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Monthly archive for December 2017

Ask The Headhunter Secrets in a Nutshell

In the December 19, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader wants the short version of secrets to landing a job. Okay… here we go!

secretsQuestion

I’ve been reading Ask The Headhunter all year long. I read The Basics, but as a year-end favor, would you please summarize the Ask The Headhunter secrets and highlight some of the most important parts? Help me understand the main differences between ATH and the traditional approach to job hunting? Thanks and happy holidays!

Nick’s Reply

Anyone who’s been around Ask The Headhunter for a while knows this question often comes up around December. But there are no secrets! The ATH strategy is spread across this website, in the free weekly e-mail newsletter (This is the 700th edition! Please subscribe!) and in my PDF books. But I’ll try to summarize by sharing some of my tips, in the form of reprints straight from the books.

I’ve selected sections that should be helpful by themselves, and I hope they get you off on the right foot. If you’d like more details that are beyond the scope of this column, please check the links.

Here’s Ask The Headhunter in a nutshell:

You want secrets? Find the right job!

1. The best way to find a good job opportunity is to go hang out with people who do the work you want to do — people who are very good at it. Insiders are the first to know about good opportunities, but they only tell other insiders.

To get into an inside circle of people, you must earn your way. It takes time. You can’t fake it, and that’s good, because who wants to promote (or hire) the unknown? Here’s how the distinction works.

From How Can I Change Careers?, pp. 27-28, “A Good Network Is A Circle of Friends”:

Don’t speculate for a job
The way most people network for a job smacks of day trading in the stock market. The networker has no interest in the people or companies she’s “investing” in. She just wants a quick profit. She skims the surface of an industry or profession, trying to find easy contacts that might pay off quickly.

When you encounter an opportunistic networker, you’ll find that she listens carefully to the useful information you give her, but once you’re done helping, she’s not interested in you any more. She might drop some tidbits your way, but don’t expect her to remember you next week.

Invest in relationships
Contrast this to someone who reads about your company and calls to discuss how you applied new methods to produce new results. She’s interested in your work and stays in touch with you, perhaps sending an article about a related topic after you’ve talked. She’s investing in a potentially valuable relationship.

This initial contact might prompt you one day to call your newfound friend for advice, or to visit her company’s booth at the next trade show and introduce yourself. Maybe it never goes beyond that or maybe one day you’ll work together. The point is, after a time you become familiar to one another. You become members of one another’s circle. You’ll help one another because you’re friends, not “because it will pay off later.”

The methods in How Can I Change Careers? are not just for career changers — they are for anyone changing jobs that wants to stand out to a hiring manager as the profitable hire.

Get the interview… but there are no secrets!

2. The best way to get a job interview is to be referred by someone the manager trusts. Between 40-70% of jobs are filled that way. Yet people and employers fail to capitalize on this simple employment channel. They pretend there’s some better system — like job boards (or secrets). That’s bunk. There is nothing more powerful than a respected peer putting her good name on the line to recommend you. Deals close faster when the quality of information is high and the source of information is trusted. That’s why it takes forever to get a response when you apply “blind” to a job posting.

How can you get interviews via the insiders who have the power to recommend you? I once gave some advice to a U.S. Army veteran who had just returned home from overseas duty and wanted to start a career in the home building industry. This method works in virtually any line of work.

From Fearless Job Hunting – Book 3: Get In The Door (way ahead of your competition), pp. 15-16, “How to make great personal contacts”:

Pick the two or three best builders in your area; ones you’d really like to work for. They may not be the biggest, but they should be the ones you have a real affinity for. Find out who finances their projects. This is pretty easy — the name of the bank is often posted at the work site.

Then go visit the bank. Ask which vice president handles the relationship with your target company. Then sit down and explain that you are evaluating various companies in your town because you want to make a career investment… After you make your brief statement, let the banker talk. You will get a picture of the entire building industry in your area. Your goal, at the end of the meeting, is to make a judgment about which companies are the best. Ask the banker if he could recommend someone for you to talk with at each company. Then, ask permission to use his name when you contact them. This is how you pursue companies rather than just jobs.

