In the April 7, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter I invite you to ask your own job search or hiring questions. It’s open mic!

open micSpecial Edition

Every week I answer one question from a reader in the traditional Q&A format. In this special edition, the mic is open to everyone — we’re going to tackle any questions you post. (Yes, we.) All the questions. (Yes, all.) Just post your questions in the comments section below.

Open Mic: You’re on!

The open mic idea stems from webinars and live conferences I do for professionals where I make a brief presentation, then we open it up. Anyone may ask any question about job hunting or hiring (or about work), and I do my best to provide useful advice on the spot. I love doing these events because I don’t have to prepare! In fact, I can’t prepare. I have no idea what anyone will ask. I also enjoy doing it because it tests me — how much value can I deliver, to someone with a problem, in the space of a few minutes? (Yes, I sometimes get egg on my face…)

With the economy, the job market and our daily lives almost totally upended, I know a lot of people are facing unusual situations. Let’s try to help. (If you’re new to Ask The Headhunter, check out The Basics.)

What’s your job search or hiring problem?

I will do my best to answer any and all questions you post in the comments section on the website.

  • Lost your job and don’t know how to start hunting for a new one?
  • The manager made you a good offer, but HR just called to rescind it?
  • You’ve still got a job but you’re teleworking. How’s that work?
  • They want your salary history, but you don’t want to share it?
  • Your company posted a job and got 5,000 applicants. What now?

What’s your problem? Post it and we’ll tackle it.

Two suggestions:

  1. Please try to summarize your situation. Too much detail can be confusing. Try to boil it down as best you can. Help us understand the real issues so we can focus and offer useful responses.
  1. Please remember to ask in the form of a question. Again, this helps crystallize the problem so we can address it effectively.

The coronavirus crisis has changed business and jobs dramatically. I expect we’ll get some unusual questions. Don’t hold back.

Open mic for advice, too!

I expect (and invite!) everyone to chime in and offer advice. The more suggestions and discussion, the better. Your advice is often better and more insightful than mine, so please share it!

What’s your question? What problem or challenge are you facing in your job search today, or while teleworking? Employers are welcome to post questions about their recruiting, hiring and HR problems, too.

: :

  1. Moving sectors seems impossible in this ‘pigeon hole’ recruiting environment where employers seems to want you to be in the marketed job at that very moment.

    I work in the UK and have worked more recently in policy and compliance for Government and regulatory sectors including education bodies. Yet for nearly 10 years I worked in education roles chiefly operational (admissions, exam management, course administration etc). I have long wanted to return to the education scene but now don’t even get interview because my operational experience was 10 years ago even though I have many transferable skills. It seems recruiters and managers want very brief cvs and no gaps but this prevents them from considering my full skills and career narrative. Employers want people to have multi-faceted skills but this only happens over time and different roles which conflicts with their paradoxical approach of wanting brief cvs and only recent roles with all these skills. How do people move sector in this environment

    • @Nick: As you hint, a big part of the problem is recruiters, whether they work in HR or independently. They want “easy,” not “best.” Easy means mindlessly matching keywords in job descriptions to resumes/CVs. Consider that recruiters (except for very rare ones), unlike hiring managers, know virtually nothing about the work involved — so they skim the easy surface. They’re going for the obvious low-hanging fruit. They’re not going to invest “unnecessary” time trying to figure out whether they can help you “move sectors.” Not when they have access (they think!) to millions of profiles/CVs/resumes online! On to the next! Sheesh.

      My advice is: You must go to the hiring managers and explain how you will accomplish the transition and why it will be good for them. Only the manager will “get it.” So you must change your strategy completely.

      Please see:

  2. This is an odd one. I was hired as a Nurse Practitioner. Never had an interview. Apparently, employer just went off my resume. I do have a skill that is in very short supply. I was just told via text to show up in 2 weeks to sign my contract. They decided within 3 days of getting my resume, which I sent directly to the doctor in charge of the clinic system. Is this a red flag or just an example of hyper-fast hiring?

    • These days it seems like anyone in that profession is in high demand so I would not be too concerned. Ultimately you could ask to meet them onsite (while Social distancing) before you make the decision to accept.

    • You said your skill set is in very short supply. Maybe they decided they better hire before someone else did. That’s what I would do

    • Margaret. I would not be concerned about the quick hire. In a battle, everyone willing and capable of being put on the front line will be put there as fast as possible. Thank you for your service in this time of need. Be well and stay safe. You are needed.

    • You just might be a truly exceptional candidate. Or the employer might be exceptionally desperate. Here’s the calculation they do: Is it cheaper to hire a good resume and take a chance we may have to fire her? Or to leave the job vacant while we make sure the candidate is really good?

      No offense — it may indeed be because you’re in short supply and very good at your work. But it’s never wise for an employer to hire sight unseen — or for a job seeker to do the same. I’d ask for an interview with the hiring manager so you can make sure this is right for you.

      Of course, you can play the game the employer may be playing. “Try” the job. Leave if you don’t like it.

    • THe only red flag I see is the 2 week delay. Why would they not want you to start immediately?

  3. Hi Nick,

    What is your advice for someone working in internal talent acquisition during an indefinite hiring freeze? I am in a position where I love the work, the company, and the people, but I am anxious that layoffs could occur. I really want to keep my job but I don’t want to end up unemployed by not taking steps that I should be. In the meantime, I am making myself as useful as possible within my department.

