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Monthly archive for July 2017

How can I make the inside job contacts I need?

In the August 1, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, an Army graduate needs help making inside job contacts to get around the personnel jockeys.

job contacts

Question

I am looking for work and I am studying your book. If you have any advice on how to build the contacts I need to land a good job, that would be extremely helpful. I recently transitioned out of the Army. I’m new in town and don’t know anyone. Without contacts, I’m at the mercy of those personnel jockeys — and I’m not having much success. Certainly someone in my area (Pittsburgh) needs an experienced information security administrator!

Nick’s Reply

Don’t worry that you’re new in town. Remember that new relationships are based on common interests. Key among these is your work. You need to identify — through the press, trade publications, local professional groups — a handful of key people in Pittsburgh who are experts in information security. The more respected they are, the better. The nice thing is, such folks are also visible. You’ll read about them in the media — it’s a free high-level professional directory. Your goal is to make them your new friends.

Study up on them.

  • What are they working on?
  • What are they most expert in?
  • What articles have they written?
  • What publications have written about them?
  • Familiarize yourself with their work.

Then call them, not as a job hunter, but as a peer who is impressed with their work and interested in what they’re doing.

How to Say It

“My name is Bill Smith. I just got out of the military where I was doing XYZ, and I’m new in Pittsburgh. This story I read about you [or your company] instantly aroused my interest because I’ve been working on related things in the Army. I’m exploring the state of the art in our field in the commercial world. So, I’m curious to know what is influencing your work — that is, what are you reading? Books, journals — materials that are influencing your thinking about security. Being new in town, I’m trying to learn where the most interesting work is being done here. Are there any local groups that you find relevant and useful?”

Making job contacts, making friends

Now you’re talking shop and making a friend. Where you take it from there is up to you and your new buddy.

A tip: Don’t try to turn the conversation into a job interview unless he does. (Leave that for another discussion.) Share your e-mail address and get his. Drop a note with a useful link to an article on the topic. Stay in touch. The point is to form a connection based on your work. This can lead to job opportunities if you’re patient and friendly without being pushy. Get it out of your head that jobs appear instantly on Indeed or LinkedIn. Worthwhile connections take time and effort!

Make job contacts anywhere

This approach works well in almost any field. You may wonder how this would work for jobs where there are no “recognized experts” — for example, a secretary’s job.

You’re not likely to find famous local secretaries in the newspaper, and they’re not likely to tell you what books they’re reading about “the state of the art.” But you will find secretaries (or programmers or sales reps) working for notable people. And you can call those notable people and respectfully ask them which managers and which companies in the area hire only top-notch secretaries (or programmers or sales reps).

People love to talk about their work, and they love to talk to others who are enthusiastic about their work. If you approach them with honesty and sincerity, without expecting a job, many will gladly talk with you for a few minutes. (Click here if you think making new contacts is awkward!)

Be respectful

This is key: Respect their time. If a discussion doesn’t pan into anything, don’t force it. Say thank you and move on to another. You need just one fruitful contact to say to you, “Hey, you ought to talk to Mary Johnson at Company X. Here’s her number. Tell her I suggested that you call.”

This is how a headhunter finds good people. You can use the approach to meet the right people and to find the right company.

This article may help you further: Network, but don’t be a jerk!

For a more in-depth look at building an honest, productive network, see “A Good Network Is A Circle of Friends,” pp. 27-32, in the PDF book, How Can I Change Careers?

I’ll bet one of the people you call using this approach knows a company that needs you. Don’t hunt for a job. Call people who do the work you do, and talk shop. That’s how you make the insider job contacts that will get you hired. One step at a time; patience and perseverance.

How do you build your network? What advice would you share with this Army vet who’s transitioning into the commercial world?

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Job Spam: 6 tip-offs save you hundreds of hours!

