Readers’ Forum: Headhunters & Job Hunters: The insanity continues

In the January 11, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, two readers raise related questions about headhunters and job hunters. (My short version of their questions is, Are these people insane?) But take a look for yourself:

Reader #1 asks:

I found the article, How to Judge Headhunters, to be one of the best I’ve seen a some time. I’m hoping that you might be able to comment on what I see as a disturbing trend.

Several times each week, I receive e-mails from recruiters that would suggest we’ve been “best friends” for years. The e-mail usually has an outline of a job, and a request that I contact them at my earliest convenience. But once I place the phone call, the recruiter is completely in the dark as to who I am.

Recently, a recruiter asked that I send him my resume, and said he would get back in touch with me if he feels I would be a good fit. This was after he sent an e-mail stating that he had read my resume and thought I might be a good fit for the position he’s recruiting for.

Now, I’m not so thin-skinned that I lose sleep over the idea that I’m “not qualified,” but I’m curious why these folks would contact me in the first place. The recruiters I’m talking about work for major, national recruiting firms. Please share your comments about this.

Reader #2, headhunter Clare Powell, is with Powell Search Associates and specializes in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Clare welcomes resumes from folks in those industries, but not from out of left field:

Every day, I know two things are going to happen. First, at least a dozen talented people will send us their resume without first making sure we support clients in their industry. These are mid- to senior-level people! A quick visit to our website would tell them more. So, either they are too lazy to do the homework, or they think their packaged-goods background, for instance, is readily transferable to an R&D job at Pfizer. I’ve asked a few of them why they contacted us, and they just say they didn’t bother to check out our firm. Crazy stuff.

I think candidates should do their own homework and be more careful with their personal information. Who knows what a disreputable firm will do with that kind of open invitation?

In the end, like you, I want these guys to land great jobs, but they do themselves a terrible disservice by not following the simple steps you talk about all the time, and that even common sense would dictate. I wish your newsletter were more widely publicized. It would surely help me! I’m happy to put a link to your website on our website… My motive is to help people get smarter faster!

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

The smart job hunter in the first story above reveals the unsavory, mindless “recruiters” who issue puzzling invitations and make contradictory phone calls to him. And he wonders why they do it. It doesn’t matter why, any more than it matters why someone in “Nigeria” wants to share $38 million with you if you’ll give him your bank account information.

The headhunter in the second story reveals the mindless pitter-patter of lemming-like job hunters who have no idea where they’re going, whom they’re talking to, or what they really want. They say they are looking for a job, but what these folks are actually looking for is a gofer that might find them a job in the bushes. (Otherwise, why would they contact a headhunter who specializes in a different field?) Clare Powell begs for relief from the onslaught of thoughtless resumes and mindless requests.

The job market is in the condition it’s in because the economy has still not recovered. But there are companies that have jobs to offer, and talented people who can do them. I think there are two problems:

First, people need to start looking for the jobs they want, and stop desperately asking someone else to do it for them.

Second, people need to stop wasting their time on questionable solicitations from shady, inept “recruiters” who prey on desperation.

Clare Powell is a good headhunter, but she isn’t the solution to your career problem. Nor am I. Nor is the fraud who e-mailed you saying your resume looks so good, and would you please immediately send him your resume? The insanity among fast-buck recruiters and desperate job hunters continues. Perhaps they all belong together, in some sort of Wishful Thinking Database, out of the way of the rest of us—so we can work diligently at finding and filling the few real jobs out there.

I know it’s tough out there. But please don’t act crazy. Use your noggin.

Has everyone gone insane? Are people spending all their time on “meta job hunting,” devoting their energies to finding someone who might find them a job? What are you doing to find a job? Are you going insane along with everyone else, or are you using your noggin?


Readers’ Forum: Ask The Headhunter in a Nutshell

In the December 21, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks for ATH in a nutshell:

Can you please summarize the Ask The Headhunter strategy and explain the main differences between ATH and the traditional approach to job hunting? Thanks.

Normally, I publish only a short excerpt of the newsletter here on the blog. But this is the last newsletter of 2010, and it’s a summary of some of the main ideas of Ask The Headhunter. I’m posting the entire December 21, 2010 newsletter online: Click here for the full edition of  Ask The Headhunter in a Nutshell.

The 4 “nutshell” tips are:

1. The best way to find a good job opportunity is to go hang out with people who do the work you want to do.

2. The best way to get a job interview is to be referred by someone the manager trusts.

3. The best way to do well in an interview is to walk in and demonstrate to the manager how you will do the job profitably for him and for you.

