Summer Slam: Monster, options, skirt protocol & resumes

In the August 28, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter we do the Summer Slam — “Speed Q&A” about:

  • Monster.com’s and CareerBuilder’s paltry success rates
  • Employers that toy with job applicants
  • Pantsuits or skirts?
  • Blasphemous resumes

Every week I publish a real problem from a real reader along with my detailed advice. But I get tons of questions that never get published. Although I can’t possibly answer every question, when I have time I dash off answers to as many as I can. This week’s edition is a summer slam — high-speed Q&A culled from those brief e-mails. I hope you enjoy it!

Question: Monster-ous success rates

Do you know what the current success rate for Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com is? I have heard a statistic of 3%. I saw an article written back in 2005, but was wondering about more current information.

Nick’s Reply

The big job boards don’t report their success rates because they stink. According to CareerXroads.com, the two job boards were the “source of hires” about 2-4% of the time for employers polled:

  • 2002: Monster 3.6%, CareerBuilder 1.5%
  • 2004: Monster 2.6%, CB 2.4%
  • 2006: Monster 2.9%, CB 2.5%
  • 2008: Monster 2.7%, CB 3.5%
  • 2009: Monster 1.5%, CB 5.3%

These figures had to be teased out of CareerXroads surveys. In subsequent years, it seems the reports were burying the job boards’ consistently poor performance. In 2011 they reported that “88.9% of survey respondents attribute at least one hire to Monster during 2010.” They’re boasting about one hire? Gimme a break. My read is that neither board delivers more than 3-4% of hires. It’s pathetic. A dog with a note in its mouth could go out and bring you more hires. I’d stick to the niche job boards. The only big job board I like is LinkUp.com because they pull jobs only from employers’ own websites.

Question: Options

I applied for a job with a small company. I got a call saying they have not ruled me out as a candidate but they were taking their time filling the position with someone with more experience. Months later, the job is still posted. Should I call them and offer to do the job as an intern? I really want this job!

Nick’s Reply

I know your motivation about a job can be very high. But let’s play devil’s advocate: Why would you want a job so much, when they don’t want you? They’ve put you on hold. They don’t see a fit. Not ruling you out doesn’t mean much if they have not stayed in touch with you. My advice is to move on and find a company that really wants you. Be careful with intern jobs — it’s often the signal to a company that you’re willing to do anything. Your best negotiating position with these guys is to develop other options.

Question: Skirt protocol

As a professional woman, I’ve always heard you should wear a suit with a skirt to interview. Lately I’ve seen women interviewing in suits with pants. What is the norm? Have we reached the point where women can interview in professional pantsuits or is it still skirt protocol?

Nick’s Reply

I don’t think any rule about attire covers all employers, but it’s worth finding out how employees at a company dress. Follow suit (no pun intended). If possible, visit the company’s location. Observe the people going in and out of the office. Dress one notch above the employees, because the point is to show respect. However, over-dressing can backfire. I’ve seen employers drop candidates who showed up over-dressed, worried the person might not fit in.

Question: Resumes

I love your Resume Blasphemy idea, but I am still confused about how to build a good resume. I was wondering if you have a resume sample or template that I could download? One that gives me examples. I really wish that I could finally figure this out, and quite honestly you are the only person that I feel gives out good advice. You need to write a book on resume building, Nick.

Nick’s Reply

Thanks for your kind words. The Resume Blasphemy approach is like a Zen koan. The message between the lines is, don’t use a resume. Don’t try to climb the mountain; go around it. To produce a blasphemous but powerful resume, you must talk to people connected to the company to ferret out what makes the business tick. Figure out how exactly you could contribute to its success. Once you do that, you don’t need a resume. You’ve already started talking to the right people, who can introduce you to the boss. A good resume is a business plan for doing the job. But you can’t produce a plan after reading a job description on a job board. (And you can’t create a plan by looking at someone else’s. Sorry, I don’t share samples of other people’s work!)

Hope you enjoyed this collection of short Q&As. Now please add your advice or to improve mine!

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All recruiting campaigns suck

The best recruiting campaign is a manager that calls you on the phone, tells you he loves your work, and invites you to lunch to talk about working together to make more money making better products. In other words, the employer isn’t scavenging. He did his homework and knows what he wants: you.

That’s recruiting.

All other recruiting campaigns suck. But this one, by game maker Kixeye, sucks less.

Kixeye slams competitor Zynga hard, after poaching some of Zynga’s key people. There’s no word about what Zynga’s recruiting response is. Maybe it could poach from its key partner, Facebook, whose employees are bailing anyway since restrictions have been lifted on employees dumping FB stock. Which is now priced so low you could line your Farmville pigpens with it. How low can you go?

Or Zynga could just change its business model and try to make money. Or it could create a new game altogether: Facebook Deathwatch. Earn tokens by adopting Facebook code jockeys and creating keywords for their resumes. Hey: That’s a recruiting app!

