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Monthly archive for February 2012

Manager Asks: Should I hire without face-to-face interviews?

In the February 28, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a manager loses a “star” employee and asks how to hire — but the manager cannot interview candidates in person:

A star employee left my team and I need to replace him. I can recruit only from inside the company, which has over 100,000 staff, so it’s not so much of a limitation. More of a limitation is that I will never get to meet candidates face-to-face before I hire anyone because I most likely will be recruiting people in another country. I love all of your advice about candidates showing how they can do the job in their interview, but how can I turn that around as a manager so that I can get the best possible candidates?

In recruiting the original star employee I used your advice and had my short list of candidates present a piece of work to me, similar to what they would be required to do in the job, and from there I picked the ones I wanted to interview. The star candidate made the best impression in the face-to-face interview (which I was able to do then) and I hired him because he approached the interview the way I needed him to approach the job. This method obviously worked, because I got a star employee.

These techniques are so much harder to do when there’s no interview in person, and you have no idea who might have helped candidates put together the piece of work that they turn in. Do you have any tips?

Finally, I can’t obtain reference information about applicants who haven’t told their boss or co-workers they are applying for another job. If I start asking around about them in a division I don’t work in, it can cause a nasty situation. How would you suggest getting sound information about the candidates’ reputations without creating an internal HR nightmare?

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!)

My Advice

First, thanks for confirming that asking candidates to “do the job to win the job” is a very effective way to hire — and stars, no less! (See the Readers’ Comments section of the newsletter, at upper right, for another confirmation that this works nicely.)

You seem to be facing two problems:

  • In-person interviews are not possible, and
  • You can’t check references.

More important, you know that meeting candidates face to face — and asking them to show how they’d do the work right there in front of you — pays off handsomely, because that’s how you hired your last star.

Your real challenge isn’t how to hire in spite of the two problems. It’s how to overcome them. Hiring in spite of those two problems could be disastrous. The reference problem is probably insurmountable because it could create a lot of trouble for you and for anyone you investigate. You’d probably also be violating company policy.

The first problem is one that I think you have to tackle and solve.

Find a way to meet your candidates. Explain to your management that the cost of hiring the wrong person could be staggering. The cost of bringing candidates in for meetings might be significant, but is not staggering. It’s a very wise investment. Do all you can to minimize that cost — but I would go out of my way to make in-person interviews happen. Hiring remotely is just too risky for the company, for you, and for the candidates.

I would nonetheless mention the reference problem to your boss

… Sorry, this part of my advice is available only in the newsletter… Don’t miss another edition! Subscribe to the weekly newsletter now! It’s FREE!)…

Sometimes we must remember that our bosses pay us to tell them the truth, even if they don’t want to hear it. I would not risk hiring sight unseen. Your job is to tell your boss the truth. Explain the potentially huge cost of making the wrong hire in the interest of saving a few dollars on travel.

Finally, I would outline to your boss the Ask The Headhunter methods you use when you interview. Demonstrate how you will apply the extra investment. Your boss will see that you hire for the bottom line: You want to see your candidates perform before you hire them. Your department will be more successful. The candidate is far more likely to be successful. Your boss will be very happy. You might get a raise later for thinking so strategically. And I’ll be proud.

Have you ever hired anyone — or been hired — without an in-person interview? More significantly, have you ever been in an interview — as the employer or the candidate — where “doing the job in the interview” was required? How did you handle either situation?

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Rip-Off Edition: Who’s trying to sell you a job? (video)

The February 21, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter is a special edition about career rip-offs. (You don’t subscribe to the weekly newsletter? It’s free! Subscribe now!. Don’t miss another edition!) As the regulars know, we flow the newsletter into the blog every week — and this is where we churn up ideas and comments to blow topics like this wide open.

CBC TV: Top Tips and Red Flags For Job Hunters

While taping a recent CBC TV Marketplace program about career rip-offs, host Tom Harrington and I did another segment (7 minutes) that’s our consumer education offering. Tom and I discuss tips and red flags that smart consumers should look for when job hunting — to avoid getting scammed. (When you’re job hunting, not all those requests you get for “interviews” are for jobs you want. They may be interviewing for victims.)

