How to Say It: Women need not apply

Discussion: December 8, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks:

I’m an award-winning sales rep. I’m also a woman. I applied for a job at a company whose #2 sales rep is female. After interviewing with the head of sales, I contacted the HR person to follow up. She dismissed me, saying, “We’ve found men do this job better.” I wish I’d recorded the call. I checked and found out the woman who is #2 was hired by a previous sales manager, not the current one. I want to call him or the HR person to tell them they’re making a mistake. How should I say it?

How to Say It: I wouldn’t waste time with an HR person who made a statement that suggests the company violates employment law. But don’t assume the head of sales is just as corrupt. When there’s an obstacle, go around. But don’t call the manager.

I’d call the #2 sales rep. Introduce yourself, then say: “I’ve heard great things about you from headhunters I know. Like you, I’m very successful in sales. Can I ask your advice? Should I consider a job at your company?”

If the answer is yes, she’ll share more advice about getting a job there. My suspicion is she’ll tell you something else — maybe even ask you for advice about finding a better employer.

That’s my advice. What would you tell this reader — and what would you do in this situation?


Job Boards? BNET sez fuggetaboutit.

BNET’s Sales Machine (Geoffrey James) asks the question one more time with vigor: What’s the best way to job hunt?

I asked Nick Corcodilos, author of the professional’s job hunting classic “Ask The Headhunter” what he thought of job boards like, Careerbuilder,com, and  His observation: “Job boards are a rip-off.  Companies only hire about 3 percent of their employees on these sites. is probably the worst.  The claim that they’re finding jobs at the $100k-plus level is nonsense. They can’t and don’t deliver the goods.”

A whopping thank you to Geoffrey for spiking this topic back to the top of the stack.


The helpful (?) spouse

Is job hunting a solitary project?

I am currently job searching. My wife, who is in another field, constantly asks me how she can help me with my job search, and I don’t know what to tell her. I consider a job search to be a solitary activity, or an activity where the only help I get is from people in my same field. What should I tell my wife when she asks how she can help me?

You should handle all person-to-person contact during your job search, including e-mail. If a spouse (or anyone else) does it for you, there will be inevitable lapses when you are exposed as using a proxy. Employers don’t appreciate encountering the job hunter’s secretary or assistant.

If you need to do research, your spouse could help you with that. However, the risk is that while she’s exploring an info source, she may miss info that you might recognize (serendipitously) as useful. That’s up to you.

No matter how close your spouse is to you, I think you’ll find that job hunting and career change are indeed solitary activities. This is a time when we learn about ourselves and often find that we’re not who we thought we were. Another person can’t help you have this experience, except in passing. One of my favorite quotes is from Vladimir Nabokov, whose words might inspire epistemological terror in even the most self-confident person: “You are not I, and therein lies the irreparable calamity.”

No one — not even a spouse — can substitute their experience for your own.

One great way for a spouse to help is to listen and be a sounding board, without actually getting involved.

Let’s hear some other ways a spouse might be helpful (or cause problems) in a job search!


The only headhunter on Google

I don’t use this blog to crow about what I do, but something interesting has dawned on me and, well, I wanna crow about it.

Am I the only headhunter on Google?

Before you roll your eyes and chuckle at that… Google “headhunter”. The top 10 results include Ask The Headhunter (that’s me)… and no other headhunter.

In fact, there’s not even a headhunting firm listed. Just directories, job listings, and sometimes a big job board like CareerBuilder. (Since when is CareerBuilder a headhunting firm?)

I’m certainly not the biggest or baddest or most successful headhunter in the world. Other headhunters make more money than I do. They certainly have bigger advertising and public relations budgets than me — I know because mine are zero. (I imagine CareerBuilder spends a lot of money on SEO — search engine optimization — to get itself in the top 10 search results for headhunter even when it’s not a headhunter. I don’t spend a dime on SEO.)

So, why is it that I turn up high in the Google results?

Google ranks web sites based on the extent to which they are referenced by other relevant websites. What does that mean to people who search for headhunter on Google?

To start with, people look for headhunters because they want job hunting help. But since headhunters fill only a tiny fraction of jobs, you’re not very likely to ever have any contact with a credible headhunter. As far as Google goes, I’m it. And I’m very up front about the statistics. In fact, I’ll tell you outright that I’m not going to read your resume or place you in a job. I don’t use Ask The Headhunter to recruit or to solicit headhunting business. So what does it mean when someone finds me when they Google headhunter?

It means a lot of other busy, relevant websites think you’ll learn something about job hunting and hiring by going to Ask The Headhunter. It means there is one headhunter by name out there who will tell you how to use a headhunter’s methods yourself. And that’s all I offer or promise. Many Ask The Headhunter readers get that and they’re willing to do the hard work to apply the very basic methods that we discuss on the website and in this blog.

And that’s kept me doing this for almost 15 years: the fact that you get it. And there’s no question that I’m tickled to be the only headhunter in Google’s top 10. I’m very grateful that lots of other highly-ranked websites link to Ask The Headhunter. I just had to crow.


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…


How to Say It: Please let me into your network!

Discussion: November 24, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks:

Calling people up to make new contacts is awkward for me, but I’m doing it anyway. I know I have to use each contact to build my network — to ask for more introductions. How do you say it? How do you ask to meet the other people in someone’s network?

How to Say It: People have a hard time with this because they think asking for new contacts is awkward. But it’s the most natural thing in the world if you keep it conversational.

I offered my suggestion about how to do this effectively… in this week’s newsletter. Now I’m asking you, What’s a good way to ask someone to let you into their network? How do you ask to meet their contacts?

(I’ll post my suggestion about How to Say It a bit later… But in the meantime, I want to encourage blog readers who don’t subscribe to the newsletter to please sign up — it’s free!)


How to Say It: Why you should read my resume

Discussion: November 17, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks:

I work in logistics (freight and shipping) and I’m trying to come up with a better Objective statement for my resume. Right now it says, “Hardworking, capable operations manager seeking opportunity for advancement.” It’s pretty basic. How do I write an Objective that makes an employer want to read the rest of my resume?

How to Say It: Dump the Objective statement altogether. Who cares what your objective is until you show you understand the employer’s objective? Replace it with a Value Offered statement like the one I suggested in the newsletter. (Ooops! You didn’t see it because you don’t subscribe? Hey, it’s free — no excuses.)

What kind of Value Offered statement would you use? What do you use on your resume to get an empoyer’s attention instead of an Objective? Anyone still stuck on using an Objective? Let’s have at it… and we’ll all learn something! ;-)

(Not to crow about it or anything… well, I’m crowing… but I offer three, count ’em, examples of powerful Value Offered statements in my brand new How Can I Change Careers? Answer Kit — just published today. Check it out!)


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!


How to Say It: Ouch! No more work!

Discussion: November 10, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks: How do I tell my boss that I am overloaded with work and can’t accept additional projects without letting an existing project slip?

How to Say It: Bosses hand out assignments but often don’t realize the cost a new assignment exacts. It’s your job to tell them… [the rest of my advice about How to Say it is in the newsletter].

Is my suggestion about how to say it nuts? How would you say it?


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?