Readers’ Forum: Are people enough?

Discussion: November 24, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s newsletter, a reader tells how she’s on a roll… conducting her job search exclusively through personal contacts. She hasn’t sent out a resume but has lined up phone calls with VP’s and CEO’s at her target companies.

How is that possible? How’d she do it? (You’ve gotta subscribe to the newsletter to find out… and it’s free!)

I didn’t publish this week’s Q&A column to congratulate myself because a reader finds that the Ask The Headhunter approach works. I ran it because it’s Thanksgiving and it’s nice to share an upbeat story!

But I also ran it because I want to ask you something:

Does the talk-to-people approach that this reader is using a substitute for the traditional job ad/resume approach, or should it be used only in addition to job ads/resumes?

Have you ever searched for a job purely through personal contacts? Is a person nuts to skip resumes and ads?

Is it enough to talk to people? Please weigh in and don’t worry about getting extreme…


Readers’ Forum: Avoid disaster – check out the employer!

Discussion: November 17, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s Q&A a reader says he goofed when he didn’t check out his new employer carefully enough.

After I accepted a position with a local company it became evident that the way the leadership of the company was managing internal operations was going to sink it. Three months later, I left after the operations exec left. Shortly thereafter the company was on life support. How could I have done a better job investigating this company before taking the job?

Have you had a close call? To what extremes have you gone to check a company’s bona fides and to avoid career disaster? Our reader wants to know so he can avoid making the same mistake again. Good idea!


Readers’ Forum: Initiative or exploitation?

Discussion: November 10, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In this week’s Q&A, a reader worries that the Ask The Headhunter method of sharing a sample of your abilities with an employer in an interview means you are “less mentally adept” and that I’m exploiting you. (I guess that means the employer is exploiting you, too.)

Uh… say what?

Have you ever tried doing the job in the interview or presenting a brief business plan to demonstrate that you are worth hiring? What happened? Did you get exploited?


Pay for a job? (Part 2)

About a year ago we first asked the question, How much would you pay for a job?

In this week’s e-mail Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we’re covering part two. (Don’t get the free newsletter? Oops. You’re missing the full story. Sign up now!)

A reader says:

I recently signed an agreement with a search firm that places people either (1) as a contingnecy search firm, or (2) as a career counseling firm. That is, depending on the position, they charge the employer or the employee a fee. I am willing to work with them only if the employer pays the fee, but the agreement includes a number of provisions about how this firm could collect the fee from me.

There’s more… in the newsletter. (Hey, if I publish it all here, what’s the point of the newsletter? The point of this part of the Blog is to enable newsletter subscribers to chime in on the topic. Feel free to join in…)

Witness the degree of desperation in the job market… and beware of “pay to work” schemes that masquerade as legitimate headhunters or employment agencies.

Suckers are born every minute. Some of them are pretty smart — just desperate and in need of help. (We’ve all been there.) I guarantee you, there are scams even I have never heard of before… Would you pay for a job? Have you encountered “agencies,” “career counselors” or “search firms” that charge both the job hunter and the employer? (And, what did you think of my advice in the newsletter?)

Have you been scammed another way?

Expose the fraud and let’s educate ourselves before another one of us gets suckered…

****UPDATE: Newsletter subscribers have asked for access to the June 9, 2009 edition of the Newsletter, titled Should I pay to apply for a job?, which is mentioned in this week’s edition. While the newsletter is not normally archived online, I’ve put that edition up so you’ll have it for reference. Hope it helps, and thanks for the requests!


Readers’ Forum: No phone calls, please! (Version 2)

We recently heard from a reader who saw a job posting that warned, “No phone calls, please!”

In this week’s newsletter (October 27, 2009) another reader runs into the same warning, but the story has another twist. (What is it with employers who don’t want to talk to job applicants, anyway?)

I found the job of my dreams posted in an industry newsletter. The posting says to apply via, where a more complete job description can be found. I researched and found the name of the executive that position reports directly to and I also found her on LinkedIn. Do I send a message via LinkedIn? The posting does specify “No calls, please,” so I don’t want to get black-balled before I even apply.

On the one hand, we have a smart, motivated job hunter — the kind of out-of-the-box thinker companies claim they love. On the other hand, we have an HR department so goofy that it directs job hunters to a 3rd-party job board to apply for a job at the company… while the company’s managers are available on LinkedIn.

What would you do?


Readers’ Forum: What do I owe the headhunter?

A reader’s problem:

Five years ago a headhunter convinced me to interview with Company A. I wasn’t offered a job after the interview, but the experience motivated me to find a job with another company, B. After a few months, Company A offered me a job (through the headhunter), but I had to decline since I had already started working at Company B.

Now that 5 years have passed, I’d like to pursue a job at Company A. Am I obligated to work through the headhunter? Or is it fine to contact the hiring manager at Company A directly?

Forum: Does this reader owe the headhunter a call? What’s the best way to handle this? Post your comments and I’ll add mine later! (If you have a copy of How to Work with Headhunters, you can handle this one with your eyes closed… and you also know why the reader should have stayed closer to that headhunter!)


