Job Market Madness: What do you say?

In the December 18, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter we take a look at the madness of the 2018 job market — 3 issues that made me crazy all year long. What do you say about these topics?

job marketNick’s Question

For my last column of 2018, I’m turning the tables and asking you for answers. Throughout the year, news about the job market set my head spinning again and again. (It’s still spinning.) I saved some of the juicier stories so we could review them now, as the year winds down.

Here are three controversial topics and my take. What do you say about them?

What do you say?

It’s become a perennial issue in the job market: the constant, wild claims by employers that there’s a talent shortage because today’s workers lack the right skills. (See News Flash! HR Causes Talent Shortage!) My take on this is that employers are full of crap, and my take gets credence from Wharton labor researcher Peter Cappelli.

Training: More skills, not more pay

Three years ago I wrote about The Training Gap: How employers lose their competitive edge. I cited Cappelli’s research, which strongly suggests that while companies complain today’s workforce lacks up-to-date skills, employers themselves contribute to the problem. Cappelli notes that training and employee development budgets were slashed long ago:

“American companies don’t seem to do training anymore…the amount of training that the average new hire gets in the first year or so could be measured in hours and counted on the fingers of one hand.”

Recently, Bloomberg Businessweek (Companies give worker training another try) reported that:

“Fifty-five percent of U.S. employers surveyed by ManpowerGroup this year said they were providing additional training to cope with talent shortages.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But Cappelli wasn’t — and still isn’t — wrong. Cappelli suggested that if employers really need higher skill levels, you’d think they’d also be willing to pay for them in today’s highly competitive hiring market — right?

Well, they’re not. Cappelli claims — and I agree — that the “talent shortage” employers cry crocodile tears over is at least in part due to their failure to pay competitive wages and salaries. The same Manpower survey agrees:

“Only 26 percent [of employers surveyed] said they were offering higher salaries.”

What do you say? Are you seeing employers deliver more training and education to workers? Are employers making higher job offers — and paying higher salaries — to get and keep workers who have the “necessary skills?” What responsibility do companies have to educate their employees and new hires?

Tell Us Your Salary!

You already know my rule: Never, ever disclose your salary history to an employer. But the “news” is full of advice that hurts job seekers.

If you cough up your current or past salary information, it will be used to effectively cap any job offer. You’d be helping an employer negotiate against your best interests!

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In a recent advice column, The New York Times explained How to Be an Ace Salary Negotiator (Even if You Hate Conflict). There’s some good advice in that article. But career pundits always seem to sell out their readers when employers and HR managers turn up the pressure.

Columnist A.C. Shilton says employers expect you to negotiate, so you shouldn’t be afraid to, as long as you view the negotiation as a discussion rather than a confrontation. I think she’s right:

“There is no obligation — legal or otherwise — to disclose this information, so your first move should be to parry this question to see if your potential employer will throw out the first number.”

But then Shilton chokes right where most job applicants choke:

“Still, read the room: Sometimes you’ll just have to cough it up.”

Shilton then cites an expert from the American Association of University Women who recommends double-talk rather than a forthright “No dice!” when the personnel jockey “in the room” demands your salary information. Here’s the script the AAUW expert says you should recite:

“This position is not the same as my last job, I’d like to discuss what my responsibilities would be here and then determine a fair salary for that job.”

Practice giving this response until it feels like second nature, says Shilton. In other words, force yourself to talk to the hand. Cave in.

But the estimable New York Times isn’t the only advisor telling you to take the salary sucker punch in a job interview. On CNBC.com, ace business expert Suzy Welch leads job seekers right off the negotiating cliff.

In What to say when a job interviewer asks, “What’s your current salary?” Welch warns that withholding your salary history “is no way to start a relationship.”

Welch says:

“The best way to secure your place at a new company and advance your career is to simply tell the truth.”

Why? Because, says Welch, “the decision to share your salary is worth the risk.” #GimmeABreak.

What do you say? Is your salary history anyone’s business but your own? Should you ever disclose your salary history to an employer? What has your experience taught you? Can you negotiate the best possible deal if you cave?

Men & Women ALL Get Lower Pay

The controversy about equal pay for women met #MeToo in 2018, but the men still don’t get it. (See Don’t blame women for the gender pay gap!)

On September 14 this year, Jeff Stein reported in the Washington Post:

“The gender pay gap has begun narrowing over the last four decades — and women’s earnings are now closer to men’s. But that is not only because women are doing better. The trend is also in part because men are earning less. Earnings for men have fallen in the decade since the recession, and are even below levels for much of the 1970s and 1980s.”

From ‘Not doing better than their fathers’: Men’s earnings have fallen since 1970s, Census Bureau says.


Yes, guys, that means #YouToo. Everyone’s getting screwed. I refer you back to Wharton’s Peter Cappelli, whose analysis of decades of data suggests employers own the “talent shortage” for three reasons.

  • First, they rely on silly HR technology that hinders effective recruiting.
  • Second, employers expect “just in time skills” — they refuse to train anyone.
  • And third, employers refuse to pay market rates to attract and hire the best talent.

All year long I’ve been running into data that fully support Cappelli’s contention that companies’ labor woes are due in large part to low pay — also known as greed.

A column I wrote last summer, B.S. on the jobs numbers euphoria, included a graph produced by Bloomberg based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS reported that spending on compensation between 2009-2018 for everybody is still way down from what companies were spending on compensation before the 2008 bust.

That red line — “Biggest gain of the expansion” — may be the biggest misnomer of the job year. “Pay still hasn’t recovered” would be the more honest tag for the failed compensation recovery.

Stein reported:

“From 1973 to 2017, men’s earnings fell by about $3,200, or about 5 percent, in numbers adjusted for inflation.”

The Census shows that while women’s earnings have “crept upwards,” men’s earnings have actually dropped. The same data set, of course, puts women’s earnings significantly below men’s.

What do you say? Did you know that real pay is actually lower for men, and unfairly low for women? Is it time for #UsToo? Have you ever calculated what’s happened to your “real earnings” since you started working? Why is this happening in a booming economy?

I hope you’ll chime in with your answers and opinions about these three topics that combine to create job market madness!

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Now the good news!


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This is the last Ask The Headhunter column for 2018. I’m taking a couple of weeks off for the holidays! See you next on January 8, 2019! Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year — and all the best for whatever holidays you observe this time of year!

If you’re new to Ask The Headhunter, or just want a refresher on the main ideas we discuss here every week, please check Ask The Headhunter In A Nutshell: The Short Course and The Basics!
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How to get to the hiring manager

In the December 11, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader needs help finding the right hiring manager.

Question

hiring managerYou have said that the key to a successful job search is to contact the person you would work for within an organization, and to show how you can help out. How can I find the hiring manager who has the problems I’ll be able to solve?

Nick’s Reply

Your challenge as a job hunter is not to apply for lots of open jobs. It’s to carefully target the hiring manager that you can help the most. (Yep — that means you must avoid HR!)

