The insider's edge on job search & hiring™

Monthly archive for July 2011

LinkedIn’s New Button: Instantly dumber job hunting & hiring

I don’t know who I feel more sorry for: Job hunters or employers. LinkedIn has introduced a new button that lets you instantly apply for a job — no resume, no cover letter, no effort. It’s instantly dumber for everyone concerned. (From Mashable: LinkedIn Launches Button That Lets You Apply for Jobs.)

The last thing job hunters and employers need is a quicker, easier way to apply for a job. What we need is more prudent, thoughtful, and careful job hunting and hiring — which means improving the process, not speeding it up. LinkedIn’s new button puts the emphasis on getting an application in quickly — while LinkedIn’s founding philosophy is that making good contacts and cultivating relationships requires effort and patience.

It’s dumb ideas like this that instantly put you into even more mindless competition with thousands, if not millions, of other instant applicants. This is why employers find themselves sorting through more and more drek applications. A bigger, fatter pipeline with a button that accelerates the flow of crud doesn’t improve recruiting and hiring. It instantly devalues LinkedIn’s equity in the personal networks it has worked so hard to facilitate.

LinkedIn’s New Career

LinkedIn, the bastion of online “social networking” and “relationships,” seemed to have taken a smart turn when it announced its “careers” initiative a few months ago. The company would offer tools to help employers and job hunters find one another, using LinkedIn as their path to personal contacts that yield the best working relationships.

The social networking company started building a new career service by hiring some top-notch business development folks from top-tier companies — implying it was going to build on the success of the networking tools it has become so famous for. Then LinkedIn drove off the road, and picked up churn-’em and burn-’em sales people from the big job boards and — Presto! — LinkedIn is now dumbing down hiring and job searching, just like Monster and HotJobs and CareerBuilder.

What’s the brilliant new idea these sales nomads from the job boards dragged in the door? Now you can apply for a job with a button.

A Button for The Drek Pipe

Gimme a break. We’ve seen it before: A hot company does an IPO and suddenly loses sight of its essence and turns the reins over to a management team with a solid history of selling commodities faster and harder. Where LinkedIn once preached use your contacts and your brain, now it’s selling volume and instant.

The highly-motivated new hires that LinkedIn originally brought in to launch the careers initiative — we’re talking cream-of-the-crop, seasoned relationship-builders from some of today’s leading companies — were given marching orders to extend LinkedIn’s dominance in social networking into the career sphere. That’s what lured them to LinkedIn. And it all sounded great: a natural extension of one of the most valued brands on the Web.

But in short order, LinkedIn went from selling the value of networking and personal relationships to dialing for dollars and pulling a Ladders-type about-face. (Remember TheLadders’ “exclusive” services for “executives only?” What a promising concept! Today TheLadders is just another job board selling database access for $15/month to any sucker who’s inbetween HotJobs and Monster.)

Like a lot of entrepreneurs with a great idea, Reed Hoffman implemented his idea as a database. Like a lot of great concepts supported by databases, Hoffman’s great idea became the database — with the result that LinkedIn’s database is now the product. It’s far easier to expand a database and to sell access to it, than it is to think up new ways to make personal relationships generate profits.

It seems LinkedIn has abandoned the concept that made it so successful.

Selling The Database

The impressive business development and relationship-building experts the company hired last year found that their long-range objectives had suddenly morphed into boiler-room-style monthly quotas. They were told to hit the phones and start burning through call lists. Selling the commodity and closing quick deals became more important than developing relationships that would lead to long-term business. The word on the street is that LinkedIn’s primo new hires, who believed in the mission, found themselves cast aside.

Their replacements, a second-string crew of telemarketers (reportedly including some from the likes of, were closing deals with employers — but hardly relationship-building deals. Word got out that companies would sign up to search the database to make one hire, then bolt. The telemarketers weren’t selling a relationship with LinkedIn. They were hawking short-term access to a database, slapping the high-quality LinkedIn brand on services.

It looks like the promising links between career development and thoughtful networking via LinkedIn snapped.

