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The Q&A

10th Anniversary Special: 4 Top Answers from The Archive

The September 25, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter is a SPECIAL EDITION celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the newsletter! I’ve culled four of the top Q&As readers have cited among their favorites from past editions. I had fun summarizing them, and whether you’re a charter subscriber from 2002, or relatively new to Ask The Headhunter, I hope you learn something new and useful!


UPDATE: Coincidental with this edition, PBS NewsHour — Making Sen$e with Paul Solman — aired a segment yesterday that I taped with them at Wharton School of Management. The video is now posted here: PBS NewsHour: Online job applications keep America unemployed. The lead-up article I wrote for this is also on NewsHour online: Six Secrets to Beat the Job Market.

Want to be on PBS NewsHour? (You can use a screen name, of course!) As part of this PBS project, I’m taking questions from viewers! Submit questions on Paul Solman’s PBS NewsHour Q&A. I intend to answer every question submitted on the PBS website! Please post questions on the comments section of the blog. The more questions you post, the more Q&A ATH columns will appear on NewsHour! Keep ’em coming!


(I started the newsletter on September 20, 2002 — 10 years ago! You’re reading issue #449! Many of you have been reading since issue #1, and today there are tens of thousands of subscribers — and not just job hunters.)

Top Question 1: “Why are you leaving your old job?”

I began a job search this week. I’ve read so many suggestions about how to answer this question that I am not sure about it any more. I have an interview coming up. Can you please give me some advice about what to say when I’m asked the reasons I am leaving my current job?

Nick’s Reply

The real problem with this question is that you have no way of knowing the interviewer’s intent. And it’s not worth guessing and being wrong. If you believe that explaining your reasons for leaving your last job will reflect well on you, then by all means explain. If you’re worried the details could hurt you, then try this:

How to Say It
“I love my work, and I want to work in a better company where I am free to do my job effectively.”

If they ask you what the problem is with your current employer, be honest but turn the discussion to what really matters:

How to Say It
“I’m looking for a good job with a good company, but I never disparage anyone I’ve ever worked with. I came to you because your company is one of the shining lights in this industry, and I’d like to talk about how I can help you be more profitable. Can you give me an idea of what problems or challenges you’d want the person that you hire to tackle? I’d like to show you how I’d do that.”

That’s the best way I know to approach any employer, and to get past that question. Focus on the company you’re meeting with, not on your past or your old company. Explain how you’re going to help them be more successful. That’s what any good employer is really looking for. (Learn more in The Basics.)

Top Question 2: How can I get the truth about a job?

When I interviewed for my job, I was told that the person who hired me would be my boss. It turns out that I actually report day-to-day to someone else. If I had interviewed with this person, I would have kept looking for another job! I am working on a team that is abusive and for a boss who is unsupportive and disrespectful. I saw none of this in my interviews. You can’t fix that for me, but what I’d like to know is how to avoid this in the future. How can you really find out about the work environment and culture? A Google search (done too late) revealed some of the problems I discovered later. This company displayed a wonderful “we-are-so-caring-and-ethical” face, but the reality is quite different. Thanks!

Nick’s Reply

It’s called due diligence. Never take a job without investigating the company and its people. After you receive an offer, turn around and interview the company. Politely insist on meeting your future boss and the team, as well as others that you will interface with on the job. This includes people who will work directly with you; people who work uphill and downhill from your job function; and people in other departments who will influence your ability to succeed at your job.

For example, if you work in information technology, meet folks in manufacturing and accounting. Your work will affect both departments, and your fate will be influenced by how they operate. Your meetings will tell you about the viability of the company, and you will learn about the personalities of the players. Add up the personalities, and you will get the company culture. Company culture is hiding in cubicles and in meetings.

Ask to sit in on a department or team meeting before you accept the offer. Spend half a day shadowing a couple of your future co-workers. Make sure this includes lunch time, where people loosen up and talk. That’s the only way to really get at a company’s culture firsthand. Never take a job without knowing “the rest of the story.” Savvy companies set up these meetings for you. They recognize savvy candidates who are willing to invest time to get to know the people and the operation.

