Why aren’t you making more money?

Why aren’t you making more money?

 

Trade war, weaker economy are among reasons

Source: USA Today

more money

By all rights, U.S. wage growth should be kicking into a higher gear amid falling unemployment and intensifying worker shortages…“Wage growth has hit a wall,” Joseph Song, senior economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, wrote in a report. Economists blame myriad factors, including President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and a slowing U.S. economy, weak productivity growth and meager inflation.

 

Nick’s take

I love this topic. Washington crows about low unemployment, but nobody in government seems to worry that your wage growth sucks. “Explanations” get tossed around like dry leaves whipped up by a forest fire: It’s the trade war, productivity, low inflation. I’ve got a simpler answer: Successful companies don’t share the wealth with their employees because it just feels better to keep the money. Job candidates need to push back harder. Can’t negotiate a higher salary? Ask for more money.

What do  you say?

  • Why are wages not going up meaningfully?
  • How can you get more money for your work?

 

 

 

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3 reasons to say NO to a job offer

3 reasons to say NO to a job offer

In the December 3, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader gets a job offer that may deserve a NO.

Question

job offerAfter months of looking for a job, I finally got an offer using your methods. (Thanks! The interviewer said I was the best candidate she’s talked to in a long time.) But there’s a small matter that concerns me, and it’s not the money. The salary is good. But neither the interviewer nor the HR person would tell me who my boss will be. HR just said I’d be assigned to the manager who needed my skills the most. Then she said they need my answer by end of day tomorrow. Is this a trap? Should I take the job?

Nick’s Reply

It may not be a trap, but it’s a risk in many ways — and not knowing who your boss will be is certainly not a small matter. Your story raises a bigger question. When should you say NO to a job offer?

There are many signals that might turn you away. I won’t tell anyone who needs to pay the rent or put food on the table to turn down a job offer. Take it if you really must, but consider the risks.

Here are three reasons to say NO to a job offer.

1. You don’t meet the manager you’ll be reporting to

You have no idea what you’re getting into if you don’t meet the manager. If the HR department (or a committee) does the hiring, you won’t be able to assess whether you and your new boss are compatible.

In Fearless Job Hunting, Book 5: Get The Right Employer’s Attention, I show how to conduct due diligence before and during the interview, and before accepting a job offer. These are just a few tips to help keep you out of trouble.

In the interview, don’t miss these points:

  • What must the company do to meet its goals? Is your job important in meeting these objectives? How?
  • Check out the tools that will be at your disposal. If they’re not part of the deal today, don’t expect you’ll get what you need later.
  • Who, in other departments, will affect your ability to do your job successfully? Meet them. Look for facilitators and debilitators—people that will help and hinder your performance.

From “Is this a Mickey Mouse operation?”, pp. 13-15

This cuts both ways. If the boss doesn’t meet you, it may turn out you’re not as qualified for the position as HR suggested. Your new job might be short-lived.

If the company won’t arrange a one-on-one meeting with the boss, it could mean the boss will shortly be gone. Where does that leave you? Ask to meet your future boss. Reconsider the position if the employer declines the meeting.

2. The job offer is low but you’re promised a raise “soon”

This is how companies seduce reluctant job applicants: with a promise of a raise “soon.” Will the company put the date of the future raise in writing along with the amount? Will it guarantee in writing a performance review in so many months? You have every reason to doubt the good intentions of the employer if it will do neither.

Compensation is what the written job offer says it is. Do not count promises as part of the job offer. Get it in writing.

(There’s another promise to watch out for: stock options. See What are stock options worth in a job offer?)

3. The details of the job are not made clear

It’s an old story: A person takes the job based on the description in the job posting, only to find that’s not the job. The actual work is something else. If all you get are vague answers when you ask about details, you may be accepting a broken job. The company may want you only for a short-term project or — even worse — “to fill head count.”

Ask the employer to list the main tasks you will be doing, and ask for a written definition of what exactly is expected of you after three, six and 12 months on the job. Or consider walking away.

Is the job offer really right for you?

