Special Edition

find a jobEveryone in the advice business thinks their advice is pretty good, or why would they be doing it? (Well, never mind…) I think the advice I’ve been doling out for decades about how to find a job is solid and that it works. I base that on experience and on the outcomes I observe.

It certainly makes me feel good when a client or reader reports that my suggestions worked, but I’m even happier when they explain how they bent and shaped what they learned here to suit their needs to get the job they wanted.

That’s what I want to ask you about: How you use what you learn here from me and from one another. I got this idea from a member of our community.

How to find a job

Long-time reader Kevin Kane wrote a short article: Get Inspired: How to use Ask The Headhunter. It’s in the Guest Voices section. He discusses several key tips he’s used to win the jobs he wanted, and he suggests you consider these tips, too.

I love it when someone distills what I teach to make it easier to use. Like Kevin, I expect others in this community have “short versions” of what they’ve learned here that has worked for them — and that might be helpful to others.

Of course, I’m sure there are also ideas readers have picked up here that they tried and bombed! That’s just as important as learning about what worked. (And that’s why I often emphasize that no matter what I recommend, you must always use your own good judgment before you try it!)

How do you use Ask The Headhunter to find a job?

So, in this special edition of the newsletter, I’d like to ask you to share your own experiences and suggestions about how we find a job in this community: How do you use Ask The Headhunter?

  • What are some key ideas, tips and methods you’ve learned here that have worked well for you?
  • What have you tried that didn’t work out so well?
  • How have you altered and changed the advice here to suit your needs?

As you’ll see in his article, Kevin got an interesting reaction from a hiring manager after he used an Ask The Headhunter technique to “build a reputation” in the company before he even interviewed.

  • How have managers reacted to you when you’ve used one of the many unorthodox methods we discuss here? (I don’t expect these are all happy reports!)
  • How have HR departments reacted and what did you do in response?

It’s in your Comments

This all brings me around to why I’m asking you these questions. There are two reasons. One is that your answers will influence which ideas I emphasize going forward, and teach me how to do a better job helping job seekers and employers.

The other reason is that, after members of this community digest, critique and amend the advice in my columns, the best insights and advice on this website surface — in your Comments! I’m intensely proud of that. That’s why I think this can be a very important discussion. The collective wisdom in this community about how to find a job is the true value in this website.

So have at it. Please read Kevin Kane’s Get Inspired: How to use Ask The Headhunter, in the Guest Voices section. Then tell us, How do you use Ask The Headhunter to find a job? What lessons work best for you? Which ones don’t? How do you tweak what you learn here to make it better?

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  1. I’ve been reading your articles since 2004. Your approach is quite often (dare I say, always) contrary to popular opinion (yet so grounded and refreshing!) and that’s exactly what makes it so valuable. I’ve used what I’ve learned throughout the years as a way to look at career path problems/challenges and solve them outside the box. Thank you for everything!
    Yoni (Karnei Shomron, Israel)

  2. I have used the technique of telling or showing a potential employer how I can do their job – with specifics. This has successfully gotten me jobs in the past. I am retired now and help people by editing resumes. Rarely does the resume tell a potential employer how the person can do the job. Often it’s a bunch of long winded sound bites. Or fluffy sayings that have no meaning. I often think how can they sell their ability to solve the employers problem with this gobbledygook resume. One needs clarity even if one has lots of connections. Some have taken to using their current job description exactly as listed. The reader of these resumes gets lost and the potential employer can’t figure out what value this person has as an employee. Those days are gone when hiring managers talked to applicants with intent to see if a person could be trained and would have character and integrity. At least in my opinion. In this day of computer algorithms that look for keywords, one has to play a smarter game. I know you talk about networking and connections. These are important but many of us don’t have networks and connections especially if we are new to a field. Any even with such a connection, many employers still go through the online portal that will weed you out if you put down the wrong salary. Had a boss tell me that. She had the ability to ask HR to dig someone out of the rejection pile if she knew they had applied. Just my observation.