What most companies do to fill jobs is not recruiting. It’s advertising. And advertising is a stupid HR trick that raises operating costs by soliciting resumes they don’t have time to process. Which leads to cries of “Skills Shortage!” because turning on the fat-gauge sewer spigot is no way to get a meal.

I wonder what it’s costing Kixeye to sort through all the drek they’ve getting in response to this ad. Who cares. That kid CEO is a hoot.

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Paying to Get a Job, Part 3: Job applicant tells Padres to “Suck my dick”

In 2008 I published a column titled How much would you pay for a job? The 2009 follow-up was Pay for a job? (Part 2). Earlier this year, I told you about an outrageous racket I helped expose in the “career industry” in cooperation with Canada’s CBC-TV: Rip-Off Edition: Who’s trying to sell you a job? (video).

In all those cases, third-party “firms” were selling people “help” finding jobs. The help even came with “guarantees.” (If I could guarantee you a job, I’d be writing this from a private island.)

Such third-party “career management firms” have always attached themselves like leeches to the help-wanted business. But the worst of the offenders are employers themselves: companies you want to work for that reject your resume then try to sell you the “opportunity” to get a job with them.

Today’s example: Major League Baseball. The San Diego Padres.

Pay Us For a Chance at a Job

After Taylor Grey Meyer applied for several jobs with the Padres baseball team and received rejection after rejection, the Padres sent her an invitation to come meet “hiring managers” at the “Sports Sales Combine here at Petco Park.”

What’s the Combine? It’s made to look like a job fair. Except the Padres say, “Please note that this is NOT a job fair.” Oh, it’s much, much more!

  • “We anticipate attending sales managers will be looking to fill 50+ jobs at the Combine. “
  • “Teams from the MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL, MLS and college athletics all use the combine as a key source to find talent for their organizations.”
  • “Having been to multiple combines myself, and hired numerous people from the events, I could think of NO better way to get a start in the sport industry.”

Sound like a job fair pitch to you? Sure sounds like one to me! The Padres’ personalized e-mail to Meyer came from a Padres sales manager at a padres.com e-mail address and laid it on thick:

“Taylor, as we look for the best young talent from across the country we wanted to make sure you were aware of the opportunity. You can find the combine application at Teamwork Online through the link below.”

Clicking through to the “application,” Meyer found she could attend this “job fair” by paying $495.

Okay, Give Me The Job

The San Diego Padres are using a mailing list of rejected job applicants to sell an “opportunity” to get one of “50+ jobs.”

I don’t advocate profanity or nasty come-backs in business, especially when you’re trying to convince an employer to hire you. But Meyer knows a job from a come-on. After getting slimed with enough stupid Padres rejection e-mails to fill a hard drive, she responded in exactly the right way:

“I would like to extend you a counter-offer to suck my dick.”

Meyer then demonstrates to the male-dominated Major League Baseball sales guy that her cojones are bigger than his:

“Clearly, I don’t have one of these, so my offer makes about as much sense as yours. But for the price you’re charging to attend the event, I’m sure I would have no problem borrowing one.”

Kudos to Deadspin.com for publishing Taylor Meyer’s story: “I Would Like To Extend You A Counter-Offer To Suck My Dick”: A Rejected Jobseeker Sends The Padres The Best Letter Ever. A bit of research reveals that the Padres — along with other MLB and pro sports teams — are hooked up with SportsSalesCombine.com, a website run by “Drs. Bill Sutton and Richard Irwin,” that sells job applicants a “chance to be discovered by the pros!”

Scam Alert

SportsSalesCombine.com triggers my #2 scam alert: There’s no physical location listed for this business — just a gmail address. And there’s no explanation of its relationship to the Padres or any other sports team, except that an awful lot of the Padres’ (and other teams’) coaches are listed as “staff.”

The Padres also trigger my #3 scam alert, one of the oldest sales tricks in the book: They want you to fill out an application to qualify to pay $495.

What’s my #1 scam alert? The Padres strike out big-time for soliciting job applicants to whom they then pitch a chance at job “opportunities.”

As for that suck-my-dick rejection letter Taylor Meyer sent, the Padres deserved it. They rejected Meyer again and again, then “invited” her to “apply” to pay for a chance at a job. Deadspin.com reports Meyer’s letter has already generated at least one job interview from a team that saw a second-hand copy of her e-mail. Now, that’s networking and creating a personal brand. And it won’t cost Meyer a dime. Seems to me that Meyer has demonstrated the “Sports Sales Combine” pitch is for losers.

You apply for a job. The employer rejects you again and again. Would you then pay $495 to that employer for “the most authentic training and networking experience available” and for an “opportunity” at “50+ jobs?”

