4 Job Hunting Secrets for 2022

4 Job Hunting Secrets for 2022


During my 9-year career I’ve read lots of books and articles about how to get a good job. My conclusion: Most of it is banal and useless. In all these years I’ve picked up just a handful of good tips that I use again and again. You’ve written several books about how to get a job. Impress me. Share some job hunting secrets from your books. Something I can use right now.

Nick’s Reply

job hunting secretsI’ve been saving your question as a good end-of-year topic. I agree with you that most advice about getting a job is recycled and misleading. It’s designed more to make life easier for employers, HR recruiters and headhunters than to help you.

I’ll offer you four fundamental observations and suggestions that, in my experience, can make a material difference in a job hunter’s efforts to land a good job. These are taken directly from my PDF books (on which you’ll get a jolly 50% discount — scroll down). I think you’ll be able to use these ideas immediately and that they will make a material difference in your job search.

But first, why listen to me? It’s the old follow-the-money rule. As a headhunter who has worked on contingency most of my career, I get paid only when a client actually hires my job candidate. In contrast to an HR manager or recruiter, my methods have to work, or I don’t eat.

  • Beat your competition even before the interview
  • Show up with a business plan
  • Address deliverables, not just questions
  • Find the right headhunter

1. Beat your competition even before the interview

Once a job is posted online, your odds of winning it diminish to almost zero. The competition is huge. To boost your odds, you must get to the hiring manager through a powerful personal referral. Get in the door first, with a pre-emptive reference.

Your most powerful reference is the one who calls an employer before the employer calls him. A preemptive reference speaks up for you, not about you. Actually, this is not a reference at all, but a recommendation or a referral.

A preemptive reference thinks enough of you to pick up the phone to call the manager you want to work for, and recommends you. This is a big step beyond a reference; it’s a true professional courtesy. The best preemptive reference is when a reputable person in your field refers you to an employer. Who needs a résumé when you’ve got that? This is beyond even a professional courtesy; it’s an endorsement. It carries enormous weight.

This tip and other ways to gain an edge in today’s goofy job market are found in Fearless Job Hunting Book 3: Get in The Door (way ahead of your competition).

2. Show up with a business plan

To stand out from all the well-qualified competitors you face, don’t sit in an interview and answer questions. Show how you’ll do the job. This is especially important when you’re trying to change careers to something new,

Before you can legitimately ask for a job, you must assess the needs of a company and plan how you will contribute to its success. Don’t behave like a job applicant; behave like an employee. Show up ready to do the job in the interview. Bring a business plan showing how you will do the work and contribute to profitability.

By defining the work an employer needs done and showing how, exactly, you will apply your skills, you can demonstrate your value in the new work domain — your new career. While others show up asking for a job, your demonstration of how you will do the job actually helps the employer justify hiring you into a new field of work.

Of course, this isn’t easy. But nor is that great job you want! If you cannot pull this off when you meet the manager, you have no business in that interview.

This suggestion and the steps for pulling it off are in How Can I Change Careers? It’s not just for career changers.


Take 50% OFF your purchase of any Ask The Headhunter PDF books! A great gift for job-hunting friends!

Use discount code JOLLY50 at check-out. Limited time offer! Order now!

3. Address deliverables, not just questions

Here’s a little secret I learned long ago: Most managers stink at job interviews. While they ask a lot of questions, they rarely explain exactly what they really want and expect from a new hire.

This is why you’ll get no job offer — because you don’t know what the deliverables are for the job! So you must get the manager to say it.

How to Say It
“What are your objectives for your new hire? That is, what would you want me to accomplish after a week? What results would you want to see a month, three months, six months and after a year on the job? The more specific you can be, the better I can address the work you need done.”

Get answers to these questions, and you’ll know exactly what’s going to make the manager hire you. I’ve seen job interviews shift dramatically when the candidate helps the manager focus on deliverables. Suddenly, the manager understands that you’re there to talk shop — and that you are focused on the work!

This tip and others about how to help managers hire you are in Fearless Job Hunting Book 6, The Interview: Be The Profitable Hire.

4. Find the right headhunter. (There’s only one place to look.)

What most people don’t realize is that headhunters don’t find jobs for people. As independent consultants, we find the best workers for our client companies. It’s highly unlikely you’re going to be a candidate for a very specific assignment, so don’t waste your time seeking headhunters. We fill only about 3% of jobs.

If you’re going to seek out headhunters anyway, here’s how to do it right.

Pick out five or six companies you really want to work for: the shining lights in your industry, the places where your dream job resides. Call the office of the manager to whom you would report if you worked there. (Don’t be lazy. Do the necessary research. If you find your quarry you must be prepared to talk shop intelligently.) Introduce yourself briefly.

