wayside and replaced with kids calling me…Saying, ‘Hey, I saw your resume on Indeed or Ziprecruiter or LinkedIn, etc.’ If you put enough monkeys in a room with keyboards eventually semblance of a word will be achieved. If this is how Americans get a decent job nowadays….OMG.”

And then it hits the fan.

H1-B Only: No Americans wanted

Employers operate in today’s “employment system” at arm’s length, enjoying seeming legal insulation by using “third-party” employers — known as consulting or contracting firms — to avoid violating labor laws. And these third-party firms in turn use services like ZipRecruiter to “recruit” at arm’s length while pretending they have no idea that the machine is cranking out Soylent Green.

Now here’s the backlash employers have exposed themselves to. My good buddy Suzanne Lucas, aka The EvilHRLady, just reported that the veil has been “accidentally” parted to reveal what’s really going on: legal violations.

What would you say to a job posting for a “Java Developer – H1-B Only?”

In her Inc. column last week, Iowa Company Accidentally Says No Americans Need Apply, Lucas turned up the heat on IT consulting firm American Technology Consulting, which posted the job. “In case you’re wondering what the problem is with the ad,” writes Lucas, “it’s that it violates one and possibly two laws.”

Lucas reported that Tara Jose, the president of ATC, said, “a third-party vendor recently used language when posting an advertisement on our behalf that was inappropriate and absolutely unacceptable to American Technology Consulting.”

Uh, “a third-party vendor?” (By press time Ms. Jose had not responded to an e-mail query for details.)

 

Jose told Lucas that her firm “did not write, condone, or authorize this language in the ad.”

So who wrote and authorized it? (An e-mail to Jose well before press time yielded no response.) More important, this ad is on ZipRecruiter. And as Lucas points out, it’s illegal. Possibly twice.

Was this an accident?

Is this accidentally at arm’s-length illegal?

When we were kids we’d walk up to a buddy, smack him, and chortle, “Sorry! I did it accidentally on purpose!” After we got smacked back a few times, we learned you can’t do that and get away with it. But in today’s employment industry, you can.

A company wants to hire Java developers on the cheap. As Lucas points out, it’s illegal to misuse the H1-B visa program to hire foreign labor cheaper than American labor.

But, can you “hire” a consultant from a “consulting” firm that in turn uses “a third-party vendor” that finds the Java developer by posting an illegal “H1-B Only” ad on ZipRecruiter — an ad that’s not written, condoned or authorized by the consulting firm? And besides, ZipRecruiter’s written policy says all ads must follow the law.

How many arm’s lengths from the l-o-n-g arm of the law are we now? Was that ad an accident? A one-off mistake?

Chatting with ZipRecruiter

I opened a chat with ZipRecruiter. Here’s what they told me.

The chat with Jason timed out. So I asked Taylor.

Is this accidentally on purpose?

I could have ended the chat there and we could have had an ad just like ATC had. But I kept asking the question in different ways. Finally, I was told it was up to me to make sure my job posting complied with “OFCCP and EEOC regulations.”

But here it was, three days after the Inc. article appeared, and on one screen I was chatting with ZipRecruiter and on another I was looking at that “H1-B Only” job posting — it was still there. The fastest way to hire H1-B Java Developers.

Sometimes Zip can also be the fastest way to scam people: Job seekers on ZipRecruiter being targeted by scams via email and text. Zip’s representatives blame it on “the front-end” and “the back-end.” But that’s just how the employment industry works — nobody’s fault. It’s all accidental: “No system is perfect, no matter how sophisticated or well intentioned,” says Zip.

Is this accidentally on purpose?

Are American employers using services that are largely unregulated to manipulate the job market? I don’t think there’s any doubt.

While state and federal legislatures feign interest in equal pay and equal opportunity, they condone a seemingly l-o-n-g arm’s-length chain of “contracting” relationships that seem to add no value to America’s employment system. How many middlemen can collect a fee to put you in a job working for someone other than who signs your paycheck?

This tawdry chain of consulting pimps seem to be sucking value out of the employment system and the economy — while government looks the other way. (See Consulting: Welcome to the cluster-f*ck economy.)

Notable companies that trade in profitable key words, profiles, resumes, and job postings are the front-facing businesses that are highly admired by a stock market that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about who’s getting a job, who they actually “work” for, where they came from, and who’s getting screwed by salaries that are manipulated in an international game of  “How low can you go?”

“All Candidates In One Place”

Joshua Brustein, writing for Bloomberg, exposes the state-of-the-art in the nebulous jobs cloud: The Secret Way Silicon Valley Uses the H-1B Program.

Far from some of the transparently political H1-B conspiracy mongering that’s become the click-bait of the blog world, Brustein takes us on a wild tour that exposes the systematic manipulation of the job market being practiced and vaunted as a laudable “industry.” These are the consulting and contacting companies, and the slimy job boards, that big tech firms hide behind.

“Contractors are also submitting many applications for foreign visas for work at other large American technology companies, according to a recent analysis of Department of Labor records covering eight major tech businesses between October 2015 and October 2016. Applications submitted by contractors accounted for half of the H-1B visa applications for jobs at PayPal Holdings Inc.’s headquarters, 43 percent of those on Microsoft Corp.’s campus, 29 percent at EBay Inc.’s headquarters, and about a quarter of those at the Googleplex.”

Brustein outlines the work of one researcher who “found that American tech companies are also utilizing large numbers of H-1B workers that are not highly skilled — they are just doing it through intermediaries.”