These are just three of many reasons to say NO to a job offer. (See 13 lies employers tell about job offers.)

It’s important to pause when you receive an offer. Don’t get lost in the thrill of success. Take time to consider all the terms of the offer, the company that made it, the manager you’d be working for, the work you’d be doing, and — of course — the compensation. Like the proverbial car shopper, you must be ready to walk away from a deal that’s not really right for you.

Have you ever turned down a job offer? Why? What other reasons can you think of for saying NO? Have you ever accepted a job only to realize that the signs were clear that you should have said NO?

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Will a bad credit report cost you a job?

Will a bad credit report cost you a job?

In the November 26, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader questions the value of a credit report when judging a job applicant.

Question

credit reportIs a credit report from the big three credit reporting agencies (e.g., Experian) a good proxy for determining if a job candidate would be a security risk? Should a candidate be given the opportunity to explain and provide background about any items on a credit report that may appear as a negative to a potential employer? Or, should the credit check stand as a pass/fail test that a potential employer uses to determine if a candidate might be a security risk?

Nick’s Reply

You’re not asking how to avoid getting rejected for a job because of your credit report, but whether I think this would be justified or wise on the part of employers. We’ll stick to the topic here. If there’s enough interest, we can tackle the “how to” another time.

While we might make a case for employers doing credit checks on job applicants, it makes no sense to me why employers rely on such information to judge whether an applicant might be a security risk — especially not on a pass/fail basis. I haven’t seen any statistics on the actual correlation, much less any suggestion that credit records predict security worthiness. (If someone’s got statistics, please share in the comments section below.) The real risk to the employer is that it loses an otherwise excellent candidate to an assumption that credit behavior correlates with job performance and security worthiness.

Does a bad credit report make you a bad hire?

It might seem silly to make the comparison, but do we reject applicants who’ve been divorced because they are more likely to be bad business partners? Do we reject software developers because they don’t do proper maintenance on their cars? What about people with disabilities? Are they risky hires? Oops. The law protects them. Do you see where I’m going? I think employers should stick first to judgments about whether a candidate can do the job effectively, and second whether they fit the social norms of the organization.

In the U.S. there are laws that govern the use of credit checks on job applicants. Of course, these vary by state. I like Alison Doyle’s rundown on job applicant credit checks.
The challenge is how to assess those characteristics. While I’m not opposed to psychological testing and correlational evidence to make judgments like these, I think HR departments screwed the pooch long ago when they deftly transferred liability for hiring judgments to tests and indirect metrics of character. I believe this is a huge cause of HR’s “talent shortage” problem. These indirect assessment methods cost employers good hires. (See Big Data, Big Problems for Job Seekers?)

Employers need to teach hiring managers how to make better assessments and judgments of candidates directly and personally. It’s an interview skill. But how many companies teach interview skills?

Is your credit report a valid and reliable metric?

I agree that, if a credit check is to be done, the applicant should be allowed to explain the report – but that opens another legal can of worms. The applicant could potentially sue the employer for rejection based on misinterpreting the information. This, of course, is why the employer might use a credit report as a pass/fail metric without disclosing it to you. (For more about this, read my good buddy Suzanne Lucas’s warning to employers, If You Run Credit Checks on Your Job Candidates, Now Would Be A Good Time To Panic.)

Is there any defensible reason for basing a hiring decision on such a data point? It’s hard to make the case that it’s valid except as an indication of credit worthiness (and even that can be questionable). It’s worth looking up “validity” and “reliability” in the context of making assessments. Does a credit check really measure what you need to measure?

Employers have explaining to do

Here’s how I think I prove my point. I’ve never heard of an employee being terminated because the employer checked their credit report. If credit checks are such valid and reliable indicators of security worthiness (or any other job-related requirement), why don’t employers run reports on all employees annually to decide whom to terminate? I think HR has a lot of explaining to do.

