How to Get A Job: Network? I don’t know anybody!

How to Get A Job: Network? I don’t know anybody!

How to Get A Job Workshop

For several editions, we’re devoting the Q&A feature to a workshop. Instead of Q&A, this limited series of columns will be “All Answers,” or, if you will, “How To.” This week we continue with How to Get A Job: Network? I don’t know anybody! I hope you find this deep dive helpful, and that you will — as always — dive into the discussion in the Comments section below!  — Nick

How to Get A Job: Network? I don’t know anybody!

how to get a job networkEvery survey ever done shows that the single most successful path to a new job is personal contacts. Yet, time and again people complain to me that they just don’t know anybody who can help them gain entry to a particular company.

And that’s flat-out wrong.

Welcome to your new network

I’m going to enumerate some of the many people you know who can help you.

  • The reporter who wrote the story about the company you want to work for.
  • The manager featured in the article about how that company beat profit projections.
  • The friend whose friend works in the marketing department of your target company.
  • The accountant who works for the CPA firm that handles payroll for the company.
  • The purchasing manager who places orders with the company every week.
  • The lawyer who knows the lawyer who represents the company.
  • The stock broker who knows the analyst who follows the company’s performance.
  • The engineer who wrote the article about the new technology the company uses.
  • The sales rep who answers the phone to help customers in your region.

But, you say you don’t know all those people? That’s a minor detail! You just don’t know them yet. You probably know at least one of them, and the rest you can get to know by picking up the phone. Anyone you know about you can also get to know.

Get wired

If you try to avoid this critical step in your job search, you’re kidding yourself about where jobs come from. While you’re crying that you lost out to somebody who was wired for the job, you’re doing nothing to be the wired candidate for the next one. Jobs come from insiders that help you get the inside track because you got to know them first.

Contacts like these are on the critical path to your next job because they have the inside story about the companies and the managers you want to work for. You need to talk with them. This is how the best headhunters glean the hard-to-find information they use to land new clients and to find the best job candidates for those clients. They get to know the people they need to know.

Get to work getting to know people

People love to talk about their business. You’ve heard me say it before: You can almost always get someone’s attention by talking shop with them. (You don’t need to do the icky kind of networking!) By asking intelligent (well-researched!) questions about their work. By expressing your educated interest in work they do that you want to do, too.

As you start to gather their insights, you will learn a lot, and you will formulate more good questions. This leads you to talk to more people. “Well, gee, who else do you recommend I talk to in the company regarding the marketing department?” This is how you get in the door through personal referrals.

If this were easy, everybody would be doing it

You’ll know you’re doing it right when your supply of new friends overflows, and when you’re talking with them about their work — not about getting a job.

Here are a few of the things you should not say:

  • Let me tell you about myself…[and start reciting your resume]
  • Do you know about any open jobs?
  • Can you please pass my resume on to the company [or the manager or the HR department]?
  • Can you get me an informational interview?

It’s all about personal contacts, but not about awkward, mercenary networking. It’s about establishing a credible interest in a company, in educating yourself deeply, and in helping the business. Never ask directly for a job lead—you’ll just be referred to the HR department.

So get to work. Stop saying you don’t know anybody, or you’ll never land a great job through personal contacts — which is how most people find jobs.

Sorry, I didn’t say it was easy. If this were easy, everybody would be doing it.

Then what?

I throw it out to you!

  • What other kinds of new contacts are on the “critical path” to your next job?
  • Who can you contact next? (Not to talk about a job!)
  • What should you not say to new people you meet?
  • What do you say to new contacts you make, to help educate yourself about the company and to help get you to the right hiring manager?

Let’s talk about “Then what?” The Comments section below awaits your ideas, suggestions, frustrations questions and discussion. We’re all here to figure it out.

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How to Get A Job: There aren’t 400 jobs for you

How to Get A Job: There aren’t 400 jobs for you

How to Get A Job Workshop

For several editions, we’re devoting the Q&A feature to a workshop. Instead of Q&A, this limited series of columns will be “All Answers,” or, if you will, “How To.” So the only question we’ll be addressing will be about how to get a job. We began with Don’t write a resume! This week we continue with There aren’t 400 jobs for you. I hope you find this deep dive helpful, and that you will — as always — dive into the discussion in the Comments section below!  — Nick

How to Get A Job: There aren’t 400 jobs for you

“Apply for hundreds of jobs with just one click!”

