In the February 7, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader says Skype interviews aren’t such a good idea:

Thanks so much for hosting an Open Mic session and offering your professional expertise. My career is in IT (information technology) and although I feel more like a commodity these days than the business professional that I am, there are interviewing techniques that throw up a big red flag.

Recently I was asked to do a Skype interview. There are many factors with a Skype interview that can be held against a candidate because it introduces things that are not common with the typical phone and face-to-face interview process. The interview is with a local company but regardless, I still find it as an unfair practice. What are your thoughts?

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

My Advice

I’m with you. I don’t like “phoners” in general. If you’re uncomfortable with this kind of interview, you can’t tell companies to stop doing it, but you can politely decline.

How to Say It:
“I’d be glad to invest time to come meet with you. I think I can demonstrate how I can contribute to your bottom line by doing X and Y for you. But I’m sorry — I get so many requests for e-mail, telephone, and virtual interviews that I respectfully decline them. I need to know that a company is really interested in talking shop. When I attend such a meeting, I’ve done my homework. If you’d like to meet with me, I’ll be ready to show you what I can do for your business.”

I think if a company balks at that suggestion, it’s wasting your time. Are they really interested in hiring someone, or not?

There’s a time and place for social media tools, to facilitate communication. I don’t think an initial contact is it. Whether it’s via telephone or Skype, there’s an enormous difference between casually chatting with someone about his work, and conducting a job interview. I think the technology emphasizes the power one party has over the other, and it makes forthright, balanced dialogue awkward. The candidate is always at a disadvantage. (And the employer may wind up wondering why she wanted to interview a talking head.)

I don’t think it’s appropriate to make a person perform on video if there’s not already a relationship in place. The person who invites another to talk business has an obligation to make the experience pleasant. That’s why we buy one another lunch. It’s an expression of our investment in, and respect for, the person we’re soliciting.

I get fed up with the “social media” tools that employers use as an excuse to avoid investing adequate time to assess a candidate. Check Recruitomatic & The Social Jerk (Or: Why you hate recruiters) for more about this. Perhaps there are ways to engage another person before suggesting that they appear on your computer screen for an interview, but it doesn’t seem the employer in your story has done that.

I hope the How to Say It example above gives you an idea about how to handle this. But please — use your own words, and modify the message so you’re comfortable with it. Sometimes, you have to push back firmly, but make sure you do it politely.

If you’re going to do a Skype — or any other kind of video — interview, don’t miss these 8 Tips for Successful Video Interviews by Rachel Ryan.

What’s your take on “phoners?” Have you ever done a Skype interview? Maybe I’m looking at this wrong, but I think Skype interviews put the candidate at a disadvantage, and they might leave the employer thinking he’s talking to Max Headroom. Please post your comments and suggestions.

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  1. I hate Skype, but I’d like to hear more about what you dislike about phone interviews. They can be a good first step for employers to identify the candidates who are best matched with the job and culture and for candidates to figure out if they’re interested in continuing to talk.

    In an ideal world, we might always get together in person, but in reality if an employer has 30 promising candidates, they usually aren’t going to do in-depth meetings with all of them. A 20-minute initial conversation makes sense as a way to start narrowing that pool. The alternative is to select only a few of them for in-person interviews, meaning no one else gets the chance. If I were a candidate, I’d rather be given the chance to show how great I am than to be cut altogether because of limited interview slots.

    And if I were a candidate, I’d rather invest 20 minutes on the phone to figure out if I’m even interested in the job than to invest 1-3 hours in an in-person meeting without that initial screening. Because screening goes both ways.

    • Narrowing down those 30 promising candidates to a short list of three to interview is HR’s job.

  2. I have had three screening phone interviews in my life, two bad and one good – for my current job.

    The first was with Shell. A HR jockey, respectuful and nice, but asking all the studpid HR questions. The second with Schlumberger, where a not respectful HR jockey barked through the list of HR questions, without any follow up questions. Meaningless, phone or not.

    The third was with my current job, also due to distance. But it was respectful, real questions, lots of information about the company and a good discussion. It led to face-to-face meeting and the job.

    Bottom line: The problem is not the medium, phone or Skype, but that such interviews often are used solely for screening thorugh the resume mountain, rather than for useful discussion.

  3. The problem with Skype (or any video conferencing) is that the interviewee doesn’t necessarily have the bandwidth necessary for a good experience. Additionally, not everyone has a web camera on his/her computer. And if it’s just a voice only connection, why not just pick up the damn phone….particularly if it’s a local company? Minutes are cheap to nearly free.

    Companies that insist on stuff like this are needlessly complicating things.

  4. For people with hearing loss or communication difficulties, as well as in the case of cross-cultural interviewing, these technology modes can sometimes be a help IF the interviewee can benefit. Otherwise, these options could seriously run afoul of disability accommodation.

