The insider's edge on job search & hiring™

Monthly archive for June 2013

Just how stupid is Google about interviewing?

So I get back from a week-long trip to the San Francisco Bay Area and find a slew of e-mails from readers who wanted to share a link to this hilarious article in The Atlantic:

Google Finally Admits That Its Infamous Brainteasers Were Completely Useless for Hiring

google_arrowAnd every Ask The Headhunter reader who sent me the link offered a sarcastic remark on Google’s notorious practice of asking interview questions like this one:

How many golf balls will fit into a school bus?

Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of “people operations” at Google is quoted in the article:

“We found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time… They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

Well, anyone who reads Ask The Headhunter already knew that.

But in career circles, Google’s idiotic practice was of course lauded and marked as state-of-the-art interviewing technology. The emperor’s imaginary clothes were beyond reproach because, after all, it’s Google.

This revelation wouldn’t even be worth noting if not for Bock’s explanation of what Google does today in job interviews:

Bock says Google now relies on more quotidian means of interviewing prospective employees, such as standardizing interviews so that candidates can be assessed consistently, and “behavioral interviewing,” such as asking people to describe a time they solved a difficult problem.

In other words, Google’s personnel jockeys are using the same goofy “techniques” loads of other personnel jockeys use:

Standardized interviews
A list of canned questions designed to make sure everyone is inteviewed fairly and without discrimination.

Yo, Google: The point is to find the candidate who has an unfair advantage over every other candidate because they’re the best candidate — and you can’t assess that by making sure you ask every putz who shows up the very same questions. (Imagine trying that with the next five people you go on a date with.) The point in a job interview is to discriminate! To discriminate means to identify key differences and to carefully select the person that stands out as different from the rest and best suited to your needs. “Standardized inteviews” tie a manager’s hands and turn interviews into a meatgrinder.

Behavioral interviewing
This is a tried and dopey interview technique that HR consultants invented to justify their sorry existence and bloated fees. It’s named after what’s missing in the method entirely: behavior. That’s right: There is no behavior in the behavioral inteview. It’s all talk. These interviews are about what you did last year, two years ago, or sometime in your life:

So, the last three women I dated really liked me, and I bought them flowers now and then, and took them out for dinner, and listened to them tell me their problems. I’m a great guy. You can ask them. So, will you marry me?

What you did last year is not a good reason for hiring or marrying (or even dating) you. How you solved a problem two years ago tells us nothing about how you’ll tackle the specific problems and challenges a specific manager at Google is facing today. Not any more than being able to guess at what you might charge to wash all the windows in San Francisco.

Yo, Google: Ask each candidate to show you how he or she would do this job today, tomorrow, next week, next month, this year! Put them in front of the work and let them show you.

Google’s admission is no surprise. Managers who interviewed using goofy questions like, “How many barbers are there in Chicago?” were basically saying, “Search me!” about who was worth hiring. Trouble is, they’re still saying, “Search me!” when they use canned personnel jockey questions to figure out who can do the work.

Or, they could just put on one of those “arrow through the head” props and ask job applicants how they think it got there. Seems to me Google is still pretty stupid about inteviewing.

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Am I unwise to accept their first offer?

In the June 18, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter worries about asking for more money:

My dream position with my dream company has just come through! The offer is good — a bit lower than I would have liked, but very good. My question is this: Do I even bother haggling over a couple thousand dollars?

I read somewhere that you should always go through at least one round of salary negotiations and that the employer actually expects it. I think I have a very good chance of getting what I ask for (especially because it’s such a small amount), but I don’t want to risk coming off as ungracious or rude.

Truly, if they don’t budge an inch, I’m still taking the job. Is it worth negotiating, or should I just accept?

Nick’s Reply

you_are_hiredI believe in enjoying happiness and not worrying whether other people think you’ve been given enough of it. Who cares what others say about “one round of salary negotiations?” If you’re happy with the offer, accept it and thank the company.

Some companies make their offer, and that’s it — they won’t budge. This company might be willing to negotiate, but you must consider what happens if they don’t. If they balk at the extra two grand, then you’re going to look weak coming back and saying, “Well, okay, then I’ll take what you offered anyway.” It says something about your request: You couldn’t justify it. And what does that say about your credibility? Remember: You’re going to work with these people. How you handle negotiations can affect how they will view you — and treat you — once you’re on board.

If the extra money really means a lot to you, then go for it. Here’s an example of how I might approach it:

How to Say It

“I believe I’m worth $2,000 more than you’re offering. But please don’t misunderstand. This is not a large difference, and I have already decided I want this job. To show you my good faith, I’ll accept your offer as is. But I’d like to respectfully ask you to consider raising it by $2,000. There are three reasons why I believe I’m worth it… But either way, I’m ready to start work in two weeks.”

