Droolers, Charles Manson and A. Harrison Barnes

Man, I couldn’t have written it better myself. I’ve been watching a family of “job” sites that’s akin to a pack of electronic junkyard dogs trying to bite people. I’m not even gonna give you the link. The flagship site is called Hound.com. Don’t waste your time visiting it. Trust me: You don’t want those doggie cookies on your computer.

Steve Gosset over at RealityBitesBack soundly thrashes PC Magazine for promoting A. Harrison Barnes and his pack of rabid job sites including (again, no links because I don’t want you getting infected) a bunch of sites ending in “…Crossing.”

Kudos to Steve for spraying A. Harrison Barnes (Gimme a break! Does he belong to the Yacht Club?) and his dog team with poo-poo water. (You’ll have to read Steve’s post to see where Chas Manson and droolers fit in…)

I guess Marc Cenedella over at TheLadders has an apt competitor now. Throw ’em both over the clothesline before they spawn more puppies.

Update Dec. 17, 2009: Toby Dayton draws the clothesline tight…

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Create your own job

Over on GL Hoffman’s blog, Seth Godin is telling people not to look for a job. And I agree. Godin thinks it’s smarter to start a business. And I agree.

What’s a headhunter doing telling people to start their own business rather than to go find a job? Well, I’d rather have one company client hiring lots of people than one job candidate filling one job. So I’d love it if you’d just go start a business and then give me your business.

I might as well ask you to wrench your neck 270 degrees and then fold your head under your armpit so you can walk backwards while looking ahead. Most people just aren’t cut out for it, though everyone would learn how to be better at any job they do — if they tried to start a business. And some would keep at it and a few would succeed.

I love Seth’s idea, but if you’re gonna tell people to do something I think you need to tell them how. So let’s look at two ways to do this.

First, if you’re never gonna try to start your own business, you should nonetheless approach your next job like it’s a business. Hell, the employer does. (If the employer could avoid hiring you or anyone else, he would. He doesn’t want to create a job. He wants to produce more profit.) So if you want to get a leg up, get your hands around that job like it is a business. Show the employer what you’re made of, or you don’t deserve the job. Here’s the basic blueprint to Create your next job without having to actually start a business.

Or, wanna have some real fun because you’re smarter than the next guy? Good for you. Don’t even pick out a new job. Go ahead and design your new company. Design your product. Then go find the vendors you will need in order to produce it. Find the customers who will buy it. Meet the competitors that you will put out of business. Go talk to all of them — they’ll be glad to meet you. (Aw, man, these meetings are looking a little like veiled job interviews, aren’t they? Well, consider that a bonus.) Know what? Every one of them is a potential funding source for your new biz, and they are also all potential employers. Your competitor may hire you to avoid beating its head against your wall. A vendor may want to use your idea to sprout a new product line. Your customer — well, customers are hard to figure out. Sometimes they want to bring an idea in-house… or they just wanna buy you out.

This latter approach to job hunting came up when a pair of software developers — a husband/wife team in Croatia — asked me whether they should Get a job, or start a business? It was fun to develop the path between both options to make them both viable. It’s not rocket science. Take a look and see if it’s the how-to solution you need.

So should you try to get a job? I dunno. I say, start by creating a job by designing the work you want to do as a business, then decide whether to do it for someone else or whether to work for yourself. Find a way to produce profit and go show it to people you respect. Either they’ll help you start a new biz or they’ll hire you.

Good will and squandered assets

If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will soon. The economy drives job hunters — especially if they’re unemployed — to call everyone they know and ask for job leads. It’s an awkward request to make and people get understandably nervous about asking. It’s wonderful when friends and acquaintances can help out.

I help whenever I can and my heart goes out to those in dire straits. I urge you to make thoughtful introductions for people you hold in high esteem. (On the other hand, never recommend a job hunter who isn’t worthy. You will risk your own reputation.)

But let him beware to whom I give a valuable introduction who does not follow up. Do that to me and I’ll never give you the time of day again because you have wasted the hard-earned favor of someone who trusts and respects me. I have spoken to that contact, referred you and vouched for you. My contact is ready and expecting your call. I have just written a check to you against the good will I have amassed someone else’s bank. If you don’t make the call, I look bad. I’ve wasted an asset.

