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Interview Me: How to Say It

In the October 10, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader fell off the wagon after mistaking a job form for a job interview — and asks for help.

Question

interviewI need an intervention. I almost filled out an online job application today that requires that you select a target salary from a drop-down menu of salaries in increments of $10K. How am I supposed to put a value on a job until the manager and I talk about it?

Maybe I also need an intervention for even thinking about doing an online application at all.

Is there some version of AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] that supports those seeking work who relapse and try playing the game according to corporate Amerika’s HR czars and czarinas?

Nick’s Reply

I dunno — maybe we should start Job Seekers Anonymous? It’s time we worked up a way to address employers who claim to want “exceptional talent” but expect you to turn off your talent and apply-for-jobs-by-numbers.

Stop messing around

In Job Assessment Tests: Don’t jump through hoops we discussed what to say to employers who make outrageous demands of job applicants before a face-to-face interview is even scheduled.

But this is different. You’re looking for a way to get an interview after you almost swallowed an online interrogation form.

I’m going to keep this Q&A column very brief, because what we need is loads of ideas and How to Say It suggestions from other readers. What can you say to an employer to get an interview?

The key, as you might suspect, is to talk directly to the right person in the company. So, why mess around? I’ll start. Try this. Send a note to the CEO or, better yet, call.

“Interview Me”

How to Say It:

“Hi, I’m Bill, a seasoned pro in [your field]. I’m interested in working for your company because it’s a shining light in our industry. But I’m puzzled by something. As a very busy [programmer, marketer, whatever] I don’t have time to waste with impersonal cattle-calls and online job forms, so I’m surprised your company is advertising rather than recruiting only the right people thoughtfully. I select potential employers very carefully. I’m ready to meet with your [marketing manager] to show how I can do the job to bring more profit to your bottom line.

“If you’re serious about hiring great [marketers] who know enough about your biz to have a working meeting with a hiring manager, I’d love to get together — but please, no personnel screeners who aren’t experts in [marketing]. There is indeed a talent shortage, and the talent doesn’t waste time on bureaucratic processes. I want to talk shop with someone at your company who’s qualified to talk shop with me. I’d be happy to fill out your forms later, if there’s a match. But I hope you respect my time and intelligence as much as I respect yours. If you want to talk with the best [marketers, etc.], interview me and I’ll interview you.”

That’s it.

Who else can you talk to? What else can you say? Who else can you talk to? What else can you say? (You’ll find more tips in this article, but let’s hear yours! Getting in the door.)

The recruiting, screening and hiring processes companies use are crap. We all know that. How else can you say, “Interview Me!” How can you avoid gagging on forms that peel off of HR’s toilet roll?

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57 Comments
  1. Nick, Your advise is right on. Go to the top with a targeted letter or call. I stopped responding to on-line forms years ago.

    Do the research on the company, their business model, challenges, competition etc. Then prepare a strategic approach to a senior executive who can refer you to the hiring manager.

    Be prepared to upset HR since you usurped the system but hey . . . your talent is a superior solution over the masses of on-line applicants and trust the referring executive will cover for HR retaliation.

    • Paul, in one of my books I compare applying for a job to a boy trying to visit a girl at her house. He shows up and the gardener shoos him away, so he leaves. This is what job seekers do when they want to talk to a hiring manager — they approach the front gate, only to be shooed away by the gardener, in this case, HR. Who is HR to shoo away someone that wants to talk to the hiring manager? And what kind of a dope lets the gardener decide who can knock at the front door?

      Good for you.

      As for HR retaliating through company managers, let them. But move on to another company where HR does not run the show.

    • Wish I had that kind of time. With two part-time jobs, it’s becoming close to impossible to do all the research and other time-consuming steps to target a company/position.
      At 61 years old I have all but given up.

      • @Jimster: Wish I could tell you there’s an easy way, but all the job boards and LinkedIn beat me to it. It’s still not true.

  2. I’ve got issues with the sample note/phone call to the CEO as it relates to larger or even mid-size companies.

    Contacting the CEO in this manner seems inappropriate to me unless you are looking for a job as a top executive based on a job history that supports this next step in your career.

    The proposed note is full of ego but devoid of qualifications. It’s a good lecture on what’s wrong with the employer but has nothing that makes the writer appear to be an attractive candidate.

