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Monthly archive for December 2016

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Is your job search stuck?

Finding a job is not about prescribed steps. It’s not about following rules. In fact, job hunting is such an over-defined process that there are thousands of books and articles about how to do it — and the methods are all the same.

What all those authors conveniently ignore is that the steps don’t work. If they did, every resume would get you an interview, which would in turn produce a job offer and a job.

But we all know that doesn’t happen. That’s why I wrote Fearless Job Hunting.

Try Ask The Headhunter for free!

The key to successful job hunting is knowing how to deal with the handful of daunting obstacles that stop other job hunters dead in their tracks.

I didn’t bring you here just to sell you books for 40% off. Of course, I’d love it if you’d buy my books, but Ask The Headhunter regulars know I publish my advice for free. My business model is simple: If you love what you read here for free, you’ll see the value in buying my books. But that’s up to you. My job is to keep delivering tips and advice you can find nowhere else — tips and advice you can use now.

So try Ask The Headhunter for free!

Here are some excerpts from Fearless Job Hunting — and if you decide you’d like to study these methods in more detail, I invite you to take 40% off your purchase price by using discount code=MERRYATH. (This offer is limited — it’s good only until New Year’s Day!)

4 Fearless Job Hunting Tips

You just lost your job and your nerves are frayed. Please — take a moment to put your fears aside. Think about the implications of the choices you make. Consider the obstacles you encounter in your job search.

FJH-11. Don’t settle

From Fearless Job Hunting Book 1: Jump-Start Your Job Search, p. 4:
The myth of the last-minute job search

When you’re worried about paying the rent, it seems that almost any job will do. Taking the first offer that comes along could be your biggest mistake. It’s also one of the most common reasons people go job hunting again soon — they settle for a wrong job, rather than select the right one.

Start Early: Research the industry you want to work in. Learn what problems and challenges it faces. Then, identify the best company in that industry. (Why settle for less? Why join a company just because it wants you? Join the one you want.)

Study the company, establish contacts, learn the business, and build expertise. Rather than being just a hunter for any job, learn to be the solution to one company’s problems. That’s what gets you hired, because such dedication and focus makes you stand out.

2. Scope the community

From Fearless Job Hunting Book 3: Get In The Door (way ahead of your competition), p. 6:
It’s the people, Stupid

FJH-3You could skip the resume submission step completely, but if it makes you feel good, send it in. Then forget about it.

More important is that you start to understand the place where you want to work. This means you must start participating in the community and with people who work in the industry you want to be a part of.

Every community has a structure and rules of navigation. Figure this out by circulating. Go to a party. Go to a professional conference or training program. Attend cultural and social events that require milling around with other people (think museums, concerts, churches). It’s natural to ask people you meet for advice and insight about the best companies in your industry. But don’t limit yourself to people in your own line of work.

The glue that holds industries together includes lawyers, accountants, bankers, real estate brokers, printers, caterers and janitors. Use these contacts to identify members of the community you want to join, and start hanging out with them.

3. Avoid a salary cut

From Fearless Job Hunting Book 7: Win The Salary Games (long before you negotiate an offer), p. 9:
How can I avoid a salary cut?

FJH-7Negotiating doesn’t have to be done across an adversarial table — and it should not be done over the phone. You can sit down and hash through a deal like partners. Sometimes, candor means getting almost personal. Check the How to Say It box for a suggestion:

How to Say It
“If I take this job, we’re entering into a sort of marriage. Our finances will be intertwined. So, let’s work out a budget — my salary and your profitability — that we’re both going to be happy with for years down the road. If I can’t show you how I will boost the company’s profitability with my work, then you should not hire me. But I also need to know that I can meet my own budget and my living expenses, so that I can focus entirely on my job.”

It might seem overly candid, but there’s not enough candor in the world of business. A salary negotiation should be an honest discussion about what you and the employer can both afford.

4. Know what you’re getting into

From Fearless Job Hunting Book 8: Play Hardball With Employers, p. 23:
Due Diligence: Don’t take a job without it:

FJH-8I think the failure to research and understand one another is one of the key reasons why companies lay off employees and why workers quit jobs. They have no idea what they’re getting into until it’s too late. Proper due diligence is extensive and detailed. How far you go with it is up to you.

Research is a funny thing. When it’s part of our job, and we get paid to do it, we do it thoroughly because we don’t want our judgments to appear unsupported by facts and data. When we need to do research for our own protection, we often skip it or we get sloppy. We “trust our instincts” and make career decisions by the seat of our pants.