  3. I didn’t come aboard on to the blog until 2004. Prior to that, I lost my 1st job in 1995 and didn’t have the benefit of the blog. I think it’s fair to say that I just used traditional job hunting approaches. Apply Apply Apply. No luck that way. But without knowing it, landed a solid spot via networking. Or more to the point by a former colleague walking my resume after he got a spot.

    After the blog, and realizing I’d committed the sin we all seem to make of inattention to TLC of one’s network, I paid a lot more attention to it and turned myself into a recruiter via my personal network.

    So on this score I have to breathtaking new insights. I simply made myself to find the time every day and every week (mostly weekends) to do this for myself. If you don’t apply some priority and focus on it, time flies and nothing will have happened. And I don’t count sticking my name in the media pots, (LinkedIn, etc) Networking. they’re just a tool. I mean do something in your network, reach out, be remembered. In sum my tip, is give network development and maintenance a high priority. Because when you need it, personal contact will beat out every other way toward landing in a good spot.

  4. In “Get Inspired: How to use Ask The Headhunter”,
    Kevin Kane stated that “Sometimes my motivation to learn
    about a business makes its employees wonder if I am spying
    for a competitor.”

    Like Kevin, my natural motivation and enthusiasm can create
    unease in others – unless I temper/adjust it to the situation.
    This is what the saying “Too much of a good thing”
    (investigating) is based upon.

    Unfortunately, simple research and questions about a company
    can be taken by employees and others as “spying” since many
    job hunters neglect this step. In essence, the failure of
    other candidates to perform even the slightest due
    diligence regarding a career opportunity make the rest of us
    look like we’re being “too nosey” by default – and that’s a

    At least there are some hiring managers out there that
    applaud learning about an opportunity such as the hiring
    manager Kevin ran into who said ““I’ve been in this business
    11 years and frankly, no one has ever done what you did.”

    So, although I agree with Kevin and give a thumbs up to
    the ATH system, one must learn to apply said strategy with
    tact or risk being labeled a “pest” by HR, secretaries,
    vendors, and other company personnel with hiring authority.

    Personally, I will continue to “do the job” at interviews and
    ask questions that show I’ve researched the company and its
    key personnel that parallels ATH methods.

    • @Chris S: Never do anything I recommend if it makes you feel uncomfortable or risky. Just because some can pull it off doesn’t mean everyone can, and that’s not a criticism. People come off best when they feel confident. Test a technique on a friend. Bend it, shape it, make it suit your style and comfort. The point is to not trust the same-old, because it doesn’t usually work!

      • It’s as easy as counting 1,2,3,4,5.

        Your own five words (uncomfortable, confident, test,
        same-old, doesn’t…work) reveal the issue at hand.

        Too many people prefer to stay in their “comfort”
        zones which erodes their “confidence” and self-cancels
        “testing” technique options. Thus, they live on the hamster
        wheel of the well-worn “same-old” and wonder why their
        careers “don’t work” out.

        Sad part is, anyone who can count to five can turn lemons
        into lemonade yet it amazes me why people would rather be bitter
        than take action for their own benefit.

        The tried and true advice “You snooze you lose”
        is as enlightening today as its ever been. Same with “You
        can lead a horse to water…”

  5. reply #2.
    this is a different spin on the question. Sort of reverse engineering. My recruiting career took me to a small company as 1 of their 2 recruiters. I was hired to introduce some experience into the process, and for all practical purpose develop a process.

    So I posed this question to myself. What if our process reflected and was built on practices brought in from ATH, instead of the usual drill?

    These 3 concepts mainly. 1) Candidate respect 2) Doing The Job, 3) Talking Shop. What would that look like? How would that work.

    For some context, this was a manufacturing company, with about 50% of the headcount being blue collar people, machinists, painters etc.
    And we were growing, so getting people in the plant was a constant need. Also the President wanted some executive professionals to prepare for being a larger company. Let’s go with this.