The Button: Impulse Job Hunting

I held off on commenting on what I’ve seen, hoping that LinkedIn was just straying momentarily from its mission to link all people and all companies into an incredibly facile network based on knowledge and solid relationships. I hoped LinkedIn would get back to the knitting. I visited’s About section, hoping to find LinkedIn’s mission statement, or at least a definition of what the company’s objectives are; something that would indicate the company could find its way back. To my surprise, LinkedIn has no statement of purpose, or even a definition of what the company does. Not unlike TheLadders, LinkedIn defines itself by its database and with statistics about all its members. There’s not a word about the value of relationships and connections. It’s all about the database — the path to job board perdition.

Then I saw the announcement in the Mashable article: Just push the LinkedIn button. Says Mashable:

“The button is much like the Twitter tweet button or the Facebook Like button… The button essentially lets you submit your LinkedIn profile as your resume — no cover letter necessary.”

How much dumber can the career industry get? Job boards have turned HR departments into swill pots of incoming drek from job hunters who have learned to play the numbers and apply for every job they can find, whether it’s a fit for them or not. There are more inappropriate candidates in HR’s inbox than ever — and now LinkedIn makes applying for a job no more thoughtful than liking a website.

LinkedIn’s great accomplishment is to make job hunting an “impulse buy.” A drive-by app. Dumber than dumb. Could the database whizzes at LinkedIn already be busy building that mobile app? Drive by a company, submit an application via your smartphone! See a product ad or an article about a company? Scan the code and Bam! your application is in! It could be a great place to work! Don’t hesitate!

Ever wonder why employers never call you back or return your calls after you go on a job interviews? This is why. Expect more of it.

Just Another Job Board: Wishful thinking for dummies

On the comments section of the aforementioned Mashable article, reader Mike Young says:

“Will apply for all of them ;-)”

Another says:

“Awesome! Now all we need is an “Apply All” button so we can make the job apps fly.”

Mike Young sounds like he’s kidding. But LinkedIn isn’t. LinkedIn just made it easier for Mike to act dumb (if he chooses), and easier for employers to be dumber. LinkedIn could post its mission statement as one simple sentence: Wishful thinking for dummies.

Good jobs come from great personal contacts and from the hard work of building solid relationships. (If Reid Hoffman is reading this, Remember why you started LinkedIn? Do we need another job board?) There’s an astonishing amount of talent on the street today, due to our uncertain economy. Rather than recruit intelligently, employers waste untold overhead dollars “processing” millions of inappropriate incoming applications from thoughtless job hunters who believe the more jobs they apply to, the better.

Now LinkedIn has created a button to make it even easier to apply for any job that comes along. (What’s the harm, eh? The more, the better! HR departments will love it!)

Dumber Living Through Databases

George Carlin had a great line: Suppose you could have everything in the world? Where would you put it?

Today, every employer has every job hunter’s information, and every job hunter has every job listing on the planet — right there, online. And none of them know where to put it.

LinkedIn was a great idea. It could be fostering a whole new era of job hunting and hiring, by showing people how to cultivate relationships and parlay them into opportunities to work together. But rather than raise the bar, LinkedIn’s career team is taking a reductionist approach. Rather than delivering the hope of good relationships by teaching people how to behave smarter, LinkedIn is selling a database.

Rather than create new career services based on the company’s trademark networking and relationship-building, LinkedIn has allowed its brand to be commandeered by the same people who brought you “better living through job boards.” Having turned, CareerBuilder, and HotJobs into useless data dumps, they’ve glommed onto LinkedIn as a Great Brand ripe to be ransacked. But the brand can’t cover up the same-old dumb business model that cheats employers of their time and money, and job hunters of good job prospects.

Get Back to Work

LinkedIn is still a good idea, but if you want to use it to find a job, you’re better off using it the way it was originally intended. You have to invest your time to develop relationships that LinkedIn merely helps you start. You can’t send LinkedIn, like a dog with a note in its mouth, to apply for a job for you.

Don’t be a dummy. Don’t get suckered into another job-board-style “career service” that will do the work for you. No one can do this for you.

Check out Jason Alba’s LinkedIn For Job Seekers. Alba teaches you how to exploit the LinkedIn database by using your brain to develop and cultivate healthy relationships by doing a lot of hard work.

