How to get into a company that’s not hiring

In the August 20, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader wants to break down the barriers to get into companies that are not advertising jobs:

There are several companies I’d like to work for that don’t have any positions posted, but my skill sets should make me a very viable candidate for them. I don’t have any networking connections to these companies. A few years ago, I submitted resumes and cover letters to these same companies for future consideration, as suggested on their websites, but they never went anywhere.

Do you have any tips for breaking through the barrier to get into these companies?

Nick’s Reply

Yes: To get into these companies, you must identify, make, and cultivate contacts. You’ve already seen that resumes don’t work. No matter how viable your skills may make you, the chance you’ll be considered is small unless you are recommended by someone they trust. There is no easy path.

not-hiringWhen I read your question, here’s what I see. First, you tell me you know where you want to work, and you explain why these companies should hire you. Great! By picking your targets thoughtfully, you’re ahead of the game!

But then you quickly say that you can’t do what’s necessary to achieve it — that is, make connections. You’re saying you’re doomed without even trying!

You’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Thinking you have no networking connections is a common mistake — don’t feel bad. The employment system just programs people to think this way.

But, then you make things even worse. You suggest that employers should figure out for themselves why they need you by reading your cover letters and resume. They won’t. Employers absolutely stink at this.

This is why companies have HR departments that offer excuses galore why, in this talent glut — 26 million Americans looking for full time work — those clowns can’t fill 3.2 million vacant jobs. They have an 8:1 advantage. Eight job seekers available for every job!

What HR says to all these job seekers is, “You’re all under-educated or not educated in the right new skills! You are not the perfect candidate!”

My A!

HR is just lazy. HR wants Instant Workers Who Can Do The Job Now, when what they really need is Smart People Who Can Learn Quickly. People like you.

No offense intended, because I don’t know you. But, virtually everyone I talk with who is in your shoes has the same problem: They learn to be helpless. But don’t feel bad, because helplessness can be unlearned.

So please rewind to your second sentence. You have to make the contacts who will vouch for you and recommend you even if you’re not the perfect candidate — and even if a company isn’t presently hiring.

Check these articles to get an edge

To get new contacts to take you seriously, start with The Interview, Or The Job? Next, Outsmart The Employment System to avoid getting buried by the system. Finally, when you get in front of the right people, Tell ‘Em What They Need to Hear.

Some tips about how to get in the door — even before a job is posted

From How Can I Change Careers?
Learn to initiate insider contacts. (1) Make friends before you need them. Meet people before you need them. Start by talking shop — about the work you both do. (2) Seek advice, not help. No one wants to help you find a job. But if you ask for advice and insight about someone’s employer or work, they’ll talk to you. That leads to introductions to other insiders. (3) Give before getting. Developing insider contacts requires time, effort, follow-up. You may even have to have lunch or a beer with someone. Express your interest in their work first!

From Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3: Get In The Door (way ahead of your competition)
(1) Don’t give references–launch them! Traditional references answer questions about you. Preemptive references call the employer first, and recommend you. (2) “I don’t know any insiders!” Bunk. You just don’t know them yet! Identify customers, vendors, consultants, lawyers, bankers, accountants who deal with the company. Call them. (See “Seek advice, not help” above.)

From Fearless Job Hunting, Book 1: Jump-Start Your Job Search
(1) Hang out with people who do the work you want to do. That’s where hot tips about unadvertised jobs come from. (2) Learn how to say it: “I’m trying to meet the best marketers in my field. Is there someone in your company’s marketing department that you think I should talk with?”

This is how to break through the barriers. Keep in mind: If this were easy, everybody would be doing it. That means you have less competition.

How do you get in the door? What can job seekers do to earn your help to get into your company?

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Fearless Job Hunting: Should I accept HR’s rejection letter?

This week’s Q&A is an excerpt from Fearless Job Hunting, Book 4, Overcome Human Resources Obstacles, $6.95 (PDF, instant download).


In the August 13, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader wonders when human resources (HR) will call him about his application:

I’ve applied for a job for which I easily meet all the criteria. I even have several “value add” items in my past that make me an extra good candidate. But I have not been invited for even a preliminary interview. They sent me a rejection. Should I just give up, or is it acceptable/advisable to contact the human resources office and essentially say, “I can’t believe you’ve overlooked me!”

Nick’s Reply

The company didn’t turn you down, the screener did. When a human resources person rejects you, it’s like having the gardener tell you not to bother coming around a girl’s house. What does that tell you about whether the girl wants to date you? Nothing.

shooNow, some of my HR friends will want to slap me for telling you this. After all, many HR representatives put a lot of work into interviews, and they expect their conclusions to be respected. I understand that. But no matter how good HR is at interviews, if you think you need to talk to the manager directly to make your case, it’s your prerogative. You must take action.