Top Question 3: Do I have to say it?

When I was job hunting, I always made it clear that I wanted the job. As a hiring manager, I want to ensure that positions are filled by qualified candidates who I know, undisputedly, want the job. Can you discuss the importance of this basic and obvious technique in interviewing that is often overlooked? That is, the applicant must always say to the potential employer, “I want this job.”

Nick’s Reply

A sales VP who interviewed for a job and failed to get an offer told me that making such an explicit statement is awkward and that it shows the candidate “has no class.” My response: Failure to say you want the job indicates you don’t have enough interest in working for the employer.

“The manager knows I want the job!” he exclaimed. “That’s why I’m interviewing!”

Interesting, isn’t it, how socially unacceptable some people believe it is to make an explicit commitment when that’s exactly what an employer needs to hear. When I first started headhunting, a manager turned down an excellent candidate I sent him — and I couldn’t figure it out. So I asked, and the manager was crystal clear: “He’s a talented guy, but I’m just not convinced he really wants to work for me.” This prompted me to coach every candidate to say it.

Consider this very appropriate analogy. You fall in love and want to marry the object of your desire. If you don’t explicitly say, “I love you,” do you think the person will marry you? The commitment must come first. You have to say it.

Top Question 4: How can I demonstrate my value?

I think you’re right: To get a company interested in me, I need to demonstrate and somehow quantify what my value is to them. But if I’m not a salesperson or entertainment star, how do I quantify my value to an employer’s bottom line?

Nick’s Reply

Here’s my general approach: Estimate as best you can how your work produces revenue or reduces costs. If you work in sales or product design, you help produce revenue in your job by selling or by creating products. That’s good for the company. The more you enhance the revenue-producing process, the more value you add to the business. If you work in finance or in manufacturing, you have a daily impact on the company’s costs. High costs are not good. Your job contributes to the success of the business by helping minimize costs.

The difference between revenue and cost is profit. No matter which part of the company you work in, you can help boost profits by doing your part to raise revenue or lower costs. Regardless of what your job is, ask yourself how you do it to enhance profits. Do you sell more stuff at higher margins, or do you do some other job smarter, faster, and cheaper? That’s your edge.

Estimate your impact to the bottom line. Can you shave two minutes off each customer service call you handle? Can you figure out a way to get a project done 20% faster? Multiply it out by the rate you get paid. That’s just one part of the profit you’ve contributed to the business. Get the idea? Yes, I’m simplifying, but any calculation like this that you do is more than any other candidate will even attempt. It gives you a good, honest story to tell the employer. It gives you an edge.

(Want to learn more about how to reveal your value? Check out my PDF book, How Can I Change Careers? It’s not just for career changers, but for anyone who wants to stand out in a job interview. Learn how to prove to an employer that you would be a profitable hire. Plus: Learn how to pick the handful of companies you should really pursue, and how to become the candidate on the inside track for the job you want.)

Have something to say about these top questions — and my advice? Have a question of your own to ask? Bring it on and we’ll tackle it! Please post away in the Comments section below!

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JobFox: We are not a crook

JobFox, the job-board spawn of CareerBuilder, is rapidly sinking under the weight of mismanagement, financial distress, a class action lawsuit, claims of fraud, and complaints from customers and vendors.

JobFox was started by Rob McGovern, who also founded CareerBuilder. Like TheLadders, JobFox tried to take refuge in the resume-writing business, but quickly realized that was a sink hole.

Now the bottom has fallen out. Things are so bad that McGovern has published a video explaining that JobFox is not a scam.

Where have we heard those last words before?

Back in 2009, I sent McGovern an e-mail asking an important question. He didn’t answer it then, and he didn’t answer it in the video.

I hear Marc Cenedella over at TheLadders has some pretty good executive job openings, and he writes a pretty mean resume for top executives.

