Top 10 Stupid Inteview Questions: #8

Reader Mike Urbonas did a nice post about my 1997 book (not to be confused with the new book, How to Work with Headhunters) … Thanks, Mike! … But that’s not what’s so cool about his post.

Mike brings up an old story published by Mr. Angry (Melbourne, Australia) that’s very instructive and a good reminder that just because some guy is asking you stupid questions in a job interview doesn’t mean you have to behave stupidly, too. Pointless Interview Questions actually conks us all on the head — and rips interviewers a new one.

Top 10 Stupid Interview Question #8 (well, maybe it’s #7) that a recruiter asked Mr. Angry:

How would you move Mount Fuji 1/2 a kilometre to the South?

And part of Mr. Angry’s let’s-come-back-to-reality response:

How could that possibly benefit the business?

Why do employers ask stupid interview questions? Mr. Angry reveals the sad truth — interviewers can’t justify the canned questions they ask. They’re asking them simply because they read somewhere that asking what animal you’d be if you could be any animal reveals deep truths about a candidate… Gimme a break.

Mr. Angry’s transcription of his interview is a must-read. His handling of the interviewer is funny, but it’s much, much more. His responses are dead-on. All kidding aside, I’d use a personalized version of what he said to the interviewer without hesitation.

Thanks, Mike. Mr. Angry — kudos to you!

Where 95% of headhunters come from

Do the math. I keep telling you, just like 95% of HR people aren’t worth spit, neither are 95% of coaches, counselors or headhunters. Bad economies stimulate mutations in the business community that should be destroyed before they wreck the gene pool:

The birth of a headhunter

In the next mutation, they join with former founders of, HotJobs, TheLadders and CareerBuilder and hawk v!aGra by e-mail. They have great potential to mess up your life — if you let them.

(Thanks to Scott Adams, who could have chosen to become a headhunter but did not.)

How to work with headhunters… and save ten bucks

In my last post I asked whether you’ve ever squeezed more out of a headhunter… Did you ever successfully negotiate a higher job offer via a headhunter?

How to Work with Headhunters

Now I’m going to do something I’ve never done before on this blog, on my web site, or in the Ask The Headhunter newsletter… I’m going to plug a new Ask The Headhunter product… and save you ten bucks because you read about it here first. I’ll give you a discount code in a minute… worth $10 off.

Everything on all the Ask The Headhunter “channels” has always been free (for over 12 years) — articles, blog posts, tweets, tips, newsletters. (Ah, no sweat — you’re welcome. Thank you for helping me keep it interesting!) I hope it’s kept you ahead of your competition. But it’s also kept me limited to short pieces.

So I decided to break the word-count meter and actually pack all I could into one big topic: How to Work with Headhunters… and how to make headhunters work for you.

I’ve been working on this on and off for the past year. 130 pages might officially make it a book, but I call it a guide because it’s crammed with (subtitle please…) 62 myth-busting answers for fearless job hunters. (That’s you. Thanks for submitting all those in-your-face questions all these years and sometimes keeping me up at night.)

I filled it with almost everything I know about how you can work with, deal with and profit from headhunters. (I say almost because I’m sure that if you read it, you’ll come back here with questions that will make me realize there’s always something more I can teach you… So we’ll be covering more.) I also expose all those unsavory characters who call themselves headhunters but waste your time and make you feel worse than the HR machine does when it chews you up and spits you out… When you’re done reading, you’ll never waste a minute with them again.

What about how to squeeze a headhunter for a higher job offer? It’s in there. No one else has ever told you how to do it quite like this before… How to really qualify a headhunter? It’s in there. What kind of resume is best at making you the headhunter’s #1 candidate? It’s in there. A crib sheet? It’s in there. I had a blast writing every page.

Instant gratification? It’s in there — this is a PDF and you can download it instantly. But don’t expect some cheesy Word document. The design is lean and clean — more editors and experts combed over it than publishers ever assign to their authors. (I know because a big-time publisher put out my first book. This PDF looks better and packs more value!)

You can learn more about it and decide whether it’s for you by clicking the book cover above: Features, benefits, sample pages, the table of contents and so on.

About the ten bucks: If you’ve been following Ask The Headhunter all these years, you can get the edge first and get it for $10 less than the rest of the world by using this discount code when you order (I’ll leave the code active for a reasonable period of time).

