Readers’ Forum: Better to be unemployed when job hunting?

Discussion: February 9, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s Q&A column a reader wonders whether it’s better to be unemployed and job hunting full time, or to explain why he’s underemployed and jumping ship so quickly for the job he really wants. Do managers care? Does it make a difference?

I outline three different risks in my reply. But what do you think?

(You missed the newsletter because you don’t subscribe? It’s easy to fix that for free.)


The Preemptive Reference

Sometimes an idea gets a point on it when there’s a story to tell…

Chris Walker is an “ATH Regular” from Ohio. He is a Training and Placement Specialist at the Senior Employment Center in Akron. That means Chris helps seniors find jobs. He just sent me this note, which made my day:


One of my recent grads had a very positive and lengthy telephone interview. She scheduled a face-to-face interview and then called all her references to give them a heads-up as to the company and position.

One of her references recognized the company and asked, “Did you interview with Mary Smith?”

When my student said yes, he said, “Hang up the phone. I’m calling her right now. I’ve worked with her for years.”

That was on January 7; she started the new job February 1. This was my first encounter with The Preemptive Reference. Powerful, my friend, powerful.

Thanks, Chris! You just made my day… Click here to find out what Chris is talking about: The Preemptive Reference.


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?


TheLadders: Job-board salary fraud?

Honest, I don’t wake up every morning wondering, How can I slam TheLadders today? But TheLadders just seems to keep tripping over its own questionable practices.

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

I received a query from a reporter who’s working on a story about the perils of job hunting:

I am looking for job seekers, recruiters or hiring managers who can talk about job scams. If you have been a victim of a job scam or hired at one salary or job description, only to find out once taking the job that the company has structured compensation differently than promised, I would like to hear your story.

Job scams! Right up my alley. I’m always interested in stories about companies that advertise a job at a nice, high salary to get good applicants — then disclose a much lower salary for the job. Some people call that fraud, especially when the perpetrator does it again and again.

Hmmm, I wondered, What publication is this story for?

Turns out the story is commissioned by TheLadders.

Yah, TheLadders is doing an “article” about people who respond to job postings that turn out to pay less than promised. I suppose they want to warn Ladders members about consumer fraud.

Why doesn’t TheLadders just interview its own customers, who complain TheLadders itself is making scam salary promises? TheLadders home page, front and center, says:

“Only $100k+ jobs.” Not “…except a few” or “…except the ones our customers bust us for.”

People pay fees to access “Only $100k+ jobs.” Then they go on an interview for one of those Ladders-listed jobs, only to find the job pays nowhere near $100k.

The reporter who contacted me could explore job-ad salary fraud by interviewing someone who paid TheLadders $180 for “Only $100k+ jobs.” Customer Robin Lynn applied for a job she found on TheLadders with “Compensation: $100k.” The recruiter who posted the job responded:

This position is paying @75K-80K. Please let me know if you are still interested.

Robin complained to TheLadders that, “There are jobs under $100K on your site”. Customer service representative Joseph Giarratano responded:

We have very specific criteria we evaluate all our positions on to ensure they pay more than $100K. However, with the state of the current economy, albeit rare, sometimes a position will meet that criteria and still pay slightly less than $100K. I sincerely apologize that you came across one of those positions. I have removed it from our site to avoid further confusion… Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.

A salary range 20-25% less than promised by TheLadders is “slightly less?” We’re talking $20k-$25k less!

But forget about the numbers for a minute and focus on the system TheLadders claims ensures compliance with its salary requirements. I don’t get it. If TheLadders uses “very specific criteria” to evaluate positions “to ensure they pay more than $100k,” how is it that “a position will meet that criteria and still pay slightly less than $100k?” In logic, that’s called a tautology. In business, it’s doubletalk.

After paying her money and wasting her time, Robin Lynn was more careful with other Ladders listings, researching them more carefully than TheLadders did itself before she submitted other applications:

I’ve come across a few others in the intervening months and only knew they were sub-$100k because they had been cross-posted on HotJobs, Monster or another jobs board.

But what prompted this Ladders customer to search for other complaints about TheLadders and to write to me? She was annoyed by a January 18, 2010 e-mail she received from Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella. It was one of his frequent rah-rah advertorials, titled “Why is the job hunt so tedious?” in which he wrote:

…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.

