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Monthly archive for August 2012

Summer Slam: Monster, options, skirt protocol & resumes

In the August 28, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter we do the Summer Slam — “Speed Q&A” about:

  •’s and CareerBuilder’s paltry success rates
  • Employers that toy with job applicants
  • Pantsuits or skirts?
  • Blasphemous resumes

Every week I publish a real problem from a real reader along with my detailed advice. But I get tons of questions that never get published. Although I can’t possibly answer every question, when I have time I dash off answers to as many as I can. This week’s edition is a summer slam — high-speed Q&A culled from those brief e-mails. I hope you enjoy it!

Question: Monster-ous success rates

Do you know what the current success rate for and is? I have heard a statistic of 3%. I saw an article written back in 2005, but was wondering about more current information.

Nick’s Reply

The big job boards don’t report their success rates because they stink. According to, the two job boards were the “source of hires” about 2-4% of the time for employers polled:

  • 2002: Monster 3.6%, CareerBuilder 1.5%
  • 2004: Monster 2.6%, CB 2.4%
  • 2006: Monster 2.9%, CB 2.5%
  • 2008: Monster 2.7%, CB 3.5%
  • 2009: Monster 1.5%, CB 5.3%

These figures had to be teased out of CareerXroads surveys. In subsequent years, it seems the reports were burying the job boards’ consistently poor performance. In 2011 they reported that “88.9% of survey respondents attribute at least one hire to Monster during 2010.” They’re boasting about one hire? Gimme a break. My read is that neither board delivers more than 3-4% of hires. It’s pathetic. A dog with a note in its mouth could go out and bring you more hires. I’d stick to the niche job boards. The only big job board I like is because they pull jobs only from employers’ own websites.

Question: Options

I applied for a job with a small company. I got a call saying they have not ruled me out as a candidate but they were taking their time filling the position with someone with more experience. Months later, the job is still posted. Should I call them and offer to do the job as an intern? I really want this job!

Nick’s Reply

I know your motivation about a job can be very high. But let’s play devil’s advocate: Why would you want a job so much, when they don’t want you? They’ve put you on hold. They don’t see a fit. Not ruling you out doesn’t mean much if they have not stayed in touch with you. My advice is to move on and find a company that really wants you. Be careful with intern jobs — it’s often the signal to a company that you’re willing to do anything. Your best negotiating position with these guys is to develop other options.

Question: Skirt protocol

As a professional woman, I’ve always heard you should wear a suit with a skirt to interview. Lately I’ve seen women interviewing in suits with pants. What is the norm? Have we reached the point where women can interview in professional pantsuits or is it still skirt protocol?

Nick’s Reply

I don’t think any rule about attire covers all employers, but it’s worth finding out how employees at a company dress. Follow suit (no pun intended). If possible, visit the company’s location. Observe the people going in and out of the office. Dress one notch above the employees, because the point is to show respect. However, over-dressing can backfire. I’ve seen employers drop candidates who showed up over-dressed, worried the person might not fit in.

Question: Resumes

I love your Resume Blasphemy idea, but I am still confused about how to build a good resume. I was wondering if you have a resume sample or template that I could download? One that gives me examples. I really wish that I could finally figure this out, and quite honestly you are the only person that I feel gives out good advice. You need to write a book on resume building, Nick.

Nick’s Reply

Thanks for your kind words. The Resume Blasphemy approach is like a Zen koan. The message between the lines is, don’t use a resume. Don’t try to climb the mountain; go around it. To produce a blasphemous but powerful resume, you must talk to people connected to the company to ferret out what makes the business tick. Figure out how exactly you could contribute to its success. Once you do that, you don’t need a resume. You’ve already started talking to the right people, who can introduce you to the boss. A good resume is a business plan for doing the job. But you can’t produce a plan after reading a job description on a job board. (And you can’t create a plan by looking at someone else’s. Sorry, I don’t share samples of other people’s work!)

Hope you enjoyed this collection of short Q&As. Now please add your advice or to improve mine!

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All recruiting campaigns suck

The best recruiting campaign is a manager that calls you on the phone, tells you he loves your work, and invites you to lunch to talk about working together to make more money making better products. In other words, the employer isn’t scavenging. He did his homework and knows what he wants: you.

