New law stops firings, will catch on just ’cause

New law stops firings, will catch on just ’cause

Most Americans Can Be Fired for No Reason at Any Time, But a New Law in New York Could Change That

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek
By Josh Eidelson

just causeMelody Walker had just finished working the lunch rush at a Chipotle in New York City when her manager walked up and told her, in front of several co-workers, that she was fired. When the 36-year-old single mom asked him for an explanation, he said it was because she wasn’t smiling. (This was 2018, pre-masks.)

This is how the U.S. works under at-will employment, a legal standard that allows companies to fire people for almost any reason—and sometimes for no reason at all. Unlike in other wealthy countries, where bosses generally have to provide just cause for termination, at-will positions account for most U.S. jobs.

In 2018, a few months after Chipotle fired her, Walker began working with union organizers and local officials on a groundbreaking two-law package that will make New York City a little more like Europe. The laws, which take effect on July 5, ban at-will employment among the city’s fast-food businesses, meaning that from now on, Chipotle and its peers will have to provide just cause to fire one of their roughly 70,000 workers in the five boroughs. The standard requires employers to show workers have engaged in misconduct or failed to satisfactorily perform their duties.


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Nick’s take on just cause

Employers knew it was coming, but they’ve filed lawsuits pretending they can stop it. We’re talking about laws that stop employers from firing employees without cause. This practice has always been unfair and uncivilized. (Attorney Bernie Dietz has explained why employment contracts are desireable.) I think New York City is just the start of this trend — employees can be fired only for “just cause,” not just because. Learn what just cause is because soon it will affect everybody’s job.

What’s your take? Should employers be able to fire employees without reason? Or is “just cause” a reasonable protection for employees? I’d love to hear from both sides — employers and workers. What’s your take?



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How to get a friend hired at your company

How to get a friend hired at your company


I went to work as an engineer at a company when it was quite small. Then it got taken over by a large company that got swallowed by another company. We are growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, we are moving to a new office as we are bursting at the seams.

Many people have worked here since the 1980s, and there are growing pains. Part of the challenge is adapting to big corporate ways. I learned a few days ago that direct managers are no longer tasked with interviewing. Rather, someone else interviews and then the manager is told who is coming on board.

Right now I’m trying to help a former coworker hired. Of course, my boss is not supposed to interview him. How do we get past HR and the recruiter? Any advice on how to get a friend hired?

Nick’s Reply

get a friend hiredSo now the recruiters run the asylum? And control who gets hired? Perhaps you should reconsider subjecting your friend to that, and perhaps ask yourself whether you want to continue working for a company whose managers are not involved in selecting their new hires.

It will be interesting to see how the best managers cope with this. I suspect they will develop a black market for hiring, out of necessity. They will create their own recruiting and hiring channels, but make it appear HR is in control.

I’ll start with a suggestion to the managers in your company (if I don’t transgress!), then we’ll talk about what you can do to help get a friend hired at your company. I would not talk to HR or to the recruiter. (You can also help a friend get a job elsewhere.)

It was just lunch!

If I were a manager, I’d find my own good candidates and take them out to lunch.

Interview? What interview? I didn’t break the new HR rule. I just went to lunch!

If I decided to hire the person, I’d instruct them to submit their resume to the recruiter and indicate that they are interested in working in my department. Then I’d get in touch with the recruiter and say, “Someone I respect just told me So-and-So is a great engineer who’s being heavily recruited by our Competitor X. Any chance that person’s resume or application is in your system?”

HR recruiters love being in control, but they love making their jobs easier even more. I’d nag the recruiter if necessary until I confirmed the candidate was interviewed and issued an offer.

How to get a friend hired

Since you’re not a manager, you have even more degrees of freedom. I think you can get your friend hired if you go the extra mile. This is just one suggestion to get the ball rolling. I hope readers will chime in with more ideas!

Ask your boss out to lunch. Say you’re meeting an old friend — an engineer from your last employer. “We always have fun talking shop. You’d fit right in.“

Interview? What interview? We’re just having lunch!

