More Qs for Q&A

There’s no single Q&A this week. Everyone gets to ask their jobs question — or questions! This special edition is devoted to questions you’ve never asked, or questions we’ve discussed in the past that will take on a new spin in 2022’s economy and world.


I’ve been publishing the free weekly Ask The Headhunter Newsletter since 2002. We’re nearing 900 editions — 900 of your Qs, my As, and our dialogue about job hunting, recruiting, hiring and success at work answered in the newsletter and discussed on the website. That’s just the Q&As I’ve published here. Counting questions I’ve answered on all Ask The Headhunter online discussion forums since 1995, the total is upwards of 50,000.

These forums include Prodigy (where ATH started), America Online, The Motley Fool, Electronic Engineering Times, Infoworld, Yahoo!, DICE, PBS NewsHour, Adobe Systems’, JobDig, TechRepublic, PeopleScape, Seattle Times, Universal Press Syndicate, Informationweek and more. This doesn’t include hundreds of live Ask The Headhunter Q&A events where I have answered questions in-person and face-to-face, or webinars and teleconferences.

What jobs question is on your mind?

jobs questionI’m starting to plan next year’s editorial calendar for 2022. For almost 20 years, loads of newsletter subscribers and online readers have been sending me great questions every week. Keep ‘em coming!

But I’d also like to try something different.

I’d like to devote this newsletter to new questions, challenges and issues we can expand upon in the newsletter next year. Please use the Comments section below to ask anything you’d like. (This doesn’t mean you should wait until next year to respond to any questions posted on this thread!)

In 2022, I’ll keep taking questions you submit to me by e-mail, but I’ll also address the best ones you post in the Comments on this week’s column. I need your help to get a handle on what will matter most in 2022.

Problems & Challenges in 2022

Ask The Headhunter isn’t about topics I want to talk about. It’s about issues in employment that concern you. So, please take a few minutes to consider the problems and challenges you expect to face next year. Let’s not wait until 2022 hits us!

Consider what’s troubling you about your employment, what worries you about 2022. Ask the questions on your mind about job search, resumes, recruiters, interviewing, negotiating offers, applicant tracking systems, video interviews, ghosting, HR, leaving your old job, the job market and the employment system as a whole. And have at it! In-your-face question are welcome — in fact, they’re the best!

As always, please avoid political subjects and agendas. Let’s “stick to the knitting” — job hunting, recruiting, hiring and success at work.

I can’t wait to see your questions! What do you want to talk about?

: :

  1. Nick, in ATH, you regularly shame employers for exploiting power dynamics with unrealistic demands (too much time spent/too many interviews, low ball offers, slow response/ghosting, salary history and personal information requests, etc.). Commonly, your advice to the candidate is to vote with your feet and refuse to deal with that employer. In spite of many candidates following your advice, these exploitative practices persist on a wide scale. How many job seekers turning up their noses will it take to turn the tide? In the early industrial revolution it took unionization to consolidate enough worker power to cause change, however, unions have fallen out of favor for our predominantly services and white collar oriented economy. In a job seeker’s market, now may be our opportunity to even the scales for a decade or two. What can be done collectively to force the change?

    • @Marc: I’m not sure unions work as well today as they did in the past. I think a lot of people look askance at a history of corruption in unions just as bad as in government. Perhaps the main role of a union is to organize people. Today people can organize quickly and effectively using the internet. That’s where I agree with you. I think the way to get real leverage in employment “en masse” has not yet become apparent. But the cumulative effect of individuals is starting to tip the scales. Many large employer see the writing on the net — they’re increasing minimum wages. It’s a drop in the bucket, but it’s going in the right direction. It may turn out that consumer reaction and investor concerns drive change (though for different reasons).

      What worries me are the nasty underpinnings of the employment system. No one has really tackled that yet. You can’t argue for higher pay if ZipRecruiter can’t match you to the right job, yet that’s what you’re stuck with. I think the employment infrastructure has a lot to do with why the status quo is what it is.

      You’re asking a good question. I don’t know the answer. I try to push change by talking loudly about the issues I think can make a difference.