I’ve placed candidates whose resumes were buried in the HR department’s files for months. After HR stamped the application NO, the hiring manager paid me tens of thousands of dollars to hire the candidate.

I’ve also had HR departments come running to me after the fact, claiming no headhunting fee was owed “because we already had the candidate’s resume.” Yes, but HR failed to interview and hire the candidate. Because I delivered the candidate and facilitated the hire, the hiring managers always thanked me and paid.

There are risks in doing this. HR will try to cut you off if it learns that you “went around,” and depending on the hiring manager, HR might succeed. That’s HR’s job. So take it with good humor. You can be respectful and still be assertive.

Is another shot at the job worth HR’s ire? I say yes. If you get hired, you’ll have plenty of time to placate HR, and the fact of getting hired is the best argument for HR to accept you.

That said, how do you do this? It’s simple, though not easy.

  • You must identify the hiring manager who owns the job.
  • You must make contact.
  • You must show that you would be a worthy hire.

My suggestion is to triangulate — find two or three people who know the manager personally, and ask them to intercede. Ask them to introduce you, to urge the manager to contact you (“Don’t let this candidate get away!”), and to facilitate a meeting. Having lost a round with HR, you need to win one with somebody the manager trusts.

The more direct approach is to e-mail or call the manager. Be brief. Be ready to discuss ways to improve the manager’s operation. But don’t just ask for an interview or suggest that you should be interviewed. Prove that you are worth meeting. How? That’s up to you. If you can’t figure out how you could make the manager’s department more successful, you should not make the call. (See Fearless Job Hunting, Book Three: Get in The Door (way ahead of your competition). Your presentation must be compelling, because I don’t believe in wasting any manager’s time. If you’re not compelling, then our buddies in HR were right to reject you.

Don’t accept HR’s rejection letter if you think you offer something the manager needs. Go for it! Just be smart and ready.

Wonder what HR would say if you actually did this? On pp. 17-20 of Fearless Job Hunting, Book 4, Overcome Human Resources Obstacles, an HR manager responds to my advice and the fur flies!

Did you ever go around HR after a rejection? What happened? If you’ve never done it, would you try it now?

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Did this headhunter overlook me?

In the August 6, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader wonders when a headhunter will call him about his application:

I’ve applied for a job (online, to a headhunter) for which I easily meet all the criteria. I even have several “value add” items in my past that make me an extra good candidate. But I have not been invited for even a preliminary interview. Should I just give up, or is it acceptable/advisable to contact the headhunter and essentially say, “I can’t believe you’ve overlooked me!”

Nick’s Reply

In How to Work with Headhunters… and how to make headhunters work for you, there’s a section titled, “How should I judge a headhunter?” (pp. 26-27). It includes 10 tests that reveal a headhunter is a good one. Here are four of them:

  • A good headhunter doesn’t call anyone blindly. He already knows quite a bit about your background, or he wouldn’t call you.
  • He is conscientious. You’ll see this in the questions he asks. Rather than rely on your resume, the headhunter will learn about you by talking with you extensively.
  • He will exhibit a sincere interest in your work and abilities, and in your interests and goals.
  • He will give useful advice if you ask for it.

blind_leading_blindThe root of your problem is that you’ve applied for a job indirectly — you applied (1) online, and (2) through a third party. Consequently, you know very little about the job or the manager. You might meet all the criteria that you know about, but that’s really very limited. What you don’t have is all the insider information that “insider candidates” have.

Applying indirectly puts you so far down on the list of realistic candidates that you’re really wasting your time. But I’m not here to berate you. This is a good learning experience if you understand why you’re wasting your time with this headhunter — who seems to have overlooked you because he’s working blind.

First, if the headhunter were any good, he or she would be actively recruiting you and sharing the inside scoop about the job with you. A headhunter who recruits via job postings is a pretty pathetic headhunter. This should be one big tip-off about how realistic the opportunity is. Please think about it: No one is “hunting” you if they’re waiting for you to come along via a job posting, right?

Second, If you’ve never actually talked to the headhunter, you don’t even know if the job is real, or whether the headhunter is just building his database with resumes. (This is common.) So you’re worrying about something that has never happened: The headhunter has invested nothing in you at this point.

That’s the danger of online job postings: They require no work. This is a trap that job hunters fall into all the time. They take job postings too seriously. The place to invest your time and energy is in people who actually know who you are and who take the time to understand what you can do for the employer. (These might be headhunters or employers themselves.)

Now consider the four tests of a good headhunter that I listed above. The headhunter in this case fails all of them. The main test is that, if the headhunter thinks you’re a good match and that he could make a placement, he’d be calling you. I think your best move is to move on — to opportunities where you have good information and contacts. And if you don’t have good contacts, start making them — that’s where the real opportunities lie.

Some guy posting jobs and waiting for a piece of spaghetti to fly across the Internet and stick to his wall isn’t really a headhunter. He’s not worth bothering with.

