Q&A: Why do people pay to use job boards?

I just answered this one on LinkedIn’s Answers section.

Why are so many “job boards” charging job seekers to look for jobs or post their resumes?

Nick’s Reply
The job boards serve a very important service to smart employers and smart headhunters: For a fee (paid by job hunters and paid again by employers who post jobs), these boards effectively corral people who are looking for a job, any job.

These boards clear the playing field for us so we can focus on potential candidates who (1) aren’t desperate, (2) reflect their reputations among other professionals who are glad to recommend them, (3) would rather talk only to legitimate employers, rather than field calls from multi-level marketers and scam “headhunters.”

The more the boards charge, and the more “exclusive” they make themselves out to be, the more the hordes flock to them… and the better they separate opportunists from people who know what they want. I love it. More power to the job boards. (Forget about the fact that last year, companies filled only these percentages of their openings thru these boards — Monster, 3.14%; CareerBuilder, 3.95%; HotJobs, 1.35%. Source: CareerXroads.com. Lotsa luck.)

Keep it up. You, too, can compete with all job hunters… while managers are interviewing the few people they hire through personal contacts. (40%-70% of jobs are found and filled through personal contacts, depending on which surveys you look at.)

Disclosure: I’m a headhunter. Further disclosure: Headhunters fill only about 3% of jobs. But we spend all our time hanging out with people who do the work our clients need done.


Q&A: Where should recruiters look for candidates?

A recruiter from a consulting firm asks whether I really shun job boards, and where to find good candidates really fast…

I caught you on NPR last week and thought you were a breath of fresh air! I am in the process of letting our CareerBuilder job posting account loose. First, because it costs a lot and secondly, because you are absolutely right, most of the jobs we post are bogus after the first 24 hours. Okay, I promise I’m getting to my question…

Are you saying don’t use any job boards? And if so, what’s the best way to find talent FAST if you don’t have someone in your database or pipeline when a requirement comes in? Especially when in some cases you have a little as fifteen minutes to get to that great candidate before a flurry of other firms do. I’m avidly learning LinkedIn but that seems to be better for making client connections than ones with candidates.

Nick’s Reply
Thanks for the kind words.

I don’t think your clients pay you to race your competition. They pay you to find the best people. What you’re doing is competing with other recruiters for a limited pool of people whose resumes are on job boards.

Anyone whose resume is on a job board is already “used up” and picked over. Your odds of closing a deal are way diminshed even before you contact them… so that 15 minutes doesn’t matter much. It’s already too late.

Where are the people who are not on the boards? They’re among your network. I just don’t see the point of pulling some resume off a board and sending it to a client who probably already has it from some other firm or agency… It’s a waste of time. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather poll my contacts and scratch my head… and go look where the competition doesn’t.

Why the focus on finding people in data bases? Try investing half that time in meeting new people in the industry you recruit from. When you call those people later on about an assignment you’re working on, they won’t be on the other line with your competitors…

I know it’s a hard business. But step back and ask yourself, what are you doing? And, what should you be doing? Do you have a line in the data base pool, waiting for a nibble? Or do you have good relationships with great people in the community you recruit from — who can reliably refer you to the people your clients need?

My compliments on cutting CareerBuilder loose. Invest the money instead in taking a shining light in your industry to lunch!


Q&A: No connections, no opportunities

As someone who’s rather “out of the loop,” living out in the country, I don’t have social or business connections with the folks at the in-city companies for which I should be working. Is there any best method for finding and approaching the decision-makers who have the problems that I certainly can solve?

Until now I’ve depended on the whims of personnel jockeys, but now that doesn’t work, the listed jobs being so few. Personally, I have no lack of work, but it’s all farm work on my farm, and leads to gaposis of the
resume. I’m sure that in spite of the absence of job listings, the problems are still out there, hidden from me. How do I best find them and the folks who need them solved?

Nick’s Reply
Gaposis… That’s a good one!

But there’s no excuse for gaposis in relationships… You can meet those people online. Through LinkedIn, through business/professional web sites that have discussion forums, and by e-mailing them after you’ve read an article in which they are mentioned.

Make a contact or two that way, and it’s worth leaving the farm for a visit to the big city ;-).

I have a similar problem. My office is out in the boonies. And I love it here. But I make time to go to the city (and to big towns!) and to hang out among the people who do the work I do (and want to do). Face time is more precious than online time… You just have to do it.

Did you go to college? Does your alumni association have a branch in a nearby city? Join, go, mingle. Don’t worry about meeting people at the companies where you want to work. A few “links” and soon you’ll be finding them.


Forum: Mo’ money for contract jobs?

This reader feels taken advantage of by the “consulting company” she works for. What’s your advice?

