Let the resume wars begin

Online job boards rent, sell, trade, loan, and otherwise fully exploit resumes people submit to them. This was pretty well documented even several years ago. Today, unscrupulous “recruiters” use the job boards as their personal data bases, uploading people’s resumes without their knowledge, and downloading and submitting to their “clients” the resumes of other unsuspecting rubes. That’s why the job boards in general are a national disaster.

An Ask The Headhunter reader (who asked to be anonymous) suggests an interesting solution to the misuse of resumes. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether this might be the first volley in a legal battle to protect your credentials and privacy. Look carefully at the disclaimer this reader places at the bottom of communications with employers and headhunters (and probably on resumes). The idea is intriguing, especially if you consider that some people spend considerable amounts of money to have their resumes written professionally. (I’m not a lawyer, but this seems to establish that a resume is a different kind of asset than some might assume — now it has a documented monetary value.) Read more

The dope on TheLadders

I’ve written before about TheLadders’ veneer of exclusivity and the mass-market business model underneath it. When a paying customer of TheLadders recently shared the transcript of a customer-service “chat” she had with a Ladders’ rep, I had to hit this topic again. The misrepresentations TheLadders makes on its web site are beyond the pale. “Only $100k+ Jobs. Only $100k+ Candidates.”

Only it’s not true.

The story is in this week’s Ask The Headhunter Newsletter: Liars at TheLadders. E-mail from readers has been filling my mail box — comments that I’m sure other readers would like to see. So I’m opening this up for discussion here on the blog. Please feel free to post your comments below.


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


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How to manage your career in a recession

In my last posting I criticized The Wall Street Journal for its history of producing sophomoric and self-serving career advice. The newspaper publishes advertorials masquerading as articles. They are largely intended to drive readers to the Journal’s job listings. So much for editorial integrity.

But there is good advice to be had in lots of business publications. As I’ve pointed out, it’s not usually career advice. It’s guidance about business that can be readily applied to job hunting, hiring and career success. You just have to read between the lines and think.

An article in the January 19 edition of Fortune, How to manage your business in a recession, could easily have been re-cast as advice for managing your career in a recession. I won’t cover all 10 suggestions offered by Geoff Colvin, but I’ll try to show you how to translate some of them into useful career strategies. Read more

Dig this advice

Welcome back from the holidays! Let’s start the year with some small bites of easily digestible advice that tastes good and hits the spot. Serial entrepreneur GL Hoffman serves up these two tips that you can use immediately:

Recession-Proof Your Job (Keep it)

How to Find a New Job

Hoffman writes one of the few blogs I read: What Would Dad Say? (It’s where the above links lead.) And now he’s put out an e-book that I admire. You can try a taste and see if you like it!

What flavor of headhunter is this?

Could you please clear up the different recruiter types? What exactly is the difference between Contingency, Corporate, Retained, Staffing/Temp, etc.? What advantages/disadvantages does each pose? And what level of hiring (entry, mid, exec, etc.) does each do?

Corporate Recruiters are the folks who work in a company’s HR department. They recruit only for their own company and are paid a salary (and sometimes a bonus).

Staffing/Temp Firms are employers themselves. They recruit and hire people, then they assign these folks to client companies. The workers go to work at the client company every day. The client pays the staffing/temp firm a fee from which the firm pays the worker a salary and benefits. If you want to be employed directly by the company where you show up for work, then staffing/temp firms are not for you. Neither corporate recruiters nor staffing firms are headhunters. (Nor are career coaches or career marketers.)

Real headhunters are independent. They are not the employees of any particular employer. They do not hire you. They will not find you a job. Their business is filling positions for their client companies. That’s why headhunters usually will not return calls from job hunters. It’s not their business.

Read more

Flushing your rep

The hot story this year in the career pages of many publications is about how the Internet tracks you leave behind could cost you a job. We all know that now. (It’s akin to plastering your resume all over the Net, or writing your phone number on bathroom walls.) The question is, what can you do about it?

If you’ve been an errant blog poster, commenter on discussion forums, or out-of-control Facebooker, your digital leavings might be cleaned up — if you know how to do it. In Erasing Your Tracks, Computerworld editor Tracy Mayor walks us through efforts to expunge Google results on three people who regret their droppings. While only one got satisfaction, the stories of all three are instructive.

The Internet is wide and deep, and there is no flush handle.

How much would you pay for a job?

I never cease to be amazed at the scams sophisticated professionals fall prey to. But when you’re looking for a job, any help is welcome. People want to believe that if help costs a lot of money, it must be good help. Think again. I’d like to share some e-mails between a reader and me. (I’ve blocked out the names because, as you’ll see, the names don’t really matter.)