If you push the button, your naked LinkedIn profile instantly arrives — and sits — in some personnel jockey’s inbox while the job hunter who carefully cultivated a personal contact is already talking to the hiring manager. And you just look dumb and dumber by the minute.

So does LinkedIn.


Butterflies in your interviews?

In the July 26, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter says butterflies interfere with interviews. What can be done?

I consider myself a fairly intelligent and eloquent person with strong skills in my field. Yet, when I go into an interview I turn into Elmer Fudd! I tend to make such comments as, “I think I could be real good at this job!” I’m sure I’m like most people: I get the proverbial butterflies in my stomach.

Only after the interview do the things I should have said start flooding into my mind. (I’ve tried role-plays, but they do not seem to help.) I’m sure this has cost me opportunities. What can I do? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

Butterflies are very common, even among some of the most talented people I know (including executives). I’ll offer two suggestions to help you control butterflies.

1. Read Don’t Compete With Yourself. This article will teach you some simple ways to avoid pre-interview tension, and how to stay calm during your meeting.

2. Try The New Interview. Prepare a 20-minute presentation for the employer, and show how you’re going to contribute to the company’s profitability. This might sound daunting, especially to someone who gets nervous, but once you learn to do it for one employer, the next ones will be a lot easier.

The power of this approach lies in the fact that once you’re this prepared, you’ll never again get butterflies in your stomach.

You see, people get butterflies when they’re not completely prepared. They consequently (and naturally) feel unsure of themselves. I know what you’re thinking: “But I am prepared!” I doubt you are prepared to the extent I’m talking about.

Prepared means being able to outline two or three specific problems and challenges the employer faces, and then presenting a plan to handle them. (Don’t provide too much detail, because then you’d be working for free and giving away your assets.)

When you truly understand the business… (This is where some of my advice is omitted. To get the whole story next week, subscribe to the newsletter. It’s free! Don’t miss another edition!)…

If you think this level of preparation is a huge investment, you’re right. The employer thinks hiring you is a pretty huge investment, too. If you’re not prepared to do the job in the interview, then your competition — the candidate I coached to do what I suggest above — will blow you out of the water like a dead fish.

Consider this carefully: You can’t do this level of preparation for the 400 companies you’ve sent your resume to, because there aren’t 400 jobs for you. Thus, you must pick your targets very carefully.

When you achieve this level of business interaction, you are not interviewing. You are in a meeting where you’re doing the job. That’s such a liberating experience that nervousness almost completely disappears. It works. Try it.

Do you get butterflies in your stomach when you interview? Why do you think? Or do you have nerves of steel and demonstrate confidence? How do you do it?

Where does a good job candidate’s power come from? And how can you develop yours?

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Running On Empty: TheLadders folds up its shell game

Today TheLadders folded up its shell game and announced that it’s just another job board.

Just last month, TheLadders’ announced its highly-exclusive “Signature” service: “guaranteed job offers” for “qualified” $100k+ job seekers — for $2,500. Then the “Executive Jobs” company started offering its “Premium Service” for just $15.

In a press release titled “TheLadders: Now LinkedIn’s number one competitor,” TheLadders says that it will now take anyone’s money, at any salary level, to provide the same services as, HotJobs, CareerBuilder and every other jobs database.

“[TheLadders] will soon be available to all motivated job seekers looking for the next opportunity to move their careers forward.”

It’s not clear who is the bigger sucker: TheLadders’ executive customers, who thought they were paying for exclusive job listings. Or Ladders’ public relations firm, Allison & Partners, which is now grappling with a Tiffany’s wannabe that has opened a bargain-store basement. Or the media, which happily air these Ladders commercials in their editorial content. Or employers, which have been funding this “exclusive” shell game for eight years.

Since 2003, TheLadders has been playing games with $100k+ job seekers, charging them $35/month for access to supposedly $100k+ jobs, and billing employers for access to those same people. There’s plenty of documentation showing that TheLadders’ database is full of drek, both on the applicant side and the job side. Recently, employers revealed that TheLadders scrapes jobs from companies’ own websites, inflates the salary levels, and publishes them for sale to its paying members. When companies that aren’t even Ladders customers complain, TheLadders leaves the fraudulent listings in its database. Employers get stuck processing applicants to those dishonest job listings.