You’ll have far more tips and warnings of your own to share than Tom and I discuss — and I’d like to ask you to post them in the comments section below. Check out the video for some of the basics. (Tom is the bigger guy on the left.)

Career rip-offs are everywhere

They seem to proliferate when jobs are hard to come by, and that’s when job hunters seem to get suckered more easily by rip-off artists who try to sell them jobs — or the promise of jobs.

We’ve covered TheLadders rip-off again and again, and though it costs only around $30/month, the opportunity cost can be huge. (Just ask Mike, the executive who wasted 22 months before he pulled the plug on TheLadders and shared his story.)

Then there are the “executive career management” scams that promise databases of hidden jobs, inside contacts, and exclusive access to employers. They target high-income folks — who seem altogether too willing to spend $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 or more for “expert help” that delivers nothing more than a contract worth less than the paper it’s printed on.

Take it from this Ask The Headhunter reader who lost $12,000 to a “career management firm”:

“PLEASE don’t use my name, because I am horribly embarrassed to admit that I forked over $12 large to a bunch of scum bags in Denver. They’ve changed their name twice since they cashed my check three years ago. I didn’t receive a single — no, not one — interview as a result of their lightening of my retirement fund. They have no secret sauce, they did nothing that I couldn’t have done much better reading Nick’s website and e-books. Damn.” — R.B. [name withheld]

In between are the offers of “free resume critiques.” These rip-offs deliver boiler-plate “reviews” warning that your resume is no good, and then pressure you to buy a $1,200 re-write — even when the resume submitted for a free critique was originally written by the same firm!

What prompted me to do a rip-off edition?

CBC TV: Recruitment Rip-Off

In early February, Canada’s CBC TV flew me to Toronto for a hidden-camera expose of a “job search marketing” racket: Recruitment Rip-Off. CBC’s Marketplace program is the longest-running consumer watchdog show in the world. Its target: A Canadian firm called Toronto Pathways that “recruits” job hunters via their online resumes — but doesn’t hire anyone. Pathways sells $5,000 “job search marketing” services and “absolutely” promises a job. In my opinion, Pathways’ services are absolutely worthless. The same business has operated under five different names in the past seven years. The CEO calls this name game “brand marketing” that “allows a fresh approach.” I call it “hide and seek” played with angry customers.

Whether or not you’ve ever gotten suckered like this, you’ll gag when you see a salesman promise a job to a prospect (“Absolutely!”) in exchange for thousands of dollars. Then the CEO of the firm denies that they promise jobs to anyone.

But the program is more than a rip-off story. It will save a lot of consumers from the fate suffered by the victims whose experiences are profiled. Don’t miss the entire 22-minute news-magazine segment: Recruitment Rip-Off.

Host Tom Harrington and I spend a lot of time on camera reviewing the hidden camera videos, pointing out the tip-offs that reveal something is very wrong. Key among these tip-offs is a full copy of the contract Pathways foists on its victims. Note the “Client Satisfaction Guarantee” that guarantees no satisfaction or refund. Take notes — How many signs of rip-off can you count?

Rip-Off Resources

I call this the Rip-Off Edition because I’ve been wanting to provide a reference list to help you avoid rip-offs and career scams. Here are some of the best columns on this topic that have appeared on Ask The Headhunter:

Resume Trafficking: The job-seeker’s nightmare

Job-Board Journalism: Selling out the American job hunter

The “Executive Marketing” Racket: How I dropped ten grand down a hole

Bernard Haldane: Busting The Bad Boys

An insider’s revelations about “Executive Career Counselors, Inc.”

Deceptive Recruiting: HR’s last stand? and Deception Rebuked

CareerBuilder Is For Dopes

Liars at TheLadders

How Much Would You Pay For A Job?

