Readers’ Forum: One page resume?

Discussion: April 6, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader wants to know:

Are one-page resumes really “the thing?” I don’t feel I can adequately present my strengths on a one-page resume, more like two pages.

Er, ah, I don’t wanna touch this one with a ten-foot pole! Well, I could suggest you not use a resume at all and stop worrying about it… Okay, folks? How long should that resume be?


Readers’ Forum: Dropping a dime on the bad guys

Discussion: March 8, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

From a reader:

I was let go suddenly from a very small business after only one month, despite being told I was doing a fantastic job. (They had me doing three jobs: office manager, paralegal and client intake.) To make a long story short, this two-attorney firm has a pattern of hiring and then firing both attorneys and paralegals before the benefits are due to kick in. Would you happen to know if there is any “red flag list,” maybe through the department of labor, to place suspect employers who are taking advantage of the high unemployment rate and changing employees like pantyhose?

Hmmm, a red flag list. A gallery of rogues. Pantyhose… I’d contact my state department of labor and ask whether any complaints have been filed about this company. Who else has dropped a dime on the firm? Get in touch, compare notes, then file your own complaint if you feel you have a legitimate beef. If others have complained, an investigator may look into any funky doings — and these attorneys may find they need a lawyer…

That’s my two bits. Is there somewhere you guys drop a dime on misbehaving employers?


Readers’ Forum: How to make more money

Discussion: March 2, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

The Q&A in today’s newsletter is a biggie: What are the hot spots in your job and your career that present opportunities for you to goose up your compensation? And, when you encounter such an opportunity, what should you do?

This is the topic of a new book I’m writing, and I’d like your help.

In the newsletter I discuss two hot spots where you can influence how a company will pay you: when you approach a company for a job and when you have a performance review. Note that, before you can ask to be paid more, you’ve got to do lots of advance work and be ready to demonstrate how you will make more money for a company.

Now I’ll tell you about the book I’m working on. I’m outlining a lot of hot spots where I believe there are distinct opportunities for talented people to boost what they get paid. No single one is going to make or break your compensation level, but if you recognize these hot spots and capitalize on them, then you should see an overall boost in your earnings.

Why am I telling you this? Because I need your advice and insight. I think many of these hot spots are revealed when you tell me about obstacles and hurdles you face as you work toward greater success in your work.

  • What situations have you encountered where you think you could have boosted your pay, but you blew it (or didn’t exploit the opportunity as fully as possible)?
  • What obstacles do employers create that you believe limit your pay artificially or unreasonably?
  • In what ways have you gotten stuck in salary negotiations?
  • Which compensation topics mess with your mind, leaving you feeling like you have no control over the outcome?
  • Is there an experience that keeps nagging at you, where you think you might have influenced the outcome for the better but didn’t?
  • What do you want to know about making more money?

This is a big topic. I don’t pretend to have my hands around it, but since it comes up a lot on Ask The Headhunter, I’m determined to tackle it in a more organized way. I want to know, What do you want to know?

Most people pick their jobs for reasons other than money. They want to work with a certain product or technology or they want to work in a certain culture. But let’s face it: We all work to make money so we can take care of those we love and to enjoy a good quality of life. If you want to stand out in your field, one of they key measures is how you get paid for the work you do. Knowing how to make as much money as you can is an important skill that should pay off for you and for your employer.

Please read today’s newsletter, then tell me what kinds of hot spots you’ve encountered—and how you handled them. How can I help you boost your compensation?

[Update: Reader Svetla posed an interesting challenge in the comments section below. It’s so provocative that I think it merits a reply in a new posting. Here it is: 6 scenarios about making more money.]


Readers’ Forum: What’s with the goofy tests?

Discussion: February 23, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s newsletter, a reader asks for advice:

What’s with the psychological multiple-choice questions in job applications? What are they looking for and what do I do when I don’t “test well” with these kinds of questions? I’m a great employee, but these tests mess with my brain! Are there any resources on how to answer these questions? I’m finding I can’t even get an interview unless I first pass this part of the application process.

You can’t tell a company to stop using those goofy tests, and you’re right: It’s virtually impossible to figure out how to “pass” one. So the alternative is clear: Don’t apply using job applications. Go directly to a hiring manager.

HR uses such tests to weed out “undesirables.” (At least in the opinion of the HR manager.) But if a manager has already decided to interview you or hire you, the personnel jockey is not likely to stand in the way. The “weeding” tools usually go flying out the window. When you have a manager already interested, the smart thing to do is politely but firmly decline to do this kooky stuff. “Once we meet and decide there’s a mutual interest in taking our discussions further, I’d be glad to fill out your application forms.”

This ever-more-ridiculous, impersonal “hiring strategy” that companies are increasingly using accomplishes one thing. It alienates the best workers, who refuse to play the game. They will find their way in the door through personal contacts — or they’ll go to work for a competitor. Rather than waste their time with such administrative roadblocks, job hunters with high standards will invest their time meeting and cultivating people who can refer them to a hiring manager. They won’t bend over for personnel jockeys.

So the way to handle such tests (and preliminary application forms) is not to do them. Avoid them. Get in the door through a manager or another employee of the company.

This article might be helpful: Employment Tests: Get an edge.


Readers’ Forum: Better to be unemployed when job hunting?

Discussion: February 9, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s Q&A column a reader wonders whether it’s better to be unemployed and job hunting full time, or to explain why he’s underemployed and jumping ship so quickly for the job he really wants. Do managers care? Does it make a difference?

I outline three different risks in my reply. But what do you think?

(You missed the newsletter because you don’t subscribe? It’s easy to fix that for free.)