(I’m really mystified by those two human beings. Ladders claims to have the most $100k+ jobs online. How do two human beings do all that checking?)

Annoyed because her experience contradicted Cenedella’s claims, Robin sent another complaint to TheLadders, only to receive another boilerplate response, this time from “Madelyn:”

Apologies for any inconvenience here, and I assure you that we make every effort to ensure that all jobs on our site qualify… Our team screens thousands of job postings each week. On the rare occasion that a job paying under $100k is posted on our site, we rely on feedback from members, like you, to let us know.

(“Our team screens thousands of job postings?” Is that the “two human beings” Cenedella is talking about?)

Robin Lynn paid $180 to TheLadders for a service. So perhaps her conclusion is not merely sarcastic: “Maybe they should be paying us to do their job instead of us paying them for the same listings that are on HotJobs and Monster?”

The reporter who contacted me about job scams could also interview Alishia, who shared the log of her customer service call with TheLadders:

Alishia: Hi Andy
Alishia: I have a problem
Andy: Sorry to hear that Alisha, how can I help?
Alishia: I found this job on your website: [redacted] Alishia: and after spending time researching the company, writing a letter and resume
Alishia: when I got a call from the hiring manager
Alishia: he tells me this position pays $50K

Perhaps the reporter should “go inside” and talk with “Andy,” a Ladders representative who admitted to Alishia that TheLadders does not have “only $100k+ jobs” and that, in fact, TheLadders has no idea what many of its jobs pay:

Andy: First of all, we make no claims that all of our jobs are submitted directly to us. Many of the positions on our site are linked directly to from external job boards. Since we don’t have a direct way of knowing the pay range of each of these positions, we make an estimate based on a rigid set of criteria.

According to this customer support transcript, TheLadders knowingly publishes jobs whose salaries TheLadders does not know, yet claims the jobs are “always $100k+.”

But lets get back to “the rare occasions” when Ladders customers don’t get what they pay for. The reporter should interview Phil, who says those occasions aren’t so rare:

I was bombarded with 60K jobs that were posing as 100K positions, and the endless flow of juvenile chatter from their “experts” became a real annoyance.

Or she could interview Tracy, who reports investing time going on three interviews after finding a “$100k+ job” on TheLadders:

I subscribed to the highest level of service offered at the time and applied to many positions but was only contacted by one company. After the third interview with this company I discovered that the salary was $48,000 per year with a potential $12,000 bonus.

If Tracy is paying top dollar for “Only $100k+ jobs,” why is TheLadders wasting her valuable time on jobs that potentially pay no more than even $60,000?

Then there’s Jerry Howard, who didn’t trust a Ladders job posting. Here’s the kind of enterprising guy I really admire: He went to the employer’s offices to doublecheck the salary before applying.

I sent this to

I checked into one of the positions you posted in Powell, Ohio with Star Dynamics. The job you posted doesn’t exist and certainly doesn’t pay $100k+ if it did. After personally visiting the locations in Powell, Ohio, a bedroom community that has only two RF communications companies (Star Dynamics and Aeroflex), it was found that the job postings do not exist. When I mentioned the $100k salary number, everyone laughed. None of the engineers working for these locations have salaries that come even close to that number.

Jerry Howard’s experience suggests Robin Lynn is on the right track: TheLadders ought to hire Jerry as its third hand screener. Problem solved, customer hired! (Do you think the other two hand screeners go out into the field like Jerry did, to conduct thorough salary checks?)

TheLadders’ misleading job postings don’t just affect its job hunting customers — they cost employers time and money, too. Corp Recruiter says her company didn’t even list its sub-$100k jobs on TheLadders:

We were never a customer of The Ladders and yet they kept posting our jobs on their site… We then had people contacting us directly asking about jobs they saw on the ladders [sic], jobs which had been closed months earlier. These same jobs never paid close to 100k.

“Only $100k+ jobs?” Not only are they not $100k+; apparently they’re not even real. I guess the money this employer saved by not posting jobs on TheLadders got spent anyway — dealing with unexpected and inappropriate applicants sent by TheLadders.

