Do this before accepting a job offer!

Do this before accepting a job offer!

Question

It’s always a relief when I get a job offer, but that’s also when I think I’m most vulnerable to accepting a job that maybe I should not. Face it, after 7, 8 or 9 interviews (common today), you just want to get it over with and start the job! You have said people often quit their jobs or get fired because “they took the wrong job to begin with.” I understand, but how do we avoid a mistake like that? Is there a strategy or a reminder I should write on my hand?

Nick’s Reply

before accepting a job offerYou can do something pretty obvious to avoid going to work for a questionable company or accepting the wrong job: meet everyone that will affect your success. It’s not really a strategy. It’s more of a tactic that will help you confirm a really good opportunity and keep you from getting a walk-on role in a nightmare. You shouldn’t write on your hand, but if you insist, write these two words: upstream and downstream.

Look around the company

In a classic New York Times article, “How to Become a C.E.O.? The Quickest Path Is a Winding One” Guy Berger, a LinkedIn economist, says that to make it into a CEO job,  “…you need to understand how the different parts of a company work and how they interact with each other and understand how other people do their job, even if it’s something you don’t know well enough to do yourself.”

That may seem obvious, but job candidates rarely take time to look around a company once they’re holding a brand new job offer. They’re understandably in a hurry to accept. While Irwin discusses a career strategy for becoming a CEO, I’m more concerned with the tactics necessary to be successful in any job — and that requires slowing down.

Before accepting a job offer

While I think job success is possible only when you pick the right company and job, what happens if you devote tons of time and effort to get a job offer, only to realize it’s wrong?

I teach all my job candidates to pause the hiring process when they receive an offer, and to re-start it on a new vector — one they’d never be able to insist on until they actually have an offer. For the sake of illustration, let’s say you’ve been offered a marketing job. Always, before accepting a job offer, take control politely but firmly and say this to the hiring manager:

“Before accepting your offer to start this job, I’d like to come back and meet three people who are upstream and downstream from the job you’ve offered: managers who run Sales, Product Development, and Manufacturing.”

(The actual departments will depend on the job you are considering.)

What’s upstream and downstream?

If you don’t get those meetings, you are likely to accept a wrong job, or to walk blindly into uncharted waters. Some companies will just refuse your request. Others will scratch their heads and ask why you want the meetings.

Here’s how to explain it:

“Those managers are upstream and downstream from the work I’ll be doing, and they will affect how successfully I can do my marketing job. Manufacturing is upstream from Marketing: They make what I must promote. Sales is downstream from me: They must rely on how I position our brand. Product Development is upstream — it creates features I have to communicate to the world. The upstream and downstream partnerships with Marketing affect how successful all of us can be. To make the commitment I’d like to make to you, I need to know who I’ll be working with, how they work, and what they expect from me. So I’d like to meet them now.”

An employer is more likely to consent to these meetings after it has made the commitment of a job offer to you.

Interview the employer

I know a sales manager who didn’t accept the job until he spent time in the warehouse — a downstream department whose work would determine customer satisfaction. He wanted to learn how orders were picked, packaged and delivered. He’d had bad experiences at another company where, no matter how much his sales reps sold, customers didn’t re-order because shipments arrived late and damaged. He also wanted to meet the accounting manager — another downstream job — who was responsible for receivables, because sales commissions aren’t paid until customers payments arrive.

So he interviewed the employer after he had their offer in hand.

Managers in other departments may have interviewed you during the hiring process, but did you interview them? Did you drill down into their business, meet their teams and perhaps spend half a day in working meetings with them?

No? Would you buy a company without doing exactly that — assessing its talent and management in a hands-on way? Then why would you accept a job without this kind of due diligence?

Your job success depends on others

Other people upstream and downstream from you will affect your job success dramatically — just as you will affect theirs. Meeting them and understanding what they do, and how, will help you decide whether to accept a job, and to avoid stepping into disaster and having to change jobs again soon.