So, don’t just send a resume. Figure out who the company’s customers, vendors, consultants and bankers are — and talk to them. It’s how smart business people do smart business with a company: by talking to people that the company trusts.

Stand and deliver

3. The best way to do well in an interview is to walk in and demonstrate to the manager how you will do the job profitably for him and for you. Everything else is stuff, nonsense and a bureaucratic waste of time. Don’t believe me? Ask any good manager, “Would you rather talk to 10 job applicants, or meet just one person who explains how she will boost your company’s profitability?” I have no doubt what the answer is.

The idea of showing how you’ll pay off to an employer intimidates some people. But it’s really simple, once you get out of the mindset of the job applicant and start thinking like a business person.

From Fearless Job Hunting – Book 6: The Interview: Be The Profitable Hire,
pp. 8-9, “How can I demonstrate my value?”

Estimate your impact to the bottom line If the work you do is overhead and mostly affects costs: Do you shave two minutes off each customer service call you handle? Have you figured out a way to get projects done 20% faster? Multiply this by the hourly wage or by the salary. The savings are just one part of the profit you contribute. Get the idea? I’m simplifying, but few of your competitors will offer any estimates at all. This gives you a good, honest story to tell the employer about how you will contribute to the success of the business. It gives you an edge.

If the job affects revenue, try to quantify the impact. Your estimate may not be accurate, simply because you don’t have all the relevant information at your fingertips, but you must be able to defend your calculations. Run it by someone you trust who knows the business, then present it to your boss or to your prospective boss. You can even present your estimates in the interview, and ask the employer how you might make them more accurate. This can be a very effective ice breaker.

If you can’t demonstrate how you will contribute to the bottom line, then be honest with yourself: Why should the employer hire you? Or, why should your employer keep you?

Employers don’t pay for interview skills. They pay for your work skills. The rare job candidate is ready to discuss how he or she will do the job profitably. That’s who stands out, and it’s who gets hired.

Profit from headhunters

4. The best way to get a headhunter’s help is to manage your interaction for mutual profit from the start. Hang up on the unsavory charlatans and work only with headhunters who treat you with respect from the start.

If you’re not sure how to qualify a headhunter, when the headhunter calls you, here’s how to say it:

From How to Work with Headhunters… and how to make headhunters work for you, p. 30, one of 34 How to Say It tips:

How to Say It
“If we work together, you will check my references and learn a lot about me so you can judge me. But likewise, I need to know about you, too. I’d be putting my career in your hands. Would you please share a few references? I will of course keep the names you provide confidential, just as I expect you will keep the names I give you.”

Don’t waste time with headhunters who don’t demonstrate high standards of behavior. Sharing references is test #1.

Then, instead of “pitching” yourself to the headhunter, be still and listen patiently to understand the headhunter’s objective. Proceed only if you really believe you’re a match. Then show why you’re the headhunter’s #1 candidate by outlining how you will do the job profitably for his client. Headhunters adopt candidates who make the headhunter’s job easier, and who help the headhunter fill the assignment quickly. (Coda: If you follow suggestions 1-3 carefully, you won’t need to rely on a headhunter. But if you’re lucky enough to be recruited, you need to know How to Work with Headhunters.)

That’s Ask The Headhunter in a nutshell.

Why ATH works

You ask what is the main difference between ATH and the traditional approach. It’s pretty simple. The traditional approach is “shotgun.” You blast away at companies with your resume and wait to hear from someone you don’t know who doesn’t know you. Lotsa luck. (ATH regulars know that I never actually wish anyone luck, because I don’t believe in it. I believe in doing the hard work required to succeed.)

ATH is a carefully targeted approach. You must select the companies and jobs you want. It takes a lot of preparation to accomplish the simple task in item (3).

