Rutgers Business School Webinar – Q&A Overflow

This evening I presented a webinar to the Rutgers Business School Alumni Association, co-sponsored by the University Alumni Association: Fearless Job Hunting: Be The Profitable Hire.

rutgersThe Q&A section of the presentation was great — but of course, there were so many questions that we couldn’t get to them all.

So I invited attendees to post their questions here — and I’ll do my best to respond to as many as I can. And don’t be surprised when other Ask The Headhunter “regulars” chime in on these topics — and offer you even better suggestions than I do!

Congratulations to those who won copies of Fearless Job Hunting: The Complete Collection.

If you didn’t win Fearless Job Hunting but would like to purchase the collection, I invite you to use this $10 discount code: OLDQUEENS, which will be good through May 15. (Please note: This discount is good only when you purchase Fearless Job Hunting: The Complete Collection.)

Thanks for joining us this evening, and special thanks to the Business School Alumni team for their kind hospitality!

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Why employers should pay job applicants

In the April 29, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader suggests getting paid before getting hired, or why waste time interviewing?

Again and again, companies waste my time while they “assess” me in endless interviews and with employment tests. They’re wasting my time and theirs, but they don’t care because they are getting paid. I’m not.

The problem is not hard to see: The managers and HR people don’t select their candidates very carefully to begin with because it’s no skin off their backs. If they had to pay for my time, I’d bet they’d be a lot more accurate. Do you think it would be wise for employers to pay for the privilege of assessing job applicants, as a way to make hiring more efficient and productive? (And to stop wasting my time!)

Nick’s Reply

I wrote a column about a related subject last year: Why employers should pay to interview you. I’m even going to crib from it a bit.

pay-applicantsJob applicants devote hours of unpaid professional time to an employer, and then wait patiently for a hiring decision by the promised date. Inevitably, employers interview way more applicants than they can justify and ignore their own timelines without any updates or comments to the applicants. Why? Because job candidates are free.

That’s wrong. I agree it’s time for employers to put some skin in the game, if only because it would make them think twice about the costs they impose on applicants. More important, I think it would improve the quality of the selection process and of their hires.

What if employers had to pay to assess candidates for jobs? What if one employer started doing the right thing? Would others follow?

Matt Mullenweg is the creator of the most popular website platform in the world: WordPress powers over 60 million websites, and 66% of all English-based websites. The Ask The Headhunter blog runs on WordPress, and I consider it one of the best software tools I’ve ever used. WordPress is an open source project, but Matt’s company, Automattic, is a for-profit business.

Earlier this year, Harvard Business Review published a short article by Mullenweg: Hire by Auditions, Not Resumes. Automattic’s interview and hiring process is unusual: The interview isn’t over, and you’re not hired, until Automattic pays you to complete the process.

Now, let’s be clear: You don’t get paid to show up for your first interviews with Automattic. But once the discussion gets serious, so does this employer. According to Mullenweg:

“Before we hire anyone, they go through a trial process first, on contract. They can do the work at night or over the weekend, so they don’t have to leave their current job in the meantime. We pay a standard rate of $25 per hour, regardless of whether you’re applying to be an engineer or the chief financial officer.”

In my first book, The New Interview Instruction Book, I called this “doing the job to win the job.” That is, if you want a job, show up and actually do the work to show you’re worth hiring.

But if you’re going to invest that kind of time and effort to be evaluated hands-on, you shouldn’t be doing it for free. The employer should put skin in the game, too — and Automattic does. The ROI for the company is tremendous.

“There’s nothing like being in the trenches with someone, working with them day by day,” writes Mullenweg. “It tells you something you can’t learn from resumes, interviews, or reference checks. At the end of the trial, everyone involved has a great sense of whether they want to work together going forward. And, yes, that means everyone — it’s a mutual tryout. Some people decide we’re not the right fit for them.”

Automattic hires about 40% of people it tries out. Turnover is ridiculously low. Paying job candidates while Automattic assesses them pays off. In virtually every other company, the hiring process is rote, stupid, and inaccurate because it’s automated. Human review of applicants is the last thing any employer wants to invest in.

Around the world, hiring is a massively screwed up process because business doesn’t make any meaningful investment in it. Buying resumes from job boards and paying personnel jockeys to scan applicants’ keywords isn’t an investment — it’s a joke. But paying for the benefit of assessing people on the job, inside your company, on your time — that’s an investment. I doubt Automattic selects candidates lightly.

Mullenweg says, “It’s a huge time commitment, coordinating the short-term work being done by job applicants.”

Of course it is. And it should be. It’s costly, so a lot of care goes into the process up front, and this limits errors markedly. Mullenweg personally spends a third of his time on hiring. That’s more than even I recommend. (I suggest managers need to spend 15%-20% of their time recruiting and hiring, and I know few managers that do.)


What if you’re the job hunter?
Would you ask an employer to pay you to check you out? If that’s too much, then at least consider Conrado Hinojosa’s provocative The No-Nonsense Interview Agreement instead. It serves a similar purpose: It adds a measure of thoughtfulness to the experience.