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How do I sell my extensive academic credentials to an employer?

In the September 18, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter asks how to parlay his considerable academic credentials into a good job:

Here’s hoping you can knock some sense into me. The job search process has me bewildered. I have a degree in computer science and I had begun a doctoral program, but must now re-enter the job market. I am considered overqualified for much of what passes for entry-level positions, and realistically I would be under-challenged in them. Yet I have little in the way of a “track record” that would be of interest to employers looking for someone with a more specialized background. I have tried to sell my skills, but have only gotten form-letter acknowledgements. Any suggestions on getting to first base? Thanks.

My Advice

No offense, but nobody’s buying what you’re selling.

You say you have little in the way of experience to offer an employer in your field. That’s patently untrue, but it’s a common error in judgment that lots of new grads make.

Much of the experience and many of the skills you’ve acquired in school can transfer to the work world, but you need to do the mapping. (An employer won’t figure it out for you.)

What you’re selling isn’t what you’ve done. It’s what you can do.

Make a list of all the “hands-on” work you have done related to the kind of work done in your field — the kind of work you want to do. The work you’ve done might include academic projects, if it’s relevant to the jobs you want. People tend to dismiss their academic work because it’s academic. It can still be hands-on, it’s still experience, and it can be very valuable to an employer if you can show how.

Then put that list aside, because it’s totally useless without what we’re going to do next. (That’s why it doesn’t sell!)

Focus on the work the employer needs done. You must research and understand it before you can do any “mapping” of your skills. (Your skills are useless unless someone needs them!) That means learning about each target company and talking to people who work there. Try to describe the work you discover in terms of tasks — things you would have to do. Be as detailed as possible.

Then review each item, and describe how you could shape and apply each of your skills and experiences to help get the work done in a way that positively impacts the employer’s bottom line.

That is, how would hiring you be a benefit? (You can work through this process best if you focus on one company at a time.)

Remember that some of your skills are very fundamental, and these are the ones that can be best generalized to a specific job. For example, organizational skills, analytical skills, writing skills, and so on. The challenge is to find ways to apply them to the one job you’re pursuing. That is what an employer wants to see — not your resume. That’s what employers pay for.

This is what you’re selling.

I’ll say it again: As you do this mapping, be very specific. Sometimes, the inability to get specific stems from not really knowing what a company really needs. This is where your general research skills come in: Research the heck out of a company and its business. If you don’t, then you can’t demonstrate what you can offer, and you don’t deserve the job. (I discuss these techniques in more detail in The Library Vacation and Put a Free Sample in Your Resume, two key sections of the PDF book, How Can I Change Careers?)

Don’t worry that a job is beneath you. You will probably have to take an entry-level position to start. Don’t carry a negative attitude about this; it’s a necessary part of starting a career. It’s how employers decide you’re worth trusting with more sophisticated work. The point is to find a job in a company where you’re working with people who will offer you more and better work soon.

Give this an honest shot by looking at yourself through an employer’s eyes. You see, employers want one thing: to have a problem solved. Most won’t take the time to tell an outsider what that is. Offering value and solutions before you’re asked is the best way to find work.

I wish you success.

How did you get your first job out of school? What could this reader do to make you want to hire him? I think schools absolutely suck at teaching students how to find jobs. Why???

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Could you score an interview with this manager?

In the September 11, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a manager takes us into “the lab” and shows us how he actually interviews candidates to determine whether they can do the job.

Special Edition

Ever wonder whether the job hunting and hiring methods we discuss on this blog really work? Do you wonder whether there are managers that actually expect applicants to do the job in the interview? In this Special Edition, get ready to sit down at the table for an interview with a manager who gets it!

Ray (I’m withholding his last name) heads up product development and business development for an enterprise software company based in the midwestern U.S. This column is not an endorsement of his business — he is not my client — but I sure love his approach to hiring, because it’s what I teach job hunters to do in How Can I Change Careers? The method is not just for career changers, but for anyone who wants to stand out in the job interview by demonstrating how they’ll do the work profitably.

