You let WHO do your recruiting for you??

You let WHO do your recruiting for you??


I’m afraid I disagree with your objections to using a traditional type of resume. [See Resume Blasphemy.] Here is the basis for my misgivings. I am a hiring manager at a Fortune 50 company. If I want to fill a slot I must complete a job requisition. On the req I have to list the base requirements for the job (e.g., degree, years of experience). When the recruiting starts and resumes begin to arrive, the first person to see them is an HR clerk who screens the listed skills against the req. If you don’t match, I never see your resume. No resume, no interview! Keep in mind that I am a manager and hire highly trained professionals. These aren’t entry level people. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

Nick’s Reply

recruitingIf you’re a manager and you hire specialized professionals, what does it say about you (and your company) when an HR clerk has the power to decide who you should interview and who you should skip? What qualifies HR to judge and filter candidates?

Who should do the recruiting?

I know managers who skirt the HR department every day. They don’t use req’s, and HR doesn’t touch their candidates. The reason is simple and compelling (if it’s no longer obvious in HR-heavy corporate structures). Managers know their business better than HR clerks do. Keywords on resumes are an abysmal way to filter job candidates.

These managers find their own candidates. Sometimes they turn to specialized headhunters; sometimes they use their professional connections.

I believe that any manager who isn’t devoting a couple of days a week to recruiting isn’t doing their job. To rely on HR to source executives is like relying on your mother to find you a date – she’s good at a lot of things, but this isn’t one of them. (See Recruiting: How to get your hands dirty and hire.)

Resume solicitation is not recruiting

Managers with good relationships in their professional community are scarfing up the best candidates in this competitive market because they go out and find them, leaving you with candidates who come along. Please think about this. When you interview only candidates who submit resumes, you’re dealing with a very limited field. Resume solicitation is not recruiting! Can you really live with that? Should you?

(Before you accuse me of pitching headhunters as the solution, I’m not. You don’t need headhunters. You can do it yourself. There is nothing mysterious or magical about what good headhunters do. They go out and actively search for the best candidates.)

The risk of false negatives in recruiting

Consider how many great candidates you may have lost because a clerk rejected their resumes. For example, some of the best candidates I find for my clients lack one or more of the specified keywords (skills, “experience,” credentials, degrees). This means HR would likely reject them, then pay me a handsome fee when I demonstrate why they’d be a great hire anyway. In probabilistic decision-making this is called a false negative — a costly rejection error. Beyond a handful of keywords, what does your HR clerk know about the right candidate for a job you need to fill?

By the way, what I’m suggesting doesn’t just apply to filling highly skilled jobs. If you were a manufacturing manager looking for production workers or a finance manager looking for cost accountants, I’d tell you the same thing.

Send your team to identify potential candidates

I’ll offer you a suggestion. Send one or more members of your work team to a relevant professional or industry event, with the instruction to attend the presentations and return with business cards or other contact information from notable presenters and attendees. No resumes. (Even just names and company affiliation will do!)  There is no reason to even intimate there are jobs to be filled. Just get the contact information. That’s more valuable to you than any resume, and you’ll get more for your recruiting buck than if your clerk posts a job to gather resumes.

Now your job is to call those people yourself — the people whose cards you’ve got. Ask them who they might recommend highly for one of the jobs you need to fill — if they’re not potential candidates themselves. At the very least, those people know far more about your business than your clerks do. Such referrals are what a good headhunter would bring you for a huge fee. Without a resume.

Why don’t managers take a more direct role in recruiting? If you’re a job seeker, how could you use what I’m suggesting to get a job without relying on a resume?

: :

How do we dump the boss?

How do we dump the boss?


What are the prospects for a whole department toppling their boss? The boss is a typical “Management by Fear” practitioner. He is not liked or respected by his subordinates or by other employees including peers and some higher up in management. He is not technically competent and has been assigned the post for the mere reason of “retaining” him.

I would like to muster up some courage, get together a group and make a case against him with HR. How should I approach the matter with the authorities in an appropriate manner?

Nick’s Reply

dump-the-bossYou’re talking mutiny, and the price of failure is walking the plank. Are you sure you want to take that risk? I expect the group of you has already discussed the risks, and also your motives and justification for taking such an extreme measure. (Try to avoid behaving like a mob with torches and pitchforks!)

Is it even possible to dump the boss?

What you need to do first is find out what kind of support the boss has from upper management. Are they giving him lots of rope so he’ll hang himself? Does he have something they want, so they won’t touch him? Does he have a lord and protector who watches his backside? It isn’t so much how to go about getting him canned as it is finding out whether you stand a snowball’s chance of beating him.

Forget about courage. Get some smarts. Talk casually with higher-ups and find out what they think of this guy. Watch their eyes, listen for the pauses and hesitation in their responses, watch the body language. You need to judge whether other managers are waiting for someone to attempt a coup they can join, or if they’re in solid with him.

Identify support

It’s smart to talk not only to execs up your boss’s chain of command, but to others on chains that interact with him but don’t have a reporting link. For example, if he’s the head of engineering, go talk to managers at his level and above in manufacturing, operations and finance. These people may have the same concerns you do. Maybe they’d like to dump the boss, too — and they may be able to lend support from a level where there’s more power than you and your buddies have.

Look among your group and see who has the best contacts upstairs in the organization. Have that person poke around. If you can establish that the boss is vulnerable, you need to get support before you act. Go to the one top exec who is likely to back you, and ask for advice. This is best done one on one, not as a group. Then follow the advice.