    Yes, the writer is pissed off so we know he can rant and rave at staff meetings. But there’s not a clue that he can contribute to the organization. Except that he’s a “seasoned pro” and busy.

    I thought ATH is about demonstrating how you can benefit the company. This letter not only offers no benefits but proves the writer to be a real PITA.

    I’d pass on him.

    -d

    • Dana, I agree. I understand that HR is broken, but if you really do want a job with the company, I wouldn’t expect this to be the way to do it. I’d edit out most of it, and settle in on something like this (I’m going to make it a senior marketing position):

      “Hi, I’m Bill, a seasoned marketer in [your field]. I’m interested in working for your company because it’s a shining light in our industry and I’m ready to meet with your [marketing manager] to show how I can do the job to bring more profit to your bottom line.”

      “I’ve already done…” {Insert elevator pitch here.}

      “Of course, marketing is such a broad field. I’m curious, what’s important to you for filling this position?” {Do a bit of discovery so you can better nail a future interview.}

      • @Annette: That’s a great edit! Just be careful not to deliver a standard elevator pitch. There’s a psychology at work here. Managers are programmed (by years of experience) to recognize tire-kicking job seekers who deliver canned pitches. If it seems at all canned, the manager’s “hiring script” will kick in. The manager will route the person to HR and the entire purpose of the direct contact is defeated.

        From cognitive psychology research we learn that people use cognitive scripts all the time to deal with routine situations, because these scripts work and are efficient. If you do ANYTHING to suggest you’re making a routine approach about a job, the script will kick in and you’ll be sent to HR.

        The point is to break the employer’s script by taking a very different approach. I’ve seen people submit their resume stapled to the top of a box of pizza hand-delivered by courier. That’s a goofy example, but it breaks the script. You can do better, and you did with your suggestion. Thanks for posting it.

        • You’re absolutely right about that elevator pitch needing to not feel canned; it should be directly tied to the company you’re calling. “I’ve noticed you do X, I’ve done X+ with Y result.”

          • @Annette: Yep. Make it personal, brief, and very specific. Otherwise, you’re marketing with a shovel :-)

      • Annette, I’d go even further than that. The now prevailing advice is exactly what you’re saying (the targeted and specific elevator pitch), but the tactic is still obvious or will become obvious as more people jump on it. It’s directly related to the new advice about resumes and putting measurable results on the bullet points instead of listing your duties.

        Resumes are very bad at summarizing a person. Actually, one shouldn’t even try to summarize themselves at all. It’s not really about what you’ve done, or rather it shouldn’t be. It’s about what you can do. When you can communicate that clearly to a company, you’re gold. Does that involve showing them what you have done? Yeah, I think that kind of leverage is incredibly powerful, especially because people are so stuck on the idea that your past defines you or predicts your future, so you gotta bridge that gap somehow. But I’d always couple it with telling them how you’d solve a problem they’re having, where your knowledge, strengths, and skills fit in the grand scheme of things, and a ‘prediction’ of the results your role would produce. Communicate future value.

        So I think a combination of Nick’s response and yours would be the best way to do it.

        • Resumes do not have to be very bad at summarizing their subjects. In addition to communicating what the subject can do and pointing to how the subject would approach solving business problems, a resume can also communicate key character traits, in an indirect yet powerful way. Case in point: a hiring manager or interviewer can’t ask an accounting candidate if they are trustworthy around large sums of money (who is going to rule themselves out by saying “No,”) but I got the following story from one client (a Russian girl now living in Canada) and added it to her resume: “In my first job in Russia, on the first of every month, I would go to the bank, take out the payroll in cash, then go to the airport, fly to eastern Siberia and distribute the cash to 700 employees in five work camps.”

          • True. That’s my point though, your examples highlight the fact that they’re supplementary, a side tool that you can bring to the interview, but not representative of someone as a whole.

            They’re slowly becoming a thing of the past. More and more people are learning they have to know how to market themselves in more direct ways.

        • Vera, I think you’ve nailed it. What does an employer care about who you are? It needs to know if you know who the employer is and what it needs, otherwise, you’re a tire kicker waiting for a car to jump out and buy you.

          If you can address who the company is and what it needs, THEN you’ll see a lot of love.

          Bottom line is, employers suck at figuring out what to do with you. You have to explain it to them. So why be surprised when they see your perfect resume and still want you to take six tests before an interview?