During this casual meeting offsite, your boss will have a chance to learn about your buddy without pressure. Of course, if interest is sparked, after lunch your boss must be assertive enough to go talk to HR and say, “I just learned a great engineer is being recruited by our Competitor X…”

You know the old expression, “You can’t wash your hands with rubber gloves on.” Well, managers can’t run successful operations if somebody else is picking their new employees.

I think you have a lot more influence — and control — than you suspect. After all, don’t you want to be working with the best people? Someone’s got to help your company’s managers subvert a silly new policy!

I’d love to hear more suggestions from readers!

Have you ever helped get a friend hired at your company? How did you pull it off? Did HR handle it expeditiously?  Were you paid a referral fee? Did your personal recommendation clear the path for interviews? Who does the candidate selection and hiring at your company? 

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The end of non-compete agreements?

The end of non-compete agreements?

The end of non-compete agreements nationally

Source: Carey & Associates, PC
By Mark Carey

non-compete agreementsThe epidemic use of non-compete agreements has gotten out of control and too many employees have needlessly and financially suffered under this onerous default management practice. The end of this BS employment practice has now arrived!

Non-compete agreements were created by employers for employers. Roughly half of private-sector businesses require at least some employees to enter NCAs, affecting some 36 to 60 million workers. Employees never had a chance to negotiate these agreements.

[President Biden’s] Executive Order banning non-compete agreements marks the beginning of the end of abusive management practices that has enveloped the nation’s workforce since the founding of this country.


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Nick’s take on NCAs

We have discussed NCAs here many times, including advice about how to negotiate NCAs. If you’re lucky, you’ve never had to contend with the kind of corporate extortion these agreements represent. It seems the end is near for NCAs, though it seems the Federal Trade Commission still must go through a rule-making process.

Have you ever been under an NCA? Did you have a choice about signing it? How did it affect you? Have you ever refused an NCA? What was the result? Maybe you’re an employer and would like to defend NCAs. We’re listening! The times they are a-changin’!



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2 weeks vacation time? Are you kidding?

2 weeks vacation time? Are you kidding?


I’m one of those people who’s been waiting all year to quit my job and just did it. Your advice about negotiating salary (explain your value) worked great! But a careful reading of the offer and benefits (thanks again) revealed I’d get only two weeks’ vacation time! I’d be walking away from five weeks at my old job. Do I really have to give up my hard-earned vacation?

Nick’s Reply

vacation timeThis is the perfect time to negotiate assertively for what you want because employers are dying for good talent. If you’re really good at your work, you have excellent negotiating leverage in the current economy and labor market. I’m glad to hear you got a good salary offer. Now let’s work on that vacation time!

Many companies want a new hire to start earning vacation time all over again — but that doesn’t make it a done deal. If you want the vacation time you deserve, you must negotiate to get it.

I have never understood why companies claim vacation time isn’t negotiable. Their position is, “That’s the way we’ve always done it. It’s the policy.” What a company means is that it won’t be able to keep a lid on vacation policy if it negotiates special deals with new hires. But that doesn’t make sense. Just as some people are worth more salary, some are worth more vacation time.

Salary history & vacation time history

Employers demand to know your last salary because they want to base their offer on it. “The only fair way to structure an offer is to look at what you’re already earning,” they explain. So if a job offer is based on your last salary, why shouldn’t your vacation time be based on the amount of vacation time you received at your last job, too? When a company asks for your salary history, why doesn’t it ask for your vacation history? Both reflect your industry seniority and your value.

So what does it mean when a company offers you a job with a paltry two weeks of vacation, and you’ve been taking four or five weeks off at your old company? Okay, let’s get to the advice part of this column. But please remember: this is advice, not a guaranteed way to get five weeks of vacation.

Time off is compensation, not a benefit

The reason you can negotiate salary but not vacation time at most companies is because salary is part of your compensation. Vacation time is not. Vacation time is considered a benefit. Salary can vary, but benefits are fixed. (Or so companies would like you to believe.)

But there is no rhyme or reason to this distinction.

In my opinion, time off is compensation just like cash is because “time is money.” You get compensated for your work with money, and you get compensated for your work with time off. Your expertise, experience and seniority make you worth higher compensation because you probably do more and better work than most junior employees. So it makes sense to give you more time off. Your work still gets done.

I think vacation benefits are negotiable if you have the leverage of expertise and experience (or “seniority”), and when the company isn’t policy-bound.