    • Dani,

      A friend of mine, Ben Nader, has some excellent videos about how to build up momentum in this time, to be ready when the dam breaks.

      It’s probably 50/50, so I think everyone who is still working needs to be seriously plan on the possibility that they won’t be, and soon.

    • @Dani: Never wait til you get laid off. Even if you’re happy and secure, keep a low-level job search going. Make yourself useful, of course, but also realize that the best time to start a job search is two years ago because it can take that long to land the right job. So start now.

      • Hi Nick,

        I really appreciate the prompt reply! In the event that I am staying with my current employer, is there anything more specific that a talent acquisition professional can do during a hiring freeze aside from my existing plan of filling in every possible gap I can find?

        • @Dani: Sounds like what you’re doing for your employer and clients is a handful already! Focus on that and do it well. And for yourself, start a low-level job search. It will help keep you calm.

        • Hi Dani,
          I worked in tech for 40 years and never got laid off. Do what Nick suggests, definitely. Sometimes they lay off entire divisions, and there is nothing that you can do. But my trick was to be valuable enough to my bosses so that laying me off would be more of a pain than laying off someone else. I can’t tell what that is for you, but one thing I’d think about is something your manager has to do but hates to do.
          Good luck!

      • @Nick – I have a concern about keeping a low level job search going at all times. Say someone in my network does offer me a job as a result of the search and I decline as I’d like to continue with my current employer. How do I do this without burning bridges with my network?

        • @BS: A low-level job search does not have to mean interviewing for specific jobs. The “undercurrent” you want to be part of is regular and frequent contact with people at companies where you’d like to work — and also with people that do business with those companies. This makes others aware that you might be available but that you are definitely desirable (because they’ve had a chance to get to know you).

          If you’re not ready to move, don’t say you are and don’t put yourself in an actual job interview where you imply you are. In other words, don’t let them make an offer. If they do anyway, just explain you’re very flattered, thank them, and explain for now (for now) you’re happy where you are — “but of course, things change — I hope you’ll keep me in mind in the future.”

      • Q: When do you start looking for a new job?

        A: The first day of your current job.

  4. I’m in a leadership role at a human services company right now which is in crisis mode due to COVID-19. I have been selected for the next round of interviews for a CEO position at another company. This has been my dream and goal for many years, to take the next step. My questions are a little premature, but just thinking ahead, Incase I get this job offer: 1) am I a bad leader for jumping ship if offered this new job? And (2) is it smart to take a new leadership role right now when the true impact of the crisis isn’t fully known – could I be walking into a less stable situation?

    • Kelly: I think your second question is easy, from my unqualified, outside opinion.
      “…could I be walking into a less stable situation?” Yes. But, in true Nick Corcodilos fashion, I would tell you that this becomes your chance to shine. Nick would probably advise you that the fact that it is unstable is your chance to bring value because you can show how you will help stabilize things.

      Your first question can only be answered by you. It’s your life. Companies are under no obligation to reward you better for staying if you feel that doing so was a sacrifice on your part. Who will be your replacement if you leave? Would you feel better if you knew you had done everything your could to help that person fill your shoes?

      • Good points, thank you. That’s my strong suit – leading in a crisis and stabilizing unstable groups. So, that is a great way to think of the opportunity if it comes. Also, I have been working with my division to have a few great candidates if I should leave. I would love to see them ride to the challenge when I leave. They, too, would shine. Thanks for your perspective.

    • @Kelly: Would your employer be a bad one if it laid you off? Don’t even think about judging yourself like that! Behave professionally but act in your best interest. This is business.

      Any new job is a risk. Today it may be riskier. But it may also be an opportunity if you judge the new company to be sound. That’s the secret sauce.

      This means doing something few people actually do properly: Due diligence. More about that here:

      Also: Fearless Job Hunting – Book Eight: Play Hardball With Employers
      Particularly these sections:

      – Avoid Disaster: Check out the employer
      – How can I push the hiring decision?
      – Due Diligence: Don’t take a job without it
      – Judge the manager

      I wish you the best!

  5. Hi Nick,

    I was fortunate to have worked as an aid for one of the top government officials in my country for a couple of years (youngest candidate ever to get this job, so had to learn a lot on the spot, but ended up doing it pretty well).

    My responsibilities included drafting country-level strategies, dealing with CEOs on a daily basis to challenge them on any suggestions / asks they had etc.

    Given the nature of my work (interests of companies are rarely aligned with the government) and my dedication to watching my boss’es back, I gained very few friends in the industries I worked with – and quite a few people remember me well for «opposing» their interests.

    Then boss resigned, and I had to move on as well. In the beginning, I was not worried that much – my idea was that someone (in fact, a lot of C-level executives) would have remembered me for my integrity & skill (if I had to challenge someone, it had to be on solid reason & backed by numbers) and thus, I would be a valuable addition to their teams.

    What I actually ended up getting is something along the lines of “You are a smart guy with high ethical standards, good for you. But you never helped me, so I don’t think I can help you. But please feel free to send your CV to the HR”.

    So what should I do? Keep looking? Just forget 4 years of my life and go back to what I was doing before (mid level banking position)?

    Please advise.