I challenge any HR manager to explain why it’s okay to take hours and hours of a job applicant’s time without paying for it. I also challenge them to show me how their hiring methods are more accurate than Mullenweg’s. If your company does what Automattic does, I’d like to hear about it. In fact, I’ll gladly highlight your company in an upcoming column.

In the meantime, I think employers should start paying job candidates to assess them. My bet is that it would improve their business and operations dramatically.

What is a job applicant’s time worth to an employer? What are hiring errors worth? Would paying job applicants pay off to employers?

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Deal-breaker questions to ask employers

In the April 22, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader wants to ask an employer tough questions… and just can’t seem to get answers:

I’ve done my research on the company, and the interview went well, but there are some things that I just couldn’t get information about, even in the interview. I want to know just how long the average individual stays in this particular job before moving up, as well as what other opportunities could be expected in the future. Also, who are the people I would be working with? How good are they? What kinds of tools and support would I have? Finally, I am a little vague on what the salary level might be.

My question: Is it okay to ask these questions in the interview? Thanks for your help.

Nick’s Reply

hidden-informationI’ll go you one better: Don’t accept this job until you get your answers. Your questions are excellent, especially those about the people connected to the job. (See It’s the people, Stupid.) If the answers are unsatisfactory, these are deal-breakers.

Many applicants are afraid to ask questions that seem “forward” in the job interview. I don’t know where this hesitation comes from. Perhaps it’s part of a deeper feeling that the job candidate is some sort of supplicant whom the employer steps down from heaven to talk to.

“You dare to ask The Great Oz…?”

Your questions are not only reasonable, they are very important. If the interviewer can’t answer them, ask to talk with someone who can. If the company won’t make any effort to answer you, you need to reconsider whether you want to work there.


Here’s another make-or-break question to ask the employer, after an offer has been made to you: “May I see the complete benefits package so I can study it along with the rest of your kind offer?” Many employers will decline to share the benefits details. Find out Why companies hide the benefits.


Don’t be shy. Interviewing is a two-way street. They want to know a lot about you, and you need to know a lot about them. Interview them. Don’t lower your expectations because they own the job. Remember that you own the solution to their problems.

Part of my work as a headhunter involves preparing a candidate to interview the employer effectively. I’ve found that good employers don’t react well to a candidate who just sits and answers questions. A good candidate probes for information, too. A good candidate expects candor and full disclosure.

  • Be polite and diplomatic, but also be bold and assertive.
  • Get answers to every reasonable question you have, or don’t take the job.

What’s a reasonable question? It’s one that, if left unanswered, might lead you to reject an offer. If you’re left feeling uncertain about something now, it’s going to be much worse once you’re on the job. Trust your gut: Get answers to every question that matters.

What’s the best time to ask your questions? Before, during, and after the interview. I’m not trying to be cute. It’s a judgment call. You wield the most power after you receive an offer and before you accept it. It’s really the only time you have great control in the interview process. That’s a good time to call the manager and explain that there’s some additional information you need. Can they meet with you briefly one more time? If they decline, that suggests a lot about how they may treat you later. (Is it possible they’ll be offended and rescind the offer? Sure, though I think it’s very unlikely. But, what would that tell you?)

A final note: Make sure you’re talking with the person you’re going to be reporting to. While the personnel department can answer questions about benefits, company policy, and the like, you’re not going to be interacting daily with the personnel staff once you’re hired. Your key questions are about the work, and it’s the boss who can tell you what you need to know — if you ask. And don’t be afraid to ask, ever.

If something is a make-or-break issue, it’s better to get answers before you accept the job. The best employers will be happy to share the information you need.

(If you need more detailed help assessing an employer, see “Due diligence: Don’t take a job without it” in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 8: Play Hardball After The Interview, and “How do I ensure the job offer matches the job?” in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9: Be The Master Of Job Offers.)

What tough questions do you ask employers? Has an employer ever refused to answer? Are there questions that are off limits for job applicants? I’d love to hear from employers, too.

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How your old boss can cost you a new job

In the April 15, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader worries about how much “notice time” is enough when quitting a job:

I’m a licensed professional working in a small firm. During lean years a few years ago, my boss arranged for me to do some other work so that he wouldn’t have to lay me off. I even did some dog and house sitting for him. So we are close. Nonetheless, now it’s time for me to move on. I will not consider a counter-offer or any back-and-forth negotiations.

I’ve heard my boss say that if anyone leaves the firm, he’d like a month or two notice. I’ve read your thoughts on this, and I agree a long notice is a bad idea — potentially a trap for being abused during the transition period, and who would wait one or two month’s for a new employee to start work? Frankly, I’m hoping to give two weeks’ notice and to take a third week for vacation between jobs.

When I leave, I’ll do all I can to leave my desk in good shape for my replacement, but the firms I’m interviewing with will want me to start quickly. Is there a good way to go about this?

