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Monthly archive for April 2017

Consulting: Welcome to the cluster-f*ck economy

In the April 25, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader deals with modern employment: consulting.

Question

I’ve accepted an offer for a job at a company, but technically I’ll be an employee of the Consulting Firm that recruited me and is billing me out. There’s a third company involved, the Screening Company.

consultingToday I received an e-mail from the Screening Company, asking for W-2s from the employer I worked for between 2005-2011. I happen to know that companies verify prior employment electronically, so I asked the Consulting Firm why they needed W-2’s. He said the Screening Company couldn’t confirm my employment. This made no sense to me. I said I would call the Screening Company to work this out, since there was a number on the e-mail for customer service. The recruiter at the Consulting Firm said not to do that, and that I should download the W-2s from the IRS.

I called the Screening Firm anyway, and asked a customer service rep why they needed W-2s to confirm prior employment when I know they can do it electronically. She said the Screening Firm didn’t need W-2s for employment verification, and that it was the Consulting Firm that required W-2s.

But then she said they do call prior employers, in addition to doing electronic verification, and that my former employer did not respond to their request. “Would it be sufficient if my former employer called you?” I asked. She said, “Sure.” So I called the HR department at my former company and asked if they had any outstanding requests to confirm my employment. The answer: No. (Say what??) I asked if they would call the Screening Company on my behalf and they said they would only respond to a faxed request with a copy of my consent, and gave me their Employment Verification fax number.

Fair enough. So I forwarded the fax number to the rep at the Screening Firm and then e-mailed the recruiter at the Consulting Firm to keep him in the loop. I said if they had any other concerns to please contact me.

I already have the offer in hand. I never disclosed my salary history during the hiring process. Why would the Consulting Firm want my W-2s? What exactly is the Screening Company’s role? Why did the Consulting firm claim the Screening firm needed the W-2’s and then tell me not to communicate with the Screening Firm? I have more questions, but can you help me with these?

Nick’s Reply

I don’t see how your prior W-2 (salary) information is anyone’s business. If the Consulting Firm does its job right, it knows you’re qualified to do the job its client needs you to do. Otherwise, what’s it charging its clients for? What does it matter where you worked in 2011 or what you were paid? Just sayin’.

You’re asking good questions, but there’s a bigger question: Why are there so many middle-men involved in this?

A cluster of companies

You’ve got:

  • The Consulting Firm that recruited you. That is, your actual employer that will sell your work.
  • The company where you will actually be working. That is, the Consulting Firm’s client.
  • The Screening Company, which processes the hires that its client, the Consulting Firm, makes. The Screening Company seems to be handling the Human Resources tasks for the Consulting Firm.

I’ll hazard a guess that there’s a fourth entity — yet another firm that will process payroll, taxes, and benefits.

There’s a term for the amalgamation of arm’s-length client relationships and consequent finger-pointing that make up this employment game: Cluster-F*ck.

I have no idea how any of these entities can even stay in business with so many hands in the till. You’re not hired to work; you’re rented out to do work. The price being charged for your work far exceeds what you’ll see in your paycheck. Everyone’s getting paid for your work; everyone’s getting a taste of your pay. Good luck figuring it out, because I wouldn’t even start trying to. All I see is a hole in the economy, where money goes without the creation of any value. (See Consulting Firms: Strike back and stir the pot.)

This is not consulting

You’re not being hired by a consulting firm to help it consult to its clients. You’re hired by this Consulting Firm so it can rent you to another company. That’s not consulting. (And don’t confuse what your Consulting Firm is doing with headhunters. See They’re not headhunters.)

Real consulting is an honorable business that creates value. One company turns to another for specialized help: a consulting firm. The consulting firm employs experts in its field that are organized, usually as a team, to solve a client’s problems. Day-to-day work is not the product. A solution, delivered to the client, is the product.