400 jobs“That just showed up in my inbox,” a subscriber wrote me. “Sigh… who needs your advice when I can apply for hundreds of jobs with just one click?”

“In the interim,” he added, “I’m waiting to hear back from a hiring manager who needs help securing networks. A former team member introduced me to him. I suspect I’ll have a new job shortly, for some reason…”

That subscriber is highlighting a harsh truth.

There aren’t 400 jobs for you.

When you write your resume, or apply for jobs online, you are working with a ridiculous premise: that going after a lot of jobs is a good thing. You might as well go buy a lottery ticket, because it doesn’t work that way.

Here’s the biggest load of bunk:

“When you’re job hunting, the most important thing to do when you wake up each day is send out 20 resumes and job applications. Do that first, and you’ll feel better because you will have done something to find that new job!”

That’s the conventional wisdom.

Here’s why it’s bunk: After a month you will have applied for 400 jobs, but there aren’t 400 jobs out there that are right for you. There might be a small handful at most. The rest are someone else’s idea of what job might be right for you. And they’re wrong.

Wrong jobs

Where do all these wrong jobs come from?

  • Silly solicitations like the one a reader reported above.
  • The job ads, which tell you next to nothing about the actual work, the manager, or the people you’ll be working with.
  • Your friends, who think that in desperation you’ll consider just about any job they’ve run across.
  • Your college (if you just graduated), which leaves you thinking you must get a job related to your new degree.
  • A headhunter, who calls to tempt you with something, anything.
  • The media, which daily tell us what jobs are “hot.”

The right job is the work you want to do at the company where you want to do it in the industry you want to be a part of. So, ask yourself while you’re climbing out of bed, are you pursuing the right job, or 400 wrong jobs?

Don’t walk blind on the job hunt.

From the lowliest support personnel to the most highly paid executives, earnest job seekers venture out on the job hunt with their eyes closed. They smile that idiotic “I’m your solution!” smile at employers they don’t know from Adam.

These people are all conducting a blind job search. That’s where you broadcast information about yourself to people you don’t know who don’t know you and who have no reason to care. Then you wonder why these employers aren’t impressed. You wonder why they haven’t called you back.

It’s because you’re walking blind.

  • Know who you’re contacting, or don’t contact them.
  • If you don’t know the person you want to contact, first contact someone that does and get introduced.
  • If you wouldn’t recognize someone on the street, don’t walk blind into an interview with them.
  • Send a resume only when the hiring manager already has at least two other solid reasons to be interested in you. Those reasons are probably people the manager trusts.
  • Never pursue jobs you’ve “heard about.” Pursue only jobs where the manager has heard about you. If they haven’t heard about you yet, see that they do.

Open your eyes before you venture out. The best employers are watching and, in general, they don’t think you know where you’re going. Don’t walk blind on the job hunt.

Pursue companies, not jobs

Audiences look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them the best way to find a great job is not to look for a job.

What’s the logic behind this? If you pursue a job, you’re probably going down a dead end. Soon you’ll be looking for another job at another company.

If you go to work at the right company, you should have a future of progressively better jobs. Why pursue one job, when you can have a career full of them in one place? Think ahead!

So, why is it that people bang the Submit! button and apply for jobs in lots of companies, rather than investigate the depth and breadth of opportunities in a single company where they may have a chance to grow and prosper? (Maybe it’s because employers themselves can’t see past six months or a year. They pitch individual, often ephemeral, jobs rather than promote their company’s future prospects. Hey, no one said it’s easy to find a worthy company.)

Pick a small handful of the best companies. Companies that ring your bells. Companies that excite you. The leaders, the shining lights of the industry you want to work in. Life is short, so why waste time with anything less?

Study each company’s business. Study its competition. Look at the problems and challenges it is facing. You cannot do this for 400 companies! Lasting success depends on careful choices.

I know there’s a lot of justified cynicism among job seekers. Employers have laid waste to any ideas of loyalty. They hire for the short term. They leave workers high and dry without training or professional development. But that’s not true of all. Worthy employers are still worth finding.