This tactic also helps when you’re interviewing job candidates yourself — send them up- and downstream to other managers before you hire them. Is everyone convinced they can paddle in the right direction?

See also: How can I optimize my first day on the job?

Do you do anything special before accepting a job offer, to make sure it’s really right for you? Have you rushed into a job without due diligence only to find trouble waiting? What happened? What are some effective ways to help ensure you’ll enjoy success on a new job?

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Edition #900: The single best interview question (and answer)

Edition #900: The single best interview question (and answer)

Ask The Headhunter online began publication a long time ago. The newsletter launched soon after. This Q&A column marks the 900th edition of the newsletter — that’s 900 weeks of free advice inspired by the best questions asked by the Ask The Headhunter community. To mark the occasion, I’m reprinting a column from 2003 about the best interview question ever. It has withstood the test of time, and it could not be more relevant or applicable today. I hope you find it as helpful as many others have.

Question

What is the single best interview question ever — and the best answer?

Nick’s Reply

best interview questionThere used to be a book titled something like 2,800 Interview Questions & Answers. Even today, you can find books that will automate your job interviews with canned repartee. These books feature 701 interview questions (and “best answers), or 201, or 189, 101 — or, How many interview questions you got???

All the interview questions

I’ve always had a fantasy about these books. You walk into the interviewer’s office. You smile broadly and shake hands:

“Glad to meet you! Let’s get down to business and have an interview!”

Then you slide one of those babies across the desk.

“Here are all the questions you’re going to ask me… and the answers! Now you know what they are, and I know what they are, and we don’t need to waste our time. So we can do something useful, and talk about the work you need to have done!”

Instead of teaching job candidates and hiring managers to talk shop —  that is, about the job — career experts outdo themselves regurgitating job-interview scripts.

The silly answers they offer are rehashed and marinated in expired creative juices, and about as satisfying as a bolus coughed up by the last person who interviewed with the manager.

One Interview Question

Then there’s the “one, the only, the best interview question” designed to be so clever that you must think it’s also smart. The trouble is, these click-bait offerings have nothing to do with the job you’re interviewing for!

Lately, these include (on LinkedIn) Lou Adler’sWhat single project or task would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far? and (on Inc.com) economist Tyler Cowen’s “What are the open tabs in your browser right now?” (We won’t even get into the perennial “What’s your greatest weakness?” or ” How many golf balls would fit in the Empire State Building?”)

In 2003, the editors of Fast Company magazine put together a cover story titled, “All The Right Moves: A guide for the perplexed exec.” It was a collection of 21 Q&As for managers covering everything from how to be a star at work, how to be an effective leader and how to dress for success.

Editor Bill Breen asked me to write a “memo” to managers about Question #16: What is the single best interview question ever — and the best answer?

The best interview question

Here’s the memo I sent to Breen as it appeared in the July 2003 edition of Fast Company. Almost 20 years later, I’ll still put this question up against any list of interview questions (whether it includes 50, 200, or 2,800), or against any other “best, most important question” anyone has ever come up with. I think proof of its power is that job candidates can — and should — raise the question themselves and answer it to prove they’re worth hiring.


Memo From: Nick Corcodilos
To: Hiring managers everywhere
Re: Reinventing the job interview

The purpose of any interview is simple: to determine whether the candidate can do the job profitably. A smart interview is not an interrogation. It’s not a series of canned questions or a set of scripted tests that have been ginned up by HR. An interview should be a roll-up-your-sleeves, hands-on meeting between you and the candidate, where all of the focus is on the job.

Think of the interview as the candidate’s first day at work, with the only question that matters being this:

“What’s your business plan for doing this job?”

To successfully answer that, the candidate must first demonstrate an understanding of the company’s problems, challenges, and goals — not an easy thing to do. But since you desperately want to make a great hire and get back to work, why don’t you help the best candidate succeed? Two weeks before the interview, call up the candidate and say the following:

“We want you to show us how you’re going to do this job. That’s going to take a lot of homework. I suggest that you read through these 10 pages on our Web site, review these publications from our marketing and investor-relations departments, and speak with these three people on my team. When you’re done, you should have something useful to tell us.”