    Unless your long-term relationship is going to be exclusively virtual, you’d be disrespecting all if the research and preparation that you’ve done as a good ATH follower (myself over a decade-keep it up Nick!)

    Extended or complex conversation on the phone is fine if you already have a relationship, but it has some serious limitations if you are interested in solid foundation.

  5. @Alison: I’m not opposed to phoners per se. I’m opposed to the joke that many employers play on themselves and on candidates. Either they’re totally unprepared for the phoner; or they script it too heavily; or they take the candidate by surprise.

    In other words, the poor sucker being called has no idea what’s about to happen. That’s fine if you’re playing a joke, but not if you want a productive discussion.

    Unprepared employers blabber on about nothing, and they ask inane questions that yield little useful information. They don’t know what they’re doing.

    Heavily scripted phoners make the candidate feel he or she is on a witness stand or, worse. like they’re being set up for an indictment.

    Perhaps worst of all is the phoner in which the candidate has no idea what to expect. It’s incumbent on the employer to give the candidate a heads-up and possibly even an agenda. You can’t evaluate a person without making it clear in advance what you’re evaluating. Any interviewer who believes he or she is going to wing it effectively is nuts.

    So what should employers do? Let’s hear from others first. I’ll chime in later. My thoughts are just one perspective. I wanted to explain what I think it wrong with phoners.

  6. @Karsten: Excellent breakdown of the problems. I think you’re right. It’s not the medium itself; but a medium that eliminates many cues and that forces an almost asynchronous “discussion.”

    And you gave some excellent examples of what I refer to in my earlier comment. How common is it that a personnel jockey runs through a bunch of questions without any discussion — almost like it’s a test?

    Consider the moniker: “screening interview.” That’s an oxymoron. When you screen, you eliminate. That’s fine in itself, but there’s no way to screen in a voice-only (or even video-only) setting. HR loves to talk about respect for people and individuals. Yet it conducts screening interviews as if it were talking through dixie cups connected with a string. The information is not very rich, and the very attributes HR is supposedly looking for get lost in the noise or just can’t make it through that limited channel.

    You gave an example of one interviewer who know what they were doing. I’d love to hear more about that.

  7. @Chris: I’ll take it one step further. The candidate has no idea what’s about to happen. Where’s the employer that explains to the candidate how the phoner (I lump Skype in here) will be conducted?

    My favorite HR gaffe: Calling the candidate during dinner. More than one ATH reader has complained that such calls come when it’s not convenient — and candidates feel pressured to take them anyway. What’s with that?

  8. @RTZNJay: Good point. Imagine selecting your next date purely on the basis of a series of phoners with people you know little about it. Dating Game, anyone?

    Now, let’s make it more interesting. Suppose the purpose of the date you’re about to select is to get married as quickly as possible. Now how do you feel about selecting your “possibles” based on a phone call and a resume?

    That’s what employers do every day. Then they wonder why so many hires don’t work out.

  9. Best to find out WHY they want to do Skype. It’s probably because Skype has video.

    If the key hiring manager spends a lot of time on the road, this may be her way of getting a key hire in process as quickly as possible.

    Is this a position related to social media? The recruiter may want to get a feel for the candidate’s ability to interact via new media.

    Is the candidate at a senior level? Maybe the target company wants to make sure that he is comfortable with new technologies. There can be a world of difference in an employee’s level of comfort (and ability) with technology when you are working with senior level people.

    Bottom line, I think it best to find out why the online medium was requested.

    • It is eight years on, but–when I ask this question, I am brusquely told “that’s our process, take it or leave it.” My response is always “Good luck filling the position. Bye.”

      My process is no video anything. I refuse to have anything to do with it. I flatly refuse to buy video equipment. I flatly refuse to install Skype or Google Hangouts or whatever the flavor of the week is. I paid money for a cell phone and cell phone service so that potential employers can call me. Their refusal to do so is insulting and outrageous.

      Also, if an employer cares more about what I look like than what I can do for them, I don’t want to work there. It’s quite obvious that these “virtual interviews” exist to allow lazy HR departments to outsource and automate the tedious work of age and race discrimination in order to gain plausible deniability. I refuse to play along.

  10. @Spencer: Yep, it’s best to find out why the online medium was requested. I’ll do ya one better: It’s best for the employer to explain it to the candidate, eh? (That last bit was for my Canadian friends.)

  11. The only place I’ve seen video work well is in TV when looking for production or air talent. Production because you want to see an example of what they can actually shoot, edit and produce. Air talent, well, because looks and presentation matter. The engineering, sales and suits are generally hired using other interview methods.

    My best interview ever was a phone screening interview with the hiring manager. He had maybe 2 questions about the work, the rest of the time we talked weather, sports, current events. Less than an hour later I heard from HR wanting to know when I could be on location.

