Subscribe
The insider's edge on job search & hiring™

Monthly archive for July 2016

Kelly Webcast Q&A

KellyOCG-lg-140x60I just delivered a webcast for Kelly OCG, produced by HCI.org, to hundreds of HR folks from around the world — about how to add value to the recruiting and hiring process at their companies.

How to:

  1. Create a competitive advantage for their companies when hiring in a challenging job market
  2. Attract and engage the best talent
  3. Avoid letting HR become a roadblock between managers and the best job candidates

We did some Q&A, but we ran out of time, so I offered to take more questions here. If you didn’t get a chance to bring up an issue you’d like to discuss, please ask away and I’ll do my best to respond here! Thanks for joining me on the webcast!

: :

Should you sign an NCA? Not so fast!

Quick Question

sign-thisI was offered a job with a small tech company. The NCA that they asked me to sign was so broad that it would have prevented me from taking a job with any other company writing embedded software. When I balked at signing it, they told me I would have to talk to to someone in their legal department.

I walked into their lawyer’s office and explained my objections. His reply: “If I were in your position, I wouldn’t sign that either. Let’s strike out the paragraphs you object to.” What do you think of that?

Nick’s Quick Advice

This is an instructive story about NCAs (non-compete agreements). Thanks for sharing it. It’s also a good lesson about negotiating job offers. It’s not just about the money!

People don’t always believe me when I tell them NCAs (and NDAs, or non-disclosure agreements) are very often negotiable, mainly because they’re ridiculous, and the legal people who write them know it.

These employers figure no one would question or refuse to sign “a necessary legal document” — especially when a new job hinges on it. And most job applicants wouldn’t dare. The lawyers go overboard and include terms and restrictions “just because they can.”

It makes you wonder how many people before you signed that thing simply because they felt intimidated.

I’d love to ask that lawyer whether he thinks it’s ethical for his company to keep using that document, and whether — now that he’s acknowledged how ridiculous it is — he’ll cancel NCAs that other employees have signed and produce a more reasonable agreement.

Or maybe the employer should just fire the lawyer who wrote it and behave more responsibly toward its employees and the people it’s trying to recruit.

I won’t even get into my opinion of an employer that can’t explain an obligation it wants a job candidate to sign — without sending you to its lawyer!

For more about NCAs, see How can I negotiate an NCA or NDA?

: :

Negotiate a better job offer by saying YES

In the July 26, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader plans to reject a job offer that might be saved.

Question

yes-butIn Fearless Job Hunting Book 9, Be The Master of Job Offers you suggest how to decline an offer when you have two job offers — so as not to burn my bridges. I’ve got a different problem. I should decline a job offer but I don’t want to!

While I have not received an offer yet, it became clear after the final interview last week that this department is not flexible about working hours. The job is in the middle of Boston, and it would increase my commute time. I am not willing to do that for this position. I want the offer, but can I be honest about the commute time as the reason I would decline?

Nick’s Reply

I’d be frank about your commute problem if they make an offer. But if you want to avoid ending the discussion, there’s a way to finesse it.

When I want to say no to a deal, I like to take an affirmative approach. So I say YES but. If all the other terms are to your liking, ask yourself, What would make me want to accept the offer?

Start with YES

Then phrase your response to the offer like this.

How to Say It
“I’d like to accept your offer. I want the job and I want to work on your team. But I’d like to discuss the terms with you, if you’re amenable to it.”

(You’re not actually accepting the offer. You’re starting a negotiation by saying you’d like to take it. Remember that negotiations aren’t just about money! There are lots of terms you can negotiate.)

Pause and let them respond. They’ll ask you, What terms?

How to Say It
“The problem is the commute. We all know commuting in and around Boston is a big challenge. The traffic is horrible. But I can deal with it if you could make an accommodation on the work hours. I’ll of course work at least X hours per day. I want to make sure I’d be delivering the value and work you need from me – I don’t expect you to compromise on that. But can we discuss a flexible work schedule to help me deal with the traffic?”

