How to Get A Job: Network? I don’t know anybody!

How to Get A Job: Network? I don’t know anybody!

How to Get A Job Workshop

For several editions, we’re devoting the Q&A feature to a workshop. Instead of Q&A, this limited series of columns will be “All Answers,” or, if you will, “How To.” This week we continue with How to Get A Job: Network? I don’t know anybody! I hope you find this deep dive helpful, and that you will — as always — dive into the discussion in the Comments section below!  — Nick

How to Get A Job: Network? I don’t know anybody!

how to get a job networkEvery survey ever done shows that the single most successful path to a new job is personal contacts. Yet, time and again people complain to me that they just don’t know anybody who can help them gain entry to a particular company.

And that’s flat-out wrong.

Welcome to your new network

I’m going to enumerate some of the many people you know who can help you.

  • The reporter who wrote the story about the company you want to work for.
  • The manager featured in the article about how that company beat profit projections.
  • The friend whose friend works in the marketing department of your target company.
  • The accountant who works for the CPA firm that handles payroll for the company.
  • The purchasing manager who places orders with the company every week.
  • The lawyer who knows the lawyer who represents the company.
  • The stock broker who knows the analyst who follows the company’s performance.
  • The engineer who wrote the article about the new technology the company uses.
  • The sales rep who answers the phone to help customers in your region.

But, you say you don’t know all those people? That’s a minor detail! You just don’t know them yet. You probably know at least one of them, and the rest you can get to know by picking up the phone. Anyone you know about you can also get to know.

Get wired

If you try to avoid this critical step in your job search, you’re kidding yourself about where jobs come from. While you’re crying that you lost out to somebody who was wired for the job, you’re doing nothing to be the wired candidate for the next one. Jobs come from insiders that help you get the inside track because you got to know them first.

Contacts like these are on the critical path to your next job because they have the inside story about the companies and the managers you want to work for. You need to talk with them. This is how the best headhunters glean the hard-to-find information they use to land new clients and to find the best job candidates for those clients. They get to know the people they need to know.

Get to work getting to know people

People love to talk about their business. You’ve heard me say it before: You can almost always get someone’s attention by talking shop with them. (You don’t need to do the icky kind of networking!) By asking intelligent (well-researched!) questions about their work. By expressing your educated interest in work they do that you want to do, too.

As you start to gather their insights, you will learn a lot, and you will formulate more good questions. This leads you to talk to more people. “Well, gee, who else do you recommend I talk to in the company regarding the marketing department?” This is how you get in the door through personal referrals.

If this were easy, everybody would be doing it

You’ll know you’re doing it right when your supply of new friends overflows, and when you’re talking with them about their work — not about getting a job.

Here are a few of the things you should not say:

  • Let me tell you about myself…[and start reciting your resume]
  • Do you know about any open jobs?
  • Can you please pass my resume on to the company [or the manager or the HR department]?
  • Can you get me an informational interview?

It’s all about personal contacts, but not about awkward, mercenary networking. It’s about establishing a credible interest in a company, in educating yourself deeply, and in helping the business. Never ask directly for a job lead—you’ll just be referred to the HR department.

So get to work. Stop saying you don’t know anybody, or you’ll never land a great job through personal contacts — which is how most people find jobs.

Sorry, I didn’t say it was easy. If this were easy, everybody would be doing it.

Then what?

I throw it out to you!

  • What other kinds of new contacts are on the “critical path” to your next job?
  • Who can you contact next? (Not to talk about a job!)
  • What should you not say to new people you meet?
  • What do you say to new contacts you make, to help educate yourself about the company and to help get you to the right hiring manager?

Let’s talk about “Then what?” The Comments section below awaits your ideas, suggestions, frustrations questions and discussion. We’re all here to figure it out.

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How to Get A Job: There aren’t 400 jobs for you

How to Get A Job: There aren’t 400 jobs for you

How to Get A Job Workshop

For several editions, we’re devoting the Q&A feature to a workshop. Instead of Q&A, this limited series of columns will be “All Answers,” or, if you will, “How To.” So the only question we’ll be addressing will be about how to get a job. We began with Don’t write a resume! This week we continue with There aren’t 400 jobs for you. I hope you find this deep dive helpful, and that you will — as always — dive into the discussion in the Comments section below!  — Nick

How to Get A Job: There aren’t 400 jobs for you

“Apply for hundreds of jobs with just one click!”

400 jobs“That just showed up in my inbox,” a subscriber wrote me. “Sigh… who needs your advice when I can apply for hundreds of jobs with just one click?”

“In the interim,” he added, “I’m waiting to hear back from a hiring manager who needs help securing networks. A former team member introduced me to him. I suspect I’ll have a new job shortly, for some reason…”

That subscriber is highlighting a harsh truth.

There aren’t 400 jobs for you.

When you write your resume, or apply for jobs online, you are working with a ridiculous premise: that going after a lot of jobs is a good thing. You might as well go buy a lottery ticket, because it doesn’t work that way.

Here’s the biggest load of bunk:

“When you’re job hunting, the most important thing to do when you wake up each day is send out 20 resumes and job applications. Do that first, and you’ll feel better because you will have done something to find that new job!”

That’s the conventional wisdom.

Here’s why it’s bunk: After a month you will have applied for 400 jobs, but there aren’t 400 jobs out there that are right for you. There might be a small handful at most. The rest are someone else’s idea of what job might be right for you. And they’re wrong.

Wrong jobs

Where do all these wrong jobs come from?