    • @Diana: I completely disagree about not doing this with CEOs. The fact that CEOs don’t get this kind of message is what makes it more likely to work. Less competition is better, and an exec who’s less experienced with such pitches is more likely to respond in a thoughtful way.

      I do get your point about my example lacking details. The suggestion from Annette offers a better way to do it.

      • Nick, don’t you think researching the company to find the top decision maker for a job (maybe above the hiring manager) would show more initiative. I always worked for very large companies, large enough that in some cases the CEO would be hard pressed to know the center I worked in. Plus, for a very large company the chance that the CEO would even see the letter is tiny.
        For a smaller company it is a fine idea, but for a large one it seems kind of clueless.

        • @Scott: You’re of course right. If you can find the right hiring manager, that’s where to start. My suggestion is a kind of exercise — though I mean it literally, too. It forces the job seeker to ask themselves, do I really have something to say to a CEO that would lead the CEO to want to meet me? If you don’t, then are you really prepared to do the same for a hiring manager?

          In the current employment market, it’s very, very difficult to shift one’s perspective and behavior in a way that makes a difference to an employer. That’s what we’re going for.

          But if someone can do what you’re suggesting, that’s great!

    • I would pass too. I wouldn’t even do this with a hiring manager, but that’s at least a person who knows what they’re looking for in the position.

      There’s also really very real facets of bias here… in that white men tend to be the ones calling, emailing, and otherwise pestering people and circumventing processes that businesses put in place very intentionally to create a more level playing field. Responding to tactics like this is a great way for a company to get whiter and male-er.

      Of course, a good employer won’t create an application system so convoluted that you want to avoid it, and will put the salary range up-front in the job posting, etc. But only hiring from your networks and/or people who feel comfortable ringing up the CEO every time they want to apply for something is a great way to kill diversity initiatives in your company.

      • @Kimberlee: “Of course, a good employer won’t create an application system so convoluted that you want to avoid it, and will put the salary range up-front in the job posting, etc.”

        I’d love to hear people’s experiences: What % of companies fit that bill? If most did, I wouldn’t publish Ask The Headhunter.

        “There’s also really very real facets of bias here… in that white men tend to be the ones calling, emailing, and otherwise pestering people and circumventing processes that businesses put in place very intentionally to create a more level playing field.”

        So there’s a sex gene for following rules and another for breaking them? (And a race-linked gene?) I don’t buy that. If you’re correct about men and women, then women should be calling and emailing, too. It doesn’t make the men wrong because (you claim) women don’t.

        You’re calling this practice “pestering” and the processes “fair.” I completely disagree with both characterizations. By your approach, we all have to trust the employers.

        “But only hiring from your networks and/or people who feel comfortable ringing up the CEO every time they want to apply for something is a great way to kill diversity initiatives in your company.”

        I think you’re confusing diversity of applicants with applicants who are discriminating. There’s a definition of discriminating that’s laudable. A discriminating applicant separates job seeking methods that don’t work from those that do. A discriminating manager separates applicants who assert themselves and demonstrate high motivation from those who wait in line patiently and follow rules. It’s not semantics: We’re talking about different kinds of job candidates, and male/female is not the issue. Nor is fairness. Depending on how we talk about fairness, we could be advocating hiring everyone that comes along, first-come first-served.

        How a job seeker applies for a job tells the hiring manager a lot. It has nothing to do with unfair bias, though it might. It all boils down to whether you’re approaching a good manager who has integrity, or a slime ball. But that’s another discussion entirely.

        • Nick, there’s a kernel of truth to what Kimberly is saying. Men will have an advantage here because they started the race sooner and are thus more likely to break the rules, not because of a sex gene or biology but because of socialization, which can take an individual a while to deprogram. However, I don’t believe the answer lies in intentionally creating a more level playing field by means of diversity initiatives. Well, not fully, I think that’s only part of the equation, and it’s really only a transitional solution rather than the real thing.

          We should really just empower people in general to know their worth and move forward with conviction. Which is exactly what you’re doing on this blog. If an employer ignored my email just because they were trying to create a more level playing field (ironically, since I’m a woman) then I wouldn’t want to work for them, and that would be the end of it.