This will eliminate 9 out of 10 candidates. Only those who really want the job will put in the effort to research the job.

At the interview, you should expect (or hope) to hear the most compelling question that any candidate can ask:

“Would you like me to show how your company will profit from hiring me?”

The candidate should be prepared to do the job in the interview. That means walking up to the whiteboard and outlining the steps that he or she would take to solve your company’s problems. The numbers don’t have to be right, but the candidate should be able to defend them intelligently. If the candidate demonstrates an understanding of your culture and competitors — and lays out a plan of attack for solving your problems and adding something to your bottom line — you have some awfully compelling reasons to make the hire.

But if you trust only a candidate’s past accomplishments, references, credentials, or test results, you still won’t know whether the candidate can do the job.


Recruiting is still — and always has been — about finding the best candidates. But the best candidate isn’t just the one who can answer that question. The best candidate is the person who brings it up and volunteers to answer it — and is ready to show you how they will do the job profitably.

Do the job in the interview

If you cannot do the job to win the job, then it doesn’t matter what tabs are open on your browser, what animal you’d be if you could be any animal, what your greatest accomplishment was, or where you see yourself in five years. There is certainly more to do in a job interview, and we can have a lot of fun with clever questions and rejoinders. But, if you cannot demonstrate, right there in the meeting, your business plan for how you will do the work, then you will not stand out — and you have no business in that job interview.


How Can I Change Careers? picks up where that Fast Company column leaves off. And it’s not just for career changers. It’s for anyone who wants to stand out in the job interview. The book explains why this “single best interview question ever” for hiring managers is also the single best question for candidates to bring up in the interview — and how to do it. (Fast Company says it’s “chock full of tips for the thorniest of job-hunting problems.”)


You be the judge of what counts in your job interviews: Does anything matter more than showing you can do the job? What are the best and worst questions you’ve asked or been asked?

Thanks to all in the Ask The Headhunter community for assembling here every week, and especially to those who have contributed questions and comments over the years! This website and the newsletter are successful because of the quality of discourse you bring every week! How long have you been a subscriber? If you don’t get the free weekly newsletter, please sign up for edition #901 and share this link with friends!

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The 4 Questions™: Get a job with a mini-business plan

The 4 Questions™: Get a job with a mini-business plan

How to Get A Job Workshop

In the previous installment of this special How to Get A Job series we discussed how to get the inside track on the job you want. This requires connecting with the hiring manager’s circle of friends — people who can educate you and introduce you for a substantive, 10-15 minute talk with the manager. Now you need a mini-business plan using The 4 Questions™. — Nick

Make a mini-business plan: The 4 Questions™

So, what do you do in that brief talk with the manager? (This also works in a regular job interview, if you can take control.)

Outline your business plan for the job

The 4 Questions

Your objective must be to show the hiring manager you are worth interviewing at length. You much show (hint?) that you have a plan to do the job. It really is a mini-business plan. Your contacts to this point should have prepared you to demonstrate you’re there to talk more about the work than about yourself. Your brief talk must reveal that you can answer YES to what I call The 4 Questions™. You must leave the manager wanting more.

Please note that in the next section I’m giving you way more suggestions than would ever fit into a 15-minute talk! In fact, this should be more than enough to also structure a complete job interview later. (Some of the suggestions are realistic only for a full interview.) Choose what you think will work best for you — for the preliminary brief chat or the interview — then bend and shape it to suit your needs.

The 4 Questions™

In my experience, unless someone works out at least partial answers to The 4 Questions in advance, they have no business in a chat or in a job interview with a hiring manager. At least this much is necessary to make you stand out and to make you worth talking with.

1. Do I understand what the work is?
You should be prepared to discuss one or two problems and challenges the manager (or company) is facing. This is what you’ve gleaned from your new contacts! Consider it the minimum ante for your encounter. Even if your understanding is not very deep, you can diplomatically ask the manager what they’d expect a new hire to tackle, fix, improve, make better or otherwise bring to the team.