TheLadders: How the scam works

Readers’ Forum: Your favorite scams

Free resume critiques: The new career-industry racket

The Dogs of Recruiting

How can I find out whether a job board is the real deal? (video)

An educated consumer is the rip-off artist’s worst enemy

I love it when Ask The Headhunter sends a reader to bed with $7,000 in his pocket:

“I just wanted to write and let you know that your Web site saved me from making a grave error. I went to a career marketing company (Global Career Management in Colorado Springs) last week [October 2006], and they wanted $7,000 up front to get me ‘in front of decision makers.’ When I dug a little deeper, I came across your site and decided to use some of the advice to find out if they were for real. I simply asked for references in two telephone voicemail messages and one email message. I followed up 48 hours later to find out why they didn’t get back to me, and the pitchman responded with a ‘we have decided not to move forward at this time’ email. Of course, they figured out I was on to their scam and decided to cut and run to the next ‘client.’ A half hour on your site was worth more than $7,000 in my pocket.”  — Jim Myers

If just one tip-off in the above collection saves anyone money or heartache, then I’m happy. Just remember: No one can promise to deliver a job except an employer, and anyone who makes such a promise while demanding money up front is probably trying to rip you off.

Thanks to CBC TV Marketplace

Many thanks to all at CBC TV’s Marketplace for a jam-packed Saturday in the studio, and for the chance to work on this project: host Tom Harrington, producers Virginia Smart and Marlene McArdle, and the entire Marketplace crew. This program should be required viewing for all job hunters. Which leaves me wondering: The exact same recruitment rip-offs are happening across the United States. But which TV networks are deploying their hidden cameras to warn consumers on this side of Lake Ontario?

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, score one for the Canadians.

(Special thanks to Rodney’s By Bay for the fine Toronto hospitality and the best plate of oysters I’ve ever downed. UPDATE July 2014: For those looking for oysters, Rodney’s is now John & Sons Oyster House, still at 56 Temperance Street, Toronto. I haven’t tried the new place myself, but I’m looking forward to it!)

Have you encountered a career rip-off? Maybe you worked for such a firm and have an insider’s story to tell. Most important, please help us assemble the Intenet’s best list of tip-offs to career rip-offs.

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How can I optimize my first day on the job?

In the February 14, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to make the most of the first day on the job:

I am starting a new job soon and would like your suggestions on how to make a great first impression. I can do the handshaking and small talk, but what else? I’ve read that one should meet with the boss at the end of the first day for a check-in. I really want to do this right and show that I’m part of the team.

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!)

My Advice

It is indeed a good idea to stop by your boss’s office at the end of your first day to say thanks for the job and to check in. I’m glad that you’re thinking about the impression you will create. Too often, new hires are too nervous to think at all during the first day! Monitoring how you’re doing is an important part of achieving success.

I encourage you to apply this perspective not just to your first day, but to your first week, first month, three months, six months and first year. Asking for and getting good feedback is a great way to become part of the team.

Check in with your boss regularly to ensure you’re meeting expectations and that you understand your objectives. Be diplomatic and be confident.

If something goes wrong, or just feels wrong

(Sorry, this part is only in the newsletter… Don’t miss next week’s edition. Sign up now. It’s free!)…

After you’ve been oriented and after you’ve been assigned your first tasks, take time to outline the work you are to do. Also outline how you’re going to do it, including an overall strategy, specific steps, tools you will use, and so on. Include estimated (or mandated) milestone dates along with measures of your own performance.

Then sit down with your boss and go over your written outline.

  • Ask for comments and suggestions about your work plan.
  • Ask how you might tune it to match the company’s and the department’s style.
  • Discuss how your work will contribute to the company’s (or department’s) profitability.

This establishes an important kind of self-monitoring that will build your credibility.

If your boss responds positively, ask to meet managers and staff in departments “upstream and downstream” from your own, to learn how your work fits with theirs.

It’s very smart to start out on the right foot. But then you must demonstrate periodically that you’re not just doing the work — you’re thinking about how it affects the company’s success. After all, that’s what you were hired for, right?

(Once you figure it all out and you get good at your job, remember this: Don’t be afraid to do the job your way. Regular talks with your boss can make this possible.)

Best wishes on your first days!

What’s your experience been when starting a new job? What did you do to optimize your success? And… how did you screw up in those first few days or weeks? We’ll all learn something from everyone’s stories — please post and join in the discussion!