Do you apply for jobs online, indirectly, via “headhunters” you don’t know? What’s your hit rate? (Come on, make me laff…)

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Should you disclose your salary history to a headhunter?

In the July 30, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader frets about disclosing her salary information to a headhunter (and to an employer):

I am a great fan of your newsletter and just read your guides, Keep Your Salary Under Wraps, How to Work with Headhunters, and How Can I Change Careers?, so I suppose I already know your answer to my question.

I recently had an initial interview with a recruiter to discuss my interests and to find out about the recruiting company. After discussing everything, there was this dreaded, but rather expected, question regarding my current salary. I advised that it is private and confidential, just like the hiring manager’s salary. I know that recruiters and employers will still ask for my salary history, but that does not make it right. I want to make sure I am considered for the role. Is there a better way or another way I can protect myself?

Nick’s Reply

shhhWe have discussed the importance of protecting your salary history on Ask The Headhunter before, but it’s worth talking about it again from time to time. Clearly, you already have the answer to your question. Just because recruiters and employers keep insisting and pretending you must hand over your salary information doesn’t mean you must keep coming up with new ways to answer them. The same polite but firm response, even if repeated again and again, is the best you can do without compromising yourself.

In How to Work With Headhunters there’s a section where I discuss how to handle the salary history question when a headhunter asks it. This is quite different from when an employer asks the question. It can be beneficial to share your salary history with the headhunter if you trust him or her completely. In a moment, I’ll share an excerpt from the book and tell you How to say it and how to protect yourself.

First I’ll give you a warning: Keeping your salary confidential can lead some employers (and recruiters) to stop the interview process. So you must decide how to deal with this risk. I strongly believe the right approach is to withhold salary history, even if it costs you a job opportunity, simply because sharing your old salary will almost always result in a lower job offer. But you must decide if that’s a level of risk you are willing to accept. Never take anyone’s advice as gospel — even mine — if you are not comfortable with it.

When an employer asks for salary history

After you decline to reveal your salary to an employer, it’s up to you to shift the discussion to support your position. It’s not going to buy you anything to say No without helping the employer assess your value.

How to Say It
“I’d like to help you assess what I am worth to you with respect to this job. If you’d like to lay out a live problem you’d want me to tackle if you hired me, I’ll show you how I’d go about it. If I can’t show you how I’d do this job profitably, then you should not hire me. But I think you’ll be pleased. Can you lay out a live problem or challenge that’s part of the job?”

This might be as simple as working through a live problem in the interview, or it might mean spending half a day shadowing the manager or someone on the team. I find that when managers see such motivation and willingness to work together during the selection process, they drop the silly demand for salary history in favor of an actual demonstration of your value.

Again, you must decide for yourself how to handle each situation, because standing firm may cost you some opportunities. That’s a problem not just for you, but also for the employer, because your past salary has nothing to do with the job at hand — it’s your ability to do the work that’s the question. Too many HR people avoid the work of thorough assessment by using some other employer’s judgment of a candidate’s value — the old salary.

(For in-depth discussion of salary tactics, see Fearless Job Hunting, Book 7: Win The Salary Games (long before you negotiate an offer.)

When a headhunter asks for salary history

While a headhunter’s first duty is to the client who is paying the fee, a headhunter’s livelihood depends on being able to place lots of candidates and on getting good referrals from those candidates for future assignments. A good headhunter would never compromise a candidate’s satisfaction just to close a deal. It’s far better to have lots of very happy placements who refer lots more great candidates than to selfishly talk a candidate into a lower salary. A good headhunter’s reputation and future earnings depend on doing right by both the client company and the candidate. It’s a delicate balancing act, but every good headhunter can do it.

So, assuming you’re working with a good headhunter, here’s what to say when she requests your salary history. This is an excerpt from How to Work With Headhunters, which provides more elaborate advice if you need it (including about how to judge headhunters):

How to Say It
“My policy is not to divulge my salary for the simple reason that it could adversely  affect a job offer. I am willing to walk away from any opportunity if that’s a deal  breaker. No offense intended. I may be willing to divulge my salary to you under two  conditions. First, you would have to agree not to divulge it to your client. That’s up to  you. Second, — and I say this respectfully — you would have to show me how it would benefit my career to tell you what I earn now.”

A good headhunter will have good answers for you and respect your position, even if she disagrees with you. If the headhunter hems and haws and chants excuses and rationalizations, then she cannot work with you candidly and cooperatively, and my advice is to move on to another headhunter or another opportunity.

Do you disclose your salary to headhunters? What’s the effect? Have you missed out on opportunities by withholding your salary? How do you manage headhunters?

