Should I tell Company B that Company A just fired me?

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firedIn the March 26, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader gets fired right in the middle of interviewing with another employer.

Question

I started talking to Company B about a new job and after a few interviews things were looking really good. I then got terminated by Company A from my current job. (I didn’t do anything illegal or anything like that, but I was fired, for sure). Now it looks like Company B is ready to make an offer. Should I tell them that I’m no longer employed by Company A? I want to be honest and open but don’t want to throw a wrench in the works.

Nick’s Reply

Would your termination (and the facts surrounding it) at Company A make a material difference in your ability to do the job properly at Company B?

If not, I see no reason to disclose that you’re no longer employed by Company A (or that you were fired) if you prefer not to. One good reason not to disclose is to protect your ability to negotiate. The other, of course, is that some companies have a bias against The Unemployed — and that could throw a wrench into the deal. Why risk it if you don’t have to?

But don’t lie about it if you are asked, including on an application or other forms you are required to fill out and sign your name to. Tell the truth. Once you sign contracts, it gets more complicated and you might need advice from an attorney.

If someone does bring it up at this juncture, I think the best answer is honest and simple and probably goes like this.

How to Say It:

“I started looking for a new job and interviewing with you for several reasons. One is that I didn’t want to work at my old company any more and as of a few days ago — after we started talking — I’m no longer working there. Another reason is that I wanted to join a better company working with better people where I’m encouraged to contribute to the bottom line. That’s why I’m here.”

I doubt it’ll get that far. We don’t need to tell everything as long as we tell what really matters to the people we’re going to work with. What matters is anything that will affect our ability to deliver the work we promise to do. No company has a right to any other part of you or your story — unless you sign a contract to that effect or the law requires it.

The important point is this: Focus the new employer on why you are talking with them, and on what you can do for them if they hire you.

Having said all that, I don’t know any more details than you’ve shared, and I don’t know whether any questions will come up or in what form. My advice is not as important as your own good judgment, so consider all the factors you’re aware of. I hope what I’ve said helps you somehow, and I’d love to know how this turns out. I wish you the best.

Do you have any obligation to disclose getting fired? How about if you got fired after the hiring process started? Is there a difference? How would you handle this situation?

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Should I move for a 30% salary increase?

Should I move for a 30% salary increase?
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In the March 19, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader asks whether a big salary increase is enough reason to accept a job offer.

Question

A rival company has offered me a job with a 30% salary increase. I know there are other things to consider, but it’s such a big pay bump that I think it may be sufficient reason to move. Should I accept it?

Nick’s Reply

salary increaseOnly if money is your prime motivator. If it is, go for it. Of course, without any other information, I can’t really give you very thoughtful advice. But in general, this is a scenario that people sometimes face, so let’s deal with it generally.

No matter how big it is, I look at three things when a job candidate receives an offer, in addition to the money. If I were you, I’d compare the new company to your current employer on these factors, in this order of importance:

  1. The people
  2. The products
  3. The company’s reputation
  4. The company’s prospects
  5. The company’s finances

Whose are better? Try to put a value on each of those factors, then include them in your analysis.

It’s the people, Stupid

I’d give the most weight to the people you’ll be working with. Are they smart? Highly skilled? Dedicated to their work and the company? Do they demonstrate high integrity? Are they a tight-knit group that works well together? Do they mentor and help one another?

This matters especially with regard to the company’s management, of course.

Even if the company doesn’t score tops on the other four factors, a great team can compensate and drive the company to success. On the other hand, if the people aren’t great, it doesn’t matter how good the products, reputation, future prospects are finances are. That old saw is true: It’s the people, Stupid. You’re (hopefully) going to be living with them a long time.

What the world sees

The next three factors are intertwined. A company’s products, and new products it’s got coming down the pipeline, affect its reputation and future prospects.

Pay close attention not only to how the company’s customers regard the company, but also to how it is viewed by the business community, the business media, its competitors and its market.

You may have found a good job and great money, but the financial gain from that big salary bump may be very short-lived if those other factors aren’t strong.

Is the business sound financially?

Few job hunters consider the financial aspects of a job beyond the pay. That’s foolish. I’ve never accepted a job without first meeting with the Chief Financial Officer. I want to know about receivables and payables, sources of funding for operations and growth, and — if it is publicly traded — how the company’s stock has performed. Believe it or not, I worry more about whether a company is responsive to its employees than I am about how it responds to its investors — but how investors judge a company matters greatly. I also want to know how the company treats its vendors — does it pay them on time?

If a company isn’t sound financially, you’re probably not going to have that job very long, no matter what it pays.

Is it all real?

I’ve seen people move for money or other factors, only to regret it after they realized the image they had of the new company didn’t match the reality. It’s common for an employer to present a great image to job applicants. But it’s up to you to look under the hood of this machine!

Due diligence

Here’s my advice. Once you have a bona fide job offer, tell the company you’d like to come in for a day to shadow your new boss and the team you’d be working on. This is proper due diligence. (See How can I find the truth about a company?)