In the July 25, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a seasoned reader recognizes job spam and deletes it.

job spamQuestion

I just received this URGENT OPENING from a recruiter I don’t know. I’m in Silicon Valley with a real job. The contract position is in North Carolina. Now I realize how many hours I’ve wasted over the years, responding to job spam, filling out forms, doing phone screens, even showing up for interviews — when I should have realized I was being jerked around from the start. (I even got scammed on an airline flight I paid for without getting reimbursed.) The worst of it is the anticipation and wasted energy expecting something to happen! But these e-mails keep coming, with barely a few legit ones every now and then. You must have some way to quickly pick the ones to ignore. I’d love to hear your tips!

Nick’s Reply

You can save lots of time (and frustration) by checking those e-mails for the tell-tale signs of job spam — also known as drive-by recruiting. Don’t become just another victim by responding when you should hit the DELETE key.

Thanks for sharing that e-mail. I’ve redacted the names so we can take a look at it. I’ll show you want to look for. You’re not being recruited. You’re being asked to apply for a job.

This is not a recruiter.

A real recruiter or headhunter comes after you specifically. He knows who you are and why you’d be a good candidate, or he would not get in touch. Here are the tip-offs that this guy is wasting your time. (See Why do recruiters suck so bad?)

1. He “came across your resume” and is polling you “to see if you or someone you know is interested” in an “opportunity.”

A real headhunter doesn’t “come across” you. He already knows this job will appeal to you, because he’s studied your background and is confident he’s got something that will get your attention. He will usually drop the name of someone you know and respect — because they recommended you –, to get your attention and to establish his own credibility. (See How to screen headhunters.)

But this is not a recruiter.

2. The second tip-off that this is job spam: The sender wants you to “read the Job Description.” Say what?

This guy wants you to do the work of matching yourself to the job! He has no idea whether you’re a match, or whether you and his client have any reason to talk! He has sent this mail to hundreds if not thousands of people.

And if he found your resume online, why does he need “an updated MS Word version?” If he’s coming after you for this job — that is, actually recruiting you — then he doesn’t need another version of your resume.

He’s sucking you in by making you take an action while he does nothing at all. In case you don’t realize it, this e-mail has all the impersonal hallmarks of a mail-merge from a database. This guy doesn’t even know he sent it to you! If you respond, next you’ll rationalize why you’re wasting your time sending him even more information and filling out job application forms that a real recruiter does not need. Then you’re hooked. Then you’ll write to ask me why you’re not getting responses to your follow-up e-mails.

3. He’s not really a recruiter. When a recruiter or headhunter tells you he’s going to “help you” with “positions,” run. He’s telling you he’s a phony.

Real recruiters and headhunters find people for specific jobs. They don’t help you find a job. (See Headhunters find people, not jobs.) While a good headhunter may remember you for a job that comes along later, this come-on is the classic sign of a quack trying to get you to respond to spam.

Read our database.

4. You’re a number. Just like the “Job id” in the e-mail, you are a number in a database. A real headhunter would never say he’s recruiting you for “Job id-CRNGJP00011964.” How impersonal is that?

When you ask someone on a date, do you say, “Hey, Babe — Wanna join me for some WYPF94006 at LOCATION: Hickory, NC?”

Gimme a break. The purpose of this mail is not to recruit you. It’s to make you read a database record.

A real headhunter contacts you to entice you. To cajole you. To inspire you. To convince you. To sweet-talk you into talking with him about filling this job. (See How to judge a headhunter.)

This guy has no time to discuss the job with the 2,000 people he’s sent this spam to. He wants you all to read it while he has lunch. I’ve cut off the rest of his solicitation — but it’s 469 more words he wants you to study and check off before you bother him.

Now we get to the insult.

Do my job.

This guy needs to fill a job fast to make a buck, and he’s made that your problem. Er, “opportunity.” So sit up and beg, and do it fast.

5. “Hurry up and do my job!” He’s got a deadline! Did you ever ask anyone out on a date — and tell them they have to decide “by CLOSE OF BUSINESS TOMORROW?”