  • Silly solicitations like the one a reader reported above.
  • The job ads, which tell you next to nothing about the actual work, the manager, or the people you’ll be working with.
  • Your friends, who think that in desperation you’ll consider just about any job they’ve run across.
  • Your college (if you just graduated), which leaves you thinking you must get a job related to your new degree.
  • A headhunter, who calls to tempt you with something, anything.
  • The media, which daily tell us what jobs are “hot.”

The right job is the work you want to do at the company where you want to do it in the industry you want to be a part of. So, ask yourself while you’re climbing out of bed, are you pursuing the right job, or 400 wrong jobs?

Don’t walk blind on the job hunt.

From the lowliest support personnel to the most highly paid executives, earnest job seekers venture out on the job hunt with their eyes closed. They smile that idiotic “I’m your solution!” smile at employers they don’t know from Adam.

These people are all conducting a blind job search. That’s where you broadcast information about yourself to people you don’t know who don’t know you and who have no reason to care. Then you wonder why these employers aren’t impressed. You wonder why they haven’t called you back.

It’s because you’re walking blind.

  • Know who you’re contacting, or don’t contact them.
  • If you don’t know the person you want to contact, first contact someone that does and get introduced.
  • If you wouldn’t recognize someone on the street, don’t walk blind into an interview with them.
  • Send a resume only when the hiring manager already has at least two other solid reasons to be interested in you. Those reasons are probably people the manager trusts.
  • Never pursue jobs you’ve “heard about.” Pursue only jobs where the manager has heard about you. If they haven’t heard about you yet, see that they do.

Open your eyes before you venture out. The best employers are watching and, in general, they don’t think you know where you’re going. Don’t walk blind on the job hunt.

Pursue companies, not jobs

Audiences look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them the best way to find a great job is not to look for a job.

What’s the logic behind this? If you pursue a job, you’re probably going down a dead end. Soon you’ll be looking for another job at another company.

If you go to work at the right company, you should have a future of progressively better jobs. Why pursue one job, when you can have a career full of them in one place? Think ahead!

So, why is it that people bang the Submit! button and apply for jobs in lots of companies, rather than investigate the depth and breadth of opportunities in a single company where they may have a chance to grow and prosper? (Maybe it’s because employers themselves can’t see past six months or a year. They pitch individual, often ephemeral, jobs rather than promote their company’s future prospects. Hey, no one said it’s easy to find a worthy company.)

Pick a small handful of the best companies. Companies that ring your bells. Companies that excite you. The leaders, the shining lights of the industry you want to work in. Life is short, so why waste time with anything less?

Study each company’s business. Study its competition. Look at the problems and challenges it is facing. You cannot do this for 400 companies! Lasting success depends on careful choices.

I know there’s a lot of justified cynicism among job seekers. Employers have laid waste to any ideas of loyalty. They hire for the short term. They leave workers high and dry without training or professional development. But that’s not true of all. Worthy employers are still worth finding.

Companies worth the work are the only companies worth pursuing

Very few jobs and companies are worth the hard work you must do to prepare for an interview where you will truly stand out.

When you have settled on less than five companies that are truly worth your time, sit down and ask yourself, “How can I go into each company and help contribute to the bottom line?” If you don’t take a profit-based approach to your job search, you’re wasting your time. You’re then just another job candidate. You’re just another resume.

Do what none of your competitors will. Talk with people who work in the company and people who do business with the company. Talk with vendors, customers, and people who are involved in the industry. Do the hard work of picking the right targets. Learn what problems and challenges a company faces in the area where you want to work.

You need only one right company

Once you’ve figured out what you can bring to a company’s bottom line, put together a little business plan. A business plan basically says, “This is how I would do this job in a way that would be effective and profitable for your business — and for me. Your company is worth the work I put into this plan.”

When you are able to prepare this business plan, it means you have chosen a worthy company you’re ready to talk shop with. To create this plan, you developed contacts who tutored you and got you in the door. Now you have something that is better than a resume — proof that you’re worth hiring at a company worth working for. (See How Can I Change Careers? It’s not just for career changers.)

Do you see why you cannot possibly do this for 400 companies?

Now you don’t need to apply to 400 companies.

How many jobs have you applied for that you did not get? Do you think maybe you applied for too many and wasted precious time pursuing the wrong ones? Did you ever take a wrong job just because “it was there?” What’s the best way to pick the right jobs to pursue?

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How to Get A Job: Don’t write a resume

How to Get A Job: Don’t write a resume

How to Get A Job Workshop

For the next few weeks, we’re going to devote the Q&A feature to a workshop. Instead of Q&A, this limited series of columns will be “All Answers,” or, if you will, “How To.” So the only question we’ll be addressing in several editions of the newsletter and in this column will be about how to get a job. We’ll start with “Don’t write a resume!” I hope you find this deep dive helpful, and that you will — as always — dive into the discussion in the Comments section below!  — Nick

How to Get A Job: Don’t write a resume

don't write a resumeThe first step on your job search is to become aware of the myths of job hunting. The first myth is that your resume will get you in the door for a job interview.

It won’t. It’s a fallacy.

Don’t write a resume

Don’t write a resume to start your job search. It’s a terrible habit that will slow you down. Worse, you’ll find yourself defending your resume in job interviews when you should be tackling the job you want. A resume tells the hiring manager what you’ve done. What the manager needs to know is what you will do if you’re hired to make the business and the manager more successful. Your resume can’t do that.

Resumes have failed at getting you in the door so often that you’ve accepted it as an unavoidable trauma. All job seekers have come to accept resume failure as normal. But failure is what you choose every time you submit a resume (or the equivalent: a job application) to apply for a job interview.

Calculate the resume myth

You can prove to yourself just how costly the resume fallacy is. How many resumes have you sent out during your life? Make a reasonable estimate. Now, how many job interviews have you gotten from those resumes? Draw a ratio:


I know the ratio it’s tiny. Minuscule. Practically meaningless.