Proceed with caution

It’s hard to topple a manager. It requires support from others more powerful than your target. You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.

The only way HR can help is if you have several solid, documented violations of law, ethics or corporate policy. In my experience, they’ll back the manager every time, unless there’s such a preponderance of evidence against the manager that they’d be jeopardizing their own positions by ignoring it. (I hope your boss is not as bad as this, but take heed if it’s the case: Say goodbye to your psychopathic boss.)

We haven’t talked about you trying to talk this out with the boss, but your question is very direct so I expect this is not really an option.

You’ve got a battle ahead of you. Proceed with caution.

Can employees get a boss fired? How do the politics work in a situation like this? Is it worth going to HR about the problem? Are there other alternatives worth considering? Have you ever been involved in deposing your boss?

: :

5 questions to ask a hiring manager that no one ever asks

5 questions to ask a hiring manager that no one ever asks


Your article about “What’s the best interview question?” to ask a hiring manager has served me well in many job interviews. Managers have actually complimented me. But that’s one question! What else have you got — questions to ask a hiring manager that will break them out of their “interview haze” and really talk to me, while giving me a chance to stand out?

Nick’s Reply

questions-to-ask-hiring-managerThat’s a really good question for us all! I mean — I’ll bet other readers have excellent, insightful questions to ask hiring managers; questions that really make a manager think while also making the manager realize they’re talking with a candidate who reveals true insight and deep interest in the company.

You made me scratch my head, trying to recall managers who told me they were blown away by a particular candidate who revealed unexpected acumen.

Here are five of the very best questions that no one but the best candidates I’ve known have asked managers, thereby standing apart from their competition.

Questions to ask a hiring manager

1. A year from now…

…how do you hope your company will be better as a result of hiring the person you choose for this job? (Follow-up question: A year from now, how will the person who takes this job change for the better?)

2. What’s the one thing…

…you wish you could quickly figure out about every candidate in an interview?

The next two questions should perhaps be asked prior to the actual interview, perhaps at the end of a phone screen with the manager.

3. What do you wish…

…a candidate for this job would read or study prior to interviewing with you?

4. What concepts are a must…

…for the candidate to understand if they are to succeed at this job? What other concepts are critical, but can be learned on the job?

The next question seems to elicit a knowing grin from managers.

5. What do most candidates…

…routinely say or do in the interview that tells you they’re wrong for a job at this company?

What kinds of questions help you get hired?

Do you agree about the value of these questions? How or what does each question help a hiring manager learn about the candidate? How can these questions help you get hired?

Of course, what we really want is more questions like these from your personal experience! If this turns into a lively discussion and there’s interest, I’ll share a few more highly effective questions in another column.

(I’m sure that thinking about this also brings to mind some of the most over-used, banal questions you’ve turned up in your reading about “what to ask” in a job interview. Feel free to share the clunkers you’ve encountered, too!)

: :

After just 2 weeks can I quit for a better job offer?

After just 2 weeks can I quit for a better job offer?


I’ve been working for company #2 for two weeks. I had interviewed at company #1 as well, but I thought nothing was going to happen there. It now turns out that I have a much better offer (and benefits) at #1, so I’ll take it. I know I’ll be burning my bridges, but I still want to approach this the best possible way. What do you suggest?

Nick’s Reply

better job offerThis is one of those situations that cause pain. There is no win-win.

A company deserves that a just-hired employee will stay put. It also deserves the employee’s full attention and motivation.

Likewise, an employee deserves the most money and the highest-quality job that the market offers. If you’re going to be distracted and less motivated when you choose to stay for “ethical” reasons, then you’re not being ethical at all.

Integrity vs. more money?

Some will argue that you are obligated to your current employer because you accepted an offer and made a commitment. That’s integrity, they will say. And they are partly right. But they’re also party wrong, because it depends which foot this shoe is on.

I will point out that companies find themselves in the same quandary when they downsize because of sudden financial setbacks. Even recently hired employees get summarily terminated. In that case, it can be argued that integrity dictates no one should be fired — the company should suffer the financial loss and deal with it. Yet the conventional wisdom is that you can’t expect a company to compound a financial reversal by continuing to pay employees it cannot afford. No one’s happy, but “it’s a necessary financial decision.”

There is no win-win outcome. The fired employees are hurt and the company’s reputation suffers damage.

A better job offer… or your reputation?

Money is how our culture measures our success at our work. Like it or not, that’s the standard. It’s not crass. It’s reality. But so is pain and so is reputational damage. Unless you can demonstrate a more compelling measure of your success than money — e.g., the work at company #2 is more satisfying than the work at #1 — then you must act rationally and switch to the better offer. And be ready to accept a ding to your reputation.

Employers face the same choice and pay the same price.

If you’re jumping around for a marginal difference, then I say stay put. The other offer must be compelling.

What’s the best way to quit for a better job offer?

Now to your question. How do you handle this the best possible way? Look your boss in the eye, express your regrets and resign. You are under no obligation to disclose the details — just your regrets.

How to Say It
“I took this job after careful thought — it was what I wanted. But another, unexpected opportunity that is a better choice for me just surfaced. I can’t ignore it. I deeply regret that I must resign to pursue it.”

The only way you can try to avoid burning the bridge is to be honest and to take full responsibility for your actions. It’s good if you can leave any work you started in good condition, and offer to do anything that might help with the transition. Still, odds are high your boss will never talk to you again. You must deal with that. (Beware of other issues with Parting Company.)

