Networking For Introverts: How to say it

In the September 13, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a shy reader frets about networking but is ready to mix it up with new people.

networkingQuestion

I like your advice about networking by hanging out where the people I want to work with hang out. That’s very different from contacting people I don’t know on LinkedIn, which seems creepy and dishonest. But as an introvert I have a hard time breaking the ice even when I’m hanging out with people at a conference, or in a training class or even at a social event. This is for me to get over, but do you have any suggestions?

Nick’s Reply

Write it down. And be honest.

When I started headhunting, I was fresh out of grad school. I had zero business experience and zero technology experience. But I was recruiting electronics engineers. I had to call people I didn’t know on the phone, introduce myself, and try to recruit them. It wasn’t dishonest, because I had jobs to fill, but talk about creepy!

Worse, I was an introvert. I was shy. I hated starting conversations because I never knew what to say. What if someone hung up?

Networking? Write it down.

My boss gave me a short script to use when I made those calls. I was embarrassed to recite it, but I realized I had to start somewhere. She told me not to worry if I “lost” someone that I called.

I read that script to people a few times until I realized it would be less creepy if I tweaked it a bit. So I did. Then I tweaked it some more. After a few more calls, I had re-written the thing so I sounded like me. Still, it was reassuring to read it rather than have to think about what to say.

Then something changed. After a few conversations with engineers, I learned just enough to be able to ask a couple of intelligent questions about their jobs, and I didn’t need the script any more. I also saw that engineers loved to talk about their work, so I didn’t have to say much. (Soon I learned that everyone likes to talk about their work, whether they love it, hate it, or are indifferent.)

Suddenly I was able to talk to engineers. In behavioral psychology we call that successive approximation of a desired behavior. Little by little, if you approximately perform the behavior of breaking the ice, you feel like you’ve accomplished something — and you get successively better at it. Pretty soon you’re actually doing it.

Networking? Be honest.

My breakthrough was when I realized engineers appreciate it when you don’t B.S. them. So I started admitting that I didn’t know what rotating memory was — could they please explain it? And, could they please explain to me what’s the difference between a microcomputer and a microprocessor?

Oh, they’d laugh — and then give me a short lesson in whatever I was asking about. They kidded me that I was the only headhunter who didn’t spout buzz words ignorantly. “You really want to know what we do!”

And that’s the other key: You must be honestly interested in other people and the work they do. If you’re not, don’t even try this. Find another area of work that does honestly interest you, and go talk to people about that.

Engineers took me under their wing. Pretty soon I was placing enough of them at better jobs that word got around I was the guy to talk to.

I know it’s corny, but I suggest you work up a script you feel okay about. Write it down. Try it out “live.” Pay attention to how people react when you try to break the ice. Tweak it til it feels good.

How to Say It

I suggest starting like this. Walk up to someone and say:

“Hi — So you work at ABC Co. What’s it like to work there?”

Let them talk, then ask:

How to Say It

“What would you say is your company’s biggest competitive advantage?”

Or,

“How does your company make the most of your [engineering] skills?”

Perhaps it seems corny. It’s not. It’s honest. You’re admitting you don’t know something you’re really interested in, and you’re asking. While someone might be rude and turn away, most people are sensitive to inquiring minds — as long as it’s not a personal topic. Work is open game.

Let them talk. They’ll ask you some questions. Just answer naturally. Ask more questions about their work. I like this one:

How to Say It

“What have you read or learned recently that has influenced how you do your job?”

All you’re doing is making conversation and getting to know someone. What makes it easy is that you’re letting them do the talking about something almost everyone likes to talk about: themselves.

I let go of my shyness when I realized I was fine asking people about their work, and talking about my work — so I stuck to that. Then I became more outgoing because I was no longer afraid of how people would respond to me.

We’re all different. I’m not suggesting my exact Hot to Say It tips will work for you. You must tweak them to suit who you are and how you talk. My boss said to me, “Stop resisting the script and just use it a few times until you come up with something better!”

Write it down to start. Tweak it — but keep at it. Just remind yourself: If something feels creepy, don’t say it or do it. (See Please! Stop Networking!) Be honest. Talk shop, be yourself, let other people do the talking at first. Pretty soon they’ll be laughing at the honesty of your questions and they’ll tell you what you need to know.

Once that happens, they’ll introduce you to their friends. If you’re looking for a new job, that’s where the fun starts!

If you need more help understanding how to connect with people comfortably, see the chapter “A Good Network Is A Circle of Friends” in How Can I Change Careers? (This PDF book isn’t just for career changers — it’s for anyone who wants to stand out to employers.)

Okay — what magic words do you use to break the ice? Even outgoing folks can get nervous introducing themselves to others. Are you shy and introverted? How do you do it?

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HR Technology: Who’s Bad?

badWho’s really bad in today’s HR Technology world?

  • Companies that actually spend money on software that peeps at employees and people they want to recruit?
  • HR Technology companies that make the software?
  • Investors who could be gambling their cash away in Monte Carlo? (And seeing a show?)
  • HR executives who brag that they’re peeping at employees who might be doing the nasty nasty with some other employer?