Do you need a pedestrian Java programmer — but prefer a lower-cost “H1-B Only” variety? Someone’s willing to write an “unauthorized” and illegal job ad for you under yet someone else’s name — but nobody knows who exactly we’re talking about. But we know where to find that ad — it’s posted on an intermediary. Or, as ZipRecruiter’s crack marketing team likes to say: “All candidates in one place.”

LinkedIn? Indeed? ZipRecruiter? The applicants just roll into your dashboard, and they answer your secret questions before you have to interview them. How’s that for arm’s-length?

No “docs” — no resumes, no application forms. No communications with applicants — “no e-mails, attachments… phone calls…” Nada. 100% keywords, no humans need apply. No need for HR.

And the candidates? Scrub ’em up and get ’em ready.

      Thumbs Up Thumbs Down

Nobody knows

ZipRecruiter says job postings must follow the law. ZipRecruiter says you can post jobs for foreign applicants only. An “H1-B Only” ad appeared for a reason — somebody approved it. Who? Nobody knows.

The impact on pay is dramatic. Bloomberg’s Brustein makes it clear. Businesses use H1-B to save money. Imagine you could tell your board of directors you’ve cut your costs by a third. Well, now you can.

“They paid an average of $88,500, which is about two-thirds the average salary for visa applications for jobs the companies submitted directly.”

“Hiring people is probably the worst part of my job. It’s such a hassle — the searching. The sorting through resumes. We started using ZipRecruiter about 3 months ago. Right from the start you could tell it was going to make hiring a lot easier. One click and my job was posted to 100+ job boards — all the top sites.”

Who needs more regulating?

When a privately held company like ZipRecruiter can knock the HR profession entirely out of the recruiting and hiring process, and HR both swallows the insult and relinquishes its job entirely, it’s game over for job seekers, employees, and managers who actually produce value to create profit. (Should HR get out of the hiring business?)

When HR funds the radio ads that reduce the profession’s most important functions to “a hassle,” and ZipRecruiter’s representatives tell you in a chat that you can post jobs for “foreign applicants only” and for “H1-B Only,” none of this is an accident.

What needs more regulating? Employers and HR execs who let an industry of digital job-board pimps sell out American job hunters? Or vendors that insult and abuse them all the way to the bank? How many arm’s lengths away from federal employment-law violations can employers get?

Are we all nuts, or what? There’s an emperor running around buck naked, and the hue and cry is that there’s a shortage of clothes. Or is that a talent shortage? One click, and it’s all going to be a lot easier. You’ll just roll right into the dashboard head-first, and it’ll be no accident. It’s one great big submission. What do you think? What do we need to do to fix this?

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The Job Posting Test: Can a 12-year-old understand it?

In the June 13, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader calls out employers for jargon in job descriptions. Should a job posting be intelligible?

Question

job postingNick, please look at the job posting below. Was this written by a computer? Why can’t employers just use common sense and plain English? If it was written by a computer, no wonder the jobs aren’t getting filled! Maybe it makes sense to you? Not me!  Why not just say: “We need a school teacher?” That’s what the requirements are basically asking for but not directly saying.

So many job postings are filled with meaningless jargon and double-talk. I realize there are special vocabularies in some fields, but how does double-talk attract job applicants? Can you imagine how this company delivers training to its customers if it talks like this?

Customer Service Learning Delivery Consultant will bring innovative, solutions-driven learning solutions to life in delivery across: Small to large scale multi-site training project deployments and cross-functional training initiatives, New team member onboarding (across all levels), Team member enrichment and skill building that drive results across key operational metrics, including First Contact Resolution, Average Handle Time, Customer Experience, and Team Member Engagement.

Additionally, this position will

  • Deliver learning activities for team members through a variety of formal and informal learning channels including instructor-led, web-based, virtual and other delivery approaches.
  • Provide feedback on team member participation to managers.
  • Drive continuous improvement through feedback on current training practices and programs based on classroom experience and operational feedback – help bring these suggestions to life in partnership with program owners.
  • Work with business partners to identify and anticipate upcoming communication and training needs.
  • Support the development of systems, process, and soft skills training for team members.
  • Support project deployments by recommending and/or coordinating communication and training needs.
  • Translates adult learning theory into practical learning experiences and works successfully within cross-functional teams to plan, deploy and embed the knowledge and skills in the target audience.
  • Serves as a Master Trainer for specific courses by participating in program development as a subject matter expert for delivery and/or content, conducting Train-the-Trainer sessions and supporting Trainers and Leaders in the delivery of courses.
  • Prepares business leaders and other SMEs as instructors. Observes, evaluates and gives feedback.
  • Develops and educates other Delivery teammates through peer-to-peer coaching and mentoring.
  • Identifies and shares opportunities to reinforce knowledge and skills in the workplace after the learning event concludes, leveraging learning interventions as levers to drive higher levels of workplace performance.
  • Develops learning reinforcement tools such as job aids and other learning tools.

Maintain excellent knowledge of content, effective facilitation and delivery skills, and latest knowledge of the education environment for effective delivery.

Nick’s Reply

I don’t think this job posting was written by a computer. It was written by a bureaucrat and blessed by an HR department.

I do workshops for employers, hiring managers and HR managers to help them recruit and hire more effectively. When we discuss job descriptions and interviews, I offer them a rule of thumb: Explain it so a 12-year-old can understand it.

