Readers’ Forum: How do I choose between 2 job offers?

In the November 30, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to make a choice that more people would like to face:

I have two job offers, both in the same dollar range, from two good companies. I have never before been in a situation like this. The opportunities are very comparable. Usually there’s a pretty big difference between two job situations. How do I choose? Any thoughts or suggestions?

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

It’s easy to get so excited about a job offer that you forget to vet the opportunity carefully. I’m convinced that the chief reason people go job hunting is because they took the wrong job to begin with. Don’t succumb to excitement when you should be focused on carefully analyzing the offer. When you have to choose between multiple offers, the importance of the vetting process becomes more evident.

Here’s my rule, which usually helps people crystallize the real issues: Select a job on the basis of the people, the product, and the reputation.

Sure, that sounds obvious. But when faced with an offer, most people think about only two things: the money and the job. Of course, these are two crucial decision factors. But they blind people to other important considerations. The money might be great, and the job exciting, but have you looked at the bigger picture? Have you carefully evaluated the success factors that will determine whether you’ll get to enjoy your work and that paycheck?

This idea might shock you, but consider it. If a company scores high on its people, product, and reputation, the actual job you take is almost secondary. Suppose you take a not-quite-perfect job for less money than you’d like, but in a company that scores high on those three criteria. If you are good — very good — at what you do, you will likely make your way into the right job quickly and the money will follow. The company’s people, product, and reputation will affect your long-term career success more than any job, which is after all ephemeral.

After doing this analysis, I think you’ll see differences that will lead you in the right direction. (One caution: In your present state of excitement, do not discount the possibility that your further analysis may reveal that neither offer is a right one. If you don’t exercise Choice and Control, any offer can look good to you.)

Is that job offer any good? Maybe the offer sounds great, but is the company good enough? How do you decide whether to accept a job offer? Is it the money? Is it the excitement of the job? Do you go with your gut, or do you stop and vet the employer more thoroughly, once you have that offer in hand?

I think that’s the point where you hold the strongest cards, and it’s when you should ask the really tough questions. But I don’t think an offer is worth anything, unless the people, the products and the reputation are top-notch.


TheLadders: A long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled PR machine

During a recent webinar I conducted for Harvard Business School alumni (November 3, 2010, Can you stand out in the talent glut? Discussion here, and more audio here), we considered that one of the key hindrances to standing out is job boards, especially TheLadders.

What does TheLadders do to enhance anyone’s job hunting prospects — especially C-level executives? Virtually nothing, nada, zippo, zilch. This most flagrant faker among the job boards, which pretends to be exclusive and “$100k+”, is the source of hires less than 0.07% (yes, that’s percent) of the time, among employers polled. (Source: CareerXroads survey, p. 19)

UPDATE March 19, 2014
Angry, frustrated customers of TheLadders who say they were scammed finally get their day in court. Federal Court OK’s Suit Against TheLadders: Breach of contract & deceptive practices

UPDATE March 12, 2013
A consumer protection class action suit has been filed against TheLadders. If you believe you’ve been scammed by TheLadders, you can join the suit by contacting the law firm that filed the complaint. More here: TheLadders sued for multiple scams in U.S. District Court class action

Here’s an audio excerpt (approximately 5 minutes) from the Harvard webinar, in which I review the numbers run by an exasperated and angry CEO-level Ladders member, who concludes that “TheLadders is a long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled public relations machine.”

Mike — a C-level executive who paid monthly fees to TheLadders for 22 months without any success — conducted a simple and reasonable analysis of the probability of landing a C-level job through TheLadders. (His actual analysis is much more detailed, including research into the C-level job market and the populations of various types of job hunters in the current market, utilizing Department of Labor data and other resources.) The nuts and bolts of his analysis were generally based on these steps and assumptions:

  1. funnelMike searched TheLadders for management, finance and operations jobs, in a 50-mile radius of the New York Metro area. Results: 902 listed positions.
  2. He searched again among these for positions that required 10+ years of experience, and reasoned that the resulting 649 jobs were probably C-level.
  3. TheLadders claims over 1 million members. Mike assumed that 15% of these are in the NY Metro area — 150,000 members.
  4. Of these 150,000 NY area members, Mike assumed that about 25% — or 37,500 — are pursuing C-level jobs.
  5. He further suggested that for each Ladders member who is pursuing one of those C-level jobs, there are at least two non-Ladders job hunters pursuing the same jobs. In other words, for each Ladders member, two others are also applying. This gives us a total of 37,500 + 75,000 = 112,500 people competing for those C-level jobs.
  6. Mike made one more assumption, and a very generous one: He allowed that TheLadders would fill 25% — or 225 — of all those open finance, management and operations positions. (I laughed hard, but I gave Mike credit for loading the calculations in TheLadders’ favor.)
  7. Then Mike calculated the odds. 225/112,500 = 0.2%. Those are a Ladders member’s chances of filling one of those 902 positions.
  8. But let’s be more generous: Let’s use 225/37,500 = 0.6%. Those are your better, but less believable odds.