Click here, then type in this discount code: tenoffblog

About those 62 questions I answer in the guide: I’m ready to answer more once you use those up.


How to squeeze more out of headhunters

Uh, did I say that?? All I need is a bunch of angry headhunters showing up at my door with torches… Here’s what a reader asks:

Following my interviews with the company, the headhunter called me with the offer and I told him I’d think about it. I’d like to ask for more money but, since I’m not dealing directly with the employer, I don’t know how to handle this negotiation with the headhunter. What’s the best way to do this?

Can you squeeze more out of a job offer delivered to you by a headhunter? Should you negotiate with the headhunter, or go around him and negotiate directly with the employer?

HINT: If you go around, you might tick off the headhunter and the employer. And that won’t do much for your prospects for more money…

So that leaves us with the headhunter. What have you done to get a better offer when working through a headhunter? Is it necessary to squeeze? Can you do the ol’ I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine…? (Just how does one scratch a headhunter’s back and get him or her to do something?)

Tell me your story then I’ll tell you mine…

Marc Cenedella sells e-mails, $30/month!

A reader (“Michael”) who is fed up with TheLadders sent along a copy of an e-mail he received a couple of days ago from Marc Cenedella, CEO of TheLadders. Cenedella sends these pep talks to his “members” several times a week.

For those of you who are scratching your heads, this e-mail is the product. This is what you buy from TheLadders. Mark Cenedella sells encouragement. Nothing more. Imagine sitting on a beach somewhere, dashing these e-mails off every couple of days for a living, while a few data base humps keep the servers going…

Financial Planning & Analysis, New York, NY
CFO Local Media, New York, NY
Director of Financial, New York, NY
Chief Financial Officer, New York, NY
Chief Accounting Officer, New York, NY

More Jobs You Might Like… Happy first summer Monday, Michael!

What’s your favorite part of these long summer days? Family excursions with the kids to the zoo or the beach? Backyard barbeques? Blockbuster movies in an air-conditioned theater? Read more

How to Say It: HR should report to PR

While many companies take pride in how they interact with the professional community from which they recruit, others are clueless about the damage human resources (HR) departments inflict on their corporate image and reputation.

Sometimes a reader’s question reveals what’s wrong with Amercia’s employment system. This is one such story. In the June 23, 2009 edition of the newsletter, a reader recounts “phoner torture” at the hands of a personnel jockey — who lays waste to the employer’s credibility during a “phone interview.” And loses the candidate. The candidate wants to know, how should she tell it to the hiring manager? Good question.

But this raises more significant questions. It kinda makes you wonder about the board of directors at this company. After spending enormous sums on public relations (PR) to create a positive corporate image, does the board have any idea that HR is trashing the company’s credibility? Do hiring managers have any idea how HR treats the professional community from which those managers need to recruit people?

My guess is no and no. The board thinks HR is handling human resources, but it’s also in the business of public relations. As an important interface to the company’s professional community, HR’s staffers are in a position to inflict serious damage to the corporate image. Maybe HR should report to PR just so there’s some oversight of HR’s behavior out in the real world.

So the reader asks, How should she tell the hiring manager what just happened?

How to Say It:

“I enjoyed talking with you last week. Thanks for inviting me in for an interview. I was looking forward to meeting so we could discuss the job, but it’s clear that’s not going to happen. Someone from your HR department called me. It was a very disturbing call. I’m sorry to tell you this, but I believe it’s important to be frank. As a result of that call, I’m not sure I’d consider a position with your company. Is your board of directors aware of how your HR staff portrays your company and how it treats job applicants?”

You can read the whole story in the newsletter along with a bit more detailed advice in the How to Say It section.

Is it too risky to take such a strong position? Or is it risky to fool with a company that doesn’t monitor how HR interacts with its professional community?

What should this reader say to the hiring manager?

H-1B: Offshoring bites back (or just bites?)

So what’s new with offshoring IT work nowadays? Have overseas costs begun to outstrip the value of offshoring? Has the U.S. economy triggered re-thinking the offshore strategy?

I’ve contended for a long time that as technical “stars” start to develop their careers in India and elsewhere, they’re not gonna be very happy staying on the farm… they’re gonna want to go live in the nice American enclaves, with nicer houses, more amenities, more… well, all the great stuff that stars deserve…

Then the whole low-cost-labor strategy flips around… and those stars move to the U.S. and… start their own shops here.