Note that you’re not demanding anything. You are asking for a discussion. No matter how they respond, you will have given an affirmative response and a request for a reasonable accommodation. If they blow it at that point, it’s on them.

Commitment enables negotiations

The power of this approach lies in starting out with YES. This is what most of the negotiating methods I discuss in Be The Master of Job Offers are about: — saying YES that means maybe, if you’ll work with me on the terms. This tells them the main question is already resolved – you want the job. All that remains is working out the terms, which you’ve indicated you’re happy to discuss, after you’ve notified them that the commute is the issue.

Believe it or not, the most important commitment you can make to an employer is to say you want the job. That commitment puts you on good footing to discuss terms.

Try it. The worst that will happen is they’ll say no. But when you’ve indicated you want the job, an employer is more likely to come back with an alternative that’s good for both of you.

I wish you the best with this. These two articles may be helpful when you’re negotiating:

Don’t let employers always call the shots

The Bad-Business Job Offer: Negotiating not allowed!

How do you negotiate when you want a job, but the terms are not to your liking? What would you do in this case?

: :

Is my MBA degree hurting me?

Quick Question

How do I overcome, on a resume or in an interview, the fact that my MBA is from the University of Phoenix? I graduated in 2006. UoP has received so much bad press that I’m concerned my education will not be taken seriously, and that it might be a detriment to my career advancement. Thank you for your advice.

Nick’s Quick Advice

What’s happened with UoP is unfortunate, but don’t let it get in your way.

It seems that MBA degrees have the most impact on hiring decisions when they come from big-name schools. Otherwise, they don’t seem to mean a lot “out of the box.” (That is, on your resume.) Of course, if you learned something while getting the MBA (like finance) that’s necessary for a job you want, then it may make a difference. I’m not knocking MBA degrees.

Putting UoP’s reputation aside, I think what matters more than any kind of degree is personal referrals and recommendations. That’s what gets you in the door. There is nothing like a personal, professional endorsement. Employers consistently say that’s the biggest factor, aside from the applicant’s skills and experience.

Likewise, contrary to the marketing hype, your resume is not your “marketing piece,” nor will it get you in the door. Used by itself, all it does is force you into the Resume Grinder where an algorithm will sort you among millions of your competitors.

Personal referrals are a much more powerful alternative.

You can’t change the name of the school on your MBA. But you can do a lot to leverage good referrals. For advice on how to do that, see Please stop networking.

There’s lots more advice on this topic in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3: Get in The Door (way ahead of your competition). See especially the sections titled:

  • “It’s the people, Stupid” pp. 5-8 (No, you’re not stupid, but this article will show you how people act stupidly when they don’t focus on  personal referrals.)
  • “Drop the ads and pick up the phone” pp. 9-11

Most important, to learn how to turn references into referrals, see:

  • “Don’t provide references — launch them” pp. 23-25

Don’t worry about your MBA. Just get to work on personal referrals. And be careful about where you buy your education!

: :

 

New Grads: Send a robo-dog to job interviews!

In the July 19, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader bemoans the effect of “stupid” technology on hiring. He doesn’t realize he needs to get a dog.

Question

robo-dogI saw a disturbing story on Bloomberg: Goldman Scraps On-Campus Interviews for Robo-Recruiting. It’s about how fewer companies are doing on-campus interviews because of the lack of jobs. Rather, some companies are having a machine do the interview. I cannot tell you how stupid I think this is. I am sure you will agree.

As an electrical engineer, I have to say that this is a misuse of technology — people like me might make such technology possible. I’m tired of hearing about “disruptive technology.” If this is the future, I want no part of it. What is happening here?

Nick’s Reply

Employers have given new grads no choice but to send robo-dogs to their job interviews to woof it up with the employers’ robots.

At the same time companies like Goldman Sachs complain there’s a skills shortage, they demonstrate a complete lack of recruiting acumen.

