Readers’ Forum: Capitalizing on good contacts

In the August 3, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newslettera reader asks:

I had a Talk to Nick call with you recently. I am following your advice to the letter, and I am building a network of contacts. I now have about 30 – 40 great contacts in my field in the city I’m targeting. I certainly am not surprised that I haven’t stumbled on the right opportunity yet, but I was wondering if there is any additional way I can leverage the people I’ve already met.

Now that I keep trying to meet more people, I feel like I am collecting lots of contacts rather than utilizing the contacts I have already made. I am visiting my target city next week. I will try to set up meetings with hiring managers that I have already had phone conversations with, in order to deepen the relationships. My question is: Is there any specific gambit I can use in these face-to-face meetings to get more directly to my point of getting a job in their company?

I do what you say and don’t talk about jobs and only talk shop. But how do I make the shift to talking about a job without sounding like a salesman? I just fear that I will ruin all the trust I put into the relationship by asking for a referral.

Any insight you could give me in order to make these face-to-face meetings effective would be helpful. Thanks again for setting my job search and my life on the right track. I have not gotten a job yet, but I am persistent and confident. You have single-handedly guided me from being someone who doesn’t know how to network to a master in three months. People I talk to on the phone tell me how they wish they could network as effectively as I do.

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

Once you’ve established good relationships with all those new contacts, it’s time to harvest some useful advice from them. “I’m going to be in your city on business in a couple of weeks, and I wanted to ask your advice. While I’m there, I’d like to meet some people who know Company A and Company B… Are there people you would suggest I meet while I’m out there, on a casual basis, to explore job opportunities?”

Meeting new people and talking shop is a great way to expand your network in a friendly, honest way. (Who wants to be a brazen careerist???) So, where is that line? When can you shift a friendly conversation about work, to ask the other person to help you with a new job?

Have you helped someone who asked you in just the right way? What did they say that kept it comfortable?

This is what makes the world go ’round, folks! Please share your experiences and the subtle methods you use to advance your career without losing your friends!

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Readers’ Forum: Why interview when there’s no job?

In the July 27, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newslettera reader asks:

Rather than chase job listings, I took your advice and picked three companies I really want to work for. This is fun, because I work harder when I am totally focused. I did extensive research, identified the right managers, and arranged introductions. What if they don’t have any jobs open? Isn’t that a waste of time?

Absolutely not. These are still the people you want to get to know and stay in touch with.

About 60% of jobs are found through personal contacts. The managers on your list are your best new personal contacts — whether they have a job for you or not. Your investment of time is a good one because they could lead you to your next job even if they don’t hire you. But take note: You must be credible if you want your contacts to be productive.

(You’ve got to subscribe to the weekly newsletter to get the whole story!)

Job hunting isn’t about getting a job. It’s about getting known. As you’re starting to see, your credibility is greatest when you approach companies and managers you really want to work for. When you’re motivated and know your stuff, managers take notice. When you meet with managers you care about, that’s what makes the outcome productive.

How much time do you invest in getting to know people you’d really like to work with? Even if there isn’t a job to talk about?

And, how do you go about it?

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OMG! They found out about my air baths!!

Reader Steve Amoia shared a Wall Street Journal article by Elizabeth Garone that might terrify you: Five Mistakes Online Job Hunters Make.

(Does this mean that if you’re not an online job hunter, you’ve got nothing to worry about?)

Steve writes:

I’m curious about something:

“Assume your future boss is reading everything you share online,” she says.

How much do you look online when you are checking out a potential candidate for a client? This WSJ article seems to imply that we are so important that recruiters have nothing better to do than peer into our online “lives.” Obviously, we all need to exercise good judgment. But if a young kid (or someone older like us) posts something stupid, should that be held against him years from now or negate positive career achievements?

Good questions, and ones that have become popular fodder for career pundits. But in practice, are recruiters and employers getting kooky? Should employers really worry so much about your online “record?” Garone says that,

“A December 2009 study by Microsoft Corp. found that 79% of hiring managers and job recruiters review online information about job applicants before making a hiring decision. Of those, 70% said that they have rejected candidates based on information that they found online.”