 How to Say It
“I’m Mary Smith at Acme Widget Corporation. May I ask for your advice? I’m looking for the best headhunter in [marketing, finance, or whatever your specialty is]. I’ve always respected your company and I would value your suggestion. May I ask, What headhunter do you use and recommend to fill key positions in [marketing]?”

This request is so unusual that it can be a very effective ice-breaker. Not every manager will provide a recommendation. (Some managers are very protective of their headhunters.) But some will.

Now you know who handles searches for the company you want to work in. When you contact the headhunter, the client’s name is almost guaranteed to get the headhunter’s attention — and to get your call returned.

This “secret” and advice about how to manage that headhunter once you’ve found them is reprinted from How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you.

Does this really work?

Should you follow my advice? Long-time Ask The Headhunter subscriber Ray Stoddard puts it like this:

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

I hope Ask The Headhunter helped you get an edge in 2021. The newsletter and the website will be on hiatus for two weeks while I take a vacation! See you with the next edition on January 11! Meanwhile, here’s wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays (no matter what you celebrate or where you celebrate it), and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!

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What if my meds trigger a positive drug test?

What if my meds trigger a positive drug test?


After over a year of unemployment, I finally got a job offer from [a major company] that I accepted. I’m relieved if not in disbelief, especially with the holidays coming up! The start date is in a month, and HR requires a (urine) drug test, which does not surprise me. But I have a concern. I take prescription medication and I’m worried my meds will turn up in the test results. The meds are for a chronic condition I do not want to reveal to the employer. (The condition will not affect my ability to do the job.) How do I do the test and protect my privacy? Should I just go cold turkey and hope my meds don’t trigger a positive result? Should I tell HR in advance what I’m taking? How about if I just discuss this with the testing lab when I show up?

Nick’s Reply

drug testI’m not a Human Resources expert or a lawyer. Because drug testing regulations vary by state in the U.S., you should check the law about what proper procedures are — and what your rights are. NOLO offers a good discussion about laws on employee drug testing. Not all companies approach drug testing the same way, though there are some standards.

An HR expert addresses your drug test

For corporate insight, I turned to a long-time HR manager I respect and asked about going cold turkey, and about whether you should disclose your prescription to HR or to the lab. She has worked for companies large and small. She said no on all three counts.

Here’s her advice:

  1. Review the consent form you signed. She says an employer is required to disclose what they’re testing for before you consent to it. This is referred to as informed consent. So, you should already know what drugs they will test you for. She says the drug list is often “in the fine print” — but they must disclose it to you in advance. Armed with this information, you should then…
  2. Contact your doctor who prescribed the meds in question. Ask whether the defined tests might be affected by your meds. That is, could your meds trigger a false positive on the specific tests? Proceed from there with your doctor’s advice.
  3. Google the company name plus “drug testing.” She looked this up while we were talking and immediately found a list of drugs the company tests for. The most common drug tests look for five substances: THC, Opiates, PCP, Cocaine, and Amphetamines. You might do this Google search first, but the drugs listed on your consent form are the key.

Relax about your drug test

My HR manager friend suggested that if you’re taking a drug on a prescription in the care of a doctor, and don’t use other drugs illegally, you should not worry about these tests. You’re more likely to raise red flags than to protect yourself. If a test turns up a false positive, you can ask for full results. The employer will likely ask you to explain at that point, and your doctor should back you up.

Congratulations on landing a job right before the holidays!

As long as your medical condition will not affect your job, and you want to keep it private, it may be best not to raise the matter with the employer or with the lab. And going cold turkey is not a good tactic! Review the consent agreement you signed to see what drugs the test is for, and discuss this your doctor before you do the test.

I wish you the best!

What’s your experience been with employment drug tests? Have you ever triggered a positive result? Did prescription meds have a role? If you’ve been through this yourself, what’s your advice to this reader?


Take 50% OFF your purchase of any Ask The Headhunter PDF books!

A great gift for job-hunting friends!

Use discount code JOLLY50 at check-out. Limited time offer! Order now!

“Nick Corcodilos is the brutally honest, forthright and insightful headhunter who serves up tough love to job seekers while taking job boards and others to the woodshed.” U.S. News & World Report

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10 steps for personal referrals to hiring managers

10 steps for personal referrals to hiring managers


I can never get a referral to someone else. Perhaps that’s why I can’t get the ball rolling in my job search. What’s the deal with personal referrals?

Nick’s Reply

personal referralsIt’s awkward and intimidating, isn’t it — getting a personal referral? This is a critical challenge in a job search. Once a person has identified a company where they’d like to work, how do they get a personal referral?