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LinkedIn Payola: Selling out employers and job hunters


Introduction

You’re an employer. You pay LinkedIn to search its profiles when you’re recruiting. Do you care that the job applicants who rise to the top of your search results paid for their positioning?

linkedin-top-of-listIn a sweeping 1950s music industry scandal, radio deejays were exposed for taking money — payola — from record promoters to play their record labels’ songs, regardless of popular tastes. Certain songs went up the charts because record labels paid for positioning.

Today, payola seems to be the name of the game on LinkedIn, where job hunters can pay $29.95 per month to “move to the top of the applicant list” when employers search LinkedIn profiles for recruiting.

In the radio scandal, the payments were secret. LinkedIn sells top position in recruiting search results shamelessly.


In the July 23, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader says LinkedIn is behaving immorally and unethically:

I received an e-mail from LinkedIn, with a vertical list of five or six firms and logos, suggesting that I could be interested in these jobs. One of them caught my attention and I applied. I simply clicked on the “View job” link, uploaded a copy of my resume, and clicked the submit button. Immediately, a very questionable pop-up appeared. For $29.95 per month, LinkedIn has offered to sell me an “upgrade” that will put me at the top of the results this employer will see when it searches the LinkedIn database for job applicants. I find this to be unethical and immoral. How about you?

Nick’s Reply

When Ask The Headhunter subscriber Richard Tomkins brought this to my attention (he graciously gave me permission to print his name), I had to see it for myself.

linkedin-pitch-nickSo yesterday I applied for a job listed in a LinkedIn e-mail about “Jobs you may be interested in.” The pop-up that appeared on my screen is on the right.

(Tomkins got the exact same pop-up six months ago, listing the same #2 and #3 profiles beneath his own. He notes they are in the “San Francisco Bay Area,” thousands of miles from his own location. You’d think LinkedIn would gin up a pitch that at least delivers “results” that include “candidates” from the same geographic area!)

More suckers

I couldn’t believe that LinkedIn was going to sucker an employer — who paid to search LinkedIn profiles — by putting me at the top of the search results just because I paid for it.

“Move your job application to the top of the recruiter’s list!” in exchange for payola of $29.95, LinkedIn said to me.

While the employer is paying thousands to LinkedIn to search for applicants???

So I contacted LinkedIn, thinking that Tomkins and I had somehow gotten this wrong. Could LinkedIn be taking money from job seekers and fleecing employers with fake rankings?

A customer service representative, LaToya (no last name given), explained that the advantage, if I pay the $29.95, “is that your [sic] at the top of the list rather than listed toward the bottom as a Basic applicant.”

So it’s true. LinkedIn sells positioning to job hunters while it sells database searches to employers. Talk about getting paid on both ends of a deal! Meanwhile, the “Basic” applicants (those other suckers, who ride free) are relegated to the bottom of the list.

I wrote back to LaToya: “Don’t the employers get upset when they see someone ‘paid’ to get bumped to the top?”

That was taken care of, explained LaToya: Employers “have the option to turn on and off the setting.”

So I buy top positioning in recruiting results for $29.95 per month, and the employer has the option to render my payment a total waste. The only winner is LinkedIn — higher revenues, higher stock price, higher corporate valuation, and more suckers paying. This is the leading website for recruiting and job hunting?

The Lance Armstrong league

But it seems there’s another loser in this game: LinkedIn, whose reputation just sank to the bottom of the job board swill pot. (Well, not the very bottom. That’s the sole purview of TheLadders.)

Another job board, CareerBuilder, used to offer top position in search results for $150. (CareerBuilder’s New Ad Campaign: What’s a sucker worth?) LinkedIn may call itself a business network, but now it’s just another job board.

LinkedIn recently awarded Tomkins a “blue ribbon” because his LinkedIn page is “in the top 10% of the most viewed entries.”

tomkins

But he is not happy:

“If I am in the top 10%, it’s not translating into more interviews, let alone a job. 20 million people got this award? That’s the size of big city or a small country. Should I laugh or cry? What significance does this really have to me? I was okay with their business model, up to the point when they became a job board. If your name is at the top of the list only because you paid for it, that puts you in the same league as Lance Armstrong.”

Tomkins guesses at how the professional network’s business model is likely to evolve next:

“What if three different applicants — all with premium accounts — apply for the same job? Who gets to be on top? Maybe they have another pop-up stacked up, one that offers the user a premium-plus-plus, extra-premium account for $300.”

Is a sucker endorsed every minute?

LinkedIn has turned the business of new product development into Project: Anything Goes.

LinkedIn used to be a credible business network that became the business network online — and potentially the standard-bearer for professional identity integrity. Since it started selling recruiting and “job seeker” services, it has slid down the slippery slope of inconsistent, slimy “offers” and business practices. A generous explanation is that one hand (LinkedIn marketing?) doesn’t know what the other (LinkedIn product management?) is doing.