Job posting jargon drives away good candidates

When a recruiter relies on jargon, potentially good candidates are turned off and lost, not because they don’t understand the jargon, but because they understand perfectly well that the employer can’t explain exactly — and clearly — what it wants. That’s a risky company to work for, because it means the employer itself is confused.

As you point out, in many kinds of work there are legitimate, specialized vocabularies. For example, in technical jobs like engineering, information technology, and medicine — among others — insider jargon has specific, well-defined meaning. It serves as shorthand for complex ideas.

Then there’s business double-talk like we see in this job posting: high-falutin’ language that implies sophistication where there is no clear meaning. It drives away people who might be able to do the work if it were described plainly.

I’m not kidding when I suggest, “Say it so a 12-year-old will understand it.” That’s a good way to make sure the employer itself understands the job it wants to fill. There is no question that many HR managers — who write those painful job descriptions — have no idea what a job is really all about. How can they possibly select the right applicant?

So, for the astute job seeker, the kind of job posting we’re looking at here is usually a signal to steer clear of a company where confusion and double-talk prevail.

I think jargon drives away the best candidates.

A confusing job posting reveals bigger problems

Insider jargon is often a cover for poor management practices. An employer that uses a lot of jargon often fails to understand its own needs. For example, in the job posting you submitted, the employer keeps referring to the importance of bringing something to life:

  • The new hire will “bring innovative, solutions-driven learning solutions to life…”
  • The new hire will “help bring these suggestions to life in partnership with program owners.”

What does that mean? If this employer asked you to submit a paragraph explaining how you’d bring things to life, what could you say? What could you say in a job interview? How does “bring it to life” help the employer attract the workers it needs — and satisfy its customers?

Double-talk is not impressive. It often reveals a failure to communicate. Worse, it suggests the jargonating manager and department are making stuff up.

B.S.

Some jargon is simply b.s. What do you think this b.s. means?

  • “innovative, solutions-driven learning solutions” [Tautology is often a sign of confusion!]
  • “Small to large scale multi-site training project deployments and cross-functional training initiatives”
  • “effective facilitation and delivery skills”

What does this b.s. mean, at this company and in this job?

  • “Drive continuous improvement through feedback”
  • “works successfully within cross-functional teams”
  • “embed the knowledge and skills in the target audience”
  • leveraging learning interventions as levers to drive higher levels of workplace performance” (Another tautology!)

Nothing in those words and phrases helps a job seeker judge the job or decide whether they can do it. As you suggest, this seems to be a teaching or training job. The problem is that the jargon in the posting makes it impossible to decipher the details of the job or to guess what would make a person successful at it.

B.s. in a job description also suggests loads of b.s. in a company’s sales pitch to customers. If you want to test an employer’s credibility, review the product and service offerings on its website. If fluffy wording matches jargon in the job description, you probably know all you need to.

(Employers don’t have to be boring when they post a job. See Now THIS is a job description.)

Tell it to a 12-year-old

Even a highly technical job should first be described simply so virtually anyone can understand what work needs to be done and what the objective is. This welcomes candidates from other fields, disciplines and work domains who might be able to bring something new to the job.

This:

“Customer Service Learning Delivery Consultant will bring innovative, solutions-driven learning solutions to life…”

Or this?

“We need an experienced teacher or trainer to show our customers how to do XYZ.”

Once XYZ is defined simply, any smart child should understand what the employer needs. Then more details of the work can be described, more specialized vocabulary can be introduced, and the employer and job candidate can have a productive discussion. A 12-year-old probably can’t do the job, but defining the job at that level is a good start on finding good candidates.

What’s missing in this job posting is a definition of XYZ, which might be quite detailed. What’s also missing is an answer to these questions:

  • Can any good teacher learn enough about XYZ in a reasonable time to do this job?
  • Or, is expertise in XYZ necessary?

This job ad just doesn’t tell us.

An employer that can’t tell you what it wants is very likely going to waste your time if you apply for the job.

Thanks for sharing a good example of why the employment system is so broken and why jobs aren’t getting filled. Employers can’t fill jobs they can’t describe clearly and simply.

For an example of another kind of problematic job posting, see Is this the worst job ad ever?

This is a lulu of a job description. Have you encountered worse? Tell us about it — and please share examples of the worst job-ad jargon you’ve seen! What do you look for in a job description before you’ll apply?

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How To Hire: 8 stunning tips

In the June 6, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a manager offers 8 stunningly clear tips about how to hire so effectively that other managers in your company steal your hires.

A hiring manager who prefers to remain anonymous teaches us how to hire. This should be required reading in every company. There’s nothing for me to add except Thank you.

how to hireA manager’s short course on how to hire

Most of my colleagues do not know how to interview anyone. They rely on rules of thumb, guts, or chicken entrails.

Actually, they have their direct reports interview the candidate and then vote on the candidate. I have a different way to hire and I think it works.

1. Recruit all the time

Always be in interview mode. Talk to prospective candidates even if you don’t have a place for them. (See The manager’s #1 job.)

2. Don’t hire by consensus

Do not allow your team to vote on candidates. The hiring manager hires. People are tribal and will pick people like themselves. Do not have a team where everyone is the same.

3. Start with all the resumes

Tell HR to send you all the resumes. Don’t let anyone edit your selection because they’re not as qualified as you are to judge the applicants. If you know what you want, you can go through them much faster than an HR clerk. (See also Sorting Resumes: A strategic hiring error and Why HR should get out of the hiring business.)

4. Hire the dancers

Don’t hire anyone for whom the job is a lateral move. That’s what contractors are for. You want people for whom the job will make a difference in their lives. You want your new hires to dance to work.

