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The insider's edge on job search & hiring™

Monthly archive for March 2010

TheLadders: Scam, complaints, rip off

Toby Dayton is a very smart guy. He did something that I really wish I had thought of, but I don’t have the Google brain he does… Toby has done us all a favor and boiled down TheLadders’ reputation to its essence. And it’s so simple I wanna cry because I never thought of it.

google-search-the-ladders-2Toby Googled theladders.com and watched as Google applied its “intelligent auto-complete” feature while he was typing… I’m gonna borrow one of Toby’s graphics that shows the results:

Try it yourself. Then go to Toby’s blog and read the rest of his insights. He uses this technique to look at the reputation of another notorious “jobs” site, with similar results.

Some might view this as a cute little trick, chuckle and forget about it. But this is profound. Google’s auto-complete tells you what people are looking for online — that’s how auto-complete works. It reflects public sentiment.

When people search for TheLadders.com, what they’re also searching for is information about scams, complaints and rip offs.

My compliments to Toby for posting these meta-facts. Don’t miss his article, Great Insight on Job Boards From Google.

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Readers’ Forum: Your favorite scams

Discussion: March 23, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

Between my recent segment on N.Y. Public Radio and today’s Q&A, that makes this The Scam Edition!

In today’s Q&A: A reader gets scammed into an interview and out of a “job.”

My son interviewed with a sales company. There were six applicants all interviewed at the same time. He was one of two offered a job on the first interview. When he questioned them on benefits, he was told that it would be discussed in training. He showed up for training only to be told that no one was officially hired the first week, and that there were no benefits.

These people are a scam with deceptive hiring practices. I want to pursue some kind of action on this and I do not know where to go. They promised him the world and now his world is crushed!

In the newsletter I pointed out the clear signals (in that very brief story) that reveal a problem, and I suggested what the young man could have done about them. But the scams just seem to keep piling up and people keep getting suckered.

From time to time, it’s a good idea for us to talk about these kinds operations and to discuss how to quickly recognize them. Have you been scammed into an interview that turned out not to be what you expected? Did you bail out of an “opportunity” because you smelled a rat?

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How to Say It: Getting severance

Discussion: March 23, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader’s challenge:

My company is going to lay off some people. If I’m in the group, I’d like to ask for severance pay. How should I say it?

Okay, folks — how would you ask for money on your way out the door?

But let’s make this more interesting. It’s usually best to take care of something like this before it all hits the fan. So suppose there’s no layoff in the offing. But you want to protect yourself in case it happens. Do you have any leverage to get a severance agreement in place now for later? What do you tell your company to make it happen? How do you say it?

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Job-board Scams: WNYC Public Radio

On Tuesday, March 16, 2010 I talked with New York Public Radio (WNYC 93.9FM) host Brian Lehrer about bogus and misleading job advertisements. Brian has been following a group of his listeners as they try to land new jobs — and in this segment we discuss some of the scams they have encountered.

jobscams1This audio clip (12:41 minutes) is from a longer segment in which listener “Jim” described a service that wanted to charge him $5,000 for “exclusive job listings.” We discuss that scam and we also talk about:

  • The success rates of the job boards
  • TheLadders’ misleading “Only $100k+ jobs” advertising
  • Whether you should ever pay a recruiter or “consultant” who says he’ll find you a job
  • The value of using personal contacts
  • “Education” scams that cost thousands of dollars but deliver nothing
  • Common sense: the importance of checking references before spending money on “help”
  • Identity theft
  • The CareerXroads “source of hires” surveys

It’s an awful lot in just over 12 minutes! Listen in and add your comments!

The entire radio segment can be found at WNYC: Help Wanted.

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Readers’ Forum: Headhunters who get it (Are there any?)

Discussion: March 8, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s Q&A (What? You don’t get the newsletter? So you don’t know the story? Sign up now — don’t miss the next one!) a reader complains about headhunters who can’t get past the gaps in his resume. They don’t see how he can help their clients. As I point out in the newsletter, most headhunters simply won’t look past the resume. But some do, especially if you nudge them in the right direction.

Try this: “Look, I know it’s more difficult to make a match from my resume because I’ve been doing consulting since my last traditional job. I don’t expect you to recruit me if I can’t show you what the fit is. During 20 years building a start-up, I was fortunate to learn almost every aspect of growing a business, and that doesn’t all fit into a resume. Let me suggest something. If you can outline one or two specific challenges your client is facing, I’ll show you — step by step — how I’d tackle them. And I’d be glad to walk your client through it.If I can’t show you how it would pay off, you shouldn’t recruit me.”

Some headhunters get that, if you take the time to try and explain it.