A warning: Under no circumstances should you use the new job offer to leverage a salary increase at your current job. If you did that and I were the manager, I’d kick you out of my office.

If your ethical nature really needs to be sustained through this, you could return the salary you were paid for those two weeks.

I hate situations like this. They require an awkward choice, and there may be real reputational consequences. That’s the price. Be ready to pay it and move on.

Have you ever had to choose between a job you just started — and a better deal that suddenly appeared? What did you decide? How did it turn out? How would you advise this reader?

: :

5 lies about ATSes (Applicant Tracking Systems)

5 lies about ATSes (Applicant Tracking Systems)


I’ve successfully searched for work for over 20 years. I always lead with what I can do for an employer and with my ability to learn quickly, and I get hired. But it’s getting harder to find a manager to explain that to! Now it’s ATS this and ATS that. Applicant Tracking Systems don’t ask what you can do or what you can learn. They just want you to dump your data into the bit bucket so they can sort you out. But data about your experience is not useful information until a qualified person reviews it, and the ATS is designed to keep qualified judges away from you as long as possible! No wonder it takes thousands of applicants to fill a job. You’ve written a lot about ATSes. Please give me your low-down.

Nick’s Reply

Pre-historic Applicant Tracking SystemMy good buddy Paul Solman at PBS NewsHour shared with me the most concise description of Applicant Tracking Systems that I’ve seen, an article by Wahyd Vannoni, What are Applicant Tracking Systems? How Do They Rank Potential Candidates? It’s nice and brief and although it wasn’t Vannoni’s intent, it highlights everything that’s wrong with ATSes and how they are used. (It also includes a list of ATS vendors. Bet you didn’t know there are so many!)

I think you put your finger on the fatal problem: Relying on an ATS to select and hire workers isolates the job applicant from the person best qualified to judge them – the hiring manager. That’s how employers miss some of the best candidates and why they frequently interview and hire the wrong ones. It’s why you’re frustrated.

It’s virtually impossible to apply for a job today without encountering an ATS, so it’s worth taking a close look at what we subject ourselves to when we let an ATS process our data. Let’s look at Vannoni’s key points about what ATSes are and how they, uh, work.

Lie #1: An ATS manages the entire hiring process.

“An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a software tool that streamlines the recruitment process for companies. It is designed to manage the entire hiring process, from posting job openings to screening candidates to scheduling interviews and hiring.”

If the promise of the ATS were fulfilled, who would need an HR department? That’s what the text implies. We know it’s not true.

Companies take their most important competitive edge — the ability to hire the best people — and turn it over to be managed by an ATS, which can be generously called a bag of algorithms that don’t work well, if at all.

Investigative journalist Hilke Schellmann has laid this out compellingly in her book, The Algorithm. (See The A.I. Job Interview: You need to know why it’s crap.) These systems are biased, indefensibly reductionist, and about as smart as a cocker spaniel pup that pees exactly where it peed last time because the spot smells like pee. In today’s competitive hiring market, ATSes can’t deliver as promised. If they did, we wouldn’t need HR.

Lie #2: An ATS is a database of candidate information that makes job matches.

“At its core, an ATS is a database that collects and stores candidate information. When a job opening is posted, the ATS will scan resumes and cover letters for relevant keywords and phrases, and then rank the candidates based on how closely their skills and experience match the job requirements.”

A database does not store information. It stores data. (“Data on its own has no meaning. It only takes on meaning and becomes information when it is interpreted.” -University of Cambridge) More accurately, data collected by an ATS is strings of ASCII symbols that have no inherent meaning like words do. It is a very simple pattern-matching system made to look “smart” because the computers behind it can process staggering numbers of patterns faster than we can conceive.

Matches are made based on how closely one pattern matches another. There is no information, there are no skills, there is no experience, and other than a list of ASCII characters masquerading as semantic entities we call words — and there is no “job requirement.” This is precisely why ATSes can process millions of candidate database records per second. They need millions of those records in order to demonstrate that pattern-matching can sometimes work.

Try an experiment: Give the ATS just 5 records that describe 5 people accurately but include none of the magic ASCII strings and the ATS fails. Try it with a million people and it will perform like a boiler room of monkeys tapping on old Royal typewriters.

Wharton researcher Peter Cappelli tells the story of a corporate executive who asked why, after 14,000 engineers applied to fill a couple of routine engineering jobs, his HR department’s ATS deemed none of them worth interviewing. I’ll bet any engineering manager could screen 20 of those applications, interview three and recommend a good one to hire that would perform well.

Lie #3: An ATS removes bias from hiring and ensures fairness.

“In addition to streamlining the recruitment process, an ATS can also help companies stay compliant with Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws by ensuring that each candidate is evaluated fairly and consistently. It can also help to reduce bias in the hiring process by removing personal information such as name, address, and age from the initial screening process.”

Here’s where naivete and ignorance about the ATS industry shine forth. I’ll direct you again to Schellmann’s book, and I can show you 10 more links like this: Amazon scraps secret AI recruiting tool that showed bias against women.

ATS and AI vendors market the hell out of “Eliminates bias!” We now know that algorithms can actually introduce more biases.

Lie #4: An ATS saves time and money and results in better hires.