Negotiate all compensation

My advice: Wait until the offer has been made, then diplomatically and matter-of-factly explain that just as you wouldn’t take a lower salary, you wouldn’t accept less vacation time for your level of seniority in the industry.

Of course, you must decide in advance whether vacation is a deal-breaker for you. In fact, you could test an employer by bringing this up before you agree to do an interview — make vacation a condition, just like your desired salary range. Some companies will balk at this. The more they need you, the more likely they are to negotiate. When employers aren’t flexible, you might want to take an alternative approach.

Tips from an HR insider

To get a well-rounded perspective on this issue, I turned to an expert I respect. Marilyn Zatkin is a veteran HR manager and consultant in Silicon Valley. Her perspective on both the policy and practical sides of this question is solid. She reveals that some companies will be flexible because they understand that vacation is a form of compensation. They also don’t want to lose a great candidate! Here’s what she has to say about this:

“Most companies do not like to alter their vacation policy and create internal equity issues. There are alternatives to granting more vacation than policy allows, such as giving the person a sign-on bonus equivalent to the desired vacation amount, and then letting the worker take the extra time off without pay in the first year. A company can also take that ‘extra vacation value’ and include it in the total compensation package. However, they usually try to limit a special deal like this to the first year.”

I’ll point something out: The moment Zatkin (or any HR manager) concedes that there is a dollar value to vacation time (after all, she’s offering a cash bonus to pay you back for less time off), we have established that vacation time is, indeed, part of compensation. The only thing left to negotiate is how much. I don’t see why that sign-on bonus or “extra compensation” can’t be permanent. (See also Can’t negotiate a higher salary? Ask for more money.)

This may not solve your long-term vacation problem, but it suggests to me that companies are indeed aware there’s an issue they have to face. So I say, negotiate and be as firm about vacation time as you are about salary.

Is time off a benefit, or part of compensation? Have you sacrificed vacation time when changing employers? If not, how did you negotiate it? Do you think you’d have more negotiating leverage nowadays if you changed employers?

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4-day workweek, 5 days of pay?

4-day workweek, 5 days of pay?

Iceland tested a 4-day workweek. Employees were productive — and happier, researchers say.

Source: The Washington Post
By Paulina Villegas  and Hannah Knowles

4-day workweekSeveral large-scale trials of a 4-day workweek in Iceland were an “overwhelming success,” with many workers shifting to shorter hours without affecting their productivity, and in some cases improving it, in what researchers called “groundbreaking evidence for the efficacy of working time reduction.”

Some of the trials’ key findings showed that a shorter week translated into increased well-being of employees among a range of indicators, from stress and burnout to health and work-life balance.

The trials ultimately involved 2,500 workers, more than 1 percent of the nation’s working population, who moved from working 40 hours a week to a 35- or 36-hour week, without a reduction in pay.

To be able to work less while providing the same level of service and productivity, workers and managers alike made strategic and creative changes to their working patterns and dynamics, constantly rethinking how tasks were completed and using working hours in a more efficient way.


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Nick’s take on 4-day workweek

A 4-day workweek for 5 days pay is really about efficiency. And I think we all know it. Many successful businesses seem to succeed in spite of themselves, because employees find ways to get the work done. Cut the work week to 4 days, and it seems workers figure out how to still get it all done for the same pay. Don’t miss the quote from the Stanford professor who suggests cutting the work week and cutting pay — what do you think of that?

Is a 4-day workweek really feasible? What would it take to make this happen in the U.S.?



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Jobs vacant but managers seem in no rush to hire

Jobs vacant but managers seem in no rush to hire


You’ve no doubt seen all the news items about how difficult it is to fill jobs these days because so many people aren’t interested in working. I’ve been trying to get a key job filled in my department. I’m in a rush to hire. I can tell you the competition is very stiff. Human Resources keeps losing hires to other employers, even though we’re making competitive job offers.

Today I’m really upset because, after 3 weeks of interviews (everyone was very positive about her) we lost a candidate I thought was a definite hire. When I spoke to her about 10 days ago I made it clear that an offer was being processed and I could tell how pleased she was! We just needed to get a final signature. (The finance manager that signs off was on a trip long put off because of the virus.) Finally HR told me they called her with the offer. She went to another company. What’s going on with people now?