4. The best way to get a headhunter’s help is to manage your interaction for mutual profit from the start.

For the details behind each tip, please see the newsletter… And as always, please post your comments here on the blog!

Answer Kit: How Can I Change Careers?

How to Work with Headhunters

One-Time Only Christmas Special!
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  • Answer Kit: How Can I Change Careers?
  • How to Work with Headhunters

This limited offer is good only through Christmas week!
Don’t miss it! The 2-Book Bundle makes a great gift!
(The discount code you’ll need for EXTRA $AVING$ is in the newsletter.)

What more do you need?

That’s the Readers’ Forum question this week. All through the year, I try to teach the nuts and bolts behind the four main ideas discussed in today’s newsletter. Your questions help me flesh out the details of these ideas — and that’s what every edition of the newsletter is about!

In this week’s Readers’ Forum, The Headhunter Asks You: What more do you need to be successful at job hunting and hiring? What daunting problems or challenges can I help you deal with in your job search (or if you’re a manager, when hiring)?

Merry Christmas!Please share your questions, problems and challenges, and I’ll do my best to help, right here on the blog, and in next year’s newsletters. I welcome you to pile on — please tell me where I can help!

Meanwhile, here’s wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (no matter what holidays you celebrate or where you celebrate them), and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!


TheLadders: A long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled PR machine

During a recent webinar I conducted for Harvard Business School alumni (November 3, 2010, Can you stand out in the talent glut? Discussion here, and more audio here), we considered that one of the key hindrances to standing out is job boards, especially TheLadders.

What does TheLadders do to enhance anyone’s job hunting prospects — especially C-level executives? Virtually nothing, nada, zippo, zilch. This most flagrant faker among the job boards, which pretends to be exclusive and “$100k+”, is the source of hires less than 0.07% (yes, that’s percent) of the time, among employers polled. (Source: CareerXroads survey, p. 19)

UPDATE March 19, 2014
Angry, frustrated customers of TheLadders who say they were scammed finally get their day in court. Federal Court OK’s Suit Against TheLadders: Breach of contract & deceptive practices

UPDATE March 12, 2013
A consumer protection class action suit has been filed against TheLadders. If you believe you’ve been scammed by TheLadders, you can join the suit by contacting the law firm that filed the complaint. More here: TheLadders sued for multiple scams in U.S. District Court class action

Here’s an audio excerpt (approximately 5 minutes) from the Harvard webinar, in which I review the numbers run by an exasperated and angry CEO-level Ladders member, who concludes that “TheLadders is a long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled public relations machine.”

Mike — a C-level executive who paid monthly fees to TheLadders for 22 months without any success — conducted a simple and reasonable analysis of the probability of landing a C-level job through TheLadders. (His actual analysis is much more detailed, including research into the C-level job market and the populations of various types of job hunters in the current market, utilizing Department of Labor data and other resources.) The nuts and bolts of his analysis were generally based on these steps and assumptions:

  1. funnelMike searched TheLadders for management, finance and operations jobs, in a 50-mile radius of the New York Metro area. Results: 902 listed positions.
  2. He searched again among these for positions that required 10+ years of experience, and reasoned that the resulting 649 jobs were probably C-level.
  3. TheLadders claims over 1 million members. Mike assumed that 15% of these are in the NY Metro area — 150,000 members.
  4. Of these 150,000 NY area members, Mike assumed that about 25% — or 37,500 — are pursuing C-level jobs.
  5. He further suggested that for each Ladders member who is pursuing one of those C-level jobs, there are at least two non-Ladders job hunters pursuing the same jobs. In other words, for each Ladders member, two others are also applying. This gives us a total of 37,500 + 75,000 = 112,500 people competing for those C-level jobs.
  6. Mike made one more assumption, and a very generous one: He allowed that TheLadders would fill 25% — or 225 — of all those open finance, management and operations positions. (I laughed hard, but I gave Mike credit for loading the calculations in TheLadders’ favor.)
  7. Then Mike calculated the odds. 225/112,500 = 0.2%. Those are a Ladders member’s chances of filling one of those 902 positions.
  8. But let’s be more generous: Let’s use 225/37,500 = 0.6%. Those are your better, but less believable odds.

Note that we used 902 jobs, rather than the more-likely 649 C-level positions listed with TheLadders. In that scenario, your odds of getting mated to a job through TheLadders would require a turkey baster — about 0.14% in the most defensible case.