Let’s go a step further: How many resumes have you submitted for every job offer you’ve gotten?

No one wants to view their future as a game of chance, but the resume ratio reveals most job seekers are desperate gamblers.

Your resume will get you rejected

Software developer Joel Spolsky created several successful software companies including StackOverflow, which gets over 100 million visitors per month. He sold the company for $1.8 billion. He built his success by avoiding the myths and hiring people who are smart and get things done. Here’s what this expert hiring manager says about Getting Your Resume Read:

“We get between 100 and 200 [resumes] per opening. There is no possible way we can interview that many people. The only hope is if we can screen people out using resumes. Don’t think of a resume as a way to get a job: think of it as a way to give some hiring manager an excuse to hit DELETE.”

Spolsky isn’t against using resumes per se, but this entrepreneur points out the dirty little secret about using a resume to get a job: It’s a myth that wastes your precious time when you need to stand out and to get an edge over hundreds or thousands of competitors for the job you want.

But it’s actually worse. The resume fallacy is a systemic problem. The employment system itself conspires to make it even harder to get an interview from your resume. As more and more job seekers learn to feed resumes into job-board databases, and as employers rely more and more on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSes), these automated resume-scanning machines keep increasing your competition. This lowers the odds that your resume will do what HR managers claim: “The purpose of your resume is to get you in the door for an interview.”

Those HR managers are lying. As Spolsky points out, the purpose of your resume is to help employers reject you. The automated deluge of incoming resumes leaves them no choice.

What gets you in the door?

Consider this: You send your resume to five hundred companies and it sits in a manager’s file while thousands more resumes pile in after it. At some point, the manager will decide whether to interview you. Meanwhile, my candidate is sitting in the manager’s office describing how they will help the manager produce profit and contribute to the bottom line.

There’s a difference between a job hunter who uses a resume and a job hunter who cultivates and uses personal contacts to get into a company they’ve targeted. One gets the job and one doesn’t. Hiring managers rely on their trusted contacts to endorse and personally recommend good job candidates. Meanwhile, your resume is used to reject you.

(A headhunter is a special case of the personal contact that gets you in the door. But don’t count on a headhunter’s help. It’s far better to use a professional referral. 50-70% of jobs come from personal referrals. Only about 3% of jobs come from headhunters.)

So, what’s a resume for?

Should you not have a resume? Of course you should have a resume: a good, simple list of your work experience, expertise and credentials. (Believe me: Employers don’t trust resumes even as they solicit millions of them, because they know over 80% of people lie on their resumes.)

Here’s my myth-busting advice: Don’t write a resume to start your job search.

  • Never hand your resume to anyone “to get in the door.”
  • Never use a resume to apply for a job.
  • Never use a resume “to market yourself.”

The only time you should use your resume is after you have established substantive contact with the hiring manager —

  • not with a recruiter
  • not with HR, and
  • not with any automated applicant system.

Your resume by itself does not count as substantive contact. You have to earn substantive contact, which is usually made through a trusted referral.

What’s a resume really for? The only purpose of a resume is to fill in the blanks about who you are — after you have used better means to meet a hiring manager. If a hiring manager does not already know exactly why you are worth interviewing, your resume isn’t going to help.

To get a meaningful shot at winning the job you want, make sure the hiring manager knows all about you before they read your resume. Rely on your resume only to fill in the blanks for a hiring manager who already has adequate information to want to interview you.

Interviews and jobs don’t come from resumes

Beware the resume myth. Don’t start any job search by writing a resume that’s “a marketing piece.” Your resume doesn’t “sell you.” It is a dumb document that a manager can use to quickly reject you after spending about 6 seconds looking at it.

So don’t waste precious time on resumes when you can invest it meeting hiring managers. People don’t get jobs from resumes. They get jobs through people the manager knows and trusts.


How to Get A Job: Pick only the right 3-4 companies

I invite you to post your thoughts, experiences and advice about resumes and how to get a job in the Comments section below. Related questions and suggestions for future topics in the Workshop are welcome!

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Why headhunters waste your time

Why headhunters waste your time


May I ask for your advice? I’m a headhunter. What is the best thing to say to a candidate when they ask who is the client I’m representing? I don’t want them going after the job on their own or using another headhunter. Thanks for your time.

Nick’s Reply

headhunters waste timeNice to hear from a “headhunter,” but I’m more concerned about what a candidate should do when you won’t disclose your client. Why on earth would you not tell a candidate who your client is? Aren’t you proud of the client?

Unfortunately, I say that with tongue in cheek. I know why you won’t disclose who your client company is. You’re afraid the candidate will take the information, contact the company directly about the job, cut you out of the loop, and cost you a placement fee.

Is this a headhunter or a “headhunter”?

But there’s more to this that job candidates need to know, because this is part of how “headhunters” (I shudder to call them that) waste job candidates’ time. I’m betting you’re worried because you have no control over your client, and that’s because you have no contract or written agreement with the company. (If you do have a written agreement but it’s not exclusive, candidates face the same problem.) It’s simply bad business when a company welcomes lots of “headhunters” to submit resumes of the same candidates indiscriminately and all at once. If the company hires a candidate submitted by 10 “headhunters” and makes a hire, one of the “headhunters” gets paid and the rest get diddley-bop.

Pardon me if I’ve got it wrong, but I think that’s why you’re worried. That’s why you’re a “headhunter” and not a headhunter. (Note to job seekers: Please read They’re not headhunters.)

