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In the July  30, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter we skip the Q&A and look at the news!

News?? Hey — where’s the Q&A???

Curated News with a point!

In place of the regular, weekly Q&A column, I want to introduce you to a new Ask The Headhunter feature section, News I want you to use!

(The Q&A will be back next week! Catch up on some of the recent Q&A columns in the Latest Posts list on the right sidebar.)

If you want to skip this introduction, you may jump right over to the first edition of News I want you to use: Employers are hiring all wrong! Published in the Harvard Business Review, it’s a devastating analysis by Wharton labor researcher Peter Cappelli of why companies can’t fill key jobs and why you can’t get hired. I can’t wait to see your comments about it.

What’s it mean?

Like many of you, I’m a voracious reader of news. Readers send me links to useful articles every day, and I learn something new about topics that affect job hunting and hiring from almost every one of them.

But what good is all this information if we can’t share, digest and discuss it? You’ve helped make Ask The Headhunter the leading community of thoughtful, serious job seekers and managers who gather regularly to discuss the problems and challenges of job hunting and hiring. We share great advice — but I think we’re missing a big bet.

The great links you frequently share tell me Ask The Headhunter needs a digest of curated news we can all use — content from other good sources, curated by us and for us!

News I want you to use will include:

  • A link to a provocative news item
  • Dialogue about what it means for job hunters and employers
  • How you might be able to benefit from it
  • And, most important, your comments and insights — and loads of discussion!

News I want you to USE!

There are loads of lists of rehashed career stories all over the web. But there are also many news items that can make a difference in your professional life — if you know how to interpret them. This isn’t the same-old “career news” — it’s business news that can give you an edge when job hunting or hiring! By highlighting useful articles, I hope we can put an even sharper edge on what we do around here — help one another advance our careers.

News I want you to use is just the first of several new features I plan to add to Ask The Headhunter to stimulate more great ideas and dialogue about job hunting, hiring and success at work.

New menu

I’ve created a new pull-down on the main menu above — Sections — and I’ve added a graphic at the top of the right-sidebar of this new section so you’ll know where you are. Like a themed section in a magazine, News I want you to use will be self-contained, so you’ll find only recent News items in the right sidebar. You can always click Home to return to the Ask The Headhunter home page, or go to the Q&A section from the main menu above.

(The weekly Q&A column will also get its own section shortly. And there’s more to come.)

Keep ’em coming!

Most of the curated news items presented will be brief — the first one is longer because I’m experimenting, and I’d love your input on how you would like this to work.

I promise you I’ll try to find the best online content that you can use to advance your job hunting, hiring and career efforts — and, of course, I expect you’ll send me links to content, news and articles you think we should share and discuss. To all of you that regularly send me great links, please keep ’em coming — now our entire community will be able to enjoy them.

News will be updated several times between the regular, weekly Q&A columns. I hope you enjoy this new Ask The Headhunter section. Please help me shape it as a great new resource.

Let’s have some fun with this!

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Employers are hiring all wrong

Employers are hiring all wrong
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Most employers don’t know whether their hiring methods actually produce good hires, or how much time or money it costs to fill jobs. They don’t review the outcomes of their methods.

“Obsessed with new technologies and driving down costs, they largely ignore the ultimate goal: making the best possible hires,” says Wharton labor researcher Peter Cappelli, in the Harvard Business Review article, “Your Approach to Hiring Is All Wrong.”

What this means to you

Go around the recruiting and hiring systems employers want you to use, because they don’t work.

Summary

Cappelli says the root cause of most hiring is drastically poor retention. You’re most likely to change jobs and employers because your current employer is unlikely to promote you and provide new opportunities internally. This creates churn in the labor market and, ultimately, results in tremendous costs to fill jobs — an average of $4,129 per job in the United States.

Excerpts

Where are the hiring metrics?

Only about a third of U.S. companies report that they monitor whether their hiring practices lead to good employees; few of them do so carefully, and only a minority even track cost per hire and time to hire. Imagine if the CEO asked how an advertising campaign had gone, and the response was “We have a good idea how long it took to roll out and what it cost, but we haven’t looked to see whether we’re selling more.”