When a company uses a headhunter to fill a position, it expects [a high level] of due diligence to be performed on candidates the headhunter delivers. If this seems to be a bit much, consider that the fee the company pays a headhunter for all this due diligence can run upwards of $30,000 for a $100,000 position. Can you afford to do less when you’re judging your next employer?

Remember that next to our friends and families, our employers represent the most important relationships we have. Remember that other people who have important relationships with your prospective employer practice due diligence: bankers, realtors, customers, vendors, venture capitalists and stock analysts. Can you afford to ignore it?

* * *

Thanks to all of you for your contributions to this community throughout the year. Have you ever settled for the wrong job, or failed to scope out a work community before accepting a job? Did you get stuck with a salary cut, or with a surprise when you took a job without doing all the necessary investigations? Let’s talk about it! And have a wonderful New Year!

If you purchase a book,
take 40% off by using discount code=MERRYATH when you check out!

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Why am I not getting hired?

In the December 20, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we address some of your biggest complaints about job hunting — why you’re not getting hired.

Question

Let’s look once again at the perennial problems job seekers continue to face:

  • “I don’t understand it. I must have responded to over 50 job postings in the last month, and I haven’t gotten a single interview.”
  • caneI’ve completed over a dozen job applications, and I haven’t heard from one company.”
  • “The tight market puts employers and recruiters in the driver’s seat once again. Fewer jobs are available, and there’s a larger talent pool to choose from.”
  • “Companies that once had to make offers on the spot to snare candidates now have the luxury of time. They can postpone making hiring decisions until they find someone who meets all their criteria.”

The question behind all these plaintive protests is clear: Why am I not getting hired?

Nick’s Reply

Whoo-whee! It’s that time again — a difficult time for getting hired. (See The Third Fallacy.) Companies are indeed hiring. They’re just not doing it the way you’d expect. They’re in a hurry but they don’t want to make mistakes — though it somehow seems they don’t really want to make hires. Throughout Ask The Headhunter and throughout the year it seems we keep coming back to the same challenge: how to help employers make a decision — to hire you.

Be the right candidate

Consider the logic of the frustrated job hunters above. It’s not logic at all. It’s pure frustration that stems from not being the right candidate. Who’s fault is that? Difficult as it might be to hear this, please listen:

  • Don’t approach a company if you’re not the right candidate.
  • Don’t make rationalizations when a company ignores you.

It’s true that many companies are hiring more slowly, but that doesn’t mean they have the luxury of time. In fact, the opposite is often true. Some managers are under great pressure to fill precious slots before the year ends and budgets close (or are cut). Thus, employers are not hiring slowly because they can, but because they can’t get the right candidates. They are deluged with every Tom, Dick, and Jane who has a minute to submit an application — and those same managers are burdened with applicant tracking systems that can’t distinguish strong candidates from weak ones.

Remember that most hires are made via trusted referrals and personal contacts. Why? Because this is the most reliable source of good, appropriate candidates. When managers can’t get a hire through this preferred channel, they turn to lesser sources, like job boards and applicant tracking systems. They know the odds of finding a good candidate are low but they, too, are frustrated and desperate. They need to fill a job now.

Put that in your Santa’s pipe and smoke it — and you’ll sweep past your competition.

wreath‘Tis the season to be truly right. If you are the candidate a manager needs, you can capitalize on the rush to hire. You can give a manager the gift he’s been waiting for: your earthly presence. Help him to spend his budget and make the hire. Be ready to articulate your value, but do it face-to-face or on the phone — not via an application form or a resume.

These concepts and methods are laid out in how-to fashion in the Ask The Headhunter PDF books, and we’ll summarize some of them here.


If you’d like to buy one or more Ask The Headhunter books, I’ll offer you a holiday discount!
Take a merry 40% off your purchase by using discount code=MERRYATH.
(This limited-time offer for the holidays expires Jan. 1, 2017!)


Make it personal

Like Baba Ram Das said in 1976, “Be here now.”

Getting hired means actually being there. A resume doesn’t cut it. An application doesn’t cut it. When you hide behind a form, you’re admitting that you’re not sure you’re the right candidate. You are afraid to face the manager because you have nothing compelling to say. If you’re the right candidate, then you have exactly what it takes to make a manager say, “Yes!”

There aren’t 400 jobs out there for you. You can be the truly right candidate for only one, or two, or maybe three different jobs. Pick them carefully. Study, prepare, create a business plan to prove your value to the specific manager, and go after those two or three jobs and no others.

Here’s the secret to showing an employer why she should hire you: Estimate as best you can how your work produces revenue or reduces costs for the company.


