How to Say It: Break the ice with a new contact

Personal contacts account for between 40% and 70% of new hires. But how do you make a personal contact?

That’s the subject of the September 15, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter. Here’s a reader’s dilemma… and opportunity:

I just attended a professional seminar and I met people from several companies—two are places where I’d really like to work. Your suggestion to “hang out with people I’d like to work with” really works! Now I need to call these people up. I don’t want to sound like I’m begging for job leads because I’m not ready to make a move right now. I want to learn more about their companies and get myself in the door. How do I make friends with them? What should I say?

My advice is in the newsletter. What’s your advice to this reader?

(Missed the newsletter? Sorry, it’s not archived online, but it’s free via e-mail. You’ve gotta subscribe… do it now and you won’t miss next week’s topic and advice.)


Readers’ Forum: Give me a lower-level job

Sometimes it’s worth Taking a Salary Cut to Change Careers. At least, this reader thinks it is… and wants to know how to do it.

How do I let a potential employer know that I will take a lower-level job than my experience would otherwise indicate in order to learn a new subject area in my profession? (In my case, a new area of law). I don’t want to sound desperate, but I would be perfectly willing to come in at the level of a 1-to-3-year associate position and pay my dues, despite my 10 years of experience, to move from a dying area of law to a more vital, long-term one. Please help!

Is a law firm gonna hire a seasoned lawyer to the junior ranks? Is this a no-brainer? How should this reader approach her next employer?


How to Say It: Pest, or manager’s dream?

In the September 8, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter we’re discussing follow-up phone calls to managers. You know — that call you’re supposed to make after you submit a resume and application form.

In the newsletter, a reader worries that such calls can turn the job hunter into a pest. What manager wants to be bothered with that?

I explain that you should make the call, but make it without sending a resume and without filling out any applications. Make the call first. Then I challenge you to figure out what you’re going to say on that call. (Want to know more? You would, if you subscribed to the newsletter. Sign up now (it’s free), and you’ll be ahead of the game next week.)

To plan what you should say to a manager, put yourself in the manager’s shoes. If you were a manager, what would you want to hear from a caller who wants to work for you? As the job hunter, What does it mean to talk shop to that manager? Think. Are you gonna be a pest, or the manager’s dream?

Upon introducing yourself (on the phone) to a manager who knows nothing about you and who has never seen your resume, what could you say to make the manager want to hire you?


Readers’ Forum: You’re fired! Now come back for 20% lower salary!

The Ask The Headhunter Newsletter Readers’ Forum gets some doozies…

I was laid off 4 weeks ago in a reduction in force. Last week my former boss called to ask if I would come back — with a 20% cut in salary. I am really torn since I liked my job and the people I worked with. The job market is challenging so my prospects are not beautiful at this stage. But the layoff was hard and I don’t know that I can trust the firm or senior management not to lay me off again. What would you do?

Is this a second chance, or a dumb move for this reader? I can’t wait to see your advice.


Mentors for Soldiers

On July 29-30 the US Army is welcoming almost 1,000 troops returning from Iraq at Fort Dix in New Jersey. They need mentors to help them back into jobs.

These soldiers will start their re-entry into the work force at a special two-day Career Fair. I’m happy to be giving the keynote presentation to help put them on the right track. Many other volunteers will be providing coaching and advice at that event, too.

The logo of Fort Dix features a soldier and the phrase The Ultimate Weapon. The Army gets it — It’s all about the people, not the hardware.

Once they leave the Army, these troops will be The Ultimate Workers.

It won’t be easy to do Q&A with 1,000 soldiers during a 40 minute presentation on July 28. So I’m inviting the troops to post their questions, comments, (rants!) on this blog thread. I invite Ask The Headhunter readers to join me in mentoring soldiers — putting our heads together to offer advice, guidance and any help we can.

Soldiers in transition: Please post your questions below in the Comments section. We’ll do our best to help and mentor.

Welcome home!


Q&A: No connections, no opportunities

As someone who’s rather “out of the loop,” living out in the country, I don’t have social or business connections with the folks at the in-city companies for which I should be working. Is there any best method for finding and approaching the decision-makers who have the problems that I certainly can solve?

Until now I’ve depended on the whims of personnel jockeys, but now that doesn’t work, the listed jobs being so few. Personally, I have no lack of work, but it’s all farm work on my farm, and leads to gaposis of the
resume. I’m sure that in spite of the absence of job listings, the problems are still out there, hidden from me. How do I best find them and the folks who need them solved?

Nick’s Reply
Gaposis… That’s a good one!

But there’s no excuse for gaposis in relationships… You can meet those people online. Through LinkedIn, through business/professional web sites that have discussion forums, and by e-mailing them after you’ve read an article in which they are mentioned.

Make a contact or two that way, and it’s worth leaving the farm for a visit to the big city ;-).

I have a similar problem. My office is out in the boonies. And I love it here. But I make time to go to the city (and to big towns!) and to hang out among the people who do the work I do (and want to do). Face time is more precious than online time… You just have to do it.

Did you go to college? Does your alumni association have a branch in a nearby city? Join, go, mingle. Don’t worry about meeting people at the companies where you want to work. A few “links” and soon you’ll be finding them.


LIVE Ask The Headhunter WNYC Radio – July 16

Please join me again this week for LIVE Ask The Headhunter on WNYC public radio on Thursday July 16, 10:40am ET, on the Brian Lehrer Show. WNYC is at 93.9 FM, 820 AM — and “streaming live” on the web at This is part of a weekly Ask The Headhunter Series during July…

*****UPDATE: Scroll down to listen to the recorded segment…

This week’s topic: The job boards.

