The insider's edge on job search & hiring™

Monthly archive for July 2009

LIVE Ask The Headhunter WNYC Radio – July 30

Whew… it’s been a rush of a few days… Wednesday at Fort Dix with 1,000 soldiers returning from Iraq… yesterday in Manhattan for the fourth Ask The Headhunter segment on New York Public Radio with Brian Lehrer. This episode was more fun than usual because we did it in the studio with a live audience — they asked some great questions, and so did folks calling in.

We closed the WNYC series with Odds and Ends: Closing the Deal — Should you disclose your salary to an employer? Can an employer ask you for a pay stub from your last job? What should you do to follow up after an interview? Should you always negotiate for more money? And more… here’s the audio from yesterday’s show:

Many thanks to Brian Lehrer and his fine staff for their hospitality! And special thanks to those listeners who responded to my little on-the-air recruiting experiment: I presented three searches I’m working on and asked interested listeners to e-mail me their resumes. I was stunned by the volume and quality of the responses! One of my clients exclaimed, “People who listen to public radio are the kinds of people we want to hire!”


Mentors for Soldiers

On July 29-30 the US Army is welcoming almost 1,000 troops returning from Iraq at Fort Dix in New Jersey. They need mentors to help them back into jobs.

These soldiers will start their re-entry into the work force at a special two-day Career Fair. I’m happy to be giving the keynote presentation to help put them on the right track. Many other volunteers will be providing coaching and advice at that event, too.

The logo of Fort Dix features a soldier and the phrase The Ultimate Weapon. The Army gets it — It’s all about the people, not the hardware.

Once they leave the Army, these troops will be The Ultimate Workers.

It won’t be easy to do Q&A with 1,000 soldiers during a 40 minute presentation on July 28. So I’m inviting the troops to post their questions, comments, (rants!) on this blog thread. I invite Ask The Headhunter readers to join me in mentoring soldiers — putting our heads together to offer advice, guidance and any help we can.

Soldiers in transition: Please post your questions below in the Comments section. We’ll do our best to help and mentor.

Welcome home!


How to Say It: I want more money

Now we get to the juicy part of every job interview… the part where most job applicants blow it. Read my lips: After an employer makes you an offer, you cannot just ask for more money without explaining why more money for you is good for the company.

Duh… Yet job candidates sit there and say, “Uh, you ought to raise the offer because it’s not enough. The salary surveys say a job like this pays 20% more than you’re offering me…”

And when the savvy employer responds, “Oh, yeah? Show me the exact same job as this one that pays 20% more,” you look like an idiot. Because no salary survey describes the exact same job you’re talking about…

In this week’s Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader asks:

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?

If you read the newsletter, you know what my advice is. I’ll post part of it here soon… but I’d rather hear your suggestions first. (Even if you want to suggest that I should sit on my advice and rotate. ;-)

The reader who submitted this question hopes you have a good suggestion regardless… (But do me a favor, subscribe to the newsletter — it’s free — and at least we’ll all be on the same page the next time we do one of these.)


Forum: Re-starting after bankruptcy

In the Readers’ Forum section of this week’s Ask The Headhunter Newsletter there’s a question from a reader that fits into a category I don’t use on this blog: “There but for the grace of God go I…” Maybe I oughta add it.

I went through a personal and business bankruptcy. I’m gradually getting back up on my feet. I’ve never had financial problems before, but the economic times hit me hard. Now I need to jumpstart the rest of my life. How should I handle this when a potential employer asks me about it?

If several things were to get very weird all at once, it could be any one of us asking this question. You go belly-up financially, but you finally get an interview, and the employer wants to know more. What do you say? How do you handle it?

Managers — Under what circumstances would you still hire someone who went bankrupt?


LIVE Ask The Headhunter WNYC Radio – July 23

We’re at it again today, Thursday July 23, 10:40am ET, on WNYC public radio: LIVE Ask The Headhunter on the Brian Lehrer Show. Join us! (And save $10… )

****UPDATE: Here’s the audio of today’s event. (How’d it go? Listener rylee from manhattan said: “I love this segment, very helpful. If you could find more experts like this guy, it would provide a very enlightening discussion.” Thanks, rylee!)