Another way to address this is to start a dialogue about what are the deliverables the manager expects. In other words, if you were hired, what would you plan to get done in the 1st month on the job, the 3rd month, the 6th 12th, 18th month, and at 2 years?

2. Can I do the work?
Your discussions with the people that got you into this brief talk should have prepared you for this question. Before your talk with the manager, you should have examined your enormous quiver of skills and abilities — but do not overwhelm the manager with your entire quiver! From these, you must thoughtfully select just a few specific “arrows” and demonstrate how you would use them to do the work the manager needs done. (Do not go on about all your “arrows!”) Briefly discuss these and ask the manager for feedback.

3. Can I do the work the way the company wants it done?
This is a matter of work ethic and style. Again, your preparatory discussions should have told you a lot about the company’s and manager’s approach to work. You should be able to say something about how you will fit into the culture (whatever that word really means!). There’s nothing wrong with asking the manager what qualities other successful employees share, and how they work together as a team. (A friend of mine asks Question 3 this way: Can you park your bike pointing the way everyone else does?)

4. Can I do the work profitably?
“Profit” can mean many things: More money, higher customer satisfaction, lower costs, higher revenues, more efficiency, and so on. What we’re really getting at is, will you deliver more than you cost? Can you estimate the added value you can bring to the job?

There is of course no way to state a “correct” number, simply because you don’t have all the information you need to make this estimate!  (Few managers could do this for their own jobs!) The secret to Question 4 is that it lends itself to a discussion. Ask the manager how the job contributes — or could contribute — directly to the department’s or company’s profits or success. Job candidates I’ve coached have wowed managers who have never encountered an applicant who so clearly shows they’ve thought hard about the bottom line — as much as they’re thinking about getting a job! Addressing this question is not about having a “right” answer. It’s about being able to “show your work” and defend your approach and conclusions. It’s about you and the manager rolling up your sleeves to figure this out.

The 4 Questions™ break the script

Perhaps the most fatal flaw about job interviews is that they’re devoid of back-and-forth about the work. I find that when a candidate helps a manager talk about the work that needs to be done, job interviews are dramatically more productive. As we discussed in the last column, we’re breaking the hiring script and creating an edge. The candidate that is prepared to talk shop stands apart.

If you suspect that answering The 4 Questions is also a good script for a full job interview, you’re absolutely right. In fact, some of what I suggest in the four questions above works better in a job interview than in the brief chat with the manager. Turn your job interview into a demonstration! I call this doing the job to win the job.

Never do this presumptuously. Ask the hiring manager (Never attempt this with HR!) for permission to present a mini-business plan for how you would approach the job if you were hired. Then pull out a tablet or ask the manager’s permission to go up to the whiteboard to draw an outline.

Your mini-business plan for the job interview

Lay out your plan. Keep it brief! I think it’s far better to actually sketch this out than to merely talk about it. Clearly, this is based on The 4 Questions, too.

  1. You understand the job. In just 3 or 4 bullet points, briefly outline your understanding of the work to be done: What are the outcomes (goals or deliverables) the manager wants? Coax the manager to help you get it right!
  2. You know how to do the work… List the tasks necessary to achieve the desired outcomes. This is your map, or plan, for doing the job. Then back it up. Explain how you’ll apply 3 or 4 of your specific skills appropriately. (Work this out well in advance!)
  3. …the way the manager wants it done. Query the manager about how the team’s style and culture contributes to (or interferes with!) getting the work done. This is a discussion that can give you insight on how to handle the rest of your interview!
  4. You can do the job profitably. This is the fun and risky part! Draw a line beneath your presentation so far, and write a number in dollars — your estimate of what you think you can contribute to the bottom line. (You must do your estimate in advance.) The number almost doesn’t matter! Explaining how you arrived at it, and the ensuing discussion, is what matters! It shows a smart manager that you’re not there just for a paycheck. You’re thinking about the company’s bigger picture, and you have at least attempted to tackle the bottom line.