          • @Vera: I agree. Women face extra challenges. It would be great if we could legislate fairness in that regard. But my goal is to help people get to where they want to go. So I try to encourage women (in this case) to not defer to men’s behavior. This is not the long-term solution I’d like to see, but I also want to see good results now for anyone I’m trying to advise. I suppose it’s a matter of tactics vs. strategy.

      • So, how are “diversity initiatives” fair?

        If the people who are most qualified and willing to go out of the way to demonstrate it happen to be white or male or whatever, how is that a problem exactly? I thought the point of such “diversity initiatives” was to so called ignore irrelevant criteria such as gender and race? We aren’t going to fix any of these problems by introducing more racism and sexism into the equation.

      • @Kimberlee

        OK, you’ve got my undivided attention here. In 40+ years of work life, I have never been anyone’s “affirmative action”, “quota”, “diversity” or “reverse discrimination” candidate.

        How is this “fair”, or the playing field “level” if I at this late date still being asked to pay for the sins of previous generations who have long ago passed from the scene?

        You say that “Responding to tactics like this is a great way for a company to get whiter and male-er.” What exactly in your view are white males supposed to do? Resign themselves to holding a sign at the nearest intersection reading
        “Homeless. Jobless.
        Only Crime Is
        Being A White Male.
        Anything Will Help.
        God Bless.”

      • None of the lamentably few candidates who used Nick’s strategy by writing to me were white males. And I agree with Nick about coaching minority candidates on strategies that work.

        Studies have shown that there is perhaps unconscious discrimination against people with non-white names. That is really easy to do when sorting resumes – most get tossed anyhow, so being more likely to toss resumes that look like minorities is easy to do. It is harder when you are in direct contact with a candidate. Bigots will be bigots, but I think most discrimination is unconscious.

      • As an attorney (from the Esq. after your name you’re implying you are) you know discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age or disability is against the law; so what would you do if an applicant is being considered for a position in an all female firm and on paper is a good candidate (the name does not disclose gender)but turns out is a white male, not interview or hire that person.

      • @Kimberlee: “Of course, a good employer won’t create an application system so convoluted that you want to avoid it, and will put the salary range up-front in the job posting, etc.”

        The answer to the first part of your sentence is “too many employers do this” and the answer to the second is “employers never post the salary range up-front in a job posting”.

        In my experience, too many employers use ATSes that ask for everything and the kitchen sink but don’t post the name of the hiring manager and never reveal the salary range until there is a job offer on the table. God forbid that I figure out who the hiring manager is and telephone him. I’ve been told in interviews by prospective employers that they don’t discuss salary until they’ve made offers, and acted shocked when I raised the matter.

        If your employer doesn’t do this, that’s great. The problem is that far too many employers use these tactics, and create such crazy online ATSes where one wrong step or inability to answer a question gets you thrown out. There was an article posted a year or more ago here about a woman who was applying for a waitressing job, the online application was taking her hours, the system would crash, and she gave up on that employer, focusing her attention on an employer who would actually talk to her instead of making her run an online gauntlet.

  3. @All . . the psychology of going to the senior executive . . (not necessarily the CEO) works if you are prepared to discuss strategy (profit) and your value proposition that can bring prosperity.

    Executives (some) . . are clamoring for effective talent and cannot find it through current HR recruiting methods. Present an executive with an idea or innovation to improve the company and you’re ahead of the game.

    The website application is a game not worth playing.

    • @Paul: The overriding question this all begs is, why would any manager not be looking for job applicants who are ready to discuss strategy and profit?

      The problem is, very, very few managers think that way. It is the problem.

      • @Nick Agree . . and the majority of job seekers do not act strategically . . . research and reach out directly to hiring managers or preferably, levels above.

        I have yet to meet an executive that did not want to hear ideas and how to’s that brings in profit. In fact, it’s welcomed with open arms.

  4. There is a time and a place to answer advertised, on-line, ATS-type applications, and this may be one of them. If that’s the case, check the band at the highest level you can legitimately claim / support / will accept and send it in. Then contact the hiring manager and speak with him / her (with a little less “in-your-face” approach) about the job – it’s not all that unusual for folks to interview and get hired before (or if) HR gets the initial incoming application paperwork processed. And if you’re as qualified as you seem to be, at the end before accepting the offer you can always (and honestly) say that you checked that particular band just to make it through the ATS.

