How to invest in job futures

How to invest in job futures

Question

I sought out a couple of companies that I want to work with, researched them, found actual names to contact personally, and got interviews. They are impressed with my background and they want the talent I offer in their organization, but do not have a position open right at the moment. What can I say, or how can I continue to approach them so they do not forget about me?

Nick’s Reply

job futuresI’m going to show you how to stop trying to get a job today, and how to invest in job futures.

You have accomplished what all job hunters set out to do: You got a company interested in you. Even though neither of these two can hire you now, they are very real, long-term prospects and you’d be remiss if you did not cultivate them properly.

But here’s the important lesson: This is how most good opportunities germinate.

Job futures

It’s far more likely for an employer to meet impressive candidates than it is to hire one. Even after the interview, you remain impressive. It’s just that, no matter how impressed it was, the employer forgets you. It’s on you to keep that spark of interest alive by investing in it. Most people just flat-out fail to recognize and nurture “job futures.” Future opportunities are some of the very best if you keep tending them. Don’t let this one die on the vine.

Good opportunities germinate in a first encounter, and bear fruit later.

Imagine if during your life you had five or ten companies express this level of interest in you. At some point in the future, one or more of these seeds could blossom into a serious opportunity, but only if you tend it during all that time. The next step you take is potentially far more important than responding to job postings or tweaking your LinkedIn profile. So get moving.

They won’t forget you

I would e-mail or call the managers you spoke with. Give a gracious thank-you, and ask if there are other positions open — positions for which you might be able to recommend other candidates. Yes, you are offering a professional courtesy. You are helping these managers fill other jobs and you’re establishing a valuable relationship, and you’re helping a friend get a job. (Don’t worry that you’re creating your own competition by referring someone else! If these managers think you’d fit one of those other jobs, they now have even more reason to consider you — they already know you!)

They won’t forget you.

Then ask for a favor in return: Do they know managers in other good companies — managers they respect — to whom they would recommend you? Add, “And if nothing works out, I promise to stay in touch with you in the event a position opens up in your company.” Ping them every three months. Share a relevant article you’ve read, ask for advice about some work-related topic, and otherwise gently cultivate your connection.

Keep tending this investment and they won’t forget you. This is how I cultivate good candidates I’ve found but have not placed. Yet.

Invest now

I’ve seen people miss out on great opportunities because they failed to understand how long-term business relationships work, and because they are in a rush. They want a job now, so they disregard a chance to develop a lasting relationship they will need in the future. Today’s job often arises from diligent follow-up work you started years ago.

In three years, you’ll wish you’d started doing this now.

Has a rejection ever turned into a job offer for you later on? Do you stay in touch with managers you “clicked” with but who didn’t hire you? Do you have other examples of such contrarian experiences, where a thoughtful courtesy — I call it investing in job futures — results in a benefit later on?

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LinkedIn & Indeed aren’t good sources of hires because they don’t know anybody

LinkedIn & Indeed aren’t good sources of hires because they don’t know anybody

Question

Whatever sources of hires you use, are you more interested in passive or active candidates? By passive I mean people that aren’t actively looking.

Nick’s Reply

sources of hiresFirst, you shouldn’t worry about what any headhunter is interested in. Headhunters are involved in relatively few hires among all jobs that get filled every day. You should be focused instead on conducting your own job search and cultivating good professional contacts. Most hires come from respected sources in your field that know and recommend you.

That’s why websites like LinkedIn and Indeed are lousy sources of hires and jobs. They have no brain! I’ll explain why it’s painfully obvious in a moment, even if employers pour billions of dollars into these third-rate database companies masquerading as second-rate database companies.

Real sources of hires (and jobs)

As a headhunter, I’m not interested in candidates. I’m interested in sources of the best candidates. It’s important to understand this. When an employer posts a job, its HR department looks in the wrong places — the job boards — to find as many candidates as it can. HR likes to say it’s “sourcing” job candidates. But it’s hardly sourcing when a job board runs a program that matches sequences of characters in a job description to characters in millions of resumes.

I’ll jump over the 200 keyword-matched candidates (passive or active) that LinkedIn or Indeed delivers, to instead talk to one or two “shining lights” in the industry or field I hunt in. These respected, successful people know a handful of workers who would be best for my client — maybe you! — and that’s all I need to fill a job. That’s what I get paid for: Having sources who know the best.

So, while I place candidates, I look for good sources first. Then I don’t have to find candidates. (I don’t care a rat’s patootie for database matches.)

What do they know?

The database jockeys behind these job boards will answer that they do recommend the best candidates — the ones with the highest matches! So, why don’t they bill for their services only when the employer hires one? (Check out Indeed sucks on a leading HR podcast.) I challenge any job board to operate under this model: Pay per hire. They’d never risk it because they don’t really know the candidate.
It’s irrelevant whether someone is active or passive, employed or out of work. What matters is what the opinion makers in your field think of you — and I’ve placed some phenomenal unemployed people that most recruiters wouldn’t even talk to. Recruiting isn’t really about filling jobs. That’s not what companies pay headhunters for. They pay us because we are a hub of sources. Good headhunters have good sources — people in a field that others go to for advice like, “Who would you recommend for this job?” Such sources put their reputation on the line every time they make an introduction.