TheLadders does not deliver “ONLY $100k+ jobs” or “ONLY $100k+” job candidates. It never has.

It’s a well-known customer service dictum: When two or three customers make complaints, a company should worry about the many, many more who don’t take the time to complain publicly. What then of the teeming hordes of Ladders customers who swarm and post complaints every time an article or blog post appears about TheLadders?

The shell game couldn’t go on forever. Now TheLadders is just another job board. But the problem for Cenedella’s business plan is that, CareerBuilder, and HotJobs don’t charge people to look at their job listings.

Nonetheless, TheLadders gamely tries to keep up appearances:

“According to a Harris Interactive survey, 43 percent of $100K+ job seekers who changed jobs in the past year utilized TheLadders.”

Maybe Harris Interactive is a sucker, too. “Utilized?” What does that mean? People who signed up for TheLadders’ free trial since 2003, and who’ve wanted to get out, complain they’re still stuck in the database. Ladders CEO Marc Cendella won’t stop sending them his e-mail “updates” no matter what they do to get off his list. But Cenedella’s intent all along hasn’t been to offer useful advice in those e-mails. It’s been to keep his defunct “list” alive for public relations purposes — and Harris Interactive, a respected market research company, has now put its good name on this shell game. (I challenge Harris to disclose all the data and details behind the 43% claim.)

One wonders, what does the $100k+ customer think of all this, while paying for exclusivity and access to jobs at the highest levels? My prediction: Those who are still paying will stop. They should take note: A common complaint from Ladders customers is that terminating those monthly, automatic credit card payments to the company is not easy.

Coming fast on the heels of $900 resume-writing services and the $2,500 “Signature” program, the newly-discounted $15 “Premium” memberships and jobs at all salary levels reveal a company that’s thrashing, incapable of finding its market.

Clearly, the claim that “43 percent of $100K+ job seekers who changed jobs in the past year utilized TheLadders” is bullshit. If it were true, TheLadders would not be admitting failure, dropping its claim of exclusivity — and its prices.

In the dust surrounding TheLadders’ demise, the simple truth remains: Most jobs are found and filled through personal contacts. The development of sound relationships required to pull this off take a lot of time and a lot of hard work. Trusted contacts who’ll refer you to good employers can’t be paid for — they are cultivated through shared experiences into a circle of friends. Learning The Basics of job hunting isn’t difficult. But there’s no shortcut. You can’t buy a job offer.

After enduring eight years of caustic customer complaints, TheLadders has folded up its shell game. TheLadders is in its death throes, lying by the online roadside, gasping for a new business plan — because TheLadders is running on empty.


I really, really want this job!

In the July 19, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter interviews for a job and gets no call back, but really, really wants the job and is… uh… freaking out:

I interviewed for job A and job B at the same company. After two interviews for job B, I was told I would be contacted within a week either about a third round or to let me know what was going on. I got no call. I really hate that.

Looking through a jobs site, I freaked out when I saw job A posted again. (I was runner-up on that one.) So yesterday I made a courtesy call to the manager I interviewed with for job B to let him know I am still interested. Still no call.

Now I am truly freaking out. I don’t want to be screwed out of a job with this organization. Friends have advised me not to keep calling. But isn’t there some way to find out what’s going on? The key is I really want to work for this organization—period. Suggestions?

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

Please, read this carefully: You cannot control what a company does after you have interviewed, if there’s no communication.

Now look at what you’re saying:

“The key is I really want to work for this organization—period.”

“I don’t want to be screwed out of a job with this organization.”

“Now I am truly freaking out.”

That attitude is good groundwork for failure. Desire is a good thing when it motivates you to succeed. But if your desire dominates your good sense, you’re hurting yourself.

An employer is not obligated to hire you, or even to respond to you. Now, I think it’s rude and irresponsible for a company not to follow up, especially if they promised to. But if that’s what’s happening, the appropriate response is not to doggedly pursue the company. It’s to move on. If they’re ignoring you, then you’re wasting your time. You have no control over the company’s inaction. Stop freaking out. And stop thinking someone is screwing you.