Ladders customer Chris feels he got scammed twice — once because he paid for jobs that turned out to be less than $100k+, and again when Ladders continued billing him and refused to issue a refund:

The Ladders posted a job in February for an IT Management job at Finish Line in Indianapolis. I applied, and got a phone interview. The interviewer asked me what salary range I was looking for. When I told him 100 to 110 he appologies [sic]. He told me the position was only paying $76k at max. I paid for my “TheLadders” membership. Now they automatically renewed my membership for the next 3 months for $75 and make it a point that they DO NOT PROVIDE REFUNDS. We’ll see about this. How do you spell SCAM?

Another Ladders customer, Greg, not only thinks he was scammed, he says he has evidence. Like Alishia, he saved his customer service chat log with Ladders’ representative “Andrew” and posted it on this blog(Think Andrew is the Andy who helped Alishia?)

Greg McGiffney: I interviewed for this position (great) – but I was told the comp is $7K per month – not exactly the reason why I joined the service as I am looking for over $100K (obviously). [11:19:09 AM] Andrew: Thank you for letting me know. [11:19:23 AM] Greg McGiffney: How did it get on there in the first place? [11:20:01 AM] Greg McGiffney: The other thing is that now I am kind of stuck – in that I have to follow through based on bad info. [11:20:50 AM] Andrew: You can always refuse the position, citing that salary. [11:21:32 AM] Greg McGiffney: Sure, but I kind of relied upon you to do your homework in the first place (that is what I pay you for). [11:22:11 AM] Andrew: I’m sincerely sorry that one of our jobs was not $100K.
Greg McGiffney: OK – so you are basically guessing about the comp for each of your listings? No verification? [11:24:25 AM] Andrew: Over half of our jobs are submitted directly to us with compensation listed. For the other half, we have strict guidelines to aid us in determining whether a job is $100K or not. Each positions is reviewed by 2 rounds of approvers before it is put onto the site. [11:26:54 AM] Andrew: However, with over 9,000 job postings each week, it happens that we miss one, albeit rarely. [11:27:16 AM] Greg McGiffney: What do the approvers do exactly? Seems like they should be able to verify something if there is a monetary transaction involved. [11:28:13 AM] Andrew: We cannot force companies to give us their compensation. [11:28:59 AM]

Andrew says they “miss one, albeit rarely.” (Hmm. There’s that expression again: albeit rare. Ladders rep Joseph Giarratano used it, too. These guys must attend the same vocabulary classes, with Andy and Andrew.) But maybe those “two human beings” doing the hand screening can’t keep up. Is it possible there are just two screeners “for the other half” of jobs — the ones for which TheLadders does not have compensation figures?

I’m not a lawyer, but now my antennae go up. I add up Cenedella’s “two human beings” hand screening jobs with the admission that “We cannot force companies to give us their compensation… for the other half [of jobs],” and what I come up with is that maybe TheLadders is aware that an awful lot of jobs in its database are probably not $100k+.

Suddenly customer Robin Lynn’s suggestion makes a lot of sense. It seems there’s no way TheLadders can eliminate all the sub-$100k jobs from its database — without its customers calling employers and going on interviews to find out which of those jobs pay less than $100k. Robin is paying TheLadders for the privilege of vetting TheLadders’ database, when perhaps TheLadders should be paying her for… “feedback from members, like you, to let us know.”

(Of course, there’s the possibility — Am I being cynical? — that TheLadders isn’t about to forego the revenue that comes from listing “the other half” of jobs whose salaries are unknown.)

As a headhunter, I understand exactly what Andrew (the customer service representative) means. I can’t force my client companies to make $100k offers when a job is only worth $75k. But I don’t mislead my candidates and tell them they’re interviewing for $100k jobs. (Of course, I don’t charge them for access to those jobs, either.)

Are companies intentionally posting jobs that don’t really pay $100k? Who knows? Certainly not TheLadders, which admits it does not know the compensation. Since TheLadders admits it is aware that it doesn’t know the real salaries… yet represents that it publishes “Only $100k+ jobs”… does that meet the legal definition of fraud?

fraud, noun, any act, expression, omission, or concealment calculated to deceive another to his or her disadvantage; specifically : a misrepresentation or concealment with reference to some fact material to a transaction that is made with knowledge of its falsity or in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity and with the intent to deceive another and that is reasonably relied on by the other who is injured thereby.