    • Eugene,

      My inexpert advice is that you keep looking. The responses show you what kind of people they are and what kind of company they run. You point out that you showed integrity in your government job. Keep it up. Don’t sell out to work for people who showed no integrity when they were on the other side of the table from you.
      Was there no one with whom your agency dealt who took what you told them and realized it was correct? If not, then why would you want to work with any of those people?

    • @Eugene: Michael is right. Don’t let a few sour, resentful jerks deter you. I’ve known many good managers who have quickly hired a former “opponent,” recognizing he or she can do for them what they did to them before! In other words, let’s get this person on our side!

      Try this: Triangulate

  6. It’s easy for me to give free advice to others! I’m pretty good at being objective about what others could do. As for my own self, I find it really hard to do what I ought. I put off some important decisions until the last minute so that I have no other option but to act. That, as you can imagine, means that I don’t have the best results, so I end up worse off and have to do some work over again.

    Case in point: I am in the last class of my Information Security degree. I schlepped my way through the classes, but managed a 3.6 GPA nonetheless. On the one hand, that could mean it wasn’t that rigourous of a program. On the other, it could mean that I have a real talent for the career. I don’t know.

    I do know that I should be out there now, networking with people in the industry to learn what their needs are and where I can provide value. Actually, I already know which parts of the career I want to work in: Auditing and Forensics. What holds me back, in this and in nearly every other thing I really want to do, is the fear that I will look like a fool and kill any chances I have of working in the career by showing my ignorance.

    Is it imposter syndrome? When there is something like this that I really want to do, I don’t give it my full effort, because going all in means I put the power into the hands of the other and they can judge me.

    I believe this is a valuable career, in terms of the compensation I can make and in, more importantly, in terms of how it helps others. I know, once I get into it, that I can do well. How do I overcome my self-imposed obstacles?

    Thanks in advance.

    • You say, “It’s easy for me to give free advice to others! I’m pretty good at being objective about what others could do” and “How do I overcome my self-imposed obstacles?” Yeah, that seems to be a pretty common human trait. So, in my unprofessional and tentative way, can you give yourself an alternate name (one like you might choose in the federal witness protection program), pretend that you’re someone else in a different part of the country, and give this person your considered advice? And also, there’s networking and informational interviewing. Find and contact people at one and two levels above the position you would fill, contact them, meet (or talk) with them, lay it all out, and ask for their advice and guidance (don’t be asking about if they have or know of any jobs) … you might be pleasantly surprised how much helpful information and help you get, and even more (wink, wink).

    • Michael – get your networking up into the age group of 45 and up.

      Imposter syndrome is real and is perpetuated by the mythology of self-made Gazillionaires like FB, and why arent you CEO by age 25?

      Young people bring enthusiasm. energy, new contacts, and a fresh look at things to the workplace, they don’t bring experience. Thats ok, We need all of these things, and the best Officers, Managers, and Directors get that.

      Leave your grades out and tell people what classes you like and what you want to do with passion.

      Jump into that pool ALL IN – trust me that the water is there.

      The best part of someone who will judge you for bringing your story….is that you know not to work for them.

    • @Michael: I’ll tell you what I tell Executive MBA students when I do speaking gigs at places like Wharton, Cornell, UCLA. (These are people with 7-15 years in management who go back to school part-time to get an MBA.)

      Go hang out with people who do the work you want to do.

      We could add to that: …where you want to do it.

      That’s who will teach, mentor, help you and refer you after they get to know you. Never talk about finding a job. Talk shop. Make friends. Don’t rush. People love to talk about their work and, after they get to know you, to offer advice.

      My guess is you know a bit about Auditing and Forensics. So talk about what you know to these folks, then ask them to clarify something for you about the topic “because you’re the expert, I’m not…” It’s likely they will pick your brain about expertise you have, too. It’s not a long way from there to getting a bit of informal coaching about how to pursue the job you want. No need to fake anything. Talking shop is the magic to networking.

      Check this:

      I think you’ll grasp it immediately.

    • Michael,
      You hit on the key word, FEAR. Thee are three basic fears in this world, fear of rejection, fear of failure and fear of the unknown. They act singularly or in combination and can be debilitating. A good way to overcome these fears is to do a personal assessment, partly by yourself and with the help of those whom you really trust and are familiar with you.
      Take the data and determine what are your strengths as opposed to weakness. Take your strengths and compare them to the criteria needed in either auditing or forensics. What aligns well will give you that specific area to pursue.
      Study your strengths and get to own them to the point they become fuel to take action. I believe as you do this, your confidence level will grow to the point the 3 fears will become less impactful to you

  7. One comment. If you are the sensitive type who doesn’t take criticism, stop reading here.

    You NEVER stop ‘searching for a job’ If you are suddenly doing something different because of the current environment, you are too late. We have never seen the economy shut down so suddenly before, even in the 1930s, which just underscores why managing your career doesn’t follow rules of past, present, or the predicted future.

    We will get through this, and things will turn around, but make a pact with yourself that when the next [crisis] hits, you will doing the same things that you have always been doing.

    Congratulations on your first day in the new job. Where will my next job be, and how will get there?