So what matters is not whether the candidate is active or passive. It’s whether the headhunter has access to good referrals, recommendations and introductions in the professional community in which they operate. This is how we find only the few best candidates, whether they’re “looking” or not — and that’s why the headhunter doesn’t need 1,000 keyword-matched profiles.

That’s why job boards are a lousy way to fill or find a job. They deliver massive digital dumpsters full of “keyword-matched” resumes for employers to wade through, because they don’t know anybody so they cannot recommend the best candidates.

My sources need to know you

What makes this good for you is that you don’t need a headhunter (much less Indeed!). You just need to do what headhunters do: Rely on credible referrals.

  • Participate in your professional community.
  • Seek out the most skilled, talented, respected workers — the ones others turn to for opinions, advice and help.
  • Hang out with them.
  • Get to know them.
  • Help them get to know you.
  • (Don’t forget to be really good at the work you do.)

It’s up to you to be known to the sources employers and headhunters rely on. When they’re asked, you’re who they will recommend — because they know you. Then it’s up to you to decide how passive or active you want to be.

If I’m involved in the deal and you come highly recommended, I don’t care whether you’re active or passive. I do care that you’re one of a very few excellent candidates recommended by a trusted source — someone that knows you — for a job I’m working on, and my next step is to get to know you better. The same goes for any good employer (you don’t need a headhunter).

Machines, software, algorithms, databases — it seems to have escaped everyone that they don’t know anybody.

What’s the key to getting hired (or to filling a job)? Just how personal must this be? Are the job boards an adequate substitute for the a personal recommendation from a credible source? Can personal recommendations scale as sources of hires and jobs? (Is scaling even desirable?) These are big questions that database jockeys never ask much less answer. Only you can do that. Please share your answers — and ask your questions.

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Referrals: How employers waste proven talent

Quick Question

How far down the employment ladder do the Ask The Headhunter principles of the job market go? Do personal referrals and recommendations help at all levels?

referralsMy daughter worked an entry level position for a clothing chain in New York, and left to move to California.  Her three managers each wanted her to stay, and said they would act as references, because she showed initiative on the job. Since she did what needed to be done instead of just what she was told to do, they wanted to keep her with the company, even if not in their store. She followed the chain’s instructions, and brought a completed application to a store that has openings in California, according to their website. Despite that, they told her they don’t have openings.

Does the principle of getting a position by being recommended by someone known to the manager apply even at this level? Or do stores fill half their entry level positions with people they don’t know?

Nick’s Quick Advice

Your question is about how your daughter can get a job using insider referrals. But the real story here is how employers waste proven talent. First let’s help your daughter get the job.

I think hiring by insider referrals is actually more likely with lower level jobs than higher level, simply because it’s not very risky. Even if the manager makes a mistake, it’s not like they just hired a pricey executive.

  • It’s faster. If the employer has good information about a candidate, it’s just a quicker hire.
  • It’s easier. Because lower-level jobs attract lots more applicants than higher-level jobs, the employer usually loves to avoid culling through thousands of applicants. Hiring by trusted referrals is much less work.

Lazy referrals

I think your daughter didn’t get invited for a job interview because her old managers are lazy. It sounds like they urged her to apply at the new location because they think so much of her, and offered to be references, but it ended there. They basically told her to apply like thousands of other people would.

Those managers didn’t pick up the phone to call managers at the California location to actively recommend her in advance of her applying. That means they did nothing.

If they want to help her and help their company, they should pick up the phone. Their offer to be references — after she applies, and after she’s selected for an interview, and after someone in HR asks for references — is meaningless. References aren’t referrals.

How to Say It

If I were your daughter, I’d contact her old bosses, tell them what happened, send them copies of the open job postings, and say this:

“Your faith in me and your recommendation to the California store mean a lot to me. Would you please call the manager of the store in California, explain your thoughts about me, and suggest she or he interview me? Your call will make me stand out among other applicants they don’t know — and it will help them fill the job faster and with less work.”

What I really want to suggest she say in the last part is, “…it will help them fill the job faster and with less work, you dopes!” But of course, she should not add that.

How employers waste proven talent

Here we have an employer that has valuable, proven talent in hand, ready to fill another job in the organization, but doesn’t even know it, because its managers don’t truly understand what that means. It’s partly due to the managers at the old store, and partly due to the company’s failure to actively promote internal employee mobility.

If those three managers won’t do as your daughter asks, then they’re not helping your daughter, and they’re hurting their company. Wasting talent is worse than letting people steal clothes off the rack. See References: How employers bungle a competitive edge.

I hope your daughter makes that call and I wish her the best.

Have you ever gotten a new job in your own company with a solid internal referral? Have you helped someone in your company make an internal move?

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