Say what??

I’m not surprised at all the online checking employers do — but 70% dumped applicants because of what they found online?

If I looked through the employers’ garbage cans, I’d probably find something that might make me want to dump them, too. Steve points to a kooky new sort of problem: To what extent should such “information” be used to judge job applicants?

To some extent, certainly. But, to borrow from Ben Franklin (who probably would have gotten rejected by any employer who learned that the man took “air baths” regularly — sitting naked in front of an open window): Everything in moderation!

I check people out online, but I also exercise judgment. Not until the Net came along were we able to look into so many corners of people’s lives in such detail… So what?

Before the Net, we didn’t know stuff we know now. So what? Just because you learn something doesn’t mean that it means anything. Or that it’s anything new. But when a practice like this becomes part of a routine process of checking people out, we have to start worrying whether the people who do the checking know how to weight a piece of data. The more data they have, the less they are likely to distinguish useful information.

Does it matter that I take air baths?

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Readers’ Forum: How to get to the hiring manager

In the July 20, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newslettera reader asks:

You 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 manager who has the problems I’ll be able to solve?

(You’ve got to subscribe to the weekly newsletter to get the whole story!)

[UPDATE: The special, limited-time discount on the 2-Book Bundle that I offered in the current newsletter has generated so much attention that I’ve published the entire edition — including the discount code — online: Read the entire newsletter here and get the discount. Thanks to all for your interest! Man, sometimes you bowl me over! But please sign up for your own free subscription to find out about other special offers in the future.]

In the newsletter I suggest that your challenge as a job hunter is not to apply for lots of open jobs. It’s to carefully target the manager whom you can help the most.

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 and vendors.

But the point is to talk shop. Don’t ask for job leads — that’s like asking for an introduction to the personnel office!

Getting to the hiring manager is a lot of hard work. But so is that job you want, right? (Get it?)

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? 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” helps you show the manager how you’ll bring profit to the bottom line.

How do you get to the hiring manager? What methods have you used that helped you get past the teeming hordes of job hunters — so you could talk directly to the manager (or to someone very close to the manager)?

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Readers’ Forum: I need a headhunter who will market me!

 A reader asks:

I realize that headhunters work for the employer, but my past experience has been that a good one will pick up an individual with good qualifications and do some marketing to achieve a match. They don’t seem to work this way any more. How can I find a headhunter who will really market me?

Discussion: July 6, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter (You’ve got to subscribe to the weekly newsletter to get the whole story!)

In the newsletter, I explain that good headhunters don’t market individuals and they never have. Good headhunters focus on filling positions for which they’ve been assigned a “search” by a corporate client. I also offer a tip about how to find a good headhunter — it’s one of the 62 answers for fearless job hunters that’s included in How to Work with Headhunters.

The fact that some “headhunters” waste your time doesn’t mean all headhunters are bad, any more than all HR folks are. The best headhunters will recruit you and, if you’re the right candidate, negotiate a deal that will make you happy enough to refer your buddies the next time the headhunter comes looking…

It’s easy to turn up nasty stories about experiences with headhunters, and I’ve printed many over the years. Do you have a story about a good experience with a headhunter? Please post it. What did a headhunter do that made a difference in your job search?

(And if you’re really burned up about headhunters, well, I’m not going to delete your rants if you post those, too…)

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Readers’ Forum: What’s is good networking REALLY?

Discussion: June 15, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

(You’ve got to subscribe to the weekly newsletter to get the whole story!)

A reader says:

Everyone talks about networking as the best way to find the right job. There must be a key to this approach beyond just going to networking meetings and signing up with one of the online social networks. What advice can you give me about how to do it right?

In today’s Q&A I tried to outline some of the parameters of good networking. In a nutshell, I think networking is really about making friends. It’s got virtually nothing to do with getting a job or with any other kind of “payoff.” You do it because it makes life and work more enjoyable—and because giving something back makes your professional community (and the world) a better place. And when you live in a better place, somehow your life becomes better, too.