  8. Nic,
    I have been looking for a job since January. I am a Creative Director/Graphic Designer (over 25 years of experience and good at what I do, primarily B2B) looking for a position at a small to medium sized agency with a strong print/graphic design department. Or to work in-house at a large company. I was finally starting to get some quality introductions to people of seniority at companies where i feel I am a good fit and they are hiring when the world blew up. I know someone well> they know someone well at a target company> they introduce me, or reach out and either they or I get ZERO response. I have been out of work as of April 1, my business partner retired. I was starting to get some freelance, but everything is on ice, planned interviews, everything… Applying online on company websites has produced nothing. I feel like I am going about this in the best way possible. Q: IN THE CURRENT SITUATION HOW CAN YOU FOLLOW UP, OR GET A RESPONSE, OR IS IT BETTER TO WAIT UNTIL PEOPLE ARE BACK IN THEIR OFFICES? I am addressing the pandemic in my cover letters, offering freelance, working remotely is very easy and I am totally set up for that…Everything I am doing feels so futile now. Thank you.

    • @Sue: Your experience is common and incredibly frustrating. You’re doing what you’re supposed to and it’s not working. The problem is, this employment system of ours has never really worked because it’s broken. So even getting introduced isn’t going to do it most of the time. (See my reply to Michael Enquist above.)

      When I first started headhunting in Palo Alto, the owner of the search firm asked me this question at the end of our interview: “How are you about handling NO?”

      I told her: “I’ve been a grad student for the past 2 years, living on a $325/mo stipend in Palo Alto. After paying rent, at the end of the week I have $9 to buy food with. I’ve been living NO. Show me to YES and I’ll show you what I can do.”

      She then explained, “You’re going to hear NO 999 times before you hear one YES. That YES will get you to the next month, when you’ll do it again.”

      She hired me and I learned she was right. The answer to your question is, Don’t follow up too much and don’t wait til they get back to their offices. (Yah, there’s a bit of Zen in that.) Instead, move on to the next company. When an employer says NO/MAYBE, don’t pause and wait. Move on and wait. Get on to the next thing. It will preserve your sanity and give you some measure of control.

      Because the employment system doesn’t work, employers are just as screwed as job seekers. Both parties are waiting for the system to work. But all the system does is initiate very tentative, usually inaccurate, “matches” between wrong people and jobs. Nobody’s really careful about who’s being matched with what — that’s why 99% of “opportunities” go south. They were not opportunities. They were casual contacts trying to rush headlong into a professional marriage (a job).

      Please check:

      The comments are better than the article!

      See also:


      This was written in 2013. Unfortunately, little has changed. Understanding the problem might help you get around it:

      Don’t become part of the system. Put together your own approach to specific companies and managers using the same skills you use to do your job. I wish you the best.

    • Does it interest you to start your own business? It sounds like you have all the resources, minus one business partner. Can you work out a deal with your partner to continue until your feet are thoroughly wet in your new solo venture?

      To me, it seems like a huge opportunity to insert your services into an industry where everyone is hiding temporarily. The world hasn’t literally ended while we’re in panic mode. Unfortunately, even before this freak-out is over, contracts are still due. Force Majeure won’t apply to everything and work still needs to be done.

  9. HI everyone,
    Hope all of you and yours are healthy and safe.
    Nick what is your take on the impact to job/talent pool in the short term, now to July and what about till year’s end. Do you see any significant long lasting hiring changes or habits coming or going? Will we see any large demographic shifts or career shifts?

    • @Tony: We don’t know anything about the impacts, except that there will be bad ones in both the short and long terms, and good ones only way down the road. Nature is burning down the old forest. There will be new saplings and wildlife we haven’t imagined. But a lot of businesses and people will get hurt.

      This is where I cite one of the best little books ever written, by Richard Farson: Management of the absurd

      Farson explains that planning is a bogus enterprise. We can’t plan for what we don’t know. The point is to cope well. Planning gets you flat on your face when things unexpected slam you. Coping gets you up, and gets you to to the next challenge and the next unexpected event.

      I find a lot of peace in that! And strength.

      Hope you and yours are healthy and safe, too, Tony! Always good to hear from an RU buddy!

  10. I’m an international student graduating from my PhD this year. I’ve started looking at the job market for about two months now but I’m totally lost. For the kind of job I want in a more stable sector, they seem to be extremely picky about experience and background, which I don’t have. I don’t enjoy going down a list of “easier” companies and apply everywhere. I’ve also contacted several people on LinkedIn (people in those stable companies) but they offer very little concrete advice. It all sounds good on paper but I don’t like being passive and sitting and applying to job ads. What should I do?

    • Hi Yao,
      Before I retired, I hired tons of new PhDs. (It was easier than hiring experienced people in my company.) I don’t know what field you are in, but you should ask your professors for contacts in industry, and check out conferences in your field for papers by industry people. Also look at the program committee and steering committees of the conferences. You can also ask if they need volunteers – though with conferences being cancelled and postponed left and right these days, they may be on hold.
      Don’t be afraid to email or call people in industry you find. I was pretty visible in my field, but very few new PhDs ever did this. You can talk technical to them – we love to talk technical.
      Nick’s good advice is not to talk about jobs, but if you hit it off with someone I think you can ask if there are any openings. You’re in a position where everyone expects you to be looking for a job.
      No guarantees. I’ve been through phases where hiring has been shut down, and this situation seems worse. But you’ll have made contacts that will help when things get better. Keep them up. Hiring is a pain. If you have pre-qualified yourself and are at the head of the queue when things open up you might do very well.
      I never did a post-doc but my daughter did, so that could be a possibility depending on your field. Doesn’t pay as well as a “real” job but beats working for Amazon.