5. Interview wisely

Interview only 5 candidates to prevent interview fatigue. Schedule interviews over a 3-4 week period and make a decision within 24 hours of the final interview. (Use the phone only to confirm availability. Phone interviews are nearly worthless.)

6. Can they do the job?

Ask candidates to audition for the job. Give them a simple assignment before the interview. (See What is the single best interview question ever?)

7. Act responsibly

Write to every candidate after the interview and give them your results. It is common decency. Besides, you may want to hire the second best candidate in a few months.

8. Get better at hiring

Last, review your process and look for improvements.

The problem with hiring this way is that the people you hire are so good that other departments will poach them. But that’s really okay, because you want to bring motivated people into your organization. Be proud of the impact your hires make.

Nick’s Reply

Like I said, this is so good that there’s nothing for me to add. What I think would be incredibly productive is to hear from this community — from hiring managers, job seekers and HR folks — about how you would flesh these 8 suggestions out.

How exactly would you put these tips to work? How would you tweak, bend and shape these ideas about how to hire, to make them work best in your work environment? If you’re a manager, maybe you already do some of these things. If you disagree with some of them, please explain and offer your own tips.

I’d like to thank the manager who essentially wrote this week’s column for me. For another manager’s hiring methods, see Smart Hiring: A manager who respects applicants.


Update

Number of interviews

After this column was published, a good question was raised by readers (in the comments section below) about whether the manager (whose advice this column is based on) really means you should interview only 5 candidates in total, and how long the entire process should really take. So I asked him. Here’s his reply.

Scheduling a series of interviews with the internal stakeholders is not easy. You don’t want a candidate to return to the office multiple times to interview. Placing a line in the sand is for the benefit of the internal stakeholders telling them you will finish this task in 3 weeks. I have had SVP’s insist on interviewing a potential hire and then have their schedule full of meetings for the next 2 weeks. I have also had other managers want to interview a candidate to determine if they are good fit for their team.

I stop at 5 candidates because of interview fatigue. The candidates start to blur over time and they become difficult to compare. The interviews are at least ½ day and the cost to the team in lost work starts to show. If you try to interview 5 candidates in a week your team will not be able to get any work finished.

Also, at least 2 candidates will be from professional conferences or prior interviews. They are already known to the team and just have to run the HR gauntlet.

Salary

The hiring manager also explains how he handles the salary question during interviews.

I never ask the candidates current salary because I feel it is irrelevant.  I know the market clearing price and most of the time the candidate knows it.  The ones who don’t know it are HR and that’s where the struggle begins and ends.  That’s why it will sometimes take weeks to schedule an interview.  You don’t want to bring anyone in until HR agrees with you on the salary range.

I had one hire who told me that his new salary was 100% higher than his previous salary.   That was a person who danced to work every day.


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Stupid Recruiter Story #2: How employers waste your time

In the May 23, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader tries really hard to satisfy a stupid recruiter who doesn’t give a rat’s batootie about job applicants.

Background

stupid recruiterWe’re going to skip the regular Q&A column in this edition. Instead, I’d like to highlight a problem that I think most job seekers face: Stupid recruiters (and employers) that waste your time. (For another example, see Stupid Recruiter Story #1.)

An Ask The Headhunter subscriber applied to a job posted by a major defense contractor in Silicon Valley. The job description is detailed and includes a list of qualifications. What happened next is an object lesson in how corrupt recruiting has become.

Here are the e-mails between the employer and applicant. Names have been redacted.

From the recruiter

[Dear Applicant],

Thank you for your resume submittal to Requisition Number: XXXXX – [Job Title – the job is in communications].  I have some additional questions for you in regards to this specific position.

Please take a few moments to review and respond to the questions below. For your reference, a copy of the job description is provided at the end of this message.

  • What is the primary reason you are seeking a new opportunity?
  • How does your background relate to this specific position?
  • How would you describe the role of internal/employee communications in terms of adding true business value to the company?
  • Briefly, what are some of the unique approaches or tools you have used to execute an internally focused communications plan?
  • How do you measure success?
  • What is your salary expectation (please provide a specific amount or range)?
  • Are you willing to work in United States>California>Sunnyvale?
  • What is the best way to contact you during the day? Please provide an email address or phone #.

Thanks again for your interest in this position and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Best regards,

[Recruiter’s Name and e-mail address]
Talent Acquisition

Those are some pretty heavy-duty questions if you’re the candidate — and your answers could make or break the opportunity. If it seems these are the kinds of questions you’d get in a face-to-face interview, it’s because they are.

How much time has the recruiter invested so far? Well, how long does it take to copy/paste?

The applicant responds

Happy Friday, [Recruiter’s name]!

Please see answers to questions below. The fact that I put much thought into these answers, as you will soon see, is an understatement. :)

[Applicant]

The applicant answers all the questions thoughtfully and in detail. He estimates he spent 45 minutes to an hour answering all the questions, plus time submitting the application.For our purposes, the answer to only one question is relevant.

  • What is your salary expectation (please provide a specific amount or range)? As in life, everything is negotiable, including salary. I’m sure there is a salary range in mind HR has budgeted for this role, and that will suit me fine. For me, waxing poetic about the job is more important right now. That said and major hint alert, Sunnyvale is in the heart of one of the most expensive places on the planet, Silicon Valley.  :)

This qualifies as, “I’ll show you mine, if you’ll show me yours first.” It’s an insulting way to entice, attract, recruit… or to start any personal interaction with another. (Here are more examples: 2 really insulting interview questions.) The applicant demurred politely.