Nick’s Reply

Your boss’s wishes are one thing. Reality is another. As you’ve clearly realized, your own career safety is paramount, no matter how friendly you feel toward your current employer. Your old boss can cost you your new job.

quittingHere’s the message you need to deliver to your boss when — and only when — you have a bona fide, written job offer in hand and you’ve accepted it and have a firm start date:

How to Say It
I’m afraid i It’s time for me to move on. I’ve accepted a job at a firm where I can continue growing my career in directions that are important to me. I’d like to give you two weeks’ notice. Of course, I will devote that time to helping organize my work to facilitate the transition to someone new – anything you need.”
[Note: I’ve modified this suggestion thanks to a comment from GEM below.]

Stop there. Your boss may not ask for more time. Or, it’s unlikely but I’ve seen it happen, he may ask you to leave immediately. (There’s no guessing at how an employer will react, so plan for the worst.)

If he presses you to stay for more time, try this:

How to Say It
“I wish I could do more, but in today’s economy no company I’ve talked with permits the kind of transition time I’d like to give you. My job offer is contingent on a quick start date.”

Don’t complain and don’t explain in any more detail. Do the right thing within the constraints you have. And let your old employer deal with the rest. Don’t let him turn your business with your new employer into his business. Don’t fool around with requesting an extension on the start date for your new job. The answer might be a withdrawn offer. (Be sure you’re Starting a job on the right foot.)

Again, be prepared to be shown the door immediately if your boss gets upset. (Now I’ll shock you a bit: If you have personal belongings in your desk, get them out before you announce your plans.)

There’s a standard for doing the right thing, and that’s two weeks’ notice. I know it sounds cold, but you don’t owe anyone any more, even if they cut you a break during hard times. If you want to try to return that favor, do it in a way that won’t cause problems at your new job. Offer to recommend a candidate for the job, if you can. Offer to help write the job description and to help interview applicants during your notice period. Offer to work late during those two weeks, if necessary. (The guy did you a solid; do one for him to the extent you can.)

Part friends if you can. And when you get that new job offer, remember that there is no sure thing. I wish you the best.

What do you owe your employer when it’s time to move on? I’m sure you have more ideas and even some personal policies. Should this reader try to extend the start date at a new job?

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What to say to a stingy boss

In the April 8, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader says her boss “gave her a raise” by hiring another employee:

I have been with my current employer for six and a half years. I was promoted six months ago from administrative assistant to assistant manager. I got the title but no pay increase. Since being employed with this company I have not received any type of raise, only an occasional small bonus (less than $600). I recently asked the owner about a cost of living raise. His answer: “I did give you a raise when I hired a new person for your department. This took a large work load off you and that in turn was your raise.”

underpaidI almost fell out of my chair. I try very hard to be an optimist, but I am still trying to wrap my head around his response. I have proven that I have been very committed to this company. I have streamlined daily duties to save time, and I have found ways to save him thousands of dollars in operating costs. My boss informs me often that his clients compliment him on my professional skills and follow-up. I have a file of examples, but still I am not worthy of even a cost of living raise. My new co-worker was hired at the same time I was given a promotion in title only. She managed to negotiate $8,000 more than I am paid, with two years of experience against my six years. The only benefits that I receive are three weeks vacation. No retirement, no health insurance.

My boss also made this important statement: “I don’t believe in giving raises. People should learn to live within their means.”

My fire was ignited. A still small voice inside me is screaming saying, don’t settle, have courage, and as my father would say, go out there and shake those bushes.

I do apologize for the roundabout explanation. Do I stay and accept no pay increase ever, and just accept that maybe someday I can possibly make an increase in salary when my current manager retires in 10-15 years?

Or should I just go for it and test the market and just see what might be on the other side of that door? I will admit, I am old school when it comes to changing employers often. I tend to be very loyal. What makes me stay? I really do enjoy my work and I enjoy finding ways to save money. It’s a challenge for me. But now that I realize there will be very little compensation in my efforts, I feel defeated to say the least. My resume is ready. I’m the only one holding myself back.

Thank you so very much for all the information you have put together for people like me. I greatly appreciate any insider tips to help me navigate my way in a southern good ol’ boys business world.

Nick’s Reply

Your note reveals to me that you are a class act. A bit naive, but classy.

Loyalty goes two ways. If you’re giving your employer your best and he’s failing to recognize your increasing value to his business, then he’s not being loyal to you. I’m not trying to stoke the fire of discontent, but I don’t think you have anything to feel guilty about.

You’ve invested six years of your life in this business, and your boss has acknowledged your value to his customers. Now he’s given you a higher level job to acknowledge the growth of your skills and abilities. You are delivering much more value to him than you were when you were hired. (You’re a walking example of How to Build Value on Your Resume.) But he’s delivering no more value to you.

stingy-bossHis statement that, “I don’t believe in giving raises. People should learn to live within their means” tells you all you need to know about this man: He’s taking advantage of you. My guess is that he’s earning far more today than he was six years ago, in part thanks to you. He’s not sharing that success. And as a boss, he’s not grasping a very simple but important idea about salary: That’s why it’s called compensation.