Employers try too hard to offload candidate assessment to indirect metrics, and they do a lousy job of justifying themselves. In most companies, it seems HR’s first objective is to offload liability. I think the better practice is for employers to make their interviewing and reference checking more rigorous. To avoid unreasonable risk, make managers very good at interviewing and judging job applicants.

My snarky suggestion to job seekers is to ask a snarky but justified question if an employer brings up a credit check. “Can you show me empirical evidence that my credit report is a valid and reliable metric for judging me as a worthy hire?”

You’d be surprised how many successful people I’ve placed who had questionable “background checks.” It takes a lot more to really judge someone – or you miss some great candidates!

Have you missed out on a good job (or a good job applicant) over a credit check? Have you outwitted a negative credit report when applying for a job? Do you believe credit checks tell employers anything useful about a person? Is someone’s credit report a worthy pass/fail test for hiring?

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What’s the magic in a letter of recommendation?

What’s the magic in a letter of recommendation?

In the November 19, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader wants help writing a recommendation letter.

Question

recommendationI am writing a letter of recommendation for a co-worker who is interviewing for a new job. It’s sort of a quid pro quo situation. Both he and I are somewhat unsure of how to write one, especially when doing it for a co-worker.

I have looked online, but most of the advice is for a supervisor, not a peer. I don’t supervise him; I just collaborate with him occasionally. I think he’s an excellent worker, but I’m not sure how to write about it in a letter. I want to make sure I’m doing it correctly. I’ve never had the opportunity to write — or even to see — a real letter of recommendation before. Can you help me? Do you have a template? What’s the magic in a letter of recommendation?

Nick’s Reply

Recommendations are a powerful part of hiring and job hunting, but few people know how to use them effectively. The worst type of recommendation is the insincere, canned one.

A recommendation must be honest

I’m glad you think highly of your co-worker, because if you didn’t, I’d advise you not to write a recommendation. The power of recommendations lies in honesty. No one should feel obligated to recommend anyone else.

There is nothing wrong with saying to someone, “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel I could write you the recommendation you’d need to get the job you want.” If that seems rude, consider that a proper recommendation puts your neck on the line. It affects your reputation. If the person you recommend blows it, you will look bad and your reputation may be damaged in your professional community. And that’s as it should be, or the practice of making recommendations becomes worthless.

Recommendations create reputations

On the other hand, a carefully considered recommendation that results in a superlative hire reflects very well on the person doing the recommending. Credible, repeat recommendations that result in great hires can elevate your reputation to star status in your field, making you a go-to person for hiring referrals. That’s the best place to be when you go job hunting yourself.

But let’s get on to your situation.

Your personal guarantee

Producing a written recommendation for a co-worker is no different from doing one for someone you supervise. In both cases, remember that your main purpose is to provide a personal endorsement. A recommendation (or a reference) is a personal guarantee that the person you recommend is good at what they do: they are reliable, honest, and worthy of the job in question.

Yes, that’s serious stuff. That’s why we don’t write recommendations for just anyone, or just to be polite and friendly.

(For a special approach, see Referrals: How to gift someone a job and why.)

Get an interview

Your objective in writing a recommendation is to get the employer to interview your subject. That means your comments must be relevant and compelling, which in turn means your recommendation must fit the specific job. If the candidate can’t explain what the job is all about, then you can’t and shouldn’t write the letter.

Canned comments or a stiff, formal letter will not get anyone a job interview. My advice is to write simply, naturally, and casually. Avoid two-dollar words and phrases. Be friendly, blunt and brief.

What to write

Don’t follow a format. Just write naturally, covering a few key topics:

  • Who are you? What do you know or do that makes your comments relevant and compelling? You might be an expert in the work in question. Provide a very brief summary of yourself in order to establish your credibility.
  • How do you know the person? Do you know his work? Did he work for you, or with you?
  • What’s his work ethic? Is he self-motivated, or does he require close supervision?
  • What are his relevant skills and knowledge? Be specific.
  • How does the person stand out? Why should the employer drop everything and interview him?
  • What benefit do you think the person would bring to the employer? Can you offer any proof?