A real recruiter is worried he’s going to lose you. He’s not going to threaten you — not any more than you’d threaten the person you hope will go to dinner with you!

But the real tip-off that this is a worthless drive-by recruiting e-mail is in what it doesn’t say. There is nothing personal in the closing. There is no effort to demonstrate a sincere interest in you.

This is a cheap salesman telling you to apply for a job. You can do that on any job board without being insulted.

This is job spam.

Now for the piece of resistance, the drop-dead, in-your-face, no-question tip-off that this is junk mail — not anyone recruiting you.

6. This is job spam. We know it’s spam because of the opt-out section at the end that’s required by the CAN-SPAM Act. When’s the last time you saw this at the bottom of a legit e-mail?

Please: Get real!

Desperate job hunters want someone else to find them a job. They engage in wishful thinking — and get suckered easily by spam like this. There is no recruiter behind that mail!

A real headhunter will call or e-mail you (I’d call you — e-mail is too non-committal) and say something like this:

“Hi, Steve. I’m Nick Corcodilos — I’m a headhunter and I’m filling some key positions for Big Buzz Systems. Sharon Jones, who worked with you at Superfluous Technologies, suggested I talk with you about a design engineering position I’m working on at Big Buzz. This job could get you into the project management role Sharon tells me you’ve been working toward. Please call me at (800) 111-1111. Thanks — I look forward to meeting you, Steve.”

That’s it. Would you call me back?

That’s not what those e-mails say to you? Please. Get real. How many hundreds of hours will job seekers waste responding, sending information, filling out forms, waiting for feedback from junk mail? It seems you have finally figured it out. My compliments, and many thanks for sharing this example of cheesy “recruiting.” I hope these tips wear out the DELETE key on everyone else’s keyboard before thousands or millions of hours get wasted on job spam!

How do you know it’s not a real recruiter? What tips you off to job spam? And what kinds of embarrassing time-wasters have you fallen for? Don’t feel bad — please share so we can all learn how to avoid getting suckered!

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LinkedIn Job Roulette: A career suicide game?

In the July 18, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, LinkedIn members reveal how they use the network to commit career suicide.

Question

Do you think LinkedIn has lost whatever promise it once had for people hoping participation would lead to job leads and better positions? Does it have any value now to the job seeker, or to the person seeking a better position than the one they currently have? Thank you for your thoughtful commentary.

LinkedInNick’s Reply

LinkedIn once showed promise as the leading professional network. Sadly, today it is at best merely an online directory. I think CEO Jeff Weiner sold out LinkedIn’s original mission when he first hired a boiler room of phone jockeys to sell “seats” to recruiters. This instantly turned LinkedIn into just another job board. The Microsoft acquisition seems to have had no meaningful impact on LinkedIn’s business model.

LinkedIn sells dope to dopes

When it told members to upload their contacts and tacitly encouraged them to connect to every connection of everyone they knew, LinkedIn devalued all those professional relationships. In generating every meaningless “contact” possible, LinkedIn could claim that every person and employer could make every possible job match. All its members had to do was ask.

And ask they did — and ask they do. You and I get their requests every day.

LinkedIn turned the delicate matter of approaching the right employer about the right job into a game of roulette. Every spin through millions of “contacts” leads to a beggar’s banquet at the world’s biggest professional-data dumpster, where everyone gambles for scraps.

Job search as gambling addiction is now the preferred way to commit career suicide. While publishing “career content” that urges members to make only quality connections (wink, wink), LinkedIn’s system facilitates and speeds up random, stupid, embarrassing and potentially self-destructive begging for jobs.

LinkedIn’s connection engine — LinkedIn messaging — is the new mail merge. It makes otherwise intelligent, capable, respectful people look like idiots. LinkedIn sells dope to people it turns into dopes. Every time I get a LinkedIn message announcing that someone I don’t know wants me to read their profile and lead them to “an opportunity,” I want to connect them to an addiction clinic. They’re not looking for jobs — they’re avoiding talking to employers.