WNYC is at 93.9 FM, 820 AM — and “streaming live” on the web at This is part of a weekly Ask The Headhunter Series during July…

This week’s topic: How to Work With Headhunters.

This is a call-in show — Bring your questions! The last two weeks, we got so many calls that we’ve decided to extend the Ask The Headhunter program with a LIVE online chat today…

****UPDATE: Man, did we get questions today…! I type at 120wpm and my fingers are toasted…. The chat transcript is here (click the “replay” button when you get there…) In the meantime, I’ll take more questions here on the blog for those whose questions didn’t get answered.

And for more about headhunters… check out How to Work With Headhunters — instant delivery via download (PDF format). Do they recruit you then ignore you? Do they frustrate you? Don’t know how to find a good one? Want to know what makes headhunters tick so you can leverage better job offers? Learn how to separate the job from the offer… Check out the intro, table of contents and sample sections here.

And for WNYC listeners… here’s a special discount code to save you $10 on the book: tenoffnync


Q&A: Why do people pay to use job boards?

I just answered this one on LinkedIn’s Answers section.

Why are so many “job boards” charging job seekers to look for jobs or post their resumes?

Nick’s Reply
The job boards serve a very important service to smart employers and smart headhunters: For a fee (paid by job hunters and paid again by employers who post jobs), these boards effectively corral people who are looking for a job, any job.

These boards clear the playing field for us so we can focus on potential candidates who (1) aren’t desperate, (2) reflect their reputations among other professionals who are glad to recommend them, (3) would rather talk only to legitimate employers, rather than field calls from multi-level marketers and scam “headhunters.”

The more the boards charge, and the more “exclusive” they make themselves out to be, the more the hordes flock to them… and the better they separate opportunists from people who know what they want. I love it. More power to the job boards. (Forget about the fact that last year, companies filled only these percentages of their openings thru these boards — Monster, 3.14%; CareerBuilder, 3.95%; HotJobs, 1.35%. Source: Lotsa luck.)

Keep it up. You, too, can compete with all job hunters… while managers are interviewing the few people they hire through personal contacts. (40%-70% of jobs are found and filled through personal contacts, depending on which surveys you look at.)

Disclosure: I’m a headhunter. Further disclosure: Headhunters fill only about 3% of jobs. But we spend all our time hanging out with people who do the work our clients need done.


Q&A: Where should recruiters look for candidates?

A recruiter from a consulting firm asks whether I really shun job boards, and where to find good candidates really fast…

I caught you on NPR last week and thought you were a breath of fresh air! I am in the process of letting our CareerBuilder job posting account loose. First, because it costs a lot and secondly, because you are absolutely right, most of the jobs we post are bogus after the first 24 hours. Okay, I promise I’m getting to my question…

Are you saying don’t use any job boards? And if so, what’s the best way to find talent FAST if you don’t have someone in your database or pipeline when a requirement comes in? Especially when in some cases you have a little as fifteen minutes to get to that great candidate before a flurry of other firms do. I’m avidly learning LinkedIn but that seems to be better for making client connections than ones with candidates.

Nick’s Reply
Thanks for the kind words.

I don’t think your clients pay you to race your competition. They pay you to find the best people. What you’re doing is competing with other recruiters for a limited pool of people whose resumes are on job boards.

Anyone whose resume is on a job board is already “used up” and picked over. Your odds of closing a deal are way diminshed even before you contact them… so that 15 minutes doesn’t matter much. It’s already too late.

Where are the people who are not on the boards? They’re among your network. I just don’t see the point of pulling some resume off a board and sending it to a client who probably already has it from some other firm or agency… It’s a waste of time. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather poll my contacts and scratch my head… and go look where the competition doesn’t.

Why the focus on finding people in data bases? Try investing half that time in meeting new people in the industry you recruit from. When you call those people later on about an assignment you’re working on, they won’t be on the other line with your competitors…

I know it’s a hard business. But step back and ask yourself, what are you doing? And, what should you be doing? Do you have a line in the data base pool, waiting for a nibble? Or do you have good relationships with great people in the community you recruit from — who can reliably refer you to the people your clients need?