Please read my lips:

  • There are no shortcuts.
  • No one can do it for you. (Nope, not even headhunters, not even job boards, not even algorithms created by database jockeys.)
  • If you aren’t prepared to do it right, then you have no business applying for the job, and the manager would be a fool to hire you.

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Fearless Job Hunting • How to Work With Headhunters • Changing Careers
Keep Your Salary Under Wraps • Parting Company | How to leave your job
Employment Tests: Get The Edge

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How to be the stand-out candidate

I’ll leave you with a scenario that illustrates why the traditional methods don’t work well. You walk up to a manager. You hand her your resume — your credentials, your experience, your accomplishments, your keywords, your carefully crafted “marketing piece.” Now, what are you really saying to that manager?

“Here. Read this. Then you go figure out what the heck to do with me.”

Managers stink at figuring that out. You have to explain it to them, if you expect to stand out and to get hired. Do you really expect someone to decipher your resume and figure out what to do with you? America’s entire employment system fails you every day because it’s based on that passive mindset.

The job candidate who uses the Ask The Headhunter approach keeps the resume in his pocket and says to the manager, “Let me show you what I’m going to do to make your business more successful and more profitable.” Then he outlines his plan — without giving away too much.

That’s who you’re competing with, whether he learned this approach from me or whether it’s just his common sense. Long-time ATH subscriber Ray Stoddard puts it like this:

“The great news about your recommendations is that they work. The good news for those of us who use them is that few people are really willing to implement what you recommend, giving those of us who do an edge.”


In the meantime, if you’re working on your job search, check out these resources:
The Basics
The Q&A Archive
I hope Ask The Headhunter helped you get an edge in 2017. The newsletter and the website will be on hiatus for two weeks while I take a vacation! See you with the next edition on January 9! Meanwhile, here’s wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (no matter what you celebrate or where you celebrate it), and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!


How have you used the ATH methods to land the job you want, or to hire exceptional employees? What other methods of your own have worked well for you? (Did anything you did shock, awe or surprise an employer?)

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3 Anti-Behavioral Interview Questions to Ask Job Candidates

In the December 12, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a manager gets fed up with behavioral interview  questions and wants to know how to really judge a job applicant. 

Question

behavioral interview

My HR department insists I use a list of 30 Essential Behavioral Interview Questions published by LinkedIn when I meet with job applicants. These are the questions 1,300 hiring managers said they use.

The questions are canned and don’t reveal whether a candidate could do the job if I hired them. It feels silly to ask these questions because it’s like dancing around the REAL question — whether the person can do the job! What do I care how they handled a difficult situation at their last job, when they have no idea what a really difficult situation is at my company?

I haven’t gotten busted yet, but I’m one hiring manager who doesn’t use the behavioral questions. Maybe there’s something I don’t get. Do you advocate using them and, if you do, please explain the benefits.

Nick’s Reply

I don’t use behavioral interview questions. Like you, I think the practice is silly — and it’s frankly lame because, as you suggest, it’s like “dancing around the real question.” Behavioral interviews are indirect assessments that create more guesswork instead of enabling a manager to directly assess whether an applicant can do the work.

You don’t say how you interview and assess job candidates, but you hint that you focus your interviews on a direct assessment of whether the person can do the job you need to fill.

If we could all hire only great people who perform to their max, we’d all be rich. But choosing and managing new hires is a dicey proposition. I’ll warn you that my approach to interviewing job applicants will result in some of them canceling the interviews you schedule. No worries — it’ll just save you time.

The problem with behavioral interview questions

Loads of candidate assessment methods have come and gone through the decades. My own approach as a headhunter is to get one key question answered before I go on to other assessments.

Can the candidate demonstrate that he or she can actually do the job?

Surprisingly, that’s left out of most job interviews. Instead of getting a demonstration, most employers do an indirect assessment. They ask job applicants the popular set of “behavioral interview” questions, hoping they can read between the lines of a person’s answers about how they handled certain situations in the past. (Job seekers: See The Basics.)