CNN reports there’s a surplus of talent (College job hunt gets tougher as campus interviews fade):

About 12.6% of college grads are underemployed, meaning they don’t work enough hours.

Then CNN quotes a recruiter:

There is a real skills gap. [Many college grads] don’t know where their education and skills fit in the workforce.

It seems this “Wall Street titan” can’t figure out what to do with skills and education, either.

How does this smell?

CNN says “the U.S. economy has a record number of job openings.” The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms there are 5.6 million open jobs.

NewsHour’s Paul Solman calculates that around 19.5 million Americans are either unemployed, under-employed, or looking for a job even though they’re no longer counted as unemployed or as part of the work force.

That’s a ratio of 3.5 job seekers to every vacant job. While not all job seekers are qualified, there’s hardly a talent shortage. But employers like Goldman Sachs claim there is — so, what do they do to pick the right candidates?

Edith Cooper, Goldman’s global head of human capital management, says she’s got a really novel way to recruit and entice the elusive qualified new grad. She has stopped sending humans to interview them:

We’re trying to take out an individual’s assessment of talent.

CNN elucidates this new strategy:

The Wall Street titan announced last week it will ditch on-campus interviews starting next year for undergraduates in favor of an automated interview recorded by HireVue, a Utah-based company that creates software for recruitment.

The aforementioned recruiter explains this supply-and-demand rationale:

A generation ago…the employer came to the candidate. Now the candidate has to find the employer.

If the head of Goldman’s HR isn’t getting it, here’s an analogy the head of sales might understand. There are millions of investors hungry for good investments, so Goldman’s stock brokers should stop selling — and wait for investors to beg for a Goldman account.

Beg to work for us!

In a job-seeker’s market, new grads must subject themselves to machine interviews, invest their time filling out online applications, and wait like starving dogs to be fed. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs HR managers get paid to wait for bots to do their hiring. Disintermediation, anyone?

dog-bot-2It seems not to occur to the Goldman Sachs of the world that they can’t find talent because they’re not looking for talent. It’s the proverbial story of washing your hands with rubber gloves on. It’s surrogate interviewing. Outsourced hiring. To use another metaphor, rather than going out to meet the talent, Goldman Sachs is sending a robo-dog named HireVue with a note in its mouth. Machine interviewing.

I’ve written about the likes of HireVue before: HR Pornography: Interview videos, WTF! Inflatable Interviewer Dolls? This is not disruptive technology. This is outsourced corporate irresponsibility.

In the midst of the claimed “talent and skills shortage,” CNN says the percentage of big-name employers that go to college campuses to recruit has dropped from 89% in 2007 to 76% today. They’re so desperate to find and hire talent that they’ve stopped recruiting! Worse, in a job-seeker’s market, Goldman tells job seekers to do tricks to get jobs.

Automated Personal Service

Recruiting requires selling — something a stock brokerage company should know a lot about. It requires personal contact, persuasion and, yes, a soft touch. Especially during a talent shortage.

Let’s go back to that analogy. In an effort to boost sales, Goldman Sachs tells its stock brokers to stop selling. Instead, the company publishes advertisements notifying investors that if they want to do business with Goldman, they must log-on to a third-party website and record their request for help with their investments. The selection algorithms are waiting! If you qualify, Goldman may do business with you.

Better yet, imagine this. You make it past the HireVue machine and Goldman invites you for a real interview. You respond with a link to your website and invite Goldman to record answers to questions that your own software will analyze to determine whether Goldman qualifies as a place you’d like to work.

Now, that’s automated personal service only a bank can appreciate!

Send in your dog

Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, said to CNN:

Recent college graduates are having a hard time finding a job — finding a good job has become much more difficult.

robo-dog-3I’ve got an idea to make it easier on graduates.

Goldman schedules an interview where a personnel jockey will conduct a screening interview before you are permitted to meet the hiring manager. (Remember: There’s a talent shortage and Goldman is really desperate to impress and entice good applicants.)