The consultants report to a manager at the consulting firm, not to a manager at the client company. The consulting firm’s employees likely work on multiple client projects at a time. They’re never not working. They’re never “on the beach,” as modern rent-a-worker companies like to call unemployment. (See Will a consulting firm pay me what I’m worth?)

The deal you’ve signed up for is not consulting. None of the companies you describe seem to be responsible for you — or to you. One hires you. You work for another. A third handles the transactions. (I still think yet another will handle HR tasks, like processing payroll and taxes, and administering benefits, if there are any.) When you have a question, each points a finger at the other.

Work for your employer

You’re asking good questions. I don’t have any answers. You’re being forced to deal with middle-men whose roles are questionable. In a well-organized, well-managed business, the functions of all those middle-men are functions of the company itself. A competitive enterprise leverages its expertise with all those functions to produce profit. Beware employers that you don’t actually work for.

consultingMy advice is, work for your employer. Avoid any drain of economic value from your work. Don’t let middle-men interfere with the employer-employee relationship. The risk you take when you participate in this kind of cluster-f*ck economy is that you are not the worker. You are the product. You become an interchangeable part. Worse, you become a returnable interchangeable part.

If the Consulting Firm is paying a Screening Firm to confirm who you are and to handle other transactions with you, so it can charge its client for those services, then what value is the Consulting Firm delivering to its own client?

The employment industry has become one of the biggest rackets going. It really is a clusterf*ck. With workers like you in the middle. But as someone advised a long time ago when a dangerous political entanglement could not be unraveled, “Follow the money.” The real problem here is with the company that’s paying multiple entities so it can rent you. Are you comfortable with this arrangement?

Who do you work for? Who pays you? Are you being paid for the value you create in the economy, or are middle-men draining your value?

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Forget Glassdoor: Use these killer tips to judge employers

In the April 18, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader needs to get past the Glassdoor company reviews to find the truth about an opportunity.

Question

I was recently asked to interview at a company that at first I was excited to have a chance at joining. Their industry is interesting and familiar to me, and the position itself is a great next step in my career.

glassdoorAfter my interview was scheduled I did my due diligence and started doing research to prepare. Sh*t hit the fan when I got to employment reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed.

Except for the one or two company-planted positive reviews, the clear majority for the past four years have been scathing and disheartening. To summarize: Employees say upper management rules with an iron fist, takes credit for employees’ successes, and compensation is not competitive.

I can understand a couple of bad reviews that might be from disgruntled people, but with a consistent theme delivered on multiple websites spanning a few years, I’m beginning to second-guess my effort.

My big question to you is: What is the best way to bring up my findings to learn the truth? I feel I absolutely have to ask because I not only want to see how they answer, but I also want to see if they own up to the need to change. I’m worried they’ll blacklist me for bringing it up, and I’ll never know whether the environment is truly terrible or not. I want to approach this with respect and good manners so that I don’t look like a bad seed trying to be planted.

How do I look behind the curtain? Is this worth the effort or should I just run now?

Nick’s Reply

I wouldn’t trust Glassdoor to help me judge a company any more than I’d trust Indeed or LinkedIn to connect me with a job. (See Can I trust Glassdoor reviews?LinkedIn: Just another job board and The Bogus-ness of Indeed.com.) All those websites make money when you keep looking for jobs — not when you find one!

I’d invest more effort to get the truth about this company firsthand, but only if the company passes the first test. So let’s cut to the chase.

The first test

I doubt you’d take this job in if the compensation is not competitive. So let’s get this deal-breaker out of the way because it may save you further effort and later frustration.

Since they asked you to interview, it’s incumbent on them to provide information you need. I’d ask about compensation before taking any more steps. It’s best to ask the hiring manager this question, but if HR is the best you can do, that’s fine.

Make a phone call. (Do not use e-mail. This is too important.)

How to Say It
“What’s the pay like for this job?”

That’s it. Do not elaborate. This simple, off-the-cuff, obvious question says it all. It’s friendly and it’s clear.