I poll managers about how they’d respond to a job candidate who showed up with a mini-business plan like this. The answer is always the same: “Are you kidding? I’d be shocked and stunned and ready to talk!”

This works only if you choose targets carefully!

Remember our discussion about why there aren’t 400 jobs out there for you? There is no way you could perform like this for 400, or 100, or even 10 jobs! You must choose your target employers, managers and jobs with care. As you work out what you want to say to a manager, whether for a short get-to-know-you chat or for a real job interview, I think you will grasp why I say If you can’t pull this off, you have no business meeting with a busy manager!

What makes you a truly worthy job candidate? How would you apply The 4 Questions to get in the door and stand out in an interview? What is the minimum ante — or preparation — to warrant a meeting with a hiring manager? Does it seem to you that most job interviews fail to yield offers because the candidate isn’t ready “to do the job in the interview?” (Ah, that’s a loaded question!)

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How to Get A Job: Get the inside track

How to Get A Job: Get the inside track

How to Get A Job Workshop

In the first installments of this special How to Get A Job series we discussed the pitfalls of resumes, how to get the right job by pursuing fewer jobs, and how to turn people you don’t know into personal contacts that get you in the door. In last week’s Comments section, readers “filled in the blanks,” discussing how to turn new contacts into meetings with managers that might want to hire you. So, then what? Get the inside track before your next interview! — Nick

How to Get A Job: Get the inside track

get the inside track

You may have heard me say this before. Never give your resume to a manager that you haven’t already had substantive contact with. If you do, you cannot stand out when it counts — before the manager starts interviewing your competition.

You may also have heard me say this. If you lost out on the last job to someone that had the inside track, next time be the candidate on the inside track!

So, you’ve put to work the ideas we’ve already discussed in this series. You’ve been referred to a hiring manager (or other influential insider) by someone who recognizes that you may be able to bring value to the operation. This personal introduction is worth far more than any job application or “professionally written resume.” A manager is far more likely to act on a referral from a trusted source than on an unknown applicant.

Then what?

In psychology, a job interview is what we call a cognitive script. The questions and answers — even the behavior and how people dress — are preordained. (If you could be any animal, what animal would you be? What’s your greatest weakness? Where do you see yourself in five years? I call these the Top Ten Stupid Interview Questions.)

Now what do you do? You break the script and stand out.

Break the script

Almost every job-interview story line follows a conventional script. The process, the questions, the sweaty palms, the tricks, the clever comebacks — it’s all a kind of acting. Everyone acts a part.

This makes every job applicant like every other. The sameness is baked into the interview script everyone uses.

This is why, after a day of interviews, the hiring manager can’t distinguish Candidate 1 from Candidate 8.  You can’t get hired because you don’t stand out. You’re like an extra in a B movie whose ending you already know.

To get anywhere, you must stand out.

Get the inside track

The best thing you can do to stand out as more than just another job candidate is to break the script. Get the manager out of the same-old Q&A story. (What’s your greatest strength? Why are manhole covers round?) Do something your competition wouldn’t dare. Turn your conversation into something else — a discussion about the work. And start this new script before you even get a job interview!

Please get this straight. What we’re about to discuss is not what to say in a job interview. You must talk to the manager before you apply for the job.

This is what to say to a hiring manager even before they have seen your resume. How you handle this discussion can determine whether you earn a job interview as the candidate with the inside track.

How to Say It

Readers often tell me they understand what I’m recommending they should do, but they don’t know how to actually say it. So let’s run through some of your options, in “how to say it” format.

Now that a new contact has referred you to a manager you need to talk with, call (don’t e-mail or text) the manager. These suggestions may be used as alternatives to one another, or they may be woven together any way you wish to suit your style and approach. This is all about introducing yourself to the manager without a resume.