Here’s the good part. You hire your own dog. You send a surrogate to the interview, so you won’t waste your time. (Perhaps you rent the dog from HireVue.) If anyone asks how you dare to send a dog with a note in its mouth, you cite the CNN article:

Goldman says it’s trying to weed out any biases between job candidates and interviewers, such as mutual friends, interests in the same sports or same schools.

You’re just trying to make sure the interview is fair and unbiased.

Do robots dream of job offers?

Is Goldman Sachs really suffering from a talent shortage and skills gap? While new college grads are dreaming of job offers, are industry titans working hard to find, recruit and hire those rare applicants they really need?

HireVue CEO Mark Newman is laughing all the way to the bank. I’m laughing at Goldman Sachs’ HR managers, who are deploying auto-mutts to bark at college grads. Woof!

If you’re the talent, and you know how difficult you are to find, I refer you back to last week’s column — with apologies for yet another metaphor: Tell HR you don’t talk to the hand. (For some solutions, see HR Managers: Do your job, or get out.)

What do you think? Are new grads just not ready for real jobs? Or are employers not ready to hire anyone? Maybe you should throw the employer’s bot a digital bone.

: :

Tell HR you don’t talk to the hand


Why does Ask The Headhunter look different? Because it’s mo’ betta! Learn all about it!


In the July 12, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader refuses to waste time interviewing with HR.

Question

talk-to-the-hand-2Your column HR Managers: Do your job, or get out reminded me that most of what HR does makes no sense, and it’s not smart to bend to HR’s will when I’m looking for a job.

HR always wants me to do a meeting with them first, before they’ll let me talk to the hiring manager, but that’s a guarantee of doom! HR knows nothing about the work I do, and rejects me before I can even meet with someone who is qualified to judge me and what I can do. I know your advice is to tell HR I won’t talk to the hand, but how do I actually say that without sounding like a jerk?

Nick’s Reply

“How to say it” is a big part of Ask The Headhunter — and I know this is where people often stumble. They know they have to push back sometimes, when an employer makes demands, but they freeze up when it comes to actually expressing themselves.

I get it. I used to wonder what the problem was, but I’ve realized that unless you’re dealing with these situations all the time, it’s hard to come up with the right words. Some readers can do it; others can’t. (If headhunters didn’t know how to do it, we’d starve.)

The specific challenge you’re facing is something I wrote about in detail in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 4, Overcome Human Resources Obstacles, pp. 5-6. Here’s how to tell HR you don’t talk to the hand:

Candidates don’t realize they can insist on interviewing only with the manager. (Why waste time with anyone else?)

How to Say It
If the employer insists that you meet with a personnel jockey before the hiring manager, try this:

“I’m afraid my schedule is very busy, and my time is limited. I’d be glad to meet with a representative from your HR department, but only after the hiring manager and I have met and decided that there’s a clear, mutual interest in working together. Once that’s established, of course I’ll make time to meet with HR.”

If the company balks, be firm.

”Thanks for your interest, but I’m afraid I’ll have to pass. If the manager decides to meet with me, I’d be glad to schedule some time.”

Then let it go. Move on to another opportunity, where the employer respects you and your time.

Is this risky? Of course it is. But so is wasting your time with someone who isn’t qualified to evaluate you. “Playing along” isn’t going to change this. It’ll just demoralize and frustrate you. (See How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.)

The approach I recommend emphasizes that your time is not free — it’s valuable. And, while you might respect HR’s role in hiring, you’re no dummy — you know that only the hiring manager is qualified to judge you. If the employer is really interested in you, HR will back off and respect your wishes and your time. If they’re just putting you through a mindless meat grinder, then it’s better to find out up front. That’s what makes this a good test of whether you’re looking at a real opportunity, or the blind leading the blind.

I’m glad you found the HR Managers: Do your job or get out helpful. But it wasn’t just a challenge to HR. It’s also a challenge to you. Are you willing to stand up for yourself, and for sound business practices?