The Employment System is Broken

This is also proof positive that the Employment System — how HR recruits and hires — is a sham, a scam, an irresponsible cluster-f@ck that doesn’t work for anyone but the database jockeys who build the software that props up this indefensible house of cards. Yes, I’m talking about Applicant Tracking Systems, LinkedIn and Indeed, the baddest HR consultancies and “recruitment automaters,” phony “A.I.”, phony algorithms that “view and judge” video interviews, and HR-we-do-it-all outsourcing rackets. These all contribute to indiscriminate, more-is-better and massively erroneous candidate selection, “review” and “processing.”

I’m sure readers are already laughing because they’ve had loads of their time wasted by headhunters! Now we’re going to take a look at how this happens.

Job Candidates: How headhunters waste your time

Most headhunters work on contingency. That is, they are paid only when the employer actually hires a job candidate the headhunter submitted for a job. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this business model. It’s very common and it can work well enough for the job seeker, the headhunter and the employer. But problems arise when the search is not assigned exclusively, but thrown like chum on the waters to create an insensate recruiter feeding frenzy.

A contingency search assignment should at minimum give you 30, 60 or 90 days to complete without competition or interference from other sources of candidates. You are the only headhunter authorized to submit job candidates for X days. That’s what makes it exclusive. That’s what makes it worth your time to do a good, thorough job. That’s what makes you proud and happy to tell the candidate who your client is.

When an employer solicits many resumes from many sources all at once, it’s practicing garbage in-garbage out recruiting. It wastes job candidates’ time and its own. When “headhunters” are forced to compete this way, they will submit anyone for any job, hoping to get lucky.

How does this waste a job candidate’s time? Because earnest job seekers go on interviews totally wrong for them while the “headhunter” is hoping to get lucky. The candidate’s time costs the “headhunter” nothing because the “headhunter” costs the employer nothing unless a hire is made.

Is this a bona fide job search?

A company that assigns an exclusive search to a headhunter it trusts gets fewer but better candidates simply because it’s worth the headhunter’s time to dedicate the resources to recruit accurately and quickly. Everybody is more likely to win.

So the problem is not how to answer that question. It’s to start with a bona fide search that’s exclusive. Anything else is not good business for you, for the employer, or for the job candidate. The very fact that you fear competing with your own candidate tells us there’s a fundamental problem with the business model you subject yourself to.

If you don’t have a meaningful agreement with the company, recruiting and submitting candidates becomes a crapshoot and you’re not likely to make a placement because of all the counterproductive and phony “competition.” (It’s phony because all the candidates come from the same databases!)

You should not be wasting your time trying to make a placement without a solid, exclusive relationship with your client. And a candidate should not work with you if all you’re doing is submitting yet another copy of their resume to the same employer.

Headhunting is not a numbers game

I know this is hard advice. But headhunting is hard work. That’s why we get paid up to $30,000 to fill a $100,000 job. What most “headhunters” are doing is playing a recruiting lottery, hoping to get lucky. They’re not real headhunters.

Of course, you could just tell the candidate the truth: You can’t name the company because you know they will apply directly or apply through five headhunters hoping the numbers will work in their favor. Or, you could tell them the name and beg them to work only through you.

Please think about this. Headhunting can be a great business — if you are actually doing business with written agreements, trusted clients and trusted sources of great candidates. Everything else is dialing for dollars.

My advice to any headhunter is to do exclusive searches.

Go exclusive or go away

My advice to job seekers is to work only with headhunters that have the inside track on filling a job for a company. They should always ask the headhunter, “Who is the employer, and are you handling this assignment exclusively?” (See headhunter Joe Borer’s excellent article, How to Judge A Headhunter.)

I have no advice for employers that tolerate and encourage a feeding frenzy of “headhunters” competing to fill one job. They deserve the mess they’re in. This is how and why “headhunters” waste job seekers’ time.

I wish you the best.

Do headhunters tell you who their client is? At what point? Have you ever “gone around” a headhunter? Have you ever learned that multiple headhunters submitted you for the same job? What happened?

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Should I reveal I’m pregnant in job interview?

Should I reveal I’m pregnant in job interview?


I may be able to get a really great job with a really great company. However, I’m in the early stages of pregnancy and I’m concerned about how to handle it. I know it’s illegal to discriminate against pregnant women, but let’s face it — it happens.

So here’s the deal. Do I risk rejection by telling the employer about my situation up front or do I tell them after they make an offer and risk losing the offer? Or, should I wait until I am settled in the job and then lower the boom, but risk alienating my employer?

I am a dedicated worker and I take any job I have seriously. I intend to return to work pretty quickly after the baby comes because we need the income. I’d appreciate your advice. I am only nine weeks along and can probably hide my condition until quite a while after they hire me. Thanks.

Nick’s Reply

pregnant job interviewAnother reader recently asked me essentially the same question, but he’s not pregnant. He’s got a serious chronic condition and wanted to know when to disclose it to the employer. The answer to both is much the same, and it’s founded on whether the candidate’s condition will have a material effect on their ability to do the job as promised.

I don’t want to get into a tirade about the challenges women face when job hunting, or in advancing their careers. But I’ll say it: Women have a harder time in the workplace than men. Women earn less for doing the same jobs as men and don’t get promoted as often.

Where do job candidates come from?

Employers also worry about women having babies. Imagine that. Where do these companies think future generations of workers come from?

Any company that ignores the cost of temporarily losing women to childbearing has failed to plan its finances and operations intelligently. It’s called a fact of life. So I have no sympathy for any company that arches an eyebrow when it learns a female employee is about to have a baby.

Pregnant women — and people with chronic conditions — can work. Employers can manage a work schedule when a baby comes, and can accommodate a chronic condition if the hire can otherwise do the job as required. Your challenge is to live up to the work commitment you make.

Pregnant in the job interview?