Failure to develop employees

In the era of lifetime employment, from the end of World War II through the 1970s, corporations filled roughly 90% of their vacancies through promotions and lateral assignments. Today the figure is a third or less. When they hire from outside, organizations don’t have to pay to train and develop their employees. Since the restructuring waves of the early 1980s, it has been relatively easy to find experienced talent outside. Only 28% of talent acquisition leaders today report that internal candidates are an important source of people to fill vacancies—presumably because of less internal development and fewer clear career ladders.

More is bad, so scare away the applicants

Recruiting and hiring consultants and vendors estimate that about 2% of applicants receive offers. Unfortunately, the main effort to improve hiring—virtually always aimed at making it faster and cheaper—has been to shovel more applicants into the funnel.

Much better to go in the other direction: Create a smaller but better-qualified applicant pool to improve the yield… If the goal is to get better hires in a cost-effective manner, it’s more important to scare away candidates who don’t fit than to jam more candidates into the recruiting funnel.

Hiring good employees

How to determine which candidates to hire—what predicts who will be a good employee—has been rigorously studied at least since World War I. The personnel psychologists who investigated this have learned much about predicting good hires that contemporary organizations have since forgotten, such as that neither college grades nor unstructured sequential interviews (hopping from office to office) are a good predictor, whereas past performance is.

Since it can be difficult (if not impossible) to glean sufficient information about an outside applicant’s past performance, what other predictors are good? … There is general agreement… that testing to see whether individuals have standard skills is about the best we can do… Only 40% of employers, however, do any tests of skills or general abilities, including IQ. What are they doing instead? Seventy-four percent do drug tests, including for marijuana use…

The advice on selection is straightforward: Test for skills. Ask assessments vendors to show evidence that they can actually predict who the good employees will be. Do fewer, more-consistent interviews.

HR vendors: Fresh & cool but unvalidated

Be wary of vendors bearing high-tech gifts. Into the testing void has come a new group of entrepreneurs who either are data scientists or have them in tow. They bring a fresh approach to the hiring process—but often with little understanding of how hiring actually works… These vendors have all sorts of cool-sounding assessments, such as computer games that can be scored to predict who will be a good hire. We don’t know whether any of these actually lead to better hires, because few of them are validated against actual job performance.

Wild HR technology

When applications come—always electronically—applicant-tracking software sifts through them for key words that the hiring managers want to see. Then the process moves into the Wild West, where a new industry of vendors offer an astonishing array of smart-sounding tools that claim to predict who will be a good hire. They use voice recognition, body language, clues on social media, and especially machine learning algorithms—everything but tea leaves. Entire publications are devoted to what these vendors are doing.

News I want you to use

What all this tells us is that employers suck at hiring, and if you follow the rules the Employment System itself is likely to prevent you from landing a new job — because it doesn’t work. Go around!

Employers don’t assess outcomes of hiring methods

It’s impossible to get better at hiring if you can’t tell whether the candidates you select become good employees. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. You must have a way to measure which employees are the best ones.

Why is that not getting through to companies? Surveyed employers say the main reason they don’t examine whether their practices lead to better hires is that measuring employee performance is difficult.

Treat your job search like a business task

Like the sales manager who asks, “Is what we’re doing generating sales?”, you must learn to ask, “Is what I’m doing getting me job offers?”

Your boss checks to see whether the work you are doing yields the expected results — that’s a business task.

  • Pursue companies carefully — don’t chase job postings
  • Look for managers who know how to recruit and hire
  • Control your interactions with every employer

Just because employers behave like dummies when it comes to hiring doesn’t mean you have to play along or encourage them. Apply your business skills to the business task of getting the right job.

Organizations that don’t check to see how well their practices predict the quality of their hires are lacking in one of the most consequential aspects of modern business.

The truth hurts employers, but it hurts job seekers even more. I’ve only touched on what you can do to capitalize on Cappelli’s findings and suggestions. How can we use this news?

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Why does HR waste time, money and the best job candidates?

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In the July  23, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter we take a look at how HR actually spends money to recruit the talent — or not.

In a recent column (10 reasons your company’s HR can’t fill jobs) we discussed how HR organizations bungle recruiting and hiring — when they have massive resources at their disposal. Reader David posted a comment and some questions that have nagged at me ever since. Why does HR reinvent the wheel every time it needs to fill a job?

Question

HRHR is paying for an ATS [applicant tracking system] to store/file what’s coming through the pipeline. They are already sitting on a pile of resumes. Why not just turn the spigot off, and contact the people you already have in your pile?