Ask to meet people upstream and downstream from your job. That is, other employees whose work product will affect your ability to do your work successfully, and employees whose work on what you produce will impact your success. For example, if you work in engineering, you need to know who is conceiving the products you will have to design and whether the sales team is competent to actually get customers to buy them.

Follow the money

Ask to meet the head of the finance department. That’s right — you may know nothing about finance, but you should have this meeting anyway. Check my comments above for some ideas about what to ask in that meeting. Even if the company is privately held, the finance officer should acknowledge your interest in your new employer’s financial state and philosophy. (The first time I did this, the V.P. of Finance was pleasantly surprised to see that a new employee cared about the finances — he loved it. Throughout my time at the company, I had a friend in a high place!)

Interview the company

When the company is done interviewing you and makes a commitment by extending a written offer, that’s the time to seriously interview the company.

A section of this article suggests how to check several key factors about an offer: 13 lies employers tell about job offers.

There’s a section about Due Diligence in one of my Fearless Job Hunting books that you may find helpful, too: Ask The Headhunter Store.

It’ll cost you about a day to do these meetings, but it may save you a lot of heartache. If the company declines to let you come back in, I’d refuse the job offer, no matter how great the money is.

A company that welcomes your interest in learning more before you make a commitment reveals something you can’t learn in a normal job interview — that it really respects its employees. The added bonus is that all the people you talk to during this extra day of meetings — if you take the job — will take you all the more seriously as a co-worker.

I wish you the best.

What factors do you consider when evaluating a job offer? Is a big raise ever enough reason to change employers? (This is not a loaded question: It actually might be.) What other factors would you add to my list above?

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Manager goes around HR to recruit and hire

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In the March 12, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a manager reveals how he recruits and hires better by doing it himself.

The DIY manager

managerI’m a hiring manager in engineering and have benefited greatly from your articles as both someone looking to hire talent and as a potential employee. (Most recently: Want the job? Go around HR.) Thanks for the great work and advice.

Things I do differently now:

I do not let HR filter resumes

I review all resumes myself and allocate time to read any that look promising. This was a big change for HR and I was surprised at the initial push-back!

What I found was that HR was hyper-focused on keywords and actually trying to steer hiring managers based on criteria rather than technical skills and relevant experience. It was eye-opening. And yes, doing it myself significantly improved my ability to find great people for my team and the company.

I am always recruiting

I typically spend between one to four hours a week recruiting and interviewing, but it depends on the size of the organization and state of the business. I am always looking for top talent, and I occasionally create openings for the “right” people.

I find it can take months or even years to entice superstar candidates.

Referrals, one at a time

At the moment, I receive most candidate resumes through other hiring managers, directors and V.P.s, who review them individually. Most of my actual hires are referrals from within the company or people I know and go after directly. This is probably not typical of most companies, but we are a small company (50-75 people) doing very specialized work.

I do not apply for jobs posted on websites

Nor do I invest time in random cold calls and e-mails from recruiters, specifically commercial job boards and recruiters that find me on LinkedIn or other websites.

The best access to job opportunities is through your network of current and past co-workers, hiring managers, and reputable recruiters. This can be challenging early in your career, but it also emphasizes the importance of doing good work and not burning bridges.

Thanks again for helping to educate employees and hiring managers everywhere. This stuff should really be taught in school. Do you do seminars for graduating college and university students?

John Phillips

Nick’s Reply

Thanks for your kind note and description of how you hire. (I added some subheadings to emphasize your main points.) I can’t compliment you enough for making recruiting and hiring so personal, and for going around the institutional claptrap.

Going around HR

Taking HR out of the process like you do creates more work for hiring managers – work that should never have been delegated to HR to begin with. (See Why HR should get out of the hiring business.) While some HR folks are savvy about engineering, for example, only the hiring manager really understands the work and grasps the constellation of skills and expertise that would best serve a job.

A manager’s DIY methods for recruiting and hiring

HR has become such an institutionalized method of recruiting at arm’s length that most managers don’t realize how huge the pay-off can be if they invest their own — significant — time in recruiting and candidate selection. Very few managers are as active as you are in finding, assessing and pursuing the best candidates.

You have outlined a critical process, and I’d like to emphasize the things you do to recruit and hire:

  1. You avoid letting HR “filter” resumes
  2. Read and judge resumes yourself
  3. Devote time to review the most promising resumes in depth
  4. Avoid the distractions of so-called keywords and “criteria”
  5. Choose candidates based on technical skills and relevant experience
  6. Avoid random calls and e-mails from recruiters you don’t know or trust
  7. Avoid database-driven solicitations
  8. Devote time each week to recruiting and interviewing
  9. Personally and actively look for and recruit top talent all the time
  10. Invest months or years to personally pursue and entice the best candidates
  11. Prefer personal assessments and referrals from reputable people you trust
  12. Create new jobs for the best talent
  13. Find your own job opportunities through trusted personal contacts

That’s a powerful deviation from the contemporary, HR-driven, norm — and absolutely necessary if a manager wants to build a great team of the best people. No one can manage finding you a job, and no one can manage your hiring better than you can. I think any manager can learn and benefit from the steps you follow to recruit and hire.