      • @Scott: Thanks for the hiring manager’s perspective.

        Please listen up, folks! Scott is giving you gems!

        “Don’t be afraid to email or call people in industry you find. I was pretty visible in my field, but very few new PhDs ever did this. You can talk technical to them – we love to talk technical.”

        This is key!!! If you try this, you will find you have virtually no competition.

  11. @Yao: It’s easier for employers “to be extremely picky about experience and background” than to carefully and thoughtfully assess a job candidate and whether they can do a job. You don’t have A and B? We reject you. That’s a pathetic way to judge a person. But the automated profile databases make it easy to be lazy. After all, there are millions more job seekers. What do we need you for?

    It’s important to understand the structural problem and not succumb to it:

    Not being passive is what we discuss all the time on Ask The Headhunter. Applying to jobs does not work any better than buying a lottery ticket. The algorithms are so limited it’s ridiculous and laughable. Also check this:

    Look for the quote from Arnold Glass.

    To try and create a strategy for yourself based on simple, good business common sense, please see:

    • Thank you Nick. I’ve been a long time follower of ATH and I read your eBook bundle plus almost all newsletters. However I suck at implementation. I’ll start doing it today following your advice. No more excuses!

      • @Yao: Don’t be too hard on yourself. Every day the Employment System pounds us with “opportunities” and “automated agents” and “easy to use!” It’s hard to stay on track. Just keep reminding yourself that most jobs are found and filled through trusted personal contacts. Your mission is to develop and cultivate them and to make new friends. I wish you the best!

  12. Hi Nic,
    How do I hired into another position in a hierarchal organization?

    I am a marketing professional, deputy level, at a small educational institution. I want to make a move into the incoming president’s office in July. How do I position myself or let my wishes be known without it appearing I am not following protocol?

    • @Sarah: I think that’s the wrong question. Don’t position yourself; figure out what your “position” is in all this — because they already know.

      Identify the influencers and decision makers and ask their opinions and insights about the future of the organization. Don’t assume you know who the real influencers are — use same discussions to gently ferret this out. Once you’ve listened and judged what they already think of things (and of you), you might gently ask for advice like this:

      “If someone in my current role were interested in X, what would your advice be?”

      I usually don’t like passive voice or indirect questions, but when power is the issue and you don’t have much, this is how you display appropriate deference.

  13. I agree with VP of Sales “you never stop looking for your next job”. As the old saying goes “I was looking for a job when I found this one”. I’ve found most of my jobs through unsolicited resumes (frowned upon today), and by pounding the pavement in industrial parks. Most responses have been small to mid-size employers. Forget the heavy hitters. Old school, but that’s served me up to this point. Networking has never worked for me personally, although I know it works for others. One thing I’ll add is not to overlook less “glamorous” industries. Jobs many people hold their noses up to, or few people want to do, sometimes offer a stable person with a work ethic opportunities. I recently read about a man who was older and was downsized in the finance industry. After a long and grueling job search, he humbled himself and convinced the owner of a company that cleaned cesspools to hire him. The guy worked hard, learned the business, and eventually started his own cesspool cleaning company. Today he’s very wealthy. Sometimes, you can land in a bed of roses in a less glamorous job.

  14. @Nick Corcodilos- slightly off topic, but yesterday, we contacted our welding supplier about a rash of hefty and blind sided surcharges on gases on our invoices, and also some service issues. This is a large corporate supplier. The Account Manager was very rude and dismissive on the phone to our Admin, who’s a very polite young lady, as well as rude to our General Manager, when he interceded. I was asked to look for a new vendor, which I eagerly pursued. I called two other suppliers. One guy never returned my call (you snooze you lose with me). 10 minutes later, the other Account Manager was in our lobby, asking to see me. He was next door at another company on a sales call when I had called, and he came in. I met with him, we exchanged business cards, and have an appointment on Friday morning. We are both older guys, and we have the same style. Face-face here’s my card, shake hands, consultive approach. But what already sold me was what he said “we want your business”. He went on to tell me that like myself, they go after the small to mid-size guys. Everyone wants a piece of GM, Ford, or Boeing. Let them have them! He also told me they were a small local privately owned company in business for 89 years. And he also told me a small company like you unfortunately nothing to these bigger suppliers”. Amen! So like asking for the business, ask for the job, and don’t just target the heavy hitters, or the trendy glamorous jobs. Dirt washes off, and the paycheck is still a paycheck.

    • Double Amen

    • Are you serious?
      During this time of pandemic crisis you openly say you “shook hands” with this person. You met fact-to-face with him, but did you practice safe social distancing? What did you do immediately after this face-to-face meeting? Did you observe practical sense and safety by washing your hands and disenfecting your office?
      No wonder the virus is spreading out of control and hard to contain. Wise up dude, it’s not about you! It’s about practicality and observing proper, safe protocol in this time of crisis.

      • We kept safe distance and used sanitizer. Don’t be such a wimp! Bunch of hype. 25 people in my state of almost 4 million. There’s already been 200 homicides in my city since January 1. If I want your advice, I’ll ask for it.

        • Typo. 25 have died in my state from COVID-19 thus far. 200 have been murdered in my city in the past 3 months. Safer here to wear Kevlar than use hand sanitizer. Don’t be a noodle and drama queen, No Coomon Sense!