  12. I suppose that Skype can be used, but, I think there needs to be a good reason for it’s use – as Spencer and Nick pointed out. If it’s just “convient” to use Skype to ask all the lame interview questions – then the company is rather dubious.

  13. @Dave: There’s the question for every HR manager and job candidate to ask. Is technology being used to facilitate a useful discussion, or to cut costs?

    Cutting costs is good, but not if it diminishes the value of the interview. Facilitating any meeting means organizing it properly before it happens. You know the old adage — No meeting without an agenda in advance. Well, no interview by Skype without an agenda and stated purpose. (“We want to get to know you” is not enough. If I want to date you, are you gonna visit me via video first?)

  14. I absolutely agree that in-person contact is always preferable, for almost all interactions. But for a long-distance job search, I have found Skype to be useful as a first step to decide whether I want to invest the time (and the prospective employer’s money) in flying. IMHO it is preferable to a phoner. When forced to do the latter, I usually print the interview participants’ photos to have in front of me; it’s better than looking at the wall and helps me be more personable.

    “The person who invites another to talk business has an obligation to make the experience pleasant.”
    Nick, are you *sure* you’re really a headhunter? ;-)

  15. At this moment in economic history (which actually began in the middle 1990’s), companies are not “selecting” talent: they are eliminating excess candidates.

    As I was recovering from depression after my job loss in early 2009, I began reading to bring myself up to date on the employment game. I had successfully job-hunted and secured offers twenty years ago, so I was no stranger to the process. I thought I just had a little brushing up to do.

    Such was not the case: even before the collapse of the economy, the climate had changed drastically.

    I’m glad that I didn’t start researching until I began treatment-I think the additional shock to my psyche would have made my therapist’s work much more difficult.

    The overriding phrase from one of the books that still reverberates in my brain today is: You are not being selected; you are being eliminated.

    Some career counselors remain optimistic that by presenting my “brand” properly, life can go on.

    But from where I’m campaigning for a position to match my talents, branding is the least of my problems, and new technologies will only eliminate me more quickly.

    There’s a reason they call me The Silver Fox, and it’s not because I’m clever. Add to that the stigma of being long-term unemployed, and I’m eliminated before the computer can match up all my keywords.

    The very small ray of hope is that some people out there are still carefully selecting.

    I actually had someone, with no fanfare, call to say that they had found my resume, and set up an appointment for an interview with absolutely no screening whatsoever.

    But at the rate of one such phone call every two or three years, my economic recovery won’t happen until I’m dead. That is, unless my life insurance tanks like my 401.

    (Just so no one worries, my treatment was successfull, I’m employed in a survival job @ 20K a year, and I’m still developing my “brand”, ie, still engaged in worksearch.)

    (Also, I was one of 5 people in the company who got perfect attendance/no penalty points for the year-not bad for a depressed guy.)

    Sorry to ramble on.

    Summary: Skype-old guy-faster elimination-I vote no.

  16. I am a surprised at the vehemence against Skype or gChat interviews. I am a Career Coach at a well-known Eastern business school, and do extensive interviewing and coaching remotely. I chatted to students in at least a dozen countries over the holidays. I have coachees interview with companies. It works, so get with times. Do you insist on monagrammed stationery delivered by snail mail?

    Get a decent camera for $100 (most built in cameras are poor). You don’t have decent broadband? Huh? That may be acceptable for a factory worker, not a manager. Even all my over 50 clients have good broadband- so they can chat with their grandchildren.

    A jerk can be a jerk across the desk or across the country.
    Modern business isn’t 9-5 anymore when you have colleagues and partners around the world.

    I would probably disqualify most job candidates if they can’t figure out how to video

  17. Even a local job may require contingency remote work, from a workplace flood or fire. A foreman may to work with a machine manufacturer located inGermany or China. A domestic client may be overseas and need support at strange hours. There is no such thing as a local-only job except for baristas and burger flippers.

  18. I don’t have a problem with phone interviews (with the hiring manager.) HR phone interviews seem to be hit and miss (more miss than hit.) A preliminary “phone screen” seems to be the norm here (west coast.)

    Advance notice is a must though, a cold call phone screen is a horrible idea. I’ve had one actually, it was at 9 PM from a local employer. I have no idea why I even answered the phone. What a waste of time!

    As for a Skype interview? Uh…. no thanks. Even with a good connection Skype is awkward. Definitely not a “first date” way to communicate in my opinion.

    Also (as I think Nick mentioned) what is really lacking in most interviews today is the common courtesy of an agenda. It really is a business meeting and should be treated as such. You should always have some idea of who you will be meeting with (at least) and their position within the company. I would personally like to see more detail than that, but it seems rare to get more. Maybe because few people ask for more?

  19. @Rick –

    I don’t think that’s the issue at play here. Yeah, it’s a global work place but, I think at some point, employer has to meet perspective employee. Anything else is a short cut in my mind.