It’s no surprise at all that after a series of full-frontal attacks on TheLadders’ ridiculous claims about “Only $100k+ jobs” in its database, with this blog among them, TheLadders quietly eliminated the big, bold claim on its home page:


TheLadders folded: No more “Only”

Not “only” were TheLadders’ paying members crying “fraud” about sub-$100k job listings; they were also complaining that after canceling the service, TheLadders continued to ding their credit cards for the monthly fees.

Yo! Marc Cenedella! Yah — you there, in the Shakespearean e-mail writing garb! If  TheLadders has given up the ghost on “Only” $100k+ jobs in its database, then what the hell are you selling to Premium Subscribers for $35/month?

No news outlet and no recruiting industry pundit seems to have picked up on the fact that “Only” is gone — and that TheLadders finally folded and took down its fraudulent promise. Did we miss the press release? Or, maybe it was in one of those e-mails?

Our friend Mike the CEO paid TheLadders for almost two years for access to top-level jobs. He even paid TheLadders to rewrite his resume.

“I spent several hundred hours carefully sifting through job postings from TheLadders. I probably filed responses/applications to between 600-700 Ladders job postings.”

TheLadders promise

“In 22 months time as a Ladders Premium Subscriber and resume customer, I didn’t receive a single legitimate call from an employer or recruiter in response the many applications I filed. Not one interview, not one follow-up call. I did, however, receive many unwanted and useless solicitations from other sources who ‘rent’ or buy TheLadders database.

“TheLadders is a long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled public relations machine.”

This week’s Ask The Headhunter Newsletter features a related experience from another frustrated job hunter, who gets calls from one recruiter after another, pitching to her the very same job she’s seen elsewhere on the Internet. Now she understands that “recruiters” only amplify the job-board racket produced by companies like TheLadders — and that the whole system does little more than promote the territorial micturations  of packs of wild, barking dogs.

It took Mike a long time, but he figured out this scam and shared his thoughts in a series of e-mails. Finally, Mike landed a job. Here’s what he really learned:

“Now that I have a CEO job with a thousand people in my organization, I have seen perhaps 15 new hires in the last 60 days. All of them were recruited through networking and word of mouth.

TheLadders CEO Marc Cenedella sends out his routine carny-barker e-mails, “encouraging” his down-and-out C-level customers to keep a stiff upper lip and a positive attitude — telling them those $100k+ jobs are out there. His customers just have to be smarter and more dedicated to the job hunt than their worthy Ladders competitors.

“And job-seekers like you know that the jobs here are hand-screened by two human beings to make sure they’re $100K+ before we let them onto the site.”
– Marc Cenedella

“Since we don’t have a direct way of knowing the pay range of each of these positions, we make an estimate…”
– Andy, TheLadders Customer Service

powerballOnce again, we call bullshit on you, Marc Cenedella. TheLadders is a racket. The numbers themselves point to the dirty secret behind your public relations campaign. Just how long will desperate job hunters buy your missives about $100k+ jobs, when it is simply irresponsible to believe there are anywhere near the number of such jobs available to justify your claims and your promises to the suckers you charge each month for the job listings you collect from other websites?

It took just one sucker-punched, number-crunchin’ CEO to show very simply that TheLadders is no better than a Powerball lottery propped up by ridiculous ad copy.

Marc Cenedella, you owe a lot of people a lot of apologies and a lot of refunds.

Now a word to C-level executives who buy and eat TheLadders dogpile every day: Wake up, slap yourselves in the face, and avoid the interview question that I’ve long fantasized some board level executive ought to ask you when you finally get that meeting about a job:

“Tell us: Why should we hire you and trust you to run our operations, when your record shows you paid month after month for 0.14% odds and kept reading those goofy e-mails from Marc Cenedella — and when you couldn’t figure out that you were being swindled? Why should we hire you to run our company when you trusted your career to the equivalent of a Powerball lottery ticket? Why should we hire a track record like that?”

[Special thanks to Mike The CEO.]


Readers’ Forum: The dogs of recruiting

In the November 16, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks why she’s being chased by wild dogs after she posted her resume online:

Dogs of RecruitingI’ve suddenly been contacted by four different “recruiters” from different recruiting companies. On Thursday, one recruiter cold called me and said he saw my resume on Monster, asked me a few background questions, and then the next morning informed me he submitted me for the job we discussed to his client. On Monday, another recruiter e-mailed me, then she called to further discuss the position, and it was exactly the same job as the one I had talked to the other recruiter about. I provided her the information, and she e-mailed to say she had submitted me to her client.