Nick’s Reply

rush to hireI’m going to take a stab and read between the lines. You’ve lost lots of candidates you wanted to hire. You interviewed the most recent candidate over a period of three weeks — way too long. Then it seems you took over two weeks to get an offer out to her. My guess is that, in this highly competitive hiring market, you’re way too s-l-o-w… taking way too long to complete a hire.

Probably the single best way for a company to solve problems, boost productivity and be successful is to get the right people on board as quickly as possible. So, why does the hiring process seem to take longer than a presidential election campaign? Is it because we’re hiring presidents every day? Nope.

It’s because responsibility for hiring is broadly distributed. No one is really in charge of being in a rush to hire.

Who’s in a rush to hire?

It’s easy for a manager to think, “I’ve got the right candidate. I’m ready to hire! Now it’s HR’s job to put the offer together and make this happen.”

Or, “My V.P. has to sign off on this. It’s in his court.”

And, “I’m a busy manager. I don’t have time to baby-sit the job offer process.”

In today’s world, managers seem to have more important things to do than hiring the best people to do the work. For too many managers, hiring is not job #1. That’s why companies rely on HR departments and clerks to process employment paperwork — right? If managers like you spent their time just getting new hires on board, there would be no time left to run the business!

That’s the wrong attitude. Hiring is every manager’s #1 priority — or the business doesn’t run at all.

How long does it take to hire?

A search for statistics about how long it takes employers to make a hire turns up scarce recent data, which is revealing by itself. What’s the HR industry hiding? It appears to be such a tender nerve that reports from 2016 and 2017 are heavily cross-referenced even today. The most widely cited is from 2016.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has reported that the average time to fill a position is 42 days. But, according to an OfficeVibe report, “The best candidates are off the market in 10 days.

Of course, time to hire varies by industry and position. We can only wonder how long it’s taking today, in the early post-COVID period when employers complain they can’t find enough good candidates. But common sense tells us that the faster you can hire, the better your chances of your offer being accepted.

My evidence is only anecdotal, but the best job seekers and candidates I’ve worked with say the employer that makes a good offer decisively and quickly scores big points. We don’t really have good, current data about how long it should take to fill a job. But we know that less is better. “We decided we want you now!” seems to count a lot to job applicants.

Managers: Make hiring job #1

Another thing candidates tell me is that they are impressed by can-do managers who take personal responsibility for getting them on board. “That’s the kind of boss I want!”

If you’re in a rush to hire, but you wait for HR to handle your hiring, consider this: You probably can’t fill vacant jobs because another manager in another company (One of your competitors?) is stealing your best candidates. She’s hand-walking a job offer through the system, pushing aside the obstacles, riding herd on her boss until the documents are signed, riding herd on the HR department to do its job, and getting everything processed the same day. The return on this manager’s time investment is huge. She’s got a new employee on the job, getting the work done.

Meanwhile, you’ve got vacant jobs. Your investment in this last candidate just got lost on the way through “the approval process.” Your top candidate went to work for your competitor. Impressed with the other manager’s can-do attitude, “your” candidate took the other offer. (See Why HR should get out of the hiring business.)

If you’re a manager, next time don’t be so busy. Replace the wait-for-HR-to-do-it attitude with your own initiative and expedited process. Make sure you’re interviewing only the best candidates. Interview faster. Eliminate delays. Make faster decisions. Hand-walk the job offer through the approval process the same day. Or, prepare to spend your valuable time interviewing more candidates while your competitor is busy hiring them.

Are job offers flying out fast? Are managers showing any rush to fill jobs? Whether you’re a job seeker or a hiring manager, what do you think hampers efficient hiring? What obstacles have you encountered? What could employers do to speed up the process?

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Every job is one job. What’s its title?

Every job is one job. What’s its title?


You write in one of your articles, “If the employer could avoid hiring you or anyone else, he would. He doesn’t want to create a job. He wants to produce more profit.”

