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The insider's edge on job search & hiring™

Monthly archive for March 2012

The First Job Interview

In a hidden valley many thousands of years ago… “So, where do you see yourself in 50 moons’ time?”

 

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Move Over H-1B: Make way for L-1 visas

The H-1B visa is well-known in technology circles: U.S. employers use it to hire temporary foreign workers in “specialty occupations.”

Engineers and Information Technology (IT) workers have long complained that the H-1B program takes jobs away from Americans. While H-1B requires employees to be paid the prevailing wage, some argue that employers actually pay lower salaries to H-1B workers — and that this depresses salaries across the board.

Enter L-1: A dog of a visa?

While there is a cap on the number of H-1B visas issued in the U.S., there is no cap on the L-1 visa, which has no prevailing wage requirement.

The L-1 visa is used by foreign companies for intra-company transfers of foreign employees into the U.S. L-1 workers are supposed to have “specialized knowledge” — but my dog could claim that his nose enables him to fulfill that requirement.

Use of the L-1 visa is growing, in part because the definition of “specialized knowledge” makes it easier to abuse.

Leading work to other countries?

Computerworld reports in an article, Charting H-1B users, as attention shifts to L-1, that, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), L-1 could start resulting in significant job losses for Americans. EPI warns of “offshore outsourcing firms whose business model is to first hire L-1 workers to learn the work done by Americans, then to transfer that work overseas.”

Says an EPI analyst: “The L-1 program was not intended to function in this way. Nevertheless, this blatant misuse of the program is legally permissible. As a result, the program is operating at the expense of American workers.”

The issue: The U.S. government is considering changing the definition of “specialized knowledge,” and EPI is warning that the new definition could cause new, more extensive job losses. Are American jobs being led out of the country on L-1 leashes? I mean, L-1 visas?

Meanwhile, foreign companies that want to transfer more of their employees to work in their U.S. facilities complain about the restrictions.

Have you encountered L-1? Is it the new H-1B?

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Business Cards: What do Asians know?

In the March 27, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a business owner defends business cards:

I just read an article in the L.A. Times that says Passing out business cards is quickly becoming passe. Instead, I’m supposed to “bump” my phone with someone else’s to trade contact information. If cards are optional, then so are new clients and referrals. The end of that article points out that in the world’s fastest growing market, Asia, you’d better have a card because it’s crucial. I run a successful small business and I think anyone who doesn’t carry business cards is naive. Do you use business cards?

My Advice

Hmmm… what do Asians know that the rest of us don’t?

I run an online publishing business, and “digital” is an enormous part of my work and life. If there’s a way to do something more effectively or efficiently, I take advantage of it. Sometimes, digital technology enables us to do things we could never do without it — like publishing this newsletter and my books.

But I do carry business cards, and I don’t intend to give them up. Guess I’m good to go to Asia.

Last week I gave a presentation, and afterwards I had a cup of coffee with one of the attendees — who is a potential client. She asked me for a business card. Suppose I’d told her, “I don’t use business cards. Find my e-mail address on my website.” I’d have broken the pace of our discussion. It would not have helped.

I do a lot of business online and I don’t always meet my clients, so there’s not always a chance to use a business card. But for those in-person meetings and work sessions, cards are a necessity. I’ve encountered some people who don’t have a card to share, and sometimes — not always — this sends a bad signal. I quickly assess whether the person has a viable business, or is just knocking around, trying to get lucky. It affects how I judge them. Is that fair? I don’t think that matters. I know other business people who react the same way. Cards are cheap; so’s a simple website. If you’re too cheap to have both, you may not be worth talking to.

But there are lots of subtle benefits to cards. Some people are in too much of a hurry to recognize them.

If you want to encourage someone to talk to you again, it’s easy to offer your card. Asking for their e-mail address or getting them to jot down yours is a bit more awkward. (Not all phones “bump.”) Contrary to what that article suggests, cards are not all tossed in the trash. I have a large digital contact list, but I also have a well-organized box of cards that I refer to often.