Don’t worry about templates. Don’t regurgitate someone else’s words. If you need a format, pretend you’re having lunch with the employer. Write what you would say. Be honest, or don’t provide the recommendation.

Endorse

As you wrap up your letter, make the one statement the reader is looking for: a clear endorsement. Use words that you are comfortable with. For example:

“I wholeheartedly recommend John as a smart, reliable worker who delivers what he promises.”

Finally, make the statement that says more than any other:

“If I were a manager, I’d hire Karen in a minute. As a co-worker, I hope I can work with her again.”

That’s the best endorsement in the world.

What’s better than a recommendation?

There’s something much more powerful you can do. Wait a day or two after sending the recommendation, then call the employer to make sure they received it. Reiterate your main message: “I’d hire John/Karen myself if I could.” This call is so unusual that it will always get the employer’s attention. Be careful, of course, not to seem like you’re trying to exercise undue influence. (See also The Preemptive Reference — it’s better than a recommendation.)

Recommendations are an important way of meeting other people in your industry and establishing a good reputation. (Networking, anyone?) That’s why it’s important to be selective about whom you give a recommendation. Recommendations and references are the glue that makes an industry stick together.

Do you recommendations even matter any more? What makes them work? What’s the best recommendation you’ve ever gotten (or given)? How do you advise this reader?

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Do you want a job, or higher pay?

Do you want a job, or higher pay?

pay

 

No sign of a recession, but wage growth is flatlining.

Source: The New York Times

pay

The first story: Jobs are plentiful and unemployment low. Most everyone who wants a job can find one…The second story: Wage growth is flatlining. For most of the last few years, pay to American workers has been rising at steadily increasing rates…But that rate of increase now seems to have leveled off or decreased. The year-over-year rate of growth in wages peaked at 3.4 percent in February and has receded to 3 percent in October, according to the latest numbers…

So most people can find a job and more people are working, but employers are not having to increase compensation much to recruit and retain people. This isn’t what economic models suggest should happen.

 

Nick’s take

Do you want a job, or higher pay? Because the U.S. Department of Labor says you can’t have both. News articles focus on big growth in new jobs but then can’t explain essentially flat pay in a market with high demand for labor. Meanwhile, companies are spending less and pocketing more: “compensation in private industry rose 3 percent in 2018, and only 2.7 percent in the 12 months ended in September.” Nothing’s changed. (See B.S. on the jobs numbers.)

What’s your take?

  • Are you making more money?
  • How much does your CEO make as a ratio compared to you?
  • Why don’t the Department of Labor numbers make sense?
  • When will job applicants wise up?

 

 

 

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Resumectomy: Surgery for job seekers

Resumectomy: Surgery for job seekers

In the November 12, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader proposes resumectomy to save the patient.

resumectomy

Question

Does it occur to anyone that there is something wrong when a very good (flawless) resume or LinkedIn profile returns nothing, no interviews, no jobs — not even a thank you for applying? Why do we use them? I’m looking for an alternative to a resume. Is there an alternative?

Nick’s Reply

People have been asking me about resumes a long time! Let’s try something. This is one of the oldest articles on Ask The Headhunter: Resume Blasphemy. It’s an exercise. It suggests an alternative to resumes. I’d like to ask everyone to please read it — it’s pretty brief. Then come back and continue here.

Have a resume, put it away

Everyone should have a good resume, and it should be clear, concise and easy to read. It should list places you’ve worked, job titles, education and time periods. Brief descriptions of what you did at each job are best.

That’s it. No fluff. No branding. Your resume is not a “marketing piece.” It’s a document that fills in the blanks about you for a hiring manager you have already had substantive contact with. Otherwise it’s just a dumb piece of paper or bucket of bits. Put it away until you talk with the manager.

Don’t use your resume “to get in the door.” Ten million other resumes are ahead of yours. And almost nobody reads them.

The purpose of the Resume Blasphemy article is to nudge people away from resumes as a job-getting tool. There is no such thing. You are the job-getting tool.