Find the hiring manager who needs you

To find a manager who really needs you, it’s best to triangulate. That is, talk to people who know and work for managers who may be relevant to your job search. This includes less obvious contacts, like a company’s customers, vendors, consultants and business partners. They can lead you, or point you, to the hiring manager.

Another productive approach is to read business articles to learn what problems the entire industry is grappling with. Often, these articles will mention names of people who work for or know the company you’re interested in. Call those people. Explain that you are interested in their industry and the company.

These are the people who are well-positioned to introduce you to a manager who needs you. These peripheral people will also help you prepare for a knowledgeable discussion with the hiring manager.


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Keep Your Salary Under Wraps
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Don’t ask for a job

Here’s the key: Do not ask for a job lead. That almost always triggers one reaction: “Go to our website and fill out the job application form!” That’s the last thing you want to do.

Instead, ask intelligent questions based on what you’ve read, like a peer would. Have a discussion.

  • What advice would these folks give someone who wants to work in their business, and perhaps for their company?
  • What kinds of help does the company need if it’s to improve its sales or operations?

These discussions will lead you to people who will bring you closer to a particular manager’s inner circle, then to the manager.

When you’re talking to people who work for the manager, you’re getting the information you really need (and a possible introduction).

Meet the right people

How can you do some of the key research, and how do you get ready to meet the people who can lead you to the manager?

The PDF book Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3: Get in The Door (way ahead of your competition includes a section titled, “Meet the right people”, pp. 1-2, that offers this suggestion:

Once I’ve picked the company I want to work for, I’d [like to] have five minutes apiece with: (1) a company engineer who wrote a letter to the editor of a technical publication; (2) the consultant who advises on the company’s finances; (3) the reporter who wrote a local newspaper story about the company.

These are the people who can help you navigate the organization by introducing you to a broad range of employees and managers who work there.

What to say

What should you say that feels natural and sounds friendly when you’re talking with a company insider? Try this:

The PDF book Fearless Job Hunting, Book 1: Jump-Start Your Job Search includes a “How to Say It” tip on p. 8 about how to approach a company insider:

Asking someone for a job lead or for a job interview is awkward. Asking to meet other people who do the work you’re interested in is a different story. It’s natural to express interest in other people’s work. Here’s how to say it:

“I work in [marketing or whatever]. I’m interested in learning more about your marketing department. I think it’s important to get to know people who are among the best in their field. Is there someone in your company’s [marketing] department that you think I should talk with?”

Address the manager’s challenges and problems

Of course, once you’ve spoken with people who lead you to the hiring manager, you must be ready to say something useful to that manager! You must inspire the manager to talk with you about a job:

Two sections of How Can I Change Careers? deal specifically with these issues. (This PDF book is not just for career changers; it’s for anyone who wants to get an edge on changing jobs.) A section about how to “Put a Free Sample in Your Resume”, pp. 23-24 helps you show the manager how you’ll bring profit to the bottom line:

You have to clearly understand what makes your work and abilities valuable to companies in your field. Don’t just think about your skills. Think about how you have used your skills to help an employer succeed and be more profitable. Make a list. But don’t put that on your resume; that’s just more historical stuff. Just because you helped your last employer is no proof that you can help me. You need to package the information in a way that says explicitly to a prospective employer: “This is what I can do for you.”

Before you can deliver this job-offer-eliciting gift, you need to understand an employer’s needs. That means understanding the problems and challenges his company faces. And that can take quite a bit of research. Do it. There are no shortcuts to delivering value.

Talk to insiders to meet hiring managers

When headhunters search for good job candidates, they first study the business by talking to people in it — especially the movers and shakers. The secret is to talk shop and to demonstrate that your focus is on the work. This is what makes company insiders open the door to the right candidates.

Just as naturally, such insider conversations about a company’s problems and challenges will lead you to people who know the right managers — the managers you can help.

Yep, this is a lot of work. But so is that great job you want. There’s no better way to show your initiative, or to get an edge on your competition, than to find and meet the right managers through people they know and trust.

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How do you get to the right manager to discuss a job? Is it even possible? If you’re a hiring manager, what’s the best way for a job seeker to get your attention directly?

: :

 

Age Discrimination: Help me market my dad!

In the December 4, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader complains that age discrimination is killing his dad’s career.

Question

age discriminationHelp me market my dad. He’s over 50. It seems that as soon as his age becomes evident in a job interview he is somehow no longer qualified. Are there any businesses who hire someone with 25 years’ experience any more? He was a vice president until he got caught in a downsizing. People are still young and bring a lot to a job at his age. What can I tell him?

Nick’s Reply

Have you noticed the ridiculous conundrum in the recent news about the economy?

  • The trend in unemployment claims is down.
  • Employers are creating record numbers of new jobs.
  • Talent is in short supply — companies can’t find the workers they need.
  • The economy is booming and indications for growth are positive.
  • But highly talented, highly skilled, highly experienced people like your dad can’t get hired.

Are we stupid, or what? (See B.S. on the jobs numbers euphoria.) There’s a problem here. Employers should be in a mad competition to hire your dad — and others like him — and they should be making insanely high job offers to get him.

But they’re not. So, what gives?

Stupidity.

The stupidity of age discrimination

There are some bright spots — and employers — however. For example, see Boeing Is Bringing Back Recently Retired Employees in AARP magazine. It’s no accident Boeing is one of the most successful companies in the world and that it actually makes something you can touch that doesn’t run apps.
Employers are not so rational or smart as you might think. The recruiting technology they rely on — ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Indeed, and their ilk, along with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSes) of many flavors — instruct employers to keep looking for the perfect job candidates, and employers (and their silly HR departments) keep barking up that tree. They don’t just discriminate against older workers. They discriminate against anyone that doesn’t match ridiculous lists of requirements.

That’s why your dad can’t get hired. Automated recruiting makes it easy for employers to discriminate because the data they need to practice age discrimination is right there in the databases they use to select candidates.

But we’re not going to change how employers hire. We can’t. We’re not going to waste time complaining about employers. We’re going to try and change how your dad interviews so he can get hired in spite of age discrimination.

People your dad’s age (50+) bring a lot to a job. They’re not too old to contribute significantly to a company. (Check the article about Boeing in the box at right.) You clearly believe it. So does your dad.

The question is: How can your dad change his behavior in job interviews to overcome this discrimination? The answer may not be so obvious as you think.

Mike projects his fear

Several years ago, when AT&T went through one if its down-sizings, the company hired me to coach a group of executives who were told they had eight months to find a new job before they were terminated. Most people take that kind of time and use it to engage in wishful thinking. You know: “Oh, they’ll find something for me so I can stay. I’ve been here 20 years. They won’t let me go.” (Quite a few AT&T’ers succumbed to that thinking and were still fired.)