(This is not LinkedIn’s first dumb move, or its last. Fast on the heels of LinkedIn’s New Button: Instantly dumber job hunting & hiring came the more ridiculous and gratuitous “endorsements,” which serve no purpose but to drive up traffic stats.)

But the question is, why are employers (who pay to access the database) and job seekers (who pay for database positioning) going along while LinkedIn sells them both out with this game of payola?

And where does it leave LinkedIn users who just want to meet one another to do business?

“Sheesh. I’m still pissed off,” says Tomkins. “I used to think of Linked In as a respectable website, but I have less respect for them now than Facebook.”

Have you paid LinkedIn for search-results position and “premium” standing? Does it pay off? If you’re an employer, how do you feel about paying to view search results that job applicants bought? Is this immoral, unethical, or the new standard of business?

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Who will lead you to your next job?

In the July 16, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks what to do after getting screwed by a long-time employer:

After ten years, my sales performance at my company started topping the charts. The boss could not understand how I did it, but it was the personal attention I gave my customers. I did all I could to help them be more successful themselves. One day I brought on a big new client and closed a record-breaking deal worth millions. A few days later, my boss fired me. My confidence was shattered. I’ve been working the job postings but I’ve been out of work for months. Where do I go from here?

Nick’s Reply

Unless you did something unethical (or illegal) that you’re not telling me, my suspicion is that you got fired because your employer doesn’t want to pay the kinds of sales commissions you are earning. That’s silly — everyone’s making money and the customer is happy. But I’ve never been able to understand a company’s resentment against successful sales people.

screwedThis happened once to me. I took a sales management job under a very aggressive commission plan. The head of sales designed it, and I accepted it. It was so aggressive that there was no salary or draw. It turns out they never thought I’d make the plan work for me. I was making so much money (for them and for me) that they cancelled the plan. I quit.

If this is your story, I don’t know why it would shatter your confidence. I’d talk with a lawyer to determine what (if anything) you’re owed for closing the deal.

It’s not uncommon for sales companies to fire a top sales rep and turn big accounts over to junior salespeople who are paid far smaller commissions.

Here you’ve been in this particular business for ten years, and you’re desperately using job postings to find a job! Cut it out! You’re wasting your time. Use the ten years of excellent contacts you’ve got! (Please don’t say, “I don’t know anybody,” because you do!)

Sit down and make a list of your best customers — companies and specific people you’ve worked with at big companies and small ones. Review the quality of your relationships. Think also about what companies they do business with — their customers, vendors, consultants and other professionals. Make a list. (If you’re reading this and you don’t work in sales and you don’t have customers, then some of the other people you encounter through your work are potential employers and potential sources of referrals to a new job. Where do you think good headhunters find new clients and great candidates?)

Note: If you have Non-Compete or Non-Disclosure Agreements (NCA or NDA), make sure you don’t violate them. Talk with a lawyer. (Ouch. That’s twice I’ve recommended lawyers in one column! You don’t think lawyers can help? Read Employment Contracts: Everyone needs promise protection.) I think it’s worth at least an initial consultation to understand your position before you take action.

Your former customers are people who know you well and respect you. These are the kinds of references you can use. Call them. Don’t ask them for a job. Tell them you’re going to work only for a top-notch company — big or small — and you would value their advice. What companies do they respect? Which ones would they recommend to you?


What do you do when a friend refers you to a company? That’s when the fun starts — and that’s when you must get to work! Fearless Job Hunting Book 5: Get The Right Employer’s Full Attention delivers the obstacle-busting answers you need:

  • Don’t walk blind on the job hunt
  • How to make up for lack of required experience
  • Is this a Mickey Mouse operation?
  • Age discrimination or age anxiety?
  • How to deal with an undeserved nasty reference
  • Scuttlebutt: Get the truth about private companies
  • And more!

Overcome the daunting obstacles that stop other job hunters dead in their tracks!


You may find yourself referred to a competitor of your last employer. Or there may be a department in one of your old customer companies that’s dying to hire you. Or an old customer may have a customer who needs you.

Why waste time with the unknown? That’s what the job postings will get you. Focus on the people who already know you, and with whom you have good relationships and something in common.

The job market is not just job postings and want ads. It’s people. Focus on the ones who care about you because you have treated them well. They will help you if you let them.

Has anyone used this approach, whether in sales or any other line of work? I think it’s the best “insider” method for meeting your next boss!

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Job Hunting: I’m lousy at selling myself!

When I created the new Fearless Job Hunting books, I packed almost 100 of the best Ask The Headhunter Q&As and advice columns into The Complete Collection. Even so, lots of great Q&As didn’t make the final cut — I just had to stop somewhere. This edition of the newsletter includes one of the Q&As I wish I’d had room to include in Fearless Job Hunting. I hope you enjoy it!