  2. How do job searchers avoid companies that have a high percentage of part time un-benefited employees? 30 to 35 hour jobs with no health insurance little or few paid holidays no time off for doctor’s appointments. I once worked a professional job for eighteen months with 5 paid holidays – I could not believe it when they said ‘oh we paid you one day for Christmas so we don’t pay for New Years’ and the ‘regular’ people were off 4 days so I had three unpaid days just for those ten days.

  3. Much more readable, both on my phone and laptop.

    After about 47 years in the workforce, and 5 years of retirement that is just beginning to feel like retirement (selling home, building home, moving twice, burying both parents, open-heart surgery, surviving Covid–not necessarily in that order), I do ask myself: what kind of position would lure me out of retirement? My hero in Dune 5 (Heretics of Dune [1984]), Miles Teg, was coerced out of retirement to help save the known universe.

    While my skill-set is no where near that level, I and many others my age do have formidable skill-sets. What would bring us back as full-fledged functioning members of society?

    Enquiring minds want to know.

    • @Keeper: I’d love to know what other readers have to say about this! We usually hear about retired folks that can’t find jobs when they want them. What about those of you that don’t want jobs after retirement? (I know there are many retirees who keep reading Ask The Headhunter!) What would bring YOU out of retirement?

      • I am retired now but went back to work part time when a former coworker asked me to help out until a full time employee was hired. I worked 3 days/week for 9 months when a full time employee was hired. He lasted 2 months and I was asked to return. Worked another 4 months and another person was hired. He lasted 3 weeks and I was called back again. Worked 1 month and a full time person was hired.
        That was 5 months ago. I have contacted other companies explaining my skills and willingness to assist until a full time person is hired. So far, HR and managers don’t get it. They only want a full time person. How do I convince them of my value?

  4. I was born in 1942, got my first “real” job playing in a dance band in 12h grade, college, went in the Army in 1967, out in ’75, more college, worked 2 subsequent 20-year careers, the second in career advising, retired in 2020. Seen a lot of changes in the hiring and getting hired world. But there are some things that form the bedrock foundation of career-changing and job searching. What do you see as foundational? What are the 2 or 3 elements of planning one’s career and finding meaningful work that were in effect when you started, and are still in effect and significant (perhaps necessary) activities or philosophies that job seekers should be aware of today?

    • @Chris: Wow! GREAT question that I’m not going to answer right now. I’d like to hear from others what they think is foundational across time. I’m banking this one for a column next year! Thanks for asking — now I have time to think about it!

  5. I moved from America to Australia in my 20s after meeting the girl who became my wife. Several decades later, mom recently died and I made the decision to move back to the US to support dad. Going to Australia, my accomplishments in the US counted for nothing when job seeking. And again, returning to the US, my project management experience and IT certifications barely count because they were “over there”. How do I avoid my skills and experience being discounted from being in another country?

    • @Jeff: Welcome back… I think! Sorry you don’t feel so welcome after hitting the employment system. Skills and experience themselves don’t change with geography. Unless the tech work is dramatically different, your skills and experience should transfer just fine. I’m guessing your problem is that employers find it easier to reject you than to confirm for themselves that an Aussie isn’t a risk! So you have to explain it to them. Which is why digital job hunting isn’t likely to work. You need to talk shop with the people that might hire you or who can recommend you. Here’s the basic approach, and there’s more in my Fearless Job Hunting PDF book titled “Get In The Door”:

  6. Nick,

    Like the cleaner format. Less distractions.

  7. In the last 15 years of my career I began asking what I consider the really important questions. Not only what are the salary levels at my job level and all the way up but you also need to know details of promotion, bonus, training policies. Etc. Need to meet and talk with three levels up managers, in detail. Or I don’t interview. It works! And I get higher salaries.

  8. Hi Nick, so we have talked about this talent shortage and the “Great Migration”… do you see the end of this coming? What’s going to cause it to end? (like the different scenarios) Besides sweetening up benefits and pay, is there more to this? What are the bad things that will come from this?