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Zuck’s Stupid Recruiting Start-up: Moo!

Facebook is about to go face-down to $25 a share — but CEO Mark Zuckerberg may be saved by a new recruiting startup. (Recruiting industry watcher Joel Cheesman just keeps serving these flapjacks up, hot off the grill. I’m still LMAO about the last one.)

Identified.com

The Stanford University-spawned start-up Identified.com just got $21 million in sucker capital funding. (Disclosure: I went to Stanford and have yet to raise $21 million, but I do not hold that against Stanford.) And what does this “fastest growing career site for young professionals” actually do?

 

 

Yep — Identified.com sends traffic to Facebook.

Judging by the time-honored rule of putting your best assets right out front on your home page, Zuck’s got a winner by the short hairs. Somebody finally got the message — just send ’em over to FB right away!

Plus it’s not boring.

That’s the value proposition right off the bat. All you have to do is KMA and “Turn On Platform.”

Not Boring: Identified hangs out with Richard Branson

Courtesy of the Sacramento Bee, you can read all about it in the “unedited press release,” which explains nothing about how the “business” works. Well, it does say that Identified.com:

  • “transform[s] professional identity through gamification”
  • “aims to help young people achieve their professional goals”
  • “[is] taking the principles of game design and applying them to managing your career”
  • “[is] helping young people leverage data to make career choices in a fun, interactive way”

Then I realized where I’ve seen some of this stuff. It kinda reminds me of the classic resume objective statement: “I want to work with people to achieve my professional goals in a progressive company!”

But, the company’s business model, displayed on its front page, is that it’s driving more users to Zuck’s website… and that’s good for America.

And Identified hangs out with Richard Branson.

Dick Is Not On The Website

But the website doesn’t say dick about how it helps people and employers get together to fill jobs.

Because when I spent a few minutes to figure out what the proposition really is, all I learned is that:

The website says as much about the business as the press release. If you want to actually do anything on Identified.com, you need to talk to Zuck:

 

 

Why would V.C.’s dump $21 milion into a website that sends all its traffic to Facebook?

Wired magazine says:

“Facebook is on the cusp of becoming a medium unto itself — more akin to television as a whole than a single network, and more like the entire web than just one online destination.” (Cf., “We’re more popular than Jesus.“)

But then again, Wired also said:

“The sheer magnitude of Facebook’s success is one reason why, as the company charges toward what will likely be the most successful public offering in the history of capitalism…

Disclosure: Wired is my favorite magazine. But like I said, Facebook is about to suck rocks at the bottom of $25 a share. (Facebook Deathwatch reports $25.87 at today’s close.)

If I were Tim Draper, Bill Draper, Innovation Endeavors, VantagePoint Capital Partners, and Capricorn Investment Group, I’d get Marc Cenedella on the phone, quick — Identified.com needs a better blog and a more capable hawker of recruiting services. (No disrespect to all these renowned V.C.s, but Dudes, I went to Stanford, too.)

How are we going to do that? Dunno, but it won’t be boring.

About Identified:

“What Facebook did for your social life, Identified is building for your professional life. How’re we going to do that? We’re going to make managing your career not boring.

I was gonna say, who needs yet another online recruiting start-up? Who needs a business when you can just send all your traffic to Zuck?

But Cheesman already said it (I love this guy’s insights):

“The playbook for start-ups in the recruiting space usually goes something like this: Group of young, educated people — usually coming off their own job search, which apparently qualifies as experience in the employment space — come up with an idea to ‘make things better.’”

More Mooney?

When are the V.C.’s gonna learn that Facebook cow clicking is as good as it’s gonna get?

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Pop Quiz: Can an employer take back a job offer?

In the June 5, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a guy gets honorably discharged from the military, carries a secret clearance, but has a misdemeanor conviction from 2003 for which he’s done probation. He gets a job offer. Then the nightmare begins:

Today I received a job offer from a large, well-known and respected company. I have a misdemeanor criminal conviction from 2003. I told the headhunter about the conviction. I put it in the application before my interview. I put it in the e-application for the background check. I even discussed it with the HR person that was giving me the offer.

After discussing the conviction, she extended me a verbal offer. At the end of the call, I accepted the offer. She welcomed me to the team and said I will get all the details after the background check clears. After the phone call, I turned down a competing job offer from another company and told my headhunters that I am no longer on the job market.

Less than an hour later, the HR person called me back and said she has to withdraw the offer because my three-year probation was cleared in 2006. Since that’s less than the company’s policy permits — seven years — I am ineligible for the job. The company’s security regulations would prevent me from gaining access to their campus.

The job posting required that the applicant must qualify for a government secret clearance. I was just honorably discharged from the military, where I held a secret clearance that I was able to renew after my misdemenor conviction.

It seems quite unethical to extend an offer prior to assuring that the information that I provided multiple times wasn’t an issue. This should have been caught well before I got the interview. Is this legal?