My advice is to interview and win an offer on the basis of the work you can do and the contribution you can make to the company’s bottom line. If having a baby won’t make a material difference to your ability to get the job done, then it’s none of the employer’s business. (Legal experts agree you don’t have to tell that you’re pregnant.) Get the offer first — get it in writing. It won’t be so easy for them to rescind the offer at that point, and you’ll learn a lot from their reaction, too.

Rejecting you only because they learn you’re pregnant in the job interview is unethical. The strong position is not to tell them anything, not before getting an offer or after you start work. When it’s obvious you’re pregnant, tell HR you’d like to schedule the necessary time for the baby.

If you’re going to tell, turn it into a commitment. Since you plan to return to work after the baby comes without much delay, tell that to the employer. Provide details on your planned schedule. If they express dismay that you didn’t tell them this before they made the offer but they are still eager to hire you, that may be okay. If they get upset about it, I doubt you’d want to work there — they’re not going to be very supportive of a working mother.

Having a baby is your business

If you want to take legal action at that point, it’s up to you. I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice. My job is to optimize your chances of getting an offer and of having a good relationship with your employer if you take the job. How you play it from there is up to you.

It’s not hard to argue that, if you want a good relationship with your new employer, you should ‘fess up about being pregnant before they hire you. I’d agree — if you knew in advance which employers will follow the law and not discriminate against you. But you don’t. So I come down on the side of protecting your privacy and your interests — but the call is yours.

My advice is to assess the company’s attitude and decide whether they’re worth working for. If you’re going to disclose, don’t until after you’ve got an offer. Having a baby is your business. Your ability to do the job properly is your business and the employer’s. If you prefer to disclose, don’t skew the odds against yourself imprudently. If how you handle this is a sign of your integrity, then how the employer handles it reveals theirs. My advice is to act responsibly without putting yourself at a disadvantage, and to hold any employer to a similar standard. I wish you and your family the best.

What is an employer’s business, and what is not? Does an employer need to know your medical condition? Have you encountered this situation, either as a pregnant job seeker or as a hiring manager? How did you handle it? How did the employer handle it? What medical conditions does an employer really need to know about?

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“Thank you, I’m hired!” & other ways to get a job

“Thank you, I’m hired!” & other ways to get a job


ways to get a jobI’d like to ask your subscribers something if you will let me. In today’s weird job market, the responses you collect may be instructive for everyone.

Reading about the recent untimely passing of “Full House” star Bob Saget reminded me of something I once read about Dave Coulier who played Joey Gladstone on the program. Coulier wanted to break into the world of voice acting in Hollywood, so he prepared a two-sided audio tape. One side had recorded excerpts of actual cartoon programs. The other side was him imitating the originals.

He sent the tape to various casting directors, but did not say which side was from the actual program, and which side was his imitation, adding that, if you can’t tell the difference, you should hire me. They were captivated. His career was soon successfully launched.

I’d like to know if your readers ever did something as clever to get, or at least attempt to get, a job.

Nick’s Reply

In “today’s weird job market” I’m sure there are some wild stories about unusual ways to get a job. Dave Coulier’s scheme might seem like a trick to some, but it’s really a demonstration. Long-time subscribers know my exhortation to “do the job to win the job.” By messing with the casting directors’ minds, he helped them see (or hear) what he could actually do. I think that audio tape was a brilliant move.

Poll: Ways to get a job

You’ve proposed a provocative poll of Ask The Headhunter readers. I think it’s a good one that might get folks more motivated, or at least make us laugh. I can’t wait to hear their stories of clever (and maybe too clever!) ways to get a job.

To get us started, I’ll offer up the story of a guy who hired himself. It’s weird, instructive and cautionary. It happened at a small computer company in a time when security was not the concern it is today.

A guy we’ll call Jim was recommended for a software development job to the president of a company, who in turn passed the resume on to the software manager. Jim was interviewed. His skills were good but not exceptional and his ability to communicate was poor. Something about him also made the interviewers uncomfortable. The decision not to hire Jim was unanimous and he was notified.

A few days later the president arrived at work and noticed someone working in what had been a vacant office next to his. He stuck his head in the door. “Hello. Have we met?”

“I don’t think so,” came the reply. “I’m Jim .”

“Nice to meet you, Jim. What are you doing?”

“Working on some code.”

“Well, good, and welcome aboard.”

“Thank you,” said Jim.

Later, the software manager noticed Jim ensconced and busy in the office next to the president’s. He figured the president decided to hire Jim for some other job.

It took a few days before the president and the manager realized no one had hired Jim. Having not received a job offer, he started coming in to work every day anyway. The short of it is, he as much took the job as got the job. Thank you, I’m hired. And he was.

What’s the most clever (or not so clever!) maneuver you’ve used, or tried to use, to get a job? Why do you think it worked or didn’t? Are there other unusual ways to get a job that you know about?

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Stupid Interview Questions: #11

Stupid Interview Questions: #11


What’s a good way to answer stupid interview questions like, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Nick’s Reply

stupid interview questionsAnswer: “Gee, will your company be in business in 5 years?

The “5 years” question is silly. I think my suggested answer is not, even if it might get you kicked out of the interview! The point is, the employer cannot see 5 years out, or predict what crises or opportunities might arise. Nor can a job seeker or employee.

You’re in the interview to answer questions, but it’s your duty to yourself to make sure the questions you answer are meaningful. We’ve discussed the Top 10 Stupid Interview Questions at length. This question — let’s call it #11 — is yet another example of just how broken the employment system is. It reveals how much time and energy is wasted in job interviews — especially in today’s economy.

Who cares about stupid interview questions?