And that’s what this hiring manager does — he asks job candidates to show how they’ll do the work, right in the interview.

I’m ready to tie on a napkin and let Ray serve up his methods in his own words — from a recent series of e-mails, with minimal commentary from me. Then I’d like you to join us on the blog to chow down on these interviewing and hiring methods. Do you think you could score an interview with a manager like this? (You might even have a few comments about how he does it!) This all started innocently enough with a nice thank-you e-mail Ray sent me last week:

Dear Nick,

I love your approach to interviewing. As a hiring manager, I turn my interviews into exercises designed to give job candidates the chance to show me that they can do the job. Sort of Reverse Crocodile Headhunting! Thank you for the wonderful ideas in Ask The Headhunter!

So I asked Ray about his business and how he interviews.

I hire product evangelists, product managers and product marketers for a software company. Our products are sold to large enterprises. Successful candidates need to combine business skills with software technology skills to help design product strategy and product positioning. The sad part about my method is that, as a hiring manager, I have to step candidates through the whole process of showing their value. I have 99% given up on the idea that a superior candidate is going to walk in and be prepared to do this all themselves, without me asking. They all need to read your book!

What do you ask, and what are you looking for in those candidates?

The first question I ask: What two people would you start a software company with?

Some candidates limit their answers to personal friends or family, instead of best-in-the-world business owners or technical software geniuses. E.g., Pete and Mary instead of Warren Buffet and Richard Branson. When I explain they could have mentioned anyone in the world, they say, “Oh, I didn’t know it could be anybody like that.” It kind of implies a closed mind set that won’t work outside the box.

I want to determine whether they study business people and the software business in particular. Most great business people study role models. If they want to work in the software industry, you would think that they actually study the best software companies and the best business minds at some point.

What’s a great response to the question?

My personal response would be Steve Jobs and Leonardo Da Vinci. Give Da Vinci a few months to understand iOS and Objective C and his apps would be remarkable, I suspect! By the way, I’ve never limited the choice to living people.

What I like about Ray’s approach to interviewing is that, while he opens with a “blue sky” question about starting a business, he quickly starts asking candidates how they would actually do the work:

What will your first product be? This is a perfect chance to demonstrate their analysis and strategy skills in our exact business area. If they do their pre-interview homework, this is a lob shot for them to use it to astound me with their ability to think and thus to do the job.

I love it. Ray asks people to do the job — conceive a product! Next questions in the interview?

If they make it this far, our meeting now turns into a chance for them to start working with me as if this were a real product discussion:

  • What will you price this at?
  • What will our first target market be?
  • Who should our first prospecting call be with?
  • Who will our competitors be?
  • If our first product is destined to never sell successfully… what will be the cause of the failure?
  • If it fails because of that reason, what should our next product be?

I might then give them an exact product situation using our current product line and current product market conditions. By the end of this exchange, I know already if I want this person to work for me, or for my competitors! We’ve already had a full dialog about a completely relevant and plausible project idea that would be similar to their eventual work if hired. Nick, in your words, they’ve already shown me that they can do the job and they should already know if they’ll like collaborating with me.

Dear Ray,

Thanks for serving up this week’s column, and for showing readers how a real manager applies Ask The Headhunter methods to interviewing and hiring. Whether you got your ideas from me, or developed them on your own, all I care is that they work!

Now I hope readers will join us on the blog to talk further about this approach. And if there are folks in the audience interested in working for your company, they’re welcome to say so — and if they can show they can score an interview with you, I’ll be happy to put you in touch with them off-line. And if something comes of it, we’ll report back.

What do you think of Ray’s approach to interviewing? Could you score an interview with a manager like this? How would you apply Ray’s methods in other kinds of jobs and companies?

