The insider's edge on job search & hiring™

Monthly archive for April 2008

IYFQ’s: Answers #2

In my last post I tried to tackle half the In Your Face Questions folks posted recently. Let’s get on with the rest…

JB King: If a recruiting firm only gets paid once someone is placed, why wouldn’t they want the company to have a churn so that they place more people there? Maybe the company would wise up and expect more, but how can that be worked out so that the company gets a good hire and the recruiting firm isn’t trying to pull something?

Headhunters have no control over whether a company has high employee churn. A headhunter should not be recruiting from his or her clients, and the agreement between them should ensure that. A good headhunter (yah, that’s a loaded term) would not want to continue to place good people in a company where there is high turnover, because it would have an adverse effect on the headhunter’s reputation. That’s why it’s important for companies and job hunters to check out the headhunter — how good is the reputation? Then prepare a solid written agreement.

JB King: Why does it seem that there are places that like to stockpile resumes and not really do much with them?

This is a sign of sheer bureaucratic idiocy. HR departments run job ads and collect resumes even when they have no job openings. They seem to think that the more resumes they have on file, the better off they are. But resumes have a shelf-life of about three months. After that, key candidate factors are likely to change: motivation to interview, availability, salary, location, and more. When a person submits a resume about a specific job, they’re not likely to jump at a different job a year later just because HR calls. Read more

IYFQ’s: Answers #1

In IYFQ’s: Why you can’t get hired or hire good people, I asked readers to post In Your Face Questions about job hunting and hiring for which there seem to be no good answers. You came through in spades — I cringed often enough while reading them that I know you know what I mean by IYFQ’s.

The responses, advice, and comments from readers are what I was really looking for — good ideas! My favorite astutely-cynical posting is Groucho’s answer to a question with another question: “Do you really think the people you’re interveiwing can’t make up stories?”

My job is to answer IYFQ’s, and while I didn’t want to dominate the thread, I’m going to attempt a marathon Q&A session. If you find one useful idea below, I’m happy. If my suggestions arouse your ire, well, there’s a Reply button down there, too… Read more

Bad-boy headhunters

I critique bad HR practices with relish, but there’s nothing worse than a bad-boy headhunter. (They come in female, too, of course.) The worst is a headhunter who brushes you off, then torpedoes a job you found for yourself. The lesson: Beware what you tell a headhunter. A reader brings the scenario into clear focus:

After an interview, I asked the headhunter if I was in the running. I explained that I was expecting a formal offer for another position (that I found on my own) and that my time-frame was tight — I had to make a decision quickly. The headhunter said he would not be taking me forward as I did not have enough management experience. He advised me to take the other job. But here’s the rub. I found out that the headhunter personally called the company where I was getting an offer and told them I was totally incompetent, would not be worthy for any position, and that they not hire me. He suggested that the company instead let the headhunter find them a truly worthy candidate. This is outrageous! Do I have any legal recourse?

Arrrggghhh. Lesson #1 about job offers: Never divulge to anyone where you are going until the deal is signed, sealed, delivered, and you are on board at the new company. Including your current employer, your co-workers, and headhunters. Read more

Beyond mediocrity: Hiring teams

What’s the trend in hiring today that desperately signals the need for a new trend? Hiring mediocre people.

The clearest sign that companies make too many mediocre hires is the prevalence of garbage-in recruiting methods, all centered on the online seine fishing technique. Companies cast a wide net and pull in anything they can get. This in turn promotes random applications from job hunters who are looking for a job, any job. Rather than targeting smart problem-solvers they’d love to recruit, employers limit themselves to the lesser-of-evils. Is it any wonder businesses find themselves in trouble? They’re not hiring the talent they need; they’re hiring who comes along. So, where’s the desired talent? Busy working, not trawling the job boards for random jobs.

Which brings me to what I believe will be the next hiring trend. Companies will hire teams of people rather than individuals. Why? Because companies need solutions, not just more hires. They need concrete plans and schedules for getting a job done, not resumes that describe past history.

Consider what happens when you shove your resume in a manager’s face (or e-mail box). You’re not solving the manager’s problem. You’re telling the manager, “Here I am. Here are my credentials. Here’s my history. Here are my achievements. Now, you go figure out what the hell to do with me.Read more

Why Johnny doesn’t work

The dominant explanation for why students aren’t graduating with technical degrees is H-1B and outsourcing. It goes like this: Because American companies send technical jobs overseas, and because they hire foreign nationals under the H-1B visa program, (both supposedly at lower cost than hiring Americans), students regard technical careers (in electronics engineering, software development, information technology) as undesirable. They believe they won’t get healthy salaries or enjoy any reasonable job security. They may be right.

But I see another trend that’s far more disturbing than the behavior of companies and students. K-12 schools seem to be de-emphasizing the fundamentals of technology. They seem to be teaching kids how to be technology consumers rather than designers. A case in point is my local school district, which recently spent over $30M to build a state-of-the-art middle school. Every classroom is wired for sound, video, and computers. Every teacher has a laptop, and big LCD displays dot the facility. The auditorium is state-of-the-art; the soundboard alone blows away what you’d find in most commercial theaters. The school is equipped with a video production facility that kids use to produce what’s described as professional-quality videos. The computer lab lets kids use sound samples to produce their own music CD’s. It’s all really great.

The trouble is, no one is teaching the kids how all this technology works, and how they can build their own. Read more

IYFQ’s: Why you can’t get hired or hire good people

A good event sparks good ideas, whether you’re a speaker or in the audience. And a recent gig I did for the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) left me with a thought-provoking challenge I’d like to share with you.

In 2007, Microsoft asked me to participate in a webinar titled Ignite Your Career. I’ve listened in on some webcasts over the years, and they typically taste like dry bread… no thanks. This event was satisfying (and not just because I was in it). The MSDN team in Canada did a great job of assembling a panel of speakers who didn’t pull punches. Key to the quality of the thing was that one of our Microsoft hosts continually gave us questions he was receiving from the audience, and encouraged candid dialogue. I enjoyed it so much that I actually did two of these for Microsoft Canada (Building Your Skill Set and Career Opportunities for IT Pros — no matter what line of work you’re in, I can almost guarantee you’ll learn something useful).

The challenge came up during the post-mortem the panelists did after the second webinar. We were talking about what we did right and what we could have done better. One of our hosts — the guy who was reading us questions from the audience throughout the 90 minutes — sheepishly apologized to a panelist for “throwing you an in-your-face question without giving you much time to think about it.” Read more

How much money should I ask for?

A reader wants to know how much money to ask for:

“I’m considering a position, but I have no idea how much such a position ought to pay. My last employer compensated me at approximately $60K plus stock options, etc. How can I figure this out?”

You’re asking about a specific position, but the approach I’m about to describe applies to all sorts of positions when you’re trying to decide what kind of compensation to ask for.

There’s no way to determine what to ask for until you know more about the work this company wants you to do. What you earned at your last job has little to do with what you’re worth to this company. And that’s really the key: what are you worth to this employer?

To answer that question, you’ve got to do your homework. Read more