I can write a note on the back of a card, to personalize the memory someone has of me. And when they give me their card, I can jot a note on theirs, too. I could do it on my Droid, but so what? That card stays on my desk for a while and reminds me of the person. If the information is only in my phone, I won’t see it until I have reason to search for it.

A university professor is quoted in that article: “It’s time-consuming to organize business cards — and not portable.” That’s pretty naive. New contacts earn their way into my phone. Many start out as cards. If I need them more than once or twice, I add them to my digital list.

One last reason cards are good: Design. A person’s card tells me as much about their brand as their website does. Do they care how they come off?

What’s most unfortunate about the article is its self-righteous tone. It pits “under-30” and “young and Web-savvy people” against… who? Over-thirty and Web-ignorant people? Gimme a break.

The real punch line in the article reveals how gratuitous it is. “Firms that do business abroad, particularly in Asia, have found printed business cards to be crucial to corporate culture and ritual there.” In one of the fastest-growing markets, cards are crucial. Did someone miss a bigger point when writing this article?

Why come off like a clueless dork? Carry cards as well as one of those digital communication thingies, what do you call it? A smartpod? A pad thingy. You know what I mean — here, I’ll write it down on my card for you… Call me. We’ll do lunch.

Do you use business cards? Are they on the way out? What do Asians know that the rest of us don’t? Do biz cards offer anything that digital doesn’t? Post a comment… or write me a letter…

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Facebook: Pimping your cred to employers?

Q:

At what point will Facebook start selling your “timeline” to employers who will be as happy to pay for it as they are to pay for access to your online resume?

A:

When is Facebook’s IPO?

There’s a news story that’s made the rounds in several media outlets. It’s about employers that demand a job applicant’s Facebook login and password, so they can check the person’s online bona fides. The Chicago Tribune reports there’s already legislation under way to stop the practice.

The articles ruminate on the whys, the wherefores, and on the proper response. But the proper response is easy: Up yours! This blog has already asked the question about Presumptuous Employers: Is this HR, or Proctology?

Everybody does it

But the problem isn’t just with employers. I found one version of this Facebook story on USA Today: Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords. It was the best of the articles I’d read on the subject, so I wrote a comment and tried to post it.

Imagine my ire when USA Today demanded my Facebook credentials in order to post the comment. Say what?? I clicked out of the comments box. Up yours, USA Today. F you and the Facebook you rode in on.

If I want to go to Facebook, I’ll go to Facebook. But when I want news, I expect my experience will be with USA Today, or whatever news outlet I choose to visit. There is no more reason for me to transfer my Facebook bona fides to another website than there is to disclose my salary history to some personnel jockey. “That’s the policy” isn’t a good enough reason. (If you wonder how to avoid turning over your salary history to an employer, see Keep Your Salary Under Wraps.)

So, Up the yin-yang of media outlets that are selling me out to Mark Zuckerberg’s database. They won’t get my comments — and I’m not so likely to bother with them next time I want news and discussion.

Did you give permission?

Of course, whether we’re talking about employers, USA Today, or any other partner to Facebook — the problem is suckers who play along. The problem is what you choose to share on Facebook. Because if you think it’s a problem when employers demand your social media credentials, you’re not thinking ahead. Did you already give permission for your credentials to be sold to them?

Monster.com and other big job boards rent, sell, and trade your resume information to parties you know nothing about.

LinkedIn is is now selling access to its database to employers who pay for access to people’s credentials.

Google just got sued again in federal court for misusing your personal information.

Pimping your cred

How much do you wanna bet that Facebook — especially once it does its IPO — doesn’t start pimping your “timeline” to employers who are willing to fork over the bucks? It’s gonna happen. Employers won’t need to embarrass you by asking for it in a job interview. They’ll already have it. It’s all part of “improving your social experience.” It’s all part of shareholder value. It’s all part of turning yet another database of personal information into a “career service.”

You won’t find Facebook managing the comments section of this blog. Not now, not ever. You won’t find me cueing up my Facebook bona fides when I want to post a comment on USA Today. As Mark Zuckerberg starts pimping out his members’ timelines, you’ll also probably find me canceling my Facebook account.