While that may be true for some employers, or at least for sales jobs, I have my doubts it is true for even 20% of the jobs out there.

profitable workIn my opinion, most jobs exist to solve a problem, but that’s not always “to increase the bottom line.” Sometimes these problems are just mindless corporate B.S. Sometimes a hiring manager just needs a “warm body” to dump stuff on. Sometimes hiring managers don’t want a superstar. They’re happy with a mediocre person, for whatever reason. Sometimes managers are looking to hire simply because they have a budget and get a massive ego-boost saying they are responsible for X number of people, or doubled in size in a few months, etc.

For example, a publicly owned company is rarely looking for talent that would increase the bottom line. Who cares? The company isn’t owned by anyone; it’s owned by the public, so let’s milk that baby while I can, while I am in my seat, and just do what’s going to fly so I can stay in this seat as long as possible.

I offer no conclusion. Perhaps I am only rambling, but my point is, yes, I agree with you, there is a reason to be hired, but “to produce more profit” is rarely the case and just one use case. Think of a technology manager that is expected to build a product. He just wants to hire capable people, and doesn’t care about profit. If an engineer comes in and shows the hiring manager he knows his stuff, he is hired. If that engineer on the other hand comes in and starts talking about increasing the bottom line, the manager will just think, “Who the hell cares? I just need a guy that fixes my scaling problems!”

Anyway, this is just my two cents. I believe that, for jobs like sales, “increase profit” may be a more common goal. But in jobs such as technology, consulting, and back office? Meh.

Nick’s Reply

You raise a really important issue that I wish the entire business world would face head-on: Why do we hire people? I think that businesses with more than about 20 employees forget the real answer to that question because they forget why they exist. They forget what everyone’s job really is.

What you say is entirely true. Most jobs are created and filled for reasons that have little or nothing to do with producing more profit. You’re right! A job seeker doesn’t need to address how they would add profit to the bottom line, and they can still get a job.

The manager’s “requirement” might be nothing more than using up the hiring budget, or to hire a “go-fer” to do menial tasks, or to boost the manager’s ego by increasing the size of the operation.

Profitable work

So, why do I harp on this profitability component when job hunting or hiring?

Here’s the best way I can express it: Every job exists to create an outcome that has more value than what was put into getting it done. We don’t start an enterprise to squander money, effort or other resources. We dedicate ourselves to doing profitable work.

If a job does not contribute to a company’s bottom line, or profit, it should not exist. (Of course, many jobs don’t meet this criterion.) If you cannot explain or show how your job (and the work you do) affects profit, you should quit before you get fired for being superfluous. If a manager does not understand how (or whether) a position under their auspices affects company profits, they should eliminate the job.

(Profit can be measured in dollars, customer satisfaction, repeat business, quality or any metric that shows a business is meeting its objectives. The work must yield more of something desirable than is put into it.)

I believe loads of unprofitable jobs continue to exist because most companies are so out of control that they stopped considering profitability at the job level. That’s a huge mistake that I believe is at the core of our economic woes. Every job must, in its own way, help produce profit. The kicker is, managers and employees must understand how.

Are you revenue or cost?

Business guru Tom Peters once suggested that a company larger than 11 employees was untenable. He later upped it to 25. He reasoned that 25 people all know what everyone else is doing. They all feel responsible for and accountable to one another. It’s pretty easy to see how each contributes to success and profitability. When a company gets bigger, accountability is diluted. There’s more chance marginal workers will be hired, unnecessary jobs will be filled, and that some employees will not do their jobs.

As you put it, the attitude becomes, “Who cares? The company isn’t owned by anyone; it’s owned by the public, so let’s milk that baby while I can.”

As you also point out, the connection to profits is rather obvious with sales jobs — but that’s only because we associate revenue with profit. People that work in jobs like manufacturing or shipping will claim they have nothing to do with revenue or profit — they’re overhead cost. But every job affects either costs or revenue (or both). That means every job affects profit because every job is a company’s attempt to prosper more.

What is profit?

The profit equation is simple:


An accountant or finance person might scoff at that because, of course, each of the terms on the left comprises many factors. But in general, that’s the accounting.

If your job (e.g., sales) seems to affect mostly revenue, you’re more likely to understand your role in profitability. If you work in quality assurance (QA) or on the computer help desk, it’s easy to see how your work represents a cost to your employer. However, all those jobs affect the equation. Do your job thoughtfully and well, and you help increase revenues or decrease costs — hence you help boost profits.