His statement that hiring a new person is his way of giving you a raise is a ridiculous insult. All I see here is a man with a very small mind who thinks he’s clever. But don’t begrudge your new co-worker her higher salary. Good for her for negotiating it. Her success is no reflection on you. (I discuss how to handle salary disparity in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 7: Win The Salary Games, pp. 16-17, “Why does he get paid more?”)

I’d take your boss up on his advice – live within your means. And your “new means,” with six years’ experience under your belt, include greater skills and abilities, and a higher value. Find an employer who recognizes that, respects it, and is willing to pay for it.

Keep in mind that searching for a new job always poses a bit of a risk. But I think doing nothing but accepting this man’s edicts is far, far riskier for you. If you stay, in another six years your self-respect and self-confidence will diminish, and you will indeed be worth less.

Your boss is wrong. Your father is right. Do it carefully and intelligently, but find yourself a better employer. (Let me caution you: Don’t look for a job.) Life is short, and as my best mentor told me long ago, “Never work with jerks.”

When you say goodbye to that fool, remember: Never complain, never explain. Do not express your dissatisfaction or explain why you are leaving, except to say, “It’s time for me to move on. Good luck.” (Nothing is gained by venting to an old boss except the venom he will spread about you.) So keep your standards and your head high. Rest assured that this man’s comeuppance will appear to him every morning when he looks in the mirror — while you earn what you’re worth.

When is enough, enough from a selfish boss? How do we know it’s time to say, so long? Have you been abused longer than you should have permitted? What pushed you to finally move on? What are your suggestions for this reader?

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The Bogus-ness of Indeed.com

In the April 2, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks me to stop dissing job boards:

You claim that job boards don’t work. Yet virtually every job in the world is advertised on job boards, and employers use job boards all the time! Just look at all the traffic they get. I think you’re missing the boat — please admit that there’s plenty of evidence the job boards do work!

Nick’s Reply

Here’s the problem with job boards today: None of them offer any evidence that they work.

What does it mean that “they work?” It means they actually match people with jobs. You know: find jobs for people and find people for jobs.

Indeed-infographicAbout.com says, “The best sites for finding job listings in 2014 will help you find the most current job openings fast” (about.com). Finding job listings is one thing. But if job boards actually work, they should be able to show they are the cause of hires. They claim they are, but they offer no evidence.

Let’s look at Indeed.com, which is referred to as “arguably (and probably) the largest job search engine” (DigitalTrends).

On March 27, 2014, Indeed published an article and infographic titled “How 140 Million Unique Visitors Use Indeed to Find Jobs.”

On its face, the title seems clear — it’s going to tell you how people found jobs using Indeed. But the infographic shows nothing of the sort. In fact, contrary to the misleading title, the graphic seems to be very careful not to claim Indeed actually fills jobs. Let’s look at the data presented in that infographic (click here to follow along). It tells us everything except whether Indeed works:

1. 140 Million unique visitors each month. So what? What does tracking unique visitors have to do with actually filling jobs? All this tells us is that lots of people go there.

2. “Traffic on Indeed has increased by 40% over the past year.” Again, so what?

3. “Each month, 72% of online job seekers in the US visit Indeed.” But, how many get jobs there? There’s no mention of that. I’m still waiting for how all those people use Indeed to actually find jobs.

4. “There are 25 million resumes on Indeed that employers search for free.” Those employers could be printing resumes to line bird cages. Where are the stats on how many people they hired? All this statistic tells us is that employers might be stupid. Judging from the rising complaints about “a talent shortage” from employers, it seems “free” is worthless. And employers are indeed sometimes stupid.

5. “Job seekers use the 4 million employer reviews to research companies.” So what? They use Google to do the same. Does Google claim it fills jobs? Do we see a trend here? Lots of data showing big numbers, which seem impressive by themselves — but no outcomes analysis.

6. “45% of Indeed searches come from mobile.” Yah, so? Every marketing program today includes the obligatory reference to “mobile.” But how many of those searches yield hires?

7. There are 16 million jobs on Indeed worldwide, and 8.2 added per second. But how many are filled by people searching for jobs on Indeed?

8. Indeed is available in 50+ countries in 28 languages. Perhaps translators are getting jobs. What are the success rates by country?

The infographic slams us with impressive statistics about web traffic, numbers of job postings and resumes, percentages of job seekers that visit — all kinds of data. Indeed concludes that “More people find jobs on Indeed than anywhere else.” After scanning the clever infographic, you probably believe it.

Well, I don’t. I think it’s all b.s. All I see is that lots of people find job listings on Indeed. (Oops, could that be what Indeed really means?)

In the midst of all this promotional “info” there is not one shred of data that tells us how many people actually got jobs on Indeed, or how many jobs employers filled on Indeed. “People find jobs on Indeed” clearly means they found job listings in Indeed. So what?