  20. @Dave –

    Clearly the vast majority of hires will eventually entail a F2F. However a *good* interview via Skype should be able to sort out likely winners from the not-worth-flying-heres. Of course, a poor, unprofessional interview is bad regardless whether F2F or remote.

    The alternative is more possible candidates being excluded from just a simple resume review, and no conversation at all. That seems like a step backward.

    If I receive 100 resumes for a single position, many/most can be eliminated immediately (by actually reading them, NOT keywords). From perhaps 10 maybes, tele-interviews can reduce it to one or two, who then fly in.

    @Nick responding to @RTZNJay – When I was single (late 40s) that is exactly how I dated, and as do millions. (Resumes = online profiles). I chatted with my sweetie for a month before we met (across the country), and have been married for 5+ years.

    Nick, how is it possible to fly in every possible and maybe, whether as a lover or employee? There is a finite travel budget for everybody. Why waste candidates’ time with travel?

    @John – I agree 100% a cold call interview is totally unprofessional. Via email, confirm a specific time slot, with the agenda. But why is a Skype call ‘Definitely not a “first date” way to communicate?’ Is telephone better? Why?

  21. @Chaz: If you’ve got employers at long distance sending you their photos so you can look at them during Skype interviews, you’ve got some unusual employers there!

    BTW, I interpret the question in this week’s Q&A to mean the candidate was being asked to do a Skype video interview. I could be wrong, but that’s how I read it.

  22. @Rick: Whoa, there. I don’t detect any vehemence against Skype interviews. What most people (including me) seem to be saying is that if an employer is going to do a phoner (or a video) then it needs to go the extra mile to make it both pleasant and productive. Karsten offers a good couple of examples:

    A HR jockey, respectuful and nice, but asking all the studpid HR questions. The second with Schlumberger, where a not respectful HR jockey barked through the list of HR questions, without any follow up questions. Meaningless, phone or not.

    In my experience, those kinds of phoners are the norm. They’re a waste of time. Adding Skype and video just makes them worse. The employer has an obligation to compensate for the “virtual” problem. And it is a problem.

    The solution has little to do with a $100 camera, or a fast connection. I’ve had good interviews in cheap delis. What matters is the behavior. And most phoner behavior is pretty lousy.

  23. @Rick: I wish I knew what your point was.

    There is no such thing as a local-only job except for baristas and burger flippers.

    My local vendors are all very important to me. My grocer. My doctor. My lawyer. I look forward to getting a chest x-ray in front of my pc screen. Til then, virtual still ain’t good enough, though it’s used routinely as an excuse for lousy business practices

  24. @Dave: Good point.

    Yeah, it’s a global work place but, I think at some point, employer has to meet perspective employee.

    Apple doesn’t even bother to meet them after they go head-first out the FoxConn building:

    Steve Jobs said: “Those jobs aren’t coming back.” (cf. )

    Neither are the guys who went out the window.

  25. @Rick

    I have no problem with Phone, Skype, etc. But as you say it’s the behaviour, used in the process.

    For example, I am a very visual person so an in person interview with a white board is my preferred format. ;)
    Others may do well with Phoners or Skype.

    I think phone and Skype have a very limited specific role.

  26. @Nick @Chaz: If you’ve got employers at long distance sending you their photos so you can look at them during Skype interviews, you’ve got some unusual employers there!

    Hah! Nope, just Google Images. In this day and age it’s very unusual that I *cannot* find a photo of someone on the web. Of course I don’t tell the interviewers that I’m looking at their photos . . . I imagine that might seem a little creepy. ;-)

  27. @Chaz: Awwww… you’re out there stalking interviewers before you meet them. Well, very intereseting turn of the tables. I’d interview you just for doing that!

  28. @Nick: “Stalking” is a bit strong . . . let’s call it “counterintelligence”. ;-) I want to know as much as I can about the people interviewing me before I meet them (or Skype with them, or whatever). I would never reveal that I did more than read their corporate bio, natch, and certainly not that I discovered any personal info — “So Mr. Smith, is your daughter enjoying her 4th grade class at Sunnyday School?” But it can help indicate what to emphasize about myself to make a personal connection. It seems that even a lot of smart people are dumb enough to splatter their personal lives all over the internet, and I see no reason to not use it.

    Plus, it can prevent gaffes like this gem:

  29. @Nick – responding to “What is your point?”

    I am not trying to be combative; I guess a I hit a nerve with my comments. I guess we take the perspective from where we sit. At my last company (as President) while living in RI, I managed facilities in NH and TX, with most customers based in Bangkok and NYC. Before that I lived in Brazil with partners in NY for a major Chinese client. I spend a lot of time virtually with colleagues (and a lot of time on airplanes).