Resumectomy

Of course, I get loads of arguments, opinions and  “yes, buts” about my position on resumes. (My favorite is, “I know an algorithm is going to process it, but you can’t win if you don’t play.”) That’s why I’d like to ask you all to strap on a rubber apron and some gloves.

Let’s cut the resume open. Let’s do surgery. Maybe we should just remove most of it, do ya think? A resumectomy. Don’t mind the splatter. It’s all good.

3 Questions

Three questions for everyone:

  1. Do you even use a resume to get a job? If not, then what?
  2. If you do use a resume, what do you put on it that gets you in the door and gets you hired?
  3. What do people put on their resumes that sinks their efforts to get a job?

(If you’re a hiring manager, we’d all love to know how you’d answer those questions from your side of the desk.)

Okay, scalpel.

What’s that in there, in the resume? Is it alive? Is it beating? Or is it just mush? Should we take it out? Is a transplant in order?

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Does your job match its original job description?

Does your job match its original job description?

In the October 29, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter an executive is concerned about the role of the job description in employee attrition.

Question

job description

I’m president of a $20 million company, privately owned. Due to unusual turnover, I met with my head of HR and the affected managers. They said the “talent pool” isn’t good any more. HR’s exit notes indicated poor performance and lack of skills as the reasons for termination. So why did you hire them, I asked. They were the best candidates, they said. Then I read the job descriptions they used. Lists as long as a 3 iron. Nine or 10 “tasks,” even more “qualifications required,” and then a stack of “we prefer that you haves.” I asked them, is there something wrong with our process? Are we asking for too much and not training new hires enough? What are your thoughts about a problem like this? It’s serious.

Nick’s Reply

Job descriptions? Here’s what I think of job descriptions and people that write them (with apologies to Monty Python):

      Commentary on job descriptions
I feel your pain. But the idea that the “talent pool” has deteriorated is balderdash. Your suspicion that there’s something wrong with the process is correct. The conventional interview and assessment process assumes that in six months a new hire will be doing what was defined in the original job description.

That’s almost never the case. I believe that’s a big reason why new hires fail. So, how can you hire for the changing nature of the work?

The job description

When a manager needs work done, HR uses a process that starts with the manager describing the requirements of the job. This conventionally includes the tasks, a list of necessary qualifications, and some flowery promises about the company environment.

HR adds whatever it believes will attract the best and most applicants. Too often, HR’s largesse exceeds the limits of reality. For example, a job for a programmer will require “at least 5 years’ experience” with a scripting language that was invented only two years ago. HR always figures more is better — but doesn’t bother to check with the manager. Or, a go-fer job in the marketing department is characterized as “Senior Marketing Staff,” because it should attract really talented go-fers.

What happens after the job description

Even if the job description is truthful and accurate, almost every job runs head-long into a wall. Six months into it, the new hire is not doing what they were hired to do, but different work and usually more work. That’s because most jobs evolve to fill the ever-changing needs of a business.

The problem is, employers don’t hire for changing needs. HR takes a blurry (and wishful) snapshot of “a job,” fixed in time and in someone’s imagination, larding it with enough “requirements” to make a purple squirrel gag. (There are other ways HR goes off the rails with its hiring methods. See Why does HR waste time, money and the best job candidates?)

Deliverables

Can a “job description” ever be a useful tool in recruiting and hiring? As a headhunter, I’ve always read job descriptions once, then tossed them aside. I call the manager and find out what kind of evolving work the manager really needs done over the next year or two.

Here’s what I ask about:

What’s the problem? What do you want your new hire to make, fix or improve?

What’s the deliverable? What should the new hire deliver to the person working downstream from them? For example, a design engineer needs to deliver a certain part of a subsystem design to the system designer or project manager. What does that part of the subsystem look like and what must it do?

What’s the schedule? What do you need the new hire to deliver or accomplish in the first week, month, three months, six and 12 months on the job? Be specific. The deliverables must be defined in objective terms everyone agrees on. They must be measurable in amount, degree and quality — what are the metrics?