From the applicant

Five days later, having heard nothing back, the applicant sends this e-mail:

Hi [Recruiter],

Haven’t heard from you in a while. Would love to take next steps.

Regards,

[Applicant]

From the stupid recruiter

Another day goes by. It’s clear why the recruiter has not responded already. But now she “circles back.”

Hi [Applicant],

My apologies on not circling back with you.  To your point on the expensive price tag of Silicon Valley, we really need to understand a candidate’s salary requirements prior to proceeding.  We have had a few too many cases of getting well down the road (even to offer), only to find out that our salary expectations do not line up.

If you could please circle back with me regarding where you currently are in salary and what your expectations are if you make a move, I will be able to let you know if that is within our range.

Best regards,
[Recruiter]
Sr. Talent Acquisition Business Partner

That e-mail could have taken as much as 2 minutes for the recruiter to write. In half the time, all the recruiter really needed to say was: “Salary range on the job is $X-$Y. If that suits you, let’s talk. Otherwise there’s no need for us to go farther down the road.”

But she didn’t do that. Having lured the applicant into investing a lot of time providing thoughtful answers to important interview questions, the recruiter now tries to get the applicant to compromise his negotiating position.

“Circle back?” Or, keep going in circles? “Prior to proceeding?” The applicant has proceeded pretty far already with nothing to show for it.

The recruiter says she is avoiding “getting well down the road.” But the stupid recruiter has sent the applicant well down the road already while she’s still ensconced in her personnel office, having invested nothing.

From the applicant

The applicant blind copied me on his last response to the recruiter.

Hi [Recruiter].

Happy Thursday. Hope this message finds you well. I’d like to introduce you a recruiting friend of mine, Nick. I think he has the answer you’re looking for.

Best Regards,

[Applicant]

Nick’s Advice

For the full effect of the applicant’s answer, you have to click the link he included.

What’s corrupt about this recruiting episode is that the recruiter teased the applicant about a job opportunity by asking him to deliver detailed answers to serious questions. These are questions that would normally be asked in a face-to-face interview. But the recruiter didn’t invest in an interview. She lured the applicant into wasting his time interviewing himself.

The recruiter doesn’t give a rat’s batootie about the job applicant. That’s stupid.

Let’s interview by e-mail!

The applicant never heard back from the recruiter. (See Rude Employers: Slam-Bam-Thank-You-Ma’m.) But he says he had a similar run-in with a recruiter at another defense contractor.

When I was on the phone with the in-house recruiter, she asked me about my salary. I said “negotiable.”

The response I got was criminal:

“That’s not good enough, [Applicant]. You’re going to have to tell me your range. Let’s start with your current job. How much are you making now?”

That’s not recruiting. That’s an interrogation by a hostile attorney. That’s not an interview. That’s a waste of time. Don’t interview by e-mail.

What qualifies this as a Stupid Recruiter Story is, of course, the recruiter’s abject stupidity. She chose this applicant from all submissions because he made the cut. He’s desirable. There’s nothing smart about insulting a job applicant you think might want to hire.

If you’re the job applicant, what can you do? Let’s talk about that.

Is you is, or is you ain’t?

After you’ve submitted an application or resume to an employer, either they’re interested in you, or they’re not. When employers respond after you apply, that means you made some kind of “cut.” You passed a test. You stood out enough. Expect an interview, or cut them off. When they try to take several bites of the apple by e-mail, they’re wasting your time.

When the recruiter replies to your application with more requests for more information, try one or more of these responses — which tests whether they’re really interested:

  • “Thanks for your interest. I’m glad you have more questions for me. I have questions not answered by your job description, too. When would you like to interview face to face?”
  • “As my application indicates, I’m interested in interviewing. If you are, too, let’s talk in person.”
  • “I applied, and you responded, so there’s mutual interest in discussing working together. When would you like to meet?”
  • “I applied for the job and you responded with interest. The next step is to meet. Sorry, but I don’t conduct interviews by e-mail or even on the phone. Since we’re both interested enough to contact one another, the next prudent step is an interview. If I don’t receive a date and time from you, I’ll expect you’re not really serious.”

If they is, good — have a meeting. If they ain’t, that’s good, too — it frees you to move on. Don’t let anyone waste your time.

So, why do job seekers do it?

Are we all crazy? You know as well as I do that this is how most “job opportunities” play out. So, why do job seekers do it? Why do they consent to wasting their time, when the employer invests no time? What could job seekers do to change all this?

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College Students: Start job search freshman year

In the May 16, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how college students can turn a degree into a job upon graduation.

Question

When I graduated high school at age 19 I tried to find a job in the town where I live. Well, I couldn’t get anybody to hire me so I made a resume. A couple of employers have my resume and are keeping it on file. So now I’m 20. I just started college. I enrolled so I could have a better chance at getting a job. Can you please give me some advice about how to make sure I have a job when I graduate?

college studentsNick’s Reply

Every job seeker I’ve ever known would love to have four years to find a job. College students do, so start now! I’ll try to show you how.

A college degree is the wise choice

Good for you for going to college. There seems to be a movement nowadays to skip college and either get a job immediately out of high school, or go to a trade school. Unfortunately, this is being cast as an either-or choice. It’s not. College is not just about getting a job. It’s about getting educated. But that doesn’t mean colleges can afford to ignore students’ need to get a job when they graduate.

