www.asktheheadhunter.com | March 31, 2009
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How to say it

The Headhunter Asks You
I just finished writing a new book that gave me an idea. (I'll tell you more about the book in another newsletter. It'll give you ideas, too!) This week I'd like to take a break from the normal Q&A feature to ask for your input on a new Ask The Headhunter feature that I'm thinking about starting.

A key part of the new book is a series of sidebars in each chapter that I call How to say it. It's advice on how to say what needs to be said when you're talking to someone about a job.

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-- Nick

In this newsletter I try to teach simple concepts about how to select a company when you're job hunting, how to get in the door for an interview, how to explain your value to a manager and much more. I also discuss the importance of controlling salary negotiations, getting the information you need from a headhunter before sending him your resume and managing your interactions with your boss.

However, good as my ideas might be (and sometimes maybe you don't think they are!), I find that readers might understand a concept we are discussing, only to freeze up when the time comes to apply it: "I get it, but when I have to talk to a headhunter or to a manager, How do I say it?"

How you say it can make or break an opportunity. Your tone, the words you choose and the signals you give all combine to determine whether you get what you want. There are some good books about the quality of communication (listed at the end of this column), but in the context of Ask The Headhunter I think it's important to provide some simple How to say it suggestions that will give you the confidence to try new ideas.

This all stems from something brilliant my friend and lawyer Bernie Dietz said to me a few years ago. We were talking about how I get paid for licensing Ask The Headhunter features to other publishers. I might spend an hour or more talking with a prospect about how my features can help their publication, but at the end of the conversation no one has broached the topic of money. There are times when I've wasted hours of work, only to find we're so far apart on money that one short discussion would have sufficed.

So I asked, "Bernie, how do I bring up money?"

His suggestion was bold and elegant. He told me to raise the topic of licensing fees by asking the prospect, "So, what's the money like?"

That's How to say it... (See? Even though I can confidently negotiate salary with a client for one of my job candidates, I can't always think straight when it's about my own work. It's a case of being too close to the deal. We all need advisors sometimes!)

Bernie's simple suggestion is brilliant because it enables me to ask it right off the bat because it's so casual and off-the-cuff. It's innocent and enthusiastic. No one expects it. It's not a demand. I say it with a smile. And it always works. It's not magic, but knowing how to say it gives me the confidence to deal with one of the touchiest situations in sales -- and it saves me a lot of time. It can also save you time when you're talking to someone about a job.

How to say it
Let's look at a few examples of How to say it that I've occasionally provided in this newsletter:

A reader's boss was moving on and she felt she could do his job as well as her own while saving the company money. But she lacked assertiveness. I suggested that she walk into the big boss's office, close the door and say:

"I'd like to talk to you about Mary's [your old boss's] job. I think my present job and Mary's could be combined to save the company money and to improve our workflow and the quality of our output. Can I show you what I mean, and ask for your thoughts on my ideas? What I'm telling you is that I'd like to take on this management position, but I think it should be reconfigured. If I can't show you that I'd do a great job, you clearly shouldn't promote me. But I think you'll like what I have to say."

In another column, a reader interviewed for a job only to have the personnel manager attempt to bring her back for a follow-up interview for a lower level job in a different department. How to say it politely but firmly:

"If you'd like me to interview for a position different from the one I applied for, please send me that job description. I'll study it and let you know if I want to interview for it. In the meantime, I'd like to continue my interviews with the manager for the job I originally applied for."

A student about to graduate with a degree in engineering didn't know how to break the ice with companies in a distant city because he had no contacts. I suggested he find technical articles by engineers in those companies and contact them to express his interest in their work, and then ask for advice. How to say it:

"I don't expect you to hire me, but it would mean a lot if you could help me get a better idea about how to get a technical career off on the right foot. What's the best way for a new grad like me to break into the right kind of job? I'm willing to work hard and pay my dues, but I want to make sure I'm in the right place, doing the right kind of work. Could you give me your advice?"

Readers tell me that having the right words often makes an enormous difference to their confidence and helps them take the next step to actually pick up the phone or to write an e-mail. My words aren't magic and they may not always work. My objective is to help people take that next step with a measure of confidence, rather than do nothing at all. Bernie Dietz helped me over the hump. I hope I can help you.

Do you need words?
I'd like to start a How to say it feature on Ask The Headhunter to help you find the words you need to succeed. Tell me what situations make you freeze up and sweat bullets because you don't know how to say what you need to say. I'll do my best to offer suggestions about the words you need. The more specific the situations, the better. I'll publish the best ones along with my tips and invite alternate suggestions from you, too. We'll all learn something about how to say it better.

Please send your quandaries here: Nick, tell me how to say it!

Nick Corcodilos
Ask The Headhunter®

P.S. Below are some of my favorite books on this topic.
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My favorite books about how to say it


Learn more
My favorite book about "How to say it"
How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less

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Readers' Comments

Thank you for your website. I appreciate your knowledge and your willingness to share it without cost. May I have your permission to re-format the transcript of the Women & Interviews chat? The information in it is wonderful and relevant, and I hate to think that some will not plow through the difficult reading to find the gems in it.

Cyndi Sandahl

Many thanks to Cyndi for volunteering to re-format the Women & Interviews chat transcript to make it so easy to read! Don't miss it!  -- Nick

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