Note that we used 902 jobs, rather than the more-likely 649 C-level positions listed with TheLadders. In that scenario, your odds of getting mated to a job through TheLadders would require a turkey baster — about 0.14% in the most defensible case.

It’s no surprise at all that after a series of full-frontal attacks on TheLadders’ ridiculous claims about “Only $100k+ jobs” in its database, with this blog among them, TheLadders quietly eliminated the big, bold claim on its home page:


TheLadders folded: No more “Only”

Not “only” were TheLadders’ paying members crying “fraud” about sub-$100k job listings; they were also complaining that after canceling the service, TheLadders continued to ding their credit cards for the monthly fees.

Yo! Marc Cenedella! Yah — you there, in the Shakespearean e-mail writing garb! If  TheLadders has given up the ghost on “Only” $100k+ jobs in its database, then what the hell are you selling to Premium Subscribers for $35/month?

No news outlet and no recruiting industry pundit seems to have picked up on the fact that “Only” is gone — and that TheLadders finally folded and took down its fraudulent promise. Did we miss the press release? Or, maybe it was in one of those e-mails?

Our friend Mike the CEO paid TheLadders for almost two years for access to top-level jobs. He even paid TheLadders to rewrite his resume.

“I spent several hundred hours carefully sifting through job postings from TheLadders. I probably filed responses/applications to between 600-700 Ladders job postings.”

TheLadders promise

“In 22 months time as a Ladders Premium Subscriber and resume customer, I didn’t receive a single legitimate call from an employer or recruiter in response the many applications I filed. Not one interview, not one follow-up call. I did, however, receive many unwanted and useless solicitations from other sources who ‘rent’ or buy TheLadders database.

“TheLadders is a long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled public relations machine.”

This week’s Ask The Headhunter Newsletter features a related experience from another frustrated job hunter, who gets calls from one recruiter after another, pitching to her the very same job she’s seen elsewhere on the Internet. Now she understands that “recruiters” only amplify the job-board racket produced by companies like TheLadders — and that the whole system does little more than promote the territorial micturations  of packs of wild, barking dogs.

It took Mike a long time, but he figured out this scam and shared his thoughts in a series of e-mails. Finally, Mike landed a job. Here’s what he really learned:

“Now that I have a CEO job with a thousand people in my organization, I have seen perhaps 15 new hires in the last 60 days. All of them were recruited through networking and word of mouth.

TheLadders CEO Marc Cenedella sends out his routine carny-barker e-mails, “encouraging” his down-and-out C-level customers to keep a stiff upper lip and a positive attitude — telling them those $100k+ jobs are out there. His customers just have to be smarter and more dedicated to the job hunt than their worthy Ladders competitors.

“And job-seekers like you know that the jobs here are hand-screened by two human beings to make sure they’re $100K+ before we let them onto the site.”
– Marc Cenedella

“Since we don’t have a direct way of knowing the pay range of each of these positions, we make an estimate…”
– Andy, TheLadders Customer Service

powerballOnce again, we call bullshit on you, Marc Cenedella. TheLadders is a racket. The numbers themselves point to the dirty secret behind your public relations campaign. Just how long will desperate job hunters buy your missives about $100k+ jobs, when it is simply irresponsible to believe there are anywhere near the number of such jobs available to justify your claims and your promises to the suckers you charge each month for the job listings you collect from other websites?

It took just one sucker-punched, number-crunchin’ CEO to show very simply that TheLadders is no better than a Powerball lottery propped up by ridiculous ad copy.

Marc Cenedella, you owe a lot of people a lot of apologies and a lot of refunds.

Now a word to C-level executives who buy and eat TheLadders dogpile every day: Wake up, slap yourselves in the face, and avoid the interview question that I’ve long fantasized some board level executive ought to ask you when you finally get that meeting about a job:

“Tell us: Why should we hire you and trust you to run our operations, when your record shows you paid month after month for 0.14% odds and kept reading those goofy e-mails from Marc Cenedella — and when you couldn’t figure out that you were being swindled? Why should we hire you to run our company when you trusted your career to the equivalent of a Powerball lottery ticket? Why should we hire a track record like that?”