Excerpted from Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6, The Interview: Be The Profitable Hire, p. 8:

Identify your role in the profit equation
If you work in sales or product design, you help produce revenue by selling or by creating products. That’s good for the company. The more you contribute to revenues, the more value you add to the business.

If you work in information technology or in manufacturing, you have a daily impact on the company’s costs. (But, of course, every worker is part of a company’s costs.) High costs are not good. Your job contributes to the success of the business by helping minimize costs (also known as increasing efficiency) while performing a function necessary to help produce revenue.

The difference between revenue and cost is profit. So, regardless of what your job is, ask yourself what you do to enhance profits. Do you sell more stuff at higher margins, or do you do some other job smarter, faster, and cheaper? Explaining this to an employer helps you demonstrate your value.


Getting hired: Take the right path

The frustrated candidates who submitted the complaints above are not being dismissed because their resumes are lousy, but because they are cows. If you merely send in a resume, what’s the chance you are really the right candidate? If you rely on nothing but a dopey job posting, how can you know what a job is about or what a manager wants?

Please: Be realistic. Take the most reliable, proven path to a job. If you are really the right candidate, prove it by getting referred by someone the hiring manager trusts.

hollysprigI know I sound a bit harsh. My suggestions seem like an unreasonable burden on a job hunter. The notion that it’s up to you to pick the right job creates a daunting task. And making personal contact with hard-to-reach managers is so difficult. This is all very hard work.

Yep. But so is that great job you want. The task of finding and getting hired has never been easy. If you believe otherwise, it’s likely because the media and automated recruiting systems have brainwashed you and employers alike. (Zip Recruiter, anyone? Just watch applicants come rolling in! LinkedIn, anyone? Just watch opportunities fill your e-mail box!) You already know this isn’t simple. You already know that being dead-on for a job is a rare experience. But if you don’t make it happen, it’s not likely to happen on its own.

Take advantage of this high-pressure time when managers really do want to fill jobs. But don’t be casual about it. Be the right candidate who picks the one right company, the one right job, then picks up the phone and delivers the solution a manager has on his wish list.

Stand out

Who’s getting hired? The candidate who gets personal, picks the right companies, and delivers a solution to the right manager is who you’re competing with, whether she learned this approach from here or whether it’s just her common sense. Long-time ATH subscriber Ray Stoddard puts it like this:

“The great news about your recommendations is that they work. The good news for those of us who use them is that few people are really willing to implement what you recommend, giving those of us who do an edge.”

Lets review some key tips to help you get the edge you need over your competitors:

I hope Ask The Headhunter helped you get an edge in 2016. We will continue to discuss the details of the methods outlined here in upcoming columns.


Save a merry 40%!

If you buy Ask The Headhunter PDF books in the Ask The Headhunter BookstoreI’ll deduct 40% from your purchase price — no matter how many books you buy! Just use discount code=MERRYATH when you check out! (This limited-time offer for the holidays expires Jan. 1, 2017!)


christmas-treeI’m taking a break for the next two weeks — See you with the next edition on January 10!

Meanwhile, here’s wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (no matter what you celebrate or where you celebrate it), and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!

How have you used the ATH methods to land the job you want, or to hire exceptional employees? What methods of your own have you used successfully? Please share, and let’s discuss — what matters most is what works best out in the field!

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Hack your elevator pitch

In the December 13, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to formulate an exceptional elevator pitch.

Question

elevator pitchI have been out of the corporate world for over 10 years. I recently sold my business and am contemplating my options. I am too young to retire (in my mid-50s), yet too old to be a hot prospect for most companies, so I am networking.

I was recently asked for an “elevator speech” about myself. Of course, I know what that is, and admit it has value because it forces focus. Yet I am vexed by the prospect of re-developing such a tool, partially because I am not sure what I really want to do and I want to keep my options open, and in part because I always question the value of a bumper-sticker-tool in changing times.

What are your thoughts? Is an elevator pitch valuable? What are the critical elements as you see it? How should it be developed and delivered? What’s the best you have heard?

Thanks for your time. I have been a subscriber for several years and recognize a great content developer, and blogger, when I see one!

Nick’s Reply

There’s no way to focus on what you cannot see, but more about that in a moment. Your instinct is right. It’s time to hack the elevator pitch, because I think elevator pitches (or speeches) are nonsense.

They’re a product of the career coaching industry, which wants your money, and which tends to fabricate stuff it can sell you. (I tell this to Executive MBA students at Cornell, Wharton, UCLA and other schools whenever I do workshops for them.)

What’s an elevator pitch?

By definition, an elevator pitch is about you. You meet me in an elevator and you spout your pitch. But I don’t know you, so I couldn’t care less about you. I don’t need or want to hear about you. Why would I be impressed that you can talk about yourself?