Readers’ Forum: When to tell all

Discussion: February 2, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks for advice:

After several years of being a single mother I am now looking for work. However, due to family obligations I do not wish to work full time; ideally 20-30 hours per week. I have successfully found work using your approach in the past and would definitely use it again. However, I’m not sure at what point in the discussions to bring up that I’m only looking for work part time. Should I mention this right off the bat? Or wait until a job offer is being discussed? I’d love to get reader feedback here. (My gut says to mention it earlier, rather than later.)

Can a job applicant interview for a job without disclosing she’s interested only in part-time work? The obvious answer might seem to be no. But put your thinking caps on: What would justify pitching a part-time solution to a full-time job?

Stretch your mind without stretching the truth or your integrity.


Readers’ Forum: Screwed by a headhunter

Discussion: January 19, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s Q&A a reader lost a precious job offer because she let a “headhunter” get involved:

My daughter recently got a job offer from a Fortune 100 company. When her headhunter sent them a bill, the company withdrew the offer. They said their policy excludes headhunters. Something doesn’t sound right. Please advise me.

My answer and advice are in the newsletter. What I’m interested in is your experiences. The career world is flooded with questionable practitioners who claim they’re going to help you find a job. What scams have you encountered? How do you check out headhunters before you let them “present you” to an employer? Has a headhunter’s bad behavior ever cost you a job? Tell us — and help others avoid catastrophe.


Readers’ Forum: Is this company worth working for?

Every January, pundits publish their predictions for the new year. I don’t make predictions because I prefer not to be judged when I’m wrong ;-)

But it’s not hard to surmise that if the economy improves this year, the employment shoe will be on the other foot. The personnel jockey who has routinely been spitting rude questions at job applicants and challenging them to accept 20% lower salaries will likely wind up swallowing bile in 2010. Time to get out the kleenex and wipe up the drippings.

Computer World's Between the Lines by John Klosser

My favorite IT (information technology) publication is ComputerWorld. The first 2010 edition includes a cartoon from the very pointed pen of John Klossner that every smart employer should take a look at. (And if you’re a job hunter, take note: Employers can whip you only so hard in job interviews before you instinctively tell them to shove it.)

There are two messages in this cartoon. First, challenge employers to assess whether they are qualified to hire you. Maybe the company isn’t a good place to work. Second, Pursue Companies, Not Jobs.

While the demoralized guy in the applicant’s chair says he’s “looking for someone,” he’s really looking for a company.

A sound company.

And that’s the point. You may need a job and a paycheck, but you also need a future that doesn’t require going job hunting again in a few short months. While you’re sitting across the table from that interviewer, figure out, Does this company suck?

Yah, there are other ways to say what the guy in the cartoon is saying. What are they? How do you politely but clearly challenge the employer to make sure it’s a company worth working for?

[Computerworld does not seem to publish the cartoons from its magazine in its online edition, or I’d link directly. Credit where it’s due: Computerworld, January 4, 2010.]


Readers’ Forum: How to learn from failure

Discussion: December 22, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

Usually the Readers’ Forum in the Ask The Headhunter newsletter starts with a problem or scenario posed by a reader. Then we all pile on it, here on the blog.

This week I’d like to pose a problem myself. The current edition of Wired magazine features an article about failure that occurs in science labs. It set me to thinking. (Everything I read flows through my headhunter filter.) How can this be applied to solve job hunting or hiring problems?

A sidebar in that article is titled How to Learn from Failure. It suggests that when scientific experiments fail, the outcome of the effort is an anomaly. Anomalous outcomes should makes us analyze failure in these four steps:

Check Your Assumptions
Ask yourself why this result feels like a failure. What theory does it contradict? Maybe the hypothesis failed, not the experiment.

Seek Out the Ignorant
Talk to people who are unfamiliar with your experiment. Explaining your work in simple terms may help you see it in a new light.

Encourage Diversity
If everyone working on a problem speaks the same language, then everyone has the same set of assumptions.

Beware of Failure-Blindness
It’s normal to filter out information that contradicts our preconceptions. The only way to avoid that bias is to be aware of it.

Can these failure analysis tools be applied to job hunting and hiring? Here are my four suggestions about how to apply these tools to a failed job interview. Rather than think you failed at the interview:

  1. Ask yourself, “Is this the wrong job for me?”
  2. Explain to someone outside your business what the job is about, and what happened in the interview. Ask for their insight.
  3. Do (2.) with someone way outside your field. Ask your grandmother or a 12-year-old. If you’re forced to change the vocabulary you use to describe the failure, you might learn something new.
  4. You might believe that the salient take-away from a failed interview is that you failed at the interview. Is it possible you failed to pursue the right kind of job, company, manager?

I think there’s something here. Help me find it. How can these four failure analysis steps be used to learn from failed job interviews?


Readers’ Forum: Where are the weirdoes?

Discussion: December 15, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks:

I am a mission-driven person (and a turn-around expert) who shares a fair number of beliefs from the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works style of business and project management. Even today, this is still an “out of the box” style of management and is not exactly listed in job postings as a qualification. Companies don’t seem to express it to recruiters or discuss it on their websites. I rarely find this style among people or businesses. But when I team up with them it is true business magic. How do I find these kinds of companies and people?

Whew! Why do out-of-the-box thinkers keep showing up here? Hmmm… We’re all weird on Ask The Headhunter and no one knows what to do with us. One thing left to do: Take over.

How can this reader find other innovators who crave autonomy and avoid bureaucracy… And hopefully a company that tolerates (and hires) them?

Help us break the bureaucracy. Please give us some insight!