  15. I have been having the hardest time getting an offer. I was laid off abruptly in 2018 from a job I had for 4 years and that I worked my way up in. I have also done some freelancing but that has dried up lately.
    My resume works because I do interviews. I pass the initial phone screens. I try to ask good questions, and I often get a response of “Good question” during the interviews. I ask them what they want done and sketch a plan for the first 90 days.
    But once they meet me in person they always go with another candidate, which is no feedback at all and I don’t know if it is me or them.
    Do I need to pledge loyalty to them before I even get some kind of offer or something?

    • @Steve: As I’ve suggested on other posts, a lot of the time the problem starts with the match between the job and the resume. There is no real match, just superficial. Your keywords match. Or your title and the job title. But they don’t say what they really want, so you can’t be that. Resume writers tell you that a resume’s job is to get you the interview. But as you’ve seen, so what? If it’s for an interview where they’re not going to hire you, it’s not working.

      Here’s how (not) to use a resume:

      Caution: Doing it the way I suggest in that article is a lot of work. But so’s the job you want. In the end, I think it’s actually less work. Hope that gives you some new ideas.

  16. Work as an office manager for large construction project–required me to relocate “temporarily” (4-6 years). Did not sell home to do this. Non-Salaried position. Watching my hours & paycheck dwindle down, but can’t get a firm answer on “should I stay or should I go” from my supervisor. Can’t afford the apartment etc. on less hours, although I do not live extravagantly by any means.

    The project is a joint venture, with my direct employer being 1/2 of this, and my hours are billed to the actual “joint” part, which are then marked up & billed to the client. I have been doing a couple days of telecommuting, but it’s obvious there isn’t enough to warrant 50 hours a week, as none of the people I interact with or work FOR are creating any work for me.

    My main employer sent an email to everyone stating we could ask for a lay off. I would have to spend the small pittance of my savings account to move back “home” and I guess what I’m asking is do I have to return to that particular job if they ask me to come back and relocate again in order to get unemployment?

    Should I stay or should I go?

    • @DL: Sorry to hear it. Sounds like an unusual, complex arrangement that you’ve been doing so long it’s hard to let go. I can’t answer a question about how/whether you’ll get unemployment. I’d contact the dept of labor in the state where you work — ask them for guidance.

      You know best, but from what you say, you’re not happy (much less secure) about this job. Sounds to me like you’re getting ready to go, and I wouldn’t argue with that.

      How do others read this?

      • This whole “Joint Venture” hooey is less than a year old (will be a year in May), but I’ve been with my employer for 3+ years. I did not get raise when I took this position, but they are providing me with mileage to go home 2x a month (whether I go or not), which is tax free and like a $12,000 raise, but I had to fight for this, btw, and didn’t receive ANYTHING until January of this year. That was 7 months of nothing.

        I think, upon reflection, that I will inquire about partial unemployment and inform this employer I can no longer work on site. If they terminate me, so be it. At least I won’t have to pay rent.

        Thanks for the input. I feel better just letting it all hang out (LOL…well, I AM working from home)!

        • Yah, we can do that at home :-)

  17. You’ve covered this topic extensively before so, in my case, it’s the typical self-fulfilling-unemployment-gap that I’ve been caught in over the past year. Basically, employers have been nitpicking my employment gaps to the point where I’m flagged by most, if not all, of the employers in my locale. Nevermind the fact that I became debt-free last year before I lost my last job, with a hefty pool of savings to boot (which helped keep me from being a burden on anyone). Nevermind that I’m self-studying programming and am close to releasing my own open-source software. Nevermind all that! The HR overlords see the unemployment-gap as their god now. Those who aren’t “essential” according to the government will be favored above all else. “All hail Bezos! All hail Bezos!”

    Off topic comment. The UNCONSTITUTIONAL shutdowns have, ironically, made many of the same HR overlords feeling what it’s like to be considered “unessential” without the opportunity to prove their worth. I don’t wish unemployment on anyone, and I condemn these governments running roughshod over our rights, but I hope they humble themselves by this experience for their own sake. Because when this is all over, many of us will remember the ones who put prestige above progress in these dark times.

    • @DW: What’s troubling me is that I’ll bet many of those employers/HR who flag your unemployment have probably been in your shoes in the past few years at least once. Their behavior tells you that they’re focused on the wrong things. They should be focused on whether you can do the work.

      For this reason, the only way to make a good case for yourself is to talk directly to hiring managers — they have skin in the game and motivation to meet with and hire a good worker.

      This approach may help you get to the hiring managers:

      Please also check this:

      As for HR overlords making decisions about who works and who doesn’t, they shouldn’t.

    • I got around having gaps on my resume by creating a business (which I did) and just manipulated the dates. You’ve been doing your own thing off and on anyway. Just overlap the years. What are they going to do? Ask to see your 1040 to see if you declared any income? You’re not being dishonest–you HAVE been doing this–and it alleviates those gaps. I was a general contractor for 10 years. They just weren’t consecutive.

  18. Like Nick, who kicked off this comment section, I’d like to get back into the roles I performed prior to my most recent position.