While a college’s first mission is to deliver a good, well-rounded education, there’s no reason a college cannot also help its graduates get jobs. Sadly, few colleges provide effective career services. At best, they offer pedestrian tools and poor job-hunting advice delivered by inexperienced staffers, and a place where employers can post jobs for students. Telling students to “Make sure you visit Career Services!” is not enough — and colleges can do much, much more. Students and parents who pay for college should demand more.

Let’s look at what you can do from the first day of college to help ensure you’ll get a good job when you graduate. More important, let’s consider how every college and university can help every student do these things — and why every college and university must.

College Students: Start thinking about jobs now

College is a good move for you. But many people who finish college complain they still can’t get a good job. I think the reasons are clear. During college, they don’t do internships or get part-time jobs in good businesses. They don’t meet people who might hire them later.

I’m not saying to work so much during college that your studies suffer – don’t do that. For example, if you can study 100% of the time during your first year, that’s good. Get comfortable with your studies and learn to manage your education. But start thinking about jobs, too, and plan on experimenting with different kinds of work.

Experiment: Pick some companies

By the middle of year two, you should be thinking about what kinds of companies you might like to work for when you graduate. It’s more important to pick a few reasonable ones than to pick the ones you’ll ultimately start a career in. That is, you can change your mind later, and you’ll probably change it more than once. The point is to choose some kind of work you’d like to try part-time, and see where it leads you. (See Pursue Companies, Not Jobs.)

What’s important is not to pick the right job or company. It’s to learn how to experiment with work and to learn from each experiment.

An experiment might be a job at a deli or an internship with a company’s marketing department. But it must be something where you get your hands dirty doing real work, even if it’s just a little work for a little while. And, more important than having a job is meeting people in the world of work.

It’s all about people

Most jobs are found and filled through personal contacts, not through job postings, career centers, or employment agencies. College students’ first job is to meet people — preferably people who work in companies and on products and services you think you’re interested in. Those people will educate you about work and about jobs and employers. The sooner you start developing these contacts and learning from them, the better. (Do you think you have no contacts? See I don’t know anybody.)

Find people who work in the companies you think you’re interested in.

  • Ask your friends and fellow students if their parents or older friends work in those companies.
  • Ask to be introduced to those people – then ask those employees what it’s like to work there.
  • Or, ask your friends where their parents and friends work — and start selecting companies to explore that way.

Don’t be nervous. These are people who’ve been introduced to you. Talk to them.

How to say it
“I’m a long way from graduating, but I’m starting to learn about companies I might be interested in working for. You mentioned your brother works for ABC Corp. Do you think he’d be willing to talk with me about the company and his job — what it’s like to work there? Please keep in mind, I’m not looking for a job! I just want to learn about the company.”

Not everyone will be willing to talk with you, but my guess is most people will simply because they love to talk about their work — and they love to give advice to college students.

If you get these conversations, talk shop.

How to say it
“What’s it like to work in sales? (Or marketing, or engineering, or product development?)”
“I’d love to hear about your work. What do you actually do every day?”
“Is there something you’ve pulled off — a cool thing you’ve accomplished — that made you glad you have this job?”
“What does your boss look for when filling entry-level jobs?”
“What courses and training would be best for such jobs?”

You will learn a lot and, if you pay attention, these conversations are what will show you how to prepare for those kinds of jobs.

Meet the juniors and seniors

There’s one special class of people who can really help you if you will invest the time: College students more senior than you. They will graduate first, and they’ll have jobs while you’re still going to school. They’re the perfect channel for learning about many employers.

  • While you’re a freshman or sophomore, meet all the juniors and seniors you can at your college.
  • If you’re at a two-year school, meet second-year students.

These people are gold! Once they’re employed:

  • Hang out with them.
  • Go visit them at work.
  • Join them for lunch in their company cafeteria.
  • Meet them after work at local joints where employees hang out.
  • Become part of their group and make more friends among the employees.

Try to meet their bosses – not to ask for a job, but to ask about the business and about the work. This shows you’re motivated, but they don’t have to hire you now, so there’s no pressure on them.

You’re just making friends – with people you’ll work with later! All these people will remember you. While they’re tossing incoming resumes of people they don’t know in the trash, they will remember you. That’s where jobs come from. It’s very likely this is how they found their own jobs — via personal referral. (See Referrals: How to gift someone a job (and why).)

Cultivate friendships now

Once you meet all these people, don’t lose the new contacts you make! If you stay in touch, you’ll become a known entity to the insiders you become friendly with. Personal relationships can take years to develop before they might lead someone to introduce you to their boss about a job.

The point is, if you start doing this early, there’s no hurry. You have loads of time while you earn your degree. And by graduation, you should have loads of good, personal contacts — people who have gotten to know you well enough that they’re comfortable recommending you for a job to their company.

If you’re nervous about “networking,” don’t network. Never say or do anything that feels awkward. But I think you’ll never feel awkward if you approach a new contact by asking them about their work. People love to talk about themselves, so help them — and you’ll make new friends. (See “Make personal contacts to get a job? Awkward…” Get over it!)

Connect school to work

Whether you’re taking an Early American Literature course for fun, but want to be an engineer, or you’re studying accounting and you’d really like to be a social worker, there’s something in every academic course that can be applied to the work you’d like to do.

Writing a good Lit paper requires logical thinking and being able to show how premises A, B and C clearly lead to the conclusion you’re trying to make. You might laugh, but that’s how digital circuits work, too. Try to map the argument for your Lit paper using a circuit diagram. Show it to your engineering professor and to an engineer you meet through your friends.