I started reading a lot about this practice, and how being submitted for the same job by two different recruiters means your resume will go into the trash bin. So I feel totally screwed and wonder what I did wrong, since these folks called me. Should I trust cold-calling recruiters? What are my ethical obligations in dealing with these people? Do I have an obligation to tell the second recruiter I had already been submitted for the job by a different recruiter? Should I even be wasting my time with these folks at all? I obviously have very little experience dealing with them, and I don’t know what the “rules” are, if any. Can you shed some light on this phenomenon?

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

“So I feel totally screwed and wonder what I did wrong, since these folks called me.”

No, you called them. You did that when you posted your resume on Monster. That opens you up to the dogs of recruiting. And you’re right—when multiple recruiters submit you for the same job, employers often trash it, because they don’t want to get into a fee fight between recruiters who will claim the placement.

Don’t take this personally, because I don’t know you, but, Gimme a break. You post your resume information online for anyone and everyone to snap at, and you think only intelligent, serious, thoughtful, legitimate employers are gonna respond to you? Your resume is a piece of raw meat tossed into a street full of starving dogs who don’t even care that you’re human. All that matters is the chance to earn another fee.

Putting your resume online is what starts this whole process. If you want to know about recruiters, it’s all here: How to Work with Headhunters. (I’m asked the questions you posed so often that I finally put everything I know about this subject into a book. It covers almost everything you ask about, including how some of these characters online operate, and how to know the good ones from the lousy ones.) If you’re going to work with headhunters, you need to formulate your own rules.

Now let’s address some of the specific issues you’ve listed.

  • Find good headhunters to work with, before the lousy ones find you.
  • If you don’t sign a contract with them (like they sign with their client companies), then you have no obligations to them.
  • Agree to work only with a recruiter who shows you proof that he has a contract with a given employer.
  • You don’t need recruiters or headhunters to find a job. Talk to companies directly.

Most people who call themselves “recruiters” or “headhunters” are little more than wild dogs chasing the same candidates and jobs. Avoid the feeding frenzy. The odds you’ll get bitten severely are pretty high.

Are all those “online recruiters” for real? Why do several of them call you about the same job? What obligations do you have to them? (Do they have any to you?) Can you get screwed working with more than one of them? Can you avoid the dogs of recruiting?



Harvard Webinar Audio: Can I stand out in the talent glut?

Last week I did a webinar for hundreds of Harvard Business School alumni, titled Can I stand out in the talent glut? The presentation was largely based on the ideas and methods that I talk about in How Can I Change Careers? (Which, by the way, isn’t just for career changers. It’s for anyone who wants to stand out.)

Talent glut? Yep — and you’re part of that big clog of talent stuck in the Employment System, trying to land a job. Big bucks are conspiring to keep you from getting together with the manager who needs to hire you — and HR departments are playing along. In fact, they’re paying along, to the tune of billions of bucks.

Listen to the audio (approximately 7 minutes), and please chime in on the discussion:

Why is it so hard to stand out? Simple: Everyone is dumbing down, pretending jobs come from key words and databases. And employers have come to believe that the more they spend acting stupid, the more successful they’ll be!

In the next post, we’ll get more specific — we’ll “run the numbers” and listen to a little more audio. But they’re not my numbers. Though I’m not a number-crunchin’ guy, I know that if I just wait long enough, there’s an Ask The Headhunter subscriber out there who will step up to help. And one did.

An experienced CEO named Mike, with a specialization in finance, actually ran the numbers for me, after he got burned by one of the job boards — TheLadders. After wasting 14 months applying for between 600-700 C-level jobs on TheLadders, he now describes that “exclusive” service for “$100k+ jobs” as “a long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled public relations machine.”

(Maybe Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella would like to use that line in one of the daily e-mails he blasts out to all those C-level executives who pay him for lottery tickets every month.)

We’ll cover Mike’s scathing analysis in the next post, but this isn’t about TheLadders.

This is about Can you stand out in the talent glut? By the time we got done with the webinar last week, lights seemed to flicker on in a lot of Harvard MBA heads: This ain’t rocket science.

So stick around. We’ll talk about the daunting challenges you face landing that next job, and we’ll talk about getting past them. (And you don’t have to be an MBA or a C-level exec to understand it.) You might be surprised at what works, but you probably already know what doesn’t.