    Candidate respect wasn’t rocket science. There were 2 of us recruiting for about 12 managers including the President. We set up our tracking system, low tech, excel. And established our creed. No black hole, no ghosting, rapid (personal) response, no BS..meaning if No interest we politely but quickly told you, if interested we set you up asap and feed back results. We didn’t do quick and dirty Q&A interviews. We talked with people. We preferred that the hiring managers communicate directly to candidates, when contact was established with them. My co-recruiter & I kept close watch on our tracking spread to made sure blanks didn’t live long & leave people hanging in the breeze.

    Our foundation leaned to the personal touch. I came with some good local sources e.g. job hunting networks (free which mgmt liked). We were not much for phone screens. About all of our hiring was local, so we preferred to bring people in for face to faces. And as noted if you did, you got more than rote Q&A treatment.

    We worked a lot of job fairs. Which are loved and hated. We worked toward getting Hiring manager participation so if an applicant talked to us, they talked with hiring managers. We was very well received by applicants, HM’s and the job fair organizers.

    In sum, candidates got close to the decision makers earlier and faster. And learned how they did faster.

    Again not breathtaking. We just wanted people to feel they were respected, well treated and their time was well spent visiting us.

  6. Doing the job. What’s that mean in the sense of deliberately including this in the recruiting process?
    One example is simple and no surprise.
    The Drafting Manager had developed a test. When he felt he had a promising candidate, sure he did some talking, but what counted was could the applicant do the job.
    He gave them design job out of the archive, a work station on the floor, access to the same tools as everyone else, access to him and the team for clarification and help (to the same degree that any employee may want help) and gave them all day. The work was representative of what the department did. results were all over the place. some walked out after seeing it, some did take all day, some hit it out of the park. But..it was a great approach for people who sucked at interviewing, the nervous, and worked well for well for interviewers who likewise didn’t win interviewing awards.
    The other instance was more creative (I think). As noted we were looking for executives. A case in point was a VP of sales. If someone looked good, and serious about it, I’d gave them a set of written questions so we wouldn’t waste time on small talk and the usual info exchange, e.g. a short bio, and so forth. It was mainly to educate our mgmt team & president. So the person was coming in cold as a “stranger”. They in turn would get product/services overhead..i.e just what do we sell. Then I’d get all the key players in a conference room, have the VP candidate come in and turn the meeting over to them. as if they were our VP of sales and conduct a typical sales meeting, product brief etc. (if mfg something in their line of business) None of the applicants had experience in our industry, so we simply had them refer to what they were experienced in, e.g. the computer industry. They in turn were free to ask anything, they wanted to know from the President to possible peers. So it was an emulated executive team staff meeting, with Sales doing their thing. Part of the job.
    Did this for Sales, Engineering, Manufacturing. I’d like to say it was a smashing success. It wasn’t, but it wasn’t a flying thud either. After this then they’d have their one on ones. Personally I think it was much better than the usual, parade of one on ones Q&As, and such. It introduced a chance to see how people would perform in an executive role, and vs versa for them to see who they might be working with.
    And it showed me how rigidly job hunters, no matter the level, are locked into the usual HR and recruiting practices. Both from applicants to our own managers. And there was a by product. Our execs got insights on each other, in the sense of how they recruit or not recruit.

    After the day was done we’d get together and share insights…

    We hired a Sales VP via this, she did great until she left, The Engineering VP was a shoe in, the President went to grad school with him, and Mfg manager ran afoul of the family (a family owned business).

    this wasn’t a high volume need so I had no chance to perfect it.

  7. Incorporating Talking Shop

    I had an idea about how to get the managers more involved, and speed up the process along with it. The Mfg manager had the most demanding need in terms of #’s but a limited amount of time.

    I suggested the following alternative and we developed and perfected this process. I used it with other managers (Engineering) ,but the demand wasn’t a much or often so it didn’t get much play. The Sales Team wanted no part of it.

    Usually the Mfg manager would show up at a job fair, particularly one that turned out to be very successful for his needs. We’d usually leave with a dozen or more candidates of interest he and/or the recruiting team met in person there.