I can’t wait to see the “article” about job and salary scams once it’s published by TheLadders. Investigative reporting always needs a powerful punchline to rouse the public to action about job scams. Maybe the reporter should close with this quote from TheLadders’ customer Terry:

…can’t all of us get together and file a class action suit against them since we all paid money for something we are obviously not getting? If we file a class action suit we should at least get back the money we spent on a site that is misrepresenting itself. This is an obvioius attempt to take advantage of people who have lost their jobs and are in need of getting new ones.

It’s simple, folks. This doesn’t require complex legal analysis. There is no difficult or ambiguous interpretation to consider. TheLadders’ home page says, “Only $100k+ jobs.” Only.

Dear Marc Cenedella (CEO of TheLadders),

Are you listening, Bub?

Nobody makes you say Only $100k+ jobs. You choose to say only. doesn’t say only. I’m no fan of CareerBuilder, but it doesn’t say only. What company CEO is stupid or arrogant enough to publish a bald misrepresentation in big print on his company’s home page?

Your jobs are not always $100k+. Your customers tell the story and claim that your customer service representatives admit it on the record.

Your competitors aren’t stupid; they know that no database of thousands of job listings can be always $100k+. So they don’t claim that. Only you do.

Your two hand-screening human beings must have missed recruiter Darren. A customer who paid you for only $100k+ jobs says Darren told her, “This position is paying @75K-80K.”

You have put a burden on yourself; no one put it on you. Only $100k+ jobs means there are no jobs under $100k on the job-listing service you charge people money to use. That’s what you’re selling.

“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

It sure seems to me that TheLadders knows its claims cannot be true. Andy’s statement begs the question, Are you knowingly perpetrating fraud on consumers who pay you in good faith to get only $100k+ job listings?

Your company is taking money from people who spend it in good faith to buy what you promise to deliver. If you can’t “always” deliver “Only $100k+ jobs,” then remove what appears to be a fraudulent claim on your home page, refund the fees you collected for jobs that were not $100k+ and clean up your act.

   Nick Corcodilos               

If I were writing an article for TheLadders about job scams; if I were a freelance writer with any integrity; I’d kiss the fee goodbye, close the article like this, and then publish it on my blog instead of selling it to TheLadders:

Is there a U.S. Attorney out there reading this, who knows the difference between marketing and consumer fraud?


How to apply for a job: The Working Resume

When I first started publishing Ask The Headhunter online in 1995, the most popular and frustrating question I’d get from readers was, How can I write a really great resume that will get me an interview?

My answer was simple: Throw your resume in the garbage. Don’t use a resume. A resume is a crutch. A dumb piece of paper. It cannot defend you to a manager who finds something wrong with it (or missing from it). It will get you rejected before you have a chance to make your case for the job. While your resume is gathering dust on some manager’s desk, my candidate is negotiating a salary package with the hiring manager.

But people kept asking, so I figured that if I can’t provide a useful response to the question, I’m useless. So I wrote an article titled Resume Blasphemy to answer the question. Shortly thereafter I added another on the same topic: Put a Free Sample in Your Resume. The two articles describe what I refer to as The Working Resume™.

Since then, I’ve challenged people to submit their idea of a Working Resume — cautioning them not to bother me with traditional resumes, which I won’t bother reading. A few have submitted interesting efforts because they get the main idea. But only a few. Others beg me to publish the good ones, but I won’t. Why should I give away one person’s insights to competitors? Besides, if I give you a template, you’ll just use it rather than figure it out for yourself. And figuring it out is 100% of the challenge.

Recently a longtime reader, Phil Hey (The Writing Coach at Briar Cliff College, Sioux City, Iowa — Thanks, Phil!) sent me an excellent example of The Working Resume that’s in the public domain. It meets the criteria I set forth in my articles — and it got the writer the job he was seeking.

Frankly, this resume kicks ass because it observes the #1 rule for a truly blasphemous resume: It should say nothing about you. It should be entirely about the work the employer needs to have done.