One of the guys I coached (I’ll call him Mike), took it dead seriously and he started looking immediately. But by the time I met with him, he was disheartened and angry. He’d been rejected by one younger hiring manager after another. All he wanted to know was, “How do I get these interviewers past the problem of my age? They’re all much younger than me and all they see is the grey!” What Mike was saying was, “My age is a problem to them, and I know it.”

Mike was 58. Sure, some employers prefer younger people. Some employers are also bigoted about all sorts of things, from race to religion to sex to where you play golf. My advice in those situations: Either file a discrimination suit, or move on to the next employer.

But regardless of his skills and credentials, Mike was quite naturally projecting his concerns about being an older candidate trying to impress younger managers. Even as I talked with Mike and listened to his frustrations about job interviews, I could smell his fear and discomfort. It was understandable — the guy was justifiably frightened. The trouble was, Mike was essentially walking around carrying a sign that plainly said, “I know you think I’m old.”

Change your own behavior

Call me an optimist, but I really believe most managers are more concerned about a person’s ability to do the work than about anything else, and they’re basically busy people who will give you a fair shake if you can help them meet their business objectives.

But something funny happens, as it did with Mike. When he acted defensively about his age, interviewers shut him down. The last thing an employer wants is a worker who projects worry about his age, because the preoccupation is likely to affect their work. Never mind that Mike wasn’t worried about his abilities. It was enough that he was worried that the interviewer was worried about his age.

I spent about four hours with Mike. I taught him to focus on one thing in the interview: the work an employer needs to have done. If the age issue comes up, I told him to shift gears and ask the manager what problems he needs fixed, and then to demonstrate how he’s going to tackle them.

You should have one goal, I told him: to show the employer what you’re going to bring to the bottom line. Do that, and you control the interview. Do that, and — much of the time, not all — you transcend the age (or almost any other) issue.

The point was not just to help Mike perform at his best. It was to help Mike change his behavior from worrying to showing he could do the work.

Controlling your behavior changes your own attitude

The truth about job interviews

A good employer wants to see what you can do. If he doesn’t ask, help him out and show him. It’ll turn your interview into a working meeting where you both roll up your sleeves, and during which the employer can do a direct assessment of your worth to his business.

“Please lay out a live problem you’d want me to handle if you hired me. I’ll do my best to show you how I’d do the work so it will pay off for both of us.”

From Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6, The Interview: Be The Profitable Hire.

Mike changed his attitude, if only because for four hours I encouraged him to talk about how he does his work, and I refused to let him discuss age discrimination. It’s a simple law of psychology. When we change our behaviors, our attitudes follow — but not usually the other way around.

A week later I ran into Mike again. He had a grin on his face as wide as a barn. He walked up and clapped me on the shoulder.

“I did what you said. Company XYZ not only hired me; they’re giving me equity. When the interview started, I cut the manager off at the pass and asked him to lay out a live problem he was facing. That helped me stop worrying. I got more comfortable by focusing the meeting on what I do best. Then I showed him how I’d handle it. We talked shop. He stopped seeing the grey when I showed him the green,” he quipped. “It changed the whole interview!”

I’m proud of Mike because he got past his own age obstacle, and in doing so he got the employer’s mind off it. When an employer encounters a perceived obstacle like age, they tend to make a superficial judgement rather than deal with their bias. So the candidate has to deal with it.

Talk shop

This story is the best thing I can offer your dad. He’s got to get his age completely out of the equation and out of his own mind. Sure, he’ll encounter a jerk or two. But he’ll also encounter employers who need what he can do for them. It’s up to him to communicate that without bringing his fears to the interview.

It’s not an easy task, but it’s do-able. We all know this approach will not eliminate age discrimination. We’re not going to change employers. The goal here is to eliminate the worry and preoccupation with bias that job applicants often carry around themselves. The goal is to change our own behavior in interviews. In my experience, the best way to do that is to keep an interview discussion focused on the work the employer needs done and on how you will do it profitably. Talk shop.

I wish your dad the best — and I’ll ask you to share with him this success story: Who says 58-year-olds can’t get a job?

Talking shop is one way to get past the obstacle of age discrimination. Do you agree that older job applicants can actually control the problem of ageism by controlling their own behavior? How do you think older job applicants can help employers that are desperate to fill jobs? Is it worth being angry at employers that are prone to bias against older workers? Can we change biased hiring practices?

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Afraid to ask for feedback in job interviews?

In the November 27, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader says it’s awkward to ask for feedback after a job interview.

Question

feedbackInterview coaches say you should try to “close” on a job offer at the end of an interview. Say things like, “Is there anything that would prevent you from making me an offer?” or, “Can I tell you anything else that would help you decide to hire me?”

I feel awkward being that pushy. What I really want is some honest feedback, but it’s hard to ask for it for the same reason — it feels pushy. Got any ideas to help me?

Nick’s Reply

Those career coaches are recommending a cheap sales trick that every sales prospect and hiring manager has heard a million times. Note that the two “closing questions” you cite have nothing to do with the job you’re interviewing for! Such questions have nothing to do with feedback! They’re a cheesy way to ask, “Are you going to hire me?” and “Are you going to buy something?”

When you ask for feedback, do it with integrity. The topic is the job, not the job offer. So focus on the job, on the work, and on making sure you understand the details of it! A useful request for feedback triggers a loop, or a conversation, about the job. That’s what helps you prove you’re the best candidate.

The interview feedback loop

The feedback loop is a fundamental mechanism in so many working systems — biological, mechanical, computer, social. Nothing works effectively without feedback. In a job interview, there’s no way to address the employer’s needs effectively if you don’t know what the employer thinks of what you’ve already said.

Imagine meeting with your boss to get a new work assignment. He tells you what he expects. If you’re smart, you re-state it in your own words to make sure you’ve got it right. Then you explain what actions you will take to do the job. Your boss will share his reaction, and you learn more about what he really wants. You modify your plan, re-state it, and ask some more questions. Don’t leave his office until there’s enough back-and-forth that you’re confident you’ve got it right. That’s a feedback loop.

When I coach job candidates, I suggest they open a feedback loop at the beginning of a job interview, so they can ask feedback questions throughout the meeting.

How To Say It

Tune this to suit your style while you’re talking with an employer:

“I know this is an interview, but I’d like to ask you to judge me under an even stricter standard. Think of me as an employee. Please critique what I have to say during our discussion, as if you were critiquing someone on your own team.

“At the end of our meeting, I’d like to ask you to judge me as an employee. Would you give me an important assignment? Demote me? Fire me? Promote me?

“I say this not to presume control of our meeting today, but because I really believe that if I cannot demonstrate to you how I’d add profit to your bottom line, you should not hire me.

“But I’m confident I can show you, during our time together, that I’m the most profitable job candidate you’ll meet for this job. Your feedback is crucial to me whether I’m your employee or a job candidate.”