Who’s Bad?

A reader sent me this gem today, from the Washington Post:

This software start-up can tell your boss if you’re looking for a job

I’d love your take on it. I see a few things in the story of Joberate, a company that:

“scrapes publicly available data from millions of individuals’ online social media accounts, or buys it from other parties, to assign what it calls a ‘J-Score’ that estimates their level of job search activity, likening it to a FICO score.”

(Yuck. Digital dumpster diving. Scraping the bottom. Bad.)

First, I’d love a list of Joberate’s customers — so I could advise you to quit your job there if you have one, because who wants to work for a company that invests more in peeking at what you’re doing than it does in making sure you’re a happy employee? But alas, Joberate’s customers don’t want to be identified. (Ah… busted doing the nasty nasty… send the PR manager into fits!)

Second, I’d like five minutes with the HR jokers who convinced their companies to buy into this tracking technology: Where are you hiding? Don’t you have a real job?

Third, I have a few words for “Brian Kropp, who leads human resources consulting for CEB, which has a venture capital arm that’s an investor in Joberate”: You’re an HR executive and an investor? Do you write HR Technology software?

Finally, to Joberate’s chief executive, Michael Beygelman: Close scrutiny and analysis of public media (I did a big-data dump of the Washington Post and ran it through my algorithm) reveals you should be looking for a new job, even though you’re not. Or maybe you are. Someone could check. If anybody cared.

HR Technology + LinkedIn = Really Bad

I always check out people worth writing about. Mr. Beygelman’s LinkedIn profile reveals something you really ought to care about. (Hey, it’s a public profile, anybody can look at it without scraping anything.) He wrote an article titled “LinkedIn changes to InMail policy create business case for Joberate technology.”

Here’s the nugget:

“Instead of sending blind InMails to potential candidates on LinkedIn, recruiters can now use Joberate technology to track job seeking behavior of people they’re interested in contacting.”

HR can be bad with Joberate, but LinkedIn helps recruiters be really bad. Now you’re going to see where all those silly LinkedIn In-mails you get from “headhunters” come from — an algorithm that links up Joberate with your favorite junk-mail purveyor:

found-you“When Joberate technology tells the recruiter that a person’s J-Score went up, it means that person’s job seeking behavior has increased, alerting the recruiter when it becomes the ideal time to contact a potential candidate. At that point a recruiter can send an InMail to a prospective candidate whose job seeking behavior and activities have just increased.”

Whoo-wee! Thanks to HR Technology, a recruiter (or your boss — whoever pays for Joberate!) found you looking for a job! Kinda like looking in your peephole.

Who’s bad?

Would you hire Michael Beygelman? Would you invest your money with Brian Kropp? Do you worry Joberate is watching you? Is it time to turn off InMails on your LinkedIn account? Do we really need more software companies?

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Negotiate Even The Worst Job Offers: Say Yes, IF

In the September 6, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader is frustrated with employers who are looking for top talent at discounted salaries to fill positions with fudged titles — but who won’t negotiate.

negotiateQuestion

I am a director-level, doctoral-level employee at a large healthcare company with over 15 years’ broad experience on the science side of medicine. I have been approached by several companies about potential positions. Some of the positions are extremely interesting and have broad organizational impact and a much larger sphere of influence than my current position.

However, when offers are made, they seem to all be at a “comparable” level — essentially lateral moves — with excuses of “We have eliminated the Senior Director level” or “We don’t implement the same titles at our company.” The compensation packages have been fairly anemic as well, with almost no increase in cash value and modest increases in stock or pension values.

What gives? Are these companies trying to get VP-level work for a Director level salary? When to push and when to walk? Thanks!

Nick’s Reply

Manipulation of salaries and titles is common — and I think your conclusion is correct. Even in a “talent shortage” employers think they can discount people and work, and some of the time they get a ridiculous bargain. The problem is LinkedIn and the job boards, which convince HR that the perfect candidate is available at a low price… now here’s the sales pitch… “if you just keep searching our database to find them!”

That’s how job boards make money: by selling silly ideas that suckers buy. That includes getting employers to keep paying to keep searching for that purple squirrel at bargain-store prices. The further problem, of course, is that many job seekers will fall for this manipulation.

We discussed negotiating recently in Negotiate a better job offer by saying YES. Now let’s go a bit deeper into this approach.

Lousy deals

Don’t tolerate lousy deals.

A top-level manager I know was downsized, and after a lengthy unemployment, he took a job for 20% less than he’d been making to do exactly the kind of work he’d been doing for five years. Two years later, he was downsized again, and took a 15% cut on the next job. Downsized yet again, he figured it out and got fed up after yet another employer tried to buy him at yet another ridiculous discount. He’s starting his own business while looking for a job suited to him that pays what he’s worth.

The explanations for reduced pay and titles that you’ve been given are self-serving excuses. Smug employers believe in Junk Profitability: “If we cut our costs when we fill a critical position, our profits will go up!” Then they act shocked – shocked – when the person they hire at such a discount bolts the first chance they get. “Disloyal, unreliable, over-qualified scoundrel!”

Force the other guy to negotiate.