My Advice

This sounds like you got the shaft, but it’s a bit more complicated, based on the information you’ve provided.

I published your story in this week’s Ask The Headhunter e-mail newsletter, but I did not publish my advice and comments because I wanted to challenge our community to figure this one out. I asked subscribers to think about your story, and then come to the blog ready to post their take on it.

  • Did HR give this job applicant the shaft?
  • What went wrong?
  • How could this situation have been handled better?

Here’s how I see it.

HR blew it.

While it was nice of the enthusiastic HR lady to give you the offer on the phone, she jumped the gun when she “welcomed you to the team.” You weren’t on the team yet, and she had no business implying you were. Someone needs to call her on the carpet.

The HR lady tipped you off.

The key to this entire unfortunate episode lies in this sentence: “She welcomed me to the team and said I will get all the details after the background check clears.” That meant she made you a contingent offer. It was not bona fide. That is, it was dependent on the background check. In other words, you had no offer to act on.

You jumped the gun.

I always tell job applicants who “get an offer,” to never, ever, ever resign their old job, or turn off other opportunities, until they’ve been on the new job for two weeks. Sounds kind of extreme, eh? Yah, well, so’s what happened to you. While odds are pretty good that a job offer will turn out fine, the enormity of the consequences if anything goes wrong is why no one should do what you did. [Correction: My bad on a poor turn of phrase that confuses two issues — when to turn off other job opportunities and when to resign your old job. Please see my comment about this below.]

Before even orally accepting the offer, you should have waited for a bona fide offer in writing, signed by an official of the company.

Before setting aside other opportunities (because there is no sure thing), you should have completed the company orientation, met your new boss, started the job, and ensured nothing goofy was going on at your new job. I’ve seen many people quit new jobs within the first two weeks. It takes that long to… well… make sure nothing’s goofy. You don’t want to be out on the street with nowhere to go if the new job goes south. (Likewise, an employer should not stop recruiting and interviewing just because a candidate accepts its offer.)

You did the right thing, again and again.

You disclosed, from the start and throughout the interview process, that you had a misdemeanor conviction. That takes guts, and it was the smart thing to do. The company had an obligation to be as candid with you, and to disclose its policy about hiring people convicted of crimes. It had no excuse for not detailing its policies once you made your disclosures.


Fearless Job Hunting, Book 5: Get The Right Employer's Full AttentionDo all employers behave like this? Absolutely not. It’s up to you to find the right employers and to know how to get their attention — because lousy employers aren’t worth your time or aggravation! Learn how to:

  • Stop walking blind on the job hunt!
  • Pick worthy companies.
  • Test the company. Is it a Mickey Mouse operation?
  • Recognize and beat age discrimination. (Or is it your own anxiety?)
  • Deal with a bad reference. Don’t get torpedoed!
  • Investigate privately-held companies — Here’s the secret!
  • And more!

Don’t waste your time with the wrong employers! These methods are all in
Fearless Job Hunting, Book 5: Get The Right Employer’s Full Attention


But somebody didn’t do their job.

As soon as this employer learned about your conviction, HR should have pulled out its policy book and mapped it to your situation before making you an offer. The HR lady explained the policy clearly to you — too late!

What bunch of numbnuts knows it’s got a policy issue from the start, but ignores the implications of its policy? Especially because you were so candid and forthright about your problem, HR should have had the background check completed far sooner, and should have inquired about the dates of your conviction, sentence, and the resolution.

(I’m waiting for someone to suggest that, for legal reasons, the background check could not be done until you accepted the offer. That would be a good trick — accepting an offer for a job that company policy prohibits you from accepting.)

Who’s on the hook now?

I think the HR lady is on the hook. She should have made it crystal clear to you that the job offer was not yet bona fide, and that it was contingent on the background check. I think she should have even gone so far as to advise you not to take any other action until the check was confirmed. She blew it. She should be on the hook, but you’re the one who got hurt.

You’re on the hook because you rejected another (more bona fide?) job offer, and notified the headhunters that you’re no longer a candidate for a job.

Most important, this company’s HR practices are on the hook, and they need to be gutted and cleaned.


Fearless Job Hunting, Book 4: Overcome Human Resources ObstaclesThere’s no way to beat HR, is there? Sure there is! Learn how to recognize and overcome these HR obstacles:

  • HR demands too much private information, like your salary history. But two can play this game!
  • HR throws a “behavioral interview” at you.
  • Online job application forms — learn to get past them.
  • HR gets between you and the decision maker. Learn how to go straight to the hiring manager!
  • The HR rejection letter: Why you should reject it!
  • And more!

HR isn’t as tough as you think! You’ll find myth-busting answers in
Fearless Job Hunting, Book 4: Overcome Human Resources Obstacles


Doubling HR Costs: Time to change company practices.

