How to Say It: Is this a good place to work?

Discussion: April 27, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks How to Say It:

When I’m in a job interview I figure I get very limited time to figure out whether this is a company I really want to work for. (Even if they decide to make me an offer!) So here’s what I’m trying to figure out how to say. What can I say or ask that will give me the best idea of whether a company is going to be a good place to work?

Hey, I know this one with my eyes closed… And I’ll share my suggestion after the rest of you post your ideas. How do I know this is a good company to work for?

How do you say that?



How to Say It: Can I try again?

Discussion: April 13, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks How to Say It:

I was interviewed but did not get the job. I’ve heard of cases where the right kind of thank you letter has resurrected candidates and led to other jobs in the same company. The format I’ve seen goes like this: “Thank you for interviewing me even if you did not hire me. I am disappointed, but I hope you’ll consider me for other positions in the future.” It sounds kind of hokey to me. There has to be better wording. How would you say it?

It seems simple enough to me, and very clear: I’d like to try again if you’ll have me.

Is there a better way to say it? Have you succeeded at getting a second chance with an employer? How did you do it? How did you say it?



How to Say It: Got a fish? We need a fish NOW!

Discussion: April 6, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader wants to know How to Say It:

One thing that really bugs me about the tech industry is this focus on Skills, as opposed to Ability to Get Said Skills. When I interview for management roles and I am asked about the types of people I hire, I always lead with a comment to the effect of, “I’ve never fired someone because they weren’t technically capable, but I’ve fired people because they weren’t capable of getting the necessary skills.”

I know that I’ve lost at least one opportunity because the interviewer strenuously disagreed with me on that point. (Not that I would want to work in a company that focused on skills as opposed to skills acquisition…) What’s a good way to explain my position? How should I say it?

This is a fine point in management. Do you hire someone who can do exactly this job now? Or someone who can quickly learn how to do this job and the work that comes next, as well?

Many managers are dopes. They’d rather hire someone who brings them a fish, than someone who knows how to catch more fish. (I cover this in more detail in Talent Shortage, or Poor Management?)

How do you explain the difference between having skills and being able to get skills in a job interview? How do you say it?



How to Say It: Getting severance

Discussion: March 23, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader’s challenge:

My company is going to lay off some people. If I’m in the group, I’d like to ask for severance pay. How should I say it?

Okay, folks — how would you ask for money on your way out the door?

But let’s make this more interesting. It’s usually best to take care of something like this before it all hits the fan. So suppose there’s no layoff in the offing. But you want to protect yourself in case it happens. Do you have any leverage to get a severance agreement in place now for later? What do you tell your company to make it happen? How do you say it?



How to Say It: The evidence is confidential

Discussion: March 16, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s newsletter a reader says:

I work as a design engineer in an industry where projects are typically confidential. However, prospective employers frequently ask to see a portfolio. I am comfortable showing one in person, where I can control its dissemination, but do not want to e-mail or send a hard copy. How do I let them know that without sounding like I’m trying to weasel my way into an interview?

How to Say It: So… your portfolio of work might help you land a great job, but showing it might also get you fired or sued.

Okay folks: Can this reader reveal the evidence of his abilities without adverse consequences? Is there some other way to leverage his portfolio without leaving it lying around?

Or, should he just spread his stuff around and stop worrying about it?



How to Say It: Shaking hands

Discussion: March 9, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s newsletter a reader says:

I have a medical condition (since birth) that has no effect on my work: my hands tremble a little or moderately. It’s called “benign essential tremor.” It is not Parkinson’s or anything like it. I worry that it scares off employers when I interview.

Today I was invited to an informal interview. In my reply, I tried something new. I said, “Great! I would love to meet with you. One thing I should let you know about. My hands shake slightly, but this doesn’t affect my work.”

I don’t want to scare off prospective employers by saying the wrong thing. I figure if I discuss it up front, that’s best. How should I say it?

How to Say It: I think you already say it well. You might add that it’s not a degenerative condition, if you want to go that far. I’m sure you’re aware that you may be protected under the disabilities laws, but it also seems you prefer to be candid. I like that.