I care about my business and the problems and challenges I face. And they’re all unique to me. (See How to get the hiring manager’s attention.) Hearing about you does nothing for me, because when you rattle off that speech your objective is for me to listen carefully, then to invest my time trying to figure out what to do with you. That’s an unreasonable presumption.

What’s worth listening to?

Now, if you have something useful and specific to say about my business that reveals you’ve already made an investment to understand my plight — that’s worth listening to.

If you say something on the money about my business, the encounter shifts. I’m suddenly interested in who you are, and I might want to know more about you. We might even become great friends.

The trouble with job seekers

This brings us to the fundamental trouble with job seekers. On the whole, what’s painfully lacking in their presentation is attention to the person they’re addressing. An elevator pitch is all about the speaker — it shows no real respect to the listener.

Similarly, a resume that you hand to every employer is about you, and your objective is for each employer to figure out what to do with you. Consider how presumptuous that is. More to the point, consider that no employer has the time, interest or ability to figure out what to do with every job seeker that comes along!

(Think I’m daft? For all the resumes you send to employers where you’re convinced you’re perfect for the job, how many of them invest the time necessary to conclude that you’re the perfect candidate? Employers don’t do what job seekers presume they do. That’s why using automated job application tools to hit as many employers as possible is stupid and unproductive. So why do people keep doing it?)

Who are you pitching to?

If you think about it, investing time in producing a canned elevator pitch is pretty silly. Selectively and thoughtfully investing some serious time in understanding the business and problems of someone you want to work with — that’s smart. Of course, it means you must carefully select your target, right? Or, why bother making such an investment? You must prepare a short speech that’s highly specific to that individual — one that wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else.

Only if you have time to do that do I have time to hear you out.

When you ran your business, did you ever stand on a street corner reciting information about your products to impress people? I know the answer. So, why would you even consider doing that now?

Hack your elevator pitch

The best elevator pitch I’ve ever heard goes like this: “By doing XYZ, I can increase your profitability by 10%.” There’s the focus you mentioned — but to bring that kind of focus, you must first clearly see and examine the object. And that object is my business. Can you hack my business? (See Stand Out: How to be the profitable hire.)

Thanks for your kind words. Glad you enjoy Ask The Headhunter. Please use your good business sense when pursuing a job, if it’s a job you want. Because employers don’t pay for elevator pitches or interview skills. They want business acumen that addresses their specific issues, and that contributes to their bottom line. One size does not fit all.

What will get the attention of someone you want to work with? Do you use a prepared speech? How do you know what to say?

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How do I ask for 30% salary increase?

In the December 6, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader wants a 30% salary increase to accept a big promotion and relocation.

Question

salary increaseAs a senior manager with a big manufacturing company, I lead a sizable sales team and have enjoyed good career growth over 18 years. I’ve been told I am a high-potential employee and they are considering me for a promotion to a director job at HQ or in one of our national regions, which would require a relocation. I’m ready to move, but I won’t do it without a considerable salary increase.

I have done some homework and 30% seems to be the right number. Our company typically would only give me a 10% raise. But my thought is that, if I am getting uprooted and taking on more pressure and responsibility, they need to compensate me for it. Is this a reasonable response to give them, or a bad one?

Nick’s Reply

Congrats on the good news. My view of this is, you put your proposal out there along with your justification, and that’s where the negotiating starts. But there are two potential issues.

  • Will you offend them because you dared ask for 3X what they were probably going to offer you?
  • Can you justify what you’re asking for?

Let’s consider the possibilities — and prepare for them.

The salary increase stinks

There’s not much you can do about management that gets offended easily, so you need to make a judgment. Could asking for so much get them upset? Are you prepared to deal with such a reaction? What I’m really asking is, would you decline the promotion — or quit — if they don’t give you what you think you’re worth?

Finally, have you prepared for the worst case — they dismiss you? (See Negotiate a better job offer by saying YES.)

You need to ask yourself what the odds are in each case, and you need to plan in advance what your response will be. Don’t wait to figure this out while it’s happening, because that’s when people make mistakes.

Your justification stinks

As far as salary surveys and what you’ve determined others are getting paid —that doesn’t matter to your employer. If they were looking at the same data you are, they’d give you 30%, right?

I believe people should be paid what they’re worth to a business. But I also believe it’s up to the employee or job candidate to demonstrate what they’re worth. The employer will not figure it out for you. Don’t rely on salary surveys like Glassdoor — your employer will tell you it’s not really relevant. (For other readers’ insights, see Am I chasing the salary surveys?) Best case, they’re looking to pay something “fair” that’s still a discount for them.