Poor HR practices are what make HR executives scream that, “There’s a talent shortage!” Well, here’s the talent, fresh out of the military, worthy of a job offer, but… Aren’t an honorable discharge and a fresh secret clearance enough to merit more careful treatment when the company is looking at an applicant who qualifies for a secret clearance?

Now where’s the talent shortage? In HR.

HR spent a lot of company money to process this hire — only to stumble at the last minute. Now HR will spend the money again on another candidate. HR costs just doubled in this case. I wonder what the board of directors would have to say? Because HR will sweep the mistake under the rug, along with all the other good candidates HR lost because:

  • An otherwise excellent applicant’s keywords “didn’t match;”
  • A wise applicant didn’t want to disclose her salary history;
  • A highly motivated applicant dared to contact the hiring manager directly;
  • HR interviewed the engineering applicant but doesn’t understand engineering;
  • The applicant seems a bit old;
  • The applicant refused to meet with HR until he first interviewed with the hiring manager;
  • And on and on… through the myriad wasteful practices we discuss on this forum that cost companies good hires every day…

It’s time for this company — and many companies — to take a good, hard look at HR practices because good talent is not easy to come by.

Whose bad?

That offer was no offer, so give it back! Has an employer ever given you a job offer, then rescinded it? Why? What was the reason? What did you do? What’s your take on this reader’s experience?

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PoachBase: Another stupid recruiting start-up

You can’t make this stuff up. Now your company can recruit losers, and hire recruiters who can do it more easily.

Featured at the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference: A pitch by a start-up calling itself PoachBase. The “company’s” tag-line: Poach talent from dying companies. The idea is to monitor other start-ups for death rattles and then go steal their employees.

Here’s the pitch:

Now here’s the question: Why would anyone want to recruit employees that are still hanging around a loser company?

My advice (free, no software required): It’s more fun to recruit people from good companies while they’re hanging around the local watering hole after work. (Well, beer might be software.)

Recruiting-industry watcher Joel Cheesman’s explains the problem clearly:

“The playbook for start-ups in the recruiting space usually goes something like this: Group of young, educated people — usually coming of [sic] their own job search, which apparently qualifies as experience in the employment space — come up with an idea to ‘make things better.'”

This is kind of reminiscent of the job applicant whose resume emphasizes, “I want to work with people in a good company.” Maybe they’re all the same bunch.

(If you want to watch the recruiting industry, sign up for Joel Cheesman’s free newsletter. I love it.)

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HR Wags The Dog

In the May 21, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, an executive who’s about to be interviewed by another executive wants to know why HR is sticking its nose into the process:

You are going to love this. (NOT!)

I was contacted by an ex-colleague to ask if I’d be interested in the position of Regional Sales Manager at his company, which is actively recruiting. I said yes. The VP of Sales called me and we had a very positive discussion which progressed to setting a meeting in their corporate office. He was going to fly in from his office, and I was going to travel hundreds of miles from my home. But, the meeting has stalled because the HR person who was to attend was busy.

Two questions. What has HR got to do with an initial interview whose purpose is to (a) determine my suitability to do the job, and (b) the company’s ability to satisfy my needs? What sort of company insists on having HR present at an initial interview?

If ever there is a case of a “tail wagging the dog” — this is it. How can a VP of Sales operate like this? I now patiently await the availability of His Royal Highness — the HR Manager.

My Advice

HR can provide valuable input on executive-level positions. However, recruiting people like you is a sales task. It’s no surprise that you view such interference as a serious management error.

If sales people know one thing, it is the importance of striking when the iron is hot. Success in closing sales often depends on the sales person having the authority and the power to act quickly.

Get HR out of recruiting.

You have highlighted the main reason I advocate against HR being involved in recruiting. (See 7 Mistakes Internal Recruiters Make.) HR is largely a bureaucratic function that is at least once-removed from the action. Depending on how you, the candidate, view this delay, you may decline further discussions because you could reasonably surmise that the company is not nimble. The Sales VP could lose an excellent candidate thanks to the bureaucracy. That’s not good. That’s very bad.

Take heed: Running a sales operation within this company could prove frustrating to an assertive sales manager. If HR can delay the Sales VP’s meeting when recruiting, who might hinder your sales team from closing a deal?

You are right to be concerned. This is bureaucratic meddling of the worst sort, and it leads me to repeat this caution to companies: It matters what image you project to the professional community from which you recruit, as much as what image you project to your customers. An HR manager who contributes only to overhead is controlling the agenda of an exec who produces revenue? Get HR out of your recruiting.

Now let’s discuss what to do. You could have some fun with this, but this approach can be risky. Decide how assertive a sales manager you are. I’d call the VP of Sales and politely tell him you’d be glad to meet the HR manager at some point, but your schedule is very tight for the entire month.