I didn’t ask Ray whether he’s worried that he’s revealed all his interview secrets — and that, now, anyone who applies for a job at his company “will know what’s up.” Do you think it matters? Want a shot at an interview with Ray? You’ll have to prove you’re worth it!

[UPDATE: If you have a serious interest in talking with Ray about a job at his company, drop me a note and I’ll get it to Ray. It’s got to get past me first. Please: No tire-kickers or resume spammers. In fact, don’t send a resume. Just use the ideas discussed here to make your case. My e-mail link is way the bottom of the right-side nav bar of the blog.]

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Modern Advances In Career Science: Eliminate the humans

If you’re smart and know how to show an employer how you’ll contribute to the bottom line, you don’t need Big Data — and you’ve got little competition.

But Big Data is the Modern Advance In Career Science, and the objective is to eliminate the humans from job hunting, recruiting, and hiring.

Joel Cheesman had me laffing my A off with his latest: They’re heeeeeere. Again.

Writing in his new blog, JobScore, Cheesman runs down the recent zombies created by Career Science: itzbig, Trovix, Climber v1.0, JobFox and sundry “eHarmony for jobs players.”

Advances in database technology surface and die so quickly that they leave behind more career-industry corpses than one blog posting can impale on poles along the roadside. But Cheesman does a yeoman’s job of keeping up.

Where do these living dead business plans come from??

Cheesman answers with this morbid quote from Darren Bounds, CEO of Path.to, a career service whose website is as dim as its business concept:

“A big data approach to hiring can eliminate 80 percent of the work being done by humans.”

Another Modern Advance In Career Science: Eliminate the humans.

Cheesman racks up the headshots in the online recruiting space: Bright, Silp (“Your dream job will find you” — Not if I see you first, Sucka!), WorkFu (“We are currently in discussions regarding the possibilities of keeping WorkFu alive and will update as soon as we have more information.” BAM!) — every one of them relies on database technology to create as many mindless job-hunting zombies as employers can hire.

Except employers aren’t hiring them.

Employers — personnel-jockeys-turned-zombies themselves — are crying there’s a skills shortage because your keyword resume doesn’t exactly match the lifeless, bloodless job description they uploaded to the Big Database.

No sweat — JobScore says Monster.com took Trovix off the streets for $70 million and turned it into 6Sense. I see more dead people.

The good news: If you do your job search like a human and avoid the databases, the clawing zombies that think they’re competing with you for a juicy salary will never keep up.

My old buddy Jeff Pierce is still right: 80% of people are cows, but zombie cows. I’d buy a lunch of warm entrails for the venture capitalists behind all these corpses, just to watch their heads explode.

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Summer Slam: Monster, options, skirt protocol & resumes

In the August 28, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter we do the Summer Slam — “Speed Q&A” about:

  • Monster.com’s and CareerBuilder’s paltry success rates
  • Employers that toy with job applicants
  • Pantsuits or skirts?
  • Blasphemous resumes

Every week I publish a real problem from a real reader along with my detailed advice. But I get tons of questions that never get published. Although I can’t possibly answer every question, when I have time I dash off answers to as many as I can. This week’s edition is a summer slam — high-speed Q&A culled from those brief e-mails. I hope you enjoy it!

Question: Monster-ous success rates

Do you know what the current success rate for Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com is? I have heard a statistic of 3%. I saw an article written back in 2005, but was wondering about more current information.

Nick’s Reply

The big job boards don’t report their success rates because they stink. According to CareerXroads.com, the two job boards were the “source of hires” about 2-4% of the time for employers polled:

  • 2002: Monster 3.6%, CareerBuilder 1.5%
  • 2004: Monster 2.6%, CB 2.4%
  • 2006: Monster 2.9%, CB 2.5%
  • 2008: Monster 2.7%, CB 3.5%
  • 2009: Monster 1.5%, CB 5.3%

These figures had to be teased out of CareerXroads surveys. In subsequent years, it seems the reports were burying the job boards’ consistently poor performance. In 2011 they reported that “88.9% of survey respondents attribute at least one hire to Monster during 2010.” They’re boasting about one hire? Gimme a break. My read is that neither board delivers more than 3-4% of hires. It’s pathetic. A dog with a note in its mouth could go out and bring you more hires. I’d stick to the niche job boards. The only big job board I like is LinkUp.com because they pull jobs only from employers’ own websites.