How to Say It #1

“I’ve been talking with so-and-so and so-and-so [people the manager knows] and they’ve pointed out to me that your operation is growing. They thought I might be helpful to you. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand that two key problems or challenges that you are facing may be these…[briefly describe].”

If you approach a manager with an arrogant or presumptuous tone, they will blow you off. If you approach by saying, “So-and-so suggested that I give you a call,” that opens up the door. Always ask permission to continue.

How to Say It #2

“Thanks to some advice from so-and-so, I’ve been trying to study your business and I’d like to ask if you could give me a little more insight into where your business is going and where you might need some help.”

If you feel awkward and don’t want to come off as presumptuous, turn the discussion away from sounding like a pitch for a job.

How to Say It #3

“I have an interest in your industry. I’m not sending out resumes because I’m not applying for jobs, but people regard your company is a shining light in its industry. I’d like to learn more about [marketing, engineering, etc.] in your company, perhaps about your own department’s needs and about what you do before I apply for a job.”

If you’ve done your homework and spoken with insiders, you have three or four names to drop. Most managers will not ignore personal referrals, even if they don’t have an open job right now. More important, those people that referred you also tutored you in the manager’s business just enough that you’ve been able to formulate some good questions for a productive conversation.

Here’s a potent way to show the manager that you’re the one taking a risk.

How to Say It #4

“I don’t like applying for any job until I have learned enough to be able to go into the interview and demonstrate, hands down, how I can specifically contribute to the bottom line. If I can’t flesh out a plan, I wouldn’t expect any manager to interview me. I’m trying to develop that kind of understanding.”

Don’t ask for a meeting yet. Don’t hog the call. Be brief. Do not recite your resume or credentials! Let the manager talk. Whatever the manager might share with you, ask for a meeting shorter than any job interview; short enough that the manager may actually squeeze you in.

How to Say It #5

“Would you have fifteen minutes for me to stop by so I can get a little more insight about your operation, and about the work you hire people to do? I know you’re busy. I’ll be gone after fifteen minutes.”

Not many managers get phone calls like that. You’re clearly not asking for a job interview.

If you really want to be bold, try this.

How to Say It #6

“Look, I know you might think that I’m coming to you from out of left field, and if I seem like a know-it-all, please pardon me. So-and-so and so-and-so were kind enough to educate me about your company’s business. I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to get a sense of how I might be able to contribute something to your operation. I’ve put together a very brief business plan I’d like to show you.”

(In the next edition, we’ll discuss how to create this “business plan for a job” that you can use both in your preliminary talk with the hiring manager and in your job interview.)

There’s another version of this you might like better. Can you see the powerful spin on it?

How to Say It #7

“It’s a fifteen-minute presentation. If you’ve got fifteen minutes for me, I’d like to come by your office. If after five minutes you don’t like what I have to say, stop me and I’ll leave, no questions asked. I’m not here to waste your time, I’m here because so-and-so suggested I speak with you — and because I think I can help you. But in any case, I won’t take more than fifteen minutes of your time. Promise.”

If you cobble together an approach from these suggestions, and a manager blows you off, it’s probably not a place you want to work. That’s not sour grapes. A manager who has time only for scripted interviews with people unknown isn’t a good business person.

Talk with the hiring manager before you apply for a job

To establish yourself as worthy of a manager’s interest, you must completely bypass the conventional recruiting and interview script. You must stand out from all other candidates. You must earn the inside edge by earning referrals and tutoring from people the manager knows and trusts.

There is no resume. There is no interview. The opportunity before you is driven by who knows you. Someone the manager knows. It’s driven by talking shop outside the job hunting and hiring script we all know and hate.

This is the substantive contact you need, and you should create it well before any job interview. This is your new script for talking about an opportunity, and these are some suggestions for how to say it.

How would you re-cast my suggested “how to say its” for your own use? Does this give you any other ideas about how to gain an edge over your competition, and how to position yourself? Does it make sense that, to stand out, you must do something “stand-0ut” before you apply for a job or go to a job interview?