How to Say It

“I’ll be frank with you. I am available this day and that day only. When an opportunity arises to make a deal, I like to strike while the iron is hot. I have some ideas for your business that I’d like to discuss with you, and I’d like to suggest that you and I get together to talk shop as soon as possible.”

If you can support it, suggest a specific sales objective. For example:

Hot to Say It

“I think I can show you how to increase your regional sales by 20-30% without increasing your costs more than about 5%. But, I really do not want to let this wait. Opportunities come along every day — but great ones like this disappear over night. If I can’t convince you, then you shouldn’t hire me. But I think you will like what I have to share with you…”

Let him assume you may not be around to talk a month later.

Remember: You’re a salesman. This is a sale. Be respectful, but show the VP of Sales that you home in quickly and accurately and will not be deterred by underlings. See what he says. If he cowers at the idea of bypassing HR so he can talk business with you, well, why would you want to work with him? Imagine what it would be like trying to hire a top sales rep if you take this job. Get past the guard. Your mission is to meet with the VP now. Sell.

Patiently awaiting HR to find time to join the meeting is not a sign of a good sales ethic. This is how companies lose prospective customers to the nimble competition. It’s also how they miss the best hires.

HR can be part of the process. But HR should not lead or limit a recruiting effort.

Is this another stupid HR trick? Are great candidates slipping through the HR cracks? Has HR ever intruded into your interviews with a manager? Do you know how to parry the move? If you’re a manager, do you let HR control your interviews?

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Netflix: Another stupid employer

Netflix bungled its business last year and ticked off lots of its customers, who quickly cancelled the service. It was a case study of a business and public relations disaster.

Now Netflix is at it again — this time by advertising for “recent college graduates” to fill jobs anyone could do. Age discrimination anyone? The ad on craigslist is titled, “Netflix – Recruiting Researcher  (los gatos)” and it says:

“We treat you like an adult and expect you to act like one.”

(For a PDF of the full ad on craigslist, click here. For the “live” ad on craigslist — which will not be there forever — click here. For the ad on Netflix.com, click here.)


***UPDATE 5/18/12: Netflix has removed the job posting from its own website. For a PDF of the original, click here.

Netflix has not responded to a request for comment.


Netflix would do well to act like an adult and recruit people who can do the job — and that includes college grads from quite a while ago. Consider the Netflix job ad below. What’s in this job description that an older worker couldn’t deliver?

We’ve found that recent college grads have been most successful in this position because we need some who is:
– Self-motivated and directed; hungry to get started with a great, well-known company.
– Proactive; taking initiative and follow-through is a must
– Accustomed to multi-tasking and meeting multiple, tight deadlines
– A leader and will offer innovative and constructive ideas to continue our team’s success

I know a lot of hungry 40+ year olds who are out of work — they’re self-motivated, proactive, can multitask, and lead others.

Netflix goes on to say that:

“We don’t have rules.”

That’s clear. They could add, “We don’t have any common sense.”

I’m a big fan of hiring kids out of college — as a cohort, they’re suffering mightily in the job market. They need help. Perhaps Netflix can hire a new grad who can show the company how to recruit properly. Or maybe it needs someone a lot more experienced than the clown in HR who’s producing these job descriptions and ads.

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Recruitomatic & The Social Jerk (Or: Why you hate recruiters)

This week we started a “pound Nick with questions” thread — and you’ve been pounding! Great questions and topics — and pointed insights. A recurring theme on that thread is recruiters — the inept, the inane, the ones who waste your time, and the ones who leave you frustrated and angry. (There are good recruiters out there, but that’s another topic.)

Reader Dave started to boil it down in his 1/18 comment on the previous posting:

One other thing…

Just recieved the occasioal newsletter from a so called “head hunter/recruiter.”  He said he has developed a relationship with an offshore vendor in order to provide services/people to do work.  One of the reasons he gave for doing this is because companies “can’t find the right people.”

Quite frankly, this made my blood boil for all of the reasons Nick states in his blog post.  You can’t tell me that with all the unemployment, underemployment, people who gave up looking for now, people looking for a change and all the people graduating from college, that you cannot find anyone to fill your positions? 

This is a prime example why I dislike most “search staff.”

Dave draws a whole new thread from the strands that come together in that discussion. I was going to respond to him briefly, but then I realized Dave has generated a whole new topic. He deserves to know…

Why You Hate Recruiters

It’s no accident. It’s a well-orchestrated con game run by experts. HR departments pay expensive consultants to define the “best practices” ($$$) and to promote the “best technologies” ($$$$$$$) that enable HR to maintain the 4:1 ratio of unemployed people to unfilled jobs in America. (That’s 14.2 million unemployed, and 3.2 million vacant jobs.)

Translation: Corporate America pays a lotta money to act dumb when it recruits and hires.