It’s your judgment call. If you try this, you’d better be ready to prove your added value. By making a commitment to the company first, you establish a level of credibility that goes beyond any negotiating position.

(Some people have a hard time thinking and talking about what salary they’re looking for. This may help: How to decide how much you want. You can’t negotiate or interview effectively unless you have an objective.)

Remember that the ultimate goal of negotiating a job is not to get every last dollar you can. It’s to set the groundwork for the best possible work relationship — which is not limited to money — for the long term. That’s why it might be better to accept an offer that you’re clearly pretty happy with, and plan for how you could get that extra couple thousand as part of your first raise when you have your first review.

Congratulations on winning a good offer for a job you really want. I hope all goes well!

An expanded version of this Q&A appears in

Fearless Job Hunting | Book 9: Be The Master of Job Offers

Be ready to deal with:
 Rescinded offers, non-competes, salary surveys, counter-offers, vacation time,
Bait-and-switch, oral vs. written offers, requests for old pay stubs

Post your comments!

Do you rely on a resume to get you in the door? Does it work? What do you think makes a hiring manager invite you for an interview?

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How (not) to use a resume

In the June 11, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter wants a resume template:

I need a template for a two-page resume that will help me get in the door at a company I want to approach. Can you help?

Nick’s Reply

Resumes are a weak, passive way to get in the door (or to represent yourself). Using a template or any kind of boilerplate to demonstrate your value to a company is the worst thing you can do to yourself when job hunting.

resume_packageYou’re supposed to be uniquely qualified so the company will choose you instead of some cookie-cutter drone — right? Do you really want a “template?”

But you asked, so if you insist on distracting yourself with resumes, I’m going to offer you my suggestions. If you’re going to use a resume, here are two things to think about. Understanding these points might help you see the distinction between the resume itself, and what’s behind a truly effective resume. (In the end, this distinction should reveal to you why you don’t really need a resume.)

Talk first.

First, have a substantive discussion with the person you plan to give your resume to. That is, the manager must already know you and you must know the specific needs of the manager. So, the person you give the resume to should be the hiring authority in the company you want to work for — not someone in HR and not some unknown contact. Your initial personal contact with the manager prepares you to produce a relevant resume. (Does that sound backwards? It’s not. Read on.)

Tailor to fit.

Second, the resume should accomplish one thing: Show how you’re going to solve that manager’s problems. That’s a tall order. (I’ll bet you’ve never seen a resume that does that. Few managers have, either. That’s why most of the hires they make come from truly substantive personal contacts.)

The resume needs to be tailored to the specific employer and job. That’s why job hunting isn’t easy — and it’s why you need contact with the employer first. Obviously, we’re no longer talking about resumes as a “marketing tool” but as a tool to prove you can do a specific job. This essentially voids your question and puts us into a different ball game. I never said I’d support the mindless use of a resume; just that I’d give you my suggestions.

Tailor to fit exactly.

When you write the resume, sit down and describe as best you can how you’re going to help that specific employer, and do your best to provide proof that you can pull it off. That’s hard to do in writing. There is no boilerplate (or template) that’s good enough, because every person and every employer and every job is unique. Writing such a resume is hard work, and there’s no way around it. If it were easy, every resume would produce an interview, but we know that doesn’t happen. (Have I talked you out of it yet? Maybe I’ve talked you into a whole new way of looking at job hunting without resumes.)

A resume can’t answer questions (especially if it’s muffled under the weight of 5,000 other resumes sitting on top of it). And a smart manager will be full of questions. This is why I don’t like resumes as a job hunting tool. (See The truth about resumes.) I’d rather go straight to the hiring manager and have a talk with him — but only after I’ve done my research so I can demonstrate how I’m going to bring profit to his bottom line.

The magic words are not in a resume.

How does anyone get to that manager? Well, it’s sort of a Zen thing. You can’t approach the manager until you have something useful to say to him. Heck, you don’t even know who he is. So do all the necessary homework. Talk to people who know the industry, the company, its business, the department, and other employees. FJH-3Follow this trail to talk to people who know the manager. You’ll learn a lot. And that’s how you’ll identify and meet the manager, too — through people he knows. The big bonus: After all these dialogues, you’ll know a lot about the manager’s business, and you will actually have something to say that he will be eager to hear.

Where does a resume fit into that? Why waste your time trying to figure it out? Why submit a resume when the research you must do will put you in front of the hiring manager?