If a help desk worker can successfully close more problem tickets, that brings costs down. When a QA engineer examines a product design more effectively, costly failures are reduced. When a salesperson closes more sales by developing more product expertise, that boosts revenues. All three employees have affected profits.

The challenge, of course, is how do you calculate your impact on revenues and costs? Few companies understand how every job impacts the bottom line, as if it doesn’t matter. Many can’t even track P&L (profit and loss) of entire divisions or departments, much less individual workers.

That’s why their hiring practices are so screwed up.

Foolish ignorance

That’s what’s wrong with business. This is a big reason why companies fail. It’s also why good workers get laid off and why mediocre job candidates get hired. It’s why companies often have open jobs that shouldn’t even exist. But, rather than sit down and work this out, most companies prefer to remain ignorant of what is perhaps the key metric of success. They find it easier to “throw bodies” at nebulous “problems.”

That’s foolish.

If you and your manager can’t explain how your job contributes to the bottom line by reducing costs and/or increasing revenues, you’re revealing a dangerous kind of ignorance. Neither one of you is going to have a job for long. You may be able to “hide” for a time, but not forever. My suggestion is, go meet your company’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and ask for some insight on how your department affects the bottom line. Then discuss how your job affects it. When a company’s total bottom line shrinks or goes negative, it’s because nobody’s watching whether divisions, departments, teams, managers and individual workers are doing profitable work. How your CFO responds may tell you a lot about the prospects of the company.

Every job is one job

Why do companies hire? Despite how critical a factor profitable work is to a company’s success, most companies don’t care whether a job candidate can show how they will contribute to the bottom line. They hire blindly. Most job applicants don’t care whether or how the job they’re interviewing for contributes to the success of the whole. This makes a fool of the manager, the job seeker, the company, and its investors.

So in response to your suggestion that we need not worry about who does or doesn’t do profitable work because employers don’t — I say we do. Fundamentally, every job is really the same job and its title is Profit Maker. Companies should hire only to fill such jobs.

Our bottom line here is this: Why would any job seeker want to throw their lot in with a manager and a company that doesn’t understand or measure whether a job is profitable? It’s a slippery path to one dead-end job after another, and ultimately to a failed career. For a company, it’s one of a thousand cuts that leads inexorably to bankruptcy.

And it all starts with understanding the purpose of a job.

When managers roll their eyes at a job candidate (or employee) who cares to discuss how a job contributes to profit, that’s a signal for the candidate to walk out of the interview. That’s a signal to go find a better-run company that’s going to blow the manager’s company out of the water.

Is it wise to accept a job when you don’t know how it contributes to the company’s success and profitability? Is it wise to hire someone without exploring how they can help make your company more successful? How would you explain your job’s contribution to your employer’s bottom line?

Challenge: Can someone explain how all this is true for non-profits, too?

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Create your own job to get hired or promoted

Create your own job to get hired or promoted

No Question

There’s no Q&A in this week’s edition. Instead, I want to tell you about what someone said to me at a presentation I gave.

I had just suggested to my audience of job seekers that they should consider doing something more bold than applying for jobs. “Stretch! Take a chance,” I told them. “It’s better to cleverly create your own job and convince an employer to hire you to do it, than to chase published jobs and compete with the masses.”

Normal people must wait to get hired

hired or promotedA hand shot up. (I encourage people to interrupt me because this is Ask The Headhunter, after all!)

“Only a LeBron James could get away with that! You have to be a star to name your own game. In my world, only uber-geeks who know 10 languages, 4 operating systems, and 12 databases could even dream of trying that! The rest of us normal people have to apply for whatever jobs we can find and hope there is a good fit!”

That really got to me. It implies that most people will always be stuck because they’re not stars or big experts. There is no bold action they can possibly take. Even if they tried, they’d be laughed at and rejected out of hand.

That’s bunk. To change your life — and your prospects — you can’t wait. To get hired or promoted you’ve got to step out of line and take a chance. You don’t have to be LeBron James or an uber-geek to do it. But you can’t behave normally, either, because (to quote Bruce Cockburn) the trouble with normal is it only gets worse.

Do you wait to get promoted?