Interviewers who have a difficult time addressing your request for such feedback are probably terrible at communicating a work assignment to an employee. They don’t know how to work well with others. They have no business assessing job candidates, much less managing anyone.

Don’t wait until the end of the interview

How to do a Working Interview

“At a comfortable point during your meeting, ask the manager for permission to show what you can do…This is more than a demonstration. You will be working with the manager on a live issue as a member of his team. Invite the manager to define the goal. Create an outline, a list, or diagrams to help simplify the definition of the problem…Together, create a strategy to tackle the problem, and go over the tasks that need to be accomplished to solve it.”

From “How to do a Working Interview™,” pp. 22-24,
Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6 — The Interview: Be The Profitable Hire

Job applicants who wait until the end of an interview to get feedback are squandering an opportunity. They have no business in the job interview if they don’t use the meeting to quickly learn what’s required — so they can demonstrate why they should be hired. And that requires lots of feedback.

So, set the stage early in the interview. Put your discomfort or fear aside. Ask for feedback throughout the interview, and show the employer how such back-and-forth is helpful to both of you. Use feedback to fine-tune your discussion about how you’ll do the job profitably! (See Stand Out: How to be the profitable hire.)

I poll managers all the time: How would they respond to such a candidate? Only weak managers and personnel jockeys scratch their heads. Good managers tell me, “Are you kidding? I wish I could meet a candidate who knows how to discuss what I need like that!”

What if you’re the employer?

We all know the employer is really in control of a job interview. The employer requested the meeting, and needs to decide whether to pay money to hire you. The feedback loop is critical to the employer, too, so the employer should use it!

If you’re the employer, the How To Say It suggestion above is easy enough to twist 180 degrees so you can explain what you need done in the job, then ask the candidate to re-state it to you. It’s a great test of a job candidate — and an honest test.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Can the candidate re-state your objectives accurately? (That is, does the candidate understand you?)
  • Does the candidate ask questions that will help clarify your objectives?
  • Does the candidate ask what tools are available to get the work done?
  • Does the candidate respond with an outline of sound methods to achieve your objectives?

Tell the candidate you’re viewing her as an employee — and that at the end of your meeting, you’re going to give her a performance review. Ask her to pretend she’s meeting with her boss — you — and you’re giving her a new work assignment. Explain that you need to see how she uses a feedback loop to get it right.

Then, deliver feedback yourself throughout the interview! Let the candidate know how she’s doing. Help her understand the job so she can perform at her best. Isn’t that what you’d do for an employee? Do it for every job candidate. That’s the only way you’ll be able to assess how they might perform if you hired them. That’s feedback!

Use feedback to have a Working Interview™

Interviews are usually little more than canned Q&A. They should be working meetings, but two people can’t work together if they don’t ask for, and give, feedback.

Don’t ask cheesy “closing questions” at the end of your job interviews. That’s not feedback! Real interview feedback happens during your job interview, not after it. It’s also known as the lost art of real conversation!

How do you use feedback to optimize your job interviews?

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What are stock options worth in a job offer?

In the November 13, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader asks whether to accept stock options as part of a compensation package.

Question

stock optionsI’ve been with the same company for five years, with total 18 years’ experience. I’m considering an attractive offer from a year-old start-up financed by a very respected venture capital group. The offer includes stock options. The idea is that someday they’ll go public and will be hugely successful, or someone will buy the company, and we’ll all become rich (on paper).

My question is, how would I go about putting a value on the stock options offered? Understanding the risk I assume, what should I negotiate for? Any suggestions?

Nick’s Reply

Venture funding for start-ups by respected venture groups is slowly picking up after a lull of several years – and that’s a good sign for the economy. But don’t count any stock options before they hatch.

There are as many subtle variations on evaluating options as there are start-ups. You could do well, or you could wind up very disappointed.

I’ll offer you two simple rules of thumb. There is no finesse in this. It doesn’t even involve calculations; just a blunt point of view that I’ve developed as a headhunter during many years of dealing with people who’ve faced this situation. A very few have profited from options, but most haven’t.

Stock Options: Rule 1

The first rule is that the factors which influence a start-up company’s success or failure are unknown to you at this point, and you have virtually no control over them. More important, to varying degrees we can say the same about the founders of the company and those who are funding it.

  • Thus, any attempt you make to rationally analyze how much start-up stock to hold out for — or to estimate what that stock is really worth today or in the unknown future is a crapshoot.

Stock Options: Rule 2

Here’s my second rule:

  • All stock options in start-ups are worthless by definition because you cannot put a value on something you cannot sell.

How to think about that job offer

Now for my advice, based on those two rules:

  • Accept the offer only if the work and the compensation package without the options would make you take the job.

How to negotiate the job offer

Negotiate for all the stock options you can get. But beware: A company is not likely to give you more options than it has already decided on. Management has thought about this more than you have, under the guidance of people who put up their cash to start the business. Unless you would be a key employee whose expertise would have a key impact on the company’s chances of success, you probably don’t have much leverage to negotiate options.

Now here’s the most important thing to take away from this discussion:

  • Negotiate harder for salary, bonus, incentives, commissions and allowances, and consider the stock options a lottery ticket.

This is what will keep you truly motivated day in and out. While I understand when a start-up’s founders say they want employees who are truly motivated to “throw in with us and take a risk,” you must decide how much of a risk you can afford to take — and whether you’re willing to give up part of your own market value today (cash compensation) for a chance to hit it big later.

Talk with a lawyer

No matter what they put in your job offer, a startup is a special situation because the risks are different from those in a mature company (even a small one). That’s why you should talk with a lawyer to get your job offer reviewed before you accept it.

These Ask The Headhunter PDF books will help you with the compensation end of a job offer:

Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6: The Interview – Be The Profitable Hire. This works even when discussing salary with your current employer.

Fearless Job Hunting, Book 7: Win The Salary Games (long before you negotiate an offer), especially “The Pool-Man Strategy: How to ask for more money,” pp. 13-15. Sometimes it helps to ask casually.

Fearless Job Hunting, Book 8: Play Hardball With Employers, especially “Due Diligence: Don’t take a job without it,” pp. 23-25. This is a must when considering a job at a start-up, though this section applies to established companies, too.

Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9: Be The Master of Job Offers, especially “Non-Compete: Did I really agree to that?”, pp. 5-7.

This article by my own attorney will highlight some of the issues you should consider: Employment Contracts: Everyone needs promise protection.

What’s your tolerance for risk?

Here is a sobering question to test your tolerance to risk in this situation:

  • If you had a chance to buy into this start-up without working there, would you buy its stock today?

If you wouldn’t invest in this start-up as a bystander, why would you take part of your pay in stock?

No matter how many options you get, if the company strikes it rich, I guarantee you’ll look back and think, “I knew I didn’t get enough options when I took this job!”

If the stock winds up worthless, you’ll be glad you were doing work you really wanted to do, and getting paid a nice package in the meantime.