The infographic is bogus. Those numbers do not indicate success rates. It’s classic deception by distraction that convinces people to keep patronizing job boards.

My challenge to job boards

I challenge Indeed.com, and every other job board: Show us your job fill rates and the success rates of job seekers who use the service, and point us to your data. Indeed’s revenues are not public, but they must be staggering. The company clearly spends a lot on advertising and promotion. You’d think that if Indeed had a shred of evidence that its service actually works, it would be prominently displayed in the infographic.

Why isn’t it?

I can’t find one word about Indeed’s success metrics on its website. Can you? Indeed features an “Engineering Blog” on its site — posts about database technology — but nothing about outcomes analysis or success metrics.

My guess is that Indeed’s dirty little secret is that human resources departments dump billions of dollars into an empty hole, and that nobody really cares how many jobs Indeed (or any job board) actually fills — as long as the cash keeps rolling in.

The job boards “show us the money” because they’re making it hand over fist. But they don’t show us results.

My challenge to employers:

I’ll make a second challenge to employers: Pay a job board only after you make a hire through that board. Suddenly, job boards will be able to accurately track who got hired from where. And you’ll know where your money is going. (This is no different from this challenge to job boards that charge job seekers.)

Funny thing

Every job board executive I’ve ever talked to claims that “there’s just no way we can track actual hires — it’s too complicated.” Gimme a break. Web analytics is rocket science today — we can track virtually everything you do online — and there’s no way to figure out whether a job board was the cause of a job being filled? Wouldn’t the very best job service be designed to ensure it gathers the necessary data to prove it works? I mean, what are all those “data scientists” for, anyway?

I think the truth is simpler: Indeed.com and most of the other job boards (the bigger, the worse) use deceptive marketing tactics to imply bogus benefits. Certainly, they fill some jobs, but just because millions of people gamble doesn’t mean enough of them win to justify the practice. All it means is that the house wins.

While you keep job hunting, you generate more visits to Indeed.com, which yields dramatic increases in “the data” — and in the number of suckers born every minute.

Do job boards work? I’d love to hear from employers who actually know where their hires came from. Did you get a job through Indeed? What’s your best source of hires — or jobs?

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Play Hardball With Slowpoke Employers

When your job search stalls, two things stand out as big culprits: resumes and wishful thinking. Last week we discussed how your resume can hamper your job search. In this edition — Part 2 –, we’ll discuss how slowpoke employers can distract you from your goal of landing a good job.

In the March 18, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks what to do about employers who take forever:

fingers-crossed-2I’ve been interviewing with a company for about a month, including several phone calls and local interviews, and a flight to their HQ for five more interviews. It’s been three weeks since our last meeting. They say they are working through my references, but my references confirmed they have been contacted. All the while, the company is actively interviewing other candidates for the position I interviewed for. Am I’m being strung along until someone better shows up, or what? Also, how often should I follow up with them?

Nick’s Reply

There’s no explaining why a company takes so long — you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to figure it out. Don’t. Are you talking yourself into believing “this is a sure thing?” Don’t.

Is the employer hedging, stringing you along while it looks for a better candidate? Why worry about it?

Your question appears in a different form in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 8, Play Hardball With Employers, in the section titled “How can I push the hiring decision?” Here’s an excerpt from my advice:


This is a very common mistake when job hunting. The next act in the script is normally “the offer,” so job candidates ignore the clear signal to leave the stage. They desperately launch into their next speech — even when there’s nothing doing. I’ve seen top executives in utter denial when the employer stops the process, and they make fools of themselves trying to “get the process back on track, because I really want this job.”

Don’t try to push an employer that has told you it doesn’t want to go. Instead, move yourself toward your next opportunity. (If they call you back later, that’s great — if you’re still available.) Otherwise, you’ll waste precious time on a company that can’t make a decision. Be grateful they were honest about it. But move on. If you pester them, you’ll tick them off. (“Didn’t this person hear us? We’re not making a decision right now. We’re busy.”) Annoying puppies get kicked — no matter how enthusiastic they appear.

Reprinted from Fearless Job Hunting, Book 8, Play Hardball With Employers, “How can I push the hiring decision?” p. 14. Book 8 includes:

  • Put the manager on notice
  • Skip The Resume: Call the CEO
  • Do they owe me feedback after an interview?
  • hardballWhat’s the secret to the thank-you note?
  • Avoid Disaster: Check out the employer
  • How can I push the hiring decision?
  • Playing hardball with slowpoke employers
  • One interview stalled, one moving too fast
  • Line up your next target
  • Thanks is not enough
  • Due Diligence: Don’t take a job without it
  • Judge the manager
  • Get an answer at the end of the interview
  • PLUS: 8 How to Say It tips
  • PLUS: 4 sidebars packed with advice to give you the insider’s edge!

I’ve seen people put their job search on hopeful hold for weeks if not months, waiting for “the job I really want” to come through. When the slowpoke employer doesn’t come through with a job offer, they realize they’ve wasted precious time. Their motivation and job-hunting energy has waned. Their enthusiasm has turned to helpless depression. And it all shows as they try to revive a moribund job search.