Congress to Employers: You’re not proctologists

I once applied for a job with a big-time, international consulting firm. I signed off on a background check that included letting them interview everyone back to my kindergarten teacher. I had to get a physical and pee in a cup. They did a credit check. Who knows what they found, because they didn’t hire me. (I have no idea what they found because they wouldn’t share it with me.)

That was lucky, because letting people I didn’t know intrude into areas of my life that were none of their business gnawed at me… and I decided not to accept an offer even if they made it. Go suck rocks. Who wants to turn their life over to goons? And besides, I wanted to know — but no one at the company would tell me — what does the CEO’s credit record look like? Why don’t employers publish their officers’ full records like Subway publishes calorie counts on all its sandwiches?

Why do companies want to know it all? To avoid hiring someone who might go postal some day? Nah, it’s to cover their asses. Personnel jockeys and lawyers apply every available “verification” process just because they can. Because who wants to make a decision and be held accountable for it if there’s one more source of data we can check…? Who wants to hire somebody who missed her last car payment and is struggling to find a job so she can make the next one?

What many people don’t realize is, you can say NO. You are under no obligation to micturate on demand, expose your kindergarten teacher to embarrassing questions, or to take a probe up your credit report or up your ass. You might not get the interview, but all the details of your life are not any employer’s business unless you choose to make them so. (If you consent, consider that what an employer finds may not even be accurate. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group says that about a third of credit reports contain serious errors.)

Many Ask The Headhunter readers tell me they say NO. I learned to say no after I looked at myself in the mirror following the investigation into my life many years ago. I was ashamed of myself. I gave up everything about myself to information goons.

On July 9, 2009 Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee introduced H.R.3149, a bill “to amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to prohibit the use of consumer credit checks against prospective and current employees for the purposes of making adverse employment decisions.”

Cohen says, “At a time when people are struggling to find jobs, credit checks should not be used as a basis to deny employment to otherwise qualified candidates.” The bill has 36 co-sponsors and it is long overdue. It’s time to draw this line.

Nonetheless, the bill “makes exceptions to such prohibition for employment: (1) which requires a national security or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) clearance; (2) with a state or local government agency which otherwise requires use of a consumer report; or (3) in a supervisory, managerial, professional, or executive position at a financial institution.

You should be aware of these exceptions because this is the best we’re likely to get. Much as I would like to put kindergarten teachers off limits.

Checking people out before you hire them is a smart thing to do. So talk to people that job candidates have worked with and ask smart questions. Check references. Do your diligence. But you’re not an information proctologist. There are places where your hands don’t belong because you don’t acquire rights to anyone’s privacy when you hire them. And it’s time Congress put that in writing.

Kudos to Rep. Steve Cohen. H.R. 3149 has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. I’m contacting my legislators and telling them to vote for the bill. I encourage you to do the same.


Readers’ Forum: Am I digging my own grave?

Jumpin’ Jehosophat! First there’s a job opportunity, then there is none. Then there’s a custom-made job… but to get it, this reader has to crawl down in the hole… From this week’s Readers’ Forum in the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter:

I came in second — didn’t get the job. But the company interviewed me again for a unique new position based on my unusual set of skills. They want to create a job for me, but prior to interviewing with the company president, I’ve been asked to write up the job description. I think this is genuine, but my research on the president indicates some issues. I’m worried he’ll use my job description to create the job and then make me compete for it with others. How can I structure the document to protect myself?

For the Forum: Is this job candidate digging her own grave, or planting the seeds of success? What should she do next?


Readers’ Forum: Old, talented and sidelined

It’s the question on the lips of the ever-growing over-60 population. (Hey, you’re not over 60? Just wait a few minutes… because when you get to 60, it’s gonna feel like just a few minutes ago that you were younger.)

From the new Ask The Headhunter Newsletter Readers’ Forum:

I’m a 64-year-old (healthy and talented) TV director with two Emmys, one Peabody, and a dozen other awards. I love my job as an adjunct professor of television production and writing at a respected university, but at best it’s a part-time thing that brings more satisfaction than income. TV is staffed largely by young people who either perceive me as their father or ask why would someone like me be looking for work with someone like them. I’m afraid I’m not alone in my quandary: old enough to have a distinguished career, too old to be thought employable for any number of reasons. I have no intention of retiring. What would you do?

Forum: There are lots of articles on this topic in lots of publications. The Net is awash in advice for “old people” looking for jobs. But I’m not interested in the conventional tips for this reader. (Dye your hair. Act young. Leave dates off your resume. Learn the new lingo…) Can we do better than “the career experts” and their mushy apologies? We’d better, because soon it’s gonna be us kicking and screaming while they try to drag us to the sidelines…


Readers’ Forum: How do we identify the good guys?

From the September 22, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter (sign up, get your own!):

A manager’s question: How difficult is it to gauge character and personality in the typical job interview? No doubt this accounts for many of the pointless questions that are asked. Of course, the more manipulative a person is, the more likely they are to score the best answers to trick questions that reveal honesty and character. How do managers and job candidates deal with accurately assessing character?

Forum: Managers, how do you check a candidate’s personality? Her honesty? Candidates, what methods have you been exposed to? What do you do in the interview to demonstrate what a fine person you are?