  5. For my old field, I’d find conferences or meetings attended by people from the companies I’m interested in, go to their talks, go up afterwards to say nice things about the talks and get their cards. Even better, arrange to sit at their table for lunch.
    When my daughter was a post-doc getting ready to look for a professorship, she went to conferences and hung around in bars with professors in her field. She got contacts, and she also heard great gossip.
    I know that to get an agent writers are advised to go to writing conferences, use the opportunity to meet the agents there, and then mention the meeting when sending in their proposal. This is advice from the agents.
    You don’t necessarily have to make a pitch when meeting the person, but when you do make your pitch you have a personal relationship which can get you to the head of the line.

  6. “There is indeed a talent shortage, and the talent doesn’t waste time on bureaucratic processes.”

    I love this Nick. Although I don’t really agree that there is a talent shortage (rather, I think people play the same game HR does and don’t fully show up or stand up for themselves, making it seem like there’s a shortage)… I just love that you said talent doesn’t waste time on bureaucratic processes.

    It’s true, those willing to show up and be honest and clear about what they can do instead of playing games and delivering scripts, wouldn’t put up with such BS because there’s simply a misalignment of values. Calling the company out on it is the way to go.

    Tons of headhunters do it too, play games with potential employees and try to mold them to fit into the company’s narrow and misguided ideal. Happened to me before and I told the headhunter straight up that he is making it much harder than it should be, adding variables to the process that are unnecessary and time wasting. Never heard back from him. Good riddance. This is the problem. People are mirroring what HR does, from applicants to headhunters to HR itself–creating a self-fulfilling feedback loop and putting “talent” on the backseat.

    • @ Vera Amen.

    • @Vera: There is no talent shortage. I included that bit in the “How to Say It” to appease the CEO. :-) The CEO hears it from HR every day, so take advantage of it.

  7. @Kimberlee: “Responding to tactics like this is a great way for a company to get whiter and male-er.”

    This sort of anti-male attitude is very common amongst HR types, to the point where it can be said the very raison d’etre of HR “talent acquisition” is to actively discriminate against men (with discriminating against experienced middle aged candidates–regardless of sex–coming in a close second. The very purpose of HR’s screening, interviewing, and hiring policies is to engage in discrimination. So it’s even more important for men to try to bypass HR.

    When HR executives of major corporations actively boast about their diversity and inclusion mandates, publicly boast about how many women they’re hiring–while saying they intend to increase the percentage even more to a pre-determined level, especially for higher-level positions, and boast about meeting their “targets,” they really, really do mean it. And they will do whatever necessary to do so.

    As so many workplaces have increasingly been feminized, this is a bad thing to “get male-er”??

    • @Jim:
      Let us not forget the active discrimination (especially at the Veteran’s Administration!!) against hiring veterans, especially Vietnam-Era veterans.

    • This is an interesting related video clip, starring Clint Eastwood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdysW4Pw_SE

    • This is an example of anti white male recruiting: http://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/news/jobs/british-transport-police-hiring-grimsby-575383
      “The force welcome applications from people with a wide range of skills and experience and they particularly want to hear from women and black and minority ethnic applicants.”

      • It is extending a welcome. You know why?
        Because they understand the need for a diverse workforce.
        Because they are getting an over abundance of white or male or whatever.
        Because they got in trouble with the EEOC and it is part of their settlement.
        Don’t take it so personally!

        • So I guess those who are not white males would not take it personally if they stated:
          “The force welcome applications from people with a wide range of skills and experience and they particularly want to hear from white male applicants.”

      • In studies, men are likely to apply for positions if they meet 60% of the stated qualifications. Women are likely to not apply unless they reach 80-90% of the desired qualifications. EEOC and diversity statements are intended to address those sort of effects and get women (etc) of equal qualifications to white males to apply in equal numbers. Nothing more.

        This is important because we all know that job descriptions aren’t great about what is really needed, so the best candidate may in fact be a ‘70% match’. So if you never even got the right 70% match person because that woman didn’t consider herself qualified to apply, then you may end up with only white males to choose from.

        So, why men are more likely to apply is based on socialization, not genes. That socialization is also more likely to have men try alternative job seeking approaches. So if you get a higher percentage of men in the pool, you are more likely to hire a white male, and that socialization continues.