Don’t take a rest while you wait for just one employer to “decide,” no matter how promising the situation looks!

But there’s another important reason why “moving on” is a good strategy. You might find that the employer you’ve been waiting on is just a slowpoke who finally gets back to you with an offer. If, rather than waiting, you have cultivated other opportunities, you’re suddenly in a much stronger negotiating position. With other options in play, now you have choices. Having options may empower you to negotiate a better offer — and even to avoid taking a job you don’t really want, just because there’s nothing else.

Play hardball with slowpoke employers. It’ll keep you out of trouble, and it’ll make you feel better, too. Follow up once. If an employer is being a slowpoke and hedging its bets by trying to find better candidates for a job, your best bet is always to control your job search by continuing your efforts to find more opportunities.

What’s the excuse the employer gives you for its decision delay? It may be legit, or it may be a hedge so it can find a better candidate. Who cares? How do you spend your time while waiting on a job offer?

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2 Big Time Sucks: Resumes and slowpoke employers

When your job search stalls, two things stand out as big culprits: resumes and wishful thinking. The next two questions from readers will help you flesh out better methods for managing your job search. We’ll cover resumes in this edition, Part 1, and wishful thinking about slowpoke employers next week, in Part 2.

In the March 11, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to disguise short-term jobs on a resume:

The longest I’ve been with an employer is two years. Is this an immediate alarm for employers when they look at my resume? If so, what are some ways I can disguise this history on my resume? Maybe by not listing so many employers, and maybe by putting more skills under each position? Also, is it a bad thing to have gaps in between jobs, or is it better to try to have temporary jobs that you can include on your resume?

Nick’s Reply

cinder-block-shoesWhen you’re drowning, is someone more likely to help you if you keep the concrete boot on your right foot, or if you move it to your left foot?

Come on — stop wasting your time worrying about how something looks on your resume. Throw out the resume! (Do you really want to defend a resume when you finally get to an interview?)

Disguising your history and work gaps will get you into trouble. There’s really no way to pretend. Please stop trying to game the process with clever resume techniques, and solve the bigger problem. Your best bet is to not use a resume to find a job.

Cultivate relationships with people connected to the businesses you want to work in. Demonstrate who you are and what you can do. These new contacts are your best chance at a direct introduction to managers who will rely on these recommendations to judge you — not on your flawed resume. Between 40%-70% of jobs are found through personal contacts. Resumes get in the way. (Resume Blasphemy explains the problem in more detail.)

So, what do you use instead of a resume when you get introduced to a manager? How do you communicate your value?

This is an excerpt from Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3, Get in The Door (way ahead of your competition), “It’s the people, Stupid,” pp. 6-8:


Your “written work” need not be a resume. Instead, create a brief business plan for each job you want to go after. This will ensure you have something useful to say when you finally talk to the right manager. (A recitation of your experience is not useful!)

  • business-planWhat’s the problem (or the opportunity) the manager faces?
  • What are the possible solutions?
  • What resources will you need to achieve it?
  • What’s your short-term and long-term plan for doing the work?
  • What are the obstacles?
  • What’s the payoff to the employer and to you?
  • What questions do you need answers to?

You’ll develop answers and a plan through your personal encounters. It’s an ongoing project. When you get close to your objective (the right manager), you’ll have everything you need to show you are a profitable hire.

Note that none of the bullet points above ever appear on a resume. While your competitors are busy writing about their history, you’re writing up a plan for your next employer’s future. Which do you think will impress the employer more?

Reprinted from Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3, Get in The Door (way ahead of your competition), which includes these sections:

  • Where do jobs really come from?
  • Uncover hidden jobs
  • It’s the people, Stupid
  • Drop the ads and pick up the phone
  • Shared Experiences: Path to success
  • Pest or manager’s dream?
  • Searching for a top job confidentially
  • Don’t provide references – launch them!
  • I don’t know anybody!
  • PLUS: 5 How to Say It tips
  • PLUS: 8 sidebars packed with advice to give you the insider’s edge!

Resumes waste your time because they lull you into believing they “represent” and “sell” you. How many top sales reps do you know that make their sales quotas by sending out “product literature?” Get my point? It’s the people, Stupid! You have to go meet and talk to them, and make your case one on one! You can’t send out a flyer…

People invest inordinate amounts of time “honing” their resumes. Why? Partly because the employment system brainwashes them, and partly because messing around with a resume seems so much easier than going out to meet the people whose recommendations get other people hired — while you’re messing with that resume!

Next week, we’ll discuss another waste of time — slowpoke employers who interview you then keep you waiting. Don’t miss Part 2!

Do you like being unemployed? (Sorry — that’s of course a loaded question!) Then why stretch it out? How do you make your job search efforts count? Do you eliminate the time sucks? Do you mix it up, one on one, to get your interviews, or do you mail out sales flyers (aka, resumes)? How many loaded questions could I possibly squeeze into this teaser to encourage you to post your comments??