If your HR requires you to use behavioral interviews, I agree that not getting busted for not using them should be your goal!

The HO-HO-HO 40% OFF Everything SPECIAL!

Every Ask The Headhunter PDF Book

Is 40% OFF for the holidays!

* * *THIS SPECIAL OFFER HAS EXPIRED * * *

(What books are we talking about? Click here to see all Nick’s PDF books!)

Fearless Job Hunting • How to Work With Headhunters • Changing Careers
Keep Your Salary Under Wraps • Parting Company | How to leave your job
Employment Tests: Get The Edge

TAKE 40% OFF any book! ORDER NOW!

Use DISCOUNT CODE=HOHO40

This is a limited-time discount!

* * *THIS SPECIAL OFFER HAS EXPIRED * * *

3 Anti-Behavioral Interview Questions

Here’s my take on some of the lame questions LinkedIn suggests — and 3 anti-behavioral interview alternatives that actually nudge candidates to demonstrate how they’ll do the work. These are direct assessments because you’ll be talking about your team, your work, your job — not about some hypothetical situation that you don’t even know the applicant is telling the truth about.

Behavioral Question #1:

“Tell me about the biggest change that you have had to deal with. How did you adapt to that change?”

My anti version:

“We hit a challenge with the project you’ll be working on if we hire you. [Describe the problem or challenge in detail.] How would you approach that?”

That’s is a discussion about real change. You can of course ask the applicant about similar issues they’ve faced at other jobs. But if you focus on specific issues you’re facing, you’ll quickly learn not just how the person approaches work; you’ll learn a lot about problem-solving abilities that are relevant to you.

Behavioral Question #2:

“Tell me about a time in the last week when you’ve been satisfied, energized, and productive at work. What were you doing?”

My anti version:

Don’t ask a question. Invite the applicant to spend a couple of hours with your team in a live work meeting about a live project. Sit in on the meeting, but don’t say anything. Watch and listen. My guess is you’ll learn most of what you need to know about the candidate’s style and motivation, and it’ll be relevant to your setting, not someone else’s.

Behavioral Question #3:

“Describe a time when you volunteered to expand your knowledge at work, as opposed to being directed to do so.”

My anti version:

“Now that we’ve discussed the deliverables we’d expect from you on this job, please list the three relevant areas where you’d need to expand your knowledge. This is not a loaded question — I expect you’ll be learning as you go. Then outline how you’d get that knowledge and what you’d need from me to help you do it.”

I’m sure you see the difference in the questions. Though it may be interesting, I don’t care so much how you handled something at your last job. After all, I’m not hiring you for your past performance. I want a demonstration of how you’ll do this job for me.

Behavioral interview answers can be faked

Like other canned interview questions, clever candidates can study any of a number of books that list loads of typical behavioral interview questions. If you ask, “Tell me about a time when…”, you have no idea whether the experience the candidate discusses is real or from a book.

When you ask the questions I suggest, the applicant has to deal with a real-life situation from your business. You get to see how they’d handle a problem or challenge in the present or in the future. I can’t confirm what an applicant did in the past, so let’s talk shop on my turf, about the work I need done.

Learn more about the Working Interview in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6, The Interview: Be The Profitable Hire, “How can I demonstrate my value?” pp. 8-9.

The book includes “How to do a Working Interview,” “What’s your business plan for this job?” and 10 other methods to show you’re the profitable hire — plus 8 How to Say It tips.

How to cull out the weak applicants

Now I’ll leave you with an unexpected suggestion to get the most out of your interviews. Let a candidate know in advance what you’re going to ask about.

Surprise every candidate. Call them in advance of your interview. (If they’re worth a face-to-face meeting, they’re worth calling first!) Outline the work, projects and challenges you want them to discuss with you and your team when they arrive. Let them prepare, just like you expect your employees prepare when you give them an assignment.