        The answer for any given applicant is to maximize their odds of being interviewed even at those lower ‘match’ rates, so reaching out assertively can be useful. For employers, broadening the pool to include more diverse candidates is smart, which means reaching out beyond people who may be assertively trying to apply.

        • @Nerf: I’d love to see your sources for those statistics. We could have some very provocative fun with that.

          I can’t tell how serious you are in your closing graf. If you’re serious, it is cynical and doing what you suggests makes matters worse. Playing the odds at the jobs game is a losing proposition even if you get interviewed and hired — if the pool of jobs you’re going for are selected merely to increase your chances of getting an interview and an offer. Which seems to be what you’re suggesting.

          If you’re merely pointing out that maximizing odds for even lower match rates creates more of a problem, then we agree.

  8. @L.T. I wouldn’t know about the VA, but I would think any bias against Vietnam-Era veterans has more to do with age discrimination than anything else. Many employers fall all over themselves trying to hire “veterans” (even those who have just done a short stint in the National Guard or Reserves), especially in certain industries. But they want the young ones, or those have been in service since 2001. My peacetime service of 4 years in the 80s doesn’t count. For those involved in transporatation (or maybe remotely considering a career in that field), being a minority female with 3 years of military service is like winning the Trifecta when it comes to hiring.

    • @Jim: In my experience, employers talk a good line about hiring vets, but the routine excuse is the same: “Your military skills just don’t fit into our needs.”

      It’s a crock.

  9. @Nick: I hadn’t noticed your respone to my “intervention” comment in that previous edition saying that you were going to use it as a subject, so it was a real kick to see it pop up this week. My point in making the comment is that even though we know from experience that online applications are a suckers game–especially when you are forced to identify a target salary range or salary history–we sometimes almost succumb and waste our time once again. In the case I cited, I did put the mouse down and not complete the application, but only once I hit that salary question.

    It’s important for us to just say no. But as your post indicates, the question is “what, then?” Just walk away, or try other means? I think that depends on the company and the position. In this case, I know some people at the VP and Director levels at the company and have had good relations with them. But I also know that that company is very strict about trying to bypass HR–it ain’t gonna’ happen except under very special and rare circumstances. The insiders tell you that have to go through HR. And this was a very ordinary line supervisor position anyway.

    I’d be pretty reluctant to reach out to a CEO directly, and would consider that only where I don’t know anybody at the company and had something pretty special to say about what the company should be doing–something at a level above the pay grade of the prospective hiring manager and their immediate boss.

    Another way to potentially bypass HR–and I’m sure you’ve addressed this before–is to look for situations where there’s not a job opening, and even where they’d be creating one for you, modeling it what you can bring to the table to address things their not even looking at.

    • @Bill: Points taken, but most successful headhunters I know are successful because thy work with hiring managers who go around HR routinely. Why work with companies that put HR in control when you can find ones that don’t?

  10. @ Jimster
    “Wish I had that kind of time. With two part-time jobs, it’s becoming close to impossible to do all the research and other time-consuming steps to target a company/position. At 61 years old I have all but given up.

    Jimster, note too long ago, Nick posted a discussion on “visiting your library”. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that your librarian and someone working in the library will be delighted to do a lot of research for you. That’s what they love to do and most likely can do it faster and better than you. No charge.

    and PS. don’t give up. I’m seemingly retired now…at 78. But my last job, which lasted about 8 years I got when I was 69.

  11. @ Kimberlee
    “There’s also really very real facets of bias here… in that white men tend to be the ones calling, emailing, and otherwise pestering people and circumventing processes that businesses put in place very intentionally to create a more level playing field. Responding to tactics like this is a great way for a company to get whiter and male-er.”

    Much has been said on this already. Nick’s advice, does not alter levelness of the playing field because there’s no rule that only white males can use the approach. The implication that this a a white male edge is also erroneous. The fact is that for most people, across the board, reaching out to a stranger is painful. If given a chance to be shot in the parking lot or picking up the phone and making a cold call like this, they’d take the parking lot option. That includes white males.