  • What are they good for?
  • Do they work?
  • What are the success rates?
  • How can you make the most of them?
  • How do you avoid scams?
  • How do headhunters fit into the boards?

Bring your questions and please call in! You know how much I love talking about job boards… ;-) If you want to do your homework, here are some relevant Ask The Headhunter resources:

Job-Board Journalism: Selling out the American job hunter (from 2003 – but still valid as the day is long…)

CareerBuilder: Is it for Dopes?

The Dope on TheLadders (over 100 postings from readers about their, uh, experiences)

Uh-oh. A good job board?

Like they say in those ads… You decide! Please join me on WNYC Public Radio with Brian Lehrer.

***** UPDATE

Enjoy the audio! 20 minutes, no commercials. Post your questions… I’ll answer ’em… Post your comments and we’ll all learn something new…



LIVE Ask The Headhunter WNYC Radio – July 9

Join me for LIVE Ask The Headhunter on WNYC public radio on Thursday July 9, 10:40am ET, on the Brian Lehrer Show. WNYC is at 93.9 FM, 820 AM. And on the web at

Topic: Consulting gigs. How to get them, keep them and deal with the crunch in today’s economy.

And I’ll (surprise?) Brian by explaining how the consultant’s approach to sales should be the job hunter’s approach to job interviews.

***** Update

Enjoy the audio! 20 minutes, no commercials.

I’ll be doing a special Ask The Headhunter Q&A segment with Brian Lehrer on WNYC New York Public Radio each week during July. Next week: Job boards.


How to work with headhunters… and save ten bucks

In my last post I asked whether you’ve ever squeezed more out of a headhunter… Did you ever successfully negotiate a higher job offer via a headhunter?

How to Work with Headhunters

Now I’m going to do something I’ve never done before on this blog, on my web site, or in the Ask The Headhunter newsletter… I’m going to plug a new Ask The Headhunter product… and save you ten bucks because you read about it here first. I’ll give you a discount code in a minute… worth $10 off.

Everything on all the Ask The Headhunter “channels” has always been free (for over 12 years) — articles, blog posts, tweets, tips, newsletters. (Ah, no sweat — you’re welcome. Thank you for helping me keep it interesting!) I hope it’s kept you ahead of your competition. But it’s also kept me limited to short pieces.

So I decided to break the word-count meter and actually pack all I could into one big topic: How to Work with Headhunters… and how to make headhunters work for you.

I’ve been working on this on and off for the past year. 130 pages might officially make it a book, but I call it a guide because it’s crammed with (subtitle please…) 62 myth-busting answers for fearless job hunters. (That’s you. Thanks for submitting all those in-your-face questions all these years and sometimes keeping me up at night.)

I filled it with almost everything I know about how you can work with, deal with and profit from headhunters. (I say almost because I’m sure that if you read it, you’ll come back here with questions that will make me realize there’s always something more I can teach you… So we’ll be covering more.) I also expose all those unsavory characters who call themselves headhunters but waste your time and make you feel worse than the HR machine does when it chews you up and spits you out… When you’re done reading, you’ll never waste a minute with them again.

What about how to squeeze a headhunter for a higher job offer? It’s in there. No one else has ever told you how to do it quite like this before… How to really qualify a headhunter? It’s in there. What kind of resume is best at making you the headhunter’s #1 candidate? It’s in there. A crib sheet? It’s in there. I had a blast writing every page.

Instant gratification? It’s in there — this is a PDF and you can download it instantly. But don’t expect some cheesy Word document. The design is lean and clean — more editors and experts combed over it than publishers ever assign to their authors. (I know because a big-time publisher put out my first book. This PDF looks better and packs more value!)

You can learn more about it and decide whether it’s for you by clicking the book cover above: Features, benefits, sample pages, the table of contents and so on.

About the ten bucks: If you’ve been following Ask The Headhunter all these years, you can get the edge first and get it for $10 less than the rest of the world by using this discount code when you order (I’ll leave the code active for a reasonable period of time).

Click here, then type in this discount code: tenoffblog

About those 62 questions I answer in the guide: I’m ready to answer more once you use those up.


How to say it to voicemail

When you’re job hunting, it’s hard enough coming up with something to say when you call a manager you don’t know. What will stimulate a peer-to-peer discussion that might lead to a job or to a good referral to another manager?

But when you get voicemail — that’s another level of anxiety. Take a look at this reader’s question about How to Say It:

“Repeated calls to a manager I don’t know get me nothing but the manager’s voicemail. I don’t want to have my caller ID coming up like I’m a stalker. I want to leave a voicemail message that will produce a call back. How do I say it when I’m talking to a recorder?”

In the new edition of the newsletter (June 16, 2009) I offer this suggestion:

“Hello! My name is Linda Jones. Mark Smith at Systems Inc. suggested I give you a call. I read the article in Widget Monthly in which you were quoted. You can reach me at 999 555-1212. I look forward to talking with you. Thanks.”

Never say anything about the substance of your call. Create an obligation: Always refer to someone you know in common. Stimulate interest: Allude to an article or event that reveals the person you’re calling is highly regarded. Do not make the call until you have a name in common and a credible allusion.

(There’s a new How to Say It in every edition of the newsletter.)

When you’re trying to get in the door, how do you leave voicemail that will ensure a return call? What works? (What fails?)