As you’ve found, it’s common to get push-back from HR when you insist on doing your own recruiting and hiring. Hiring is and must always be The manager’s #1 job. And as you’ve also found, the same rules and methods you use to fill jobs will serve you well when you pursue a new job yourself.

“This stuff should be taught in school”

LIVE Ask The Headhunter

On Tuesday, March 19, 2019 7:30 p.m., I’m presenting 30 Contrarian Job Hunting Tips in 30 Minutes at the Career Forum, a program of the Somerset Hills YMCA, 140 Mount Airy Road, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920.

Free, open to all. If you’re nearby, I hope you’ll join us — and please stick around to say hi afterwards!

Thanks again for your kind words. To answer your question, yes, I do presentations and workshops for students and new grads. (Including Executive MBA students.) And you’re absolutely correct: This stuff should really be taught in school.

While schools and professional groups hire me for such gigs, I also make a point of doing as many pro bono events as I can each year — for new grads and seasoned professionals. I like to get people from all parts of the career cycle into a room so we can talk and share ideas — and contacts!

It’s a stunning failure of many high schools, colleges and universities that they don’t adequately prepare students for work, and that includes job seeking and hiring. Although I’m a big fan and defender of a liberal arts education, and of education for its own sake, I don’t think any school can justify not incorporating serious lessons about how to get and keep a job into every curriculum. Perhaps the only thing more stunning is that parents who foot the bill for a college education don’t demand it. (See Your First Job: 20 pointers for new graduates.)

A challenge to managers: Do your own recruiting and hiring!

I want to thank manager John Phillips for sharing his recruiting and hiring practices with us. (And it does take practice!) But I don’t think any manager who leaves these crucial tasks to HR is really managing. Do you?

If you’re a manager, what’s your take on all this? Is recruiting and hiring your job — or is it mostly (or entirely) HR’s? How do you do it at your company? What additional tips would you add to the list above? If you’re a job seeker, how often do you encounter managers who do it themselves? Is it any better when HR is merely peripheral to the process?

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Want the job? Go around HR

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In the March 5, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader wastes time begging HR.

Question

Can I re-apply for a job if there are vacancies still open after my application has been turned down?

HRNick’s Reply

Of course you can. But why would you want to? Fool me once, fool me twice — you’ve already learned this company chews up applications and spits them out without even talking to the applicant.

Think about this: The hiring manager probably doesn’t even know you applied! The manager probably has never seen your resume! A personnel clerk with no expertise in the work you do (or in the open job) put a big X on your application.

But there’s a smart alternative: Go around Human Resources (HR). Go around the job application form.

Go around the system

The conventional advice on this problem is that if HR has already rejected you, you shouldn’t waste your time. But that’s like the boy who shows up to a girl’s house to ask her on a date — and the gardener shoos him away, so he gives up.

Personnel jockeys don’t control the jobs, so don’t let their officious posturing convince you that they do. They control the applications — but don’t go that route! Don’t take no for an answer until you hear it straight from the hiring manager.

Go around HR

Get in the door without an application, and without facing the “job application meat grinder software.” Here are the basic steps for going around the system — though they are not for the meek.

1. Throw out your resume.

The average time a manager spends reading a resume is six seconds. It’s not a good way to get in the door. (See Tear your resume in half.) Don’t use a resume.

2. Don’t apply for jobs. Find problems to solve.

You have millions of competitors applying for millions of jobs, so stop competing with them. Don’t submit job applications. Instead, read the business and industry press. Find a handful of companies that have specific, well-publicized problems. Decide how you can help solve those problems. (If you can’t figure that out, then that company or job is not for you.)

3. Find the managers.

HR will tell you you’re not allowed to contact hiring managers directly. That’s the best reason to contact the managers directly! But don’t ask the managers for a job. Talk shop. Explain that you’ve learned about their problem. (See How to get to the hiring manager.)

4. Offer a solution.

Whether in person, by phone or e-mail (in that order of preference) briefly explain to the manager how you can help solve the problem. Outline your solution in 3-5 steps. Don’t give all the details — but your summary had better be good.

5. Ask for a 20-minute meeting, not a job interview.

“If you’ll spend 20 minutes with me, I’ll show you why I’d be a profitable hire. If I can’t prove it to you in those 20 minutes, I will leave.”

That’s no easy task. But if you can’t show in 20 minutes why you’re worth hiring, then you have no business in that meeting. Of course, you will have to present a more detailed “proof” if the manager is impressed.

Everything else is a waste of time, designed to make busy work for HR that looks like productivity. You can and should apply for a job you believe — and can prove — you can do. But don’t waste your time applying on a form to the HR department.

For more about this approach to landing the job you want, please see Skip The Resume: Triangulate to get in the door.

If you want another shot at another job at this company, of course you can try again! But don’t waste your time with the gate keeper. Go talk to the real decision maker!

Now get to work, because doing what I suggest is hard work — as hard as that great job you want. So do the work to prove you can do the job.

I’d like to hear from those who are willing to invest the time and effort to try what I’ve suggested. Any takers? How do you go around HR?

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