Have you ever taken stock options as part of a job offer (with a start-up or otherwise)? How did it turn out? How did you negotiate the details? How would you advise this reader?

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Recruiting scams and job interviews on social media

In the November 6, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader worries that job interviews via social media like Google Hangouts are recruiting scams.

Question

The Web seems to be full of recruiting scams targeted at job seekers. They often use social media to lure victims. Should we accept interviews using services like Twitter and Google Hangouts?

Nick’s Reply

recruiting scamsIt’s not clear whether you’re referring to being recruited for an interview via Twitter and Google Hangouts, or whether you’re going to actually be interviewed that way. Regardless, social media do indeed seem to be popular for recruiting scams.

Interviews: Person-to-person only

My rule is that interviews should be on the phone or in person, or via Skype — but no video. I’m not a fan of video interviews or automated interviews of any kind.

A recruiter or employer that asks you to invest your personal time to participate in a job interview must be willing to do the same. If they expect you to “interview” indirectly or virtually, I suggest you tell them you want a person-to-person interview, or move on. (See HireVue Video Interviews: HR insults talent in a talent shortage.)

Use multiple online resources to verify identity

If a recruiter uses Google Hangouts (or Facebook or LinkedIn or some other social network) to recruit you and to schedule an interview, I’d politely ask that they e-mail or call you to confirm the interview. I’d insist on at least a telephone call for the interview itself. Then track their contact information to confirm their identities.

If they are going to initiate the phone call, ask them to:

  • provide their telephone number anyway
  • along with their street address
  • their website
  • and their LinkedIn page.

Then look them up using multiple online resources to confirm their identity – and that they are legitimate.

Keep in mind that just because a recruiter claims to be working for ABC Company, doesn’t mean they really are. Make sure the contact information they provide resolves back to the employer whose job you’re interested in.

The gold standard

Here’s the gold standard: If you can independently find the company online, call the main telephone number listed and ask for the Human Resources department. If HR doesn’t recognize the person that’s recruiting you, then you will know there’s a problem. Even third-party recruiters have identities that you should be able to verify.

For examples of questionable recruiting solicitations shared by readers, check the most recent comments on this article.

Legit employers will behave transparently. But it’s still your job to check them out first. There are simply too many recruiting scams out there to trust anyone who cannot or will not provide identity information that you can verify independently.

Don’t let the ridiculous levels of automation in the recruiting and hiring process lead you to dispense with your common sense. Even if it’s legitimate, any employer that’s so disrespectful as to demand your time without investing its own is probably not worth your consideration.

I hope that helps you select good employers and avoid questionable ones.

Have you ever been scammed by a “recruiter?” What tipped you off that it was a scam? Do you agree to job interviews via social media?

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13 lies employers tell about job offers

In the October 30, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader recounts her experience with a small-business owner and how he plays games with job offers.

Question

job offersI just came across some of your articles when trying to research my job offer being rescinded (Behind the scenes of a rescinded job offer, Job offer rescinded after I quit my job). A lot of what you wrote resonated with me and made me feel much better about my experience today.

I interviewed for a high level position at a smaller company, so I was talking to the owner directly. Here are the key facts about the compensation:

  1. The offer was at the bottom of the salary range discussed during my interview process.
  2. The owner said I could make it up with a large bonus, but that they didn’t have a structure for how bonuses worked. If the company was doing well I’d get all or part of the bonus, but it was at his discretion.
  3. I asked if he was flexible on the base pay at all, and I brought up the industry average (which was a lot higher) and my experience level and what I could bring to the table.
  4. He first said he was flexible on the base pay and even said that what he was paying me didn’t matter to him, but he didn’t actually budge and said this was a good offer he was making me.
  5. He said I needed to trust that I would be getting the bonus and at the end of the day my pay would be much higher.


I said I was still very interested and excited about the role. I explained that I would really like to review the details of the whole package, including the benefits, in case I had any questions. It’s a small company and there were some non-standard things they were doing with benefits, like providing some kind of stipend for your cell phone and other things, but no 401(k).

Here’s how that discussion went:

  1. I asked if he could send the complete offer in writing so that I go over all of it to make sure I understood everything, and then confirm my positive response.
  2. He asked how long I needed to review it.
  3. I asked if I could get it to him before Friday (this was on a Tuesday).
  4. He sounded disappointed. He said that wasn’t the response he was expecting but he would still send over the offer in writing.
  5. He said he had other candidates that he needed to inform who weren’t getting the job and it was not fair to them to make them wait 2-3 days until he got a confirmation from me.
  6. I asked him if he had a timeline in mind that would work better for him, so he said Thursday morning.
  7. I said okay.


That evening, I got an e-mail saying he was rescinding the offer. He said he wanted someone who was so excited about joining his company that they are prepared and anxious to accept the offer when it’s made verbally.

He said that he felt I lacked passion for his company and that he didn’t want anyone there who was not passionate about his brand.

I wrote him back a professional response thanking him for everything.

I felt very validated when I found your articles because you explain that employers often make verbal offers because they are merely fishing for a reaction, not actually making a bona fide offer. That’s exactly what this was.

The job is an analytical one, so I was surprised that they would expect an instant, seat-of-the-pants response when they were looking for a detail-oriented, analytical person!

When I told my friends what happened, they fell into two camps. All my friends who work at various levels in corporate environments (including HR) thought I did nothing wrong. Two of my friends who both own small companies agreed with the owner and said they, too, would have rescinded the offer because they felt it was insulting to not immediately accept the verbal offer. They said that asking for the offer in writing showed I lacked trust. This of course goes against everything I know and believe.

I see what happened as a red flag for how I may be treated in the future. I’m at a bad job now but I don’t want to go to another bad job. I’m interested in this divide between large companies and small business owners, and I thought you would be, too.

Are the negotiating rules really different for small companies versus larger ones? Or are the small business owners I’ve described just outliers? Thanks for your comments.

Nick’s Reply

I think you dodged a bullet. Your story is important because it highlights a raft of games employers play with job offers.

Are these problems particular to small companies? While I can’t offer data to support this, my experience suggests small business owners are far more likely to play these games than managers in larger companies. I think business owners tend to be far more autocratic than their peers in companies that have many owners or investors.

Strike One

Let’s look at the facts you presented above — #6 through #9. This business owner decided to extend an offer after you satisfactorily negotiated a more-than-reasonable decision deadline. He made a verbal agreement with you about the deadline. Then he reneged on what he agreed to.

That’s strike one against him. It tells us he can’t be trusted.

Strike Two

You prudently asked for details of the offer in writing. He hedged, then agreed. Then he reneged and never provided anything in writing. I think he never had any intention of giving you a written offer.

This is different from merely agreeing to a decision timeline. This is about reneging on putting terms in writing. Do you think he does business deals on a simple handshake, without anything in writing? That’s a rhetorical question but, of course, he may in fact do deals with nothing in writing.

Either way, that’s strike two.