This is one reason I started Ask The Headhunter over 20 years ago. Every “expert” will instruct you to “network” and to make actual contact with people, but rarely does anyone explain exactly how. On this website, we’re all about how. Detailed how. How-to-say-it how.

Getting personal referrals: Get ready to say it

I’d like to ask everyone for your input on this. What has worked for you? To whom do you go, and how do you actually say it?

Here’s one path that can lead you to a hiring manager through the recommendation or referral of someone they know and trust. It’s just one path — let’s discuss more!

  1. Ask yourself, which company do I want to work for and in what area or department? Search online for articles and information about that area. Check the company’s website, newsletters and press releases.
  2. Identify a product the company produces or a technology it uses (or a marketing method it relies on, etc.). Now you have a legit topic to discuss with an insider.

Personal referrals: Talk shop

Let’s say the company makes blue widgets and they use technology X to make them — state of the art, according to a recent press release! Cool! You’ve been in the widget business for years, but X is kinda new to you.

  1. What 3 questions do you have about X that would help you understand and possibly apply X? The more esoteric your questions, the better — you’ll be taken more seriously, and you’ll avoid being re-routed to the HR department. HR can’t talk shop. That’s why this works!

(See where this is going? Nobody’s talking about a job here. You’re talking about your work.)

Find the right people to talk with

Now use Google, LinkedIn or any other tool to find someone that works in the aforementioned department.

  1. Contact them, but not through LinkedIn! Avoid routes that add “noise” — and I mean social media. For example, everyone knows LinkedIn messages are usually spam from people that don’t know you. Find an e-mail address or — wow! — call the company and talk to the person!
  2. Introduce yourself very briefly. Express your professional interest in X. “I see X has made a huge difference to your product line.”
  3. Ask for their professional insights and advice.

Ask for insights

The value in any contact lies in what they know, what they think, and in what they’re willing to share with you. What makes this easy is that most people love to talk about their work. They love to tell you about themselves and what they think — if you ask. And they love to give advice.

Do not ask about jobs. Do not talk a lot about yourself. Start by asking for insights.

How to Say It

“I’ve found some online resources about X, but I’m looking for the inside scoop about X and how to use it most effectively. You guys seem to be leading experts on X. Can I ask you for your insights about X?”


“What are you reading that’s influenced the way you use X, or how you design and market your products?”

“Is there a training program you respect and recommend?”

“Who’s the shining light in the field about X?”

Congratulations, you’ve just opened a professional discussion about work you and the other person do — without asking for a job lead. You’re talking shop!

What should I ask?

  1. If the person responds helpfully, ask questions like these, then be quiet and listen.

How to Say It

“What do you think about that?”

“Can you give me an example?”

“Is there any downside to using X?”

Ask for advice

If the conversation goes well and you find you’re learning something useful, take the next step.

  1. Let the conversation flow. Do not ask about jobs. Instead, ask for professional advice.

“I’ve been so impressed with X and the products [your company] has created that I’m seriously considering moving to a company in this business. May I ask your professional advice? If you were me, would you pursue this?”

“What companies would you look at if you were me? Which are the shining lights in this business?”

  1. Then pop the question:

“If I were interested in working at your company, what advice would you give me? I don’t want to start a formal application process with HR. I really want to understand X and the company’s business — nothing proprietary! — before I apply. I want to be able to speak knowledgeably about X and the products first.”

You get the idea.

Get the personal referral

Once you’re talking shop, you’ve made a new friend, so act like a friend. Exchange some useful information about the topics you discussed. Offer to return the favor of insight and advice, if your new friend would like that.

  1. Finally, gently achieve the objective in any friendly networking experience: Get the name of the next person you need to talk with. Yes — this is another personal referral! You will likely get a chain of them. Follow it.

“Do you like working in this field? Before I think about making the leap, can you tell me what the management is like?”

“I’d like to learn more. Is there someone specific you’d recommend I talk with?”

Don’t forget to ask if it’s okay to say who suggested you get in touch.

This where personal referrals come from: talking shop with people who do the work you want to do, in the companies where you want to do it. Of course, not every discussion will lead where you’d like to go — to a hiring manager. But all you need is one successful exchange, one chain of personal referrals. Handle this with some poise, and every exchange you have will add to your list of professional friends. (See “A Good Network is A Circle of Friends” in How Can I Change Careers?, pp. 27-32.)

Sure beats filling out job applications and spamming “contacts” on LinkedIn.

These are just my suggestions about how to cultivate personal referrals to get a job. I hope to find loads more in the Comments section below!

Who would you approach to get on the path to a personal referral, and how would you say it? What has worked (and not worked!) for you?

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