“Overall, an ATS is a powerful tool that can save companies time and money by automating many of the time-consuming tasks associated with recruiting. By using an ATS, companies can more easily identify and attract top talent, ultimately leading to better hires and a stronger workforce.”

First, saving time and money and automating tasks tells us nothing about the single most important metric in a business endeavor like hiring: accuracy. ATSes sacrifice accuracy for volume. But more is not better.

You can build a machine to crush 10 tons of stone per hour, but how much will you pay for one of these if the output you want is wheat flour? ATSes do not produce hires; they produce matches of ASCII strings. No reading between the lines is possible until all of those 14,000 engineer applicants have already been rejected.

Lie #5: If we keep saying it, ATSes will actually work!

Vannoni did a nice job in his brief survey article about ATSes. He clearly gauged it for readers who want the basics. That’s why there’s not a word about the impacts on the job applicants who are subjected to the wonders of ATSes that save companies money and time.

But I do have a beef with Vannoni because he should know better. He’s a communications consultant and marketing professor. Having an MBA, it’s frankly stunning that he doesn’t apply the test all MBA programs teach their students: Where’s the outcomes analysis?

What does it matter how clever the ATS appears if we’re not going to discuss whether it works and how well? But we forget how good marketers are at selling benefits. That is, it’s all about what you can get a market to swallow.

  • It manages the whole hiring process!
  • It matches jobs with the right candidates!
  • It eliminates bias and ensures legal compliance!
  • It saves money and delivers better hires!

While I was writing for NewsHour, I interviewed CareerBuilder, one of the leading job boards. I asked about outcomes. What’s the job-filling and job-finding success rate? 57% of all jobs are filled by CareerBuilder, they said. Can I see the data? Well, we don’t release that. 57%. I’m still laughing.

My low-down is that I’ve had a standing challenge to ATS and job board companies: Where is your outcomes analysis? Show us the data about results. None have done it.

What lies have you been told about ATSes and how they’re going to help employers hire you? Do you have examples of how ATSes work or don’t work?

: :

Pest or hiring manager’s dream?

Pest or hiring manager’s dream?


I’ve been reading a lot of books about job searches. They all say you have to send in your resume then follow up with phone calls. In other words, be a pest! I am really annoyed by the junk phone calls I have to put up with both at work and at home, so I feel really stupid calling busy professionals and bothering them. Is this really the right way to go? Your advice and comments would be welcome. Thanks.

Nick’s Reply

hiring managerThat depends on who you’re calling.

A hiring manager’s dream

Suppose you’re at your job and you need to discuss with your boss how you plan to do your work more effectively and to get the boss’s advice. Would you feel like a pest (that is, annoying or a nuisance) if you called your boss to talk about work? Of course not!

So, how are you being a pest if you call your future boss about the work? You’d be the hiring manager’s dream.

A pest

It also depends on what you’re calling about. Are you calling to find out whether the boss received your resume? Or to say you’re just like all other job applicants — that you’re “really interested in the job”? Whether you call the hiring manager or the Human Resources department, how are you making their day or their jobs better? You’re not being helpful, are you? That’s annoying.

If you think you’re going to annoy someone, don’t call them.

If you think you can help a busy hiring manager (or your own boss) solve their problems, meet the challenges they’re facing in their department and contribute to the bottom line, then call! Good bosses (and smart hiring managers) want to meet job candidates who can offer solutions. That’s who they will hire. Is that you?

Prepare to talk with the hiring manager

But here’s where the fun really starts. Forget the job application protocols you’ve been taught. Skip the traditional process and sequence of events. Don’t act like every other job seeker! Your call need not be a follow-up to a resume or to say you really want the job (like every job seeker does), or to follow up on an interview. Your call — not your resume — should be your first contact with the manager!

Be ready to talk shop with the hiring manager just like you’d talk shop if you called your own boss! Stand out from the resumes.

This advance call about the work creates an advantage that your competition doesn’t have. When the manager finally meets you, they will know you and what you have to offer. The interview will quickly turn into a working meeting where the two of you can immediately get down to brass tacks. That gives you a tremendous edge.

There’s a catch

What’s the catch? You’ve got to do lots of work to prepare a brief call where you can offer the help that a specific manager needs. But isn’t that exactly what thoughtfully picking a job to pursue is all about? If you can’t walk into a manager’s office and demonstrate both your understanding of the work to be done and your ability to do it, then you have no business in that interview! Why should a manager hire you? To pull this off, you must do a lot of homework and preparation so that you will be worth talking with — not a pest!

(When is the last time you delivered a completed project to your boss without first discussing it? A job interview is a project. You can’t do it without first defining the scope and the deliverable. That means talking to the manager.)

Pest vs. dream

Are you beginning to see the distinction between making a useful phone call and one that wastes a manager’s time? The difference lies in preparation. (No idea where to start? Try the most important question in an interview.)

Traditional job hunting protocol says you should call after you submit an application. Yah. What are you going to say? “Did you receive my resume? I really want the job and I want you to know it!” Such perfunctory information is no more valuable than the sixth marketing message you’re harassed with: “Did you get the e-mail we sent you last week? You’re gonna love our product!” It’s all irrelevant and annoying.

Good managers pay attention to smart people who can talk shop. So, worry about being a pest only if you’re going to act like one. Be the manager’s dream by telling them something they need to hear—and relish the advantage you’ll gain over your competition.

So, what should that call be about?

Have I left you wondering… Okay, but what do I say to the manager when I make that call? What should the call be about?