I get great satisfaction when I make introductions that lead to job offers, business deals or just to enjoyable conversations and new friendships that may blossom into business later. The recipient of the favor benefits. But so do I because the quality of the introductions I make reflect on me, and my credibility grows. My contact trusts that the next time I make an introduction, it will be another good one.

I know how frantic the search for a job can be. But don’t lose track of the “checks” your friends write to you. Enjoy the good will and use it fully. But treat a personal referral with respect. Follow up. Call the person who’s expecting your call. Behave like the person that I have vouched you are. But if you squander my assets, don’t ever call me again.

The real reason employers want your salary history: Hiring is a crapshoot

We’ve talked salary history to death. I dunno — it still astonishes me that HR demands it. Not one compelling reason has been offered to justify why HR must have it. On the other hand, we’ve heard from enough job hunters who routinely decline to disclose their salary, and life still goes on. The Job Police don’t show up at anyone’s home with warrants for old pay stubs. Lots more folks are aware that they can say NO. (I’ll offer this caution again: Withholding salary history could cost you an interview or a job. Judge for yourself before you act. Saying NO ain’t for everybody.)

Which brings us to a bigger matter. The real reason employers want your salary history.

Now, I don’t accuse employers of conspiring to defraud job applicants of decent job offers.  (Though, I do think some companies — including the one represented by the HR manager we all heard from — are indeed defrauding applicants.) I think the problem is far bigger. In most cases, I think companies demand salary information because they don’t know how to run their business for profit.

When they’re trying to fill a position — and put a value on a job applicant — I believe employers just plain don’t know how the job contributes to profit. They have no idea how to judge your ability to do the job or how the work will contribute to profit. In other words, they have no idea what you are worth. The job is just a line in a budget, and the number is right around what it was last year.

So for most employers, hiring is a crapshoot. They don’t know how one additional employee hired today will affect profits. Think about that.

When was the last time an employer showed you a business plan for the job in question — with a number in it that shows what you’re expected to bring to the bottom line?

I contend that this is the problem. Employers want your salary history because they need to start somewhere. If they knew how the job in question contributed to profit, and if they could figure out how you will contribute to that profit, well, then the entire hiring process changes. We want only people who will boost our profits significantly. In fact, we’ll pay based on how much extra profit we think you will bring to the bottom line. So here’s the business plan, here’s what this job brings to our bottom line. Show us what you think you can do — that’s what we really care about. That’s what we base offers on.

I contend that the only way a company can rationally determine a job offer is to first put together a business plan for every position the company fills. Then it must measure an applicant against that plan. Otherwise, hiring is a crapshoot. In fact, hiring is a crapshoot and employers want your salary history because they don’t know the value of the job in question. They have no idea how much profit it can produce. So they’re flat on their asses, using what your last employer paid you, to predict their own future.

That’s a woo-hoo! big problem.

Salary history: Will HR put up or shut up?

In recent postings (How to make more money, Why you should tell me your salary) we’ve discussed whether job applicants should disclose their salary history to an employer. This topic has taken wing elsewhere: On BNet (Should Jobhunters reveal salary requirements?), on PunkRockHR (Candidates, Salary, and Disclosure) and on Job Hacking (What happens when you don’t pay attention to statistics?).

Job hunters seem to clearly recognize why it’s not a good idea to disclose, even if some feel pressured to do so. (Hey, I don’t knock anyone who desperately needs a job and decides to disclose. But I think that’s a short-term fix and later the tire is gonna blow on you big-time…)

Some in HR offer all kinds of reasons to support their position that applicants should — or must — disclose salary history or forfeit their chance at a job. I find none of them compelling.

But I don’t think HR managers are dopes or even disingenuous. I think they’re brainwashed and can’t see past their own bureaucracy. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to turn the tables and help HR solve the problem without waiting for candidates to cough up their salary info. That way these employers won’t have to pass up good candidates.

So here’s my suggestion and my simple business logic. HR contends it’s legitimate to ask for an individual’s salary history and that the information is a crucial component when assessing a candidate. HR contends salary information should be shared in the context of a job application and interview to enable both parties to determine whether further discussion is realistic, and to ensure that if discussions lead to an offer, acceptance of the offer is a realistic possibility. HR contends that salary history helps an employer judge a candidate.

So here’s what HR should do. Following the same logic and rationale, at the point where HR would ask for the candidate’s salary history, HR should instead share: Read more

Uh-oh. A good job board. If you wanna call it that.