    Instead of bringing people in serially per the usual way, We’d set up a group visit. For example, I’d invite a dozen people in who were contenders for various mfg jobs, say lathe operators, sanders, painters or floaters
    Most of them were sourced from job fairs, but i’d at times invite applicants from our web site or adverts I placed on job hunter sites. (we didn’t use job boards).

    The obvious advantage was a time saver on our end. Instead of saying the same thing over 12 times, both he/I could discuss it once to everyone. This actually increased the quality & amount of time we could spend on any transpiring one on one interviews. he had more time to cut to the chase, as did I and we pretty much removed any hurry from the interviews.

    First I’d welcome them, and give them all the information I felt an applicant would want to know. In theory they should have researched us, but even so, I could give them current information not on a web site or other source. I’d tell them company history, our size in terms of #’s of people, our growth rate, rate of attrition. our product line and services etc. Industry insights, remind them this was a small company & the pros/cons of working in a small company. And at time’s I’d have a guest exec for their insights & history. I’d give them my history, how long I’ve been with the company, why I like it etc. All the while the floor is open. They are free to ask anything they want. If it wasn’t proprietary I’d get the answer to them mostly before they left.

    this all set the scene for why they were here. They were interested in manufacturing and related jobs. The mfg mgr would then show up & I’d turn the floor over to him. Most of them met him at least in passing already. Some not. Remember the Holy Grail of getting to the hiring manager. There he was.

    he’d then dive down, tell them about himself, how he got to the company, how long he’s been with company, why he likes working there etc. Then covered Manufacturing, what when where why who, the technologies, tools equipment available for them to use. What he wants in a team, what makes him tick. Again this is an open floor they can ask whatever they want. He will do likewise and have them go around the table for a snapshot of who they are & what they are looking for.

    Now talking shop. The frosting on this cake was the tour. He’d take everyone through the plant. So they could see the environment first hand (clean for a shop) ask away, chat, whatever. He liked this a lot as he got much more from it than sitting in a room. When a near entry level machinist face lights up, and she starts talking about the machine, what she does, and built,and desire to get her hands on one of the XXX lathes, and starts firing questions, it tells him volumes. He liked it even more when group dynamics kicked in and they played off each other firing questions. The converse likewise. Bored, disinterested, etc. also spoke volumes.
    He also was big into good attitude and team play. And he got insights on people’s behavior in a group.

    He was good at this and would finish up touring the office areas on the way back to the meeting, engineering sales etc.

    I liked it, he liked it, and so did the applicants. Even though they all knew they were sitting among competition for the job (s). (usually this wasn’t about 1 job, but several differing ones, plus others that would come up). They were treated like invited guests. I don’t think the factory applicants ever were given that much attention and time.

    We told them process, 1st we’d appreciate knowing their interest, we’d get back to everyone, and a 1 or 2 people were already set up for a 1 on 1 before they left.

    We did this for 2-3 years up until I left. I don’t know if it was continued. In all the time I only had 1 applicant, react negatively ..on the phone when I explained what he could expect. He was not going to be part of a “cattle call” which it wasn’t.

    In my view this was very successful, way better than running people through the traditional interview process, with people who were rushed and rushing them, and likely never hearing back again.

  8. These techniques may well serve those in mid-upper level white collar managerial jobs on here.
    I turned 63 today, and I’ve had more than my fair share of job hunting and interviews. I’ve never had a lick of success with job boards, recruiters, or networking. Later in life, depending on security gates and guards, I hit the small to mid-sized companies (mostly manufacturing or manufacturing related) in industrial parks in my area. I avoided receptionists, and other unsympathetic gate keepers, and went to the back door or loading docks. I’d hand a resume to a grunt, or maybe a foreman, and just honestly say “hey man, I need a job”. Despite some “get lost”, I found that I did get interviews, sometimes on the spot or soon after, and it did land me a job, be it not my first choice either.