I read your article about how to negotiate with a headhunter for a better offer. But if it’s a temp or contract job, how do you ask the agency for more money? You know how they’re short-changing you to begin with: If they say the job pays $14 an hour, aren’t they really getting at least $18 from their client while they pay you only $14?

When is it appropriate to ask for an additional buck or two? Or is it best to keep your mouth shut in this economy because there are tons of other candidates behind you willing to accept the rate that is offered?

Forum: What do you think? When you’re working through a “consulting” company (aka, job shop, contractor, etc.), why should it get so much of your pay rate? Give this reader your advice!


Promotion, raise, bad vibes… How to Say It

In last week’s edition of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader complained about getting a promotion but only a meager raise. Her VP admitted that if an external candidate had been hired, the offer would have been higher!

Readers lambasted the cold-hearted employer. Could this be handled better? Absolutely, says I.T. industry guru Bob Lewis. “I’ve been on both sides of this situation, and what’s particularly pathetic about the company’s response is that it had a better one that wouldn’t have cost a dime. Here’s what HR and the VP could have said…”

How to Say It: “You’re right that if we hired someone from the outside with the right credentials we’d have had to pay more. That’s one of the reasons we’re promoting you instead of hiring from the outside. Your proven ability is, of course, another important factor.

“With the economy and profit picture as it is, we’re scraping every dime from the expense line we can. We’ve laid people off, frozen salaries, and cut bonuses. So right now isn’t the time we can give you a raise that would take you to the compensation mid-point for your new title.

“What will happen is that you’ll be in a position with a new compensation range and a higher ceiling. For the same level of performance on your annual reviews you’ll receive a higher raise than you’d receive in your current position. So while you won’t see one big raise that gives you the emotionally satisfying bump you’d like (and that we’d like to give you), you’ll definitely do much better financially over the span of a few years than you’d do in your old position.

“I wish we could do better. As things stand, though, we can’t.”

Of course, an approach like that by the employer requires integrity and follow-through. Those raises had better deliver an overall “bump!” But Bob’s point is much bigger. Companies need to pay attention in times like these. Employees expect more than, “That’s the policy!” when news ain’t too good… They expect and deserve an honest effort by their employer to do the right thing.

Bobs Book!

(Thanks to Bob Lewis for his suggestion! And in a shout-out to Bob, I’d like to remind readers of this blog that Bob is the author of a book that will make you a better employee: Bare Bones Project Management — the project management guide “for the rest of us” who need to keep our work on a leash so it doesn’t eat us up. It ain’t just for project managers…)


LIVE Ask The Headhunter WNYC Radio – July 16

Please join me again this week for LIVE Ask The Headhunter on WNYC public radio on Thursday July 16, 10:40am ET, on the Brian Lehrer Show. WNYC is at 93.9 FM, 820 AM — and “streaming live” on the web at wnyc.org. This is part of a weekly Ask The Headhunter Series during July…

*****UPDATE: Scroll down to listen to the recorded segment…

This week’s topic: The job boards.

  • What are they good for?
  • Do they work?
  • What are the success rates?
  • How can you make the most of them?
  • How do you avoid scams?
  • How do headhunters fit into the boards?

Bring your questions and please call in! You know how much I love talking about job boards… ;-) If you want to do your homework, here are some relevant Ask The Headhunter resources:

Job-Board Journalism: Selling out the American job hunter (from 2003 – but still valid as the day is long…)

CareerBuilder: Is it for Dopes?

The Dope on TheLadders (over 100 postings from readers about their, uh, experiences)

Uh-oh. A good job board?

Like they say in those ads… You decide! Please join me on WNYC Public Radio with Brian Lehrer.

***** UPDATE

Enjoy the audio! 20 minutes, no commercials. Post your questions… I’ll answer ’em… Post your comments and we’ll all learn something new…



Why would you hire yourself?

In as few words as possible (but make them compelling), give me 1. and 2. (Gag me with a spoon, but do not give me an elevator pitch, puleeez…)

Forget about jobs you’re applying for, the job you have, and jobs “available”… Now, tell me:

1. What’s the one job you really want?

That’s the easy part. (Well, maybe not. When’s the last time you even thought about that…?)

Now put yourself in the shoes of the boss who owns that job:

2. What one thing does the best candidate:

  • Know
  • Do
  • Think
  • Say
  • Show

that makes you hire them?

(Hey, remember that managers hang out here, too… and sometimes a comment impresses the hell out of them…)

Forum: Did this new grad ruin an opportunity?