Do you know what you look like?

Long ago, most LinkedIn users stopped being selective about accepting connection requests (see Join My LinkedIn Gang-Bang) because more connections meant higher status. Now the value of your n-th connection is probably zero. LinkedIn is a useful research tool, but forget about it as a networking tool. Look up people you want to do business with, but make contact with them the old fashioned way: through trusted referrals that actually know you. That still works best.

A person panhandling on a city street corner knows what they look like. Does this LinkedIn member who contacted me through LinkedIn Messenger know what he looks like?

Nick, My name is [Name]. I am looking for a position in healthcare. Do you know of/have any openings? Thank you.

He looks desperate and clueless — lost in the job market. Why would I recommend or hire someone who doesn’t know how to approach the right employer? Why would I want a healthcare worker who gambles with his reputation? Why would I want him working with my patients or customers?

Job panhandling

Let’s take a look at some of the panhandling requests I get via LinkedIn from people I don’t know who don’t know me. I don’t respond to most of these, but I sometimes fantasize about the snarky replies I’d send them.

Hello Nick, I’m currently looking for a full time job as an analyst or client/project manager. Please take a look at my professional and education background on my LinkedIn page. Kindly consider my application for any current or future employment opportunities. Looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks, [Name and cellphone number]

Nicks’ Snarky Reply

My responses to each sentence of that query, respectively:

  1. Who cares?
  2. How will looking at your LinkedIn page pay off for me?
  3. No.
  4. Don’t bother.
Hi Nick, I hope you’re well. I am interested in learning if we can work together. I am an MIT alum with 4 yrs experience running a startup in Silicon Valley, and am currently looking for a FT role (open to industries). Is this something you specialize in? Thank you. [Name and cellphone number]

Nick’s Snarky Reply

You went to MIT and you’re panhandling strangers for a job? Is this how you got your startup funding, by spamming venture capitalists? If you don’t know what I specialize in, why did you contact me?

Hello Nick, Thank you for Linking. I am currently seeking the next chapter of my 20-year marketing career. Throughout my career, I have established a reputation as a leader who is driven by challenge, undeterred by obstacles, and committed to furthering standards of excellence. My expertise encompasses business development and marketing administration, from controlling costs and maximizing revenues to harnessing team strengths to improve brand awareness, client service, and project performance. Further, my ability to build consensus among executive teams and stakeholders to promote transparency and influence positive change has been repeatedly proven. I have attached my resume for review and am excited about this next chapter of my career and hearing about any new opportunities that are out there. Sincerely, [Name and telephone number]

Nick’s Snarky Reply

You work in marketing and you can’t write a note that instantly makes me want to call you? You want to hear about “any” opportunity? Paint my house.

Hi Nick, hope you doing great. we specialize in IT consulting and provide manpower ,if you have any open position you can contact me on [telephone number] or email me your requirement details at [e-mail address]. Regards, [Name] Business development Executive [Company]

Nick’s Snarky Reply

How’d you sneak in among job seekers? You specialize in IT consulting? Everybody specializes in IT consulting! Do you paint houses?

Nick, do you headhunt now? I need a job! Sorry to be so dense. I could really use someone to help me get my next great job in the greater NYC area. Thanks so much! [Name]

Nick’s Actual Reply

Please check these two articles:

Headhunters find people, not jobs

They’re not headhunters

You have a common misconception. It doesn’t matter how much you need a job. The best headhunters will not help you find a job. They focus on the assignments their client companies give them — and they go looking for the people their clients need.

Do not rely on headhunters in any way. If one finds you, great — but that’s like counting on lottery winnings to pay your mortgage.