[Special thanks to Mike The CEO.]


Readers’ Forum: The dogs of recruiting

In the November 16, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks why she’s being chased by wild dogs after she posted her resume online:

Dogs of RecruitingI’ve suddenly been contacted by four different “recruiters” from different recruiting companies. On Thursday, one recruiter cold called me and said he saw my resume on Monster, asked me a few background questions, and then the next morning informed me he submitted me for the job we discussed to his client. On Monday, another recruiter e-mailed me, then she called to further discuss the position, and it was exactly the same job as the one I had talked to the other recruiter about. I provided her the information, and she e-mailed to say she had submitted me to her client.

I started reading a lot about this practice, and how being submitted for the same job by two different recruiters means your resume will go into the trash bin. So I feel totally screwed and wonder what I did wrong, since these folks called me. Should I trust cold-calling recruiters? What are my ethical obligations in dealing with these people? Do I have an obligation to tell the second recruiter I had already been submitted for the job by a different recruiter? Should I even be wasting my time with these folks at all? I obviously have very little experience dealing with them, and I don’t know what the “rules” are, if any. Can you shed some light on this phenomenon?

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

“So I feel totally screwed and wonder what I did wrong, since these folks called me.”

No, you called them. You did that when you posted your resume on Monster. That opens you up to the dogs of recruiting. And you’re right—when multiple recruiters submit you for the same job, employers often trash it, because they don’t want to get into a fee fight between recruiters who will claim the placement.

Don’t take this personally, because I don’t know you, but, Gimme a break. You post your resume information online for anyone and everyone to snap at, and you think only intelligent, serious, thoughtful, legitimate employers are gonna respond to you? Your resume is a piece of raw meat tossed into a street full of starving dogs who don’t even care that you’re human. All that matters is the chance to earn another fee.

Putting your resume online is what starts this whole process. If you want to know about recruiters, it’s all here: How to Work with Headhunters. (I’m asked the questions you posed so often that I finally put everything I know about this subject into a book. It covers almost everything you ask about, including how some of these characters online operate, and how to know the good ones from the lousy ones.) If you’re going to work with headhunters, you need to formulate your own rules.

Now let’s address some of the specific issues you’ve listed.

  • Find good headhunters to work with, before the lousy ones find you.
  • If you don’t sign a contract with them (like they sign with their client companies), then you have no obligations to them.
  • Agree to work only with a recruiter who shows you proof that he has a contract with a given employer.
  • You don’t need recruiters or headhunters to find a job. Talk to companies directly.

Most people who call themselves “recruiters” or “headhunters” are little more than wild dogs chasing the same candidates and jobs. Avoid the feeding frenzy. The odds you’ll get bitten severely are pretty high.

Are all those “online recruiters” for real? Why do several of them call you about the same job? What obligations do you have to them? (Do they have any to you?) Can you get screwed working with more than one of them? Can you avoid the dogs of recruiting?



Harvard Webinar Audio: Can I stand out in the talent glut?

Last week I did a webinar for hundreds of Harvard Business School alumni, titled Can I stand out in the talent glut? The presentation was largely based on the ideas and methods that I talk about in How Can I Change Careers? (Which, by the way, isn’t just for career changers. It’s for anyone who wants to stand out.)

Talent glut? Yep — and you’re part of that big clog of talent stuck in the Employment System, trying to land a job. Big bucks are conspiring to keep you from getting together with the manager who needs to hire you — and HR departments are playing along. In fact, they’re paying along, to the tune of billions of bucks.

Listen to the audio (approximately 7 minutes), and please chime in on the discussion:

Why is it so hard to stand out? Simple: Everyone is dumbing down, pretending jobs come from key words and databases. And employers have come to believe that the more they spend acting stupid, the more successful they’ll be!

In the next post, we’ll get more specific — we’ll “run the numbers” and listen to a little more audio. But they’re not my numbers. Though I’m not a number-crunchin’ guy, I know that if I just wait long enough, there’s an Ask The Headhunter subscriber out there who will step up to help. And one did.

An experienced CEO named Mike, with a specialization in finance, actually ran the numbers for me, after he got burned by one of the job boards — TheLadders. After wasting 14 months applying for between 600-700 C-level jobs on TheLadders, he now describes that “exclusive” service for “$100k+ jobs” as “a long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled public relations machine.”