It’s easy to criticize all the opportunistic online career businesses — they are everywhere and they’re obvious. So, is every career-related site online worthless, crooked or just plain dog doo?

Of course not. There’s some good stuff online. I regularly try to point you to sites that publish non-career content that I think can be used to advance your career. Now I’m gonna show you a job board — yes, a job board — that’s worth using. I know that no matter how often I recommend using personal contacts to find jobs, many of you will use job boards anyway. So you might as well be smart about it and use a board that actually does what it claims to do: show you real job listings from real companies, and nothing else.

LinkUp is a new job board with some interesting features. Most interesting is what LinkUp does not do. Here’s the FAQ:

Where do LinkUp job listings come from?
Directly from employers. LinkUp does not accept jobs from third parties. You know: multi-level-marketing operators, recruiters who work in dank basements in unincorporated countries, and those iron-curtain identity thieves. All LinkUp job listings come from employers.

How does LinkUp get its job postings?
It uses spiders to gather real job postings only from real companies. LinkUp does not scrape jobs from other job boards (oops… that’s what the other job boards do). LinkUp doesn’t ask permission to gather the jobs, but no company has ever complained that LinkUp is doing it. LinkUp adds a company’s jobs without charging the company. So if a job is out there on a company web site, you get access to it in one place.

How fresh are the listings?
As fresh as last night. LinkUp gathers jobs and updates its listings every night. If there’s a dead listing in there, it’s because a company itself left the job on its own jobs pages on its own site. (Hey, there’s no law against dumb companies.)

How does LinkUP do that?
Really good programmers and staff who work late.

What happens to my personal data when I apply for a job on LinkUp?
This is what I really like about LinkUp. You don’t fill out forms on LinkUp and LinkUp has no job database or resume database or application database. You find the posting on LinkUp and LinkUp sends you directly to the employer’s web site. Anything you submit goes to the employer, not to LinkUp. (LinkUp cannot control whether an employer might outsource its job-board database to Monster or one of the other boards, but that’s not under anyone’s control but the employer’s. Keep your eyes open anywhere you go. All LinkUp does is let you find a real company’s real jobs on the company’s own site.) This is as clean as a job board is gonna get. If you want better service, use personal contacts to find a job.

Will LinkUp find me a job?
No, Dopey. You do that yourself. What I like about LinkUp is that it won’t find you a ton of detritus that’s been lying around some job board’s database for six years. And it doesn’t let dirt-bag “recruiters” dump their trash into your results page.

Can you guarantee me no problems and that this is legit?
Have you ever heard me guarantee you anything? I don’t. LinkUp was started by GL Hoffman, a guy I’ve worked with and known a long time. If he’s pulling my leg, I’ll never buy him another beer. And when have you ever seen me recommend a job board, anyway?

How does LinkUp make money?
Always follow the money. LinkUp pays me nothing and I don’t pay LinkUp anything. Ever hear of Google? You know those search results up top on the Google page, the ones in the shaded box above the rest of the results? Those are results an advertiser is paying for, but you know that. Like Google, LinkUp puts some paid job listings at the top of its search results, too. But they’re not ads; they’re job listings like all the rest that you’ll see, and they match your search criteria. (They have a colored background so you know what they are.) But if someone clicks on them LinkUp earns some money.

What’s LinkUp going to charge me to searchfor jobs?
Nothing. It’s free for job hunters. It’s free for companies, too, unless they want a couple of their jobs up top in the highlighted section of the results.

Yah, sure. But what does it cost for PLATINUM service when I’m looking for a job?
There is no platinum service, gold service, or anything for a job hunter to buy from LinkUp. They don’t sell resume-writing services, or career coaching, or your information to third parties. It’s free. No catch. LinkUp makes money from companies that want their jobs highlighted in search results.

Well, this doesn’t sound like a job board any more.
LinkUp is not a job board. I called it a job board to get your attention. LinkUp is a search engine that finds jobs on companies’ own web sites.

That’s it. Try it and let me know what you think. If you find a bug, it’s because the geniuses at LinkUp keep tweaking it to make it go faster and to find results more accurately. And if you find something that really bugs you, say so and I’ll dangle a beer to get GL to come over here and answer your question.

How to hire (or find a job): The 3% solution

Where do companies find the people they hire? (Hint: Dumpster diving is alive and well in Human Resources.)