No matter what Glassdoor (or any survey) reports, all your employer has to say is, “Those positions don’t accurately reflect our company.” Or, your employer will bring out its own salary survey — which shows you’re not worth so much. (In that case, see Beat The Salary Surveys: Get a higher job offer.) If you base your case on such data, the negotiation will end there.

Make sure your justification doesn’t stink.

Be worth the salary increase you want

So here’s the only way to deal with this, in my opinion. The case you make for a 30% salary increase must address the benefits to your employer — not “what’s right” or “what everyone else is making.” That is, what will you accomplish during the next year, in this new job, that’s worth 30%?

Map it out. Produce a mini business plan that will convince them you’ve figured this out and that it’ll pay off for them, too. In my experience, that’s the absolute best way to negotiate a raise and a new job. (For a detailed approach to using a business plan to get what you want, see How Can I Change Careers? — it’s not just for career changers. Read “Put a Free Sample in Your Resume,” pp. 23-26.)

Compared to haggling about salary surveys, you’re far better off talking about your company’s business, its challenges and problems, and about a specific plan you’ve devised that makes you worth a 30% boost. The critical advantage of this approach is that it stimulates a discussion with your employer about something you’re expert at — your job. There’s the negotiating edge that can make all the difference.

Plan the outcome

There’s no reasonable or bad response to their offer. There’s what will work, and there’s what you’re ready to do if you don’t get what you want — assuming what you want is really that important to you. You must be ready to control the negotiation and to plan the outcome.

So there are really two challenges for you here.

  • First, can you demonstrate — hands down — that you’re worth what you’re asking for? (That is, worth it to the employer.)
  • Second, are you ready to walk away from this employer if you can’t get what you think you’re worth?

I wish you the best, and I’d love to know what you decide to do and how it turns out. I hope my comments help you in some way.

(Since you haven’t yet discussed this promotion with your company, there’s a completely different strategy you can follow. It’s covered in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 7: Win The Salary Games (long before you negotiate an offer), in the section titled “The Pool-Man Strategy: How to ask for more money,” pp. 13-15.)

Is a 30% raise even possible? How would you advise this reader? What are the angles and gotchas in this situation?

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“Make personal contacts to get a job? Awkward…” Get over it!

Quick Question

Thanks for your advice about meeting people and making personal contacts to get a job in Do you discriminate against employers? You should. It makes sense… except when you don’t have friends! LOL! Besides, it’s awkward!

personal contactsNick’s Quick Advice

Yeah, I know — it’s awkward to meet people to get a job. (It makes you cringe, right?) You’re in good company. And everybody in that company is wrong.

When I bring up making new personal contacts, everyone likes to excuse themselves by saying they just don’t have professional contacts, their old work buddies are long gone, no one can help them.

My answer is: Bunk.

It’s an excuse, my friend. We all learn to be lazy because we feel awkward reaching out to new people. You have to get over it.

Meeting people, making contacts, making new friends and talking shop is a skill. You learn it and practice it. (Please see I don’t know anybody.) If you don’t practice this important skill, you lose — and the job boards and online applications will not be your automated substitute for the 40-70% of jobs that are filled via personal contacts.

If you quietly fill out online job applications, you’re at the mercy of HR departments that process database records all day long while you wait for them to contact you. You already know that doesn’t work, so why do you keep pretending?

The only alternative is the one that has worked for centuries:

Personal Contacts: Go talk to people.

Meeting people to get introduced to hiring managers and new job opportunities makes sense. You know it does — but you just don’t want to think about it. I know it’s awkward for many people. So go into your bathroom, lock the door, look in the mirror. Smile at yourself for a few seconds, then scream at yourself:

PRETENDING A DATABASE IS GONNA FIND ME A JOB IS BUNK! I KNOW BETTER!

And you do.

Diddling the keyboard to find a job makes no sense at all — except to “job services” like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Monster, and every other job board. Their entire business model is based on you not finding a job, and on you returning again and again to the digital swill pot for a drink. (See Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired.)

Those companies make more money when you can’t find a job and when employers can’t fill jobs. That’s how the employment industry works. It’s not how people get hired.

I’m not beating you up, just shaking you a bit. Please listen.

For more about making personal contacts, see “A Good Network Is A Circle of Friends” and “How to initiate insider contacts” in How Can I Change Careers? It’s not just for career changers — it’s for anyone who wants to stand out when applying for a job. Until Dec. 5, 2016, you can get 40% off any Ask The Headhunter PDF book — at checkout, use discount code=MERRYATH.

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