    Yet even what we think is local often is not now. Your lawyer may be outsourcing routine contracts India. Your radiologist may be in Shanghai. I love my local veggies stands in the summer, but my winter fruits and valentine roses come from south of the equator.

    My point is most of my employees have needed to be reasonably comfortable working long distance, even if they are in their own cubicle.

    @Chazz – I am surprised more people don’t do their homework before their interviews. Of course you should have photos (if possible) and whatever else you can find out from public sources. (It is not snooping if they posted it). You are right on target.

  30. @Nick C.:

    The interview for my current job was good because it was a down to the Earth discussion on the company and how I could fit in. I got a presentation of the company, what they did, what they looked for, and we discussed my background, what I could do. Nothing special, nothing scripted, just a get to know each other. It was later followed by a face to face interview, also discussing shop, and some tests at the assisting recuiting company.

  31. I had a Skype interview with a company in Atlanta from my home in Seattle. It was more of a pre-interview chat before they flew me out for the main interview.

    The challenge was the technology failed – at their end. Thus we ended up using the phone for the voice plus the Skype video feed.

    Yet the process was successful and we were both happy before we both invested time and money in the face-to-face event.

    I would even say the process was memorable because my step daughter thought it would be nice to let one of our cats into the room. The attention seeker leapt into view between me and the camera giving us all a shock plus a talking point when we did meet.

  32. Yeah, count me in: I agree that Skype interviews is an onanistic endeavor to be avoided, but phone interviews are just fine, imo. In fact, I’ve always insisted on a preliminary phone chat — saves me a trip in case there’s a major problem, which can usually be discovered within five mins on the phone. In fact, I remember actually fighting with some search firm over this: they wanted me to go there bodily, and I wanted to make sure there’s a good reason to waste a day.

    But I had an off-topic question: does anyone know why recruiters always want your resume? I swear, going back probably decades, ninety percent of them contacted me only in order to get me to send them my resume — they lied about having a job they were working on (I believe that because they saw my data, pretty detailed, online, and so another resume sent to them, wouldn’t change anything since it contained the same data, yet they beg for a resume and then they disappear — so I gotta think it’s the resume they wanted). Why do they need these resumes? Do they eat them for lunch, or put in a banks, what use is a resume ? Anyone know? A lot of them also are very rabid to find out how much I’m making (I always cut them off, but it’s still interesting, why do they want to know?)

  33. @Crumbs: I discuss this at length in “How to Work With Headhunters… and how to make headhunters work for you.”

    They ask for your resume because they use it as bait to get employers to “sign up” with them as clients. It doesn’t matter what you do or how qualified you are. They want to show they have tons of resumes.

    The other reason: They send your resume along with all others to every employer they can. It’s a numbers racket. If one sticks to the wall, they get a fee. A gerbil could play that game.

    It’s why I advise NOT giving them a resume until you fully understand what the job is, and get proof from them that the employer is actually their client.

    Good for you for noticing the problem. Few people ask the question. They just get excited as puppies that someone might play with them.

  34. @Crumbs Jr

    To re-iterate what Nick has said… 9 times out of 10 there is no job or the job does not fit your goals.

    My $0.02 – For most recruiters/HR folk, the resume is just to make it easy for them to scan keywords. It doesn’t really stick up for how intellegent you are. Most of the HR types I have met don’t have a deep enough understanding of what they recruit for so they can’t/won’t summarize your portfolio/work/education/interests/goals/etc. and make a case as to why you’d be a good fit.

  35. @Dave
    From the comments I get from my recruiter friends – the resume is first used to check keywords and then to disqualify you. Sadly it has nothing to do with your skills, intelligence or ability to do the position.

  36. @Dave, @SteveG: What do I keep telling you guys? Don’t use resumes. :-)

    Excellent points from both of you – thanks for posting!

  37. Nick Corcodilos wrote:
    : They ask for your resume because they use it as bait to get employers to “sign up”
    : with them as clients. … They want to show they have tons of resumes.
    But how do they do it? Shake a thumb-drive at them? Print them out and collect in a large binder? I’m not sure why anyone would be impressed with largeness of anything: it’s what’s in it that matters.

    :The other reason: They send your resume along with all others to every
    : employer they can. A gerbil could play that game.
    Well, they’re not supposed to submit anything unless you approve. I’m sure this rule is flaunted at times, but not massively (?) Are you suggesting they blast resumes around w/o contacting you first? I really doubt it.

    Thanks for commenting, btw. :-) I quite appreciate what you do, even though I disagree with some of what you say.

    Dave wrote:
    :For most recruiters/HR folk, the resume is just
    :to make it easy for them to scan keywords.
    I usually post my CV online. They can scan it _before_ they contact me (and they do: their contacts are usually specific to my resume). What I was puzzled about was why do they always want me to send them a copy. What is so magical about getting a zipped-up Word file from me addressed to them vs. an online copy (with the same exact information)? Why do they need the whole rigamarole with lying about working on an assignment, and using a fake job description, and all this stuff?