Hi Nick, Thanks for connect. I am looking for Job change, would you dont mind to help me with relevant job opening matching my current job role pls. Currently working with [Company] as Sr Manager content/ OTT domain responsible for EMEA and India markets distribution across digital channels, formats & screens, managing annual revenue portfolio of $ 10 MN. Shall remain at your disposal. Regards, [Name]

Nick’s Snarky Reply

Yes, you shall remain in my disposal! Regards!

How to search for a job

You search for a job by identifying companies that make products or deliver services you’d like to work on. (See Pursue Companies, Not Jobs.) Then you figure out — figure out — what problems and challenges those companies face in running their business.

Most important, you carefully and thoughtfully pick a handful of your skills that you could apply to those problems and challenges, and you prepare a brief business plan showing how you’d use those skills to make the business more successful.

(Note that this does not involve reading job postings.)

Then you hang out with people who have business with the company, for as long as it takes to make friends with them, until they get to know you well enough that they’re happy to refer and recommend you personally to the manager whose department you could clearly help.

That’s how you connect with a job. You don’t ask someone else to do the work. Because they won’t.

How to commit career suicide

When you hang out on an online street corner (LinkedIn is just a street corner), throwing handbills (your profile) at passersby you don’t know who don’t know you — and expect one of them might take you by the hand and lead you to a good, well-paying job — you commit career suicide.

When people in your line of work recognize you on that street corner — or meet you later — they realize you’re undisciplined, lost, thoughtless, and incapable of demonstrating your value to the handful of employers that would really benefit from working with you.

I want to ask those who sent me the above requests, did you calculate what happens when all of my (or anyone’s) LinkedIn contacts send such queries to all their connections? LinkedIn makes money! But you kill your career. Your blind solicitations make you a dead man walking.

It’s embarrassing. Begging opportunities from people you don’t know that don’t know you reveals that your judgment stinks. Playing LinkedIn job roulette is a sign that you’re addicted to gambling. And people who gamble are bad risks in anyone’s business — or professional circle.

What kinds of LinkedIn solicitations do you get from people you don’t really know? Is LinkedIn a job hunting tool? Or an excuse for not job hunting?

ADDENDUM

In the comments section below, reader Cynthia Wharton, a headhunter, explains better than I have how LinkedIn has become the career suicide game de rigeur. When they use the tools LinkedIn conveniently provides to easily spam all of kingdom come with “requests” for job leads and introductions to employers, users kill any interest a good headhunter or employer might have in them.

Says Wharton:

I steer a wide birth away from Linked In candidates and resort to what I do best, headhunting the perfect fit via my own network and other avenues that have been successful in my career.

She steers away because over-exposed LinkedIn candidates appear desperate and undesirable:

…candidates have over saturated their resumes out via Linked In and I cannot consider them if they have already sent their details to the employer I have in mind for them…

And it’s not only headhunters who don’t want sloppy seconds. Wharton notes that employers steer away, too:

I am finding many of the companies I do placements for, have indicated they are exceptionally frustrated by the daily inundation of unsolicited applicants. I’ve had several tell me that when they see a resume come in from the site, they instantly drag it into their trash folder. They know full well that every one of their industry competitors more than likely also has it as well. Why would they hire someone who may be constantly contacted by other employers?

That’s what I mean when I suggest LinkedIn is a game of career suicide. Thanks to Wharton for explaining it better than I did. Please read the rest of her comments below.

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Don’t Fill Out That Job Application!

In the July 11, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job seeker tries to avoid going down the job application hole.

In the last edition, we discussed mistakes people make regarding information they share about themselves — and about information they fail to get from an employer. Now we’ll focus on a special kind of information employers demand from job applicants — your salary history.

job applicationThis has always been a hot topic, mainly because employers just won’t stop asking for information that’s none of their business. Even if HR managers swear up and down that they need your salary data “because that’s our policy,” we all know why they really want it: It gives them an edge on job offer negotiations.

I also promised you some interesting statistics about the value of personal referrals. What’s that got to do with how to deal with salary demands? Let’s take a look!