    What Nick discussed could be said another way. “learn to be your own recruiter” Because recruiting is sales, (of your services, job hunters to clients, clients to job hunters). I did a career change late in life, turning myself into a recruiter from a cold start. I’m white & male and also old. And I can assure you that my colleagues crossed all lines, and like me had to learn, did learn, to call CEOs, find and call hiring managers. or anyone who could be helpful. And minorities and women definitely did not consider the field to be whitey and malely and did very well thank you very much. And it is likewise for job hunters if they take it on. It’s an acquired skill, and the level playing field offers the same opportunity to learn and apply it.

    • @Don: I don’t mean to sound trite when I say, when you show them the green they look past the grey — and your gender, race, etc. Any good manager, even one who is slightly biased, will jump at the chance to hire ANYONE who can clearly demonstrate they can drop more profit to the bottom line. It’s the great equalizer.

      As for managers who are very biased, run, don’t walk, away from them. Or sue them.

  12. I know I’ve said this before but does anyone remember when it was actually enjoyable to interview with competent individuals in their field regardless of whether the position was offered or not? I certainly do but apparently that has gone the way of dinosaur. Sooooo disappointing :(

    • Believe it or not, there are still companies where interviews are enjoyable. It’s the ones where actual hiring managers do their own recruiting and only bring in people who are clearly qualified, motivated and interested in having a working meeting. What drives people nuts is personnel jockeys and clerks who should not be involved in the process, CONTROLLING the process.

      How do real managers put up with this stuff? It seems HR covers up its ineptitude by telling hiring managers, “There’s a talent shortage. That’s why we have no good candidates.”

      Heads-up: The good candidates talk only to good employers.

      And if you look carefully, while ignoring the auto-hiring system, you can find those employers pretty easily. You’re right. It’s sooooo disappointing.

      • There is no talent shortage.

        As of September, 36.9% of the ready, willing and available American workforce was un- or under-employed. (https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300000)

        There is, however, a shortage of potential candidates willing to submit to/through an ATS clearly designed to sell ATS software, be screened by a HR drone who scarcely knows how to screen and interview an entry-level HR clerk, and then forgotten after the screening or actual interview.

        If companies were actually interested in hiring, managers would be out there searching the available talent onshore, spot interviewing, making offers and afterwards introducing the candidate to HR to be onboarded.

        If not, they can go pick up a cupcake from that new bakery on the corner that is owned by a guy and two gals who “Used to be in the corporate world”.

        • @L.T. The main talent shortage is in HR professionals who know how to recruit and hire. Sorting incoming database records is not recruiting.

          • I would argue that HR is treated as gatekeepers instead of facilitators.

            HR should be helping managers develop short but accurate job specs, give advice on how to actually conduct efficient interviews that really get at assessing someone’s skills that are relevant to the job.

            It seems to me what happens is that a hiring manager says “I need someone with 10 years of Windows experience including Windows 10.” That gets translated into “10 years of Windows 10 experience.” Of course, 90% of the time you’re just doing password resets which doesn’t require that sort of experience. And to top it off, all the questions asked in the interview don’t ask about how you would reset someone’s password, but “what is your greatest weakness?”

  13. I agree with those who think that going right to the CEO is likely to be unrealistic for non-executive positions. But there’s a lot to be said for aiming a bit high.

    Many, many years ago, when I was a candidate (with demonstrable skills and background) for entry-level editorial jobs in the insanely competitive publishing industry, I read the following advice: A resume is more likely to be passed down to a subordinate than passed up to a superior. I found this to be true. A superior may well pass a promising resume down to a hiring manager, just in case it’s useful. But when the hiring manager receives that resume–especially if it is a good one–it is perceived as coming with an authoritative imprimatur. It’s also an opportunity to hire someone good, now or later, and make the boss feel good too.

    My guess is that, unless you have definite knowledge to the contrary, the best target is usually one rank above the hiring manager. However, in businesses with clear-cut, generally acknowledged, reality-based criteria for performance (mainly tech businesses), the hiring manager may in fact be the best target, since that person will need no prompting to recognize a good candidate, is likely to have full hiring initiative, and will get the resume that much sooner.

  14. Interview Questions:

    The “PC Technical” interview that lead me to this gig (8 years and counting) consisted of:
    Discussion about XU and UC basketball.
    Some thoughts on OSU football.
    Talk about pro football.
    Snow levels at various locations relative to the storm we both were experiencing.
    A short discussion abut “Why there (the job location)?”

    The next phone call I heard was the company recruiter asking me how quick I could get out here.

    Interviewing is not rocket science.

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