We routinely rag on headhunters here — but there are certainly some good ones out there. If you’ve worked with a good headhunter, tell us about the experience. How did you get their attention? Were you able to turn around an interview that was going nowhere?

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How to Say It: The evidence is confidential

Discussion: March 16, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s newsletter a reader says:

I work as a design engineer in an industry where projects are typically confidential. However, prospective employers frequently ask to see a portfolio. I am comfortable showing one in person, where I can control its dissemination, but do not want to e-mail or send a hard copy. How do I let them know that without sounding like I’m trying to weasel my way into an interview?

How to Say It: So… your portfolio of work might help you land a great job, but showing it might also get you fired or sued.

Okay folks: Can this reader reveal the evidence of his abilities without adverse consequences? Is there some other way to leverage his portfolio without leaving it lying around?

Or, should he just spread his stuff around and stop worrying about it?

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Readers’ Forum: Dropping a dime on the bad guys

Discussion: March 8, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

From a reader:

I was let go suddenly from a very small business after only one month, despite being told I was doing a fantastic job. (They had me doing three jobs: office manager, paralegal and client intake.) To make a long story short, this two-attorney firm has a pattern of hiring and then firing both attorneys and paralegals before the benefits are due to kick in. Would you happen to know if there is any “red flag list,” maybe through the department of labor, to place suspect employers who are taking advantage of the high unemployment rate and changing employees like pantyhose?

Hmmm, a red flag list. A gallery of rogues. Pantyhose… I’d contact my state department of labor and ask whether any complaints have been filed about this company. Who else has dropped a dime on the firm? Get in touch, compare notes, then file your own complaint if you feel you have a legitimate beef. If others have complained, an investigator may look into any funky doings — and these attorneys may find they need a lawyer…

That’s my two bits. Is there somewhere you guys drop a dime on misbehaving employers?

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How to Say It: Shaking hands

Discussion: March 9, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s newsletter a reader says:

I have a medical condition (since birth) that has no effect on my work: my hands tremble a little or moderately. It’s called “benign essential tremor.” It is not Parkinson’s or anything like it. I worry that it scares off employers when I interview.

Today I was invited to an informal interview. In my reply, I tried something new. I said, “Great! I would love to meet with you. One thing I should let you know about. My hands shake slightly, but this doesn’t affect my work.”

I don’t want to scare off prospective employers by saying the wrong thing. I figure if I discuss it up front, that’s best. How should I say it?

How to Say It: I think you already say it well. You might add that it’s not a degenerative condition, if you want to go that far. I’m sure you’re aware that you may be protected under the disabilities laws, but it also seems you prefer to be candid. I like that.

Should this reader explain it up front, or wait until the interview?

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Bloomberg: Profit-based job hunting & hiring

From Bloomberg TV,  March 5, 2010:
Nick talks about “the jobs numbers” and shifting hiring trends
with news anchors Lori Rothman and Mark Crumpton.

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6 scenarios about making more money

On my earlier posting (How to Make More Money), reader Svetla posed a comment with a list of six challenges that she believes prevent her from making more money at her job. After describing an abominable skinflint of a boss, she asks how she might justify a raise in the following situations. It’s a thought-provoking question that deserves a bit of space to discuss…

I’m going to try some short, fast suggestions for Svetla’s list. The challenge I throw right back is, if Svetla can work up a specific approach based on just one of my comments, then maybe she should give me a raise ;-)

Please check Svetla’s comments on the other posting so you’ll better understand her list.

What should you do about getting a raise when:

1. There is a set budget for your position or department.

My suggestion: Identify something your employer would really like to have more of. (Good ideas? Detailed lists of implementation steps for new projects? Faster turnaround time on reports?) Figure out a way to deliver it within your job. (Come on — put your thinking cap on. This could be worth money.) Make delivering it contingent on getting paid more. The added value you create should offset the higher compensation. If your boss orders you to take your list and implement it without additional pay, take it to his competitor and ask for more pay. (See also my response to 4. below.)

2. There is no direct link between your work and the bottom line.

My suggestion: I think this is never true in a healthy company. In cases where it is true, your job should be deleted for obvious reasons, or you should quit soon because your company is in a death spiral. In your post, you explained that your “cost center job” actually yields revenue improvements. I believe you. The connection is actually pretty obvious, if not defined in detail. That your boss doesn’t measure how your work yields profit and success for the business doesn’t mean there is no link. You showed that there is. So my suggestion is to find a different employer. Never work with jerks.