We all get stuck in a rut — and if America’s employment system isn’t a rut, I don’t know what is. Convention dominates our thinking and our lives. Especially at work. While we want to get ahead, our first objective is not to rock the boat. We want to protect our jobs, to avoid irritating the HR manager who’s reading our job application, and to come off as being able to follow rules. Who wants to  be viewed as abnormal? What good is thinking out of the box if it gets us thrown out of the box?

So we follow the rules. To get a job, you fill out an application. To get promoted, you wait for your boss to tap you for a better position. You wait your turn, because who wants to tick off the management?

Maybe you should stop waiting.

Out of line, not normal, but promoted

When I was in college, I took a weekend factory job just before Christmas. A nearby Mattel toy factory couldn’t crank our enough Barbie Ferraris for the holiday rush. Any Rutgers student who showed up got hired — no interviews.

I showed up and was handed a punched time card with a red border. (Yah, punched computer cards. This was a long time ago.) The red border meant I’d build Barbie Campers for $3.25 an hour on a production line. Luckier hires became material handlers, operating manual pallet lifts. They didn’t have to stand in one spot for eight hours like the rest of us suckers. They cruised the football-field-sized factory floor, bringing us pallet-loads of parts. They got paid $5.75 an hour. Once assigned, you could not change jobs.

One evening the floor supervisor was in a foul mood, stamping his feet and wiping his brow as he moved along our ranks, assigning us to one assembly line or another. When he got to me, I must have been wearing my naive college-kid smile. “Maybe you’re in a good mood, Kid, but I’m short material handlers. That means the lines are gonna slow down for lack of parts and my production numbers are gonna fall off. I am not in a good mood.”

I looked down at the red-bordered time card in my hand — the dopey card that kept me at the bottom of the Barbie pay scale. I reached out and snatched a blue magic marker from his shirt pocket. Before the blood rushed all the way to his head, I smeared a blue line over the red one, and handed my time card back to him. “Just sign this and you’ve got one more material handler.”

Step off the line

My compadres down the line craned their necks to see whether I’d get reamed or fired. But the supervisor’s frown curled up briefly into a smile. “Turn around, Kid.” He used my back to sign the card. “Find a pallet jack. You’re a material handler.”

I never did get to build a Barbie Ferrari, but my pay went up 75% and so did my confidence. I wasn’t an uber-anything. But I learned that ignoring “normal,” and stepping out of line and solving problems without being asked, would pay off for me again and again throughout my life. It also earned me friends in higher places. But I was lowlier than anyone reading this website when I first tried it.

What about creating a new job?

Assertively reaching for a promotion to a better-paying job is one thing, because you already have a boss you can appeal to. But what if you want to approach an employer with your idea for job you really want that may not exist? That’s another story, and here’s one way to do it: How to create your own job.

The trouble with being normal is that you always have a lot of competition. When you step out of line you possibly become a target, but you do stand out — and that’s your chance to become the next LeBron James. Or to get a job or a promotion. It also saved me from having to box up another Barbie Camper.

Ever take a big chance that got you hired or promoted — or that cost you a job? Have you ever created your own job to get hired? What could you do to stand out, even just a little bit? Or am I just nuts to suggest it?

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Trick questions for age discrimination

Trick questions for age discrimination

We can’t ask your age in this job interview, but please take this quiz about rotary phones

Source: The New Yorker
By Wendy Aarons & Devorah Blachor

age-discriminationPer the human-resources department and the federal government, it’s illegal to ask a job candidate their age because it may lead to discrimination. We carefully consider all candidates, no matter the year they were born, when hiring new talent. After all, age is just a number!

But, to help us get to know you better, please fill out this questionnaire that is not at all about your possible irrelevance in a modern office.

  1. Where were you when J.F.K. died?
  2. Do you know what a SASE is?
  3. Is it ever O.K. to use a smiley-face emoji?


And 17 more…

Continue reading

Nick’s take on age questions

I love this assault on employers and recruiters who use trick questions to figure out how old you are. Give us a break! But it’s no joke. The only joke is how stoopid employers can be. This New Yorker column calls attention to the really wrong methods used to discriminate against older workers. Ageism has become so obvious — it’s really gotten old, dontcha think?