Depending on what survey you look at, between 23%-73% of current workers are considering or planning to quit their jobs. Over 15 million have already quit in the past year. So, you could reasonably respond: “What are the odds you or I would still be at this company in 5 years?”

The interviewer might argue they want to know about your plans and aspirations. And you may bear the same curiosity about the employer. But I don’t know one corporate executive who would bet $100 on their company’s pie-in-the-sky 5-year business plan — much less explain it to a job applicant! So why do employers ask stupid interview questions about your unknown future?

Perhaps the best, most business-like answer to the “5 years” question is “Who cares? We’ve got real fish to fry!” Then get down to real business.

The interview question we should care about

If employers weren’t wasting your (and their) time with side trips of fancy, they could focus on the reason they’re trying to fill a job: to get work done.

If my suggested answers to the “5 years” question worry you, do what skilled politicians do. Ignore the stupid question and talk about what you believe the subject should be:

“How can we work together to get this job done?”

Please think about what I’ve said, then try this as a response.

How to Say It

“It depends on where the business goes and what our customers need. I like to think in milestones that I can actually control. I like to think in terms of concrete deliverables. What do you expect your new hire to actually deliver to you in this job in the next month, 3 months, 6, 12 and 24? I’d be glad to walk you through how I will deliver on your expectations. Then you’ll see where I see myself in a year and two years. Of course, we have to roll up our sleeves and work closely so we’re both on the same page about our future.”

Get the idea? The employer is lucky if they can plan a job out to 12 months! If the manager cannot define the expected deliverables from the new hire at 3, 6, 12 and 24 months, then how can you tell where you see yourself in 60?


You must do a lot of work to prepare for such an encounter. If you are not willing to do that kind of preparation, then I think you have no business in that interview. Or, it’s the wrong job and the wrong interview for you.

The purpose of this approach is to maneuver the manager into a working meeting, in which both of you roll up your sleeves and talk shop to define and plan for those milestones. This changes the job interview entirely and makes you stand out from all other candidates — especially the one that answers, “In 5 years I see myself in your job, of course!”

In today’s economy, I think it’s crucial to break the conventional interview script. Help the manager define what they need, so the two of you can work together to decide how you will deliver it successfully if you’re hired. After all, we get paid to deliver, not to fantasize.

I cover this and related interview challenges in Book 6 of the Fearless Job Hunting Collection.

If you try this approach, I think you will be the first candidate your boss has ever met that shows up ready to talk shop and ready to create the real future.

How do you answer the “5 years” question? What other Stupid Interview Questions have you been asked? How do you control a job interview to maximize your chances of getting an offer? Is there a single interview question that you think every employer should ask above all others?

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Exploding Job Offer #3: Get it in writing

Exploding Job Offer #3: Get it in writing


Bait & Switch Corp. (not the real name) offered me a job and lied about what the work would be. When I tried to discuss this, my new boss told me they fudge job descriptions because they can’t get the kinds of skills they need. “We’ll still pay you what we promised.” He thinks his exploding job offer was pretty clever. I quit.

Aren’t we supposed to be in a very tight “worker’s market” that makes it hard for employers to fill jobs? So why do they lie?

Take a look at this article: Employee Finds Out The Job They Accepted Wasn’t Work-From-Home As Promised, Quits In Style. The worker in this story was conned much like I was. Is this a thing now?

Nick’s Reply

exploding job offerUnsavory employers are nothing new; nor is the exploding job offer. (Today’s column covers a third example.) But the company in that article and the company you quickly quit reveal a new motivation for bad behavior: they are desperate. When desperate people try to be clever they usually wind up worse for it.

Exploding job offer #3: Bait and switch

I expect we’ll see more bait and switch because most employers really stink at hiring. These are companies that go dumpster diving in the “job boards” for job candidates then have no qualms about treating them like trash. But what does that say about job seekers that are found in those dumpsters, waiting for just any employer to pluck them out?

The truth is, job seekers often lose control the moment a job offer is dangled in front of them. Most become so giddy that they’ll accept it without reservation. And that leads to what I believe is the main reason people go job hunting: They took the wrong job to begin with because they failed to negotiate the terms.

The only way to minimize the chance of such a catastrophe is to get it all in writing.

You have a choice: Get it in writing

Employers are loath to put everything they represented about a job in writing. They don’t want to be obligated to anything except perhaps paying you, although I’ve seen the “salary bait and switch,” too. I know people who were thrilled to get a job, only to learn when onboarding was over that they were assigned a lower-level job and a lower salary.

Anyone that reads this website knows employers try to get away with what they can. While laws to protect employees are creeping up on companies, short of a costly lawsuit the job seeker has little recourse today. (See attorney Larry Barty’s advice in Job offer rescinded after I quit my old job.)

The inscrutable economy we live in makes it difficult for even honest employers to fill jobs. Many are throwing away the playbook and taking extreme measures to find and hire the workers they need. The honest ones are offering higher pay, better working conditions, work from home, bonuses and other enticements. The dishonest ones are just plain lying.

The job seeker’s playbook used to say, “Employers don’t provide detailed employment contracts because they don’t have to, so don’t bother to ask for one. You have no choice.”

The new playbook: Get it in writing

Today, employers are indeed desperate to fill jobs, so it’s an excellent time to make prudent changes to the playbook. A good place to start: Request a detailed employment agreement, no matter what level the job is, rather than just an offer letter. Insist that the terms as you understand them — and I don’t mean just salary! — are spelled out in writing. Did the interviewers discuss job definition, work schedule and location, who your boss is? Get it all in writing. A contract is best; a signed, detailed offer letter is the bare minimum; a purely oral or informal job offer is off the table.

A verbal job offer is wonderful because it tells you where you stand while the company prepares the formal written offer or contract. But a verbal offer is like a wet noodle: It doesn’t stand up very well.