Companies worth the work are the only companies worth pursuing

Very few jobs and companies are worth the hard work you must do to prepare for an interview where you will truly stand out.

When you have settled on less than five companies that are truly worth your time, sit down and ask yourself, “How can I go into each company and help contribute to the bottom line?” If you don’t take a profit-based approach to your job search, you’re wasting your time. You’re then just another job candidate. You’re just another resume.

Do what none of your competitors will. Talk with people who work in the company and people who do business with the company. Talk with vendors, customers, and people who are involved in the industry. Do the hard work of picking the right targets. Learn what problems and challenges a company faces in the area where you want to work.

You need only one right company

Once you’ve figured out what you can bring to a company’s bottom line, put together a little business plan. A business plan basically says, “This is how I would do this job in a way that would be effective and profitable for your business — and for me. Your company is worth the work I put into this plan.”

When you are able to prepare this business plan, it means you have chosen a worthy company you’re ready to talk shop with. To create this plan, you developed contacts who tutored you and got you in the door. Now you have something that is better than a resume — proof that you’re worth hiring at a company worth working for. (See How Can I Change Careers? It’s not just for career changers.)

Do you see why you cannot possibly do this for 400 companies?

Now you don’t need to apply to 400 companies.

How many jobs have you applied for that you did not get? Do you think maybe you applied for too many and wasted precious time pursuing the wrong ones? Did you ever take a wrong job just because “it was there?” What’s the best way to pick the right jobs to pursue?

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How to Get A Job: Don’t write a resume

How to Get A Job: Don’t write a resume

How to Get A Job Workshop

For the next few weeks, we’re going to devote the Q&A feature to a workshop. Instead of Q&A, this limited series of columns will be “All Answers,” or, if you will, “How To.” So the only question we’ll be addressing in several editions of the newsletter and in this column will be about how to get a job. We’ll start with “Don’t write a resume!” I hope you find this deep dive helpful, and that you will — as always — dive into the discussion in the Comments section below!  — Nick

How to Get A Job: Don’t write a resume

don't write a resumeThe first step on your job search is to become aware of the myths of job hunting. The first myth is that your resume will get you in the door for a job interview.

It won’t. It’s a fallacy.

Don’t write a resume

Don’t write a resume to start your job search. It’s a terrible habit that will slow you down. Worse, you’ll find yourself defending your resume in job interviews when you should be tackling the job you want. A resume tells the hiring manager what you’ve done. What the manager needs to know is what you will do if you’re hired to make the business and the manager more successful. Your resume can’t do that.

Resumes have failed at getting you in the door so often that you’ve accepted it as an unavoidable trauma. All job seekers have come to accept resume failure as normal. But failure is what you choose every time you submit a resume (or the equivalent: a job application) to apply for a job interview.

Calculate the resume myth

You can prove to yourself just how costly the resume fallacy is. How many resumes have you sent out during your life? Make a reasonable estimate. Now, how many job interviews have you gotten from those resumes? Draw a ratio:


I know the ratio it’s tiny. Minuscule. Practically meaningless.

Let’s go a step further: How many resumes have you submitted for every job offer you’ve gotten?

No one wants to view their future as a game of chance, but the resume ratio reveals most job seekers are desperate gamblers.

Your resume will get you rejected

Software developer Joel Spolsky created several successful software companies including StackOverflow, which gets over 100 million visitors per month. He sold the company for $1.8 billion. He built his success by avoiding the myths and hiring people who are smart and get things done. Here’s what this expert hiring manager says about Getting Your Resume Read:

“We get between 100 and 200 [resumes] per opening. There is no possible way we can interview that many people. The only hope is if we can screen people out using resumes. Don’t think of a resume as a way to get a job: think of it as a way to give some hiring manager an excuse to hit DELETE.”

Spolsky isn’t against using resumes per se, but this entrepreneur points out the dirty little secret about using a resume to get a job: It’s a myth that wastes your precious time when you need to stand out and to get an edge over hundreds or thousands of competitors for the job you want.