Get In The Door (way ahead of your competition) is one of my 9 new Fearless Job Hunting books. It’ll take you where no resume can and get you there in person.

Do you rely on a resume to get you in the door? Does it work? What do you think makes a hiring manager invite you for an interview?

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Fearless Job Hunting: How to start a job search (+ 9 new books!)

In the June 4, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader complains about the nagging fear that “the system” will blow up in his face:

I follow all the proper steps throughout my job search, and inevitably I hit a snag that I don’t expect. Getting a job is portrayed as this system everybody follows — employers, job hunters, personnel people, recruiters. But the truth is, even if I do what I’m supposed to do, it just blows up in my face.

I do my part, but employers drop the ball. It seems the salary range fits me, but then I find out it doesn’t. I’m ready to answer all the questions they could possibly ask about the job, and they throw me some stupid curveball! At the end of the interview, they promise an answer next week, but next month they’re still not returning my calls.

No matter how prepared I think I am, there’s this nagging fear that around the next corner is yet another surprise that’s going to blow up in my face. How is anyone supposed to use this system to get a job?

Nick’s Reply

BIG-FJH-PKGI’ve been burning the midnight oil, working on Fearless Job Hunting, a brand new set of 9 PDF books — the very best myth-busting answers from 12 years’ worth of ATH newsletters. But it’s not just reprints of Q&As.

I’ve re-written, edited, enhanced, and beefed up each Q&A. I’ve added sidebars, articles, and extra examples. I’ve created How to Say It tips. Each book delivers my very best insight and advice on the 9 toughest topics you keep asking about. So let’s get on with this week’s Q&A — and then I’ll explain how Fearless Job Hunting will help you ovecome the daunting obstacles that stop other job hunters dead in their tracks.

I’ve been saving your question for this special edition of the newsletter, because there’s no simple answer to it. The solution starts with an attitude and a strategy for landing the job you want — but it’s not in this week’s newsletter. Please click here for my advice about How to start a job search.

What you will find is a sample section from one of my 9 new PDF books in the Fearless Job Hunting series — Book One: Jump-Start Your Job Search. I hope this sample — How to start a job search — helps you orient your job search so you can stop fearing those curveballs.

Fearless Job Hunting™

I’ve published almost 500 editions of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, and I get lots of requests for reprints of old editions about the toughest job hunting obstacles.

My goal with these 9 new PDF books is to make you a fearless job hunter — I’d like to give you an edge, and help you anticipate and overcome the intimidating roadblocks when you’re trying to land a job, so you can stand out as the most profitable hire. (Here’s a list of the titles of each of the 9 new books.)

The question in today’s newsletter merely highlights what troubles job hunters: The broken-down employment system that every day fails employers and job hunters alike.

Success in job hunting isn’t about chasing job postings, sending resumes, and filling out endless online application forms. If any of it worked, you’d have the job you want. It’s not a step-by-step “process” for landing a job. There is no such process that works! If you’ve been participating on Ask The Headhunter, you know exactly what I mean, because it’s what we discuss every week!

In the real world, “the steps” lead to failure when you encounter daunting obstacles — the inevitable obstructions that trip you up. Either you know what to do to overcome them, or you lose.

The 9 Fearless Job Hunting books help you deal head-on with what drives you crazy. They deliver hard-core answers to the in-your-face questions no one else dares to address. Success in job hunting is about knowing what to do when you hit the wall:

A personnel manager rejects you.
Should you walk away? (Book Four)

You’re unemployed.
How do you explain it? (Book One)

A friend gives you a contact.
How do you make it pay off? (Book Three)

An employer wants your salary history.
How do you say NO to protect your ability to negotiate? (Book Seven)

It’s between you and Candidate #1.
How do you show that you’re the more profitable hire? (Book Six)

You received an offer, but a better one is pending. The first employer wants an answer now.
How do you keep your options open? (Book Nine)

The interview went well, but they’re not calling back.
What now? (Book Eight)

How you cope with these obstacles will make or break your job search, no matter how good your resume is, how clever your interview answers are, or how many jobs you’ve applied for. Learn how to be more assertive and how to maintain control in today’s insane job market.

Be fearless. Dive into your job search armed with myth-busting methods to deal with the most daunting obstacles. Get the Ask The Headhunter edge, and say hello to total control over your job search.

Think about the handful of “hit the wall” challenges I’ve listed above. Then please share your experiences: How have you dealt with one or more of them? Let’s compare your methods with some of the tips I’ll discuss from the 9 new Fearless Job Hunting books. And don’t miss the sample section of Jump-Start Your Job Search!

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Fearleass Job Hunting™ is a trademark of Nick Corcodilos.