3. Your boss is unable to make the link between your work and the bottom line.

My suggestion: Then you must teach him. Put together a business plan and a spreadsheet that explains the links and estimates the yields in dollars. Your numbers won’t be accurate, but your assumptions should be defensible. If your boss refuses to learn, then you must turn him in or move on. Imagine what the board of directors would say to your boss if he looked them in the eye and stated that he does not know of any link between an employee’s work and the bottom line. If you move on to another company, consider sending your presentation to the chairman of the board at your old company, with your compliments. Close with a succinct comment about how you quit because your boss didn’t see the connection you just showed them. Offer to accept your old job back if they fire the boss and double your old salary.

4. You are giving more than the organization asks you to.

My suggestion: This is up to you. If that’s how you get your jollies, then don’t ask for more money. Otherwise, prepare a biz plan that shows how your job pays off, and how you will make it pay off even more next year. Put a quote on the project. (Ask for more money.) A rational manager will analyze your claims, test your ability to deliver, and gladly pay. Or you must quit and move on. I think the best way to actually attempt this is by offering a monthly deliverable in exchange for a monthly performance bonus. That way the company isn’t out a dime unless it gets what it wants. This is worth attempting only if you’ve got a solid written agreement that defines the terms and the payout. Mark my word: More companies will be doing this sooner rather than later. Those that do will blow away their competition.

5. Your boss refuses to give you credit for the work you have done.

My suggestion: Credit is part of pay. I know people who are paid a lot but get no credit. They don’t care. They want money. Some people value acknowledgement and accolades more than money. It takes all kinds to run a business. You’re saying you’re not getting either kind of compensation to an adequate degree. So it’s time to lay it out to your boss, or to his boss, and be ready to move on if they won’t compensate you fairly. Remember that their view of what’s fair may vary from yours, and upon getting a thorough explanation from them, you may decide they’re right and you’re wrong. Also remember that smart companies are in business to produce profit. They will pay to get the profit.

6. Your boss is stingy (happens often with entrepreneurial businesses).

My suggestion: You’ve defined a boss who does not want to pay for work. How can we have a rational discussion about compensation when the employer doesn’t want to pay money? The best entrepreneurs I’ve known are very happy to share the wealth when their partners and employees help produce that wealth. They recognize that success is generated by people, and sharing money with them is merely a happy step towards more success that pays for itself. If you want to get paid to work for an entrepreneur, go find one. Your boss fails the test.

Okay, these were quick responses. Ideas. Some of them are very in-your-face. I think all of them pose risks. (Business is risk, remember?) Business should be in-your-face. Business should operate to make money, and you should work for the kind of pay that you want.

Now if Svetla isn’t already bugged with me for holding her up here for everyone to see (Love ya, Svetla — no offense intended. You’ve put a sharp point on some important issues), let’s look at one thing she wrote that I think most people believe is true:

Oftentimes the quoted reason for the level of salaries or raises is the budget limit for the department.

Sorry, but that’s a perspective (or rule) worthy of a commune-ist operation. Any self-respecting capitalist operation will continue to throw more money at a department if every dollar spent on it produces more profit. M-o-n-e-y is spent to produce more money. And a lot more money will be spent if it will produce a lot more money.

Of course, companies today have rules about compensation that have absolutely nothing to do with producing profit. Like, We can’t pay you more than we pay the next guy because that would be unfair (or maybe even illegal!), no matter how productive you are.

People are our most important asset, and we like to think out of the box, and we recruit the best people in our industry, but we pay everyone alike and we have no interest whatsoever in hiring someone out of the box who is an important asset because she can produce more profit than those employees who are already on our salary curve.

Got it?

I’m reminded of a big layoff AT&T did around 1997. Whomp, thousands of people were given exit packages and fired. I know about this because AT&T hired me to help some of those people find jobs. I was there. Then management saw this one woman walking out the door. “Where are you going?”

“You gave me a nice package, thanks. I’m leaving.”

“But we didn’t mean you. We want you to stay. Heck, you’re great! You’ve been contributing over a million dollars a year to our bottom line! It’s pure profit! We want you to stay!”

“No, I’m sorry, but the baby is going out the door with the bathwater. I’m starting my own consulting company. And I already have my first client, who is paying me a percentage of the million bucks a year I’ll be generating for them. Sure beats the $70,000 you were paying me. Hey, thanks!”

Always remember: If you produce more than you cost, in a capitalist society there’s an employer that will hire you. I don’t claim it’s easy to find that company, but it’s out there. You will probably have to make the case that you really do produce more than you cost. What a concept, eh? Could be it’s more important to do that than to write up a resume, huh? Especially in this economy.

A word to Svetla’s boss, if he’s reading this: You say you don’t see a connection between Svetla’s work and your company’s success. If I were your boss, I’d fire you for employing people who don’t make a difference.

(Thanks, Svetla, for the sharp poke in the eye that made me look. There’s nothing like an in-your-face reader!)

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