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Make the employer WANT to raise your job offer

In the March 4, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to negotiate a higher job offer. But this is more than our normal Q&A column.

I recently had a rapid-fire e-mail exchange with a reader who was trying to get a low offer raised. This is not an easy thing to accomplish, and employers often decline. More important, the applicant usually doesn’t know how to justify a higher figure. I think it’s worth printing the entire exchange, rather than just a Q&A. I hope you find the details of this give and take interesting and helpful.

Question
raise-the-anteNick: People must drive you crazy but I do not know who else to reach out to in this situation. I got a job offer today for an attorney position. I was really excited, and then I heard the offer. It was so low. They were looking for an attorney with five years experience, whereas I have 28. Even for five years, I thought the offer was low. I knew I would have to take less money, but not this much less. So how much do I counter with? 10% more, 20% more? I am terrible at these things. Thanks so much for your advice!

Nick’s Reply

Congrats on the offer. Now you must decide, first of all, whether you want this job so much that you would, in the end, accept the offer as it stands. Would you?

I’ll say more once you reply. But that’s the main question you must answer — yes or no to the existing number — because odds are they will not raise it. But they might. I’ll respond with advice once you answer my question.

Reader’s Response
Yes, I would take the low offer as it stands. My bank account is dwindling and I have little choice. It’s better to have a job when looking for another, than none at all. I just don’t know how to make the suggestion for more money. Thank you!

Nick’s Reply

It’s entirely up to you to decide how much you want, but being willing to accept the existing offer gives you a special kind of leverage. I’m not suggesting a person can negotiate a better deal only if they’re willing to settle for what’s offered. But let me explain how you can exploit this situation to your advantage. There is something you can say to make the employer want to raise the offer.

You see, there are two things that are often more important to an employer than money: Your level of motivation and your commitment. Put those on the table, and you have leverage.

(Note to readers: Sometimes, it’s best to turn down that job offer if it’s very low — but this reader has made a decision to accept it. I don’t make judgments when people need to put food on the table. My objective is to help raise the offer to any extent we can.)


This advice is reprinted from Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9: Be The Master of Job Offers, pp. 8-9:

There’s a very powerful way to negotiate for more money that will not compromise your rapport with the employer — if you’ve already decided you’re willing to live with the original offer. Here’s How to Say It:

“Thanks for your offer. I’m ready to accept it, but I’d like to discuss the salary first. [For reasons A, B and C…], I believe I’m worth $2,000 more than you’re offering. But I don’t want you to 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 it is. But I’d like to respectfully ask you to consider raising it by $2,000, for the reasons I’ve cited. I’m glad to discuss how you see this, and whether you agree. But either way, I want to work here, and I’m ready to start work in two weeks.”

That’s a very powerful negotiating position to take, because you’ve made a commitment and a concession. Now you’re asking the employer for the same.

I don’t know any negotiation technique that takes this approach, probably because most negotiators don’t start with the plan of accepting the original offer. The upside of this approach is that it can still lead to a higher offer, but without jeopardizing the position you’ve already attained… By making a commitment to the company first, you establish a level of credibility that may strengthen your negotiating position. You must judge the trade-off in your particular situation.

This Q&A is excerpted from Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9: Be The Master of Job Offers, which includes these sections:

  • The company rescinded the offer!
  • Non-Compete: Did I really agree to that?
  • Am I unwise to accept their first offer?
  • Can I use salary surveys to goose up the offer?
  • The bird-in-the-hand rule of job offers
  • Juggling job offers
  • Give us the pay stub
  • Vacation Time: What’s good for the goose
  • How do I decide between two offers?
  • How to decline an offer
  • Does a counter-offer include pay-back?
  • Am I stuck with this non-compete agreement?
  • How do I ensure the job offer matches the job?
  • How to avoid a “bait and switch” job offer

Reader’s Response
I read Be The Master of Job Offers, then I called the guy and asked for more money. I phrased it as, “I hope you have some flexibility…” and asked for 7.5% more. He did not think that was unreasonable, and said he agreed with that but had to check with management and will get back to me quickly! I think it will work out. It is still not close to what I was making, but I am happier with this number. Things have changed drastically for millions of people in the last few years and it is what you do in the present that matters. My goal is to not look back but forward. Thank you so much, Nick, for all your help and your empowering book.

Nick’s Reply

You’re welcome. You made my day. Something told me you’d at least try something from the book — and those are the people I do this for. Whatever happens, you took a stand and you made a sound effort. My compliments. I hope it all works out for the best for you.

Reader’s Response
Hey, Nick, just an update! As you know, I asked for more money and they came back today with just a bit less than 7.5% and I took the job. So, not anything close to what I used to make, but I got more because I asked, so I feel good! Once again, I cannot thank you enough for all your wisdom, the book, and your support.

Note from Nick

more-moneyNot every negotiation for more money succeeds. But knowing how to leverage any advantage you have — even if it’s the stark fact that you need that job — can make the difference between no increase and something more. It’s usually difficult to think straight when an offer is on the table and the pressure is on. But as this reader has shown, an effective request can pay off!