In the newsletter, I talked about what makes for good networking: Common ground, value and time.

What’s your experience with networking? Do you do it? Why? Has it paid off? What parameters do you believe make for good networking? (Should we even call it networking?)

Please share your experiences and comments!

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Readers’ Forum: What’s in a cover letter?

Discussion: May 4, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks:

I was recently laid off and I am applying for jobs online. The question I have is whether to include a cover letter or not? Do they really matter these days? I always feel silly saying things like, “I am motivated and enthusiastic, and would appreciate the opportunity to contribute to your firm’s success.” If I do need to include a cover letter, what do employers want to see that would make them look at the resume?

Resumes? Cover letters? What do hiring managers want to read? Does a cover letter buy you anything? I’ve got it… How about a cover letter without a resume? Save time… arouse curiosity?

Do you use a cover letter? Think it helps? What’s the magic — or is there none? Help this reader decide what to do next.

[Update May 18, 2010: Okay — humor me. No cover letters. They’re illegal now… What’s a good alternative to get your message to the hiring manager that you can do the job profitably? No rationalizing… alternatives only, please! Let’s do something new under the sun…]

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Readers’ Forum: Grand theft HR

Discussion: May 4, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks a tough one:

I worked in HR for four years. Now I am a convicted felon who is trying hard to get back into the workforce. The charge was grand theft. I have paid my debt to society and now I find that companies do not want to give me a chance. I am qualified for administrative work and I am more than willing to start at the bottom. Do you have any tips or advice on what a person with a criminal record can do to at least get my foot in the door? (I was convicted in 2008, so I do understand that my charge is still new. But I refuse to believe that because of one bad choice, I am doomed to unemployment forever.) Thanks.

The economy isn’t bad enough. Try laying a conviction on top of it!

All suggestions for this reader are welcome, but I’d like to especially encourage managers to think about this one… What could this reader do to convince you to take a chance?

If you’re not a manager and you were facing this situation (come on, you may be a saint, but pretend…) what would you do to show a manager it’s worth giving you an honest shot at a new start?

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TheLadders: A fan explains why you should pay up

A fan of TheLadders posted a comment on TheLadders: Job-board salary fraud? explaining why you should be glad to fork over $30 per month to use the service. It’s worth discussing this suggestion by itself, so I’m posting my comment to paddy s here:

By paddy s
April 30, 2010 at 8:07 pm

a lot of you are missing the point about paying.recruiters do not want to be inundated with hundreds of unqualified resumes which is the case when the service is free.your legit resume with legit quaifications is likely to be lost in all that mess. a recruiter is more likely to read a resume from someone that is serious about finding a job and has undertaken a financial commitment to that effect.also-if you are a 100k plus individual searching for a similar paying job – $30/month is cheap insurance to separate you from the lesser qualified and lower paid ranks. it is obvious,so why all the bellyaching?

The bellyaching is due to the fact that Ladders customers are paying their money but not getting “$100k plus” job listings from TheLadders.

I started headhunting in 1979. I don’t recall ever placing a candidate who paid a dime to get on my radar, so your suggestion that a person must make “a financial commitment” is hogwash.

More to your point, TheLadders claims to have tons of paying job hunters in its database. Why is a headhunter “more likely to read a resume” from the teeming hordes in that massive database?

In order for TheLadders to position job hunters “higher up” with headhunters, Ladders would have to somehow vet or confirm those job hunters. TheLadders does not do that. It does not eliminate “unqualified resumes,” nor does it ensure that its paying customers have a “legit resume with legit qualifications.” (That would be a pretty good trick.)

TheLadders cannot even deliver on its promise that it accepts “Only $100k+ talent” into its database. Headhunters have learned that the hard way, just as employers have.

Even if TheLadders could guarantee the salary levels of the people in its database,  why would I give them preferential treatment? My concern — and my client’s concern — is that the person can do the job profitably (not that they paid for my attention). What a person claims to be earning now is not a critical factor in candidate selection.

TheLadders does not ensure that a candidate is worth a headhunter’s attention, nor does it try. It can’t even ensure their salary level, any more than it can ensure the salary level of the positions it posts.