(This is where some of my advice is omitted, along with 2 references and links to 2 great articles. To get the whole story next week, subscribe to the newsletter. It’s free! Don’t miss another edition!)…

As companies kick up their hiring a bit, they’re going to kick up their interviewing even more. They are going to meet lots of candidates, and they’re going to reject most of them. It’s understandable that you strongly believe this job is perfect for you. But it’s not understandable to freak out because the company doesn’t see it the same way.

No matter what you want to believe, there might be, in fact, zero correlation between the level of your desire for a job and your suitability for it. I’m haranguing here because many people get completely stuck on their perception of a deal. Any deal requires two parties to have the same perception. Vladimir Nabokov punctured our wishful thinking when he wrote, “You are not I; therein lies the irreparable calamity” (Invitation to A Beheading, Vintage, 1989).

We all want to think we know what a company wants and needs. But we don’t, because often the company doesn’t know, either — not until it stops interviewing and makes a hiring decision. So, don’t let a rejection affect your self confidence. That rejection is not necessarily a judgment about you, as much as it is a choice about what the company needs.

It’s important to carefully choose the companies you want to work for, and to Pursue Companies, Not Jobs. But if you want control over your job search, never put all your energy and desire into just one objective. When you schedule an interview, you should also take care of another important chore: Line up your next target. Don’t go to an interview unless you have an alternative already in your sights. If you pursue just one opportunity at a time, you will have nowhere to go if it doesn’t pan out. That leads to desperation and depression. And even if you do get an offer, having no other options can result in misguided negotiations for the job you “really want.”

Sometimes a job interview seems like an invitation to a beheading. You show up, hoping you’re not the victim. The employer makes a decision and brings the blade down, and you never even realize it’s over. The calamity is when you continue your wishful thinking, at the expense of other options.

The key is not that you “really want to work for this organization.” The key is that you’ve lost control. Move on to the next opportunity. That’s the only way to stay sane and to control your job search.

(Ouch! You missed some good stuff from the newsletter… Next week, don’t miss more tips that you can use! Subscribe to the newsletterIt’s free! Don’t miss another edition!)

Only one job candidate survives the interrogations. Only one gets the job. The rest get cut. Yah, it’s painful, and yah, you might really, really want that job…

What you can do? And when should your wishful thinking end?


Looking for a job in America: Got a flashlight?

I couldn’t make this stuff up.

A sales director with over 20 years’ experience managing sales teams pays $50 to send out 500 job applications on his behalf. The guy’s wife’s beauty salon receives the resume and calls him for an interview. He didn’t know it, but his “job hunting agent” also submitted him for jobs as a receptionist, manicurist and fitness coach. Then he’s befuddled when a district manager from Krispy Kreme calls about his job application.

A U.S. executive pays $98, which submits his resume for C-level jobs at porn companies because the team in Visakhapatnam, India that’s handling the job search doesn’t know what “XXX” and “adult entertainment” mean.

A guy in Washington, D.C. pays JobSerf to submit job applications on his behalf to land a job in finance. He gets a call from a company about a job selling playground equipment.

These people are looking for jobs — where?

Sanjay Dasgupta, head of the JobSerf team in Visakhapatnam, says his U.S. clients are to blame. They’re not clear about what they want, so JobSerf sends their resumes to inappropriate employers.

They’re laffing their asses off in India. Maybe this is outsourcing revenge.

A guy in Houston used MyJobHunter to send out so many resumes to the wrong companies that a recruiter who received his resume chewed him out. The guy’s comment? “I’d rather have too many submissions than too few.”

These stories are all reported in The Wall Street JournalThe Unemployed Worker’s New Friend: Outsourcers.

“Occasionally, the sheer abundance of job applications some clients send can spin out of control, forcing the services to cut them off. MyJobHunter’s service was once slowed by a customer who set his parameters so  wide that he applied for more than 20,000 jobs, said Lee Marc, CEO of eDirect  Publishing Inc., which owns MyJobHunter. ‘They’re like junkies,’ said Mr. Marc, who once had a customer apply to  10,000 jobs in a week.