    • @Jasper: I think the jobs/employment market has changed permanently because people were forced during the pandemic to pause and reassess the brainwashing they’ve suffered for decades at the hands of HR and the database jockeys that design and maintain the digital dumpsters called job boards and ATSes. In the case of HR, job seekers are done with the abuse, the ghosting, the cattle call interviews and mindless recruiting. In the case of the job boards/ATSes, people realize they don’t work! I think employers are having a rude awakening but don’t yet see these roots of the problem. It’s going to be an interesting period. Your questions are food for thought, and I’d love to hear everyone’s comments. I’ll come back to this in 2022. Great questions about the structural problems in recruiting and hiring!

  9. Congratulations Nick on an excellent site and advice over the years.

    I suppose my question (albeit from the UK) is how do you ‘network’ for jobs in sectors where the recruiting is heavily process and compliance-led? This is especially true of the public sector/governmental jobs; we know that at the most senior levels recruiting is part-headhunter part-individual sourcing but at lower levels it would seem the HR recruitment machine is the wall which hiring managers cannot by-pass.

    This machine means recruitment is derived on fixed rigid questions that have little to do with the job and lead to ludicrous approaches in recruitment where good people are rejected if felt to have answered quite generic questions in the ‘wrong’ way – no matter how comprehensive the answer. Then the Civil Service complains it cannot find the right candidates. Their error is that they are not looking for the best person for the job but the candidate who can pass the HR system

  10. Question 1 – Suppose a HR director of a company reads this blog and wants to do right by his company and candidates, what could that HR director do to decrease their scope of influence and remove recruiting from their workflow?
    Would that director not receive pushback from managers who are “too busy to interview” and from senior C-Suite who want HR to just handle it and would perhaps find another HR director more willing to toe the line?

    Question 2 – a bit of a controversial question if I may (and no offence intended to anyone) –
    In today’s more and more inclusive environment, how do we find the correct balance between the “old boy’s club” “friend of a friend” hiring style which is not merit-based, but does allow for networking and unofficial meetings where you can show your value without going through an ATS, and the current practices of “we have to have X% of women, minorities, LGBT to be covered legally”, which is ALSO not merit-based and excludes good non-minority candidates, as well as doesn’t allow managers to decide anything without HR enforcing the diversity quotas and drawn out processes

  11. Nick — I’d like to add this comment/question, based on the comments/questions by Nick and DV(Question 2).

    For the past year or so, I’ve been considering, analyzing, and struggling with the tension between these two basic methods of finding employment:

    1) By networking and informational interviewing, getting referred to and talking directly with hiring managers (DV’s “Old boy” “the friend of a friend” hiring style), which I have been following and advocating for, for the past 40 years, and which I have been professionally teaching for the past 20 years


    2) The new OFCCP- and EEOC-driven methodology as nicely outlined by Nick (“the machine”) and DV(Question 2). Both methods (“Old boy” and “compliance/machine”) have pros and cons, both are legitimate given a certain set of circumstances, both have advocates, and one can make compelling arguments for and against both models.

    So Nick, I hope that you will take this on as one of the subjects you cover this upcoming year. I believe that it could be one of the most important issues everybody is faced with within the near future, and definitely impacts my previous question in this thread.

  12. I am semi- “retired” and of course open to new opportunities. I am located in a more urban location and in my 40 years never owned or used a car for commuting. We have outstanding public transit in a hi-tech area. My location should have opportunities, but headhunters that contact me try to steer me to place me in far flung suburban locations for temporary positions. the positions are short term that come up frequently but not frequently enough to justify getting a car making the commuting costs exceed the return of my efforts. I know I can easily do the tasks for the positions which is clear with them and their clients I talk with, I have to put my foot doww and it the end will only accept if they can arrange and provide transportation to and from work and pick up the nickel.

    It is a more general question than my particular problem and that is what is the etiquette for doing hardball negotiation?

  13. Hi Nick. I enjoy reading your column. Thanks for all you do.

    I hate to interview. I’m just not good at it. Mainly because I rarely ever had to be interviewed in order to find work. Most of my work opportunities either came from someone I know referring me, or in one case – working at a temp agency which resulted in a fun job that turned into a career with in the travel industry.

    What value do you see in temp agencies as a means to finding a job in this very different market. PS: I am furloughed due to Covid19 and it’s devastating affect on the travel industry.