    My most recent job was in quality in a specific industry, which is an offshoot of utility construction. Prior to that, I was a project lead/manager/general superintendent for heavy industrial and utility projects. Quality, while extremely important is generally hated in the construction industry as far as I can tell, so I’d like to escape and get back to my roots. However, I can’t get any bites. I even had a recruiter tell me I wasn’t qualified because I didn’t have the specific experience in the specific position in the specific industry.

    It seems to me that I can’t gather any notice in my area of interest simply because of my most recent job and the general industry distaste for that role.

    I suspect this is a case of “keep pushing until you get through” but I’d like to ask if anyone has any pointers or similar experience.


    • @NMKuhn: Recruiters go for the low-hanging fruit. What they’re telling you is that they have candidates with specific experience, so you’re not worth working on because they’d have to explain to their clients how your experience DOES fit. There are good managers that will hear you out if you talk with them directly.

      This is directed at a reader who was transitioning out of the military, but you can use most every tip in it:

      • Thanks Nick.

        This is the first time I’ve dealt with recruiters in my job search. I’ve come to find that many of your, and others’ points and complaints about them are true.

  19. Nick, The challenge is HOW DO YOU GET THE RIGHT, OR ANY HIRING MANAGER ON THE PHONE? I can’t get companies to connect me if I call. I can’t get people I track down on linkedIn to respond. Even before all this when I was not only appling online on companies websites I was sending a cover letter and resume in hard copy in a nice bright orange oversized, but not 9 x 12 envelope, with a hand crafted folder containing both pieces and a business card. I am a creative, and these are well designed pieces. I STILL CAN’T GET AN ACTUAL HUMAN ON THE PHONE.

    • @Sue: There are two kinds of people in companies when it comes to hiring. One, those who are responsible for the process. Two, those responsible for hiring.

      Applying online, using companies’ career pages, cover pages, resumes, job postings are all the bailiwick of the first group. Their job is not to hire anyone. It’s to process documents, lists, keywords, and anyone gullible enough to enter a company through that door.

      Talking shop with people referred and recommended by trusted sources is what good managers do. None of the tools of the other group apply here.

      You can only get the right hiring manager on the phone by finding people who do the work you want to do at the company where you want to do it and become part of their circle. Those people will lead you in.

      But there’s a catch. It takes time. There’s no automation. There’s no process. It’s all about people, one on one. It’s about hanging out with people who do the work you want to do. You find them where they hang out and you go there. You mix it up with them. You never bring up looking for a job. You talk shop. You gain their respect and friendship. Those are the “trusted sources” good managers rely on. So you sort of have to work backwards. You don’t look for a job. (That’s what all your competition is doing and it’s why that route doesn’t get you in the door.) You select a small handful of companies you really want to work for, study and figure out what problems and challenges they face in the areas of your expertise. Then you invest time to find people that do business with them: employees, vendors, consultants, lawyers, landlords, bankers, etc. You talk to those people and ask their advice and insight about your target companies.

      All those steps lead you to hiring managers you can help. You don’t approach the manager until you (1) have a contact in common who recommended you make the call, (2) something to offer the manager that will help them make their business better. Then you find out whether they actually have a job. If they don’t, you stay in touch and when they do, they’re going to remember you.

      Yah, I know — this seems like a whole lotta hard work. But so’s the job you want, right? What you’re doing doesn’t work because it’s wrong. Please start here:

      (I sell PDF books about how-to, but you don’t need to buy any books to get started — search the website and digest what you find there first for free.)

      Your frustration is right-on and justified. You’re being abused by a system that’s designed for the first group I referred to. The system doesn’t help the right workers and managers get together.

  20. Has anyone demonstrated that the current methods of recruiting and hiring are leading to poor hires? If recruiters don’t recruit and hiring managers make poor hiring decisions, the result should show up in the data.

    • @Jonathan: Good question! But you’re asking the wrong question. Better: Has anyone demonstrated that the current methods lead to good hires?”

      Turns out only about a third of employers even try to assess this, according to Wharton’s Peter Cappelli:

      And Google applied big data analysis to look at whether job interviews in particular lead to good hires. Here’s what Google’s then-head of HR reported:

      “Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring. We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess, except for one guy who was highly predictive because he only interviewed people for a very specialized area, where he happened to be the world’s leading expert.”

      Shocking, eh?

      More here:

      I’ll anticipate your next question: So, what’s the problem? Good question! :-)

  21. Nick,

    What is your advice for someone who was already having trouble finding a job before this crisis?

    I haven’t had a paying job since 2018, and despite having a master’s degree, despite applying for jobs that require that degree and skill set, and despite having examples to show I can do the jobs I applied for, I can’t get interviews, but as I said, this was before coronavirus.

    Is the advice different for me than it is for people who just lost their jobs this month?

    • @Robert: My inside joke is that the advice for everyone is the same all the time. You get a job because you can walk into a manager’s office and hands-down demonstrate how you’ll help drop more profit to the bottom line if you’re hired.

      Whether they ask about that or not, it’s what every good manager is looking for. They’re just as victimized by the silly nonsense that passes for recruiting, job hunting and interviewing.

      Please check my replies to others on this thread — they apply in your case, too. Some are very detailed, others link to articles that will tell you more about selecting companies, how to get in the door, etc. Hope you find something helpful. I wish you the best. Please try what we discuss here — it works.

  22. Nick – Appreciate the practical and relevant advice you are sharing with job seekers of the world. And for taking the time to answer these questions during a chaotic time like the present.