In the July 9, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks whether employers hire 64 year olds:

scared-of-sellingShouldn’t you be encouraging people to use headhunters like you, instead of trying to sell me on how I should do it for myself? I have no experience “selling” myself. Basically, while I’m a supreme analyst, I stink at people sales. While I’m absolutely great at crunching numbers (by the way, I loved your job board metrics discussion [CareerBuilder Is For Dopes] — very meaty and revealing), I’m not good at grabbing the people I need to meet, connecting with them, making the pitch, and closing the deal. That’s sales. I have limited experience. You are an expert.

So, why shouldn’t I utilize the best resource for the project? Why shouldn’t I utilize someone who could complete the project (finding me a job) in one tenth of the time it would take me to do the same thing?

It seems to me that using placement services is the best angle. But then again, what do I know? I’m an analyst. I like your ideas, and will give them a shot. It might take me a while to learn the techniques, but I’ll get there…

Nick’s Reply

The answer is in your last statement. It takes a while to get good at this.

It’s like dating — you can try an “introduction” service, and it may be helpful, but can you do that every time you want to meet someone (whether for a job or a date)? It’s far better to invest some time and energy in learning to do it yourself.

It’s one of the skills in life that’s important to learn. Don’t worry about how long it takes. I’ve been at this for a long time and I still don’t have it down. And I was very shy to start. I was lousy at making myself walk up to someone to start a conversation.

I’m not going to offer “how-to” advice about meeting and talking to people, but here are a few of my favorite books on the subject:

Influence: The psychology of persuasion by Robert Cialdini

How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less by Milo Frank

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

I also recommend the Dale Carnegie program and Toastmasters. Both teach how to talk to people. It’s a lost art, but a key element of success. In my experience, the failure to communicate effectively is a root of personal and business failure.

As for headhunters, remember that they don’t work for you. They don’t find jobs for people. They find the right people for their corporate clients. Even “consulting companies,” which I think you’re referring to, are not the best solution. You might get lucky getting others to find work for you, but you’re better off learning how to do it yourself.

Yep, it takes time. But it can be enjoyable. And once you learn to do it, no one can take it away from you. But I disagree. It’s not sales. You can’t think of it that way, or it tastes sour. You can’t create a relationship by selling. You do it by engaging someone on a subject you have in common and that’s meaningful to you.

In other words, you make a friend, and Poof! a sale has happened. Think of it as an artifact, not a process or an objective.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a position through a consulting service, or via any channel that works for you. But you know the old saw: You can feed a person, or you can teach them how to fish. I’m glad you intend to give it a shot, so you can always feed yourself.

Thanks for your compliment about CareerBuilder Is For Dopes. I’m not an analyst or numbers guy — that stuff comes hard to me. I’m always afraid I’m missing some analytical angle and getting the conclusion wrong. If an analyst like you finds it meaty and compelling, then I guess I got the analysis right!

Hang in there. Forget about selling. Think about getting to know people. Big hint: People love it when you ask them about their work. It’s a hop and a jump to asking for insight and advice. And that’s where new friendships — and new jobs — come from.


(This is one of the Q&As that didn’t make it into the Fearless Job Hunting books You’ll find almost 100 more in-your-face ways to overcome the daunting obstacles that stop other job hunters dead in their tracks in Fearless Job Hunting: The Complete Collection.)


Do you feel awkward “selling yourself?” What do you do about it? Post your fears and comments below…

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71 Years Old: Got in the door at 63 and just got a raise!

In the July 2, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks whether employers hire 64 year olds:

I really enjoyed reading Too Old to Rock & Roll? My husband has great knowledge and is good at what he does. He is 64, confident and looks great.

He just interviewed, they liked him, and asked him to fill out an application. The first line asked for his date of birth. Employers can’t discriminate, but can think he’s too old and give a bogus reason for not hiring. Do you know of applicants who were hired at 64, or do you personally think that he is too old to seek employment?

Nick’s Reply

We recently heard from a 58-year-old who landed a new job. But your husband is in his sixties. I can offer you two things: Evidence that people in their sixties can get jobs. And methods to do it.

Consider this series of e-mails I received over an eight year period from a long-time subscriber, Stephanie Hunter.

over-60June 29, 2004 I have faced the job search at an advanced age and successfully defeated the age anxiety. I am a 63-year old woman, nothing special, with an M. A. in English and twenty years of progressive experience in public relations. I was suddenly outsourced from a job I loved and intended to retire from. After nine months of researching companies, training myself in the Ask The Headhunter methods, and working hard to do the job in the interview, I have — again, at age 63 — been hired into a Fortune 500 company.

I say I am “nothing special” because your readers should know anyone can do it. Often when I hear some phenomenal success story I look for the silver spoon or the uncle who was in on the ground floor, but I did this myself. With a little encouragement and a lot of help from your advice. Glad I discovered you. I will continue to read your e-mail newsletter and pass along your tips to my job-searching friends. There are plenty of them out there. Thanks.