  14. I love the new format!

    What is the best way to take advantage of the recent chaos to land a new job? Employers are crying that they can’t find employees, yet job hunters are too often finding much of the same old song and dance (employers pushing people to apply online, doing the keyword match, etc.). Do you think employers are truly desperate to hire? Or are they just whining because some people are refusing to take the scraps and be grateful?

  15. I have issues with getting employers to see that my skill set can be useful in positions other than those I have held in the past. I have done project planning and coordination for over 10 years, but unless it is in a certain industry no one wants to consider me for the position. How can I get employers to see past the “it’s not in our industry” blindspot and that project planning and coordination skills are useful in any industry, not just the ones on my resume?

    Employers claim they have problems finding skilled people, but here I am ready to work with a nice set of skills that I want to use to help an employer solve problems and get work done.

  16. Being unemployed, being a woman, and being over 60 was the trifecta of hurdles I had to face more than once. My resume got me through some doors because (thanks to advice from you and others) it read like I was a lot younger. But once they saw me and realized that I was not 42 years old, I was dropped like a hot potato.

    What can “mature” women do to overcome the perception that we are too old to be working?

    After a decade divided among being a slave to a “good” job, periods of unemployment, and soul-sucking jobs that I took to pay the bills and keep health insurance, I threw in the towel when I could get Medicare.

  17. Love the new format. It is much easier to read.

    My question has to do with questions to ask a recruiter. What questions should I ask?

  18. Nick, I like your column keep the great work.
    I had a thought. I get contacted by recruiters constantly saying “great opportunity”. I want to come up with a symbol/tag on my resume that says “Salary Range Required” (like SRR?), meaning I won’t talk to you, unless you disclose the salary.
    My feeling is; I don’t want to waste your time and I’m hoping you don’t want to waste mine. If the compensation (salary & benefits) is not noticeably higher than my current, we should save both our times’.
    So many of these opportunities are best described as mediocre, which is probably why the company is using recruiters.

    • @Neil: Why not just put the statement in there explicitly, in bold big type? If recruiters can’t be bothered to respond to you, why would they bother to look up a symbol? :-)

  19. I feel you Ellen. I am 62 and haven’t worked in over two years — my niche is just that and it isn’t easy to find a suitable job to even apply to. However, I am happy to transfer my skill sets to other industries and roles, I don’t have to stay in the original “box” of a position/career. Most employers don’t seem able to read between the lines on a resume and see a well-rounded person with varying talents and experiences that may lend themselves to a position they are seeking to fill.

    Places want young and recent college grads (as told to me by a recuiter). BTW, people tell me I look very young for my age, and frankly, I agree, so if I could just get an interview I think I might have a chance.

    Not being currently employed is a huge strike against me (apparently) so I don’t know what to do, short of working retail. I’ve applied to “admin support” roles in hopes of getting something to feel like I’m part of the working world, albeit at $20/hr. or so . . . For me, the worst part is the uncertainty and lack of daily purpose that is a huge struggle.

  20. It’s a silly question: why do some companies ask you not to apply more than three jobs over a 90 day period? I thought the point of a company using an ATS (automated tracking system) was to encourage you to apply to as many jobs as you want.

    • @Thomas: Perhaps after HR has spent its entire wad on posting jobs on Indeed, Zip and LinkedIn, there’s not enough money left to buy memory for their servers to handle more than 3 job apps per person? :-) Only half kidding!

  21. I’ve seen this in a large FAANG company – the recruiters expect a candidate to apply for a specific role and not “spray and pray”.

    They actually look down at (and decrease the chances of success) candidates who are applying for multiple job postings because the are seen as “not really passionate about this role but just trying to get any job here”

  22. Of course they always interpret everything in the worst possible way. They could just as easily see it as being “really passionate about the company more than any single role” ergo someone who would stick with the company no matter where they are placed. But that would require an attitude of looking for the positive in a candidate instead of looking for any excuse to dismiss.

  23. 8 yr follower. First time reaching out. My position ends March 2022. I have already interviewed with the HR manager for a position within the same organization. It went very well. However it’s too soon for her to make a decision. How do you recommend staying fresh on the HR managers mind?