Looking for a job in America: It’s a good idea for an outsourcing business in India, because there are a lot of dummies in America.  But if you sign up, ask for a flashlight, because it’s a long and winding road in there.

(What’s perplexing is that The Wall Street Journal exposes the underside of “paid job-hunting help” by reporting on two-bit companies like JobSerf and — yet avoids the big kahuna in the pay-for-jobs rackets: TheLadders. Well-known for greasing the media channels, TheLadders slips through yet another investigative column about employment practices in the world’s leading business journal. Maybe it’s The WSJ that needs the flashlight.)



Salary History: Can you afford to say NO?

In the July 12, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter questions whether it’s prudent — or even possible, when forced to use an online form — to say NO to an employer that demands your salary history:

I read your article “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps.” While I found it to be an excellent article overall, I couldn’t help but wonder when it was written. Within the last several years, many employers have moved their application process to the web. Current salary (along with desired salary) is a required field in the online application, and there is no option to quote a salary range.

In this economic downturn, with so many people still without employment, the competition is beyond fierce. It’s definitely an employer’s market these days. Unless you are a highly sought-after executive or the best of the best in your field, the company has plenty of other applicants to move onto if you don’t provide the information they are seeking. 

As an HR professional, I don’t mind giving them my desired salary range, because I keep up with the market and I have done my homework. However, I despise the question, “What are you making currently?”, or, in my case, “What were you making in your last position?” As you state in your article, I don’t believe it’s anyone’s business, and it definitely has no bearing on what the job is worth. Yet, can I (or anyone else who is unemployed due to the recession) afford to be “contrary?”

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

I wrote that article several years ago. But it’s still valid. I know the pressure is on, and employers don’t make it any easier with their cattle-call job applications. It’s up to you to protect your integrity.

I think good candidates must be contrary. They must stand out. Withholding salary history is not indicative of an uncooperative candidate. Demanding it reveals a company that’s not going to negotiate based on the candidate’s value. This is fundamentally wrong. I think you’re letting an employer’s poor management practices seduce you into complicity.

If an online application requires salary history… (This is where some of my advice is omitted. To get the whole story next week, subscribe to the free newsletter. It’s free! Don’t miss another edition!)…

Ignore the application. Find a better way in the door. As you point out, if you don’t cooperate, the company has plenty of other applicants who will do what they’re told, and destroy their ability to negotiate. Let the company have them. It wants cows, not people who think and act outside the box. Join a company like that, by playing along, and soon you’ll be looking for yet another job. The herd mentality hurts employers that rely on it, too—especially in difficult economic times.

Read what a successful job hunter has to say about this. He attended a presentation that I gave at Cornell University recently, then he interviewed for a top job.

“The hiring manager more or less offered me the position on the spot and indicated a salary range that is roughly 40-50% more than I make now. Your two biggest lessons (at least for me) at work in the flesh: Never divulge my current salary, and Talk about what I will do, not what I’ve done. They oughta make you a Cornell professor! I can already see that the one hour you spent with us will have as much impact on my MBA ROI as any class that I have taken in the program, if not more so.” — Rich Mok

That presentation was based on How to Work With Headhunters. The audience was a group of corporate executives in Cornell’s Johnson School of Management Executive MBA program. You don’t have to be an executive to stand your ground, but you do have to be the right candidate. (Otherwise, you have no business applying for the job!) Rich Mok reveals how to redirect an employer’s attention: Show what you’ll do to make the company more successful. Your salary history (and your resume) won’t matter so much. I’ve seen this work at every level of compensation.

You clearly agree that salary history is no one’s business. Then why capitulate and compromise yourself? You need not forego an opportunity if the application requires salary history. You just have to demonstrate your mettle and find a better way in the door. Being contrary when the world behaves foolishly doesn’t mean you’ll be rejected. It makes you stand out. It’s what makes you worth hiring — and worth interviewing.

Do employers force you to disclose your salary history? It’s a perennial argument. You feel you can’t afford to say NO when an employer demands your salary history. I say you can’t afford to disclose private information. So, what do you do? Can you protect your integrity and still apply for the job?