Get everything you’ve been promised in writing. Don’t accept a job offer — even verbally — until you have all the details that matter in writing. A good employer will comply. An employer that really needs you will make the commitment.

Will a good written agreement absolutely protect you? Not if the employer is completely dishonest. Lawsuits involving even top executives who have solid contracts are not uncommon. But you’re better off having it in writing, if only because your insistence on creating that document shows the employer you’re not naïve about the employment market.

Avoid the exploding job offer

What terms should be spelled out? I’d love to hear from our community what you’d add to this list (which is far from exhaustive).

  • The exact pay for each pay period
  • The job title
  • Definition of the work and objectives and deliverables expected from you
  • How you will be measured
  • Your work schedule, location and environment (this may include tools you’ll need, whether software or a hammer)
  • Whom you will report to directly
  • If a commission or bonus is involved, how much, when it will be earned and when paid, a clear and objective definition of criteria to earn it, and a clear definition of metrics to be used
  • What your vacation time and sick leave will be and how they are calculated
  • Term of employment, if it is for a set length of time
  • Terms of separation, whether you are terminated or resign, including severance
  • A clear definition of “separation for cause”

Recruiters, HR managers and career coaches will tell you, “The employer will never go for that!”

But, why would you “go” for a job offer without all of that?

You already did. Other readers please take note: The OP’s experience hurt.

Leverage today’s job market

In many corners of today’s economy it’s definitely a job seeker’s market. (That’s just one reason I think this article by Bernie Dietz was prescient: Employment Contracts: Everyone needs promise protection.) So use that. You get to set some of the rules. You get to negotiate terms that are good for you — not just for the employer — because employers may need you more than ever. Be reasonable, but be firm. Get some, give some. But know in advance which terms are non-negotiable and be ready to walk away if the employer will not meet them.

If all this sounds like pie-in-the-sky, and you believe no employer will agree to what I’m suggesting, I think that means you have no leverage in negotiations because the employer doesn’t need you enough — or that the employer is lying to you. Why apply for jobs like that? (“Because I found them on Indeed” is not a good answer.)

The actual terms you negotiate are clearly important and will vary. But the terms you get mean nothing unless you get them in writing.

Do you get your job offers in writing? Have you started a job only to find out it’s not the job you accepted? What terms do you negotiate? What terms do you consider deal breakers?

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4 Job Hunting Secrets for 2022

4 Job Hunting Secrets for 2022


During my 9-year career I’ve read lots of books and articles about how to get a good job. My conclusion: Most of it is banal and useless. In all these years I’ve picked up just a handful of good tips that I use again and again. You’ve written several books about how to get a job. Impress me. Share some job hunting secrets from your books. Something I can use right now.

Nick’s Reply

job hunting secretsI’ve been saving your question as a good end-of-year topic. I agree with you that most advice about getting a job is recycled and misleading. It’s designed more to make life easier for employers, HR recruiters and headhunters than to help you.

I’ll offer you four fundamental observations and suggestions that, in my experience, can make a material difference in a job hunter’s efforts to land a good job. These are taken directly from my PDF books (on which you’ll get a jolly 50% discount — scroll down). I think you’ll be able to use these ideas immediately and that they will make a material difference in your job search.

But first, why listen to me? It’s the old follow-the-money rule. As a headhunter who has worked on contingency most of my career, I get paid only when a client actually hires my job candidate. In contrast to an HR manager or recruiter, my methods have to work, or I don’t eat.

  • Beat your competition even before the interview
  • Show up with a business plan
  • Address deliverables, not just questions
  • Find the right headhunter

1. Beat your competition even before the interview

Once a job is posted online, your odds of winning it diminish to almost zero. The competition is huge. To boost your odds, you must get to the hiring manager through a powerful personal referral. Get in the door first, with a pre-emptive reference.

Your most powerful reference is the one who calls an employer before the employer calls him. A preemptive reference speaks up for you, not about you. Actually, this is not a reference at all, but a recommendation or a referral.

A preemptive reference thinks enough of you to pick up the phone to call the manager you want to work for, and recommends you. This is a big step beyond a reference; it’s a true professional courtesy. The best preemptive reference is when a reputable person in your field refers you to an employer. Who needs a résumé when you’ve got that? This is beyond even a professional courtesy; it’s an endorsement. It carries enormous weight.

This tip and other ways to gain an edge in today’s goofy job market are found in Fearless Job Hunting Book 3: Get in The Door (way ahead of your competition).

2. Show up with a business plan

To stand out from all the well-qualified competitors you face, don’t sit in an interview and answer questions. Show how you’ll do the job. This is especially important when you’re trying to change careers to something new,

Before you can legitimately ask for a job, you must assess the needs of a company and plan how you will contribute to its success. Don’t behave like a job applicant; behave like an employee. Show up ready to do the job in the interview. Bring a business plan showing how you will do the work and contribute to profitability.

By defining the work an employer needs done and showing how, exactly, you will apply your skills, you can demonstrate your value in the new work domain — your new career. While others show up asking for a job, your demonstration of how you will do the job actually helps the employer justify hiring you into a new field of work.

Of course, this isn’t easy. But nor is that great job you want! If you cannot pull this off when you meet the manager, you have no business in that interview.

This suggestion and the steps for pulling it off are in How Can I Change Careers? It’s not just for career changers.


Take 50% OFF your purchase of any Ask The Headhunter PDF books! A great gift for job-hunting friends!

Use discount code JOLLY50 at check-out. Limited time offer! Order now!

3. Address deliverables, not just questions

Here’s a little secret I learned long ago: Most managers stink at job interviews. While they ask a lot of questions, they rarely explain exactly what they really want and expect from a new hire.