If they won’t give you a salary range, I’d thank them for their interest (always be polite) and explain that you can’t invest your time in interviews if you’re not all on the same salary page. If they decline to state a range and instead ask you your current salary or your desired range, I’d politely reply that they’re asking you to interview — and they need to confirm the salary range. (See The employer is hiding the salary!)

If they won’t tell you, you’re done.

Glassdoor reviews are not enough

I’m not a fan of company reviews, especially the way Glassdoor presents them. There’s no accountability. Anyone can post anything anonymously. Nonetheless, when strong criticism spans lots of time and multiple websites, you’re right to be concerned. Just remind yourself that every bit of the criticism could be wrong. Could. It probably isn’t, given the extent of it. But you seem to want to find out for yourself, so take the next step.

Since you’re still excited about the job as you understand it, it’s worth going in to find out for yourself what’s up. You don’t need to confront them with the online reviews. In fact, I would not, because consider their best defense. If I were the employer, I’d respond that those reviews are not proof of a problem and the critics are all hiding behind anonymity.

The company can quickly render your question as a fact-less accusation, and you’ll come off like a person who makes decisions and judgments without solid evidence. Glassdoor is not solid because critics are not personally accountable.

If you had nothing else to go on but all you’ve read, and you had to make a choice right now about this company, the prudent decision is probably to walk away. But you can get firsthand evidence on which to base a sound judgment — and you should, because online reviews are not enough to make a defensible judgment.

Killer methods to judge the employer

Here’s what I’d do. Go to the interview. Answer their questions, and ask the normal kinds of questions you’d ask even a very good company. Then use one or more of these killer employer-vetting techniques. Here’s what to ask the employer (preferably the hiring manager):

How to Say It
“If you could change anything about your company instantly, what would you change?”

See how they handle that. If they’re aware of their online reputation, it gives them a chance to explain without you actually bringing it up.

How to Say It
“I’d like to meet some of the people I’d be working with if I were hired, and I’m willing to invest some extra time to do that. I’d also like to see where I’d be working. Can you give me a cook’s tour of your facility? If today’s not a good time, I’d be glad to come back.” If they let you do this immediately, that’s a good sign. If they put it off, do they quickly schedule that next visit, or do they never get back to you?

Ask the employees

If you get the tour and have a chance to meet other employees on the team, try to get a few minutes with each one privately. Ask this question.

How to Say It
“So, what’s it really like to work here?”

Do not share what you’ve read online. Let them talk. Their reactions will tell you all you need to know. Remember: Your goal is not to show how much you know, because that gains you nothing. Your goal is to confirm what you’ve read and to learn even more.

Leverage the job offer

This is the most powerful way to judge an employer. If you get an offer, they’ve demonstrated they want you — and they want you to say yes. They’re waiting. People don’t realize what incredible leverage they have at this point. It’s the most control you’ll ever have in negotiations. It’s time to vet the company.

Tell them you’re thrilled to get the offer – “Thank you!” Then take more control and learn the truth.

How to Say It
“Before I accept your offer, I’d like to meet some of your key people – managers of departments related to the department I’d be working in. I’d like to make sure I’m a fit for your team and I’d like to get the bigger picture of the work environment.”

For example, if you’d be working in manufacturing, you’d want to meet the heads of engineering and product development, because they create the products your team builds. You’d want to meet heads of sales and marketing, because their job is to make money from what manufacturing produces. If they’re not all great people doing great work, then your team (and you) will fail. Get the idea?

Find your own truth

Glassdoor and online company reviews are not the truth. They’re the partial, questionable truth. The best way to get the whole truth about a company is to talk to key people inside, and to talk with people you’d be working with every day. There is no need to bring up Glassdoor reviews. (You might find that the company’s reputation online is not deserved.) Get the facts for yourself.

Any company that declines to let you meet the people I’ve suggested – even though it’s an unusual request – probably has too many skeletons in its closet, or has a lousy attitude about transparency.