But it’s actually worse. The resume fallacy is a systemic problem. The employment system itself conspires to make it even harder to get an interview from your resume. As more and more job seekers learn to feed resumes into job-board databases, and as employers rely more and more on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSes), these automated resume-scanning machines keep increasing your competition. This lowers the odds that your resume will do what HR managers claim: “The purpose of your resume is to get you in the door for an interview.”

Those HR managers are lying. As Spolsky points out, the purpose of your resume is to help employers reject you. The automated deluge of incoming resumes leaves them no choice.

What gets you in the door?

Consider this: You send your resume to five hundred companies and it sits in a manager’s file while thousands more resumes pile in after it. At some point, the manager will decide whether to interview you. Meanwhile, my candidate is sitting in the manager’s office describing how they will help the manager produce profit and contribute to the bottom line.

There’s a difference between a job hunter who uses a resume and a job hunter who cultivates and uses personal contacts to get into a company they’ve targeted. One gets the job and one doesn’t. Hiring managers rely on their trusted contacts to endorse and personally recommend good job candidates. Meanwhile, your resume is used to reject you.

(A headhunter is a special case of the personal contact that gets you in the door. But don’t count on a headhunter’s help. It’s far better to use a professional referral. 50-70% of jobs come from personal referrals. Only about 3% of jobs come from headhunters.)

So, what’s a resume for?

Should you not have a resume? Of course you should have a resume: a good, simple list of your work experience, expertise and credentials. (Believe me: Employers don’t trust resumes even as they solicit millions of them, because they know over 80% of people lie on their resumes.)

Here’s my myth-busting advice: Don’t write a resume to start your job search.

  • Never hand your resume to anyone “to get in the door.”
  • Never use a resume to apply for a job.
  • Never use a resume “to market yourself.”

The only time you should use your resume is after you have established substantive contact with the hiring manager —

  • not with a recruiter
  • not with HR, and
  • not with any automated applicant system.

Your resume by itself does not count as substantive contact. You have to earn substantive contact, which is usually made through a trusted referral.

What’s a resume really for? The only purpose of a resume is to fill in the blanks about who you are — after you have used better means to meet a hiring manager. If a hiring manager does not already know exactly why you are worth interviewing, your resume isn’t going to help.

To get a meaningful shot at winning the job you want, make sure the hiring manager knows all about you before they read your resume. Rely on your resume only to fill in the blanks for a hiring manager who already has adequate information to want to interview you.

Interviews and jobs don’t come from resumes

Beware the resume myth. Don’t start any job search by writing a resume that’s “a marketing piece.” Your resume doesn’t “sell you.” It is a dumb document that a manager can use to quickly reject you after spending about 6 seconds looking at it.

So don’t waste precious time on resumes when you can invest it meeting hiring managers. People don’t get jobs from resumes. They get jobs through people the manager knows and trusts.


How to Get A Job: Pick only the right 3-4 companies

I invite you to post your thoughts, experiences and advice about resumes and how to get a job in the Comments section below. Related questions and suggestions for future topics in the Workshop are welcome!

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Why headhunters waste your time

Why headhunters waste your time


May I ask for your advice? I’m a headhunter. What is the best thing to say to a candidate when they ask who is the client I’m representing? I don’t want them going after the job on their own or using another headhunter. Thanks for your time.

Nick’s Reply

headhunters waste timeNice to hear from a “headhunter,” but I’m more concerned about what a candidate should do when you won’t disclose your client. Why on earth would you not tell a candidate who your client is? Aren’t you proud of the client?

Unfortunately, I say that with tongue in cheek. I know why you won’t disclose who your client company is. You’re afraid the candidate will take the information, contact the company directly about the job, cut you out of the loop, and cost you a placement fee.

Is this a headhunter or a “headhunter”?

But there’s more to this that job candidates need to know, because this is part of how “headhunters” (I shudder to call them that) waste job candidates’ time. I’m betting you’re worried because you have no control over your client, and that’s because you have no contract or written agreement with the company. (If you do have a written agreement but it’s not exclusive, candidates face the same problem.) It’s simply bad business when a company welcomes lots of “headhunters” to submit resumes of the same candidates indiscriminately and all at once. If the company hires a candidate submitted by 10 “headhunters” and makes a hire, one of the “headhunters” gets paid and the rest get diddley-bop.