Yes, IF: How to negotiate better deals

I showed the manager in the story above how to negotiate such job “opportunities.”

When an employer brings up a lower salary or lower title, don’t say no. Step back and ask yourself, Under what circumstances would you actually take this job? What salary? What authority? What responsibilities? What kind of work?

That’s called a term sheet. It’s the terms under which you’d take the deal.

Then say, “Yes, I’ll take the job IF…” and present your requirements to the employer as your counter-offer.

Include enough negotiable terms that you don’t come across as arrogant or unreasonable. But make sure you’re respecting what’s really important to you. Then let the employer consider what you’ve offered. If they want you and really need you, and they’re rational, smart business people, they’ll negotiate.

The aforementioned manager learned that many employers are not rational or smart — or they don’t really need to fill that job with a good candidate. Given the chance to negotiate, any savvy employer will do it, sometimes with a knowing smile. They’ll never agree to terms that are bad for them, but they’ll try to work out a compromise that’s good for you and for them.

The thing is, few candidates ever try this. They just skulk away or get angry. Don’t go away and don’t get angry. Open a negotiation. Know what you want. Ask for it.

If the employer won’t negotiate, then you will be glad you did more than hold your ground. You offered alternative terms that could lead to YES, but the employer walked away. (See The Bad-Business Job Offer: Negotiating not allowed!)

If they do negotiate, you’ve helped yourself and you’ve helped them fill a job under mutually good terms.

Negotiate even the worst job offers

I borrowed this advice from my own lawyer, who is also my best business advisor. He taught me long ago that, unless it’s a job or gig you really don’t want to do, never walk away over terms you don’t like. Offer terms you do like, and see where it goes. It’s a very empowering experience. (See “Am I unwise to accept their first job offer?” in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9, Be The Master of Job Offers.)

You can control the terms of any job negotiation. Don’t be afraid or intimidated, especially if you’re going to walk away from the lousy offer they’ve already made you. You have little if anything to lose.

Whatever the outcome, you’ll feel like a million bucks because you managed the situation assertively and on your terms. If the employer balks, the rest is the employer’s problem, because they’re left with a vacant job that’s costing them every day.

Don’t say no. Say, “Yes, if…”

How do you turn job negotiations to your advantage? Do you negotiate just salary, or everything? Or do you just decide yes or no?

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Need a pay stub to hire me? Take a hike.

This reader’s comment is an eye-opener — and a loud wake-up call to employers who demand to see an old pay stub before they’ll hire you. (From Goodbye to low-ball salary offers.)

From Not Desperate

pay stubI passed all of the pre-employment testing in the 95th to 100th percentile. I cleared the background, credit, reference, education and employment verifications and was told I was “cleared” as per the conditions of my signed offer letter.

Give us the pay stub

That was Friday afternoon. Monday morning, the day I was to give my notice to my current employer, the HR contact demanded a pay stub. I refused. I compromised and offered an HR contact who has historically been known to verify employment and salary range. The HR contact called my HR rep and confirmed the information verbally. That was not sufficient. They called me back several hours later and demanded the pay stub. I emailed my recruiter to state I would sleep on it and make my decision today.

No.

I stood firm in my decision and communicated to the HR contact and the team I was asked to join that I believe my current salary is private and confidential and that I would not submit to salary verification as a condition of securing or keeping my position.

I had declined a role that was $10,000 higher and came with 10 additional vacation days to accept this role that they were now demanding salary verification for. I am sure they will not back down and I am sure I will lose this opportunity.

myobIn the end, I win because I still have an amazing job (I am currently employed and not unhappy) and I have the opportunity to secure a position with an organization that will not play games with me after already determining I meet their requirements.

The organization is in a lose-lose situation. They lose me and they have no other candidates for this position. They will be starting back at square one. It felt amazing to stand my ground and remain true to my values and principles. Nick’s articles and comments provided the courage I needed to finally not cave. Thank you!

Nick’s Reply

Deciding to give up an offer over salary disclosure requirements is a personal decision. It’s pretty clear what my position is: Keep Your Salary Under Wraps. Your screen name says it all — if you’re not desperate, you don’t have to hand over a pay stub to anyone.

My guess is you taught this employer a frightful lesson: The “talent” is not a commodity.

I have a standing Q for HR: Give me one good reason why you need to know my salaryNo one in HR has ever been able to give me a good reason. I invite more to try. (Please post your reason below.)

Here’s another question to HR: How many highly qualified, motivated job candidates will you lose to your competitors before you stop demanding confidential salary information that you don’t really need anyway? (We won’t get into the problem of how presumptuous and intrusive this is.) The market is shifting toward the talent, and you’re starting to look like a dope.

People sometimes ask, if you won’t show a pay stub to an employer — Should you disclose your salary history to a headhunter? There is a difference and it’s important to know how to handle both situations.

If anything I’ve written was helpful to you, I’m glad. Good for you for taking stock and keeping control of your career. While it may sound like sour grapes to some, I agree that what you see is what you get. Any employer hung up on getting your pay stub is going to be a bear to work with — and will go hungry waiting for a good hire.