Strike Three

After tactful questions from you about the salary and bonus structure (#1 – #5), he refused to commit to anything concrete. He wants you to trust him, but he doesn’t trust you. He uses a double standard.

The old rule about “trust but verify” is why we put agreements in writing. I’ll repeat: This guy had no intention of putting anything in writing. “Trust me” means “No.”

Strike three.

Strike Four

The egregious management error this employer committed was to judge you unworthy because you failed to instantly display passion and a sucker’s excitement for an incomplete, dishonest job offer. He lost a potentially great hire.

If a strike four could be counted, that’s it.

If he wants to hire a foolish employee, he’s talking to the wrong person. If he’s looking for a thoughtless worker whose decision-making process is marked by a lack of prudence and due diligence, he should absolutely move on to another candidate he can lie to and hire on the spot.

The lessons from this game

It’s a good sign when an employer engages in a negotiation with a job applicant on compensation, on the terms of the job, and even on when a decision is due. It suggests you’ll be working for a boss who values your input and your circumspection, and who wants to make working together a win-win experience.

It’s a bad sign when an employer plays games.

You’ve taken the trouble to share your experience in very useful detail, revealing the many games employers play with job offers. This guy is bold enough to play them all at once — then to blame you for catching him.

Lies employers tell you about job offers

These are some of the lies employers tell, presented as a sort of “dictionary.” Here’s what unworthy employers will do in the hiring process:

  1. Salary Range. Establish a salary range to set ground rules for proceeding with interviews, then they pretend the low end is going to impress you.
  2. Good Offer. Tell you it’s a good offer without showing you exactly what the offer is.
  3. Competitive. Refer to “competitive” pay and benefits but never to precise sums or specific benefits.
  4. Bonus Structure. Refer to contingent forms of pay — like bonuses and commissions — but do not define objective, measurable, agreed-upon criteria that you must meet to earn those bonuses.
  5. Flexible. Say they are flexible on pay, but make no explicit compromises or concessions about pay.
  6. Industry Standard. Talk about industry-standard or average pay, but don’t define what that is or cite the sources of those numbers.
  7. Opportunity. Suggest that what this deal is really all about is a great opportunity for you, and that pay isn’t really the issue to them, when it clearly is because they won’t negotiate pay with you candidly.
  8. Trust. Tell you to trust them to pay you fairly, but will not define the compensation deal objectively in writing — or trust you to review their offer.
  9. Terms. Want you to agree to accept a job offer immediately based only on a few points — and “don’t worry about the rest of the details,” or what lawyers refer to as “terms.”
  10. Job Offer. Want you to commit to a deal verbally, while they balk about putting it in writing with their signature on it.
  11. Decision. Agree to give you two days to review a written offer they haven’t given you yet, then renege because you insulted them by not deciding instantly.
  12. Qualified. Judge how qualified you are for the job by whether you’re “excited” and “passionate” enough to accept on the spot.
  13. Commitment. Negotiate terms and make commitments then violate them.

These are all lies unworthy employers tell job applicants they try to take advantage of. The words in the little “dictionary” above actually mean something to good employers — and you’ll see that instantly in a good employer’s behavior.

Never work with jerks

You should never go to work for employers who play these job-offer games. You’d regret it because they’d behave the same way day-to-day. They’re jerks.

I think you’ve identified at least three people you should never work with — including your friends who said you insulted the employer and displayed a lack of trust. Don’t doubt your judgement – it has certainly served you well here.

Whether you’re talking to a big or small company, the approach and questions you relied on here will tell you all you need to know about an employer.

From the details you shared, I see a prudent, honest, forthright, responsible professional who treats others the way she wishes to be treated. I see no fault in anything you said or did during the hiring process. In fact, I compliment you for doing everything right – it all combined to help you dodge a bullet.

On to the next! Find a company that deserves a good hire.

My only suggestion is to carefully check a company’s and manager’s references before you invest your time interviewing there. You might find this useful: 5 rules to test for the best job opportunities.

What lies have you heard employers tell job applicants? What would you add to the dictionary above? What else should job seekers look out for in the throes of getting a job offer? What details do you insist on having in a written job offer?

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We’re hiring, but don’t you dare call our managers!

In the October 23, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter we discuss why employers who won’t let you call hiring managers aren’t worth working for.

Question

I’m resistant to add another job board service because I’m already neck deep in Ohiomeansjobs.com (Monster) and Indeed and LinkedIn Premium. I don’t want to kill an additional hour each day on ZipRecruiter with no results, only a barrage of new spam.

hiringIs it acceptable to bypass the standardized job boards and HR resume processing, to seek a direct communication with the company? By acceptable, I mean will it hurt my standing with the hiring facilitators?

Say I’ve applied to a company via a job board or via its corporate application system. Can I then reach out directly to the local hiring manager to start a conversation, effectively reducing the risk of being eliminated from a job search simply because I don’t have the right keywords in my resume? Perhaps if I can gain an audience directly, I will be able to impress them beyond the written resume.

Nearly all job posts to which I’ve applied include language such as “No phone calls please.” On one hand, if I contact the company directly I would be in violation of those instructions from the employer. On the other hand, I may lose an opportunity if I don’t reach out to a manager who may actually appreciate my initiative. After all, if leadership is all about developing relationships, how better to lead than to reach out directly to the local management?

As a hiring manager myself for many years, I had no problems calling or speaking to prospective candidates, even if it was to let them down. To me, that responsibility was simply part of being in management. However, I’ve not been a candidate myself since 1996 so I’m clueless as to whether hiring managers today are open to direct contact. Thanks for your insights.

Nick’s Reply

A good article presents a premise and evidence that supports a conclusion. I’m going to offer some conclusions, then discuss my thoughts, and ask readers to explore the premises and provide the evidence that back up my conclusions — or explain why my conclusions are incorrect. Otherwise, what’s a community like this for?

Call the hiring managers

Here are my conclusions:

  • Employers that prohibit job applicants from contacting hiring managers aren’t worth applying to.
  • HR departments that rely on automated applicant screening are creating fake talent shortages.
  • Managers who won’t take your call are missing the best hires.
  • Job seekers who obey such rules are doomed.

Employers and the U.S. Department of Labor claim there’s not enough talent in our country. (See B.S. on the job numbers euphoria.) They say that’s why many jobs remain unfilled.

Bull.

I’m convinced jobs remain vacant because employers won’t let job applicants and hiring managers talk to one another. The intrusion of HR and automated recruiting systems makes a mess of hiring.

You illustrate the classic case of employers who are desperate to hire but nonetheless warn good candidates not to contact anyone at the company by phone and not to contact managers at all.

What’s that all about?

Employers: If you’re hiring, answer the phone!

A company that can’t find the talent it needs should drop everything and welcome calls from job seekers who find the company. Of course, managers should not waste time with the wrong applicants — but that’s a problem that comes with the territory. If you’re looking for the right person to date, don’t close the door on everyone because a few frogs show up!