Uh-uh. Nope. I’m not telling you. (I’m not going to set tens of thousands of people loose on managers, making calls reciting the same message.) You figure it out, then give your potential next employer a call. Don’t be a pest. Be the manager’s dream — and deliver value. No resume is required.

I won’t tell you what to say, but I’ll give you this tip: 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?

eclipse 2024Think. Upon introducing yourself 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 meet you — and hire you? Then come join us in the Comments section below to share your ideas about How to Say It!

NOTE: My apologies for not providing a heads-up that there would be no newsletter last week! I was in Texas with friends chasing the total eclipse, which we found in a Walmart parking lot in Killeen. Four and a half minutes of totality, but only a few glorious seconds without full cloud cover. It was totally worth the 3+ hours each way from Houston!

: :

Your job-search addiction: It’s all the same app

Your job-search addiction: It’s all the same app


I lost my job over two years ago, and have applied for over 4,000 HR (Human Resources) opportunities, with 97 interviews, and I am still unemployed. I’ve updated my resume to an ATS format (Applicant Tracking System) to meet the current job search filters implemented by recruiters who use ATS platforms. I am still being rejected with an automated message saying, “Thank you but No Thank You.” I have an MBA in HR Management. Can you tell me why I am not being hired? I’ve attached a copy of my original resume and a copy of the ATS formatted resume for your review. Thank you for your time and attention. I’ve been following your “Ask the Headhunter” newsletter for at least 10 years. I would like your expert advice on handling the current job search market. I look forward to hearing from you.

Nick’s Reply

job-search addictionSorry, I don’t review resumes, ATS-formatted or otherwise. It’s not my intent to berate or ridicule you but you do, after all, work in HR. How can you not know how the ATS game is played? The house wins, you lose. The house is the Employment System — ATS vendors and the job boards (and any employers that use ATSes). The rest of us are the gamblers.

The job-search addiction

This gambling addiction is pernicious because that’s how job boards and ATSes are designed! ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Indeed and their ilk don’t make the big money when you get a job. They make the big money when you don’t get a job and when employers don’t fill jobs because then everyone keeps coming back to place another bet (or 3,000)!

The fundamental technology underlying the job-board and ATS ripoff is illustrated by another addictive con: dating apps.

Jobs and dating: It’s all a gambling addiction

Consider these clips from recent NPR news items about the “applicant tracking systems” used for dating:

“If you’ve ever done online dating, you know that it can be exhausting — the endless swiping, the conversations that go nowhere, the weird interactions where it feels like somebody is just on a different planet than you… Not to mention the emotional roller coaster of really vibing with somebody on the app and then getting to the date and it’s just nothing. Nothing there. It can make you want to stop dating entirely.” [How to ditch the apps and date offline]

Sound familiar? Endless applications, interviews that go nowhere, weird interactions where it seems the interviewer is on another planet… and the emotional roller coaster when you really think you found a match and BAM! you get ghosted.

It’s all the same gambling addiction. While job seekers haven’t really fought back legally, people seeking romance have:

“The popular dating apps Tinder, Hinge and the League hook users with the promise of seemingly endless romantic matches in order to push people to pay money to continue their compulsive behavior, according to a federal lawsuit filed in San Francisco on Wednesday.” [Maker of Tinder, Hinge sued over ‘addictive’ dating apps that put profits over love]

Addictive features & corporate profits

The parallels to the big job boards and ATSes are startling:

“While Hinge’s advertising slogan boasts that it is “designed to be deleted,” the lawsuit claims Match Group’s dating apps are really designed to turn users into “addicts” who do not find true love and instead keep purchasing subscriptions and other paid perks to keep the publicly traded company’s revenue flowing.”

Addicted to a dating app? (How about a job-hunting app? Is there a difference?) The complaint filed by six plaintiffs from several states claims:

“Match Group has violated state and federal consumer protection, false advertising and defective design laws… Harnessing powerful technologies and hidden algorithms, Match intentionally designs the platforms with addictive, game-like design features, which lock users into a perpetually pay-to-play loop that prioritizes corporate profits over its marketing promises and customers’ relationship goals”

That’s why you’re not getting hired – or finding love

Sound familiar? What exactly triggered you to keep submitting applications after the first thousand? After 3,000? Doing the same thing 4,000 times sure seems like an addiction to me! And, as with the dating apps, at the heart of the ATSes are… algorithms seemingly designed to suck you into believing there’s a proverbial brown pony underneath all that…crap. And you — and millions like you — keep coming back to look some more!


You’re applying to thousands of jobs, you’ve done 97 interviews, you have a keyword resume that’s supposed to play nice with the ATSes and you’re still not hired. And you ask me why you are not being hired?

That’s why you’re not getting hired.

What works

As an HR pro, you should know none of that stuff works. Now you know you’re also getting ripped off. As an Ask The Headhunter newsletter reader, you should know that on Ask The Headhunter we discuss what doesn’t work and what does every week. I know this can be hard to see when you’re so close to it.

Here’s my advice on handling the current job-search market. And there’s no A.I. or any algorithm that went into writing these articles. This is what works.

Library Vaction beats the Internet when job hunting

Job search success stories

How to get a job: Don’t write a resume

Drop the resume script: Be the wired candidate

The key to good networking

You mean doing it online doesn’t work?

A number of years ago I did a news segment with PBS News. If you watch it, check the date. Nothing has changed materially between then and now. It’s time for a Congressional investigation.