Would you pass up a job to protect your confidential salary history? There are probably times you would, and times you wouldn’t. What are they?

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When headhunters on LinkedIn are scammers

In the August 30, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader cautions you to think twice before sending your information to “headhunters” you don’t know. They’re likely scammers.

Question

scammersI recently had an experience with a headhunter(?) I do not know who sent me an unsolicited pitch to look at a job listing in my field in my city. The pitch was sent via LinkedIn with an attachment. I do not open attachments from people I do not know. This brings up the issue of cyber security in dealing with any kind of pitch about a job.

To confirm who I was dealing with, I called the main office of the headhunter’s firm. I got an answering service. Then I called the number the headhunter posted on LinkedIn, but got a vanilla message which did not identify the headhunter or the firm.

A reputable headhunter:

  • will have a voicemail message that clearly identifies the office and the person.
  • will not send an unsolicited attachment via LinkedIn.


Social media has been used successfully by hackers and scammers to mimic real identities to get unsuspecting people to open attachments that contain malware. For high-tech firms, like the one I work at, these kinds of threats are well understood.

However, with the rise of ransom-ware and other forms of hacking for profit (e.g., stealing bank and credit card account information) the use of social media for social engineering is a real threat.

I suggest you post some advice for your readers about cyber security and how to avoid being taken in by scammers.

By the way: LinkedIn is a good vector for this type of social engineering attack because many people access it from work. If they open a malware-infested attachment, it could compromise a work computer along with its intellectual property secrets. So far, there has been no response to my voice mail replies to the headhunter, and I never touched the file attachment on LinkedIn.

Some headhunters who send unsolicited attachments might just be clueless. On the other hand, my experience is most recruiters send the job description after they’ve qualified the prospect as being interested, available, and a possible match for the job, not before. Do you agree?

Nick’s Reply

I agree, and you just wrote the warning you’ve asked me to give about e-mails soliciting you for anything. It’s all the more important when a scammer is connecting via LinkedIn to imply credibility.

Most likely, that’s not a headhunter at all, but a phishing expedition. It’s how scammers obtain personal information they can use to steal your identity. We can’t blame headhunters for something like this, because such scams routinely mimic anything that might lead a sucker to open an e-mail and an attachment.

(Let’s not leave the HR bogeyman out of this nightmare. See Big Brother & The Employment Industry: “All your employment are belong to us!”)

However, because the cost of entry to the headhunting business is virtually zero, we’re faced with loads of stupid, inept, and sometimes unsavory “headhunters.” I’d say 95% of those purporting to be headhunters are not. The most common among these are idiots dialing for dollars. (See Why do recruiters suck so bad?) They will solicit thousands of people they know nothing about via mailing lists. As you’ve noted, any good headhunter will know quite a bit about you prior to making first contact, or why would they bother spending their precious time?

2 rules of thumb

I think there are two cautionary notes here — call them rules of thumb to keep you out of trouble. First, assume any e-mail or attachment is a phishing tool. I think that’s a reasonable rule because most e-mail is junk of one sort or other. Very few mails constitute “signal.” Most are noise. So, be skeptical all the time and be very careful.

Second, if it’s a real headhunter, apply basic common sense and business standards. If the mail is from a headhunter you don’t know who clearly doesn’t know you, it’s probably a waste of time. Just because you really, really want a headhunter to find you a job doesn’t make it so. It just ups the odds that you’ll get suckered.

Drop this bomb on the headhunter

To test the sender, simply ask one of the many qualifying questions I list in How to Work With Headhunters… and how to make headhunters work for you. For example, drop this bomb:

“Please give me the names and contact information of 3 people you’ve placed and 3 managers who have hired through you.”

A good headhunter knows how to instantly defuse it by gaining your respect. He’ll ping you back to make sure you’re not going to waste his clients’ time — then he’ll give you his references. The rest aren’t worth dealing with — your question is like a bomb going off on their party. They know it’s all over.

If you’re considering doing something silly just because someone told you to — like clicking on an unknown attachment — ask yourself whether you’d do it in any other business context. If not, then don’t do it. (Would you hire a contractor to remodel your kitchen without checking some references first?)

Beware of fools

Of course, there’s another category of scoundrel — the naïve headhunter who doesn’t consider the risks she asks prospective candidates to take when she sends them solicitations. She’s not worth dealing with, either, because she’s the fool who will accidentally contact your current employer and present your resume for an open position — and possibly get you fired.

How to test for scammers

What you did to test for a scam is what I suggest in HTWWH:

  • Google the name of the person who solicited you. Is there evidence the person is affiliated with the firm?
  • Google the firm. Is the headhunter that contacted you listed on its roster?
  • On the firm’s website, look for names of the owners and for a bricks and mortar address.
  • Look up the individuals named, and find the address on Google Maps.

Then ask, does it all add up?

  • If there’s no connection between the headhunter and the firm evidenced online, don’t respond.
  • If the firm’s website does not list any names, or a street address, or any contact information that you can verify through an independent source, run. (If you do find an address on Google, there should be multiple references to it, or it’s probably phony.)
  • While some good headhunters work out of their homes and prefer not to list an address for privacy reasons, they should at least have a verifiable post office box.
  • Any real headhunter will have a verifiable phone number and friendly voicemail. Only a scammer doesn’t want to take your call!

referencesDid I say check references?