(Anybody want to take a guess what our friend Mike calculated are the odds that a Ladders member will actually land a C-level job through TheLadders? Harvard folks who attended the webinar: Please keep it under your hat for just a little bit, and let others take a stab at Mike’s estimate!)

[UPDATE: For more audio from the Harvard Business School webinar, and for the odds of landing a C-level job through TheLadders, see TheLadders: A long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled PR machine.]

Harvard Webinar: Can you stand out in the talent glut?

This is a special posting connected to the Harvard Business School Career Management Webinar I presented on November 3, 2010. I’ll add more content here after the event — but the main purpose is to answer questions we didn’t have time for during the hour, and to carry on the discussion.

Can you stand out in the talent glut?

Please post your questions and comments below. Thanks for joining me!

[UPDATE: Don’t miss this audio excerpt from the webinar!]


Readers’ Forum: How I got the job – Talking shop!

The October 19, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter is a special edition. A reader shares his story, about how he talked shop to meet the people who led him to the manager who hired him:


I got the job! Finally, I will be moving to [new city] for a great job. I still don’t believe what I was able to accomplish with your guidance.

I got a job:

  • In my target industry,
  • In my target city,
  • In my target role,
  • At a high level and not an entry level.

All of that despite the fact that I was unemployed for 10 months, was moving to a city where I didn’t know anyone, and had little experience in that industry.

In this economy, I have found that submitting my resume to HR yielded no results in a year of trying. The only way I had any success was networking my way to the hiring manager and talking shop. And all my skills in that area came from you.

Ordinarily, the newsletter is not archived online. You can read the whole thing only if you subscribe. But this week’s edition is so important that I’ve archived it, and you can find it here: How I got the job: Talking shop.

Please read the full column online. Then join in the discussion:

Can you really ignore job postings, toss out your resume, and go have fun meeting people to win the job you want? I think yes. So does the reader who submitted this week’s success story.

What do you think? Have you ever talked shop… all the way into a new job?


The Nobel Prize for Jobs: The artifacts of Duh-oyyyy!

This week three men shared the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economic Science. Here’s the problem they’ve been working on for decades:

The researchers spent decades trying to understand why it takes so long for people to find jobs, even in good economic times, and why so many people can be unemployed even when many jobs are available. (Economists Share Nobel for Studying Job Market, NY Times)

Blind leading the blindThese researchers took the classic, academic “long away around” and still haven’t figured out what simple common sense tells us.

People don’t find jobs. They don’t search for jobs. They post some information about themselves online and then wait like doofusses for jobs to come along.

Employers don’t search for new employees. They post job descriptions (a decade ago they ran classified ads) and teams of HR “recruiters” sit on their duffs in front of computer displays waiting for who comes along.

“Who comes along” usually isn’t worth hiring. So, what are these researchers really studying?

They’re studying the artifacts of Duh-oyyyy! They’re not studying the behavior of markets or the behavior of job hunters and employers. They are distracted and mesmerized by the artifacts of the mechanical process of sorting data.

The failure of job hunters and employers to come together “even when many jobs are available” has nothing to do with economics.

It has to do with the mindless process that promotes random job hunting and random hiring. Where in the Nobel Laureates’ reports is a description or analysis of the machine that grinds up job hunters and employers alike, without spitting out “matches?” Where is their prescription for beating the system to get the job done?

Life is short, for people and for companies. The prescription is simple. Go find the people you really want, and go find the companies you really want to work for. Don’t take what comes along.

These researchers’ explanation addresses the complications that come from searching for jobs and job candidates: it takes time for unemployed workers to be matched with the proper opening, since people are not identical, cookie-cutter units, and neither are jobs.

It takes time? Time is wasted because no one acknowledges that the Employment System we rely on has no clothes. I love the total failure to attribute any responsibility to anyone or anything: “it takes time for unemployed workers to be matched…” Duh-oyyyy! Why is that? Why does it take time and who or what is responsible?

How do you get a Nobel when you fail to answer that basic question?

Gee-whiz. “Neither people nor jobs are cookie cutter units?” Gimme a friggin break. The Employment System treats both exactly as cookie cutter units: records in databases, sequences of keywords, lists of skills, bits of data waiting to be matched at the level of letter combinations.

The scientists working on this problem need to pull out Occam’s Razor and start cutting through the bullshit. They problem they describe is not an economic phenomenon. It’s an artifact of the systemic robbing of employers and job hunters. Employers are systematically deprived of their workers, and job hunters of jobs, while everyone is off blindly roaming the jobs and resume databases.