Is applying for Jobs Online Not an Effective Way to Find Work?

Dating apps, job-search addiction — it’s all the same algorithms

In How to ditch the apps and date offline NPR offers the advice of a relationship expert to help wean the addicted from their poison. Take a few minutes to read it. The parallels to job search make it painfully obvious that the addictions are fundamentally the same — and so is the cure. It starts off like this:

“There is another option. It may not seem like it, but you can meet people to date in person.”

Sound familiar?

When the system is broken, you can’t use the system. You have to go meet people you want to work with — in person! I wish you the best. But, please — if you do get a job in HR, do something to stop addicting people to the algorithms!

What’s wrong with the dominant systems we depend on to match people to jobs? Do they serve us effectively, or are we just addicted to them without much care for how well they work?

: :

How do I bring closure to series of 6 interviews?

How do I bring closure to series of 6 interviews?


I have been on 6 interviews with senior management at a highly regarded company. Although the interviews were exploratory, the hiring manager looked to me to take over and manage a good portion of the department. After the second interview with the hiring manager, he advised me that he wanted to expand the role of the position due to my extensive project management experience.

Since I worked on an industry committee in which this company was represented, I was familiar with their operation. All the interviews went quite well, and I was told that a decision would be made within two weeks. I received a voice mail from the hiring manager yesterday and he advised me that it may take a little longer to make a decision. He stated that they are still developing the position, and some other “things” came up that diverted his attention.

What do you suggest I do to bring this to closure? Thank you.

Nick’s Reply

6 interviewsYou have two choices: bring this to a head, or let it alone. My advice is to let it alone. Let’s explore the other option, then I’ll explain why I think you should leave it alone

After 6 interviews, invoke your own timeline

You can bring it to a head by calling the manager and giving him a polite ultimatum, along these lines:

“I appreciate that you have internal reasons for this taking so long. However, I have some key decisions I need to make, too, regarding my work and some new commitments. I’d like to set a deadline for us both – say, two weeks? Respectfully, if your team can’t make a decision by that point, I will need to withdraw my candidacy for the job. I want you to know how much I’ve looked forward to working with you. I know I can do this job profitably for you. I hope you can respect the other decisions I have to make in the next couple of weeks, but I hope we have the chance to work together. Feel free to call me any time.”

The risk you take is that he may say they can’t deal with the deadline, and you’ll have to walk away.


Sometimes closure is under the control of one party more than the other – in this case, the employer. When a company is ready to hire, they do it. When they hesitate, we could speculate about what’s really happening until the cows come home – we’ll never really know what’s up. So, don’t put your life and career on hold and wait by the phone. You’ve already given them 6 interviews. That ‘s way more than enough.

I’d focus on other things and leave the hiring manager alone. The ball is entirely in his court. Let him play it. He’s already told you he doesn’t quite know what this position is really all about — but you will never really know whether that’s a serious problem. You may get a job offer at some point but, depending on how long that takes, you may need “a little longer” yourself — to judge whether you want to work with these people.

There is really only one way you can take control. Get on with any other opportunities or plans you have. Pretend this one job doesn’t even exist. You’ve done everything you should. Don’t be sidelined because someone else isn’t ready to make a play.

What does it mean when an employer delays a hiring decision? Should you even care? What’s the best way to handle this kind of situation?

: :

Manager talked a blue streak in my interview

Manager talked a blue streak in my interview


What do you think of managers who interview by talking a blue streak? I interviewed with the VP of Technology in a good company. I followed your advice about how to gently take control of an interview. Even before I sat down I said, “You are in a tough business. What challenges does the company face in the months ahead?”

He answered in about five minutes then he talked non-stop about the position, himself and his company. When he finally finished I asked a few questions, but he kept looking at his watch. I didn’t get to say much.

At the end he said he wanted to make a decision within a week, and that the finalist would have to take two hours of psychological tests. I tried to “do the job in the interview,” as you recommend, but it didn’t seem to work. Now, what do you think?

Nick’s Reply

manager talked blue streakIf the manager talked a blue streak during your interview, I think the manager should let someone else do the interviewing.

He knows next to nothing about you after such an interview. He likely will make a hiring decision based on (a) the little you revealed about how you could help him, and (b) the phase of the moon, because he probably doesn’t have any other information other than your resume. In not having a real discussion with you and in not evaluating your ability to do the work when he had the chance, he revealed poor management habits.

If you’re hired, it will likely be for the wrong reasons. Once you’re on board, you’ll probably get as much of his attention as you did in the interview process. Is this someone you want to work for? He’s an example of what’s wrong with too many American businesses.

I’d sit for two hours of psychological testing only if they paid me my going hourly rate, whether I got the job or not. Before you do such testing, check last week’s edition and here.

Stories like this burn me up when I consider how much time is wasted. I think the best way to profit from an experience like this it to use it as a basis to judge the manager and the company. The manager didn’t just say a lot; he revealed a lot — probably all you need to know!

My advice: Look for managers who can articulate in detail the problems and challenges they face, and who then let you show how you will do the job. In a good interview, both parties roll up their sleeves and work together. It’s a back-and-forth, not a speech.

Other matters may be important, but the work comes first in a job interview. If it doesn’t, I think you’re probably talking to the wrong company.

This is a good example of “meta data” about a company. That is, data that provides context for everything else you learn about it. For example, this manager’s method of “interviewing” affects his department’s success every day. It tells you a lot about the company’s prospects. What kind of meta data have you gleaned in a job interview that helped you judge a job opportunity?