March 14, 2006 Good morning Mr. Corcodilos: Just to let you know I found myself in your newsletter this morning (only now I am two years older!). I’ve received excellent reviews, one merit raise and — most important to me — serious job satisfaction. Thanks again for the timely and timeless advice; I read the newsletter every week and often forward sections of it.

September 11, 2007 Re: your piece today about age. Three years ago I wrote to tell you your work had inspired me to keep going and do it right. At age 66 I am still on the job, enjoying it and regularly taking on new responsibilities. Keep up the good work; no one in the business does it as well as you!

January 15, 2013 All is very well. I remain in the job we discussed; I have served for eight+ years, and my most recent review was “O” for outstanding plus a 4% raise. It’s too good to make up, and I thank my luck almost daily. Quick arithmetic will give you my current age, but there is one person on a staff of 200 who is, um, older than I!

Although I am not in the job market myself, I still pass along your new information and techniques to folks who are.

Stephanie Hunter is unusual only because she got in the door and turned her meeting into The New Interview.

I don’t think anyone is too old for employment if they can contribute to the bottom line. And I know companies that hire older workers for what they can do. Needless to say, I also know companies that discriminate and break the law. But I don’t think we can live our lives worrying what someone else’s motives are — being fearful leads to failure. Our challenge is always to inspire motives in others that enable us to achieve our own goals. That’s Fearless Job Hunting.

Your husband’s job is to inspire the belief that he will contribute to a company’s bottom line more than that he will pose a risk. Or he can collect evidence to sue for discrimination, or he can get depressed and give up and complain. He might win a suit in time, but there is no quarter in the latter.

Or, he could try this to get in the door, and to motivate an employer:


Excerpted from:
Fearless Job Hunting Book 3: Get in The Door (way ahead of your competition)

FJH-3Don’t stop at the resume.
When the resume you send to a company is added to a big stack, your odds of success drop precipitously due to competition. Managers act first on information they receive directly from trusted sources, like co-workers, friends and experts they pay for help… Your resume isn’t sufficient.

Scope the community.
Every community has a structure and rules of navigation. Figure this out by circulating. Go to a party. Go to a professional conference or training program. Attend cultural and social events that require milling around with other people… The glue that holds industries together includes lawyers, accountants, bankers, real estate brokers, printers, caterers and janitors. Use these contacts to identify members of the community you want to join, and start hanging out with them.

Meet the players and participate.
Use the social geography we just discussed to figure out the lay of the land in your industry. Which companies do business with which others? What people circulate between related companies as employees, as vendors and customers, and as consultants? Then go to professional events armed with this information, which will make you a better participant.

Ask for help.
Once you have established yourself as a member of a relevant community, gently ask for help. Gently. Never ask for a job or a job lead. Ask for introductions to people who can help you fill in the gaps in your knowledge about a company’s (or industry’s) business.

Have something useful to say.
Produce a brief business plan describing the work you will do to make a company more profitable. Now, you could put that plan into a resume and send it along. Or, you could discuss it with a person who will talk to his friend the manager about you… It’s the people, Stupid… To get in the door, you need those people to introduce you. And the manager needs someone who has a plan to get the job done. Make that person you.


Do you know anyone in their sixties (or even seventies) who has been hired or who is still happily delivering value in their job? What’s your story? Regardless of your age, what methods have you used to get in the door?

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Am I unwise to accept their first offer?

In the June 18, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter worries about asking for more money:

My dream position with my dream company has just come through! The offer is good — a bit lower than I would have liked, but very good. My question is this: Do I even bother haggling over a couple thousand dollars?

I read somewhere that you should always go through at least one round of salary negotiations and that the employer actually expects it. I think I have a very good chance of getting what I ask for (especially because it’s such a small amount), but I don’t want to risk coming off as ungracious or rude.

Truly, if they don’t budge an inch, I’m still taking the job. Is it worth negotiating, or should I just accept?

Nick’s Reply

you_are_hiredI believe in enjoying happiness and not worrying whether other people think you’ve been given enough of it. Who cares what others say about “one round of salary negotiations?” If you’re happy with the offer, accept it and thank the company.

Some companies make their offer, and that’s it — they won’t budge. This company might be willing to negotiate, but you must consider what happens if they don’t. If they balk at the extra two grand, then you’re going to look weak coming back and saying, “Well, okay, then I’ll take what you offered anyway.” It says something about your request: You couldn’t justify it. And what does that say about your credibility? Remember: You’re going to work with these people. How you handle negotiations can affect how they will view you — and treat you — once you’re on board.

If the extra money really means a lot to you, then go for it. Here’s an example of how I might approach it:

How to Say It

“I believe I’m worth $2,000 more than you’re offering. But please don’t misunderstand. This is not a large difference, and I have already decided I want this job. To show you my good faith, I’ll accept your offer as is. But I’d like to respectfully ask you to consider raising it by $2,000. There are three reasons why I believe I’m worth it… But either way, I’m ready to start work in two weeks.”