Social work is usually funded through public sources of money. If you’re studying accounting, try to map out a business model for a social services agency. Go meet the manager of such an agency and ask how its success is calculated. Better yet, ask your accounting professor to invite the head of a social services agency to give a talk to your class.

These are just two examples of how to stimulate useful discussions. That’s how you make friends who have the kinds of jobs you want!

college studentsColleges have an obligation to deliver ROI

Colleges don’t like to make these connections. They claim it detracts from time spent on a course’s subject matter. Bunk. Colleges are good at teaching what, but Colleges fail How. They don’t make the connection between education and how to do work.

I tell college administrators that every course should include one class session that features someone from the work world talking about these connections — no matter how far-flung or weird they are!

If all college students had one class period in every course over four years where someone from the real world of work came to discuss how an academic topic could be related to a job, those students would meet dozens of people who could help mentor them into jobs upon graduation. (They’d have some fun discussions, too!)

That’s where job opportunities come from!

Colleges love to cite job placement rates and salaries of new grads (when the statistics suit their marketing campaigns), but they don’t like to talk about their second big obligation. School is not just about getting educated. Colleges also have an enormous obligation to show return on investment (ROI) to those students who want to get a good job after graduation. Imagine any college or university administrator explaining to the parents who fund an education that, “This isn’t about college students getting a good job.”

Start small

These methods for meeting people and talking shop — you can start using them freshman year — should lead you to opportunities for part-time or summer jobs or internships. But, what kinds of jobs should you pursue?

It almost doesn’t matter. Start small and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. If a company you meet this way will let you work part-time, take the job, even if it’s not exactly the kind of job you’d want after graduation. The point is, once you’re in there, you can meet people in the departments where you really want to work. Once again — it’s all about the people you meet. The more, the better! You have four years to parlay these relationships into a job.

Ask them about their work – make friends with them. Let them see you’re a dedicated worker and really interested in what they do. (Just be careful. Don’t be a pest and don’t stalk them!)

The point is simple: Take any job you can get, to meet people in the companies where you’d like to work later. They’re the ones who will recommend you for jobs you really want when you graduate.

Invest

You can already see this takes time. It can take quite a bit of time. It can take even seasoned professionals two or more years of getting to know people before they consider you seriously for a job. I know how that sounds, but it’s true. It’s why it’s so hard for college students to find a good job from job postings — there’s no one you can get to know by filling out forms online. If it hasn’t dawned on you already, the “people approach” is a lot more fun than responding to ads!

People who just submit resumes and fill out online applications get passed over because the hiring managers don’t know them. Managers hire who they know. (See Why am I not getting hired?)

While you’re in school, take advantage of this fact and circulate widely among people who do the kind of work you want to do. Invest. Rack up all the time you can being around people you’d like to work with. Try to meet their bosses – they will remember you later.

Why this works

Smart managers tend to hire people they know, or people known to their employees. While this might bother you because it seems unfair, consider that it’s prudent because it lowers the risk of getting a lousy worker. Would you loan money to a friend, or a total stranger? Would you trust your business to someone a friend vouched for, or someone you don’t know anything about? This is just basic human nature – but it’s not unfair. It’s a good survival mechanism.

So, your challenge while you’re in college is to get to know people who know people at the places where you want a job in a few years. Start now. You’ll get hired because someone that knows you vouched for you.

(To learn more about what to do when you get in front of a hiring manager, see Ask The Headhunter In A Nutshell: The short course.)

Be honest and give back

Never do what I’m suggesting just to get what you want. Make real friends. Only hang out with people you’re really interested in – and be a good, honest friend yourself.

Don’t just expect something from others – do things to help them, too. Give back. This is not about manipulating anyone to get what you want. It’s about making real friends in places where you’d like to work. It’s about building a good reputation long before you get hired. It’s about creating trust.

Once you’ve made friends in the work world, it’s natural to ask them for advice when it’s near time to get a job. One (or more) of them will introduce you to your next boss. Not all of them, of course. But you need just one.

The four-year job search

I think college will be a wonderful experience for you. And if you find your college doesn’t do much to prepare you to get a job, go talk to your college president. Ask why your career is not high on your school’s priority list. Then suggest that every course should include one class session that features someone from the world of work exploring connections between the course topic and a job. Ask why your college does not regularly, and as part of the curriculum, introduce you to alumni who can show you how your education applies to work.

To ensure you’ll get a good job when you graduate, start your job search your freshman year. I wish you the best! Study hard — and meet lots of people who do the kinds of work you think you’d like to do!

Should college prepare you to get a job? If you went to college, what help did your school provide to start your career? What do you think colleges should do — above and beyond delivering education — to ensure graduates get jobs?

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CEO to job applicant: “Hiring is not my job!”

In the May 9, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader discovers that a company’s high turnover problems start with the CEO.

Question

In a recent column (Consulting Firms: Strike back and stir the pot) you said we should contact a company’s CEO if the HR department’s hiring process is nutty. So I did. The CEO actually called me back!

ceoFirst, a little background.

Let us bother your references

I talked with a hiring manager who, despite having my resume, told me that I was required to fill out the online application in order to go further in the hiring process. When I got to the section for references, there was no way for me to proceed until I had typed in names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and where my references work.

I called the hiring manager and politely explained that I cherish my references and don’t want them bothered until a job offer looks like a real possibility. He fobbed me off onto HR, saying it was “government regulations” that required them to ask for references. I know better. There are no government regulations that require applicants to list references.