The killer part of the resume is at the very end. The job applicant volunteers to show up at the employer’s place — and do the job to win the job. He says he’ll prove himself.

You don’t have to be Leonardo DaVinci to produce your own Working Resume. But you’ve gotta be damned good and ready to prove it. If you’re not, you don’t deserve to be hired, do you?

Here’s Leonardo DaVinci’s letter to Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, applying for a job in 1481 :

Having, most illustrious lord, seen and considered the experiments of all those who pose as masters in the art of inventing instruments of war, and finding that their inventions differ in no way from those in common use, I am emboldened, without prejudice to anyone, to solicit an appointment of acquainting your Excellency with certain of my secrets.

1. I can construct bridges which are very light and strong and very portable, with which to pursue and defeat the enemy; and others more solid, which resist fire or assault, yet are easily removed and placed in position; and I can also burn and destroy those of the enemy.

2. In case of a siege I can cut off water from the trenches and make pontoons and scaling ladders and other similar contrivances.

3. If by reason of the elevation or the strength of its position a place cannot be bombarded, I can demolish every fortress if its foundations have not been set on stone.

4. I can also make a kind of cannon which is light and easy of transport, with which to hurl small stones like hail, and of which the smoke causes great terror to the enemy, so that they suffer heavy loss and confusion.

5. I can noiselessly construct to any prescribed point subterranean passages either straight or winding, passing if necessary underneath trenches or a river.

6. I can make armoured wagons carrying artillery, which shall break through the most serried ranks of the enemy, and so open a safe passage for his infantry.

7. If occasion should arise, I can construct cannon and mortars and light ordnance in shape both ornamental and useful and different from those in common use.

8. When it is impossible to use cannon I can supply in their stead catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other instruments of admirable efficiency not in general use — In short, as the occasion requires I can supply infinite means of attack and defense.

9. And if the fight should take place upon the sea I can construct many engines most suitable either for attack or defense and ships which can resist the fire of the heaviest cannon, and powders or weapons.

10. In time of peace, I believe that I can give you as complete satisfaction as anyone else in the construction of buildings both public and private, and in conducting water from one place to another.

I can further execute sculpture in marble, bronze or clay, also in painting I can do as much as anyone else, whoever he may be.

Moreover, I would undertake the commission of the bronze horse, which shall endue with immortal glory and eternal honour the auspicious memory of your father and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

And if any of the aforesaid things should seem to anyone impossible or impracticable, I offer myself as ready to make trial of them in your park or in whatever place shall please your Excellency, to whom I commend myself with all possible humility.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Now, who gives a rat’s ass what the job applicant’s credentials and experiece are, where he went to school, what grades he got, what skills he has, who else he has worked for, what titles he has had, and what his prior accomplishments are — when the applicant says he can do all the things you need him to do and is willing to show up and prove it? That’s a Working Resume.

(Republished from Yurica Report. If you need The Writing Coach, Phil Hey, contact him at

Readers’ Forum: Screwed by a headhunter

Discussion: January 19, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s Q&A a reader lost a precious job offer because she let a “headhunter” get involved:

My daughter recently got a job offer from a Fortune 100 company. When her headhunter sent them a bill, the company withdrew the offer. They said their policy excludes headhunters. Something doesn’t sound right. Please advise me.

My answer and advice are in the newsletter. What I’m interested in is your experiences. The career world is flooded with questionable practitioners who claim they’re going to help you find a job. What scams have you encountered? How do you check out headhunters before you let them “present you” to an employer? Has a headhunter’s bad behavior ever cost you a job? Tell us — and help others avoid catastrophe.


Puppy-dog headhunters

Is the job market picking up? If headhunter activity is any measure (and I’m not sure it is), then maybe hiring activity is on the upswing…

A reader asks:

A recruiter I know (but have never met in person) called me about a position. I told him I was interested based on the description, reporting chain, location and salary range. After our conversation, he talked to his client about me. Before asking for my resume, the client asked him what my previous salary had been, which was about $30K more than this position’s upper limit.

Without asking me and without having received my permission previously, the recruiter divulged my salary, and the client would not proceed further based on the fact that I was “too expensive.”