Formulate these questions in a way that’s comfortable for you. Don’t use my exact words. I like that you want to be respectful and well-mannered. Always assume the best, and politely ferret out the truth. Then deal with it, either way.

I hope this is helpful. It’s probably more work than you’d like to do, but consider what you’re investing here – the next several years of your work life. It’s worth the extra effort to find your own truth.

If you need more suggestions about how to vet this company, these two books will help. Check the tables of contents at these links:

Fearless Job Hunting, Book 5: Get The Right Employer’s Attention
(See especially, “How to pick worthy companies,” “Is this a Mickey Mouse operation?” and “Scuttlebutt: Get the truth about private companies.”)

Fearless Job Hunting, Book 8: Play Hardball With Employers
(See especially, “Avoid Disaster: Check out the employer,” “Due Diligence: Don’t take a job without it” and “Judge the manager.”)

Do you trust anonymous company reviews? How do you get the truth about a company?

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References: 5 reasons to withhold them

In the April 11, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader rejects recruiters who demand references before an interview.

Question

referencesWhat do you think of recruiters demanding the identity of my references  — and demanding to check them — often before there’s even any expression of interest from the hiring manager? Some recruiters get seriously butt-hurt when I won’t instantly hand over references, and claim they won’t submit me otherwise.

I would be nuts to have my references called every time some recruiter decides it would be convenient to check them. I never give references except directly to hiring managers after a successful interview with said hiring managers. Am I wrong?

Nick’s Reply

Your policy is a good one.

Most people view requests for their references as a good sign. They readily turn over a list of names because they assume the request means an employer is seriously interested in interviewing or hiring them. That used to be a reasonable assumption, but not any more.

Many reference requests are unreasonable, unwarranted, and sometimes even fraudulent — and you should know when to politely but firmly decline them. But before you try to decide whether a recruiter’s (or employer’s) request is legitimate, first consider whether whether you’re even being recruited! (See How to screen headhunters.)

Are you being recruited?

Not everyone that solicits you for a job is recruiting you. Learn to distinguish a solicitation from a real recruiting call. In today’s highly automated job market, this is a difficult distinction for most people. (See How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.) Let me try to explain with an analogy — a solicitation I actually received.

I got a call from a company that wanted to sell me an extended warranty on my car.

“Wow!” I said. “That’s great! This is just what I need! Tell me more.”

For five minutes the caller explained all the benefits. A one-time fee would get me no-cost repair work and parts for virtually anything that might go wrong with my car for the next three years. She even patiently explained the exceptions. I told her I was ready to sign up. “What’s the make, model and year of your car?” she asked, as she started filling out the form for me over the phone.

“It’s a 1959 Chevy Bel Air 4-door,” I said.

She burst out laughing. “Sorry, I can’t sell you an extended warranty for a car that old!” she said.

“Then why did you call me?” I asked.

“I didn’t know what kind of car you have!” she replied, and hung up.

Her call was a blind solicitation. Like most recruiters, that telemarketer had no idea whether I was a potential customer. Nor do most people soliciting you for jobs have any idea whether you’re a realistic candidate. “But that’s why they’re contacting me! To find out!” you might respond.

No, that’s why they’re wasting your time. When a real recruiter contacts you, it’s because she has already spoken to people that know you and recommend you. (And that car warranty telemarketer would know what kind of car I own.) That’s likely how she got your name! She wouldn’t contact you otherwise. She doesn’t need your references until after she has interviewed you in detail, or after her client has interviewed you for a job.

When a “recruiter” asks for your references prior to an interview, politely but firmly decline and end the call, because you’re not being recruited. You’re being solicited by someone who has not done any work to justify contacting you. The “recruiter” wants you and your references to do all the work of proving you’re qualified for the job. In short, that’s not a recruiter calling. It’s a telemarketer. It’s why — two weeks after you’ve submitted all your information and gotten yourself all worked up about “an opportunity” — they never call you back. You’re a 1959 Bel Air. (See Why HR should get out of the hiring business.)