    Btw, I disagree with Nick about “don’t use resumes”: resumes are just fine, imo, it’s the recruiters whom you have to avoid. I’ve never had any trouble with direct clients, be it theuse of resumes, or online boards, or interviewing methods. I believe it is so because recruiters have their own interests that go against the interests of both parties they purportedly serve. When dealing directly with people who need your services, NONE of the usual recruiter nonsense (lies, manipualtion, prying of info that’s none of their business, unnecessary legal entaglements, etc.) comes into play. Dealing with the actual consumers is usually very easy. I’m sorry to disagree with our Maestro here (whom I totally respect, btw.), but it’s not interviewing, resumes, online boards, etc., that is a problem — it’s dealing with the clientele whose interests are not aligned with yours and who are completely unregulated (externally or self-) and who have no entry barriers, which results in every scheming subliterate lowlife claiming to be a “recruiter”. Some communications I get are written on a five-grade level in twitter style, with no punctuation and with grammatical errors: how did these characters end up in a professional capacity? Anyway, this is all off topic. The truth is (imo), everything works, even skype, when you deal with the right people. So get rid of unknown intermediaries and get in touch with the actual consumer. Also, if you’re lucky enough to bump into a decent guy in recruiting, be nice to him, ’cause they’re rare but helpful; maintain contact and share his numbers with your friends/colleagues. Working through a recruiter — assuming he’s not an asshole (99% are) — can open opportunities you wouldn’t know of on your own, so cultivating that one percent of one percent who’re decent folks is very worthwhile. But going back a couple of decades, I can remember maybe two or three people like that.

    Finally, thanks everyone who responded to my comments. Always helpful, two minds are better than one.

  38. Sorry, I forgot: one more thing.
    Nick wrote:
    :It’s why I advise NOT giving them a resume until you … get proof from them that
    : the employer is actually their client.
    How do you do that? I actually do do something like that, but I don’t think it’s fool-proof (it can backfire sometimes) — so I’m curious about what _you_ would recommend.

  39. We’re going way off-topic here, so maybe this should move to another thread. Or maybe Nick has already addressed it, but it’s been a while since I read HTWWH. (page # pointer welcome) But Crumb Jr’s question also occurs to me, and leads to another:

    >>get proof from them that the employer is actually their client.
    >How do you do that?

    Yes, how do you do that?

    And what’s the business model for the BS artists who blast irrelevant resumes at employers? As an employer, after the first round or two of bulk trash I would simply filter their email to junk, and their treemail to my circular file. Maybe they survive on the one-in-a-million hit. That seems like a tenuous way to make a living, but little surprises me anymore.

  40. @Chaz
    Yep we have – but it is interesting :-)

    @Crumbs Jr.
    I have my resume online because I got my last position from a recruiter who found me on Monster. Then again this week I got a recruiter ask if I was interested in a Help Desk Tier 1 position. Rather than my usual “next” I asked why he thought my resume warranted this offer. Besides the surprise he was honest – he was told to type in the keywords “Desktop Technology” and send an email stating the candidate was a great fit for the position. I suggested he look at the resume before sending but he said they do not have time and the copy they get is almost unreadable. I keep get these idiot requests because I am a Director of Information Technology – with desktop and other IT keywords in my resume.

    Is there a better Blog post for this? Plus thanks for this platform to discuss this.

  41. @Crumbs Jr
    Most likely they have their own internal resume database that only takes certain formats of Resume’s.

    The other issue with keyword searches is that it goes the other way as well. What if you aren’t qualified to do the job (as in no keywords) but are looking to change careers/move up the ladder?

  42. @Crumbs: How do they do that? E-mail, phone calls, any way they can. An employer posts a job, one of these schmoes uses the resume to apply for the job. Why do they want the actual resume? Because when you send it, that constitutes your “permission” to “represent” them. Yah, I know you didn’t explicitly give it, but so what?

    They’re not supposed to do that? Nope, they’re not. But they do. Good luck knowing you’re right and they’re wrong. They still do it.

  43. @Crumbs & Chaz: How can you find out whether the client the “headhunter” claims is actually a client? (1) Ask for a copy of the assignment submitted to the headhunter by the client, (b) get the name of the client and call the HR dept and ask.

    Why do people suspend all their common business sense when they go job hunting? Honest, I intend no offense and this is not sarcasm — but this is so common. Top execs who negotiate million dollar deals walk into interviews and fold their hands and wait for the first question, like they’re fresh out of school and totally naive. The Employment System has succeeded incredibily in turning people’s brains into mush when they search for a job.

    Due diligence is something we all do all the time at our jobs. Do it when job hunting, too.