Managers who are desperate to hire cannot afford not to take all calls. If they’re  going to route such calls to a bank of greenhorn personnel jockeys who filter the good applicants from the wrong applicants, then good applicants will be lost. Jobs will remain vacant because personnel jockeys are simply not qualified to vet engineers, marketers, accountants or other expert workers.

Sorry about the wasted time, but it comes with the territory. The best person to recognize the rare, right candidate is the hiring manager.

Turn off the fire hose!

So what should employers do to reduce the noise of wrong applicants? That is, the scads of inappropriate candidates who are a waste of time? It’s simple: Turn off the fire hose! Don’t advertise job openings where scads of the wrong people will see them!

That’s right: Dimwitted employers should stop posting job ads on the likes of ZipRecruiter and Indeed, which are in the business of flooding companies with poorly vetted candidates.

“We send you only the right candidates!” Yah, right — a database is matching keywords and sending me everybody with the word “engineer” in their profile!

Employers must stop posting job ads everywhere. They must turn off the fire hose of applicants. That’s how to save time, so managers have more time to field calls from serious professionals.

Job Seekers: Break the rules

As a job seeker, you must use your own good judgement, but my advice is to always go around obstacles an employer sets up. If calling a manager gets you into trouble, then you know the company effectively locks its managers out of the recruiting process. What kind of way is that to run a company? Either HR has too much power, or managers don’t want to be involved in finding talent.

If you get caught trying to talk directly with a manager and breaking their rules about calling managers… “What rules? I don’t search for jobs online, so I didn’t see any rules. I called an [engineering] manager because I’m an [engineer].”

Be worth talking to

When you contact managers, don’t send a resume or apply for a job. That way,  you’re not breaking HR’s rules! Tell managers you’re doing research and considering applying for a job there – but only after you’ve had a chance to judge the company and its management.

But don’t blow it by asking for a job the way HR asks thousands of people to submit resumes! Introduce yourself very briefly and accurately. [Fill in your own job.]

  • “I’m an engineer with expertise in [this], [this] and [this].”
  • “I’d like to work on [that].”
  • “I’m carefully searching for an [engineering] department that [fits this general description] — but I have not yet decided where to apply for a job.”

Ask two or three intelligent questions that reveal your interest in this manager and this company.

  • Can the manager give you a little insight about the company’s [marketing] department?
  • What are the most important challenges the manager needs good workers to tackle?
  • What advice would she give a [nurse] like you about working there?

Judge every employer

The answers you get will tell you whether good managers run the operation, or whether it’s run by bureaucrats who leave important jobs vacant. A good manager will always take a minute to chat with a professional from their community.

A good manager will thank you and welcome a conversation to talk shop. But, don’t you dare just call to talk about your resume and to say you want a job! Be prepared to talk intelligently about the manager’s work!

Then judge the employer by whether they welcome you or shun you. (See 5 rules to test for the best job opportunities.)

Look for relationships

Employers reject most applicants every day because Indeed sends them loads of wrong candidates. Smart job seekers should reject employers who bar phone calls to their managers. Pursue only the ones that clearly indicate they respect relationships and want to talk with other professionals in their field.

To learn more about what to say to a manager, see “Drop the ads and pick up the phone” (pp. 9-11) and “Shared Experiences: The path to success” (pp. 12-14) in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3: Get In The Door (way ahead of your competition).

As you note, management is about building relationships. It’s not about diddling databases! You’ve got the right idea. Trust your gut.

Turn The Tables: Reject employers

When you encounter rules like, “We’re hiring, but don’t you dare call our managers!”, ignore them. Go around. Call the managers anyway.

You know that if you apply online to 100 companies they will all likely reject you. So why subject yourself to rejection? Subject employers to rejection instead. Invest that same effort carefully selecting employers and hiring managers. Call them to discuss their work intelligently in a short call.

If the managers won’t talk to you — reject the company. Hang up.

Don’t appease them. Move on to the next. You need just one manager who welcomes a serious [marketer, engineer, accountant, etc.] that’s ready to talk shop for a few minutes. You need just one manager who breaks the rules and really wants to fill a job you can do. (See: Smart Hiring: A manager who respects applicants.)

Dare to call hiring managers directly.

Please go back and review my four conclusions at the beginning of this column, about calling managers directly. Are they correct? What’s the evidence from your experience? What premises lead to these conclusions? If you disagree, please explain why.

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Which companies should I apply to?

In the October 16, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a job seeker wants to know what companies to apply to.

Question

applyI have a background in sales and marketing with high-profile accounts. I recently became certified in Lean Manufacturing to complement my Voice of The Customer training. I believe it gives me insight into offering more targeted solutions to clients. Additionally, I will earn my MBA shortly. I want to move up to executive marketing management, working for a business solutions-oriented company, as that is where my true passion lies. Can you steer me toward the kinds of companies that would be appropriate?

Nick’s Reply

I admire that you’re continuing your education, especially about the “voice of the customer,” which is “a market research technique that produces a detailed set of customer wants and needs” [Wikipedia]. But your question tells me that you’re marketing yourself by emphasizing your features. I’m sure you know the basic rule of sales: Don’t sell the features of your product. Sell the benefits.

It’s not about you.

One of the most troubling errors job hunters make — especially when attempting a career change — is to focus on themselves. They recite their education, experience and most recent accomplishments — like you just did. They present this information as though it has intrinsic value: “Now I’ve got what I need to impress you. It should make you want to hire me.”

But it’s not about you. Telling them about you puts an employer in the position of having to figure out what to do with you. The shocking truth is, most employers have no idea what to do with you, unless you explain it to them. You must figure that out before you can choose the appropriate employer.

What should I do now?

Imagine walking into your current boss’s office. The boss just paid to get you lots of new training and education (maybe an MBA). You say, “I’ve got all this great new training, and I’m better than I was. What should I do now?”

If I were your boss, I’d fire you. How can you walk in with new knowledge and skills and expect me to figure out what to do with it? Your value does not lie in the new stuff you learned. Your value lies in knowing what to do with your skills and credentials.

Learn to lead with the employer’s problems. That’s what they’re thinking about when they buy a product — or when they hire someone. Understanding the employer’s problems, and figuring out how your skills apply, tells you which employers to apply to.

It’s not about you.

As you consider what companies and opportunities to pursue, put yourself aside. Get into the employer’s head. What do you know about my company’s problems? How are you going to use your credentials to tackle them? If you must ask me, without demonstrating that you’ve first tried to figure this out on your own, then you’re probably not worth hiring.

My answer to your question starts with some instructions:

  • Start by picking a company you’d really like to work for.
  • Figure out what the company needs to do to be more successful. That’s column A.
  • Then put together a plan that applies your skills. That’s column B.
  • Explain to the company how you will apply B to make A happen.
  • (If you can’t do that, move on, because you’ve selected the wrong company.)
  • Be specific about your plan, but not so detailed that it seems presumptuous. The point is to stimulate a useful discussion.