Reference theft

If that extended car warranty telemarketer calls you, would you give her the names of three of your friends, along with their phone numbers and makes and models of their cars?

Of course not. You know she’s going to call them with the same sales pitch she gave you. So, why would you give an unknown “recruiter” the names and contact information of three people who know and respect you?

In today’s dialing-for-dollars recruiting world, three credible referrals are worth a lot of money. Odds are good that the “recruiter” wants nothing from you but three new names. The caller is stealing your references under false pretenses — and even creating competition for the job being pitched to you.

That’s reference theft. It makes you a sucker because you’re doing the recruiter’s job for him. And it earns you the ire of three busy people who used to respect you.

Rules for references

Consider using these rules when anyone asks for your references.

  • Before you disclose anything about yourself, ask what the recruiter already knows about you. A good recruiter will not contact you unless she knows more than is on your online resume or profile. She’s already talked to people who recommend you — or she would not bother recruiting you. A real recruiter does not need to ask you for references. That would be like asking you on a date, but only after requesting a list of your friends and family.
  • Get the recruiter’s own references first: Names and contact information of three managers who have hired through the recruiter. Contact those managers to confirm the recruiter. I’d also ask for three people the recruiter has placed, and I’d talk with them. Does this seem like an awful lot of work to you? Don’t worry — you will rarely have to make those calls, because you will rarely encounter a recruiter who actually has references. But a good recruiter will be happy to comply, because the recruiter already knows you’re a worthy candidate and he’ll do anything reasonable to impress you with his excellent credentials.
  • Don’t invest until an employer invests in you. Remember: An employer or its recruiter contacted you, not the other way around. They want you to do something — to consider a job. They should invest in a face-to-face job interview to demonstrate their sincerity — and to show they’re worth your further consideration. If you’re satisfied the employer is worthy and that you really want the job, then it’s time to provide your references.
  • Find out who is going to contact your references and how. Do you really want a third-party “background checker” to call your references? How about an HR clerk who doesn’t understand the work you do? If it’s a legit reference check, will it be done via phone or e-mail? Or will it be an online form? Which of these reference-checking methods do you think will portray you best? Hand over references only to the hiring manager, and then ask the manager to make those calls personally. (See Automated Reference Checks: You should be very worried.)
  • Find out who will have access to your reference report. Nowadays many reference investigations are done by third-party services. That means once your references are checked and filed, the reference-checking firm can sell them again and again to other employers — perhaps without your knowledge. A bad reference or a poorly handled reference can dog you for years, and you’ll never know why you’re being rejected again and again.

Inappropriate reference requests are a tip-off

Most good employers recruit you because someone that knows you recommended you. Real recruiting is not blind solicitation.

Inappropriate requests for your references are actually a good tip-off that you’re not dealing with a real recruiter. Hang up, or delete the e-mail. Real recruiters contact you only after they have checked you out. Respectful employers won’t ask for your references until after there’s mutual interest in taking discussions further. They will treat you deferentially because they’ve already invested a lot of time in you — before they got in touch.

You’ll know a good recruiter and employer from what they say when they contact you. But don’t kid yourself — they’re rare. Your next job will likely come from your own personal contacts, not from a recruiter. Don’t expect those odds to change just because you’d like them to. (Don’t know how to develop personal contacts? Start with this simple suggestion: Meet the right people.)

Protect your references

We haven’t even discussed the problem of letting many recruiters bother the people who volunteered to serve as your references. That’s because we don’t have to. You know better than to permit it. You know not to abuse your references.

Now let’s close on this complaint you made: “Some recruiters get seriously butt-hurt when I won’t instantly hand over references, and claim they won’t submit me otherwise.”

As you’ve already surmised, they have no idea who you are or whether you’re a reasonable candidate. If they’ve got you on the hook, but you won’t sell out your best professional references for a long-shot “opportunity” that you know nothing about — then they’ll drop you. Good.