Should this reader explain it up front, or wait until the interview?



How to Say It: Is this a bar or an interview?

Discussion: March 2, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s newsletter a reader throws down a challenge:

I love this classic question from interviewers, as if they’re in a bar looking for a date rather than in an office hiring an employee: “Tell me about yourself.” I can answer that, but what’s the best way to say it?

How to Say It: “I’m glad to tell you about myself. But when we’re done with that, I’d like to ask you a question, okay? The question is, Would you please lay out a live problem you’re facing in your department, one that you’d want me to tackle if you hired me? And I’ll show you how I’d do it.”

Or you could just say, “Glenlivet, straight up.”

How would you answer that question?



How to Say It: What’s the point of an interview?

Discussion: February 23, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s newsletter a reader takes an interview with a company that wants to “meet and talk in general,” with no indication there’s a specific opportunity on deck. No problem, I say to the reader. It’s good to meet new people. But when the company brings you back for a second interview — to meet the president — and there’s still no objective, then it’s time to reconsider what you’re doing. I offered the reader a suggestion about How to Say It in the newsletter — “No job in mind? No meeting.” (Well, a bit more politely than that, but that’s the gist.)

But there’s more the reader could do to ferret out an opportunity — and to make some money in the meantime. Here’s what else to say to the employer:

If there isn’t a specific job you’d like to discuss, it might be because you’re trying to figure out what kind of position you want to define. I believe I could help you with that by applying my expertise in XYZ… Until you define and fill a position, I’d be glad to offer you my consulting services at $X per day. I look forward to hearing back from you… and I’d like to help you any way I can. Thanks again for your interest… I really enjoyed our wide-ranging discussion. Kind regards…

See how that works? You play every angle but put the onus on them to either define a job or pay you for your time to help them do it.

Otherwise, it’s a bunch of guys blowing smoke with nothing better to do than waste your time and their own. Believe me — many managers are clueless and should be fired for wasting company time and resources on meetings like these. Sometimes, you just have to realize there is no job there. That’s no reason to decline a first meeting — you might meet some cool people and explore possibilities. But beyond that, we’re business people and we work for a living. Either the employer has a clear agenda that presents a clear opportunity to you or he’s wasting your time.

(The tipoff in this reader’s story was that after the second interview with the president, the company did not follow up further, did not respond to queries or bring closure to the discussions. Bear in mind, it was the company that reached out and initiated the meetings.)



How to Say It: My degree beats your certification!

Discussion: February 9, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s edition a reader says, “My degree beats your certification!”

Why are firms so ignorant of one’s university degrees and instead treat certifications like CPA with much more respect? To complete a degree takes quite a bit of effort. (Try to take MBA school in four exams like a CPA does!) Degrees are expensive, but firms treat us like idiots. What’s so special about a certification? After much consideration I finally sat for FAR part of CPA certification. It cost me $235 and content-wise it barely covered the scope of my undergraduate accounting curriculum. Am I missing something here? My MBA degree is far more valuable than a certification. I need to know How to Say It when I meet with an employer.

How to Say It: Would someone like to explain this? Yah, a certification is proof that someone passed a qualifying exam… whether in accounting or data base administration… but is it more valuable than a college degree? And how do you say it to an employer?



How to Say It: You want me to start WHEN?

Discussion: February 2, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s edition a reader asks how to deal with a job offer that has a three-month starting delay. The candidate is interested in the job but cannot start work immediately. But there are risks in accepting the offer today — what if a better deal comes up in the meantime? Is it honest to accept now, if you can’t predict the future?

(There’s lots more about this in the newsletter… it’s not as simple a situation as it seems. That’s why you ought to subscribe… it’s still free.)

How to Say It: The only fact in hand is the offer the reader has today. Tell the headhunter: “If the company is willing to take the chance that I will still be available in three months, I’ll take the chance that the job will still be there in three months, and I will accept the offer.”

That’s one way to put it, while leaving other options open.

What would you do about such a job offer? Is it legit to accept it?