Pardon me if I’ve got it wrong, but I think that’s why you’re worried. That’s why you’re a “headhunter” and not a headhunter. (Note to job seekers: Please read They’re not headhunters.)

The Employment System is Broken

This is also proof positive that the Employment System — how HR recruits and hires — is a sham, a scam, an irresponsible cluster-f@ck that doesn’t work for anyone but the database jockeys who build the software that props up this indefensible house of cards. Yes, I’m talking about Applicant Tracking Systems, LinkedIn and Indeed, the baddest HR consultancies and “recruitment automaters,” phony “A.I.”, phony algorithms that “view and judge” video interviews, and HR-we-do-it-all outsourcing rackets. These all contribute to indiscriminate, more-is-better and massively erroneous candidate selection, “review” and “processing.”

I’m sure readers are already laughing because they’ve had loads of their time wasted by headhunters! Now we’re going to take a look at how this happens.

Job Candidates: How headhunters waste your time

Most headhunters work on contingency. That is, they are paid only when the employer actually hires a job candidate the headhunter submitted for a job. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this business model. It’s very common and it can work well enough for the job seeker, the headhunter and the employer. But problems arise when the search is not assigned exclusively, but thrown like chum on the waters to create an insensate recruiter feeding frenzy.

A contingency search assignment should at minimum give you 30, 60 or 90 days to complete without competition or interference from other sources of candidates. You are the only headhunter authorized to submit job candidates for X days. That’s what makes it exclusive. That’s what makes it worth your time to do a good, thorough job. That’s what makes you proud and happy to tell the candidate who your client is.

When an employer solicits many resumes from many sources all at once, it’s practicing garbage in-garbage out recruiting. It wastes job candidates’ time and its own. When “headhunters” are forced to compete this way, they will submit anyone for any job, hoping to get lucky.

How does this waste a job candidate’s time? Because earnest job seekers go on interviews totally wrong for them while the “headhunter” is hoping to get lucky. The candidate’s time costs the “headhunter” nothing because the “headhunter” costs the employer nothing unless a hire is made.

Is this a bona fide job search?

A company that assigns an exclusive search to a headhunter it trusts gets fewer but better candidates simply because it’s worth the headhunter’s time to dedicate the resources to recruit accurately and quickly. Everybody is more likely to win.

So the problem is not how to answer that question. It’s to start with a bona fide search that’s exclusive. Anything else is not good business for you, for the employer, or for the job candidate. The very fact that you fear competing with your own candidate tells us there’s a fundamental problem with the business model you subject yourself to.

If you don’t have a meaningful agreement with the company, recruiting and submitting candidates becomes a crapshoot and you’re not likely to make a placement because of all the counterproductive and phony “competition.” (It’s phony because all the candidates come from the same databases!)

You should not be wasting your time trying to make a placement without a solid, exclusive relationship with your client. And a candidate should not work with you if all you’re doing is submitting yet another copy of their resume to the same employer.

Headhunting is not a numbers game

I know this is hard advice. But headhunting is hard work. That’s why we get paid up to $30,000 to fill a $100,000 job. What most “headhunters” are doing is playing a recruiting lottery, hoping to get lucky. They’re not real headhunters.

Of course, you could just tell the candidate the truth: You can’t name the company because you know they will apply directly or apply through five headhunters hoping the numbers will work in their favor. Or, you could tell them the name and beg them to work only through you.

Please think about this. Headhunting can be a great business — if you are actually doing business with written agreements, trusted clients and trusted sources of great candidates. Everything else is dialing for dollars.

My advice to any headhunter is to do exclusive searches.

Go exclusive or go away

My advice to job seekers is to work only with headhunters that have the inside track on filling a job for a company. They should always ask the headhunter, “Who is the employer, and are you handling this assignment exclusively?” (See headhunter Joe Borer’s excellent article, How to Judge A Headhunter.)

I have no advice for employers that tolerate and encourage a feeding frenzy of “headhunters” competing to fill one job. They deserve the mess they’re in. This is how and why “headhunters” waste job seekers’ time.

I wish you the best.

Do headhunters tell you who their client is? At what point? Have you ever “gone around” a headhunter? Have you ever learned that multiple headhunters submitted you for the same job? What happened?

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