In the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter I introduced a new feature recently: the Readers’ Forum. I ask you how to answer a question, solve a problem or deal with a situation. So step right up…

In the July 14 edition, I published a Forum question from a new college graduate. She enthusiastically tells a company she wants to work there. So the company makes an offer — and thinks the applicant’s acceptance is a foregone conclusion! Meanwhile, the new grad has two other jobs cooking… and asks for an extension on the time to make a decision. The company gets ticked off…

I’m a fresh grad and I just received a job offer from a company I really want to work for (Company A), but I have a pending interview at Company B.  Company A gave me 24 hours to make a decision, and just before the deadline ended, I asked for an extension of less than a week’s time, explaining that I want to evaluate all my options.

The person who interviewed me then told me they were surprised about this because in the interview I told them that I would be prioritizing Company A over my pending application at Company C. But at that time I didn’t see Company B as an option yet. She said that one of the reasons they offered me the job is because I seemed to have a strong interest in the company and because I sent them a thank-you note that reiterated my interest. In fact, they were leaning toward another candidate but because I seemed “100%” about it, they chose me. Nonetheless, she gave me an extension for my final decision.

Should I apologize to her? I still want to work for the company, and I am planning on confirming it in a few days. I don’t want to have any bad blood between us. Did I mislead her in the interview when I told her my thoughts at that time? Should I not have sent a thank-you note? I thought these were the things interviewees usually said/did during interviews. Could they rescind the offer because my interest level waned a bit after they gave the offer? What should I do?

Whoo-wee! Good news, bad news! Did this new grad blow it? I’ve already shared my thoughts with her via e-mail, and I’ll post what I said later on. I even wrote an article about this sort of situation… quite some time ago.

But this is the Readers’ Forum. And you’re up next… What’s up with this situation? What would you tell this new grad? Was she wrong to express her interest during the interview? Or does the company representative have a screw loose? Is an apology due?

Q&A from WNYC Radio

Yesterday I did 20 minutes with Brian Lehrer on WNYC, New York Public Radio. (I archived the audio on the blog post prior to this one if you’d like to listen.) We’ll be doing an Ask The Headhunter segment every week through July. Hope you’ll join us!

20 minutes is not a lot of time to take questions from listeners, or to provide much in the way of advice. But Brian’s blog is full of good follow-up questions from listeners, and I’ve tried to answer many of them in the comments section.

One listener was bugged about what I suggested about becoming a consultant in today’s economy:

This was a terrible segment. Almost chilling. The conversation seemed utterly detached from reality; the idea that someone at their kitchen table, six months into being fired, is going to be able to tell some company (and whom exactly at that company?) how to run itself, (or use information technology or green technology or whatever), is bizarre. There seemed to be a huge disconnect between the reality of the callers’ situations, and the generic bromides and cliches that the guest suggested. Brian should have worked harder to bridge this gap.

It seems that the real issue is the social and knowledge-networking isolation of the recently unemployed, and the need for supportive communities, not a dated piece on how to turn yourself into a consultant from home…

Here’s my reply:

You’re right: Unemployed people become quickly isolated. But the problem is magnified when they join “support groups.” Unemployed people gathering to share job leads and advice. Think about that. It’s patently absurd. The best thing you can do to stay motivated and to actually get something done is to hang around people who do the work you want to do. Starting your own business is not bizarre at all. Waiting for some company to come along and hire you is what’s absurd. Waiting for some personnel jockey to pluck your resume from the millions on a job board — that’s absurd. As for telling a company how to run itself better, why do you think companies hire people? Not to fill head count. They hire you to help them make more profit. If you can’t explain that to a company that you work for, you will eventually get fired or laid off. If you can’t tell it to a company you want to work for, then you have no business in the interview. Job hunting is not a step by step process. If it were, every ad would yield an interview which would yield an offer. Far from it.

That listener is pretty demoralized. Maybe I’m misreading the comments, but what I read is a plea for magic dust and for a place to commiserate with others. And my point — which I discussed with Brian at the very beginning of the segment — is that job hunters and consultants must focus first not on getting a gig. They must focus on showing a company the money. Why should anyone hire you — or even sit through an interview with you — if you aren’t prepared to show how you’re going to improve the business?

Listeners from WNYC are welcome to post more follow-up questions here — I’ll try to get to them all. Unfortunately, Brian’s blog does not handle longer URL’s so I can’t refer to relevant articles there.

LIVE Ask The Headhunter WNYC Radio – July 9

Join me for LIVE Ask The Headhunter on WNYC public radio on Thursday July 9, 10:40am ET, on the Brian Lehrer Show. WNYC is at 93.9 FM, 820 AM. And on the web at wnyc.org.

Topic: Consulting gigs. How to get them, keep them and deal with the crunch in today’s economy.

And I’ll (surprise?) Brian by explaining how the consultant’s approach to sales should be the job hunter’s approach to job interviews.

***** Update

Enjoy the audio! 20 minutes, no commercials.

I’ll be doing a special Ask The Headhunter Q&A segment with Brian Lehrer on WNYC New York Public Radio each week during July. Next week: Job boards.