Or worse yet, HR engages so-called third-party recruiters or headhunters who present the same people already in your database. I’ve had stuff like this happen to me before. I apply directly and interview for job X, but don’t get it. Later, a third-party agency comes knocking, asking if I’m interested in applying for the same job at the same company!

In other words, if you fill a position, you likely had people that were runners-up and could have done the job nearly as well as the person you hired. When you have another opening for the same role, why not call those people? Why not give them first crack at the job before you pay money for yet another job advert and waste time (we know that time = money) screening a new batch of people?

I’m not necessarily sticking up for ATS usage here, just so we’re clear.

Nick’s Reply

I don’t read your suggestion as an endorsement of ATSes, resume databases or automated recruiting. You’ve cut to the core of what hiring should be all about: relationships between employers and people (aka, talent). Let’s look at why HR wastes good job candidates it has already met.

Personal contacts are a valuable asset

Whether these candidates arrived through an ATS, a third-party recruiter, or a personal referral, we’re talking about a special set of people: those who were judged worthy by the employer after interviews and assessments. That is, these are all now “personal contacts” — people the company knows, who are pre-screened, vetted, and somehow qualified.

In other words, unlike unknown people, they are already deemed good candidates for jobs at the company. That’s an asset worth a lot of money. After all, virtually every hiring survey ever done tells us that most jobs are found and filled through personal contacts. Every candidate a company meets is a new personal contact that it has already paid for. So your question should rattle every corporate finance executive: Why do companies pay again and again to hook the same fish and throw it back into the water?

What’s a personal contact worth?

I’ll let you in on a little secret about the dollar value of personal contacts. When headhunters find good candidates for their client companies, they stay in touch with those people even if they’re not hired. Having already invested in getting to know them, headhunters know these candidates are incredibly valuable — not just as potential placements at other client companies, but as sources of other good candidates.

When a headhunter gets paid $25,000 to fill a $100,000 job, a good-but-rejected job candidate is likely to be worth at least that much money on another assignment. These are people the headhunter keeps close for years to come. The headhunter will bring other opportunities to them, and even do favors for them when possible, to foster good relationships that are likely to pay off later — whether as placements or as sources of referrals to fill other assignments. One well-cultivated personal contact like this can be worth $25,000, $50,000, or upwards of $100,000 in future fees. (See Good Headhunters: They search for living resumes.)

HR: People are a fungible commodity

I suspect that because HR managers and internal recruiters are not paid like headhunters, for actually filling a position, those personnel jockeys aren’t concerned with maintaining relationships with good candidates. Does HR even know whether a hiring manager judged the person a good candidate before hiring someone else?

Because HR’s recruiting model depends on an automated system that delivers scads of new applicants every day, HR is not so concerned with tracking who it doesn’t hire. HR views job applicants as fungible, or interchangeable — and easily replaced.

While HR might pay a headhunter $20,000 or $30,000 for one hire, HR doesn’t see the potential future value in the other good candidates HR interviewed but didn’t hire. There’s no money to cultivate professional connections, but there’s always money to buy more resumes.

Why recruit again and again?

Over 15 years ago I met with top executives at two different companies — major players in their respective industries. They were independently interested in my suggestion that they make better use of time and money they had already invested to recruit, interview and assess job candidates who were qualified — but whom they could not hire. That is, these were surplus job candidates. They were worthy of serious consideration or worth hiring, but someone else was hired instead.

I pointed out to these executives that, when they have already spent a lot of money to recruit people, they should get the full return on their recruiting investment (ROI) by using smart methods to stay close to such good candidates. I offered to help build ongoing relationships with the best candidates without spending money to recruit them again.

The idea is simple, and it’s basically what you’re suggesting. Rather than reinvent the wheel every time a new job needs to be filled; rather than spend funds soliciting new resume submissions; rather than review thousands of unknown applicants (directly or via third-party recruiters); why not go back to candidates you’ve already interviewed — candidates you know? Why not turn to people you have already assessed as good candidates, but could not hire at the time?

The challenge, of course, is how to track and stay close to good candidates you don’t hire. That’s what I was selling. Neither company understood the value. In a moment, I’ll tell you more about what happened.