That’s recruiting.

All other recruiting campaigns suck. But this one, by game maker Kixeye, sucks less.

Kixeye slams competitor Zynga hard, after poaching some of Zynga’s key people. There’s no word about what Zynga’s recruiting response is. Maybe it could poach from its key partner, Facebook, whose employees are bailing anyway since restrictions have been lifted on employees dumping FB stock. Which is now priced so low you could line your Farmville pigpens with it. How low can you go?

Or Zynga could just change its business model and try to make money. Or it could create a new game altogether: Facebook Deathwatch. Earn tokens by adopting Facebook code jockeys and creating keywords for their resumes. Hey: That’s a recruiting app!

What most companies do to fill jobs is not recruiting. It’s advertising. And advertising is a stupid HR trick that raises operating costs by soliciting resumes they don’t have time to process. Which leads to cries of “Skills Shortage!” because turning on the fat-gauge sewer spigot is no way to get a meal.

I wonder what it’s costing Kixeye to sort through all the drek they’ve getting in response to this ad. Who cares. That kid CEO is a hoot.

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Am I cheating on the company that’s interviewing me?

In the August 21, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter wants to know whether it’s okay to interview with a company, when another company paid the airfare:

When a company flies me in to interview, is it okay to interview with other employers? Here’s the situation. A person is interested in two or more companies in the same industry and in the same locale. Obviously, the most efficient way to interview at these companies would be to fly out for a stretch of time (say a day or two), and interview at all of the companies over that time. My question is, should I let all the companies know that I will be talking to other companies on that trip? Or am I cheating on the company that pays my airfare?

My Advice

When a company pays to fly you out for an interview, you owe them two things: serious interest in the job, and the time required to interview you. They own your schedule for the time they want to meet with you. If they expect to see you for more than one day while you’re there, you must live by their schedule. They paid for the trip.

What you do the rest of the time is your own business. Do you need to tell them you’re going to the movies in the evening? Having dinner with an old friend, or with a manager from another company? I don’t think so — as long as it doesn’t interfere with the time they need with you. If you call the airline and arrange to extend your stay so you can meet with other companies (or to vacation) at your own expense, that’s up to you.

One thing you should not do is ask another company to split the cost of your trip with the company that’s flying you out anyway. (I have seen this done, but I think it complicates matters. Suddenly, you have two competitors trying to cooperate for your benefit.) You may, however, ask the second company to cover the cost of your hotel for the extra day you’re staying over to meet with them.

Keep the arrangements separate, and keep each company’s activity with you confidential. Make sure you’re giving the company that’s footing the bill all the access they need while you’re in town. But by all means, interview with as many companies as you’re interested in while you’re there. I see nothing unbusinesslike or unethical about it.

There is no need to tell any of the companies what you’re doing, unless you think it will aid you in getting offers. Personally, I think flaunting one company’s interest to another can backfire — and it’s inappropriate. But that’s your judgment call.

When’s the last time a company flew you out for an interview? It doesn’t happen often nowadays! When it does, be ready to capitalize on a visit to your target city. How do you optimize out-of-town interview trips?

Bonus Question: If you’ve got one interview out of town, how do you get more while you’re there?

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Paying to Get a Job, Part 3: Job applicant tells Padres to “Suck my dick”

In 2008 I published a column titled How much would you pay for a job? The 2009 follow-up was Pay for a job? (Part 2). Earlier this year, I told you about an outrageous racket I helped expose in the “career industry” in cooperation with Canada’s CBC-TV: Rip-Off Edition: Who’s trying to sell you a job? (video).

In all those cases, third-party “firms” were selling people “help” finding jobs. The help even came with “guarantees.” (If I could guarantee you a job, I’d be writing this from a private island.)

Such third-party “career management firms” have always attached themselves like leeches to the help-wanted business. But the worst of the offenders are employers themselves: companies you want to work for that reject your resume then try to sell you the “opportunity” to get a job with them.

Today’s example: Major League Baseball. The San Diego Padres.

Pay Us For a Chance at a Job

After Taylor Grey Meyer applied for several jobs with the Padres baseball team and received rejection after rejection, the Padres sent her an invitation to come meet “hiring managers” at the “Sports Sales Combine here at Petco Park.”