UPDATE March 23, 2012

Facebook has issued a statement: Facebook warns employers not to solicit passwords, calls it an ‘alarming’ practice. Gimme a break. That’s like bars and liquor distillers issuing statements that they are “alarmed” by drinking. My prediction stands: After the IPO, Facebook will sell employers access to your personal data. “A powerful new social feature to help you land that job!”

 

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Should I disclose my salary history?

In the March 20, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader worries that disclosing salary history to an employer is not a good idea…

What’s the best way to deal with an interviewer who wants to know my salary history and salary requirements? While I know employers always ask this, I feel it takes away from my edge when I divulge that information.

My Advice

You’re absolutely right — to a point. When you show your salary cards at the wrong time, your negotiating edge disappears. When employers ask for salary requirements, they usually follow up quickly with a question about your salary history. Then they use your last salary to limit any offer they make. And that’s why you need to take control of the discussion.

You should avoid disclosing your salary history, while expressing your desired salary as a range you can justify and defend. The best way to negotiate a good salary deal is to demonstrate that you’re worth it.

Salary history is confidential.

In my opinion, discussing salary history is a no-no. It’s no one’s business. Some employers will object, but keeping your past salary confidential is pure common sense because it directly affects your ability to negotiate. Although an employer may suggest that your old salary is a good indicator of your value, the truth is that it’s up to her to make an independent assessment of your value to her business.


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Your salary is nobody’s business. Disclosing it can cost you a big raise.

Learn to say NO firmly and with authority when employers demand your salary history — to make them say YES to the best possible offer.

It’s all in my new PDF book:

Keep Your Salary Under Wraps

BONUS: I’m throwing in a special mp3 download, from my recent workshop at Cornell’s Johnson School of Management.

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ORDER NOW! Get a BONUS mp3 download!

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Don’t cap the job offer.

Employers claim otherwise, but once they know your salary history, they’re likely to use it to limit any job offer they make to you. They offer myriad excuses for why they need to know your salary, but I’ve never heard a legitimate one. (My favorite: “It’s the policy!” Gimme a break.) If they want to make sure you’re “in the right ballpark,” ask them what the salary range on the job is. If they continue to press you, ask yourself whether they’d disclose the boss’s salary — or anyone else’s salary in the department. Makes no sense, does it? Don’t help an employer cap the job offer by retreating to your old salary before you even begin to negotiate.

Talk profit.

Turn any salary question around and ask what exactly the employer wants you to accomplish for her business. Then be ready to show how you will deliver. If this sounds like a lot to prepare in advance, it is. If you can’t do it, then you have no business in the interview.

Know what you want.

It’s legitimate for an employer to ask what you want, as long as it’s couched in a larger discussion about how you will contribute to the bottom line. As we said above, the more value you can contribute to the work, the more you’re worth. There’s no way to provide a desired range until you know what the job entails and what the expectations are — and that requires thoughtful discussion about the manager’s business objectives and how you will fit into them.

Salary negotiations can be challenging. But it’s easier to negotiate the right deal when you’ve demonstrated good faith — and firmness — by keeping your salary history private, by demonstrating your worth, and by sharing your goals with the employer.

How to handle demands for your salary history is such a hot topic on Ask The Headhunter that I wrote a 27-page Answer Kit that teaches how to say NO politely and with authority, so you can prove you’re worth more: Keep Your Salary Under Wraps!

How do you protect your ability to negotiate the best salary? Should employers demand your salary history? Should you disclose it?


Don’t miss these other Ask The Headhunter Answer Kits:

How to Work With Headhunters

How Can I Change Careers

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Should I give equity to entice a new hire?

In the March 13, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, the owner of a start-up business asks whether it’s smart to give equity to a new hire:

After years of frustration with the way many professional services firms treat their clients, I decided to launch my own business. I have had modest success in my first six months and I am considering adding an employee. The individual that I am interested in has expressed concern about the added risk of working for a small company. He wants me to give him an equity stake to offset the risk, but I don’t want to give away too much too early, considering the competitive nature of the marketplace and my own business vision. What would you recommend?

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

There are two kinds of people in your start-up world, other than clients: employees and investors. You can’t fill a job with an investor. You must fill it with an employee.