As you found, in most cases there’s no “there” there. If the headhunter fails these tests, checking those references is absolutely critical.

These tests are not sufficient, but they are necessary and they’re a good start when performing due diligence. It’s not hard to determine whether someone is legit, but it’s very easy to be gullible and to get suckered. In this case, a fraud has contacted you — but people should expect that most e-mail solicitations are frauds. The trouble is, most people rationalize: “Hey, I don’t want to miss an opportunity! Besides, this was through LinkedIn.”

Wishful thinking and the pain of job hunting turn people into suckers. (LinkedIn does not confer legitimacy.) “Headhunter” is just another mask scammers wear because they know you’d love a new job. And random job solicitations are just another sign of lousy headhunters that aren’t worth your time or consideration.

(For more on this topic, see How to work with headhunters.)

Did you ever get scammed by a headhunter? Was it even a real headhunter? How do you vet job solicitations?

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What does HireVue tell us about employers?

Sighmaster — an Ask The Headhunter regular — tells this story about an encounter with an employer that tried to schedule a HireVue video interview prior to any other discussions with the job applicant. (From the comments section of HireVue Video Interviews: HR insults talent in a talent shortage.)

Sighmaster’s Story

hirevueBack in July I applied for a design job with Connections Education. I got an email from their HR rep:

“Thank you so much for applying with Connections Education!  I am sending you a first round, preliminary digital interview request in a separate email through our vendor, HireVue, for the position with Connections Education. [Note the redundancy in mentioning the company name twice, was this email sent by an algorithm?] This process allows you to record yourself answering questions that will be watched by the hiring team, who will then set up second round, in-person interviews.”

I replied as follows:

“To quote the letter writer in this ATH article (HR Pornography: Interview videos), I find this request creepy, impersonal, presumptuous, Orwellian, exploitative, voyeuristic, unprofessional, and perhaps even unethical. It is also insulting. A hiring manager that won’t ‘waste’ their time interviewing candidates is certainly not worthy of my time. I am withdrawing my application.”

Her response:

“I am sorry that you feel that way and it is certainly not meant to be any of those items listed. If you would prefer to do a phone interview instead, we can arrange that. The reason we use HireVue as the first step in our process is because of the high volume of positions we have open, it would be impossible to screen the amount of applicants we are able to using a tool like HireVue. You can also opt to turn the video part off and just do audio id desired. I hope you’ll reconsider this position and agree to a phone interview.” [sic]

So, there ya go, I refused the HireVue and got a phone interview with the hiring mgrs.

The call consisted of a man who was the creative mgr and a woman who was director of marketing. The woman seemed nice, but the man had the personality of an uncooked potato. How’s that for ironic? I certainly would like to have seen this guy perform on a video camera to see if it would have been worth my time to talk to him (it wasn’t!).

Needless to say, the “interview” went nowhere — when you talk and talk and talk but the hiring mgr has nothing much to say other than “do you prefer mac or pc” (and you get sentenced to hell if you answer pc!) the outcome is inevitable.

I got their rejection email a few days later, to my relief. Of course, I’m still unemployed, but hey at least I stood my ground…*sigh*

Nick’s Reply

What does their use of HireVue video interviews tell us about employers?

This is just one data point, but it’s worth noting two outcomes of Sighmaster’s response — bold as it was. First, even though Sighmaster withdrew from the process, the employer still pursued this applicant. Saying no emphatically doesn’t necessarily kill the employer’s interest in a good candidate.

Second — perhaps more telling –, it seems the company’s choice to use video interviews to begin with may have signaled what kinds of managers Sighmaster would meet during a phone call, and what the experience would be like.

If you’ve been subjected to video interviews, did you find any correlation between that practice and the rest of your experience with the employer?

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HireVue Video Interviews: HR insults talent in a talent shortage

Welcome to the machine.

video interviewsYou’ve got rare, desirable skills — but are you ready for video interviews? Maybe what makes you rare is how hard you work for your employers. In any case, you apply for a job.

You fill out several pages of online forms. You attach a resume that you spent hours customizing to address the specific employer and job. You provide names of references, sign off on a waiver and agree to the terms required.

Software and some algorithms scan your data record for keywords. If they match those in the employer’s database, your application is flagged for the next step.

Then you get an e-mail. It asks you to click on another agreement, and to sit in front of your own video camera to answer a series of questions from an online robot. You carefully organize your responses and do your best to be calm and collected as you address the eye.

No one from the employer has spoken with you. No manager has taken time to answer your questions. No one at the employer company knows you exist.

When you’re done, you click your video interview up to a database at a company called HireVue. What you don’t know is that no human will ever take time to watch you answer all those questions. No one hears you speak.

bit-streamAnother robot “views” your video and algorithms scan the sounds and movements you make in the video.

The employer has invested its money in HireVue, not in you, to conduct this assessment — which we can’t even call an interview because although HR is viewing there is no inter-action with anyone. It’s just your bit stream and a recording and some software and hardware, saving the employer the cost of deploying a human to judge you.