Question: Options

I applied for a job with a small company. I got a call saying they have not ruled me out as a candidate but they were taking their time filling the position with someone with more experience. Months later, the job is still posted. Should I call them and offer to do the job as an intern? I really want this job!

Nick’s Reply

I know your motivation about a job can be very high. But let’s play devil’s advocate: Why would you want a job so much, when they don’t want you? They’ve put you on hold. They don’t see a fit. Not ruling you out doesn’t mean much if they have not stayed in touch with you. My advice is to move on and find a company that really wants you. Be careful with intern jobs — it’s often the signal to a company that you’re willing to do anything. Your best negotiating position with these guys is to develop other options.

Question: Skirt protocol

As a professional woman, I’ve always heard you should wear a suit with a skirt to interview. Lately I’ve seen women interviewing in suits with pants. What is the norm? Have we reached the point where women can interview in professional pantsuits or is it still skirt protocol?

Nick’s Reply

I don’t think any rule about attire covers all employers, but it’s worth finding out how employees at a company dress. Follow suit (no pun intended). If possible, visit the company’s location. Observe the people going in and out of the office. Dress one notch above the employees, because the point is to show respect. However, over-dressing can backfire. I’ve seen employers drop candidates who showed up over-dressed, worried the person might not fit in.

Question: Resumes

I love your Resume Blasphemy idea, but I am still confused about how to build a good resume. I was wondering if you have a resume sample or template that I could download? One that gives me examples. I really wish that I could finally figure this out, and quite honestly you are the only person that I feel gives out good advice. You need to write a book on resume building, Nick.

Nick’s Reply

Thanks for your kind words. The Resume Blasphemy approach is like a Zen koan. The message between the lines is, don’t use a resume. Don’t try to climb the mountain; go around it. To produce a blasphemous but powerful resume, you must talk to people connected to the company to ferret out what makes the business tick. Figure out how exactly you could contribute to its success. Once you do that, you don’t need a resume. You’ve already started talking to the right people, who can introduce you to the boss. A good resume is a business plan for doing the job. But you can’t produce a plan after reading a job description on a job board. (And you can’t create a plan by looking at someone else’s. Sorry, I don’t share samples of other people’s work!)

Hope you enjoyed this collection of short Q&As. Now please add your advice or to improve mine!

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All recruiting campaigns suck

The best recruiting campaign is a manager that calls you on the phone, tells you he loves your work, and invites you to lunch to talk about working together to make more money making better products. In other words, the employer isn’t scavenging. He did his homework and knows what he wants: you.

That’s recruiting.

All other recruiting campaigns suck. But this one, by game maker Kixeye, sucks less.

Kixeye slams competitor Zynga hard, after poaching some of Zynga’s key people. There’s no word about what Zynga’s recruiting response is. Maybe it could poach from its key partner, Facebook, whose employees are bailing anyway since restrictions have been lifted on employees dumping FB stock. Which is now priced so low you could line your Farmville pigpens with it. How low can you go?

Or Zynga could just change its business model and try to make money. Or it could create a new game altogether: Facebook Deathwatch. Earn tokens by adopting Facebook code jockeys and creating keywords for their resumes. Hey: That’s a recruiting app!

What most companies do to fill jobs is not recruiting. It’s advertising. And advertising is a stupid HR trick that raises operating costs by soliciting resumes they don’t have time to process. Which leads to cries of “Skills Shortage!” because turning on the fat-gauge sewer spigot is no way to get a meal.

I wonder what it’s costing Kixeye to sort through all the drek they’ve getting in response to this ad. Who cares. That kid CEO is a hoot.