This is not Nobel science. If you want a job, figure out who does the work you want to do and go hang out with those people. They will quickly help you determine what additional training you need, introduce you to the right people, guide and advise you toward a job.

If you want to find a good worker for your business, go hang out with people who do the work you need to have done. Learn from them who can do the work, ask for recommendations, and then go to the person you want and talk shop with them.

Stop washing your hands with gloves on. Get out of the databases and go talk to the actual people and companies.

The idea that Nobel laureate economists are missing the simple explanation suggests no Prize is warranted. The researchers are blinded by the process business uses to find new hires. Yet they don’t say one word about the fact that today, in the midst of what is arguably the biggest glut of unemployed, talented workers we have ever seen, employers and job hunters alike rely almost exclusively on a system that does not work. The Nobels aren’t seeing or reporting that the emperor has no clothes.

I mean, what are Nobel scientists for, if not to point out The Naked Embarrassment?

This is not an economic phenomenon. It’s a simple racket. Employers are being scammed by the behavior of an HR profession that is content to “interview who comes along,” and by the likes of CareerBuilder, and an Employment Industry which is glad to deliver “what comes along.”

The researchers spent decades trying to understand why it takes so long for people to find jobs…



Readers’ Forum: Don’t provide references, LAUNCH them

In the October 12, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newslettera reader asks:

I have two questions about references. First, I would like to use my current boss and co-workers as references. What’s your advice about that? Second, some companies actually expect references from a current boss. Do I have to provide these?

Here’s the short version of my reply. (You’ve got to subscribe to the weekly newsletter to get the whole story!)

This is a sticky topic. Your current boss and buddies at work might be your best references, but if you let them know you’re interviewing elsewhere, that could jeopardize your current job.

In a moment, I’ll show you how to launch references preemptively, rather than just provide them when an employer asks.

But first let’s take your questions one at a time. You can indeed ask people you work with for references, but you must accept the risks. Once management finds out you’re job hunting, you might be tagged as a dissatisfied employee and if there’s a layoff, you could wind up at the top of the termination list.

Must you provide references from your current company if another employer asks? Absolutely not, for the same reasons we discussed. The new company has no right to put your present job in jeopardy. If you prefer not to provide such references, you can and should decline.

Now let’s talk about how to use your best references by launching them before Referencesthe employer expects it. I once landed a job I really wanted by using a Preemptive Reference. I didn’t wait for the manager to ask me for references. Before the manager even knew I existed, I arranged for a credible mutual contact to pick up the phone and recommend me. Other than my abilities, that call was what convinced the manager both to interview me, and to hire me on my terms.

Since then, I’ve taught job candidates how to do that, and I’ve used the approach to influence people to do business with me. A recommendation from a credible colleague can make a manager want to hire you before you even apply for the job.

(That’s just part of the newsletter. Don’t get stuck short next week — Sign up now for your own free subscription!)

Smart employers check references. But there aren’t a lot of smart employers out there. Too many will make a hire without checking out a person’s reputation. When an employer asks you for references, who you gonna call?

Sometimes it’s all about who calls the employer before you even apply for the job.

How do you use references? Ever have a reference “make or break” a job offer for you? Has a reference ever torpedoed you?


Readers’ Forum: Where can I find good small companies to work for?

In the September 28, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newslettera reader asks:

I’m interested in working for a smaller local company. The real challenge seems to be finding that small company. How should I proceed?

Here’s the short version of my reply. (You’ve got to subscribe to the weekly newsletter to get the whole story!)

There are a lot more small companies out there than there are big ones. While many don’t spend to advertise jobs (because they prefer to hire via word of mouth), you will find them in the business pages of your local newspaper—in articles, not in job ads.

Small companies will refer you to one another simply because they rely on one another for business introductions. While one may not be your exact cup of tea, its president (or receptionist) may introduce you to another that is. This chain of connections is how they do business with one another, and it’s a great way for you to navigate through the small-company community. It’s also a very good way to vet each company, by asking others about its reputation.

Where do you find good employers to work for? Obvious question, eh? Well, don’t tell me you find them on job boards. I want to know where you go in physical space to actually meet people and learn about companies you might want to work for. It seems people just don’t do this any more. “Let’s do lunch” used to be a pretty good thing till self-interest destroyed it.

Me? I like nothing more than hanging out and talking to people about their work, especially if I get to visit their company.

How about you? Where do you find good companies to work for?