Thanks, Dave, for sharing that newsletter you received from the recruiter who’s going offshore to fill American jobs. But the problem is higher up the food chain. Employers are the ones spending the money here. Recruiters like this one just chase the low-hanging fruit. I’d love to see Congress haul these people in front of a committee and ask them:

“So, when you interview talented job applicants, then what do you do to cultivate them into productive employees?”

The answer is splattered all over the popular media:

“We hire only perfect fits! With these intelligent databases, we don’t have to take chances on training anyone who can’t already do the job with their eyes closed!”

People and companies want to believe that technology can meet the hiring challenge. Savvy, insightful managers who know how to judge talent are no longer required. Give HR a database of jobs and resumes, and they’ll throw money at it forever, waiting for a payout. The job boards are like slot machines for HR wonks: An addiction. The only beneficiary is “the house” — in this case, HR consultants and database vendors who cater to employers who want to believe.

Selling The Mess to HR: A full-time gig ($$$$)

Example: Check out RecruitingBlogs, where “internet recruiting gurus” tout the databases and the social thingies that they get paid to explain to their clients:

“…we’re going to release a ranked list of the Top 25 Online Influencers in HR. This list is completely generated by algorithm (think Google). The list ranks the Top 25 voices in HR based on their online footprint…”

Gimme a break. Online footprints? That’s how we judge value? That’s what consultants teach HR — and HR pays big bucks. That’s why job hunters like Dave are left swinging in the breeze. The recruiters are part of a big social jerk, fantasizing about social media. The blogging consultant goes on to describe his brethren:

“So, I was at this party a couple of weeks ago. All sorts of twitterati were there…”

Then it gets down to brass tacks: Making money by “explaining” the databases to HR rubes with deep pockets:

“There is money to be made in the field today because the techniques required to find people are arcane and confusing. Additionally, with the strong exception of Avature and Broadlook’s products, there are no useful tools for the automation of the process.”

What’s he touting with those two products? Expensive databases that employers use to intoxicate their personnel jockeys. Note the implicit focus on automation of recruiting. The more automated HR becomes, there’s more “money to be made” because nobody can understand this crap. (Try to scrape this one up off the ground in one piece, from the HR Examiner Blog: “Meaning and data in the social web.”)

One of the “strong exceptions” blogger John Sumser refers to, Avature, has a tagline:

“Bring Social Media and Web 2.0 tools together and create unique and innovative solutions to your recruiting challenges.”

How about getting the consultants out of the bars (where they’re being wined and dined by the “arcane and confusing” online recruiting tools vendors), and the recruiters off their asses, and bringing together a few brains to meet some of the 3.2 million “talents” that the software can’t quite figure out? HR is bogged down, and employers are dying for good workers, because HR doesn’t recruit — it pays consultants to distract it with non-stop workshops, white papers, and “best practices” designed to facilitate deep contemplation of the HR navel. ($$$$$)

(By the way, John Sumser is not the only consultant driving HR down into the whirling blade that’s waiting to process you. There’s the aforementioned RecruitingBlogs.com, which delivers non-stop juice to keep the blender going; ERE.net, where recruiters go to talk it all through; and a host of sycophants that have figured out “there is money to be made in the field today…” so let’s get together for another mind-expanding party and to count our money.)

Recruitomatic: It’s all in there

Then RecruitingBlogs.com refers to “Mr. Recruitomatic.” That’s where I rest my case. This is a cluster duck.

Mr. Recruitomatic could be the title of a book about the state of unemployment in America, or it could be an inside joke about how HR rotates on its consulting budgets. It’s all one big database blender, grinding up people into keywords with no decision-making or intelligence beyond the algorithms. Mr. Recruitomatic is churning out swill that nobody wants — or there wouldn’t be 14.2 million unemployed, and 3.2 million vacant jobs, would there?

Or maybe it’s just your fault, Dave. You ignorant, behind-the-times, unemployed slob — you’re just not prepared to be “the perfect fit.” Get some new keywords. Find some meaning and data in the social web. Reduce yourself to what HR is willing to hire.

Welcome to The Social Jerk

“We have a shortage of talent!” Yah — in HR. No shortage of consulting fees, though. ($$$$) No shortage of jargon to mix up with algorithms and some social sauce. But the farther HR sticks its head into the blender, the more it’s clear the talent shortage is in the corner office where the consulting bucks are spent.

Dave, this is what drives HR departments stupid. This is why you hate recruiters. There is an entire industry that earns big bucks mixing up the HR mess that you describe. It’s the motor driving the HR Recruitomatic. Why do I rag on it so? Because the consulting crowd doesn’t have any idea what’s going on outside the blender — they don’t see you getting splattered with muck. There are no fees to be had from you.