Excuses

I finally gave up trying to explain recruiting ROI to employers after one of my clients hired me to train its internal recruiters (who worked in the HR department) to “do it like a headhunter.” The recruiters understood everything I taught them about getting close to their candidates. But their HR boss — who paid me to do this training — wouldn’t let them practice what they learned. He didn’t want them spending time building relationships. He wanted them to process the newest batch of incoming job applications from the company’s latest job postings.

Of course, some new jobs really do require finding talent you’ve never encountered before; that’s a given. But it’s certainly true that people who impress us are valuable people to stay close to. The excuses employers offer for failing to keep good talent close are astonishing.

  • That’s not how we recruit.
  • Our ATS doesn’t support it.
  • We don’t have time to stay in touch with people.
  • Resumes have a short lifespan — a few months later, they’re out of date and thus worthless.
  • A year, or even a month, after being interviewed, a candidate’s employment status could change.
  • They might not be interested.
  • They might take another job.
  • They might have moved or retired or otherwise be unavailable.

HR: Relationships don’t apply!

But the simpler answers to my questions are painfully obvious:

  • HR is not compensated for cultivating relationships, only for processing applicants.
  • HR is not compensated for filling jobs, but mainly for interview transactions.
  • HR has a budget for job boards, but not for staying in touch with good talent.
  • HR does not fully exploit the single largest channel of good candidates — personal contacts — except with paltry employee-referral programs.
  • HR metrics do not capture the value of relationships, only the degree of matches between keywords on resumes and job descriptions.
  • There is no personal “high touch” protocol for developing relationships and personal contacts in the employer’s professional community.
  • HR relies almost completely on job boards, ATS vendors, and third-party recruiters that make money only when HR keeps paying to search for job candidates again and again.

In a nutshell, HR doesn’t actually recruit, catalog or pursue the best talent. (See HR Managers: Do your job, or get out.) HR pays to churn databases again and again for quick keyword matches.

Talent is not treated as a long-term asset to be held. Instead, people are reduced to job applications and resumes that are traded back and forth on job-board exchanges like commodities, or why would employers pay daily to sort through the same millions of resumes that their competitors repeatedly search?

HR technology vendors control recruiting

The problem is that the dominant hiring model peddled to HR by job-board and ATS providers — and accepted uncritically by HR —  is high-volume automated keyword matching. In other words, high-profit, rinse-and-repeat database services. (See HR Technology: Terrorizing the candidates.)

This churn-and-churn-again model of recruiting is controlled by HR technology vendors. And it is perhaps best exemplified by the manager at a Fortune 50 company who complained to me that he couldn’t get a few bucks to take good candidates out to dinner to recruit them. Why not? Because the big job boards and ATS firms wined and dined his company’s executives to ensure the entire recruiting budget was spent on job boards and ATS services.

If the potential future value of an individual job candidate actually mattered to HR, every applicant would receive a nice note after applying. We know that doesn’t happen because, why bother? There are 100 million more in the database where that one came from. Job applicants are fungible. Who cares about staying in touch with them? We can pay to access all of them anytime!

Our HR isn’t set up to operate this way

So, what happened with the two companies that considered my suggestions about protecting their recruiting ROI by fully capitalizing on good candidates they did not hire?

It was Company A’s V.P. of Public Relations that initiated this discussion with me. She believed building solid, long-term relationships with job candidates would be a good way to enhance the company’s “presence” in its professional community, as well as a good public relations story to help it stand out in general. However, the V.P. of HR squashed the idea because “Our HR isn’t set up to operate this way.”

At Company B, it was an innovative HR manager that wanted to implement methods I had suggested to cultivate and track good candidates that managers had interviewed and liked but could not hire. When time came to execute a contract to develop a program, the company’s legal department squashed it because it had no precedent on which to base an agreement. The HR manager gave up. “We don’t do relationships.”

In both cases, one thing was clear: Recruiting and hiring the best talent was not the mission. Adhering to the status quo was paramount.

Why not turn the spigot off?

Reader David asks, “Why not just turn the spigot off, and contact the people you already have in your pile?” It’s a good question, and it shines a bright light on the dizzy dance of musical chairs that HR calls recruiting — if we might mix metaphors.

Every time HR finishes with a job candidate it does not hire, it wastes time, money and talent when it does not cultivate a relationship to keep the talent close. Should an employer look first at all candidates that it paid to recruit last time, before it pays to recruit again? That’s a bit dicier because a company doesn’t assess (or interview) everyone it recruits, so it doesn’t have judgments — or personal knowledge — about all of them.