If you’re having difficulty telling the difference between being solicited and being recruited, try the rules of references above. The first rule alone should usually be sufficient to save your valuable time, and to protect your valuable references.

When do you turn over your references? Have your references ever been abused or misused? Do you respond to recruiters who don’t know the first thing about you?

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Consulting Firms: Strike back & stir the pot

In the April 4, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader doesn’t like what some consulting firms serve up. What happens when we stir the pot?

Question

consulting firmsMy old consulting firm offered me the chance to interview for a full-time position in a smaller city over three hours away from where I am right now. My last contract ended a month ago, and just today I started a part-time job to slow the bleeding from my savings account.

The employer — the consulting firm’s client — refuses to do a phone screen, and insists that I drive over three hours, do a group interview, then drive home. Let’s see: mileage, wear and tear on my car, and losing an entire day where I have a lot of important things to do locally, all to interview for a job that (a) I don’t know if I would want, and (b) I don’t know if they would want me.

All that could be resolved (or at least mitigated to some degree) with a simple 30-minute phone conversation that they refuse to have. All right then, Company X, you decided for me — it’s not worth it! If you’re not going to respect this candidate, who not only has to spend an entire uncompensated day to interview, but also has to relocate if I did manage to get the position, then I’m walking away with my head held high. And no, even paying me mileage to get me to interview wouldn’t help. It’s more than the mileage. It’s the respect.

Am I being unreasonable?

Nick’s Reply

“Consulting” jobs seem to have changed the calculus of the job market — but not always for the better, and especially not when middlemen are involved. When you deal with an actual employer (your Company X) at arm’s length via a consulting or contracting firm, well, you call up the old saw about trying to wash your hands with rubber gloves on. You’re just not feeling it — and you’re at an enormous disadvantage.

The first question to ask is, who’s the jerk?

Is the consulting firm a jerk?

The “gig economy” recruiting practices of consulting firms create new problems — not just for workers like you, but for the employers that use them. Company X relinquishes its reputation to the intermediary consulting firm and its recruiters. Company X has no idea what that recruiter is saying to you or how it’s portraying Company X. This employer may be losing out on great candidates because the consulting firm is doing a lousy job of engaging with them.

Company X may be a great place to work, and it may treat people respectfully. It may have no idea what you’re being told.

A good headhunter or third-party recruiter manages the client company and helps it recruit and hire effectively. No recruiter worth his or her pay would use one-size-fits-all rules to recruit good workers. If the recruiter in this case can’t get the client to see the wisdom of a short phone call to establish mutual interest, then the recruiter and the consulting firm are jerks.

Is the employer a jerk?

The consulting firm and its recruiter, meanwhile, are so beholden to their clients that they’ll do anything clients want  — like making ridiculous, counter-productive demands on candidates they’re recruiting.

Drive six hours round-trip without reasonable due diligence and without pay? (See Why employers should pay job applicants.) If that’s what this employer expects from the talent it’s trying to recruit, imagine what it expects from its employees. We already know what kinds of consulting firms it deploys. What kinds of people do you think it hires?

Should you just say no?

When an employer asks you to invest time to discuss a job, it’s got an obligation to invest in respecting your needs and requirements, too — or it’s not worth working for.

You just said no, and I can’t fault you for that. But you can also strike back — which I recommend you consider. Just because the contracting firm or the employer are behaving like jerks doesn’t mean you should let it slide. Raise your standards, and maybe you’ll raise, theirs, too. If you want to try this, strap on a rubber apron, because it can get a little messy.

Stir the pot

consulting firmsNow that you’ve already said no, you can stir the pot. I love stirring pots. We never know what the result will be, nor does it really matter. What matters is stirring the pot, because that makes both the scum and the good stuff rise to the top so everyone can see what’s really in there. The fun starts if someone skims off the scum and it splatters. A mess like that usually triggers change. No mess, no change.