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Am I cheating on the company that’s interviewing me?

In the August 21, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter wants to know whether it’s okay to interview with a company, when another company paid the airfare:

When a company flies me in to interview, is it okay to interview with other employers? Here’s the situation. A person is interested in two or more companies in the same industry and in the same locale. Obviously, the most efficient way to interview at these companies would be to fly out for a stretch of time (say a day or two), and interview at all of the companies over that time. My question is, should I let all the companies know that I will be talking to other companies on that trip? Or am I cheating on the company that pays my airfare?

My Advice

When a company pays to fly you out for an interview, you owe them two things: serious interest in the job, and the time required to interview you. They own your schedule for the time they want to meet with you. If they expect to see you for more than one day while you’re there, you must live by their schedule. They paid for the trip.

What you do the rest of the time is your own business. Do you need to tell them you’re going to the movies in the evening? Having dinner with an old friend, or with a manager from another company? I don’t think so — as long as it doesn’t interfere with the time they need with you. If you call the airline and arrange to extend your stay so you can meet with other companies (or to vacation) at your own expense, that’s up to you.

One thing you should not do is ask another company to split the cost of your trip with the company that’s flying you out anyway. (I have seen this done, but I think it complicates matters. Suddenly, you have two competitors trying to cooperate for your benefit.) You may, however, ask the second company to cover the cost of your hotel for the extra day you’re staying over to meet with them.

Keep the arrangements separate, and keep each company’s activity with you confidential. Make sure you’re giving the company that’s footing the bill all the access they need while you’re in town. But by all means, interview with as many companies as you’re interested in while you’re there. I see nothing unbusinesslike or unethical about it.

There is no need to tell any of the companies what you’re doing, unless you think it will aid you in getting offers. Personally, I think flaunting one company’s interest to another can backfire — and it’s inappropriate. But that’s your judgment call.

When’s the last time a company flew you out for an interview? It doesn’t happen often nowadays! When it does, be ready to capitalize on a visit to your target city. How do you optimize out-of-town interview trips?

Bonus Question: If you’ve got one interview out of town, how do you get more while you’re there?

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Paying to Get a Job, Part 3: Job applicant tells Padres to “Suck my dick”

In 2008 I published a column titled How much would you pay for a job? The 2009 follow-up was Pay for a job? (Part 2). Earlier this year, I told you about an outrageous racket I helped expose in the “career industry” in cooperation with Canada’s CBC-TV: Rip-Off Edition: Who’s trying to sell you a job? (video).

In all those cases, third-party “firms” were selling people “help” finding jobs. The help even came with “guarantees.” (If I could guarantee you a job, I’d be writing this from a private island.)

Such third-party “career management firms” have always attached themselves like leeches to the help-wanted business. But the worst of the offenders are employers themselves: companies you want to work for that reject your resume then try to sell you the “opportunity” to get a job with them.

Today’s example: Major League Baseball. The San Diego Padres.

Pay Us For a Chance at a Job

After Taylor Grey Meyer applied for several jobs with the Padres baseball team and received rejection after rejection, the Padres sent her an invitation to come meet “hiring managers” at the “Sports Sales Combine here at Petco Park.”

What’s the Combine? It’s made to look like a job fair. Except the Padres say, “Please note that this is NOT a job fair.” Oh, it’s much, much more!

  • “We anticipate attending sales managers will be looking to fill 50+ jobs at the Combine. “
  • “Teams from the MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL, MLS and college athletics all use the combine as a key source to find talent for their organizations.”
  • “Having been to multiple combines myself, and hired numerous people from the events, I could think of NO better way to get a start in the sport industry.”

Sound like a job fair pitch to you? Sure sounds like one to me! The Padres’ personalized e-mail to Meyer came from a Padres sales manager at a padres.com e-mail address and laid it on thick:

“Taylor, as we look for the best young talent from across the country we wanted to make sure you were aware of the opportunity. You can find the combine application at Teamwork Online through the link below.”