: :

A.I. Job Interview: You need to know why it’s crap

A.I. Job Interview: You need to know why it’s crap


I’ve been told once again that to be considered for a real job interview I have to first do a solo AI job interview via video with a robot called HireVue. I’m really fed up having to invest my time with nothing invested by the employer! They don’t even give you your results. Just a rejection colder than those little postcards HR used to send out! (Remember those? I’ve been around a while.) After the robot “interviews” you, they use software algorithms to “watch” your video and more algorithms to score your facial expressions and voice. Am I just unschooled in AI or is this a racket?

Nick’s Reply

I’ve been writing about the likes of HireVue and other vendors of AI job interview robots since they came on the scene. I predicted they’d die a quick death. I was wrong.

ai-job-interviewToday these highly questionable — but apparently profitable — HR technology systems proliferate. They purport to interview and assess job applicants, search social media to measure employee loyalty, and score people’s personality — all without ever meeting anyone. Among these companies: HireVue, IBM, Humantic AI, Fama, Arctic Shores, Good Egg, Ferretly, Intelligo, Predictim and many more. They are taking over HR.

Does anybody know how the AI job interview works?

These vendors have supplanted real job interviews and legitimate assessments of job applicants and employees, substituting AI and extreme automation. They have infected Human Resources departments everywhere.

Critical review of this phenomenon has been sporadic and scattered, and HR’s role in the pain you suffer when job hunting has been sketchy.

If you’re a regular in this community, you know I very rarely recommend books about job hunting and hiring. So I’ll get to my advice: Read Hilke Schellmann’s new book. Before you consent to one more job interview by a robot, before you sit and video-record yourself “talking to the hand” while unaccountable algorithms “assess you,” get this book and take notes while you read it:

The Algorithm: How AI decides who gets hired, monitored,
promoted and fired and why we need to fight back now

Schellmann reveals what’s going on, and you’d better strap on a rubber apron because it’s gonna get messy.

HireVue and HR’s other AI fantasies exposed

Hilke Schellmann, an award-winning investigative reporter and journalism professor at NYU, has delivered a stunning survey of what’s wrong with using AI to judge people. Somebody’s responsible for this growing blob of inscrutable fake intelligence, and we must follow the money. The purchase orders originate in Human Resources — they own it.

In The Algorithm Schellmann skins HR alive, revealing the flaccid underbelly of AI-based HR technology in what seems to be the biggest rip-off ever of job seekers, employees and employers alike.

Rather than hold forth myself on the evils AI is visiting on your career, I’m going to show you what Schellmann has discovered and revealed about a phony technology propped up by PR, marketing and double-talk.


If you believe AI is still a relatively small component of hiring, consider that HireVue alone announced that by the end of 2022 its software had conducted 33 million “one way” job interviews. Schellmann reports that over 60 Fortune 100 companies use HireVue to conduct AI job interviews. One employer used HireVue to interview 50,000 applicants over just one weekend for 1,500 locations.

What this tells us is there is no Human in HR anymore. It’s called “Artificial” Intelligence for a reason — it’s Fake Intelligence. The only humans involved are job seekers suckered into “talking to the hand.” I read one account after another in this book about how these vendors misrepresent — or, if we want to be generous, misunderstand — the science behind their products. I believe any job hunter could save thousands of dollars and untold amounts of time and anguish in their job search by understanding that algorithms cannot judge your personality, analyze your facial expressions, fathom your character from how you move your head or predict from your voice whether you’d be good at a job.

Digging deep into the artificial HR

There’s nothing human about HR anymore. The profession has metamorphosed into a piggy bank for AI start-ups. To get to the bottom of it all, Schellmann played job seeker and used these AI tools herself, then cornered their developers with tough questions.

She interviewed at length the entrepreneurs behind the vendors. She consulted with psychologists, computer scientists and attorneys who evaluated the legitimacy of the “science” behind the tests, games and robots involved. She spoke with hiring managers and studied the experiences of job seekers who were subjected to AI assessments.

I’ve been waiting for Schellman to come along for a long time.

No single article can begin to portray the breadth of Schellmann’s findings, so I won’t try. I’ll give you some examples and I’ll hope you read her book.

Microseconds of deep thinking, or gas? Or a load of crap?

In its video AI job interviews, HireVue uses “facial expression analysis” to identify and measure emotions. Emotions are then scored and those scores are used to judge your “thinking style” and predict whether or not you would do a job well. Schellmann suggests compellingly that none of this has been shown to predict how well you’d do a job.

While discussing the “results” of a video interview, HireVue executive Nathan Mondragon tells Schellmann: “Your eye went like this and down and you went ‘umm.’ So two seconds of video capture, two seconds of data, but every microsecond of the video frame is frozen and your eye movement went down and your head tilted and you went into an alternative thinking style. A lot of times ‘eye going down’ means a deeper thinking style, and going up can be a creativity thinking style.” (p. 107)

After reviewing the facial recognition metrics and discussing the “science” of personality that HireVue’s algorithms rely on, an independent psychologist points out that “The face is not a window into the mind.” HireVue claims its algorithms determine your thinking style, but the psychologist points out that “thinking styles” are not supported by sound science. “We just don’t know what the meaning is of someone looking up or down… the movements don’t have inherent meaning… People scowl when they’re angry… when the are really focused, when they have gas.” (p. 113)

The theory behind their technology is “hugely problematic”

Much of the basis for the facial analysis algorithms rests on the (questionable, it turns out) assumption that if your best current employees display certain expressions during HireVue’s testing, then job applicants with the same expressions will be successful hires.