    One more tip about headhunters and their “clients.” You will routinely be told, “We can’t show you that.” Bunk. Any good headhunter can show you proof he’s got a contract with a client. But those dopey “clients” — employers will often accept a “great referral” from anyone and pay a fee for the placement. You could start sending your friends’ resumes into companies and then claim a fee. (Employers routinely have “newbies” quickly sign a “fee agreement” before they make an offer from a firm they’ve never heard of).

    The Employment System is a racket that depends on you being hungry for a job and willing to suspend common business sense. Think twice. It’s far easier and preferable to deal with people who practice good business.

    (Chaz: This particular question is not covered in HTWWH. It’s not a Q I ever remember anyone asking, but it’s a good one.)

  44. @Chaz:

    And what’s the business model for the BS artists who blast irrelevant resumes at employers?

    Same as any other mass-mail racket. If you get a 1% response rate, you’re doing well. Read SteveG’s comment and story about the recruiter who admitted he was just following a script. It’s a numbers game and anybody can play if they can stomach the routine.

    Some employers do indeed filter out the drek. Others wind up adding manpower to “process” all those incoming “candidates.” Read about “Claire” (a real HR manager in a top multinational company, who figured out the problem, and tackled it) in

    Those companies do indeed survive on the one-in-a-million hit. They don’t last long, but the attraction of this business for people who like rackets is just too great. It seems easy. Who props up these “businesses?” Stupid HR departments that spend tons of money to encourage as many applicants as can hit the Enter key. Then they complain they can’t process all the incoming applicants.

    Go figure.

  45. Guys: I know we’ve gotten a bit off topic, but that doesn’t happen often here, so no sweat.

  46. Good commentary, thanks everyone.

  47. Btw, just to share what I do: my online resume has all technical detail but, other than email address, is stripped of any personally identifiable information. The name is something obvious, like “Jane Roe” or “Phil Manager Jr”; my employment history contains entries like “mid-size telecom company, Tri-State Area”, etc. (to make sure no misconceptions arise, I prepend the whole affair with a cover letter with an explicit disclaimer saying that my personal data are fictitious — so that even if the reader is stupid, he can’t complain I mislead him). Iow, this resume is totally serviceable to an actual hirer, but useless to a scheming scumbag fishing for info. When I get an inquiry, I check out the job description, and if it looks promising, ask the contact to use my online resume for submission (I do offer a Word copy, but with exactly the same contents). If the hiring guy likes the technical stuff, *he* has to contact me in response. This way I know this opportunity is not bullsh-t. Needless to say, ninety percent of bushy-tailed “search professionals” act scandalized and disappear when asked to proceed that way. Amazingly, that does not change the overall rate of actual success (because, like I said, 99% of recs who contact you are scam artists and have nothin to offer to begin with). This works very fine to filter out the BS’ers. A few bona-fide actors went along though (but I’m talking many years). Of course, this probably discouraged a few legit people, and I wonder how significant *that* aspect can be.

    None of this matters when you deal with people directly — I’d like to stress my extreme agreement with the Boss here about “due diligence”. Find out who you want to deal with and go after then. No aggravation, no BS, ever. What one must always keep in mind is that the system being what it is, people claiming to be “recruiters” = 99% BS. Don’t feel bad eliminating them bluntly: you do not stand to lose much — most have nothing to offer; the ones that do will work with you (as long as you’re reasonable). Of course, this assumes you have time.

  48. @Crumb: Interesting idea, a complete resume with no identifying info. That’s how employers treat people, anyway. But consider adding a short paragraph at the top to explain why you’re doing it that way. Give HR something to think about.

  49. Nick, thanks for another illuminating article. I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s opinions and experiences. I don’t have Skype (don’t have a personal computer)–so if a prospective employer wanted to Skype, I’d have to find a library or computer center that has it, and even then I’d be wary for the same reasons Nick cited. I don’t mind a phone interview, particularly if we’re both deciding whether a second interview (face-to-face) is warranted, although I do prefer to meet face to face. There are non-verbal cues given that you don’t get in a phone interview, or that you might miss with Skype. But if the employer is disrespectful, that will show up and a phone interview saves me time, gas, and money.

    Technology is great, but it has a purpose, and I don’t think it can be substituted for human interaction. I don’t blame employers for wanting to keep costs down re flying candidates in for interviews, especially at the preliminary stage, but technology won’t help them hire the best person for the job. All it will do is eliminate candidates, possibly for the wrong reasons (anyone remember the Kennedy-Nixon debates? Even if you weren’t born yet when they occurred, there have been plenty of documentaries and news shows about them. Nixon looked horrible on tv, tv and the camera loved Kennedy…it boiled down to appearance and the level of comfort Kennedy had on camera, which is not the best way to assess a candidate for President…or for a job unless that job is a news anchor). An employer could very well eliminate the best person for the job because he doesn’t Skype well, but meeting and talking with him in person might show that candidate in a far better light.