I also remembered one of your previous newsletters which discussed how some employers are outsourcing reference checking to third parties, sending references e-mail forms to fill out instead of having the hiring manager telephone the references and talk to them about the candidate. But the manager wanted me to discuss it with HR, so I did. HR refused to budge, and the hiring manager caved to HR.

I even asked HR how they handle reference checks, and I was told that wasn’t any of my business, so that clinched it for me. I walked away since there was no offer on the table.

Come back!

A few weeks later the hiring manager called me back, asking if I was still interested! I said, “Yes, but…”, reiterating my concern about disclosing my references. He started sucking air, complained that there’s no good help out there, and that everyone has to provide their references up front because of “government regulations.” Once again, I walked away.

That’s when I e-mailed the CEO. I was shocked when he called me, but we had a very pleasant chat. You were right, Nick — he was unaware of HR’s requirements in order to proceed to an interview. But I also learned that he was perfectly content to leave all aspects of the hiring up to HR.

CEO: Out to lunch

He seemed puzzled that there are no government regulations requiring applicants to list their references and their contact information before an offer is on the table, much less accepted. He breezily informed me that he doesn’t worry about hiring because that is HR’s job, that he doesn’t believe in interfering in the hiring process, and that HR knows best because that is what they do!

That tells me a great deal about the company — much more than I could have gleaned from an interview. No wonder the hiring manager seemed so rattled! The company is small, there is a lot of turnover, and little to no guidance from the CEO. He’s out to lunch! It isn’t a start-up, but they’re flying by the seat of their pants, putting out fires as they break out — and they are breaking out with greater frequency as people get disgusted and leave.

So I thanked the CEO for calling me, told him that I was no longer interested, and wished him and the company luck in their future endeavors. (You might recognize that as standard fare in kiss-off letters HR sends to rejected job candidates.) I already have a wishy-washy boss who can’t make even simple decisions such as hiring extra help. We are constantly short-staffed and the underlings are putting out the fires.

I decided not to go from the frying pan into the fire (assuming that I’d be hired at the other place).

A stinky company

The other concern I had about the laissez faire CEO is that, when you’re that disengaged from the day to day goings-on of your business, that’s a recipe for a company to go belly-up, because the person who is in charge isn’t involved.

Although I made the decision to walk away when HR refused to let me proceed without providing my references, my conversation with the CEO confirmed my decision.  I have no regrets and don’t give it any thought. You’re right: On to the next!

I have learned so much from your comments and advice, and from the other readers’ comments.  I feel that I’m a better educated job hunter now than I was before I signed up for your newsletter.

I think you could have a whole new job educating CEOs about the importance of sane hiring practices.  Or maybe teach this subject as a graduate course in business school — then you’d get them before they become CEOs and abdicate their authority to HR.

I concluded that HR in this company does what it does because the CEO doesn’t care. Fish stink from the head down.

Nick’s Reply

Wow — what a story! We touched on the problem of top managers avoiding recruiting and hiring tasks in Small Business Owner: I’m too busy to hire help!

I’m not sure the employer in your story wins a prize for citing “government regulations” as the reason for demanding references so early. That goes to employers that demand salary history before they’ll interview anyone. But this CEO wins the prize for taking a career-long lunch!

It sounds to me like you did the right thing. The company gave you some clear signs that it’s not worth working for.

  • Management is indecisive and powerless. (The manager had your resume but insisted that you regurgitate your work history in an online form.)
  • Management doesn’t woo good candidates. (The employer wanted you to deliver references before it bothered to invest in meeting you first.)
  • HR doesn’t know the law.
  • HR sacrificed a candidate the hiring manager was eager to interview (twice!) because there’s no good help out there.
  • Turnover is high.
  • The CEO thinks hiring is not his job!

While the hiring manager defers to HR, the high turnover suggests the problem is higher up than HR. You found the problem in the C-suite. The CEO might find another way in Smart Hiring: A manager who respects applicants.

Your experience highlights two key rules about picking an employer that we discuss here again and again.

  • First, judge a company by its hiring practices.
  • Second, talk to top management before taking a job.

What you see at the interview stage is what you’ll get on the job. When the CEO doesn’t care about hiring, middle managers leave it up to HR, and HR takes its cue from the CEO.

Oh, yeah: The lesson

Thanks for sharing your experience, and my compliments for drawing the right conclusions. You showed us what it means when a company pushes a job candidate unreasonably, and how important it is to talk to a company’s top management. But there’s actually a more subtle lesson in your story.

When they’re job hunting, people rationalize. They’re afraid they won’t get picked, so they tolerate all kinds of niggling abuse. Making someone jump through hoops — online forms, silly rules about when references are due, eating dust when HR serves it — is not right, smart, or good business. But job seekers will probably jump through hoops because they want a shot at a job. Or that’s what they tell themselves. It’s for a shot at the job. So they tolerate demeaning and meaningless demands.

That hiring manager who wanted to hire you so badly that he called you after you rejected the company wanted you to rationalize the company’s behavior because he rationalizes it.

The lesson is, don’t. Being asked to address a challenge about how you’d the job, or about your work ethic — that’s legit. But when an employer demands something demeaning from you, it tells you it’s a demeaning employer. The lesson is, as Marcus Aurelius once said, “to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”

Have you ever rationalized a company’s nutty hiring practices to get a shot at a job? Yah — I’m needling you. I’ve caved to such treatment, and I’m not proud of it. Maybe by sharing our blunders we can help one another avoid them!

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