I’d be happy if employers fully exploited their contacts with people they already know. This includes anyone and everyone they do business with, including current and past employees! Where do you think we headhunters look to find many of the candidates we present to our clients? We don’t turn on a fire hose; we’d drown.

Why keep screening new batches of people?

What does HR learn after interviewing and rejecting loads of people for a job? What company conducts an outcomes analysis after recruiting for a position? Do companies ever catalog and cultivate the best candidates they meet? Echoing reader David, why do employers keep screening new batches of people when they likely have good candidates in their surplus pile? It seems they do it because they can, and because they don’t know better. (See How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.)

HR should capitalize on its investment in recruiting, interviewing and assessing people it judges worthy of serious consideration or worth hiring — even if it doesn’t hire them. Paying all over again to search for candidates with every new job opening benefits no one but job-board and ATS vendors who, as we’ve already pointed out, make the most money when employers keep going back to search again and again. That’s what outsourcing recruiting is all about — paying for repeated access to databases and keywords, and avoiding taking people to dinner to forge long-term professional relationships and personal networks that can pay off again and again — for the employer.

Is it smarter for employers to collect and cultivate relationships with the best talent? Or to advertise anew each time they need to fill a job? Are there any employers out there who stay close to good candidates after interviewing them? How do you do it?

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Resigning Your Job? Don’t tell.

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In the July  16, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader worries about resigning the wrong way.

Question

resigningI finally landed my next job after months of interviews. Now I don’t want to blow it until I’m actually on board at the new company. I say that because the last time I changed jobs I made the mistake of telling my boss too soon, before I even had a job offer. I thought he respected me enough to wish me well, but it blew up in my face. He told HR and I was walked out the door. I can use some advice. How should I handle it this time?

Nick’s Reply

Congratulations — now be careful!

Before I offer my suggestions, I’ll tell you about a vice president of engineering I placed. I moved Hans from the southern Florida “spook industry” (that’s what he called it) to San Jose, California, where he was hired to run an engineering department at a company that made state-of-the art communications equipment.

Resigning & telling

A week before Hans was to move his entire family and start the new job, the president of my client company called me. “Someone left me a worrisome voicemail. They didn’t leave their name and the number is untraceable. They said Hans has affiliations we should be aware of. What’s this about, Nick?”

The tight-knit Florida “spook industry” (purveyors of electronic equipment that spies use) didn’t like that Hans was leaving their little community and taking his insider knowledge with him. They made that call to nuke Hans’s new job — and his family’s future. Never mind how I found out; that’s my job. In the end, it all worked out and Hans had a long, successful career in San Jose.

What happened? Hans made the mistake of telling someone back home where he was going. Hans knew full well how to keep his mouth shut — that was the business he was in. But Hans also had a healthy ego and he wanted to impress some of his close friends, not realizing the risk he was taking.

Risking getting nuked

When I discussed this with him later — he was incredibly embarrassed at his own behavior — I explained risk to this seasoned executive.

“The risk that someone you told would hurt you was probably very small, so you overlooked it. The trouble is, even the tiniest risk is not worth taking when the potential consequences could be catastrophic. The tourist who climbs over the railing at the Grand Canyon to take a selfie knows the chances they’ll fall into the abyss are tiny. But the consequences are enormous. So it’s not prudent to take that risk.”

That’s why, when you plot your exit from one employer to another, you should never, ever disclose to anyone — least of all your boss and co-workers — what you’re about to do and where you’re going.

Don’t jump the gun

Ask yourself, who needs to know and what do they need to know? Your employer needs to know you’re leaving, but only when it’s safe for you to tell them. No one needs to know where you’re going — that’s private and confidential. And you can tell them later, when it’s safe.

The following is from my PDF book, Parting Company: How to leave your job. It’s just a short excerpt of the chapter, “Resign Yourself To Resigning Right,” pp. 42-43:

Too often, in the throes of deciding whether to accept a job offer, a person will start the resignation process too early. That is, he’ll let his boss know he’s thinking about leaving in an effort to get more input as he’s working through the decision. But he’s looking for advice in the wrong place. (See “Should I tell my boss I’m leaving?”, p. 38.)

Unless you have a rare boss who is more concerned about your future than about his own or the company’s, don’t do it. Regard any discussion about your potential resignation as tantamount to tendering it. Once you let the cat out of the bag… it may be impossible to put it back.