It’s your judgment call. If you try this, you’d better be ready to prove your added value. By making a commitment to the company first, you establish a level of credibility that goes beyond any negotiating position.

(Some people have a hard time thinking and talking about what salary they’re looking for. This may help: How to decide how much you want. You can’t negotiate or interview effectively unless you have an objective.)

Remember that the ultimate goal of negotiating a job is not to get every last dollar you can. It’s to set the groundwork for the best possible work relationship — which is not limited to money — for the long term. That’s why it might be better to accept an offer that you’re clearly pretty happy with, and plan for how you could get that extra couple thousand as part of your first raise when you have your first review.

Congratulations on winning a good offer for a job you really want. I hope all goes well!


An expanded version of this Q&A appears in

Fearless Job Hunting | Book 9: Be The Master of Job Offers

Be ready to deal with:
 Rescinded offers, non-competes, salary surveys, counter-offers, vacation time,
Bait-and-switch, oral vs. written offers, requests for old pay stubs


Post your comments!

Do you rely on a resume to get you in the door? Does it work? What do you think makes a hiring manager invite you for an interview?

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How (not) to use a resume

In the June 11, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter wants a resume template:

I need a template for a two-page resume that will help me get in the door at a company I want to approach. Can you help?

Nick’s Reply

Resumes are a weak, passive way to get in the door (or to represent yourself). Using a template or any kind of boilerplate to demonstrate your value to a company is the worst thing you can do to yourself when job hunting.

resume_packageYou’re supposed to be uniquely qualified so the company will choose you instead of some cookie-cutter drone — right? Do you really want a “template?”

But you asked, so if you insist on distracting yourself with resumes, I’m going to offer you my suggestions. If you’re going to use a resume, here are two things to think about. Understanding these points might help you see the distinction between the resume itself, and what’s behind a truly effective resume. (In the end, this distinction should reveal to you why you don’t really need a resume.)

Talk first.

First, have a substantive discussion with the person you plan to give your resume to. That is, the manager must already know you and you must know the specific needs of the manager. So, the person you give the resume to should be the hiring authority in the company you want to work for — not someone in HR and not some unknown contact. Your initial personal contact with the manager prepares you to produce a relevant resume. (Does that sound backwards? It’s not. Read on.)

Tailor to fit.

Second, the resume should accomplish one thing: Show how you’re going to solve that manager’s problems. That’s a tall order. (I’ll bet you’ve never seen a resume that does that. Few managers have, either. That’s why most of the hires they make come from truly substantive personal contacts.)

The resume needs to be tailored to the specific employer and job. That’s why job hunting isn’t easy — and it’s why you need contact with the employer first. Obviously, we’re no longer talking about resumes as a “marketing tool” but as a tool to prove you can do a specific job. This essentially voids your question and puts us into a different ball game. I never said I’d support the mindless use of a resume; just that I’d give you my suggestions.

Tailor to fit exactly.

When you write the resume, sit down and describe as best you can how you’re going to help that specific employer, and do your best to provide proof that you can pull it off. That’s hard to do in writing. There is no boilerplate (or template) that’s good enough, because every person and every employer and every job is unique. Writing such a resume is hard work, and there’s no way around it. If it were easy, every resume would produce an interview, but we know that doesn’t happen. (Have I talked you out of it yet? Maybe I’ve talked you into a whole new way of looking at job hunting without resumes.)

A resume can’t answer questions (especially if it’s muffled under the weight of 5,000 other resumes sitting on top of it). And a smart manager will be full of questions. This is why I don’t like resumes as a job hunting tool. (See The truth about resumes.) I’d rather go straight to the hiring manager and have a talk with him — but only after I’ve done my research so I can demonstrate how I’m going to bring profit to his bottom line.

The magic words are not in a resume.

How does anyone get to that manager? Well, it’s sort of a Zen thing. You can’t approach the manager until you have something useful to say to him. Heck, you don’t even know who he is. So do all the necessary homework. Talk to people who know the industry, the company, its business, the department, and other employees. FJH-3Follow this trail to talk to people who know the manager. You’ll learn a lot. And that’s how you’ll identify and meet the manager, too — through people he knows. The big bonus: After all these dialogues, you’ll know a lot about the manager’s business, and you will actually have something to say that he will be eager to hear.

Where does a resume fit into that? Why waste your time trying to figure it out? Why submit a resume when the research you must do will put you in front of the hiring manager?

Get In The Door (way ahead of your competition) is one of my 9 new Fearless Job Hunting books. It’ll take you where no resume can and get you there in person.

Do you rely on a resume to get you in the door? Does it work? What do you think makes a hiring manager invite you for an interview?

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