By making the commitment she was ready to make anyway — to accept the job — the reader made it much easier for the employer to raise the offer simply because she asked. Commitment and motivation are two things that are often more important to an employer than money. (These are two of the cornerstones of How Can I Change Careers?) You can always use them to strengthen your negotiating position.

Have you ever convinced an employer to raise a job offer? How’d you do it? What other methods would you have suggested to this reader? If you’re an employer, please tell us what influences the final offers you make. Join us on the blog!

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Can people of color win jobs using Ask The Headhunter?

In the February 25, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks about racial challenges:

I was on the PBS NewsHour.org site and discovered your advice columns. I liked your disruptive advice so I went to your website, read several pages, signed up for the newsletter and bought Fearless Book 3. As an immigrant female POC [Person of Color] I think some of your advice is too much because our communities lack those ties, and the Anglo community is largely biased and resistant to sharing.

I also think that POC [People of Color] would be taken to task harder if they implemented some of your more radical advice. That is, they’d be seen as scary rather than persistent. Overall, however, I did enjoy your advice and I think it would be be interesting to hear specifically from POC that followed your process, so please consider a series of posts, and please consider addressing bias and ways to overcome it. Thank you.

Nick’s Reply

Thanks for your note — you’re raising an important topic. I’ve grappled with questions about discrimination since I started publishing Ask The Headhunter. I think there are two clear options, and a bunch of tricks.

people-of-colorThe first option is to sue the company that discriminates. Like it or not, that can be costly, but it’s the main remedy available under the law. You can also file complaints with regulatory agencies. But these approaches won’t help you land a job.

The second option is to make your value to the employer a higher priority than the company’s biases against you. This takes a bit of work, but I think it’s a better plan. I won’t get into details about how to do this here, because virtually all of Ask The Headhunter addresses the “how to.”

Option one forces the employer to comply; option two convinces the employer that hiring you is the best thing to do. Of course, success does not mean the employer will stop discriminating otherwise.

Then there are the tricks: Avoid letting the employer see your skin color or guess your race until you get the interview. Color your hair to remove the grey. Use an initial for your first name to avoid disclosing you are female. Change your last name to hide your origins. When you finally face a bigot in the interview, you’re still toast — except you’ve wasted your time, too. None of this will really help you.

I don’t agree that the methods I teach are “too much” or that POC communities lack ties that help their members get ahead. (Don’t say, “I don’t know anybody.” That’s bunk.) Nor do I agree that the Anglo community is largely biased and resistant to sharing – that’s like saying POC are largely one way or another. In Fearless Job Hunting, Book 5: Get The Right Employer’s Attention there’s a section titled “Don’t walk blind on the job hunt” where I offer this important suggestion:

Know who you’re calling, or don’t call them. If you don’t know the person you want to call, first call someone who does and get introduced.

I think the only way to be successful at job hunting is to take everyone and every situation individually and personally, and to make judgments and choices accordingly. Lean to live like an exception.

Of course, discrimination is real, and so are cultural and personal attitudes. You’re showing a bit of bias against Anglos, and I’m sure some people have revealed their biases to you. I’m not in a position to change any of that, except to tell people to stop doing it.

To me, the fundamental truth is that our society tends to favor productivity and people who can produce what others need and are willing to pay for. (See Hiring Manager: HR is the problem, you are the solution.) The path to a career and a life based on that is fraught with problems and challenges. There’s nothing easy about it. You’ll be ignored and rejected even if you’re quite productive. But it’s even less likely that you’ll be hired (or start a business) and become successful if you are not highly productive.

So learn to show how you will be productive for the employer in question. Lead with that. Don’t lead with your past, don’t lead with a chip on your shoulder. (If the chip is big, then sue the bastards.)

stand-outNot all people start out equally in their efforts to be productive and successful. Some must surmount incredible obstacles, including racism, discrimination, sexism, ageism, and more isms than we can count. But in the end, our society craves and rewards productivity and profit. (What did you pull off?) If you can take something and add your skills, acumen, insights, hard work and persistence, you’ve got a chance at success. That’s what I try to teach with Ask The Headhunter, and it’s what we discuss on the blog every day: How to do it.

You seem to like the ATH approach, but you doubt it can work for you and other people of color. All I can suggest is that you bend and shape some of these methods into something you think you can try on your own. This is not “all or nothing.” And your good judgment must temper it to suit your goals.

Now let’s get to your final request: How have people of color — and people who are discriminated against for other characteristics — used Ask The Headhunter effectively? How has ATH failed them? What’s the best way to use these methods? These are questions for this community, and my guess is there are some great ideas and tips forthcoming.

How have you used Ask The Headhunter to overcome discrimination? Or, maybe you tried and it didn’t work. If you’re a manager, and you’ve been a bit biased, did anyone ever overwhelm you with reasons to hire them anyway? (You may post using a screen name — no one will hunt you down.)

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