Subscribe
The insider's edge on job search & hiring™

Monthly archive for May 2008

Say, I love you

This is a classic interview failure. I’d guess that good candidates fail to get an offer 80% of the time because they don’t know how to say, “I love you.”

Why don’t my interviews produce any offers?

I recently had what I feel are very good interviews. Most of these interviews lasted a couple of hours with the main decision maker, yet I don’t get any job offers. A good friend (who works in engineering management like I do) says that I need to tell the interviewer I want the job, but I think that’s obvious. Why would I be in the interview if I didn’t want the job? It just seems a little awkward to say that explicitly, almost like I’m begging. Who’s right?

Failing to say explicitly that you want the job is a critical mistake. You must say it.

Read more

Roasting the job description

Last time, I talked about Hiring people who will succeed. Of course, this implies that a manager knows how to hire, or it doesn’t matter how good the stream of candidates is, or how well they perform on tests or in interviews. Sorry to insult a few million people, but in general I think most managers suck at interviewing and hiring. It’s not because they’re dopes; it’s because they act like dopes because the process is dopey.

Take a random manager. He or she probably does a pretty good job running their operation and managing their team. They get the product — whatever it is — out the door. Now, cut to the hiring process, and they open The Rules of Hiring Handed Down by the HR Gods. We quickly shift from getting the work done to acquiring the talent. The manager fills out the HR form — the job description. HR massages it. The objective is to find the perfect candidate who fits the specs and can hit the ground running on day #1. Now the job description has less to do with the job, and more to do with who is The Perfect Candidate.

Trouble is, The Perfect Fit, Isn’t. None of them are. Even a headhunter never finds the perfect fit, and we try. So, now the poor manager is left to acquire the talent, as defined in the job description, and the incoming talent is busy trying to slather itself with key words from the job description. Presto! Everyone is now on the spit, the coals are stoked, and we’re all about to get burned. Read more

Hiring people who will succeed

My good friend Tom is a software developer. He’s incredibly smart, and he has one dominant criterion for hiring people. They must have a high IQ. A very high IQ. He considers other attributes, but IQ is the first hurdle. Many employers put job candidates through various tests, and make the first cut of applicants that way. Some use skills tests; others go for aptitude; some even start with personality.

I’m not big on tests in the hiring process. I want to spend time with a candidate, and I want to talk to people who know them and to people who have worked with them. (The candidates won’t necessarily know who I’m talking to. I want my own picture. But that’s just me.) Often, I won’t even meet a candidate if I don’t already know all about them. Some managers won’t interview candidates until after they’ve seen test results. (Erica Klein’s excellent article, Employment Tests: Get an edge, is a good start to researching this topic.)

If I had to use a test, I know what it would be. I would give it only after checking after the individual’s reputation (which includes intelligence). It’s the test of optimism that Martin Seligman provides in his outstanding book, Learned Optimism. Read more

Advice for schools & students

I was recently interviewed by IT Management, a publication whose focus is self-evident. The title of the article is provocative: The Failure of Universities. The gist is this: Do colleges prepare students for jobs? Good question, and one that education and industry don’t do a good job of grappling with.

I’m a big believer in education for its own sake. Anyone will benefit from a college degree, just because it will make you a better thinker and a more well-rounded person. But, preparation for a job is not mutually exclusive from an academic education. In fact, I believe it’s a necessary component of a complete education. I won’t repeat myself here; it’s in the article. My aim in doing the interview was to challenge schools with some advice about how to help their grads be better workers. What do you think?

Students need advice, too. An “old regular” (though he’s not so old!) Ask The Headhunter reader recently shared with me some advice he was asked to give to a young college student. I liked it so much that I asked Vinh Pham to let me publish it — pretty much as-is. He graciously agreed.

I like the conversational tone of Vinh’s advice in Advice to a young college student, and the earnest encouragement he offers. Vinh’s message is simple and profound: Explore. I believe the kind of exploration he recommends helps students make the critical connections between education and work — and helps lead them toward the right kind of work.

See what you think.

Just say NO

A reader worries about my advice to not divulge salary history when applying for a job.

RE: Your comments on salary requirements in your article about divulging salary history.

You suggest writing “confidential” or crossing out “salary history” and writing “required salary.” This only works if you are manually filling out a job application. Jobs online will not allow such latitude. You MUST put in a dollar amount as it is a protected field.

No, you don’t need to fill in a field that puts you at a disadvantage. (If you provide your salary history, you will sacrifice your ability to negotiate salary later.) You can skip it, and you can skip the online application altogether. You are too worried about following instructions, and not concerned enough about where those instructions will lead you — into a holding pen with thousands of other unremarkable competitors. People who feel they must fill in a dollar amount also tend to feel they must answer the phone even when they are busy doing something else. Your action is up to you. Just say NO.