While these twitterati advise their eager HR clients about what’s “completely generated by algorithm,” ($$$Cool) they have no idea what is the impact of their only-half-clever, inbred “initiatives.” They’re not out on the street, where guys like you don’t see what’s “social” about software deciding whether you can ride a fast learning curve so you can do a job.

The Recruitomatic and HR’s database-itis — this is why there’s a 4:1 ratio of unemployed Americans to vacant jobs. It’s why you get splattered with HR’s mixed-up rationalizations while you’re trying to earn an honest dollar for doing honest work with an employer that knows how to run a business. And that knows how to hire.

Anyone’s odds — if they’re unemployed — are about 4:1. But what are the odds the board of directors at any company has a clue what’s going on? They don’t get why you hate recruiters. They don’t get why so many jobs at their companies are vacant and work is left undon. They don’t get that the “talent shortage” is largely manufactured by consultants who make out only when HR is playing with Mr. Recruitomatic — not when HR actually hires anybody.

The social jerk is a profitable $$$$$proposition, Dave. Except for you and your 4.2 million buddies.

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Half-Assed Recruiting: Why employers can’t find talent

In the November 15, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter who tries to take a personal approach to an employer is told to “go tell it to our website” in order to comply with federal rules:

Nick, this is a new one to me. Do we really need to apply online for positions before contacting anyone in a company, “to be compliant with government programs?”

Is this true, or are they using a federal smokescreen here? I made a personal inquiry about a job through LinkedIn, and they sent me to their website to apply. Here is the reply I received:

“In order to be considered for any of our positions at [Fortune 100 company] it will be important to apply to the position. To be compliant with our Govt programs, a candidate has to apply to the positions to be considered. Also, if you are interested in moving forward, can you please send to me a copy of your resume and I will send it over to our hiring manager.

Mary [surname omitted]
[tel omitted]
[e-mail omitted]
[Company]
Global Recruiting
BE VITAL in your career, Be seen for the talent you bring to your work. Explore opportunities within the [Company] Family of Companies”

When I did as I was told in the past and applied online at this company’s website, they immediately sent out a notice of rejection, thanking me for applying, saying they have no open positions at this time, and wishing me best of luck in my job search.

How do they expect to get good candidates?

My Advice

Many companies have policies requiring submission of an application online, even if they don’t cite federal law. (The feds require employers to document their compliance with equal opportunity hiring laws, and this may be why some companies like to have an online audit trail of applications.)

But what does this have to do with intelligent recruiting and hiring practices? Nothing at all. Employers can be total dumb-asses when it comes to hiring and recruiting, and still obey the law.

You’ve encountered a company recruiter who is more concerned about dotting i’s and crossing t’s than recruiting competitively. Telling you that the personal approach you took is inadequate, and to go fill out the online form, is not smart, competitive behavior. (I do give her credit for requesting your resume. But after you went to the trouble to make a personal contact, her suggestion is no more personal than filling out that online form.)

Even if this recruiter were to respond to you outside the confines of those online forms, she could still make sure that your application was properly documented — later. To answer your question, I don’t know how a company expects to attract “VITAL” candidates and to “see the talent you bring to your work” when the first order of business is to shunt them to the website, where applicants can do the HR staff’s adminstrative work — filling out forms and tracking applicants.

What you should do

Keep taking the personal approach. If you can make a good contact through LinkedIn, go for it — but don’t bother with contacts in the personnel department. Find a manager in the company who actually needs to hire someone. Establish mutual interest, and even get an interview if possible. If the discussion becomes serious, then you can submit the online stuff to satisfy the bureaucrats who had absolutely nothing to do with attracting you to the company. In the meantime, you’ve got the ball rolling with that hiring manager, ahead of your competition.

The personnel jockey who told you to go fill out the online form will be busy driving away good candidates — to her competitors.

Half-assed recruiting

Your experience isn’t unusual. Employers seem to have turned half-assed recruiting into a top-level strategy for turning away top talent. “Recruiting” has been reduced to running ads, telling people to fill out forms, and waiting for talent to show up. In New Jersey, lazy, mindless recruiting practices are getting companies busted for violating the law: See my blog posting, Employer Fined for Stupid Recruiting, about the first employer to be fined for posting a job that requires applicants “to be currently employed.”

I’ll keep saying it: Stories like this prove that the talent shortage is in the recruiting department and in the leadership of many companies. It’s why employers can’t find talent when we’re in the biggest talent glut in history. Goof-ball personnel jockeys send talent away, while foolhardy CEOs (see the aforementioned New Jersey story) would rather leave a job undone for three years than even consider jobless talent.

Did you go sour on an employer who wouldn’t give you the time of day after you went to the trouble to make a personal contact? Have you opened a door to introduce yourself to an employer, only to wonder, “Is there anybody in there?” What behavior do you see among employers that tells you they’re not doing this right?

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