Now, I’m a big believer in sharing profits with good employees. And I think it’s a great idea to make employees owners to a reasonable extent, commensurate with their commitment to the business. That’s what profit-sharing plans are about.

But employees must earn their way into ownership of the business. It’s simply not good management practice to give away ownership of your company before you know what you’re getting in return. If this individual were bringing you new clients or some kind of intellectual property to enhance the value of your company, then and only then would I consider giving him equity from the outset.

If you hire an employee whose contributions become a true investment and a key part of your business, then at some point sharing some equity may be a key to your long-term success.

You can test this candidate’s motivations. Try this:

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

…This person is clearly looking for security and potential riches without making a solid investment.

I’d find another candidate, or someone who wants to invest in your business as a partner. Take a look around: Even jobs with big, stable companies are risky. There is no such thing as job security.

In the future, I would look for candidates who want to add value to your business and to make you more successful — not ones that want you to protect them from risk. Talk about jobs and salary to potential employees. Talk about investment and risk to investors. But don’t confuse the two.

Does your company offer equity to new hires? Have you ever accepted equity to join a start-up? How did it work out? I’d like to hear what you have to say about the risks of start-ups — and the joys of taking risks!

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Internal recruiting: Is it poaching?

In the March 6, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a manager wonders why employers prohibit internal recruiting but let their best workers get recruited by the competition:

In [last week’s edition] a manager asked about hiring from within the company. I hire internally all the time, and my company’s own employees have been some of my very best hires. While it may be frowned on in some places, here we can request internal references, talk with an employee’s current manager, and check performance reviews. No doubt some companies make it difficult to hire internally even while they talk big about career development and growth! That’s not how to keep your best people. How can managers in companies like this change the rules?

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’s a dirty little secret that many companies discourage managers from recruiting internally. Oh, they promote “career growth” as long as an employee initiates the contact. (See JHBWA.) But for a manager to recruit an employee from another department? That’s a no-no!

Should managers be permitted to headhunt internally? Absolutely. While some would abuse the privilege, I think that in any healthy company managers and employees would find a balance. Not encouraging internal mobility only hurts a company.

I’ll tell you a story about how the enormity of this problem came home to me.

A Fortune 50 financial services company hired me to teach recruiters in their HR department to recruit like headhunters. After putting them through an intensive program on how to identify and actively pursue the best people for a job, it dawned on the recruiting manager that the best candidates were often already working somewhere else in the company.

That should be no surprise in any large company. If the company is successful, of course some of the best people in the industry already work there.

It was easy for me to convince the manager that the company needed to create an internal headhunting function, to recruit internal people from one department to another — legally.

She wanted to be the internal headhunter, and I helped her sell the concept to management because the company was losing a lot of its best people to the competition. Meanwhile, exciting internal jobs were going begging. The company was paying headhunters like me huge fees to recruit outside the company, when great candidates were right under management’s nose.

Since managers were not permitted to poach employees from one another — they had to wait for employees to come to them — setting up an internal headhunter with freedom to recruit with no-holds-barred seemed to be a good solution. They realized this was preferable to losing their best people to external headhunters.

As soon as they kicked off the project, the company’s managers freaked. Everyone wanted to hire internally, but too many managers objected to having their employees hunted. So the project was cancelled.

Long a target of headhunters, the company continued to bleed talent. To top it off, the HR recruiter who started the internal headhunting project got so disillusioned that she left.

Of course managers don’t want their talent poached by other managers. But it happens every day. The question is, does the board of directors want its talent poached by other companies — after investing a lot of money to cultivate that talent? In many companies, the geniuses in HR like to refer to people as a resource. But until HR recognizes that people are an investment, the ROI (return on investment) will accrue to the company that recruits them. Internal headhunters, anyone?

I think managers can help stem the loss of good employees by working together to create responsible internal recruiting practices. Hire an internal headhunter, and protect your company’s ROI. Pretending no one is poaching your best people from outside is a losing proposition.

Does your company recruit internally? Or does management play games about who must approach whom? And, if you’re a manager, what does this mean to you? What do you think about poaching, stealing, and recruiting your own company’s employees!

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