Word may get out among your co-workers, and it may affect their attitude about you. Your boss may view what you’ve divulged as an indication that you’ll continue looking, even if you don’t accept the job offer. And, if you haven’t yet made a decision, all that talk may lead you to make the wrong decision.

I’m a believer in getting advice and insight about a potential job change. But, I think it’s dangerous to seek such advice from people whose own jobs and lives will be impacted by your decision. If you work in a very tight-knit organization of mature professionals who respect one another both personally and professionally, your experience might contradict what I’m suggesting. But most people don’t work in such an environment. If you need advice, get it from a trusted peer or mentor who preferably works in another company. Don’t jump the gun. Don’t disclose your intentions when it might hurt you.

Protect yourself

My advice is to give notice to your employer only after you have a bona fide offer from the new employer in writing, signed by an officer of the company, and after you have accepted the offer in writing. Your acceptance letter should include a statement to the effect that you are “advising that my acceptance of this job will require me to resign my position at [the old employer] and to relinquish my income from that job, and that I will rely on the compensation of [$X — whatever the offer is] from you.”

Also covered in Parting Company:

  • Getting fired is a state of mind
  • Stock option handcuffs
  • Did you get downsized?
  • Should I take a package to quit?
  • How to handle exit interviews
  • What about counter-offers?

That “statement of reliance” is recommended by an employment lawyer who advises that it might protect you legally if the offer is withdrawn. (Please see Lawrence Barty’s comments in Job offer rescinded after I quit my old job, but please understand that this is not offered as legal advice in any particular situation.)

Don’t tell anyone at your old company where you are going, even if you’re so excited you could burst. Tell them you’ll be in touch once you’re settled into your new job (preferably for at least a couple of weeks) because you value your friendships and want to stay in touch. You can decide later whether you really want to do that.

If they beg to know where you’re going, just tell them that some headhunter once cautioned you to keep it confidential — and that when the time comes, they should, too.

Has resigning ever come back to bite you? What does your employer really need to know when you resign? How risky is it to tell people where you’re going? What “parting company” tips would you offer this reader?

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Don’t subcontract your job choices

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In the July  9, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader says all the job-search tools are mind boggling. What delivers the best job choices?

Question

job choicesI can’t decide whether to change employers or try for an internal move. I haven’t had to search for a new job in over a decade. The number of “tools” being marketed is mind boggling! Job sites, coaches, intelligent agents (really?), video resumes, and my favorite, services that use “big data” to match me to the perfect job. I tried one service that sends jobs to my mobile, but it’s spam. Can you recommend a few of the very best services to try?

Nick’s Reply

Your best job-search tool is the one between your ears. When you subcontract your job choices to someone (or something) else, you may wind up pursuing what comes along, rather than what you really want.

The employment industry is forever telling us that we need Big Data and career experts to guide us to our next great jobs. We need coaches and counselors and someone else to write our resumes. We need job boards and intelligent agents to deliver “opportunities” to our mobile devices. The problem is that while these tools may turn up something novel, they also lead us to relinquish our power to choose what’s best for us.

Which do you choose?

Try this little test. Think about going to interview with a company that found your resume in a database. What company? Well, one the database matched you to. So you go on the interview. How well would you come across in that meeting? How high would your enthusiasm and motivation be?

Now think about a product you really love, or a company you’d do flips to work for. Imagine what it would be like to meet and talk with a manager at that company. Exciting, eh? Incredibly motivating?

So, why would you let a database pick your next opportunity?

Relying too much on career help can make us passive and less effective. Take control of your career and learn how to advance it by pursuing what motivates you. How can you do this without automation and “professional” help? By taking small steps.

4 steps to your next job

In the world of psychology, we know that a daunting task — like job change – is best approached in steps. Succeed on the first little step, and you’re ready to take the next. Achieve several successes, and your confidence grows. Soon, you know you can reach the ultimate goal, and your self-assurance signals others that you’re worth hiring. Take charge. Take four steps on your own to get where you really want to go.

1. Talk to managers in your company

I’m glad you’re considering an internal move, especially if you feel you work for a good company. There are people who would pay a coach a lot of money for help to get a meeting with managers in your company. Yet, you can poke your head in almost any manager’s door almost any time you like. Pick one in an area you’re interested in. Introduce yourself. Ask the manager for advice and insight about how someone like you might fit into their area of the business.