Clicking through to the “application,” Meyer found she could attend this “job fair” by paying $495.

Okay, Give Me The Job

The San Diego Padres are using a mailing list of rejected job applicants to sell an “opportunity” to get one of “50+ jobs.”

I don’t advocate profanity or nasty come-backs in business, especially when you’re trying to convince an employer to hire you. But Meyer knows a job from a come-on. After getting slimed with enough stupid Padres rejection e-mails to fill a hard drive, she responded in exactly the right way:

“I would like to extend you a counter-offer to suck my dick.”

Meyer then demonstrates to the male-dominated Major League Baseball sales guy that her cojones are bigger than his:

“Clearly, I don’t have one of these, so my offer makes about as much sense as yours. But for the price you’re charging to attend the event, I’m sure I would have no problem borrowing one.”

Kudos to Deadspin.com for publishing Taylor Meyer’s story: “I Would Like To Extend You A Counter-Offer To Suck My Dick”: A Rejected Jobseeker Sends The Padres The Best Letter Ever. A bit of research reveals that the Padres — along with other MLB and pro sports teams — are hooked up with SportsSalesCombine.com, a website run by “Drs. Bill Sutton and Richard Irwin,” that sells job applicants a “chance to be discovered by the pros!”

Scam Alert

SportsSalesCombine.com triggers my #2 scam alert: There’s no physical location listed for this business — just a gmail address. And there’s no explanation of its relationship to the Padres or any other sports team, except that an awful lot of the Padres’ (and other teams’) coaches are listed as “staff.”

The Padres also trigger my #3 scam alert, one of the oldest sales tricks in the book: They want you to fill out an application to qualify to pay $495.

What’s my #1 scam alert? The Padres strike out big-time for soliciting job applicants to whom they then pitch a chance at job “opportunities.”

As for that suck-my-dick rejection letter Taylor Meyer sent, the Padres deserved it. They rejected Meyer again and again, then “invited” her to “apply” to pay for a chance at a job. Deadspin.com reports Meyer’s letter has already generated at least one job interview from a team that saw a second-hand copy of her e-mail. Now, that’s networking and creating a personal brand. And it won’t cost Meyer a dime. Seems to me that Meyer has demonstrated the “Sports Sales Combine” pitch is for losers.

You apply for a job. The employer rejects you again and again. Would you then pay $495 to that employer for “the most authentic training and networking experience available” and for an “opportunity” at “50+ jobs?”

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Handouts: What information should employers give to job candidates prior to interviews?

In the previous posting, Why do companies hide the benefits?, we discussed what a job applicant can do when the employer makes a job offer but refuses to disclose the benefits package until the candidate accepts the job.

Gimme a break!

I suggested that employers should have a prepared handout for all job applicants: Here are all our benefits! Ain’t they great?

Before doing a job interview! That’s #1.

Because what’s the big secret about benefits? Include some disclaimers, state that certain terms are dependent on the position or negotiable — but for goodness sake, promote the quality of the benefits!

Which got me to thinking…

Employers could save themselves and job applicants an awful lot of time and hassle… There’s all kinds of handouts they could provide to job applicants prior to interviews. Like what? Well…

2. Why not hand out the salary range on the job?

What’s the big secret? Hand it out to everyone who applies:

“This position pays between $80,000 and $100,000. But that’s no guarantee. Please be aware that we will make an offer that we believe our best candidate is worth to our business.”

So what if the candidate knows what the employer is planning to spend? Afraid that’ll adversely impact the employer’s ability to control costs and negotiate? So does the candidate’s salary history — but employers don’t hesitate to ask for that.

I’d like to see a salary range handout.

What else should employers hand out to job applicants (and prospective candidates they’d like to lure)? This could be a whole new recruitment marketing initiative!

3. ??

Okay, you’re up… Somebody want to give me a #2? #3? More? What information should emloyers give you before you even agree to show up for a job interview?

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