Employers need people who have figured out what to do next. Employers want to know not who you are, but What can you do for me?

It’s about the employer

So throw out your resume. That outline of your history and your credentials is irrelevant at this juncture of your job search. What matters is a document that outlines two critical things:

  • An employer’s problems and
  • How you’re going to tackle them.

It’s not about you. It’s about the employer.

I know you don’t talk to your boss like you want to get fired. So approach your job search the same way you would your boss. Figure out what to do next for the employer you want to work for, and go explain it to her.

That’s how you’ll figure out which companies need to hire you.

How do you decide which companies to apply to? What’s the best way to figure it out? Is is reasonable to start with a job description or posting?

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Can a CEO recruit you with a YouTube video job posting?

video job postingIn the October 9, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a CEO recruits with a personal video job posting. Is this going to work?

The “question” I received for this week’s edition was actually a solicitation that a CEO sent to a lot of people. Normally, I’d treat something like this as spam and just delete it. But I didn’t because it was very brief, to the point, and wasn’t selling anything. John Bracamontes, the CEO of digital marketing firm Acumen Studio, was asking for help finding a new employee.

Question

Hey Nick — We are looking for a Digital Strategist to join the team. I am asking if you know someone who may be a good fit for the role.

Ideally they live here in the St. Louis area, because this is a key role for us and [we] need someone who will be connected to our leadership team and help grow the agency. Linked here is the job posting. [On Indeed.com]

I also made a quick video on what we are looking for in the role as well.

You can send me a message, an intro or thoughts. Thanks for your help!

John Bracamontes
Acumen Studio

Nick’s Reply

This is an interesting twist on the video-interview model, whereby employers want you to make a video to apply for a job. (That’s a practice I’m vehemently opposed to. See HR Pornography: Interview videos.) More important to me, John was doing what I advocate to employers all the time: When you need to fill a job, don’t look for candidates. Look for sources of candidates.

In other words, take a step back and try to develop some new relationships with movers and shakers who might know the kinds of people you’re trying to find. One good source can be worth many good candidate referrals for years to come.

Video job posting

So I read the job description on Indeed, which is no longer active, but what I was really interested in was John’s video. This wasn’t HR hawking a job. This was a CEO taking the time to do it himself. I figured, no matter how good or bad this video is, I’m curious to see what a CEO has to say.

I didn’t expect anything fancy, or even very good — but I expected candor and information that would be more useful than a posted job description.

John didn’t disappoint me. His video is very casual, off the cuff and personal. The production quality is low — home made! — and his presentation needs work. (John: Lose the eyeglasses glare.) But this is the CEO of a small business who’s trying to make recruiting more personal. That by itself makes him stand out. The information he offers is more useful than the job description, and he’s candid if not polished. I don’t care about polished.

What I want to know is what Ask The Headhunter readers think – job seekers and employers alike. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

My advice to this CEO

First, here’s what I wrote back to John, since he asked for thoughts:

I got a kick out of your video – beats a posting on Indeed! A few things I’d suggest:

  1. You just invested in getting personal by doing a video. Follow through on that. Keep it personal! People are sick of recruiting automation. Link them to your own firm’s website to apply, or provide your e-mail address. Why are you making money for Indeed? Show people you’re following through on your direct, personal connection. If they go to Indeed, they feel like sheep!  (Pardon the mixed metaphor, but see Why cattle-call recruiting doesn’t work.)
  2. Most important, don’t just talk about job specs and skills. Explain how the job is important to your company’s success.
  3. Give details about how this job fits into the work flow, who the hire will work with and report to, and who is upstream and downstream from the new hire’s job.
  4. Talk about how the job fits into profitability. This is key. It gives motivated people the context they need to respond with their best ideas about what you really need to know: How they can help Acumen Studio be more successful.
  5. Explain the process if they apply. Who decides to bring them in for an interview? Who will they meet and talk with? Who decides whether they get an offer?
  6. More important, what do you want them to demonstrate in the interview?
  7. What’s the critical path and timeline for the hiring process? (Then commit to sticking to it!)
  8. Ask for personal referrals in the video. If a viewer isn’t a candidate, they might be a good source of referrals, just like the person you sent the e-mail solicitation to. Promise to personally follow up on all referrals, then do it.

I like that a CEO put himself out there personally. Now leverage that for all it’s worth, rather than fall back on the automation of Indeed! (See The Do-It-Yourself Interview (for managers).)

Finally, the readers’ comments on this article might give you more good ideas about how to find good candidates for this position: Job Interviews Are Illegal. What now?

I’ve got loads more comments, but I think it’s more important for John to hear from you — the Ask The Headhunter community.

Can a CEO recruit you with video?

John Bracamontes gave me permission to publish his e-mail and his video, and he told me that he’d incorporate our suggestions in future videos, then report on the results.

We don’t often hear from a CEO — even at a small business — about a job the company is trying to fill. (Imagine if Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos or Jamie Dimon were to talk to their professional communities like this, when Microsoft or Amazon or JPMorgan Chase needed to fill a key position.) John Bracamontes’ video job posting is far from perfect — but it’s a start.

What else should it be?

What needs improvement in the video? Be blunt, but please remember that John stuck his neck out to recruit personally. I didn’t publish his video to criticize him. (Ripping him for a backyard video isn’t the point here.) I’m sharing it because I think what he did was gutsy. I’m sharing it to start to a helpful discussion about how it might be done well — if at all. So, please offer your advice and comments.

Why this CEO’s video is important

Above any other reason, I think this CEO’s video — for all its flaws — is important because he has put his name and his face where an HR department normally appears. John Bracamontes has made himself personally accountable. Any candidate who shows up for a job interview or accepts an offer from Acumen Studio knows who he is. John is not hiding behind an HR department.

We all know the feeling of dealing with a cold, impersonal, aloof, isolated personnel jockey who can hide behind an HR bureaucracy. This CEO’s video is important because his mere involvement changes the entire recruiting experience. He says in the video:

“Reach out to me directly.”

Can the CEO of a big company do this, too? Absolutely — if they’ve got the guts and want their company to stand out to the top people in their industry that they really want to hire. (See Talent Crisis: Managers who don’t recruit.)

For the record, John did not ask me to advertise this or any other position on Ask The Headhunter. I’m not charging him any kind of fee for this. (Though I have to admit, this has given me an idea or two!)

What should be in this video?

What could make a recruiting video like this work?

If you’re a job seeker (especially if you’re a Digital Marketing Strategist), how should this CEO appeal to you in this video? What should he tell you? What should he ask you?

If you’re a hiring manager or a CEO (maybe both), what kind of video would you produce to recruit for a key position your company is trying to fill? Is it even smart for a CEO or hiring manager to do this?

Thanks to John Bracamontes for his permission to publish his video here, and thanks for your comments and suggestions!

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