But Schellmann’s experts explain that to use facial expressions to identify emotions you must assume that ”emotions are indicated by roughly the same facial expressions that almost every human can recognize, and therefore computers could detect too.” (p. 112)

But bias creeps into the selection of “best employees” who represent the baseline.

“It could be that facial expressions… are just as random as hair color. If you look at high performers in video interviews and most people have brown hair, an unsupervised algorithm could pick up on that and choose only people with brown hair.”

Furthermore, the theory of universal emotions the technology is based on is outdated. “That’s what they’ve built their whole science around and it’s hugely problematic.”

We can’t check whether candidates can do the job!

This bit really warmed my heart because it proves effective marketing distracts us from crappy products.

Schellmann gets this little gem from Lindsey Zuloaga, the chief data scientist at HireVue: “What’s interesting with any job interview — if it’s scored by humans or by AI – is that a candidate only talks about their experiences. We are not seeing the candidate in action at their jobs. There is just a limitation of how do you know if someone’s going to do well at a job. The best way to know would be to let them do the job for a while and see how they do.” [Emphasis added.]

Duh, right? Now wait for it, because here it comes… “And obviously, you can’t do that,” said Zuloaga. “So assessing people is, in nature, kind of a proxy to getting to the actual job and the performance in the job.” (p. 101)

I can see this guy asking the seller of a used car to fill out a checklist about how well the car works but sees no reason to take it for a test drive. Zuloaga is so lost in his data that he has no concept of how people actually work “in nature”… by actually showing they can do the job! Better to use a proxy!

Skinning HR alive

These selected quotes are straight out of the book and speak for themselves. Memo to CEOs and boards of directors: Is this where your HR operation is spending your money?

“The problem exists when the data that underlies some of this is filled with errors or the design of the algorithms is filled with errors,” [said assessment tools expert John Scott] about Humantic AI’s and Crystal’s software. “It’s this going after the latest technologies that has resulted in a commercialization of these assessment tools that exist at the expense of sound, professional practice and good science.” (pp. 48-49)

[AI vendor] Crystal acknowledged that there are no independent studies verifying that its method works. (p. 48)

When we ran Humantic’s AI [which analyzes social media postings] separately over participants’ Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, the software returned different personality predictions for many of the people in our study. (p. 49)

[Harvard business professor] Joe Fuller’s report calls it ironic that company leaders keep complaining about not having enough qualified candidates for jobs, when they know that their own hiring processes are broken and actively excluding the very applicants they claim to so desperately want: “Employers almost universally acknowledge that these negative filters cause them to inadvertently exclude qualified candidates some, if not most of the time.” (p. 25)

There is a company that predicts personality traits based on users’ social media feeds — with or without users’ consent…. Humantic AI advertised that with just an email address the company’s algorithm can scan social feeds of job candidates and give hiring managers hidden insights into job candidates: “Get to know their real persona, not just the persona they want you to see. Let DeepSense predict their culture fit, personality and behavior for you.” (p. 30)

One job seeker whose uses the pronoun they… was able to see the report [compiled by Fama]. It contained more than three hundred pages analyzing all their tweets, retweets and likes. They were not amused by what they saw. (p. 36)

I spoke to a lot of hiring managers. Most pointed to one main problem they were hoping AI would solve: they are overwhelmed by the number of job applications they receive. AI promises a quick fix. One hiring manager, who started using an  AI-based resume screener… told me that his people are not checking whether the algorithm works, since artificial intelligence never makes mistakes. (p. 46)

[Uh, if the company stopped soliciting so many applications via fire hose, its managers would have time to screen the resumes? Now we’ll close with the most embarrassing quote in the book. –Nick

Book: The Algorithm8.
Safe Hammad, the chief technology officer, and cofounder of game-based assessment provider Arctic Shores said… “For me, it’s magic. I understand the science a little bit underneath. I certainly understand the mathematics, but it’s like magic.” p. 56)

These quotes barely scratch the surface of  Schellmann’s findings and analysis. There’s so much more, and I so admire both the depth and breadth of her research. Some of her interviews with AI firm managers made me crack up — they seem as clueless about being exposed as they are about the missing scientific underpinnings of their slap-dash “products.”

My hat is off to Hilke Schellman. A fine job of delivering a valuable public service!

Join the book club!

I’m not even done reading the book. I spent as much time writing in the margins and highlighting as I’ve spent reading! This is a remarkable book. A downright scary analysis, expose and general all-around skinning of HR — the good folks that fund these AI companies and make you talk to a screen. (I haven’t even brought up the parts of the book about withholding the files these firms create about you…)

What do you think? Is it like magic? Are you already aware of the scope of AI (FI?) being inflicted on job seekers, employees, employers, managers and, well, the entire economy? How much of “the jobs numbers” do these AI dealers and their HR junkies affect? Have you been subjected to the magic? Is Hilke Schellmann serious? Do “we need to fight back now?” How?

Let’s start a book club. Get the book (from your library or buy it so you can mark it up!), post your comments, questions, analysis and, uh, intelligent banter. That’s what we’re here for. (This website earns a small commission from Amazon on books you buy from links you find here. I use the funds to pay for the servers and maintenance. Thanks for your support.)

: :