A reader asked: Do you have experiences with [XXX Enterprises] in Atlanta, GA? They are in the “executive marketing” business and say they can help me land a good job. They want $2,400 down and $2,400 in the next 6 months for a one year contract, with a guarantee. They claim to have their own list of people that they have placed inside of local companies, and that for the most part they use these to get recommendations and, of course, interviews. And, yes, they will re-write my resume, put me through interview rehearsals and use their skill at going through the Atlanta business databases for companies that would hire someone like me. Sounds good… but…

I responded: Get three references from them: people they have placed. Three more: managers who have hired their clients. Call them all. The firm’s claim implies the people they have placed hire multiple new clients from them. It’s a kind of a ponzi scheme. My bet: They will never give you references. It sounds good, yah. But, check the references before you give them a check. Is the guarantee of the “money back” variety? Read more

Poo on who you know

I’ve always contended that being well-connected isn’t what it’s purported to be. I discuss this briefly in Meet the right people. Lots of folks think that unless they have a big-time inside contact at a company, they’re better off applying for a job through a job board and the personnel department. After all, only a few decision-makers in a company really matter. Who wants to waste time with nobodies?

Poo on all that, says Duncan Watts, one of my favorite social scientists. I don’t much care for social scientists, and I think why I like Watts’ social research is that his Ph.D. is in theoretical and applied mathematics. But much of his work is in networks — how people connect with and influence one another. (Watts wrote the best book I know about networking, Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. But don’t expect lightweight tips. This book requires you to read carefully and think.)

So, how does this help you land your next job? Simple: You might have a big-time inside contact at your target company, or you might know a lowly programmer or marketing assistant. I think it’s better to have one or two credible grunts telling the boss that he ought to talk to you, than to have a vice president (of Human Resources? Gimme a break.) do it.

Watts re-did Stanley Milgram‘s famous “small world” experiment to show this effect. (We know this today as six degrees of separation.) Fast Company magazine reports on Watts’ work in its February 2008 edition (it’s an oldie-but-goodie). In 2001, Watts used a web site to recruit about 61,000 people, then asked them to ferry messages to 18 targets worldwide. Sure enough, he found that Milgram was right: The average length of the chain was roughly six links. But when he examined these pathways, he found that hubs — highly connected people — weren’t crucial. Sure, they existed. But only 5% of the e-mail messages passed through one of these superconnectors. The rest of the messages moved through society in much more democratic paths, zipping from one weakly connected individual to another, until they arrived at the target. Grunts — not big-time contacts — are the key to good networking.

Poo on who you know. What matters is that lots of good people know you. You don’t need a powerful headhunter, or the CEO of a company to recommend you to a hiring manager. Run-of-the-mill people are good sources of referrals that can pay off nicely. The more solid people that know you, the better. Which proves something I’ve said for a long time. If you want to find your next good job, go hang out with people who do the work you want to do. The more, the better.

#1 Tip-off that a headhunter is for real

In my last posting, I talked about the importance of qualifying headhunters who call you. The world is now awash in hucksters calling themselves recruiter or headhunter. Many are calling from overseas, likely from the same call centers that you call for computer support.

To avoid wasting your time, risking your reputation and professional credibility (these clowns will make you look like you’re desperately searching for a job by widely distributing your information), and driving yourself nervous waiting for results, vet every caller carefully.

There’s one key thing to look for. The headhunter who calls should already know you. Otherwise, why would he waste his time calling? Real headhunters don’t cold-call people they know nothing about. They “source” potential candidates through people whose opinions they respect. They call you only when they already know enough about you to determine that you’re worth calling. Underneath it all, the headhunter’s clients are paying for the headhunter’s network of respected contacts.

A legitimate headhunter will call you because they identified you as a potential candidate. This doesn’t mean they found your resume on some job board. It means they spoke with someone who knows and recommends you. This is what a headhunter’s clients pay for — the headhunter’s inside contacts. (They can get bundles of resumes pretty much for free.)

A real headhunter will have background on you. He will have a recommendation from someone who made a judgment about you and shared it with the headhunter. The headhunter calls you because you are you. And the headhunter already knows who you are.

Headhunters who call blindly and reveal they know nothing about you are nothing more than want ads delivered by telephone or e-mail. They aren’t earning a fee. They’re spinning a roulette wheel. They’re dailing for dollars. Is it any wonder you never hear back from them? The odds they’re going to place a random individual (you) are miniscule.

So, judge the headhunter. Ask every headhunter or recruiter who calls you, What do you know about me? What is it about me that led you to call? Who recommended me?

If they can’t tell you, it means they haven’t done their homework, and they don’t know you. They’re not headhunters. They’re not for real.

Managers take note: If you’re paying a “headhunter” or “recruiter” to randomly solicit people for a key job you need to fill, you need to vet your headhunter carefully, too.