Well, tomorrow seems to be here today. A reader sends along this link from FierceFinanceIT: Time to sell India-based units? Note the controversy about how “Indian firms are up in arms about the Congressional proposal that would prevent companies with more than 50 percent of H-1B or L-1 visas from receiving additional visas.”

Who told you this was gonna blow up in somebody’s face? 4 Indian companies in the U.S. own more H-1B visas than the next 50 American companies have as a group.

Funny the role economics play in upending stupid policies.

How to say it to voicemail

When you’re job hunting, it’s hard enough coming up with something to say when you call a manager you don’t know. What will stimulate a peer-to-peer discussion that might lead to a job or to a good referral to another manager?

But when you get voicemail — that’s another level of anxiety. Take a look at this reader’s question about How to Say It:

“Repeated calls to a manager I don’t know get me nothing but the manager’s voicemail. I don’t want to have my caller ID coming up like I’m a stalker. I want to leave a voicemail message that will produce a call back. How do I say it when I’m talking to a recorder?”

In the new edition of the newsletter (June 16, 2009) I offer this suggestion:

“Hello! My name is Linda Jones. Mark Smith at Systems Inc. suggested I give you a call. I read the article in Widget Monthly in which you were quoted. You can reach me at 999 555-1212. I look forward to talking with you. Thanks.”

Never say anything about the substance of your call. Create an obligation: Always refer to someone you know in common. Stimulate interest: Allude to an article or event that reveals the person you’re calling is highly regarded. Do not make the call until you have a name in common and a credible allusion.

(There’s a new How to Say It in every edition of the newsletter.)

When you’re trying to get in the door, how do you leave voicemail that will ensure a return call? What works? (What fails?)


It’s a daily story — getting fired, laid off, downsized. Sometimes someone expresses his reaction in a way that cuts to the devastation of the experience. But seeing the glimmer of hope changes all that. I hope you enjoy this note from a reader as much as I did. (What impresses me is his attitude. He said he got fired. He doesn’t sugar coat it. That says a lot about how he approaches his work.)

I believe this article (Getting Fired is a State of Mind) is one of the best I have read in a long time.  I just recently got fired and I have always been on the other side of things throughout my career. I have always been among the top 3% in reviews in all the other jobs I have had. Having said that, I cannot help but feel like a failure in some way. I have now been out of work for 1 month. It has been tough but I believe I should be getting a job as consultant [soon]… This has been hard for me to take and as you know this a bad economy. Your words inspired me to keep my head up. Thank you.

A lot of talented people have been unemployed for months or years. But the devastation of getting fired hits immediately and makes a person question his worth. Breaking this state of mind is crucial.

My response to him: You cannot be defined by your last employer. They are gone from your life. How can they define you? You are still you. What defines you is what you do next. Even if this new opportunity doesn’t pan out, keep moving forward. Do what you do best. That defines you every day.

We talk a lot here about how to land the next job. But this reader’s note makes me ask you, how do you deal with the devastation of getting fired, laid off, downsized, sent packing?

Just how stupid do you think employers are?

Employers hire on a bell curve. Most hires are pretty good, and they fit somewhere with most employees, on the fat part of the curve, doing their jobs, but nothing to brag home about.

Now and then, along comes an exceptional talent with skills and knowledge to put the experts to shame. He’s on the thin leading edge of the curve… maybe off it altogether. A guy with chops that young turks would kill for. Possibly a mentor to your entire company.

What’s a company to do with someone like that? Well… Does he have grey hair?

I’m 61 years old. I have 30 years’ experience, up to the VP level, in four of America’s top 10 ad agencies. My next logical career step is with one of the “Top 100” advertisers. I’ve sent letters to most of them and have never gotten a response, other than directions to go to their career website to view open positions and apply. Maybe this is a polite way to say I’m too old. I’ve mailed letters and an index card with my elevator pitch on one side and a grouping of impressive logos of  firms I’ve done advertising for on the reverse side. I’m out of ideas. Is there a way to get past the gatekeeper (in this case their careers webpage)?

I know my answer. What I want is fresh answers and advice for this reader from you.

He also mentioned in his note to me that over the past three years he applied to 750 companies online. Even if this guy turns out to be less than he suggests… don’t you think a handful of companies would interview him just to see if he’s for real? Just how stupid do you think employers are?