This is why you’ll get no job offer — because you don’t know what the deliverables are for the job! So you must get the manager to say it.

How to Say It
“What are your objectives for your new hire? That is, what would you want me to accomplish after a week? What results would you want to see a month, three months, six months and after a year on the job? The more specific you can be, the better I can address the work you need done.”

Get answers to these questions, and you’ll know exactly what’s going to make the manager hire you. I’ve seen job interviews shift dramatically when the candidate helps the manager focus on deliverables. Suddenly, the manager understands that you’re there to talk shop — and that you are focused on the work!

This tip and others about how to help managers hire you are in Fearless Job Hunting Book 6, The Interview: Be The Profitable Hire.

4. Find the right headhunter. (There’s only one place to look.)

What most people don’t realize is that headhunters don’t find jobs for people. As independent consultants, we find the best workers for our client companies. It’s highly unlikely you’re going to be a candidate for a very specific assignment, so don’t waste your time seeking headhunters. We fill only about 3% of jobs.

If you’re going to seek out headhunters anyway, here’s how to do it right.

Pick out five or six companies you really want to work for: the shining lights in your industry, the places where your dream job resides. Call the office of the manager to whom you would report if you worked there. (Don’t be lazy. Do the necessary research. If you find your quarry you must be prepared to talk shop intelligently.) Introduce yourself briefly.

 How to Say It
“I’m Mary Smith at Acme Widget Corporation. May I ask for your advice? I’m looking for the best headhunter in [marketing, finance, or whatever your specialty is]. I’ve always respected your company and I would value your suggestion. May I ask, What headhunter do you use and recommend to fill key positions in [marketing]?”

This request is so unusual that it can be a very effective ice-breaker. Not every manager will provide a recommendation. (Some managers are very protective of their headhunters.) But some will.

Now you know who handles searches for the company you want to work in. When you contact the headhunter, the client’s name is almost guaranteed to get the headhunter’s attention — and to get your call returned.

This “secret” and advice about how to manage that headhunter once you’ve found them is reprinted from How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you.

Does this really work?

Should you follow my advice? Long-time Ask The Headhunter subscriber Ray Stoddard puts it like this:

“The great news about your recommendations is that they work. The good news for those of us who use them is that few people are really willing to implement what you recommend, giving those of us who do an edge.”

I hope Ask The Headhunter helped you get an edge in 2021. The newsletter and the website will be on hiatus for two weeks while I take a vacation! See you with the next edition on January 11! Meanwhile, here’s wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays (no matter what you celebrate or where you celebrate it), and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!

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What if my meds trigger a positive drug test?

What if my meds trigger a positive drug test?


After over a year of unemployment, I finally got a job offer from [a major company] that I accepted. I’m relieved if not in disbelief, especially with the holidays coming up! The start date is in a month, and HR requires a (urine) drug test, which does not surprise me. But I have a concern. I take prescription medication and I’m worried my meds will turn up in the test results. The meds are for a chronic condition I do not want to reveal to the employer. (The condition will not affect my ability to do the job.) How do I do the test and protect my privacy? Should I just go cold turkey and hope my meds don’t trigger a positive result? Should I tell HR in advance what I’m taking? How about if I just discuss this with the testing lab when I show up?

Nick’s Reply

drug testI’m not a Human Resources expert or a lawyer. Because drug testing regulations vary by state in the U.S., you should check the law about what proper procedures are — and what your rights are. NOLO offers a good discussion about laws on employee drug testing. Not all companies approach drug testing the same way, though there are some standards.

An HR expert addresses your drug test

For corporate insight, I turned to a long-time HR manager I respect and asked about going cold turkey, and about whether you should disclose your prescription to HR or to the lab. She has worked for companies large and small. She said no on all three counts.

Here’s her advice:

  1. Review the consent form you signed. She says an employer is required to disclose what they’re testing for before you consent to it. This is referred to as informed consent. So, you should already know what drugs they will test you for. She says the drug list is often “in the fine print” — but they must disclose it to you in advance. Armed with this information, you should then…
  2. Contact your doctor who prescribed the meds in question. Ask whether the defined tests might be affected by your meds. That is, could your meds trigger a false positive on the specific tests? Proceed from there with your doctor’s advice.
  3. Google the company name plus “drug testing.” She looked this up while we were talking and immediately found a list of drugs the company tests for. The most common drug tests look for five substances: THC, Opiates, PCP, Cocaine, and Amphetamines. You might do this Google search first, but the drugs listed on your consent form are the key.

Relax about your drug test

My HR manager friend suggested that if you’re taking a drug on a prescription in the care of a doctor, and don’t use other drugs illegally, you should not worry about these tests. You’re more likely to raise red flags than to protect yourself. If a test turns up a false positive, you can ask for full results. The employer will likely ask you to explain at that point, and your doctor should back you up.

Congratulations on landing a job right before the holidays!

As long as your medical condition will not affect your job, and you want to keep it private, it may be best not to raise the matter with the employer or with the lab. And going cold turkey is not a good tactic! Review the consent agreement you signed to see what drugs the test is for, and discuss this your doctor before you do the test.

I wish you the best!

What’s your experience been with employment drug tests? Have you ever triggered a positive result? Did prescription meds have a role? If you’ve been through this yourself, what’s your advice to this reader?


Take 50% OFF your purchase of any Ask The Headhunter PDF books!

A great gift for job-hunting friends!

Use discount code JOLLY50 at check-out. Limited time offer! Order now!

“Nick Corcodilos is the brutally honest, forthright and insightful headhunter who serves up tough love to job seekers while taking job boards and others to the woodshed.” U.S. News & World Report

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