What’s the Combine? It’s made to look like a job fair. Except the Padres say, “Please note that this is NOT a job fair.” Oh, it’s much, much more!

  • “We anticipate attending sales managers will be looking to fill 50+ jobs at the Combine. “
  • “Teams from the MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL, MLS and college athletics all use the combine as a key source to find talent for their organizations.”
  • “Having been to multiple combines myself, and hired numerous people from the events, I could think of NO better way to get a start in the sport industry.”

Sound like a job fair pitch to you? Sure sounds like one to me! The Padres’ personalized e-mail to Meyer came from a Padres sales manager at a e-mail address and laid it on thick:

“Taylor, as we look for the best young talent from across the country we wanted to make sure you were aware of the opportunity. You can find the combine application at Teamwork Online through the link below.”

Clicking through to the “application,” Meyer found she could attend this “job fair” by paying $495.

Okay, Give Me The Job

The San Diego Padres are using a mailing list of rejected job applicants to sell an “opportunity” to get one of “50+ jobs.”

I don’t advocate profanity or nasty come-backs in business, especially when you’re trying to convince an employer to hire you. But Meyer knows a job from a come-on. After getting slimed with enough stupid Padres rejection e-mails to fill a hard drive, she responded in exactly the right way:

“I would like to extend you a counter-offer to suck my dick.”

Meyer then demonstrates to the male-dominated Major League Baseball sales guy that her cojones are bigger than his:

“Clearly, I don’t have one of these, so my offer makes about as much sense as yours. But for the price you’re charging to attend the event, I’m sure I would have no problem borrowing one.”

Kudos to for publishing Taylor Meyer’s story: “I Would Like To Extend You A Counter-Offer To Suck My Dick”: A Rejected Jobseeker Sends The Padres The Best Letter Ever. A bit of research reveals that the Padres — along with other MLB and pro sports teams — are hooked up with, a website run by “Drs. Bill Sutton and Richard Irwin,” that sells job applicants a “chance to be discovered by the pros!”

Scam Alert triggers my #2 scam alert: There’s no physical location listed for this business — just a gmail address. And there’s no explanation of its relationship to the Padres or any other sports team, except that an awful lot of the Padres’ (and other teams’) coaches are listed as “staff.”

The Padres also trigger my #3 scam alert, one of the oldest sales tricks in the book: They want you to fill out an application to qualify to pay $495.

What’s my #1 scam alert? The Padres strike out big-time for soliciting job applicants to whom they then pitch a chance at job “opportunities.”

As for that suck-my-dick rejection letter Taylor Meyer sent, the Padres deserved it. They rejected Meyer again and again, then “invited” her to “apply” to pay for a chance at a job. reports Meyer’s letter has already generated at least one job interview from a team that saw a second-hand copy of her e-mail. Now, that’s networking and creating a personal brand. And it won’t cost Meyer a dime. Seems to me that Meyer has demonstrated the “Sports Sales Combine” pitch is for losers.

You apply for a job. The employer rejects you again and again. Would you then pay $495 to that employer for “the most authentic training and networking experience available” and for an “opportunity” at “50+ jobs?”

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Handouts: What information should employers give to job candidates prior to interviews?

In the previous posting, Why do companies hide the benefits?, we discussed what a job applicant can do when the employer makes a job offer but refuses to disclose the benefits package until the candidate accepts the job.

Gimme a break!

I suggested that employers should have a prepared handout for all job applicants: Here are all our benefits! Ain’t they great?

Before doing a job interview! That’s #1.

Because what’s the big secret about benefits? Include some disclaimers, state that certain terms are dependent on the position or negotiable — but for goodness sake, promote the quality of the benefits!

Which got me to thinking…

Employers could save themselves and job applicants an awful lot of time and hassle… There’s all kinds of handouts they could provide to job applicants prior to interviews. Like what? Well…

2. Why not hand out the salary range on the job?

What’s the big secret? Hand it out to everyone who applies:

“This position pays between $80,000 and $100,000. But that’s no guarantee. Please be aware that we will make an offer that we believe our best candidate is worth to our business.”