(If you want to learn how to work with headhunters, then spend a few bucks to educate yourself. Unlike questionable “positioning” in some database, the education will be yours forever.)

Do you get the point most folks here are making? TheLadders delivers no value. TheLadders has developed a reputation for dishonest advertising and dishonest business practices (read the comments from readers who continue to get billed by TheLadders when they don’t want the service, and from employers who did not consent to have their jobs posted on TheLadders).

Perhaps worst of all is the barrage of carny-barker-style e-mails TheLadders’ chief, Marc Cenedella, dumps on anyone who makes the mistake of giving him their e-mail address.

“recruiters do not want to be inundated with hundreds of unqualified resumes”

Yep. That’s what’s obvious. And that’s why good headhunters and good recruiters go out and find the people they want. They don’t sit in front of a computer screen waiting for TheLadders to ferry paying customers onto their desktops.

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Job hopping: Career crack for losers

Over at Business Insider, Mark Suster laid down a rant: Never Hire Job Hoppers. Never. They Make Terrible Employees. A buddy of mine sent it along and said she thinks it’s entirely one-sided from the employer’s perspective.

I don’t endorse everything Suster says in his posting (he says a lot), but I think he’s generally right.

Any job hopper who’s fool enough to be one of 1,000 resumes on some manager’s desk deserves to be dumped into the trash can. Gimme a break — your work history shows you bounce around like a ping pong ball and you expect a manager to overlook it until she gets to meet you in person to see what a wonderful, unique individual you are and that your job hopping was due to extenuating circumstances that you can explain, given the opportunity?

Just stick a fork in your butt — trust me, you’re done. You not only job hopped, you’re advertising it to the world by applying for jobs with a resume. Do you really expect a manager is gonna “understand” when she doesn’t even know you? You are revealing that, on top of being a job hopper, your judgment sucks.

(If you try to hide your job hopping on your resume, you’re gonna get busted. Those clever techniques for obscuring when and where you worked — they make you look like you’re hiding something. Which you are. So cut it out.)

Does this mean your career is over? Of course not. I write this blog to help people deal with in-your-face problems, and this is one of them. But that fork sticking out of your butt — it’s real, and it hurts, and pulling it out is gonna hurt even more. There is no easy fix.

I’ve never known a job hopper who was not in pain. And I’ve never known a successful professional who wished he had five jobs in a six-year career. The fix is not to sell a little career crack to job hoppers and tell them that we envy their exciting lives. The fix is to help them become more stable and to build a healthy reputation.

Two suggestions:

  • First, toss out your resume. Trash it yourself, before an employer trashes it for you. And I don’t mean you should get a better resume. I mean, Stop using a flyer that says KICK ME on it. Period. No resume. Search for a job strictly through personal referrals and face-to-face contacts which enable you to make your case before your butt is kicked into the can.
  • Second, find a place to work where you can stay put. Penelope Trunk — who tells you loyalty doesn’t matter and job hopping is good — is sticking a needle in your vein, pumping you full of happy juice, and leaving your career to die while she drives off to the bank to deposit the GoogleAds checks she collects for advertising career crack to confused GenY’s. Stay off the juice. Stay put. Establish a reputation. Then trade on it.

You don’t have time to do all that hard work to be successful? That’s your problem, not an employer’s.

Now, here’s the coda: You don’t have to be loyal, and the reason might be that employers haven’t been loyal to you. You might have doubled your salary in each of the six hops you made in ten years. You might be the guru of whatever it is you do, free to wander anywhere you like. Good for you. Congratulations.

But when you can’t find your next job because you’re viewed as a job hopper, hop along. Remember that your career record is your own choice.

When Lazy Careerist Penelope Trunk offers you the needle, just say no. Kudos to Mark Suster for delivering tough love to job hoppers who want to get straight, and to savvy professionals who want to stay clean.

(If the distinction between job hoppers and consultants, and between temporary and full-time employees suddenly makes you nervous, check out Journeyman Or Partner?)

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