Heck, help them prepare. You want them to succeed, right? The best candidates will show up ready to rumble. (Check this article I wrote for CMO.com: Why You Should Treat Job Applicants Like Consultants.)

If you’re a job seeker, be ready for this kind of job interview! You cannot fake it, but you can Prove you deserve a higher job offer.
Those who don’t want to do the preparation such a “working interview” requires will cancel their interviews. They’re the weak candidates.

Like I said, that saves you time.

The best candidates will be prepared, ready to rumble, and excited about talking shop with you and your team. You’ll actually see their behavior in your real-life work setting!

Do behavioral interviews work? Or are they just another trick that prevents a manager and job applicant from getting to really know one another? If you’re a manager, how do you directly assess someone’s ability to do the work during a job interview?

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Job boards say they fill most jobs. Employer says “LMAO!”

In the December 5, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, an employer questions the claims job boards make about how often they fill jobs. 

Question

job boardsI’ve read many of your posts about job boards, including Job Boards: Take this challenge, but it was one about The Bogus-ness of Indeed.com that really got my attention because it has over 200 comments on it, and because now I’ve seen how Indeed works for employers — and I’m LMAO!

My wife runs a popular retail chain store and recently took to Indeed.com to find qualified applicants. In Los Angeles, at a high profile new location opening (it’s in the news), she received just three applicants, all of whom had simply uploaded their resume and clicked any title that closely matched their interests. None of the three even knew who the company was, or what the details of the job posted were, they simply clicked “send resume.”

Two didn’t speak high-school level English, the third had never heard of the company and wasn’t sure where it was located, but applied just the same.

I’m sure there are people really looking for work. Are they using the potential of Indeed? Glassdoor? Monster?

I know what you think of the job boards, Nick, but I doubt you’ve had to look for a job recently. I wonder what your readers think. Can you ask them what their experiences have been with the big job boards like the ones we’ve had such bad luck with?

Nick’s Reply

I’m happy to put your question to our community. They love red meat. (That’s a joke, vegans and vegetarians among us!)

Do job boards really fill most jobs?

Thanks for your story about your wife’s problems with job applicants from Indeed and other job boards. It would be interesting to hear from more employers, who don’t seem to say much (at least in public) about how effective the job boards are.

  • Indeed cites a report from SilkRoad (“the world’s leader in Talent Activation”) that claims “Indeed delivers 65% of hires and 72% of interviews from job sites.” (The actual report is free but must be downloaded from SilkRoad.)

What’s not to like? Game over. Problem solved.

  • A few years ago, while I was researching a story I wrote for PBS NewsHour (Is LinkedIn Cheating Employers and Job Seekers Alike?) a CareerBuilder spokesperson claimed the job board accounted for nearly 50% of all jobs filled by staffing and recruiting firms — but told me the study behind the numbers was not published.

So, what’s the problem with all those vacant jobs?

  • Year after year, job-board watcher CareerXRoads has reported that around 25%-30% of external hires come from job boards.

Closer inspection of the data suggests about 10% of hires were being made during those periods through all job boards combined. (I have not looked at CXR’s reports recently.)

Truth or tricks?

Now go back and read those claims about where employers find their hires one more time. I’ve been watching these numbers for over two decades and I’ve learned the code. Can you find the tricks in those claims?

I’m really glad to get a question from an employer (well, from her spouse) on this topic. And I’m glad you’re asking Ask The Headhunter readers for their experiences and opinions — rather than me.

Okay, employers — big and small — are job boards delivering the hires you need?

You don’t have to be an employer to play. What do you make of Indeed’s (and SilkRoad’s) claims? I think there’s a deft sleight of hand — and some clever word play — in how SilkRoad, Indeed, and other job-boards characterize their “findings.”

Let’s get at the truth about job boards, folks. And if you’ve got some expertise in big data analysis, I’d really love to know your take on these reports. Do job boards really fill most jobs?

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