If your data doesn’t match the template the employer uses to match job candidates, the recruiting process ends. A quick look at the employer’s website reveals that “People are our most important asset!”

Sucks for you, doesn’t it?

Question

When I applied for a job, they wanted me to sign into something called HireVue so a robot could interview me. Are they kidding? They’re trying to attract people like me and the best they can do is a video camera? (Not to sound arrogant but the work I do is specialized and it’s not easy to find people with my skills.) Long story short, I told them (yes, told them) to take a hike. I’m a software developer. Would you like to join forces and create a robo-interviewer job candidates can send to employers? I’d like to see their faces when the talent they’re dying to hire wants them to pose for the camera before I decide they’re worth my face time. Are you seeing a lot of this, or is this just one clueless company (that I won’t name though I should)?

Nick’s Reply

In the midst of a talent shortage, HR tells the talent to sit for video interviews but can’t figure out why it can’t attract the talent it needs. Gee, is there a connection? Or is the modern HR executive daft?

I keep seeing HireVue infomercials popping up in the news. It’s a fair guess that these uncritical fluff columns are HireVue’s PR team pitching “content” to the media. Press releases are free advertising, but many media outlets eat it up because the PR agent does all the work and basically writes the article. The news outlet saves money, too, while real news reporters collect unemployment.

There’s a recent fluff piece about HireVue in the Wall Street Journal — which should know better: Video Job Interviews: Hiring for the Selfie Age. (The Journal requires a paid membership, but you can view the article for free by searching Google for the title, then X-ing past the splash screen.) On the other hand, the dusty skeleton in the WSJ’s closet is its defunct CareerJournal, which compromised the newspaper’s editorial integrity to sell its job-board service: Job-Board Journalism: Selling Out The American Job Hunter. So perhaps it’s no surprise the WSJ is hawking HR technology.

I’d like to ask the Ask The Headhunter community: Do you as a job seeker (or as a hiring manager, or as even one of the many HR folks who subscribe to Ask The Headhunter) buy this stuff?

canddiate-lineInterview videos infomercial claim #1

“…companies say [HireVue] is an efficient, fair and inexpensive way to process hundreds of applicants…”

The key word in this statement is “process,” as in “process meat.” Here’s what Gilman Louie, partner at Silicon Valley venture firm Alsop Louie, told me about how modern HR technology destroys an employer’s competitive edge:

“HR processes 2,000 candidates! They don’t look through 2,000 candidates! And at the end of the process, what they get is the same candidate that everybody else running PeopleSoft gets! So where’s your competitive advantage if everybody turns up with the same candidates?”

Infomercial claim #2

“Video interviews have significantly reduced travel costs for Cigna recruiters. Frank Abate, a senior recruiter there, said one of his colleagues racked up more than $1 million annually just traveling to meet candidates. Since adopting video interviews four years ago, that colleague’s expenses are now under $100,000.”

Gee. Imagine spending money to go find the talent. Cigna is saving by not meeting candidates.

By not meeting candidates.

By not meeting candidates.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Imagine if Cigna told its sales team to stop spending money to call on customers to close deals.

I love your idea for a robo-interviewer app for job seekers. Imagine how much you — the talent — could save by telling employers to talk to the video camera before you bother talking to them in person. Get that employer ready for its close-up. Tell HR you don’t talk to the hand.

Infomercial claim #3

eye-lensRecruiters at IBM and Cigna said they evaluate candidates based on how well the person communicates his/her thought process, whether the person answers all parts of the question—and whether he/she makes eye contact.”

Eye contact??? Uh, contact with what eye??

Infomercial claim #4

“HireVue, InterviewStream, WePow and other vendors that make video-interviewing software say their programs make hiring more fair because all applicants must answer the same questions, placing substance over schmoozing and small talk.”

Schmoozing and small talk are bad things. The robo-interview vendors now save HR jockeys from the ignominy of having to talk with the talent HR claims is so hard to find, so hard to attract, so hard to hire. Heaven forbid recruiting should be a social interaction where you can judge someone in person.

Small talk is a bad thing. But employers say they want to judge applicants for cultural fit. Tell it to the camera.

Just how gullible is HR?

While the HR profession’s existence is being questioned in the C-suite, HR outsources its most important job — hiring — in a stunning display of gullibility. Wowed by technology it doesn’t even understand, HR deploys it at enormous cost to insult the talent it needs to attract during a talent shortage.

The by-line on this WSJ “article” is Dahlia Bazzaz, a former “crime reporter” and summer intern — and Ms. Bazzaz goes on to blurt out this sales pitch for HireVue:

robo-hr“Taking robo-recruiting one step further, some HireVue customers have an algorithm review the video interviews for them. Using data about the skills and attributes companies are seeking for a given role, a program called HireVue Insights scans videos for verbal and facial cues that match those skills then ranks the top 100 applicants.”

Now I get the “crime reporter” part, and we get to what’s really going on. Personnel jockeys don’t just avoid recruiting and interviewing you. They let HireVue’s robots “watch” your interview videos. Don’t those schmutzes realize they’re next? WTF? Inflatable interview dolls?