Question

When I go after jobs through job boards, they always send me a link to a job application form. I’m just curious about your thoughts on the advice of a career coach about what to do when those online forms require you to enter your salary at your previous jobs. She says to type in your desired salary and, when you come to a text field, explain what you did. Do you agree with this?

Nick’s Reply

I think that advice stinks. It’s thoughtless right off the bat. If you have to enter your salary for each of your previous jobs, what sense would it make to enter the same desired salary (for the new job) for each of the old jobs?

More important, such tricks encourage job applicants to play along with a game rigged against them, rather than to pursue the best way of getting hired.

We are so brainwashed by employers to do what they ask that many “experts” don’t realize that it’s simply wrong. The answer to this problem is to consider the facts and to refuse to be manipulated.

Say NO to job application forms

The problem is not whether to disclose your salary history. The problem is the job application form itself. If your path to a job is a job board followed by a job application form, don’t fill it out at all, because it puts you at a disadvantage. Don’t apply via the application. Ignore the application because people get jobs in other, smarter ways all the time.

Now we’re going to un-brainwash ourselves and change the subject to what really matters when applying for jobs: how you get in the door.

A 2013 study from the New York Federal Reserve Bank (“Do Informal Referrals Lead to Better Matches?”) compared methods that a single company uses to hire. The purpose of the study was to test theoretical models of where hires come from — not to describe hiring across many companies.

Where most job offers come from

The Fed researchers found that most job applicants — 60% — at this one company came from online job boards. Only 6.1% of applicants came from personal referrals by employees. But the biggest chunk of actual hires — over 29% — came from those meager but incredibly powerful employee referrals. (See How to engineer your personal network.)

Of course, you might be referred by a company’s employee and still be asked to fill out that form — but now you’ve got an advantage over every applicant who arrived via job boards.

Says the Fed report: “The pool of candidates receiving serious consideration increasingly favors the referred over the course of the hiring process.” (This doesn’t even include personal referrals and recommendations from people outside a company.)

Personal referrals pay off big

The study concluded that:

  • Referred candidates are more likely to be hired.
  • Referred workers experience an initial wage advantage (which dissipates over time).
  • Referred workers have longer tenure at the company.

Getting referred clearly pays off in many ways.

Other studies I’ve seen in the past two decades suggest that personal referrals can account for up to two-thirds of hires. But the main point here is not what the percentages are. It’s that you don’t need anyone’s advice to see that a job seeker’s best bet is to go find people connected to a company — and get them to refer you. (See Referrals: How to gift someone a job (and why).)

Do the work to get the job

“But Nick, that’s a lot of work!” you’ll say. Yep. So’s the job you want. Start working at this now, or you don’t deserve an interview. Stand out from your competition. Don’t take the way in the door that’s offered.

When you get referred by an insider — whether it’s a company employee or a company’s customer, vendor or consultant — you also have more power to say, “No, thank you” to questions about your salary history. A personal referral makes you a much more powerful and desirable job candidate.

How to Say It
“I’d be glad to fill out your application form after I’ve spoken with the hiring manager. [The person who recommended me] spoke very highly of the manager, and I’d like to make sure this is a potential match before I fill out any forms. I’m looking forward to telling [the employee who personally referred me] that I had a great meeting with the manager.”

Does that seem very personal? Yep! It has to be personal if you want to avoid being impersonally abused and rejected!

A personal referral makes you a worthy applicant. If it’s not worth the work to get that referral, so you can avoid job boards and mindless forms, then the job isn’t really worth it to you. Move on to a job that is.

Always question authority — even when it’s a clever career coach. Leave the job application forms for your brainwashed competitors. (See “Make personal contacts to get a job? Awkward…” Get over it!)

Most jobs are found and filled through personal contacts. Everyone I know knows that — but few act like they know it. Why do people still rely on job boards, application forms and rote methods? (Don’t tell me “it’s easier!”) What one thing could we change to shift job seekers’ attention to what works?

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