(Maybe Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella would like to use that line in one of the daily e-mails he blasts out to all those C-level executives who pay him for lottery tickets every month.)

We’ll cover Mike’s scathing analysis in the next post, but this isn’t about TheLadders.

This is about Can you stand out in the talent glut? By the time we got done with the webinar last week, lights seemed to flicker on in a lot of Harvard MBA heads: This ain’t rocket science.

So stick around. We’ll talk about the daunting challenges you face landing that next job, and we’ll talk about getting past them. (And you don’t have to be an MBA or a C-level exec to understand it.) You might be surprised at what works, but you probably already know what doesn’t.

(Anybody want to take a guess what our friend Mike calculated are the odds that a Ladders member will actually land a C-level job through TheLadders? Harvard folks who attended the webinar: Please keep it under your hat for just a little bit, and let others take a stab at Mike’s estimate!)

[UPDATE: For more audio from the Harvard Business School webinar, and for the odds of landing a C-level job through TheLadders, see TheLadders: A long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled PR machine.]

Readers’ Forum: Is there anything you won’t do to stay in the running?

In the November 9, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader thinks I’m giving bad advice that costs people job offers. Or at least interviews. You decide:

You regularly advise against divulging past salary in an interview because it might prejudice an employer’s offer. I disagree with you. After going on over 25 interviews (most were second or third round) in the past nine months, I suspect most people would gladly reveal their salary history if required, so as not to be disqualified. What do you say to this?

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

Do you really want to get stuck defending what your last employer paid you? Do you want to be stuck trying to change the value that an old employer put on your head?

This salary issue is more than a question of being cooperative. It’s about making sound judgments. In my opinion, an intelligent disagreement and discussion about salary reveals integrity and it stimulates an important dialogue. Employers who rely on salary history to judge you are trusting another company’s evaluation. Think about that. It’s almost insane. What really matters is what you can do for this company now and in the future. Is the company able to make that judgment? Why does it need your last employer’s “salary input?”

Declining to divulge salary history is not about being uncooperative. It’s about shifting the interview to a higher plane. Don’t worry so much about getting disqualified.

Some employers will try to pry any information they can out of a job candidate. Should you give them anything they ask for, just so you won’t be disqualified? Where’s the line?

What have employers asked you to say or do, just to stay in the running? Have you ever done anything you’ve regretted?


Harvard Webinar: Can you stand out in the talent glut?

This is a special posting connected to the Harvard Business School Career Management Webinar I presented on November 3, 2010. I’ll add more content here after the event — but the main purpose is to answer questions we didn’t have time for during the hour, and to carry on the discussion.

Can you stand out in the talent glut?

Please post your questions and comments below. Thanks for joining me!

[UPDATE: Don’t miss this audio excerpt from the webinar!]


Readers’ Forum: Do I have to say it?

In the November 2, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a manager makes a complaint and a request. Listen up:

I am speaking both as a frustrated hiring manager and as a job hunter. When I was job hunting, I always made it clear that I wanted the job. I expressed this verbally during the interview and in my thank-you letter. Now, as a (beginner) hiring manager, I want to ensure that positions are filled by qualified candidates who I know, undisputedly, want the job.

Can you discuss the importance of this basic and obvious technique in interviewing that is often overlooked? That is, the applicant must always say to the potential employer, “I want this job.” Of course, this must be based on a sincere desire for the position. What are your views on the importance of this statement?

A truncated version of my advice:
(For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

There’s a footnote in one of my books about a sales vice president who interviewed for a job and failed to get the offer. He argued to me that making such an explicit statement is awkward and that it shows the candidate “has no class.”

My response to him: Failure to say you want the job indicates you aren’t worth hiring because you don’t have enough interest in working for the employer.

“Of course I want the job,” he exclaimed. ” That’s why I’m interviewing! The manager knows that!”

No, the manager doesn’t know that. Most jobs people interview for are jobs that come along, not jobs they really want. Most candidates don’t know they want a job until after they’ve met and talked with the manager at length. When the candidate makes a decision, the manager needs to hear it.

When you interview for a job and decide you want it, do you say it? “I want this job.” No, I don’t mean do you hem and haw and mince your words. I mean, do you say, “I want this job?”

I think if you don’t, you don’t deserve to be hired. (Would you expect someone to accept your marriage proposal if you don’t say, “I love you?”) If you’re a manager, I suggest you watch your next candidate, and listen carefully. Does she tell you she wants to work on your team? No? Hit the EJECT button. On to the next candidate!