My compliments on cutting CareerBuilder loose. Invest the money instead in taking a shining light in your industry to lunch!


Q&A: No connections, no opportunities

As someone who’s rather “out of the loop,” living out in the country, I don’t have social or business connections with the folks at the in-city companies for which I should be working. Is there any best method for finding and approaching the decision-makers who have the problems that I certainly can solve?

Until now I’ve depended on the whims of personnel jockeys, but now that doesn’t work, the listed jobs being so few. Personally, I have no lack of work, but it’s all farm work on my farm, and leads to gaposis of the
resume. I’m sure that in spite of the absence of job listings, the problems are still out there, hidden from me. How do I best find them and the folks who need them solved?

Nick’s Reply
Gaposis… That’s a good one!

But there’s no excuse for gaposis in relationships… You can meet those people online. Through LinkedIn, through business/professional web sites that have discussion forums, and by e-mailing them after you’ve read an article in which they are mentioned.

Make a contact or two that way, and it’s worth leaving the farm for a visit to the big city ;-).

I have a similar problem. My office is out in the boonies. And I love it here. But I make time to go to the city (and to big towns!) and to hang out among the people who do the work I do (and want to do). Face time is more precious than online time… You just have to do it.

Did you go to college? Does your alumni association have a branch in a nearby city? Join, go, mingle. Don’t worry about meeting people at the companies where you want to work. A few “links” and soon you’ll be finding them.


Forum: Mo’ money for contract jobs?

This reader feels taken advantage of by the “consulting company” she works for. What’s your advice?

I read your article about how to negotiate with a headhunter for a better offer. But if it’s a temp or contract job, how do you ask the agency for more money? You know how they’re short-changing you to begin with: If they say the job pays $14 an hour, aren’t they really getting at least $18 from their client while they pay you only $14?

When is it appropriate to ask for an additional buck or two? Or is it best to keep your mouth shut in this economy because there are tons of other candidates behind you willing to accept the rate that is offered?

Forum: What do you think? When you’re working through a “consulting” company (aka, job shop, contractor, etc.), why should it get so much of your pay rate? Give this reader your advice!


Promotion, raise, bad vibes… How to Say It

In last week’s edition of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader complained about getting a promotion but only a meager raise. Her VP admitted that if an external candidate had been hired, the offer would have been higher!

Readers lambasted the cold-hearted employer. Could this be handled better? Absolutely, says I.T. industry guru Bob Lewis. “I’ve been on both sides of this situation, and what’s particularly pathetic about the company’s response is that it had a better one that wouldn’t have cost a dime. Here’s what HR and the VP could have said…”

How to Say It: “You’re right that if we hired someone from the outside with the right credentials we’d have had to pay more. That’s one of the reasons we’re promoting you instead of hiring from the outside. Your proven ability is, of course, another important factor.

“With the economy and profit picture as it is, we’re scraping every dime from the expense line we can. We’ve laid people off, frozen salaries, and cut bonuses. So right now isn’t the time we can give you a raise that would take you to the compensation mid-point for your new title.

“What will happen is that you’ll be in a position with a new compensation range and a higher ceiling. For the same level of performance on your annual reviews you’ll receive a higher raise than you’d receive in your current position. So while you won’t see one big raise that gives you the emotionally satisfying bump you’d like (and that we’d like to give you), you’ll definitely do much better financially over the span of a few years than you’d do in your old position.

“I wish we could do better. As things stand, though, we can’t.”

Of course, an approach like that by the employer requires integrity and follow-through. Those raises had better deliver an overall “bump!” But Bob’s point is much bigger. Companies need to pay attention in times like these. Employees expect more than, “That’s the policy!” when news ain’t too good… They expect and deserve an honest effort by their employer to do the right thing.

Bobs Book!

(Thanks to Bob Lewis for his suggestion! And in a shout-out to Bob, I’d like to remind readers of this blog that Bob is the author of a book that will make you a better employee: Bare Bones Project Management — the project management guide “for the rest of us” who need to keep our work on a leash so it doesn’t eat us up. It ain’t just for project managers…)