Let’s go back to Gilman Louie, whose investments in the digital world are his livelihood. What does he say about picking people?

“When you’re selecting people..  it’s personal. And personal is not digital.”

HR eats this stuff up.

“Speeding up the hiring process allows recruiters to look at more applicants than before…”

HR complains its job postings yield such a flood of applications that HR can’t possibly “look through” them all. But now personnel jockeys have time to look through all those videos. Gullible?

We could partner to produce an app that requires HR to make video interviews job applicants can watch to judge employers. But we’d do better selling popcorn to all those couch potatoes while they dial the talent knobs. Then there’s this idea for production services we can sell to job applicants: HR Pornography: Interview videos.

Companies like HireVue, InterviewStream, WePow — can you blame them because HR is stupid enough to spend its money insulating itself from, and insulting, the talent HR says is so hard to attract in today’s hiring market?

Can you? I can. These HR technology vendors are vampires sucking the recruiting budgets out of comatose HR departments while pitching stories to the media about how people are interchangeable parts — to be sorted by algorithms and selected by robots.

The HireVue Quiz

There’s an issue with HireVue’s video interviews I haven’t even mentioned. Can you guess what it is?

Would you sit for a robo-interview? Or would you rather HR pose for you first? Just how daft do you think HR is?

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Referrals: How to gift someone a job (and why)

Question

I had to help out a former employee after we sold our real estate business. He was looking for sales opportunities. He did the usual thing of sending his resume via job boards and online applications, and had very little to show for it after a month or so. So I made a series of preemptive referrals.

The gift of referralsI told him to give me one day – and I cold-called companies across the metro area for six or seven hours on his behalf.

I found 12 companies (who were hiring) that wanted to see his resume and three of them wanted to get his phone number and call him right away.

How did I do this?

“My name is Kevin – I’m wondering if you can help me. I’d like to speak to a sales manager or the person that hires for sales. [I rarely have issues with them wanting to transfer me to HR – but it does happen.]

“Hi, [Sales Manager] – Kevin Downey here. I’m former owner of LOBC in Leawood, KS, and my former manager is looking for a sales position. Really good kid and as loyal as the day is long. I’d like to get his resume in front of you – if you’re hiring.”

I let them answer or ask questions.

It’s easy stuff. He had a job within a week.

[Reader Kevin Downey posted this story as a comment on another Q&A column. It’s so good, I wanted to highlight it here!]

Nick’s Reply

Your script is how I learned to place job candidates when I started headhunting. It’s perfect — for anyone.

What most people who are job hunting don’t realize is, all they really need is one former employer or boss, or someone they’ve worked with, to make those referral calls. They might ask, Why would anyone spend six hours making calls like that for me?

It’s a very smart investment for anyone to make, to help a good person land a new job.

How referrals pay you back

  • You as the referrer made a great new friend in the manager who hired that “kid.” You did that employer a favor!
  • You have a friend for life in the person you helped land a job.
  • Your reputation as a source of good hires will spread if you keep doing this. Establishing yourself as a credible hub of good business referrals will bring you loads of business for years to come — no matter what business you go into next. It may even lead you to a new job.
  • The universe shines more brightly on people who do favors that change lives.
  • Most important, you did a good deed — and no one has yet figured out how to calculate the total value of that ripple in the big pond of life.

Is it a lot of work to gift someone a job like this? You betcha. But, how much work is it to find yourself a job? Wouldn’t you love to have a favor like this come back around to you someday?

Employers actually pay for referrals

A personal referral is a fair investment for anyone to make, once they realize they will need a call like that themselves one day. I call it The Preemptive Reference.

For those who don’t realize it, this is what an employer pays a headhunter to do: make personal referrals, recommend someone, provide a reference to the employer in advance of a job interview. In other words, you’re doing most of the work for the employer. Employers love that. They’d rather hire someone through a trusted source than to wade through resumes and job applications from people they know nothing else about. They even prefer to pay a headhunter for referrals than to go find good hires themselves.

(Employers also offer referral fees to their own employees when they recommend a new hire. But there are two critical problems with most of these programs: The fee is usually too small, and there’s not enough proximity between the desired behavior (a referral) and the reward (the fee) to stimulate enough referral behavior that it makes a difference. These fees are paid months after the fact, and usually in small chunks.)

Investing in referrals pays — just don’t expect a return immediately or even from the person you invested in. The gift of a referral may get handed across many people before it comes back to you.

Many thanks to Kevin Downey for this lesson in how and why up to 60% of jobs are found and filled through personal contacts!

Have you ever done someone a solid of this magnitude? How do you define a “preemptive reference?” Has anyone ever gifted a job to you in this manner?

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Q for HR: One good reason why you need to know my salary?

Quick Question

I’ve been reading your posts about employers that won’t continue an interview if you won’t disclose your salary. (Goodbye to low-ball salary offers.) And I love the comments from people who see right through what HR is doing! Just how does anyone in HR justify this demand for private information?

matrix-bring-it-onNick’s Quick Reply

I have a standing challenge to anyone that works in HR: Give me one good reason why you need to know a job applicant’s current salary.