How does the work fit? Finally, and perhaps most important, how will the new hire fit into the larger work flow and objectives of the team, the department and the entire company? This is key, because it suggests what else the new hire must be able to do or learn to do.

Please note that your HR people are in no position to ask these questions and to discuss the details that underpin them. Your managers must do it. While a good headhunter can help them, you don’t need a headhunter if you get on top of this yourself.

Are you doing what you were hired for?

There’s a thing I do when I speak to seasoned managers in executive MBA programs at Wharton, UCLA, Northwestern and other business schools. I ask for a show of hands:

“Who has a job where what you were doing six months into it matched the job description you interviewed for?”

Of course, I get a lot of hoots and LMAOs. No one has ever asserted they were doing what they were hired for to start with.

What to ask job applicants

I suggest you direct your managers to answer the questions above about every job they think they need to fill. My guess is they will find that some jobs have no justification or value. I think they will find that the work that needs to be done is best defined in terms of deliverables that continue to change.

Three good questions for job applicants might be:

  1. Can you please show us how you would deliver X, Y and Z in three months, six months and 12 months?
  2. How would you help these 3 other teams deliver their objectives?
  3. How would you help the company achieve goals A, B and C?

I won’t even get into discussing your company’s plans for new projects, products or services — but your managers need to assess whether job candidates can shift gears quickly to meet the company’s changing needs. One good way to do this is to have applicants spend time with your teams before you hire them, so everyone can see how everyone else thinks and works. (But don’t go here: I think they expect me to work for free.) Of course, it’s your responsibility (and your managers’) to show applicants how you teach employees to do new kinds of work.

Please forget about filling jobs. Think about hiring people who can do changing work and deliver specific outcomes, and who can intelligently discuss how they might contribute to your company’s specific objectives.

There’s not a job description in this mix.

Does the work you do today match the job description you were hired for? How should employers assess job applicants to maximize success for everyone? What’s the most effective way you’ve assessed or been assessed for a job?

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HireVue: Selling AI snake oil to gullible HR

HireVue: Selling AI snake oil to gullible HR

AI

 

A face-scanning algorithm increasingly decides whether you deserve the job

HireVue claims it uses artificial intelligence to decide who’s best for a job. Outside experts call it ‘profoundly disturbing.’

Source: The Washington Post

AI

An artificial intelligence [AI] hiring system has become a powerful gatekeeper for some of America’s most prominent employers. Designed by the recruiting-technology firm HireVue, the system uses candidates’ computer or cellphone cameras to analyze their facial movements, word choice and speaking voice before ranking them against other applicants.

More than 100 employers now use the system, including Hilton, Unilever and Goldman Sachs, and more than a million job seekers have been analyzed. But some AI researchers argue the system is digital snake oil — an unfounded blend of superficial measurements and arbitrary number-crunching that is not rooted in scientific fact.

 

Nick’s take

Human Resources executives have always been suckers for HR technology. “It’s AI”! But real AI experts say now HR has jumped the shark. Er, snake. Ever willing to swallow the venture-funded concoctions of database jockeys masquerading as recruiting experts, HR doesn’t give a hoot about science — or common sense when hiring. So bring in those candidates, scrub ’em up and get ’em ready! The venture investors behind HireVue are delivering digital snake oil, and HR is holding the funnel. Are you ready to swallow it? We’ve covered this before, but the story keeps, uh, coming up.

What’s your take?

  • What do you think of AI in the recruiting and hiring process?
  • Have you ever sat for a cognitive facial scan with a straight face?
  • If you’re an employer, would you feed this stuff to your job applicants?

 

 

 

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What are you afraid of when job hunting?

What are you afraid of when job hunting?

In the October 22, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter the headhunter turns the table on readers who encounter hobgoblins when job hunting.

Nick’s Question

This week, I’m going to change up the Q&A. Rather than take a question from one reader and answer it, I’m going to ask all of you readers a question that seems to be at the root of many problems.

job huntingWhat are you afraid of when job hunting?