What’s your take? Do you disclose your age on job applications and in job interviews? What methods and tricks have employers and recruiters used to determine your age? How did you deal with it? What should be done about it?



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Recruiter pressure

Recruiter pressure


When independent recruiters are discussing a job with me, they ask if there are any job opportunities that I’m actively exploring on my own. What should I tell them? If I say no, then it seems no one is interested in me. If I say yes, the recruiter might think I am a waste of his time because I’m about to accept an offer. I’m also a little worried about divulging the names of companies I’m pursuing on my own. Is this kind of recruiter pressure reasonable?

Nick’s Reply

Never subject yourself to pressure from a recruiter, simply because a good recruiter will never pressure you.

Some recruiters will ask who else you’re interviewing with no hidden agenda. They’ve already checked you out and they’ve concluded you’re worth competing for. What you’re doing on your own isn’t going to affect their perceptions. They just want to know whether there is a time constraint. In other words, are you close to accepting another offer? That could affect how and when they present you to their client. And that’s fair. If you trust the recruiter, don’t hesitate to discuss your situation candidly.

How to Say It
“If I’m working on another opportunity, will that affect your interest in me?”

A good recruiter will be candid right back, politely. A recruiter that applies pressure is not recruiting. In this business, recruiting means pursuing, appealing, seducing, enticing — not pressuring. If you don’t feel wooed, you’re not being recruited properly.

Recruiter pressure

Other recruiters may be playing games, as you suggest. If they are, well, why worry about them? Let them think what they will. Too much disclosure too soon is risky. Disclose only what you wish and don’t worry about pressure. Remember that the likelihood that any recruiter is going to place you is pretty small. Don’t engage if a recruiter is overly intrusive.

If you’re interviewing with companies on your own, and you don’t know enough about the recruiter to trust them yet, play your cards close. When asked if you’re interviewing anywhere, tell the truth, but don’t reveal enough details that the recruiter can figure out who the company is. Who else you’re interviewing with is none of the recruiter’s business. It should not affect their relationship with you.

Common sense

What a recruiter does need to know about, if you’re going to work together, are potential conflicts. If you’re already interviewing with the company they’re recruiting for, they need to know that. (So do you.) That’s just common sense.

Nonetheless, you should not divulge what companies you’re talking with. (We’ll discuss the risk in a minute.) Ask the recruiter who their client is, and explain that you will confirm whether or not you have already established contact with that company. That’s more common sense.

Recruiter tactics

Some recruiters will explain that if they disclose the company’s name, you may go directly to the company, costing them a fee for making the introduction. That’s a recruiter who has no relationship with the employer, and a job for which every recruiter in the land is submitting candidates. They’re all just fishing, which is not good for you. It’s one example of why recruiters suck so bad.

Some recruiters will say it’s confidential; they can’t divulge their client’s name. Well, that’s that. The recruiter isn’t willing to trust you. Why should you trust the recruiter? Unless it’s a top-level executive position, or it requires very specialized knowledge and skills, it’s not confidential. The recruiter has to decide whether it’s worth telling you more.

This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road, and the recruiter and the candidate begin to forge a relationship. Remember that the recruiter called you. The recruiter should “give something” first.

It’s a matter of trust

Unfortunately, there are too many people trying to make a fast buck in the recruiting business. It’s common to encounter unsavory types “dialing for dollars.” You will recognize them from their high pressure tactics: “I’m the recruiter. If you’re not cooperative, it could cost you this job. Tell me what I need to know!” Lots of people instantly cower before that kind of presentation. Don’t.

Unless you know and trust a recruiter, you have no idea what they may do with information about other jobs you’re pursuing. I’ve seen recruiters go out of their way to torpedo another opportunity a person was developing, just so the recruiter could advance their own placement. It’s unlikely you’d encounter that nasty a recruiter, but you must be careful all the time.

Keep your standards and expectations high. Deal only with recruiters who behave like your interests matter as much as their own, because that’s what defines any good, successful business relationship. So answer in whatever way feels comfortable to you, and let the chips fall where they may. In the process, you will learn something very important about the recruiter, well before you need to trust them to negotiate on your behalf.

What kinds of questions do recruiters ask you that make you uncomfortable? How do you deal with this?

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