Many have tried, but no one can deliver a good reason, because there isn’t one. (If you work in HR and want to take your best shot, please post your response in the comments section below.)

But I’ll let an HR manager answer your question. She upbraids me for telling job applicants not to disclose their salary in a job interview. This is such a bold admission that I quote it in Keep Your Salary Under Wraps.

“Employers want your salary information because they believe that if you apply for a job that starts at $50,000, but you made $30,000 in the same sort of job at your last company, they’d be overpaying. They’d want the opportunity to buy you for $35,000 to start, saving them $15,000.

“The HR person who does that gets many kudos for their shopping moxie from their boss, and gets to keep their job and go on many more shopping trips.

“I’ve been a vice president of HR, a recruiter, a labor negotiator and a candidate, so I know from which I speak [sic]… I am so dismayed that someone pays you to hand out this kind of information.”

You can’t make up stuff like this.

The trouble is, you can’t make these kinds of HR managers go away, either.

I repeat my challenge. Give me one good reason why HR needs to know a job applicant’s salary. Bring it on.

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Goodbye to low-ball salary offers

Question

f-off-2I read that Massachusetts made it illegal for employers to require your salary history when you apply for a job. I always thought this was wrong to begin with. It’s how companies “justify” low-ball salary offers. This seems to back up what you’ve been saying all along — but what about those of us who don’t work in Massachusetts?

Nick’s Reply

I told you so.

Job applicants have been getting screwed by HR departments since time immemorial through intimidation and badgering:

“We can’t proceed with your application until you tell us what you’re getting paid now. It’s the policy!”

This is a popular topic on Ask The Headhunter, and I advise people to just say NO. (See Salary History: Can you afford to say NO? and Keep Your Salary Under Wraps.) When employers demand to know your salary, it’s for just one reason: to low-ball any offer they make you.

And now everybody knows it.

It’s illegal to threaten job applicants

The state of Massachusetts just passed a law: Illegal in Massachusetts: Asking Your Salary in a Job Interview (New York Times). No longer will HR threaten to “end the application process” if you won’t tell your salary.

The dirty little secret is out:

“Companies tend to set salaries for new hires using their previous pay as a base line… which often leaves applicants with the nagging suspicion that they might have been offered more money if the earlier figure had been higher.”

Duh.

The impetus behind this new law is to end pay disparity between men and women. (See Don’t blame women for the gender pay gap!) But the problem is much, much bigger.

Employers are the dummies

When employers make job interviews dependent on disclosing your old salary, everyone gets hurt — men and women. Even dopey employers get hurt, because their silly insistence elicits guffaws and “Screw you!” from the best job seekers, who won’t be intimidated and won’t give away their negotiating edge.

The New York Times points out — duh — that:

“The new law will require hiring managers to state a compensation figure upfront — based on what an applicant’s worth is to the company, rather than on what he or she made in a previous position.”

Read the boldface again. Employers will have to figure out what you’re worth.

Jeez. What a concept for a business! What an indictment of the stupid employment system that HR departments have propped up for decades.

No competitive edge

Employers who base job offers on what another employer paid you are admitting five things:

  1. They really, really believe people (workers) are fungible — interchangeable parts.
  2. They’re incapable of assessing your value to their own business.
  3. They’re willing to judge you based on what one of their business competitors came up with.
  4. They believe your worth to one employer is the same as your worth to any employer.
  5. They have no competitive edge on judging value.

This new law is good for employers because it will force them to hire smarter and to be more competitive. Of course, they may need to fire their HR departments and whip their managers into shape. It’s time for employers to figure out how any new hire will contribute to the bottom line.

Jeez. What a concept.

Kudos to Massachusetts for being the first state to outlaw salary intimidation in job applications and interviews. I think the rest of the nation will soon follow.

noJust say NO

If you don’t live and work in Massachusetts, you still can and should say NO when employers demand your current salary. Smart employers will back off. The rest aren’t worth a job interview, because if they don’t take advantage of you up front, they’ll do it later.

Ask The Headhunter subscribers have been saying NO — politely, firmly and successfully — for a long time:

“The hiring manager more or less offered me the position on the spot and indicated a salary range that is roughly 40-50% more than I make now. Your two biggest lessons (at least for me) at work in the flesh: (1) Never divulge my current salary, and (2) Talk about what I will do, not what I’ve done.” -Rich Mok

“Despite both the headhunter and the company insisting I disclose what I was getting paid at my old job, I stuck to my guns and I was able to double my salary. Plus I got a signing bonus. That would have never happened in a million years if I had caved!” – Bernie Dietz

“I was headhunted for a lucrative job at another company and, following your advice, did not state my current salary, nor did I even hint at its range. Thanks to your book, Keep Your Salary Under Wraps, I ended up with a 40% increase on my previous job and salary! Thanks!” – Daniel Slate

Say goodbye to low-ball salary offers — at least those based on your old salary. Employers can still low-ball you. And the best way to avoid that is to be prepared to show why you’d be the most profitable hire. Don’t be a dummy yourself. See How do I prove I deserve a higher job offer?

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