Instead of filling out a data field that puts you at a disadvantage, stop, figure out who is the manager involved, and get in touch directly. This takes work; much more than filling out a form. (If you aren’t willing to do this work, you don’t deserve the job. Why apply at all? Pick a company for which you are willing to do the hard work necessary to stand out from your competition.)

Job hunters want to know how they can distinguish themselves from their competition. To a manager who is tired of speculators who fill out those online forms, a diligent job hunter who actually finds the manager and calls… now, there’s distinction, and a reason for the manager to talk to you.

Don’t confuse filling out a form with pursuing a job. Don’t confuse applying for a job with showing a manager that you are worth talking to.

Just say NO to requests for salary history that will put you at a disadvantage in negotiations.

The male economy

The title of this entry could just as easily have been, “The female economy.” Or, “The case for marriage.” The news about jobs is so bad that it seems the press and the Bureau of Labor Statistics have come up with a doozy to get your attention. (That is, if you’re not too busy looking for a job.)

The Slumping Economy: It’s a guy thing. BusinessWeek reports that men seem to be losing their jobs at a rate alarmingly higher than women. And the reason? Guys have too many guy-jobs; you know, hammering nails, doing stuff that requires muscle but no tenderness. Women, on the other hand, are in nurturing lines of work, like nursing and education. Those jobs are booming. (Pay attention, guys with hammers: This is important. I’ll offer you a solution in a second.)

Women still get paid less, on the whole, because they’re women. Now, make some sense of this. Women are in the booming business of health and education. Booming. Demand for good workers. But they get paid less.

Follow me so far? Nah, I didn’t think so. Because I read the article, and I don’t follow it, either. I can only surmise that employers are out of their minds. Industries that are suffering are laying guys off. Booming industries are paying women less. Is there really a difference?

The answer, I think, is for the male economy and the female economy (hey, I didn’t make this up — those are the terms BusinessWeek uses) to get married. Then, out-of-work guys (who have nothing better to do) can go beat up the employers of the women, until employers start paying fair wages and salaries. With all the money they’ll make, women will buy new houses, and their new husbands can go back to work. (Special tip to the guys: do not make improvements to your existing home. That wil never yield you a new job, and the economy will never be repaired.)

Get it now? I thought so. If you keep reading the news, you will never get a job.

Rickety, leads nowhere

Since the first job boards came online, entrepreneurs have been trying to find ways to create a true headhunter-class service for job hunters and employers. The objective: to be able to charge the top fees headhunters do. Hey, a smart, no-barriers-to-success business mind should be able to figure it out. So it began. Bill Warren’s Online Career Center — the true granddaddy of job boards — launched on a gopher system, quickly followed by Monster.com and others. Niche boards followed, and “executive” services sprouted — and came and went, and came and went. No one was able to crack the headhunter code. No online service has been able to charge, say, $30,000 to fill a position.

So, these wanna-be’s started to do the next best thing: Lie. Headhunter.net offered a higher-class service, based on nothing more than its name. More recently, TheLadders was launched as the job service offering “the most $100k+ jobs.” For $180 per year, you get access. To what? Well, it’s not clear.

TheLadders uses the term “$100k” — $100,000 — 23 times on its About page. $100k appears four times in one paragraph of just three sentences. This is headhunter country, and Ladders comes right out and says it caters to “executive-level” people — and to HR departments seeking them. The message is that Ladders isn’t your run-of-the-mill jobs site. It’s “expressly for the $100k+ job seeker.” The promise is that, “Never again will you find yourself trolling through mid-level or bogus job listings on other, less-targeted job boards!” Read more

Monster bash: Jeff Taylor ROCKS

Okay, I’m a sucker for dirt on Monster.com and its ilk. And I love to share it. A reader sent this along, after attending the annual CIO Conference sponsored by the New Jersey Technology Council (NJTC), held in Princeton, NJ on March 28. (CIO’s are Chief Information Officers — the top information-technology dogs, at their companies.)

I recently heard the founder of Monster.com, Jeff Taylor, speak. Of course, he’s a successful millionaire and quite full of himself, sporting the obligatory dot-com founder’s “edgy” look — gel-spiked hair, salt-and-pepper goatee, trendy thick-framed sunglasses with vertical stripes (yes, I’m serious). He exhorted the audience to chant in unison, “WE ROCK!” and “HALLELUJAH!” to his callouts — as though we were in church — and insisted we take our shoes off and point them at anyone who hadn’t done so, to make his point about adopting new ideas. Although he’s retired from Monster and was there to hawk his new company, he of course traded on his fame as the founder of the “incredibly successful” Monster.com “job board.”

One problem. Read more