    I think it is just another tool for HR to eliminate more candidates. The few who got through the computer’s algorithm are subjected to another elimination test, this time the “Skype interview”.

    How about eliminate HR from the process and have the hiring manager make the decisions. And actually read resumes or letters, not let the computer eliminate everyone who isn’t a 10 for 10 perfect match. There’s lots of talent out there, but HR is making sure it never reaches their companies.

  50. Nick Corcodilos wrote:
    : That’s how employers treat people, anyway.
    Ha! A good observation.

    : But consider adding a short paragraph at the top to explain why you’re
    : doing it that way.
    I do.

    : Give HR something to think about.
    To be fair, I didn’t have too much problems with HR — all this song and dance I described above is targeted at recruiters. I can’t remember a single case when I got a job though HR; it’s always a technical manager who needs something done. Sure, HR gets into the picture at some point, but mostly it is to handle formalities after an offer has been extended and accepted. I don’t have a major beef with HR. Recruiting industry, otoh, needs to be regulated. Until they have to pass a bar exam of some sort and have something to lose in case they act like a dope pusher, marauding hacks will continue to befoul the employment landscape and waste your time and aggravate you for fun and profit.

    marybeth wrote:
    : I don’t have Skype (don’t have a personal computer)… [but] I don’t
    : mind a phone interview,
    I’m with you on that. Myself, I insist on a phone chat in all cases (unless the prospect is within a short drive from me, of course).

  51. @Crumbs and marybeth:

    One issue I have with phone screens/calls with HR (or people playing HR)… Sometimes they don’t have the power to reject/deny canidates outright. For example, I’ve had times (when I was more naive) where the person I’m taking to doesn’t negotitiate the pay or know about the budget. You end up taking time off and driving a bit and end up finding out the job isn’t a good fit and/or the pay isn’t right for you.

  52. @Dave
    You are correct the screeners I have talked to do not have the power to accept. As far as I understand it their role is to find a reason to reject the candidate. Thus they ask questions which you are expected to answer but almost always have no answers to your questions.

    If I do get an interview – I never consider it a waste of time. It is a learning moment because you will never know it is not a good fit until you go.

  53. @SteveG: Let me push on what you said a bit. Please think about this.

    It is a learning moment because you will never know it is not a good fit until you go.

    Wouldn’t it be better to know beforehand, and go only if you know it’s a fit?

    How could you do that? I think it’s possible, and I think it’s essential.

  54. Dave wrote:
    :One issue I have with phone screens/calls with HR … You end up taking time
    : off and driving a bit and end up finding out the job isn’t a good fit
    Well, yeah, but we’re more concerned with the opposite: not with not knowing that the job is good, but with finding out that it isn’t. I’ve never had a phone interview with an HR person, btw. I like the phone intro because there’s usually a good chance to quickly find out if the job is not for you – in which case I don’t want to spend time going there. But Nick isn’t concerned about that; instead he says you should physically go there and avoid the phone phase. I disagree with that. A brief chat with the hiring manager over the phone is helpful finding out if there are any reasons you shouldn’t proceed with the opportunity to begin with. Saves a lot of time this way, and I don’t see any negatives to doing it that way.

    Btw, just got a dozen rec. inquiries for an obviously same job again. All in a matter of days. I can’t figure it out, why would anyone hire multiple recs at the same time for the same position? A mystery wrapped in enigma etc.

  55. @Crumbs Jr.

    I have no problem talking on the phone (or emailing, or Skyping or whatever).

    I think part of the problem is that some lackey (i.e. Secretary, HR, Recruiter, etc.) acts as the gatekeeper but they have no real power and/or they don’t know the job. Let me talk to the hiring manager for 20 minutes, then we can decide if we want to move forward.

  56. Skype interviews provides the hiring company with an opportunity to discriminate plan and simple. They just do it to see how you look. Considering that you have minorities that talk like they are white. Im black and i cant tell you how many ignorant people told me that I sound white after they met me like that is some sort of compliment or something. The company can hire who they want and the skype interview provides them an opportunity to practice workplace discrimination. I agree video conferencing should be done only when there is a relationship already. Honestly why cant the hiring company determine if you are worth investing in for an in person interview with from a 30-45 minute phone interview? I think the skype interview is lame and places the job seeker at a disadvantage always. Two things determine if you get the job. Your qualifications and if you fit in. Unfortunately skype gives them the opportunity to see if you fit into the culture by your appearance.

    Now they can still discriminate after a in person interview but its less likely they are going to do that after bringing you in for a inperson interview. Big companies like apple, google dont do this.

    If everyone stop agreeing to skype interviews I guarantee that the hiring companies will stop doing them.

  57. I have a skype interview today. I agree its a subtle form of discrimination.

  58. It is bad enough that in person I have a face made for radio, and a voice suited to silent movies.

  59. You can be judged