    My wife is having a hard time getting a job to re-enter the workforce after a career break to focus on rearing our kid. She is targeting 3 roles (Software Project Manager / Scrum Master / Technical Architect) in either for-profit or non-profit organizations. Would like your advice on what she could be doing different.

    She’s been a stay-at-home mother for the past 8 years and has 14 years of IT work experience prior to that in a variety of challenging roles for well known companies e.g. software technical architect, team lead, developer etc. For the past several months, she has also been tutoring physics and computer science for the past few years to high/middle school students in addition to working on some certifications for cloud technologies.

    She’s been in a search for the past 8 months however has found it very hard to get hiring managers to respond to her even when it’s a referral through someone in our network. The career break is what seems to be causing them concern though no one mentions it outright in a interview. She’s even applied to ‘Returnship’ positions purported to help people with a career break re-enter the workforce, however the response hasn’t been encouraging even for those.

    • @BS: Thank you. It burns me up to have to say it, but women have it much harder than guys do, especially in the tech world. I’m sure you both know that. This makes it all the more important to try to do it via personal referrals, to help break the bias barrier. It’s just insane that the female job seeker has to do this extra work.

      Invest time in professional groups and gatherings to expand her contacts, and to expand the number of insiders who know about her and her abilities. That’s where she’ll get an opening in the conversation to ask for introductions to managers. One good way is to offer to help a professional group organize its next event — that creates more interactions, especially with guest speakers who have influence in the business.

      Possibly do some volunteer work for a leading-edge organization that’s focused on tech solutions to the world’s problems — to get some hands-on experience with newer tools and methods. Having done this kind of work already, she can of course come up to speed quickly on the new stuff — but employers usually want some proof. They miss a lot of excellent hires when they forget that a person who has done it all before can do it all again, given a bit of a learning curve (which most new hires need anyway).

      She might try this approach in the interview, to show she can do the work rather then trust the manager can figure out that she can!

      I think the key is for her to carefully choose target companies, not because they have jobs posted, but because they do interesting work that she can contribute to. Pursue companies, not jobs, because anyone you get to know in a company can be your mentor while trying to get in the door. Some of the tips here might help:

      My final bit of advice is probably obvious: Keep up the search. People in sales know you have to get past loads of NOs to get just one YES. Same in job search.

  23. As a person in the same boat as your wife I completely understand her position. But when I apply for positions I also sit in the targeted hiring manager/organization seat. Why am I hiring a individual? As a (Software Project Manager / Scrum Master / Technical Architect) my job is to make sure they can see value and profitable to them to hire me. Your targeted businesses may or may not be a technology company. While they need technology to run there businesses it is not there main business model. Now it doesn’t mean they can change there business model in the future to match there market changes.

  24. I came back after a few days to thank everyone for the great advice ans support.
    As Nick often reminds people: It’s not enough to just listen to someone’s advice, but to tell the person how you fared by following their advice.
    How many people do you know who do that?
    Do you think that would build your reputation in the eyes of the person who gave you the advice?
    I wish good luck and perseverance to everyone who’s commented, and all you lurkers, too.

    • Hey, Michael — Great idea. Mentors can make or break a person’s job search, career and future prospects. I tell people to regularly stay in touch. I like your suggestion to go back to your mentors and say thanks. Do it whether their advice helped or not, because next time their advice may be golden on some other effort you’ve undertaken. You want them to still be there for you next time!

      Of course, I’ll add that you should always pay it forward. Find someone that you normally would not step in to help or advise, and do it.

  25. I have just reached retirement age and my job allowed me to work from home during the Coronavirus pandemic. I have been with the company in a senior engineering role for the past 26 years. I have recently been put on temporary leave as a result of the pandemic. Question – Should I be looking for work now or wait to see if I return to work?

    • @Patrick: Whether you’re 65 or 25 I’d tell you to start looking for another job 2 years ago :-). I’m serious. In the modern age, it can take quite some time to land a good new job. The sooner you start (even if you don’t yet need a new job), the better. If they bring you back to work, great. But if they don’t, you’ll want to be ahead of the curve. Worst that will happen is you’ll find a new job AND get asked back — then YOU get to choose. I hope you find some of the resources on Ask The Headhunter helpful!

      • Hi Nick
        Thank you for your reply. Two years ago I had no reason to think of leaving as I was assured by upper management that I was critical to plant operations and they would keep me on as long as I could work. Secondly my job was such that it gave me great satisfaction in going to work each day. Well things change and thus I am placed on temporary leave with no guarantee I would be rehired. Let the job hunt start but as you said I should have started two years ago.
        With thanks for the years of advice that I find myself now having to follow
        Patrick W Mycan, P. Eng.

        • @Patrick: I’ve got a soft spot for engineers of any kind because it was engineers I worked with when I first got into the headhunting biz — and because for about 7 years Electronic Engineering Times licensed several Ask The Headhunter features (in print and online). They were my first licensing client.

          It’s unfortunate, but it’s just not prudent to count on an employer’s promise of employment any more. It’s worse because you liked your job so much! But that doesn’t mean you can’t land a job you like in another good company.

          I hope you find my advice helpful and that you find a great job soon. If you haven’t seen it, this week’s column is a success story that highlights why and how some of the methods we discuss on ATH work.

          I wish you the best. I hope you’ll drop in again as you work on your search.