I don’t know how much you want to stand on principle, but even if both the recruiter and the client (Company X) are acting like jerks, my guess is that Company X’s top management has no idea how you were treated. It’s reasonable to assume the company’s leadership wants to hire good people fast without alienating good candidates.

You can strike back at consulting firms that act like jerks by stirring the pot. If I were you, I’d place a call to Company X’s CEO. Help the CEO see what’s in that pot. Leave a brief message that inspires the CEO to call you back.

How to Say It

“I just had a troubling transaction with your company. If it were my company, I’d want to know about it. My number is… Feel free to call me if you like.”

Avoid leaving any more details, even with the CEO’s assistant, who is likely to channel you to HR if you say any more. Don’t even hint it had to do with a job. Politely insist that your message is for the CEO. If the CEO cares enough to call you back, you may be able to make a difference.

Show the CEO what you found

I’d calmly explain what happened without betraying any anger, frustration or rancor. Pretend the CEO is your best friend and you just want to be helpful. Don’t dwell on how you feel. Keep it factual. Keep it brief. Close by saying you’re sorry the HR department and the consulting firm’s recruiter weren’t willing to save you a six-hour drive by doing a phone call. Explain that you admire the company and would have seriously considered a job there.

Then end the call — don’t let the CEO end it. This puts you in the more powerful spot.

How to Say It

“I didn’t call you to resurrect a job opportunity or get a phone interview. I called you because if it were my company, I’d want to know someone who works for me is squandering good job candidates in the middle of a talent shortage. If this helps you in any way, I’ll be glad. I wish you and your company luck.”

It’s up to the CEO what to do next.

Strike back for higher standards

This kind of call accomplishes a few things.

  • First, it demonstrates you’re a responsible business person and you care about your professional community — for the talent and for companies that need talent. This will come across to a good CEO if you keep the emotion out of your call.
  • Second, it can help the CEO. A smart CEO will go clean up the company’s own HR practices or the contracting firm’s behavior. The CEO won’t let the company keep getting splattered. (See Why do recruiters suck so bad?)
  • Third, you might just make an incredibly good contact that you’d otherwise never make. Handle this right, and you’ve got a new CEO friend.

Of course, you might wind up splattered, too — if the CEO doesn’t care about what you’ve revealed. Wipe yourself off and move on.

My compliments for keeping your standards high. Anybody who won’t take half an hour to talk with you to save you a six hour drive isn’t worth thinking about. If the CEO cares, you’ve just helped improve Company X.

Reconsider the consulting game

The other issue here is your “consulting firm.” I think I’d give them the heave-ho. While there are some good contracting firms out there that respect both their client companies and people they recruit, I think there are far more questionable practitioners of this corporate pimping game. (See Will a consulting firm pay me what I’m worth?)

Many people rely on contracting jobs and contracting firms to make a living, but I encourage you to re-think how you get your work. Find some good companies that will employ you directly. Take off the rubber gloves and make real contact. (See Pursue Companies, Not Jobs.)

The more I observe the mechanics of washing hands with rubber gloves on, the less I like it. Too many players in the consulting industry are acting too much like the second oldest profession in the world. Pimping workers and skimming cash out of the economy — while treating those workers disrespectfully and disdainfully — without adding any real value is a questionable business model at best. (See What the Federal Reserve doesn’t know about recruiters.) The talent starts to behave — and feel — an awful lot like the oldest profession in the world.

It’s not hard to recognize the good consulting firms. You know them from their reputations and from their behavior. But the talent seems to have become so accustomed to poor treatment that the bad players thrive. It’s up to you to know the difference.

Some will chide me for saying this, because the analogy might not seem fair. Maybe there’s something good in hiring a firm to hire your employees. But there seems to be an awful lot of scum floating in this pot. So pardon me if I stir harder — because I think we need to see what floats to the top.

Do you work for consulting firms? Do you prefer gig work, or do you take assignments because you feel you have no choice? What’s the good stuff about contracting? And what’s scummy about it? How do the recruiters treat you?

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