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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:

RESUMES / INTERVIEWS

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.

Next

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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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?

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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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Ghosting: Hard lessons about recruiters & employers

Ghosting: Hard lessons about recruiters & employers

Two readers frustrated about ghosting by recruiters and employers learn how to apply two tests, in the October 13, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter.

Question #1

ghostingTwice in the last month or so I’ve gotten LinkedIn mail from recruiters who were really excited about my background and wanted to talk to me about a position that would be right up my alley. I’d reply offering a date and time to talk. Both times I was ghosted. LinkedIn’s utility for job search continues to take a nosedive. “There oughta be a law!” How can I judge what’s real and what’s spam?

Nick’s Reply

We all know recruiters will waste your time. The hard lesson is that you can do something about it.

Job seekers get too excited when a recruiter comes knocking. They so want an “opportunity” that they fail to judge the recruiter and the solicitation. You can save loads of time and heartbreak with a quick, simple test.

To test a recruiter’s credibility, force their hand early.

The phone-call test

When a “recruiter” solicits you effusively, gauge their enthusiasm with a phone-call test. Invite them to talk on the phone. Ask for their number. (Don’t give yours.) 95% will ghost you simply because they’re part of a boiler-room operation and they have no idea whether you’re a match for the job. If they fail this phone-call test, forget them. On to the next!

For anyone that thinks this could cost you an opportunity, let me show you why it won’t.

To a real recruiter or headhunter, you’re worth a fee of 15-25% of your starting salary if they can place you. So, if you’re hired for $60,000, the recruiter stands to make up to $15,000 in fees. That’s a lot of money. If the headhunter is “really excited” because you’re really a good candidate for the job they’re working on, they’d never risk losing $15,000 by not talking to you!

Hard ghosting lesson #1

95% of “recruiters” and the “opportunities” they hawk aren’t worth spit. Learn the hard lesson: It behooves you to use the phone-call test on each one that comes along.

Question #2

Two weeks ago, I did five interviews in two days. One of the interviews was dropped on my calendar at the last minute (same day), but I cooperated. I felt the interviews went well. I sent thank you notes to everyone. I did not hear anything back that week. I followed up the following week, heard nothing. Followed up last week, still nothing. They’ve gone completely ghost. Is there any good way to deal with this?

Nick’s Reply

We all know employers and HR insist that job seekers jump through hoops. After you’ve performed for them, they ghost you. The hard lesson is that you can push back early in the hiring process.

While you complain you’re getting no updates or replies, the conventional wisdom is that you must “chill and wait” because “these things take time.”

Sure they do! And the managers and HR are all very busy. Professional courtesy is not optional. They have an obligation to respond to you while you’re waiting because you’ve already extended the courtesy of your time to them.

What can you do about a corporate habit of disregard? You must set standards, let employers know what they are, then expect them to perform just as they expect you to.

The protocol test

Whenever you think it’s appropriate during an interview, test their hiring protocols. Ask what their feedback practices are, and who is responsible for keeping you apprised. Expect specific answers.

  • “When will you follow up with me?” (Date, time)
  • “If I inquire after a week or two, who will respond to me?” (Name, title)

There is nothing unreasonable about these questions. You have invested time at their request. Let them know you expect the same. If they don’t answer candidly, expect ghosting is the policy and be brutally honest with yourself — don’t expect much from this company. On to the next!

(Imagine you get the job and, after you’re assigned a project, you ghost your boss and ignore requests for project updates. Is there really any difference? It’s all about responsibility and integrity.)

Test recruiters, test employers. Then adjust your willingness to engage based on how they perform. Recruiters and employers who do what they say they’re going to do demonstrate integrity and responsibility. They will be few. They are worth your time.

Hard ghosting lesson #2

The hard lesson about ghosting is that you’ll have time to engage with the best only if you know how to test and avoid the rest.

Let’s make a list. What hard lessons have you learned? What standards do you actually apply when dealing with recruiters and employers? What are your inviolable rules?

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