4% come from Monster.com
3% come from CareerBuilder
1% come from HotJobs

These figures have not changed since these job boards have been online. 90% of companies surveyed have contracts with Monster.com. 80% with CareerBuilder.

60% of corporate recruiting budgets are spent in online job advertising. (Source for most data in this post: CareerXroads 2009 8th Annual Source of Hire Study.)

The single biggest source of hires (30%-40%) is personal referrals. But spending on it is virtually nil. A top HR exec at a Fortune 50 company complains to me that he has no budget to go out and recruit through personal contacts because execs from the big job boards wine and dine his top execs — and the bulk of the available budget is thereby dumped into the job boards. He’s livid. There is no budget for The Manager’s #1 Job.

But that’s not the main reason the board of directors should heave its own HR operation into a dumpster. Read more

You idiot, you showed this résumé to an employer??

Have you been offered a “free résumé critique” by a big-name résumé-writing company? It’s a tempting thing to try, eh? Just send in your résumé and get a free critique! You could even use it to improve and re-write that piece of paper yourself, at no cost. But did you ever wonder, how do busy, highly-paid, professional résumé writers at a big-name company read all those résumés that people send in, then take time to critique them and offer advice — for nothing?

It would be like taking your malfunctioning car to a mechanic who spends time figuring out what’s wrong, writes up his analysis, gives it to you, and doesn’t charge you a dime unless you agree to have him fix it.

Imagine if doctors offered such a deal. You’d get a full diagnosis, but there’s no charge unless you want treatment. “You’ve got pellagra, M’am. Two months to live. Let us know if you want it cured. But today’s diagnosis is free. Too bad your kids will be left motherless because you were such a moron and didn’t take care of yourself…”

And that’s what a lot of those “free résumé critiques” sound like. You idiot, you showed this résumé to an employer?? You’re dead meat! Let us take care of this for you!

Well, I’ve figured it out. The mechanic didn’t really diagnose your auto problem. And the doctor? Sorry, you don’t have pellagra. In both cases a chimp pulled your diagnosis out of a bag. Likewise, a monkey copied and pasted your résumé critique into an e-mail and sent it off to you, along with a note attached that asks, You idiot, you showed this résumé to an employer??

The great thing about being the Ask The Headhunter guy is that people all around the world send me neat stuff all the time. Recently, a reader sent me a multi-page crib sheet that a major résumé-writing mill apparently provides to its writers. Every problem your résumé could possibly suffer from is dealt with on this sheet. All the résumé writer — or reviewer, or monkey — has to do is pick them off like fleas, paste them into an e-mail, and there’s your sales pitch. You idiot, you showed this résumé to an employer??

The résumé-critique crib sheet is too long to print in a blog post. But you’ll find it on my web site. Free résumé critiques: The new career-industry racket. And it includes a little challenge from me to you:

Help me find the firm that uses this crib sheet.

If you have received such a résumé critique and think you’ve been scammed (and probably insulted) by a monkey sitting at a keyboard, compare it to the verbiage on the crib sheet. Do the phrases match? Which firm gave you the critique? I’d love to know, and if we figure out who it is I’ll share the results with you. The link to submit your sample is on the web site.

I’ll tell you what I’ve learned on my own. Good, honest résumé writers don’t use boilerplate to write critiques, nor do they use canned résumé components. This new scam seems to have been spawned by the big job boards and “career” sites, which continue to find new ways to fleece people to support their insupportable business models. They seem to be behind the crap that masquerades as “professional writing” in the résumé business. And all this does is corrupt the business for the honest practitioners. So caveat emptor — know the résumé writer you buy from. Hint: The good ones are the those who will actually talk with you.

(Have you encountered a different kind of résumé scam? That’s what the Comments section is for below.)

Forget your job, distribute yourself

If your job is in jeopardy, why be an employee if you can be a distributed innovator? If you’re a manager, why interview applicants if you can meet people who are innovating on the edge of your industry?

I’ve already written about how some of the best career advice doesn’t come from career experts. It’s between the lines in business articles. Here’s another example of how to put business ideas to work to save your career.

In the February 9 edition of ComputerWorld, tech guru (and former director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center) John Seely Brown talks about the silver lining in our broken economy. He says now is the time to live on the edge (like we have much choice). Here are a few ideas I’ll bend into shape for you: Read more