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Are Skype interviews good for you?

In the February 7, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader says Skype interviews aren’t such a good idea:

Thanks so much for hosting an Open Mic session and offering your professional expertise. My career is in IT (information technology) and although I feel more like a commodity these days than the business professional that I am, there are interviewing techniques that throw up a big red flag.

Recently I was asked to do a Skype interview. There are many factors with a Skype interview that can be held against a candidate because it introduces things that are not common with the typical phone and face-to-face interview process. The interview is with a local company but regardless, I still find it as an unfair practice. What are your thoughts?

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!)

My Advice

I’m with you. I don’t like “phoners” in general. If you’re uncomfortable with this kind of interview, you can’t tell companies to stop doing it, but you can politely decline.

How to Say It:
“I’d be glad to invest time to come meet with you. I think I can demonstrate how I can contribute to your bottom line by doing X and Y for you. But I’m sorry — I get so many requests for e-mail, telephone, and virtual interviews that I respectfully decline them. I need to know that a company is really interested in talking shop. When I attend such a meeting, I’ve done my homework. If you’d like to meet with me, I’ll be ready to show you what I can do for your business.”

I think if a company balks at that suggestion, it’s wasting your time. Are they really interested in hiring someone, or not?

There’s a time and place for social media tools, to facilitate communication. I don’t think an initial contact is it. Whether it’s via telephone or Skype, there’s an enormous difference between casually chatting with someone about his work, and conducting a job interview. I think the technology emphasizes the power one party has over the other, and it makes forthright, balanced dialogue awkward. The candidate is always at a disadvantage. (And the employer may wind up wondering why she wanted to interview a talking head.)

I don’t think it’s appropriate to make a person perform on video if there’s not already a relationship in place. The person who invites another to talk business has an obligation to make the experience pleasant. That’s why we buy one another lunch. It’s an expression of our investment in, and respect for, the person we’re soliciting.

I get fed up with the “social media” tools that employers use as an excuse to avoid investing adequate time to assess a candidate. Check Recruitomatic & The Social Jerk (Or: Why you hate recruiters) for more about this. Perhaps there are ways to engage another person before suggesting that they appear on your computer screen for an interview, but it doesn’t seem the employer in your story has done that.

I hope the How to Say It example above gives you an idea about how to handle this. But please — use your own words, and modify the message so you’re comfortable with it. Sometimes, you have to push back firmly, but make sure you do it politely.

If you’re going to do a Skype — or any other kind of video — interview, don’t miss these 8 Tips for Successful Video Interviews by Rachel Ryan.

What’s your take on “phoners?” Have you ever done a Skype interview? Maybe I’m looking at this wrong, but I think Skype interviews put the candidate at a disadvantage, and they might leave the employer thinking he’s talking to Max Headroom. Please post your comments and suggestions.

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Cornell Executive MBA Presentation

This evening at Cornell University’s Palisades, NY facility we talked about How to Work With Headhunters. Executive MBA students in the Johnson School of Business joined headhunter Deborah Matson and me for an hour and a half of Q&A. We covered a lot of topics — but the seminar sizzled over one question: Should you disclose your salary history to an employer?

The purpose of this posting is to continue the discussion.

We’ve covered this topic on the blog many times, and opinions sizzle here, too! Check out the controversy, which includes dozens of comments from readers:

How to make more money: Withhold your salary history

Salary History: Can you afford to say NO?

Salary history: Will HR put up or shut up?

The real reason employers want your salary history: Hiring is a crapshoot

How to negotiate with a headhunter

At today’s seminar, an HR manager from Johnson & Johnson made a good point: If you decide to withhold your salary history from an employer, how you say it counts a lot. If your attitude is uncooperative, an employer can read a lot into it. If you decline politely and respectfully, an employer might let it slide. What’s your take on disclosing salary?

Do you have other questions that we didn’t have time to cover? Comments and observations? Please post them here, and we can continue our discussion.

Many thanks to Cornell for its hospitality, and for the opportunity to talk shop with Johnson School EMBAs.

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