Establish your credibility with the manager by briefly outlining what you accomplished last year in your current job. Talk about three things you did that helped the company. Then, ask the manager to name three challenges they see in their department. Suggest what you might be able to do to help. With proof of past success and ideas for what’s next, you have set the groundwork for an internal interview. It’s up to you to decide when is the right time to make a specific request.

2. Talk to a friend

Go visit a friend who works at a company you admire. Meet their co-workers and discuss your careers. What better way to “get in the door?” People pay to join networking groups to make new career contacts – but it’s hard to win the trust of strangers. So start with people that know you.

Your friends are the best sources of new contacts and ideas, if you put your heads together and consider who you know that can give you the advice and insight you want — before you actually need it. When you let other people open doors for you, it enhances your status. The next step is to return the favor: Offer introductions to the new folks you meet. One more step, one more success!

3. Talk to a company

Yes, directly. Not via a job ad or resume or recruiter. Pick your target company. Who do you know who knows someone who works there? How about the company’s customers, vendors, consultants, banker, accountant, or lawyer? I can almost guarantee you can find someone who will introduce you to an insider. (See Skip The Resume: Triangulate to get in the door.)

But, don’t ask them for a job interview. Instead, ask about their work. It’s an easy step – all you have to do is listen! Ask what they’re reading that influences their work, and for their insight and advice about their industry. Make a friend, and you’ll become an insider worthy of a referral to a new job.

4. Go to a professional event

Most job hunters freeze at the thought of picking up the phone and calling someone they don’t know. They’d rather write a stiff, formal cover letter ending with a plea that’s often interpreted as a threat: “I will call you in five days to schedule a meeting.”

From How Can I Change Careers?, p. 28

Attend professional and industry meetings regularly. Then take the next step: Offer to speak or conduct a workshop on a topic you know well. Attend more meetings. Become an active participant. Offer to help others. Become a hub of information and introductions. This takes time, so start taking steps now. The closer you are to the action in your industry, the closer you will get to managers who might be your next boss. (See Shared Experiences: The key to good networking.)

You’re right. So many tools are being marketed to help you find a job that it’s mind boggling. Most of them don’t work. Worse, almost all of them make you a bystander to the selection process. Don’t jump at “opportunities” that come along, and don’t subcontract your career choices to some database or to a coach.

The best career tool is between your ears — it’s you. You’re good at your job because you do it step by step. You can build confidence — and the network you need — to succeed at career change. Or you can wait for Indeed and LinkedIn to text you with your next job.

Start taking small steps toward the goal you choose, not the one that comes along. Every one of those steps is other people who do the work you want to do.

Where is the locus of control in a job search when we rely on automation, databases and “experts?” How do you choose the companies and work you pursue? What “tools” actually limit your choices? What tools expand them?

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Disabled and unemployed? Or are you a TAB?

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In the July  2, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter we get a reality check about disabled job seekers.

Question

disabledI worked in publishing, graphic design and general computer consulting when my spine was injured severely in an automobile accident. During four years of recovery, I completed a lot of education and became proficient in web development and programming. Finally, I returned to the work world as a network and computing coordinator for a local college. I was re-injured on the job and since my sixth surgery (anterior spinal fusion) I have been unable to return to work. I would have to work from home.

While I get countless headhunter calls and e-mails regarding employment, I have been afraid to accept an interview. I am confident that I would be a valuable telecommuting employee, but I am somewhat embarrassed by my disability and I fear rejection.

What is the climate like for telecommuting webmasters? Do you think it would be worthwhile for me to attempt to get a job? I have been putting all my efforts towards entrepreneurship. Your advice, comments and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for your help.

Nick’s Reply

I have no special expertise in helping a disabled person land a job, and I don’t think there’s any special method or strategy to make it happen. (I use the word “disabled” advisedly, knowing many prefer other terms, because the federal government uses it.) There are of course resources you can turn to, including the U.S. Department of Labor’s website. Perhaps more helpful are  the many lists of “friendly” employers, including Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion, published by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).

Disabled? Try the equalizer.

Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.

World Health Organization

I have taught job-hunting methods to all kinds of people, from high school students to financial executives to soldiers in transition to women and minorities. I teach them all the same thing: How to show a manager that if you’re hired you will contribute to the bottom line. That’s what matters most to any successful enterprise, and I encourage you to make it the cornerstone of your job search, even if it’s from a wheelchair or from your telecommuting station in your home.