Again, I knew the range of the position and had told the recruiter specifically that I was fine with that salary range. As far as I am concerned, the recruiter had no right whatsoever to divulge my salary, which I consider confidential.  I believe this was a breach of ethics.  What do you say?

This is very common. Once a headhunter gets your “permission” (translation: interest) regarding a position, he’s likely to discuss you in detail with his client, and any info you provided is fair game.

Remember that the headhunter’s fiduciary duty is to his client, not to you. That said, headhunters are dopes when they do what this one did. He could easily have told his client that he needed to confirm your salary history and call back with the information — and in the meantime discussed the position with you as well as how to handle your salary history with your permission. But this headhunter seems to be the client’s puppy — eager to please, loathe to take time to be a good advisor to his client. Puppy-dog headhunters are such pushovers that they do a disservice to their clients. You might have been an outstanding hire, but the client will never get a chance to find out. And that costs the headhunter, too.

He should have asked your permission before divulging your salary. But like most HR people, headhunters consider salary info no big deal. Worse, they quickly use it to decide whether a candidate is “a fit.”

And that’s stupid.

Next time, be explicit about what info you want kept confidential when you talk to a headhunter. So, yah, I think it’s an ethical breach, but it’s “industry standard” with too many headhunters.

If you want to know more about the in’s and out’s of dealing with headhunters, check out How to Work with Headhunters.


Readers’ Forum: Where are the weirdoes?

Discussion: December 15, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks:

I am a mission-driven person (and a turn-around expert) who shares a fair number of beliefs from the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works style of business and project management. Even today, this is still an “out of the box” style of management and is not exactly listed in job postings as a qualification. Companies don’t seem to express it to recruiters or discuss it on their websites. I rarely find this style among people or businesses. But when I team up with them it is true business magic. How do I find these kinds of companies and people?

Whew! Why do out-of-the-box thinkers keep showing up here? Hmmm… We’re all weird on Ask The Headhunter and no one knows what to do with us. One thing left to do: Take over.

How can this reader find other innovators who crave autonomy and avoid bureaucracy… And hopefully a company that tolerates (and hires) them?

Help us break the bureaucracy. Please give us some insight!


Job Boards? BNET sez fuggetaboutit.

BNET’s Sales Machine (Geoffrey James) asks the question one more time with vigor: What’s the best way to job hunt?

I asked Nick Corcodilos, author of the professional’s job hunting classic “Ask The Headhunter” what he thought of job boards like, Careerbuilder,com, and  His observation: “Job boards are a rip-off.  Companies only hire about 3 percent of their employees on these sites. is probably the worst.  The claim that they’re finding jobs at the $100k-plus level is nonsense. They can’t and don’t deliver the goods.”

A whopping thank you to Geoffrey for spiking this topic back to the top of the stack.


The helpful (?) spouse

Is job hunting a solitary project?

I am currently job searching. My wife, who is in another field, constantly asks me how she can help me with my job search, and I don’t know what to tell her. I consider a job search to be a solitary activity, or an activity where the only help I get is from people in my same field. What should I tell my wife when she asks how she can help me?

You should handle all person-to-person contact during your job search, including e-mail. If a spouse (or anyone else) does it for you, there will be inevitable lapses when you are exposed as using a proxy. Employers don’t appreciate encountering the job hunter’s secretary or assistant.

If you need to do research, your spouse could help you with that. However, the risk is that while she’s exploring an info source, she may miss info that you might recognize (serendipitously) as useful. That’s up to you.

No matter how close your spouse is to you, I think you’ll find that job hunting and career change are indeed solitary activities. This is a time when we learn about ourselves and often find that we’re not who we thought we were. Another person can’t help you have this experience, except in passing. One of my favorite quotes is from Vladimir Nabokov, whose words might inspire epistemological terror in even the most self-confident person: “You are not I, and therein lies the irreparable calamity.”

No one — not even a spouse — can substitute their experience for your own.

One great way for a spouse to help is to listen and be a sounding board, without actually getting involved.

The worst thing that can happen is Acute Spousal Interference.

Let’s hear some other ways a spouse might be helpful (or cause problems) in a job search!