HR’s behavior will not change as long as job seekers keep agreeing to silly demands. Why would you want to get screened by HR, when HR isn’t expert in the work you do? Would you let the gardener tell you not to knock on the homeowner’s door? (See Should I accept HR’s rejection letter?) You don’t have to talk to the hand.

If you want to optimize your chances of winning the right job, keep your standards high, and don’t do foolish things just because someone tells you to. Insist on meeting with the hiring manager first.

Are there “magic words” you use when HR confronts you with unreasonable demands while you’re applying for a job? Please tell us “how you say it” when you tell HR to take a hike. Let’s talk about where you draw the line, and about what works.

: :

The NEW Ask The Headhunter!

Question

What’s all this????

Nick’s Reply

Well… the old website was looking kinda beat… for a long time! And the blog… well, the design was out of time. Welcome to the NEW Ask The Headhunter!

After much futzing around (sorry!), I’ve merged the website and the blog — and I hope you like the results! Both are in the same place — asktheheadhunter.com.

Getting around

  • To get to the blog, just go to Ask The Headhunter and click Blog up at the top in the menu.
  • To get to the old, original Ask The Headhunter website, click ATH Website in the menu. (It still looks the same — until I move all those articles into the new layout…)

We’ve got mobile!

If you prefer to access Ask The Headhunter on your mobile device, you know the blog has always looked good, but the website was not “mobile-ized.” Now that changes — I’ll be rolling out the original ATH articles in mobile format, making it easier to access everything on the new site. It’s coming gradually…

Bookmarks

  • Your bookmarks to pages on the old website (asktheheadhunter.com) still work — the URLs have not changed, and the pages are still here. However, they’re still in the old format. One at a time, I’ll be moving (editing and beefing up) each of those articles to the new format. Then they’ll get new URLs and you should save the new bookmarks (URLs).
  • Your bookmarks to blog posts (which look like corcodilos.com/blog/[post]) should automatically convert to this new site! You might want to save the new URLs as new bookmarks.

Threaded comments

New! This is something I think is critical on any site where there’s lots of discussion — being able to comment on someone else’s comment right beneath theirs, and to view discussion on a comment as a “thread” off the original. This always frustrated me on the old blog — you had to go looking for comments related to one another.

2 ways to post comments:

  • To reply to someone else’s comment, click “Reply” at the end of any existing comment, and your reply will appear right beneath that comment, indented.
  • To reply to the post, use “Leave a Reply” way down at the bottom of all the comments — and your comment will appear at the bottom of the list of comments.

Hope you love this new feature as much as I do!

Surprises

Almost daily, you’ll see things on this new site moving around, new things cropping up, stuff looking a bit different… while I work to get it looking and working the way I want. I opted not to wait to launch it until everything was just so — where’s the fun in that? But I promise to try and keep the site neat and tidy and easy to navigate while I keep working on it.

Help me find bugs!

The lovely new layout is a work in progress — I really wanted to get it online as soon as possible, so you’ll find some broken links (both in the new and old areas), and stuff that just doesn’t look or work right. (My apologies in advance!) I hope you’ll take a minute to let me know when you find these! Please comment below!

Comments, Suggestions, Complaints

Please tell me what you think of the new site! I want to know! That includes the look and feel (fonts, colors, functionality, ease of use) — anything you want to comment on. I’m all ears, and I’ll consider any suggestions. I want to make the new Ask The Headhunter pleasing, easy to use, and better all-around than the old site and blog.

There’s more!

And wait till you see some of the new features that are coming! The technology behind this new site will let me add videos, audio, entirely new content sections, and more! Got ideas — stuff you’d like to see? Please add your thoughts below!

Meanwhile, thanks for your patience with these changes. I’ve been looking forward to updating the Ask The Headhunter “properties” online. And I’m giddy!

The best thing about Ask The Headhunter is you — the community of smart, engaging, opinionated, vocal, friendly, helpful, articulate people who comment and share their advice and ideas on all the topics we dicuss. Thank you for making this the insider’s edge on job search and hiring!

– Nick Corcodilos

: :