I’m prompted to ask you this question by the many Talk to Nick troubleshooting sessions I’ve done with people from all walks of work. Every one of them seems to be afraid of some aspect of the job search experience.

It literally scares them.

Successful, talented, competent people go job hunting only now and then — it’s not an experience they’ve mastered. So they tend to look for a safe, simple model of behavior to follow.

And the models they find are wrong. You can’t write a resume or profile, look for “matching” jobs, apply and get interviews and then job offers.

It doesn’t work.

Faced with this unfamiliar challenge — to pick a job and then get hired — where the usual rules of business fail, otherwise competent people become incredibly frustrated and confused. When they’re at their jobs, they know exactly what to say and do. But suddenly, they’re treading water, waiting for someone else to determine their future.

They try to control their panic as they realize it doesn’t matter how good they are at the work they do. The “employment system” demands something else.

But — What??

What frightens you when you’re job hunting? What do you dread?

Your reply

Post your responses in the comments section below, and let’s help one another out!

Please don’t be afraid to share your fears. We’re here to put an end to them and give you the confidence and control you need over your job search! So bare your soul and we’ll all do our best to find answers and solace among friends.

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I think they expect me to work for free

I think they expect me to work for free

In the October 15, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader wonders whether he’s being asked to do a job interview or to work for free.

Question

work for free

I’m interviewing with a large start-up co-working company. The position is in part a strategy role. They asked me to create a fairly involved business plan for a product launch that they are planning to offer in a few months. I am concerned that this is an effort to get free analysis out of me. They’ll take my plan and then leave me in the cold. Do you see a way to move forward without providing free consulting services?

Nick’s Reply

I think it’s actually a good sign when an employer asks you to “do the job to win the job.” In fact, I teach job candidates to offer to do the work during the interview process, to show they’re worth hiring. (See The shortcut to success in job interviews.)

But I draw a clear line between a demonstration and working for free.

Start doing the job

I suggest you take them up on their request. Tell them you’re excited about the opportunity.

How to Say It

“I’ll prepare a plan and show you what I can do. And by the way, if I can’t demonstrate how I can do this job in a way that will bring more profit to your bottom line, you should not hire me.”

That’s a very unusual, powerful position to take that will make you stand out. It also requires that you are prepared and know what you’re doing — or why attend such an interview?

Stop doing the job

Then deliver a skeleton of a plan — just one or two powerful pages — that will leave them wanting more. Yes, tease them. Leave plenty of room to hang details on the bones later. Don’t explain why you cut it short. Let them call you to say they want the rest.

When they ask you where “the beef” is, chuckle, then say the following.

How to Say It

“I love you guys and I think I could make a big impact on your launch. I’ve got the rest of my plan outlined and I’d be happy to flesh out the details for you when I start the job. Of course, I’d be glad to complete the plan in any case if what you really want is a consulting engagement. My daily consulting rate is $2,000 remote and $2,500 on-site.”

Say no more than that. Don’t quote an hourly rate. The best consultants quote daily. Then let them decide what they want to do.

Now wait for it

What’s important about this approach is that you’re not saying “No” to their request. You’re saying, “Yes, BUT.” Yes, you’ll produce what they asked for, but it’s not free.

Then wait for it, because it’s their move.

My guess is you’ll hear nothing back. If I’m right, I’d forget about them. They know you’re smarter than they’d guessed, and they’re cheapskates who aren’t going to pay anyone fair value even if they make a hire.

If they’re really interested in your ideas and willing to do business with you on the up and up, they will respond. They may not want to use you as a consultant, but they may suggest an alternative, fair way to proceed — as you just did.

Work for an offer but don’t work for free

Never work for free. I’ve seen this “put a plan together for us” gambit from unscrupulous employers many times. It doesn’t turn out well.

But give them a chance to appropriately explore with you the possibilities of working together. Determine whether they’re ready to pay you, one way or the other. Maybe they have integrity. This is how you find out.

Have you gotten burned by employers that want free work? How did you handle it? Do you agree that it’s a good idea to actually demonstrate how you’ll do a job? How do you tease without giving it all away for free?

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