Every kind of group and every individual encounters obstacles — some of them onerous. Discrimination and bias are among the worst obstacles because they’re founded on ignorance. But even some of the most ignorant, biased managers in the world will cock their heads and listen if someone approaches a job with a mini-business plan that suggests, if they’re hired, how they’ll improve the bottom line. (Please see You can’t CLICK to change careers.)

I believe that’s the equalizer. Seemingly biased employers suddenly turn out to be friendly and welcoming when dollar signs appear where they once saw only something they didn’t understand. You must decide whether to engage with such people, and whether to make the effort to educate them.

Of course, some bigots and idiots will never abide a person they’re biased against. Perhaps the main way to deal with that is to sue them. Otherwise, you may be wasting your time. I just don’t believe in trying to work with jerks, or being frustrated by employers who aren’t worth it. But I’ll repeat: If you feel strongly about it, sue them.

Call for insight and advice

Please do not let fears about how people will react to your disability keep you out of the job market. What matters is that you’re good at your work. With that in mind, you should not be embarrassed about anything.

There are companies that will hire you because you can produce, not because you can walk. (Some companies might hire you to fulfill their equal opportunity hiring requirements. As long as you’re productive and they value your work, accept the advantage.)

I’d like to invite other Ask The Headhunter readers to offer insights, advice and any specific suggestions they have about your challenge, especially if they’ve been in your situation or if they’re managers that have hired disabled employees. Their insights will be more valuable than mine.

Disabled or TAB?

But the main reason I decided to publish this Q&A is not to dole out my advice. It’s to address the perceptions that interfere with an employer’s ability to hire people who can do the job — disabled or not. I learned this lesson long ago, and I think my experience might be a good lesson for any employer.

Years ago I was at a conference held by Apple, concerning how personal computers could be modified to suit disabled users. There were a few disabled people in the room. One guy was in a wheelchair, dressed in biker garb, and he was clearly militant about it. After listening to us work our jaws about all our great ideas, he piped in.

“You keep referring to me and others as ‘disabled’ and ‘handicapped’. Do you know what I call all of you?”

Everyone cringed during the long silence.

“You’re all T.A.B.s. Know what that stands for? Temporarily Able-Bodied.”

It started to sink in as he went on chiding us.

“At some point, whether you get hit by a car or just get old, you won’t be able-bodied any more. So it isn’t a question of being different from me. It’s a question of when that temporary status of yours will end. Kinda makes you think, doesn’t it?”

Since then, I’ve never looked at anyone with a disability the same way. It not only altered my attitude; the biker’s reminder made me realize that I had an unwarranted attitude about myself. I’m a TAB. All of the rest of us are. So get real.

There is no question about it

You asked whether I think it would be worthwhile for you to attempt getting a job. Absolutely. There is no question about it — unless, of course, you decide to start your own business and hire yourself!

  • Don’t be afraid. Focus on what what an employer can’t do that you can. (Substitute customer or client for employer, if you’re going to start a business. It’s the same challenge!)
  • Be ready to show how you’ll do the job for the employer’s benefit, whether you’ll do it sitting, standing or lying down.
  • Don’t be embarrassed that you lack an ability today that the hiring manager will lose at some point, too. If you have to explain TABs to a manager, smile and do it!
  • Don’t make it easy for employers to ignore you. Show them how you can make them more profitable.

If you can do that, some of them will let you work from home, and they won’t worry about how well or how fast you can move around – as long as you can deliver the expected work.

Get past rejection

Bear in mind that many companies won’t let you – or anyone else – work from home. Telecommuting still isn’t as popular as we’d like. But, don’t take that personally. Keep looking for companies that want your production rather than your presence. (Learn all about Getting in the door.) But just like I accept the fact that I’m a TAB, you must accept that you will be rejected most of the time, just like every job-seeking TAB — even when it has nothing to do with your disability.

Whether you want a job as a webmaster or want to run your own business, go for it. The key is to take responsibility for showing how your work will profit someone else.

How would you advise a disabled job seeker about getting a job? Like I said, I’m not the expert. If you or someone you know has faced this challenge successfully, please share your experience and advice! Advice from TABs is welcome, too — we’re not biased against anyone around here, especially if their comments are profitable to us!

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