So what if the candidate knows what the employer is planning to spend? Afraid that’ll adversely impact the employer’s ability to control costs and negotiate? So does the candidate’s salary history — but employers don’t hesitate to ask for that.

I’d like to see a salary range handout.

What else should employers hand out to job applicants (and prospective candidates they’d like to lure)? This could be a whole new recruitment marketing initiative!

3. ??

Okay, you’re up… Somebody want to give me a #2? #3? More? What information should emloyers give you before you even agree to show up for a job interview?

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Why do companies hide the benefits?

In the August 7, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter wants to why an employer refuses to disclose what the employee benefits are until the offer has been accepted:

I’ve been offered a job by a very large company. The salary is fine and the job sounds good. The offer letter states that I am eligible for benefits, but it doesn’t say what the benefits are.

I asked the headhunter who was working to place me, and he said the company’s policy is not to disclose the benefits until after I’ve accepted the position. This sounds really bizarre. The headhunter has assured me that the benefits package is very good and I shouldn’t worry about it; I’ll be happy with the package.

Should I take his word for it and accept the job, or should I run the other way?

My Advice

You’ve run smack up against one of the most perturbing and ludicrous practices of many companies: They will not divulge the details of their benefits package and/or their employee policy manual until after you have started work.

Why? Honest, this is the usual answer: “Our benefits package is considered a competitive secret, and our employee manual is confidential.”

You are right to be skeptical.

They invite you to join the game, but you can’t see the rules in advance. You may make an investment in the company, but you may not see the financials. You may buy the house, but you may not do an engineering inspection first.

Did you ever ask to see a menu at a restaurant only to be denied?

Please rest assured, the company you’re dealing with is behaving stupidly. You may be tempted to run away, but don’t. Take some control of the negotiation.

Call the office of the CEO and very politely explain that you are sitting on a job offer that you’re ready to accept, but you have a question no one — including the HR department — seems able to answer to your satisfaction. Decline to say what the question is until a staff member from the CEO’s office (someone who is not in the HR department) agrees to talk with you. I’ll bet you dinner (I’ll even show you the menu) that the CEO’s office has no idea that HR withholds such basic information from potential hires.

If you get to talk with a sensible company representative, here’s How to Say It:

“I’m impressed with your company, and I’m eager to come to work with John Jones, the manager of your finance department [or whichever department]. However, I cannot accept this offer without knowing all the terms of employment. I could no more sign an employment agreement without knowing all the terms than your company could sign a contract without knowing what it was committing to. I’m sure you understand. Could you please send me your employee manual, benefits package, and any other documents that would bind me after I start the job? Once I have these, I will promptly respond. I look forward to accepting your offer, and to making a significant contribution to your business. Please don’t ask me to talk with your HR department — they have already refused to provide these basic documents. I hope I can count on your help so we can all get to work.”

Although I think a company’s refusal to disclose benefits is sufficient reason to decline an offer, I should warn you that the more serious risk lies in taking the job before you’ve seen the employee policy manual. This is where things like non-compete rules, prohibitions against moonlighting, surrender of invention rights, and other important terms are sometimes hidden.

If you balk at these rules after you’ve started the job, your only option is to quit — without the freedom of being able to fall back on your old job. Moreover, be aware that those rules may still apply after you quit. A job offer is a contract, and certain terms of that contract may survive your resignation or termination. Get it all in writing. A company’s employee manual is usually incorporated by reference into a job offer. When you accept one, you accept the other. But don’t stop there: Beware the cause clause.

Be very careful. Question authority. Question such policies. They stink, and there’s good reason to say so. You risk getting the company upset, but as I asked earlier, would you agree to pay for a meal at a restaurant before you know what’s on the menu? (In some European restaurants, they go a step further and graciously invite you into the kitchen where you can see how the food is prepared and check out the bubbling pots for yourself, before you even sit down!)

Not all companies have such policies about benefits information. I discourage you from signing a contract (a job offer) from a company that will not divulge everything you need to know. I’d tell the headhunter you have your own policy: I need to know what the entire offer is — including the benefits.

Have you ever taken a job without knowing the employee benefits? Have you encountered a “gotcha” too late? What else do you need to know before quitting your old job to accept a new offer?

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